Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On Making Mistakes

Daily Scrap
Art journal
No Good.

(before you read further I ask for gentle understanding as what I am sharing is personal and sensitive. I'm sharing this post because no matter how our lives begin, there is always room for growth and change. A yucky, awful childhood can lead to a life that is rich, full and complete and even happy) 

*** and sometimes those of us whose lives began hard and rough leave us open and more sensitive to the stuff going on in our hearts and because of the very nature of how our lives began we turned inward and found ways to express ourselves in order to stay grounded and survive what we were dealing with***

On Making Mistakes and moving past them.
I created this collage in my art journal last week. It is simple. A background with a single torn image on top. The elements were in a stack I was going through on my art table. I was sorting out focal images from backgrounds and as I was doing so they fell together and I looked at them and read the words juxtaposed as they were lying there on my art table and immediately glued them to a page. 

The words, 'no good' bouncing around in my head, remembering all the times I was told what I had done or a choice I had made for myself was 'no good'. I grew up in a household, among a family that was constantly telling me, in great detail everything I was doing was wrong. Even as a young child I was told and reminded frequently that my life had been an accident and that I was unlovable. Not due to any fault of my own, I simply wasn't wanted. A speed bump for parents who no longer desired being parents and were more interested in drinking themselves to death while ripping each other apart, both physically, emotionally and mentally and me I was caught in the middle. 

My 4 siblings had escaped into the worlds of their own adulthood's and had no desire to keep track of their little sister,  though they never minded calling home to inquire as to the state of my parents. "Were or were they not drunk and was it safe to stop over and bring the grand kids?" I think I was maybe 5 or 6 the first time I was asked to give a status report. I was that same age the first time I dialed '0' for operator and frightened beyond reason, if the police could come to my house, my parents were fighting. In 1965, there was no '911' for emergency. 

I am a self taught artist just as much as I was a self raised child. I learned the art of survival  I was a child of the streets. I learned how to get myself food if my parents were unable. I learned how to navigate the mine field of my parents drinking binges. I'd go to school and return home and before going in, check to see which lights were or were not on. If the kitchen light was on it meant that things were as normal as they ever could be, dinner was being made and I knew that at least I had a few hours of peace. If the house was dark it meant that the drinking had probably begun shortly after I'd left for school and had gone on all day. On those days I'd go in, go to my bedroom and close the door. Sometimes, they'd both pass out and I could sneak out and make myself a hot dog or get bowl of cereal, sometimes it meant doing homework in the closet with a flash light or on the very worst of nights, doing homework in the dark under my bed. My father would often shut of our electricity at the main junction box and I learned how to turn it back on once they'd fallen asleep or pass out. I kept a flash light handy and I used it often. I suppose I could go on and on about what my childhood was like but I think you get the picture. It was ugly. I carry but few real happy memories of my childhood and teen years but I do remember them fondly if not wholeheartedly. I hold them at arm's length. 

I did graduate high school. I even attended college for a few years but that ended when my grants were cut. I was also yet again reminded that my attending college, according to my siblings was a waste of time (since none of them had ever pursued it nor had been encouraged to attend having grown up with the same parents) I was reminded that my life wasn't worth it. I did make a suicide attempt when I was in my teens and I did seek outside help on my own. Thank goodness I had a hand full of people in my life who were looking out for me. Someone cared. During all those years a few things were a  of constant source of strength. 
Writing. My thoughts, my wishes, my dreams and an imaginary place where I was happy. 
Keeping a visual journal, nothing more than notebooks with lots of glued in photos that represented a life I wished to have one day.
Reading. I read to escape and to discover that happiness and love did exist out there in the big wide world and that I would have it one day. 
Music. I went to bed every night with head phones on. The kind that were big and clunky and are now coming back in vogue. It was an easy way to drown out the arguing and yelling. 
Many fights with God. 

I grew up in 'a hard knock life' and came out of it all OK.  Whole. And stronger for it. I wish I didn't have to say that but that is the way it is and now all these years later, I am happy. I married a good man, have 2 wonderful daughters whose childhoods have been normal if not perfect. We laugh a lot. We've encouraged them in everything they've ever wanted to try or do and never have told them that they were never good enough. My life has made me hold what is good in my life close to my heart. I take nothing for granted and I savor everything I've ever accomplished which includes calling myself an artist. I've often thought and felt that mistakes are part of the package. I make them quite frequently. The topic of making mistakes 'in our art' has come up on a couple of online groups I participate in this past week and today I was reminded of a book I read in my teens. Notes To Myself by Hugh Prather. I'd completely forgotten about this little gem of a book, written in a time when everyone was doing some soul searching after all that had happened in the world during the 60's and 70's, social issues, racism, the Vietnam war, equality for women in the workplace and the search for identity were common threads of conversation. It was remembering this book that reminded me of what grounded me growing up as I did and all the mistakes I made along the way and that even now can be applied to how I go about creating every day, as well as how I live my life. I kind of feel like today, some of the puzzle pieces came together for me. Making mistakes doesn't scare me nor deter me. I don't like them but when you've grown up afraid eventually you learn you really have nothing to fear and that you can't control most of what life throws at you anyway so embracing imperfection and mistakes allows for continual forward motion. The mistakes don't hold me back but rather propel me forward.  

"the only way I have ever understood, broken free, emerged, healed, forgiven, flourished, and grown powerful is by asking the hardest questions and then living the answers through opening up to my own terror and transmuting it into creativity. I've gotten nowhere by retreating into hand-me-down sureties, or resisting the tensions that truth ignited" 
Sue Kidd Monk

You see growing up as I did and to who I am now, goes back to last week's post. I hold the simplest of happy moments as one might hold a piece of gold. I don't take them for granted. I can't. Life is short. I lost much in my early years and I don't wish to loose anymore. I don't waste time by choosing to live halfheartedly.  Mistake are gonna happen when one chooses to live bravely, against the face of all odds. Creating is no different.

" I sometimes react to mistakes as if I have betrayed myself. My fear of them seems to arise from the assumption that I am potentially perfect and if I just be very careful I will not disturb what is there. I won't fall. But a mistake is a declaration of the way I am now, a jolt to the expectations I have unconsciously set. When I listened to my mistakes I have grown. If everything were to turn out just as I would want it to I would never learn anything new. When I make a mistake I experience something unexpected. 
Hugh Prather

Don't let your own mind clutter discourage you when things don't fall together right. I'm here to tell you get to have as many do overs and retries that you allow yourself to take. You keep going until you are happy with what you see. In your art but in your life too. Each of us makes up the rules we bring to our life and abide by. They are often there because of the way we were raised and as we get older are altered and changed by what we've experienced. If something doesn't work for you, change it. Life doesn't have to be as complicated as we make it, sometimes things make the most sense when we strip them of the layers of complexities that we heap on them. Trust the mess and trust that the mess, the mistake might lead you to exactly where you need to be. 

"the key to my motivation is to look at how far I have come rather than on how far I have to go."
Hugh Prather

Thank you sweet readers for listening with gentle and open hearts. 


  1. Susie, thank you for sharing your story. I know what it's like to grow up with alcoholism. But for me it was my father only. No violence was ever involved, just indifference. My Mom tried to hold our family together as best she could. Loneliness was my constant companion as a child (even though I had three younger brothers) and I escaped into the make believe worlds of books checked out from our local library.
    I know that my childhood is the reason I keep people at a distance..always guarded..quiet introvert.
    Those days molded me into the person I see today..still quiet in spirit and still very much a loner..but happy and content on the inside. Art came late to me, but has become a very real necessity to my well being. And you are so right..we are good enough..just the way we are.

  2. Dear Susie, your story is moving and thank you for bravely posting it.

  3. shine on, gentle, bright one...


  4. Wow, Susie...thanks for sharing your story. So much of yours resonates with mine. That's all I'll say. Thanks for your honesty.

  5. I grew up with other things, other tests, other monsters, things that hurt then and still do. I love your candidness, and your take on mistakes, do-overs, and getting on with life (not getting stuck). I love your art, love your heart and vision. Bravo, girl, keep going!

  6. http://lifeasafiveringcircus.blogspot.comNovember 18, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Susie, I am very touched by your story and courage.
    Also love your journal pages. They are all so poetic!
    Art is the best healer!

  7. I came here because i was awestruck by your infinity journals on Pinterest and I stayed to read because I thought you were writing about me. Don't ever stop writing. You have a gift.

  8. Your life story is very moving, insightful and motivating. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.