When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.

How to Improve Your Boundaries After Trauma [VIDEO]

After a lifetime of not knowing how to enforce my boundaries (or even what they were in the first place), one of the toughest things I had to learn after leaving an abusive marriage was how I expected to be treated and how I communicated that to other people. 

Boundaries can feel scary when you’ve never had them before. In the past, maybe standing up for yourself felt dangerous. 

A New Approach to Boundaries

When I was starting a D&D campaign a few months ago, I realized I loved making the character more than I actually liked playing.

I could make my character strong in ways I aspired to be. Which is how I made this course – we treat your brain like a character, and you fill that character up with strengths and defenses and skills that help you rethink how you approach traumatic moments. 

So I turned this idea into a workshop that I taught at Midwinter Gaming Convention in Milwaukee this January, and spent the next couple months adapting it into a six week online coaching course to teach the framework to other people.

The video below introduces the Level Up framework we’ll use to build stronger boundaries, honor your strengths and inherent skills, and make a plan to continue improving for the future.

If you just want the basics on the course, the first half covers everything you need to know! The second half of the video has grounding techniques we use during the course in case the conversation gets heavy.

 

Six Weeks to Better Boundaries

Here’s the basics of the course and what you can expect from participating. 

  • Level Up provides a new way to look at trauma that interrupts the negative feedback loop in your brain
  • By the end of the course, you will have a concrete list of your resources for a “leveled up” approach to your own trauma, triggers, and boundaries
  • Level Up is a six week course, and you should expect to devote about 2-3 hours a week to lessons, assignments/journaling, and video calls
  • Video calls will be followed by a debrief to make sure any negative feelings are worked through and safely grounded
  • This is not a clinical therapy and you may want to work through what you learn here with your regular therapist

Want to get started? I still have a few reserved spots for the session starting April 13 at 50% off list price. Email me to reserve a spot!