Blogging 101 Day 1: Introduce Yourself/Your Blog

A few weeks ago, I considered closing this blog and starting a new one; however I did nothing, knowing to wait and see about big decisions such as that. I ended up coming to the conclusion that I can remake this blog and push the reset button. One thing I was planning was changing the look of the blog, for various reasons. So I thought I would start with the basics, using this great WordPress class about blogging for beginners, (Blogging 101: Blogging U , even though I am not a total beginner. The two week course is called “Learning the Fundamentals”.

Here are some good questions raised in Day 1’s Assignment.

The big question to start with:

Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

To share my pictures and words with others and to be part of the blogging community.

  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?

I’ve covered a panoply of topics in the past since starting this blog. I can’t remember all of them, but I remember some. They included gender identity, mourning the dead from cultures arount the world, aspects of being an artist, aspects of being an art therapist. If you look at the bottom of the page on this post there will be a list of categories most used on all of my blog posts.

So what would be different now than before:

I have a new found awareness of setting intentions and goals that all are connected in terms of improving the blog and my organization skills.

I think I need to come up with a sort of schedule, like Tuesdays is about Art Therapy, Wedneday is another topic, and then even if I don’t post on those days, I can use them as starting points. So the goal would be to post more frequently and be more aware of what I am posting over time. In terms of topics and uses of the blog, see below.

The other main thing involves my newish art project, “Pictures and Words”, and the fact that I no longer have an artist website. I’ve thought of setting up one, but I decided I will first attempt to make the blog partly an artist portfolio website, where people could see work I’m making and buy work. I don’t know yet how to do that or if it’s possible but that is one of the bigger goals.

Writing for a more specific reason than before. This blog could be where I post drafts of chapters of my book, “The Art Box”.

  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

Other bloggers of all kinds, also artists, art therapists, people with brain health challenges and diagnoses and their families/friends, anybody interested in the brain health field, art lovers and many others I don’t know yet.

  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?
  • I would like to have an artists website as part of the blog if possible. I would like to have experienced more clarity on my “Pictures and Words” series as it intersects with The Art Box book.
  • I would like to have a clearer vision of the book in progress, The Art Box.
  • I would like the blog to look better and be more consistent and organized.
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New Blog Feature: Gender, starting with Gender Activism Presentation

I’m taking the Blogging Fundamentals Class very slowly and not in lesson order (knowing ones learning style is helpful!)

Assignment: Make a feature for your blog to post more regularly on a particular topic!

Challenge Accepted! My Feature will be posts on Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Activism and Related Issues. I hope to try to post weekly and make it on Thursdays but I’ll aim for two posts per month. I may post more than weekly. For example, this post is a many part post as there are many subtopics to it.

Today I’m did a presentation at nearby school PS 234 to a 5th grade class about my activism as an artist and art therapist, especially around gender identity and trans/alternate gender rights. Also to tell them about mental health stigma and activism, being part of the Open Path Collective and LighthouseLGBT affirming website of therapists. Activism in different fronts and through different means, ie. individual personal, making art, then on community level, sharing it on social media platforms for activism, such as this blog, and especially Instagram. I brought in foam door hangers as an art activity for the kids to do at the end. It was a big hit, so I was very excited when I left. I got the kids thinking about guerrilla art and talking about the bathrooms in their schools. One kid said she was only going to use the gender neutral bathroom on the floor below their classroom…

Here are some photos from my solo art show, #BathroomArtOnly, October 2016. I’m going to start the presentation talking about an old art project from the 90s about gender and this more recent one.

New Year, Yoga and Writing

This year I have avoided the usual obsession with new year’s resolutions versus intentions and turning over new leaves, etc. Usually I get excited to start new habits, make all kinds of exciting changes and feel like I’m going to accomplish all these goals, then, like most people, run out of steam and keep very little going or follow through.

A while ago, as a way to look at the new year differently, I started picking words for the year. Last year was “Abundance”. It really turned into a year of abundance, which required patience and trust because abundance doesn’t just pour into your life on day one or month one or two! This year the first word I came up with was “AWESOME”. Then I picked two other words, “Quiet” and “Concentration” as intentions/motivation to continue things I’m already doing, especially my yoga practice.

My yoga practice has been the one thing I’ve kept up regularly for the last 3 and a half years. I already wrote two very long disorganized posts about it and realized I do want to write about it, but I need it to be organized and as usual, much shorter.

So this year, to add to my 6-7 times weekly 25-40 minute home yoga practice, I decided to link yoga with writing, as my intuition was that the two will go together well.

So this post is just a short post about my new year’s intention to link my yoga with writing. Since the new year, I have read a bunch of blog posts about different aspects of yoga, found some books, and started writing about my yoga practice.

Yesterday I wrote a long draft for a post on this blog, journaled a bunch before doing yoga, and then attempted to write in my journal a little while doing yoga and filled a page after my daily yoga in the evening. I decided to try to write immediately after doing yoga at least 3 times a week.

It’s going to be an experiment to see what comes up that I feel like writing about and how I am thinking about my practice, or what comes up specifically in any sequences or poses or other things that come up that may have little to do with yoga or seem to have little to do with it.

The words “Quiet” and “Concentration” can be connected to my writing and yoga. Sometimes doing yoga on my own is for the goal of getting quiet and working on disciplining the mind and body and learning how to be able to really focus and concentrate, which is definitely challenging with an undisciplined disorganized and full ADHD mind. I also associate these concepts with a story that I read a few years ago with my daughter that we’ve read several times and is one of both her and my favorite stories,  “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar”, by Roal Dahl. It’s written long ago but the basic concepts are very universal and the story is about the use and misuse of yoga/training the mind. It’s a great transformation story in the category of stories like A Christmas Carol and the movie Groundhog Day. A selfish self involved character full of flaws, who goes through a spiritual transformation and becomes an enlightened evolved person who gives of themselves to the world, very uplifting. Everyone loves a sinner to “saint” type of story!

Sometimes getting quiet while doing yoga involves just noticing how not quiet my mind is and how distracted I am or how I am focused on what the next yoga pose will be or getting over with each pose. The challenge of concentration involves a lot of mindfulness/DBT “Radical Acceptance”.

Other topics I’d like to write about that go with yoga/writing are:

-how I got going with my home practice after 7 year hiatus of not doing yoga

-what my home yoga practice actually involves and how I learned to sequence from an intuitive approach in the moment

-the role of my yoga “coach” and teacher Liza in helping me learn about the physical, mental, and spiritual practice and deepen my practice

-yoga in everyday life and ways to use yoga to live life from a more accepting and moment to moment awareness

-yoga and “failure”

-the yoga of speech

-my specific challenges with my writing process

-yoga and ADHD and other issues like anxiety

 

The Therapist Profile: Reflections

Writing my profile for websites for therapists, such as psychologytoday.com, has always been a challenge for me. With each new website, I’ve discovered new clearer ways to answer the questions about my work. It’s hard to put into words my practice and approach and how I might be the kind of therapist you would work well with. I definitely look at other people’s profiles for inspiration, more to see how they word things, if they start with questions, what kinds of phrases they use that seem to be really clear  than to paraphrase. My profile is unique and I explain art therapy in the way I think of it from how I experience working as an art therapist, but I’m still not too satisfied with it. It’s an ever evolving process for me, so I’ve often changed my profile on psychologytoday.com (the Main Encyclopedia of psychotherapsits), when I am in the process of putting it on it  other websites.

I’ve recently joined the relatively new website and community of healers/doctors/providers, lighthouselgbt: Safe Space for LGBTQ + Wellness. The first part of the Lighthouse Profile defines the space and providers in this way: “We are a group of NYC based providers who have devoted our careers to caring for LGBTQ+ patients.” This is the link if you’d like to check out the website: https://www.lighthouse.lgbt

I am very excited to be part of the Lighthouse community, especially right now with the political climate we are forced to endure. It is more than ever important to find your “tribe(s)”, no matter whether virtual or “real world”. As an extreme introvert, I need meaningful soul to soul  person to person connections with other like minded open tolerant curious and out of the box people, including in my work as an art therapist. (I have yet to find a group of artists/writers/galleries/publishers/creative professionals that feeds me. Here I am in NYC and the NY Art World is not for me at all, but I’ve never quite found something. I do have plenty of friends whose careers involve creativity and the “arts”, and social media places to share my work, but it is not quite a real community of people for me. I’m hopeful I will find this eventually. I put this in parentheses because it is a whole other topic to explore that is on my mind lately.)

Identity: “Who am I and what am I about?” is a lifelong voyage of discovery. I’m a work in progress. The longer I live, the clearer I am at articulating who I am in whatever sphere of life, and then I’m able to look back and see how I’ve always been this way and are just in process of becoming more fully who I am, constantly evolving. I am passionate about evolving and becoming increasingly aware of ways that I want to present myself to the world more accurately. Whenever I have an “Ah ha” moment, I realize this was who I was even back when I was a 7 year old just being me, without as many barriers to being able to be myself. I understand when my clients report that they have bravely forayed into proclaiming their discovery of their gender or something else and gotten reactions of “you never said this before. You’re not this and that so how is it you say you are this (gender, career, creative mode of expression.) It can be as simple as “But you’re a performer, youre not a visual artist.” “You’ve always been “xyz”. Even, “You should talk to your parent. They are so nice or they are your family.” Someone has gotten to the point of taking a brave stand and boundary with an abuser and doesn’t always get this validated; in fact often people devalue whatever you’re proclaiming. I recently read someone’s essay about their identity as an asexual person and what it is about for them. The comments were downright nasty, some insinuating that you can’t say you’re asexual because you had sex in that relationship or you’re talking about having sex, so you’re not asexual. I’m happy that now there is a phrase, “the asexual spectrum”, which was invented to explain especially to such limited bullying individuals that being asexual is not that simple and only works when not a label slapped on someone.

I can say that most of the barriers I have had to being myself have been self created, but maybe I woulnd’t have created these barriers to radical full self acceptance and standing fully in the light if the world were a lot safer and more openminded and accepting.

“Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.”As I wrote that I think of Oscar Wilde’s words in a way I haven’t before. The two sentences are kind of a dialectic in the sense that being yourself involves having to define yourself in relation to other humans because we use language, verbal and non verbal, to express or hold back who we are. We can’t get out of the aspect of self acceptance that involves negating a sort of “norm” communicated to us by society and their constructs and clarifying taking space as unique and beyond the norm. There should be no “box” to be inside of or outside of in any arena of life; of course that is a fantasy. Imagine being born into a world where gender was a spectrum, where polyamory, monogamy and a romantic approaches and of were all just choices like the color of a t shirt and that your shape, size and color of your skin were seen like a box of magic markers. You wouldn’t need to focus on what you are not and what does not resonate with you as who you are. There would be freedom to be and freedom to play. My challenge: “What gender are you today?” which was the main focus of my last art show, “#Bathroom Art Only” would be like deciding on a cereal for breakfast. Some people want the same breakfast every day; others want different things or no breakfast, or have the same breakfast for years and at age 37 decide to have a completely new breakfast. It would be the ideal of “live and let live”, “whatever floats your boat” and the maxim would be “Be yourself. Be free to be yourself. Be free to evolve and change in your concept of yourself.” with no need to refer to others.

There is a therapy phrase, “ego syntonic” and another one “ego distonic”. I like these phrases because they get to the heart of self acceptanc, self worth and learning how to navigate an unsafe unpredictable world we all have to live in. Something is ego syntonic if it is in sync with who you are and your values and aspirations, like when you put on a t shirt and it fits you in size as well as what it looks like and what kind of t shirt it is. Jobs can be seen in this way. If you are working at a job that is deadening you and feels like it’s not what you want to do or the people you work with are people you would not choose to be around, the job is ego distonic. When I worked cleaning the house of a science fiction writer in the summer during college, it was ego syntonic because he was nice and weird and non critical and paid me cash and the job was temporary; a job doesn’t have to be on your career path to be ego syntonic; it just needs to match who you are and your wants and needs. Same with any relationship. Therapy for example. If you feel comfortable with your therapist for whatever reasons and that there are minimal blocks in the way of your accomplishing your therapy goals created by the therapist, or even if the therapist has done so and you are able to address it, then the therapeutic realtinoship is ego syntonic; at certain points in therapy, it can be very therapeutic for you to notice and tell your therapist that they have said or done something that was not ok with you. Then you have an opportunity for the therapist to adjust/correct and you are improving your communication in important relationships and growth occurs. Often we discover what is ego syntonic by experiencing something as ego distonic. That’s the “everybody else is taken.” part of the dialectic. It means asking “Is this for me or for the other person?” “Am I ok with this or am I now not ok with it even if I was in the past?” “Is this something I want now in my life or not?” “How does this serve my growth or impede it?” The more you can clarify what is ego distonic, you also clarify what is ego syntonic. The process is unique for each person.

As an artist and person who has a deep need to approach life creatively and express myself creatively, I have always been someone who tries many of the t shirts on, or has different breakfasts every day. I like to shape shift and morph and copy and try on things; I learn best by watching how someone does something and trying it out, but reshaping it to do it my way. I don’t learn well by being told what to do in a rigid way or being told what I did wrong. My college was ego syntonic to the way I learn and the kinds of people I needed to find for my life, so I was able to grow as a person during thpse important years. I like seeing diversity and experiencing diversity, as I am easily bored and like the new. At the same time I don’t gravitate towards situations involving meeting new people in a social context. As a therapist I enjoy meeting new clients because I am curious and interested in how unque and fascinating each person’s inner life, identity and approach to life is. As an artist, I often try out new things and then in that process, keep repeating something I’ve stumbled upon. With drawing especially, it involves looking at other people’s drawings or images; to draw musical instruments for my Warrior Series, I looked up musical instruments from other cultures, especially middle eastern and African.

Using the line from Annie Hall comparing relationships to sharks, as an artist I need to be like a shark, constantly moving. The dialect between me the artist and me the art therapist is being the shark and the snail. As a therapist I slow down and stay with whatever the client brings in to explore and process.

ADHD and Food

I just had two breakouts for non mistakes, which hasn’t happened in quite a while. I called my credit card to remove a late fee and found out I had just paid ahead for July and had paid for June a few weeks ago. Then I found a webinar and made sure I could take it on the day and time of it; I looked at this Thursday in my calendar where I noted the seminar for the week after, to remind myself. I missed that it was just a reminder and tried to change a session time as well as ask the Seminar people how to transfer a paid for class. The client answered and I realized I had not double booked and could keep the appointment.

Is this just the usual ADHD, where, because you’re using the skills to get things done on time, especially the mountain of monthly bills, and now that I’ve mastered it, where the “H” in ADHD rears its head and starts creating anxiety and impulsivity over things that I did right, convinced I did them wrong? Or something else.

I started the post with the title: “Deadlines Big and Small” but just remembered the ADHD, which, true to form, I tend to forget it exists until it suddenly gets in the way of something. It sounds crazy but it’s kind of like PMS. If you don’t remind yourself the week is there, you forget that there’s a reason the PMS symptoms are there!

I try to look at the funny side of ADHD, now that I know I have all of the letters (some people, especially adults, have ADD, where criteria for “Attention deficit” are met but not “Hyperactivity”).

As I went across the street to mail a check that I know I mailed a week ago but didn’t get to the company, I wondered if my new “food plan” could be blamed for all this generating what DBT calls “extra emotions”. Anxiety about things that are not real. Anxiety about paying bills on time, real when you haven’t paid them and its challenging, but not real when you have and think you haven’t.

Now there is no way to tell for sure what’s going on. I have a new reason for being grumpy, over anxious, generating extra emotions, having ADHD symptoms that were under control before. It’s a great reason, so there is a goal.

I again stopped eating refined sugar. In terms of deadlines, the death line of “No more!” came Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Day 1. Suffice it to say, my eating habits had deteriorated badly and my sweet tooth has been acting up since last summer, so I put on the brakes and decided to try again cold turkey. I had tried moderation but it didn’t work; I “forgot” when and with what to do the moderating, so, giving in to my ADHD and extremes, I am doing the extreme and on Day 7 of eliminating refined sugar from my diet or “food plan”.

Those of you who have sugar addictions know what this is about. Some rats or mice prefer sugar to cocaine, in case you don’t believe it’s an addiction. I realized I had the problem back in high school when I read “Sugar Blues”, probably one of few books about the topic in the early to mid 80s, and tried to do the diet then but failed.

I did this in a similar way back in 2015, probably in March, and lasted into the summer and then lost it all in late August. My new plan is slightly different and I’m hoping to have success this go round if I don’t kill someone in the process.

There are many “withdrawal” symptoms of going off sugar. Headaches, yes, luckily I only had 1 on Friday. Grumpy and irritable, yes, hoping that’s getting under control. Now I can add jumpiness and anxiety of the impulsive kind to what’s going on.

This time round, I will eat a lot less raisins and dried mangoes to try to really lower all sugar consumption, which means looking more carefully to learn where the sneaky “other” sugar shows up, the grams of sugar still there when you get rid of refined sugar. This seems like extreme as a food plan, but actually, it means I will eat more like all the healthy vegetarians out there: fresh fruit and vegetables, frozen fruit, yogurt, eggs, beans etc. because the sugar problem for me is that sweets take the place of healthy food, so when I remove sweets, it’s like magic. Suddenly it’s easier to eat healthy, especially the vegetables and other things like chik peas, black beans, avocados, spinach and other foods.

The diet works at the beginning because it’s suddenly easy to eat much healthier, probably as healthy as the average person, because when you eliminate bad stuff, you just do the good stuff. It’s like the sweets build a wall between myself and healthy eating. It can be very rewarding to do this. In 2015, I ate pasta and pizza. The other day I had the choice of pasta a few times and pizza and got myself to eat a great salad with hard boiled eggs, etc. instead. The good thing is that you still eat plenty of fats and the goal has nothing to do with lowering calories even though it may happen a little because of the new foods.

Habits change and healthier ones suddenly arrive. I see the pineapple sitting in the kitchen that I’ve been procrastinating dealing with. One recent morning I just cut the damn thing and realized again how lazy I get with food. The next challenge is to figure out what to do with dry lentils. At the moment I eat a lot of French Lentil Hummus from Whole Foods but the goal this week is to make the lentils. For most of you, this is just normal healthy stuff you do, but for me, the bar is very low because food is one of those ADHD things, either too overwhelming or extreme; The ADHD causes me to forget to eat and forget to prepare food at home; the thinking ahead has to be learned, and so does the awareness of eating at regular times, as well as not having extremes of getting too full or forgetting to eat for too long. Most of all “cooking” can no longer just be avoided much of the time.

It sounds nuts that I’m almost 50 and haven’t figured it out, but that is ADHD for you. Becoming a vegetarian 21 years ago was great for many reasons, and one ADHD reason was that it eliminated a ton of food that is now off limits, so I won’t get distracted by it. Eliminating sugar as totally as possible also deletes a long list of foods and suddenly there are clear choices of healthy foods, with no toxic foods distracting me. I used to wonder why I was so all or nothing with a lot of this, but the ADHD explains it. The environment is always too overstimulating and distracting, especially when it comes to eating.

Like with clearing clutter, there are and will be great side benefits! Instead of trying to eat mindfully by doing my daily yoga and cultivating mindfulness with other things and DBT mindfulness skills which are great, I will focus on the mindful eating above all, and then the mindfulness in other aspects of life follow. Going at it the other way didn’t work for me, because once I’m not eating healthy, awareness in general just goes down the drain. I have already noticed that it is easier to be mindful of everything else by doing this food plan.

The other day I saw a re dramatization of a British man dying of carrot and VITamin A overdose in a great TV show called Weird and Unusual Deaths, that’s close enough as the title. The man had orthorexia which the medical people pointed out. He was sandwiched into an episode with Isadora Duncan choking to death on her silk scarf and some poor guy dying in his closet.

Anyway, orthorexia is a real issue and should be listed with other eating disorders. It involves getting addicted to eating in an extreme “healthy” way to the point of obsession and other extreme symptoms similar to other eating disorders. Yes, that person you know who does an extreme amount of exercise and won’t eat at restaurants because of their extreme healthy diet could be in the territory of orthorexia. A small dose of it usually helps with getting rid of sugar and is more part of the ADHD, but as one of my goals is to be more present and productive in the rest of the hours a day not spent dealing with food, I’m not worried about carrot juice overdose. To be honest, I haven’t eaten a single carrot in the last 7 days, only because I was having other healthy options.

Anyway the extras also include having more energy and I hope, will also help with some long range goals and my writing. More than art making, writing seems related to getting rid of clutter and eating better, the bad food also being clutter; when I get rid of stuff that is not good, the writing benefits, so maybe I will write my book of essays now!

 

The Mid Life Crisis, Continued. Movies

There have been great movies made about people having a mid life crisis. Too many are about men experiencing one: “American Beauty”, “Lost in Translation”, “Manhattan”, etc.

Are there any good movies about women or other gender identified people having a good old fashioned mid life crisis? Woody Allen made one, “Another Woman”, (1988). It’s a great def fpiction of a woman going through all the aspects of a mid life crisis. There’s the idea of having a sudden break of time, where you’re not doing everything as usual, in this case a sabbatical, then the way things can suddenly appear different and give you a different view of yourself, noticing other people’s perceptions of you not matching your own, the typical suddenly looking at a long marriage and seeing it and yourself and your partner differently. Noticing someone else and it having a big effect on your own self identity and concept of who you are. Big changes happening as a result, some that you don’t engage in as a choice. I found the movie very compelling even when I wasn’t viewing it as a mid life crisis movie.

I can’t really think of or find many movies about women having a mid life crisis. The Huffington Post dug up movies that will make you feel better about your mid life crisis, with women as the protagonist, “Enough Said”, “It’s Complicated”, “The Bridges of Madison County”, “Kramer vs. Kramer”. I draw the line at that one. Just because Meryl Streep is in the movie does not mean it’s a genuine mid life crisis movie. Yes, it has a lot of the ingredients, and she is the character that’s going through a crisis of identity, but she is just too young to make it convincing to me. It feels like she is questioning her life and choices, but it doesn’t have the elements of urgency having to do with a sense of the life span. It’s more like, she’s still young and wants to rewrite her story, but it isn’t that she wakes up and looks back on a long life with many choices and all the other complicated elements of a mid life crisis.

This is movie land, so all the movies you could dig up on this topic are full of the usual drama. There has to be a lot of extreme stuff going on on the outside to portray the big conflicts of mid life that go on inside the character.

In real life, it isn’t always about affairs, divorce, affairs, losing one’s mind, affairs, falling in love with someone really young to gain back one’s youth.

The title “In Search of Lost Time” sums it up well. I haven’t read the book, so it’s the title that appeals to me.

To be continued…

Tuesday Post: Exciting Art Therapy News!

Almost a year ago, I posted my idea for opening a Coloring Bar in NYC. Now there will be a mini version of this Coloring Bar for adults at the Strand Bookstore in NYC. AND — there will be the coloring book there with the art therapists who made the book and are in the book! The book is called :

The Real Art Therapists of New York Adult Coloring Book

Here are links to both. If you scroll down to How did you come up with this

Link to book:The Coloring Book!

Link to the event:Coloring Bar Event in NYC

 

Mental disorder identity comic

This is so important! Many people find their diagnosis to have really helped them to understand their illness and respect themselves and also not feel alone in their struggles with mental illnesses. It can be very empowering. Of course there are others who want to identify in a different way which is also fine. The first choice of saying “I am” gets criticized more by others and really needs to be as respected as any other choice including the choice to just identify as a person, not a person with a mental illness. There is room for all! Great comic