Shortly before Christmas I collapsed on my couch one afternoon beyond exhausted. I decided that I wasn’t going to get up until I felt better (much to my children’s great disappointment.)
I closed my eyes and began to doze and unexpectedly found myself thinking about mice and how much I fear them. I think I was in a liminal place in-between awake and asleep when I started to imagine a mouse crawling through my home, in my clothing, and inside my cupboards.
The idea of a mouse scurrying around my home (even in my imagination) made me feel vulnerable and out of control, an extension of the exhaustion I was in I am sure, but instead of resisting it for some reason I followed it.
I imagined bringing the fear closer and nurturing it.
I asked the mouse to come closer and offered it tenderness and love. Then in a clear flash an image of me intimately caressing the mouse while we slept came to me. I knew instantly that this was a symbol (an invitation even) to welcome my fears and get to know them better rather than habitually pushing them away.
When I finally decided to get up off of my couch, I knew that I needed to follow this imagery and the wisdom of my imagination.
I grabbed my sketch book and tried to capture the image that had come to me. The tenderness, the welcoming arms, the tawny brown mouse I had seen in my kitchen weeks before. I could have left this here, but I knew that I needed to spend more time with this imagery trying to make sense of it.
I decided to bring it into an embroidery project, which is slow and intentional by nature preventing me from taking any quick escape and then over the winter holidays and into the New Year I spent 40+ hours creating this little mouse and thinking about what it means to bring my fear closer.
If I look at this as just another embroidery hoop on my wall, I can see the progression of my skills in embroidery, sketching, colour and composition. I can also see all the problem areas, colour challenges, and things I would do differently next time.
But a creation is never just about its aesthetics, it always holds a deeper story, and this piece transcends the technical skills it required to be made and holds so much more for me.
As I stitched and meditated on this imagery, I realized that the pandemic has brought me face to face with so much that I fear. My supports have vanished, and I find myself as mother, teacher, and care provider for my 3 young children often white knuckling it until my husband gets home. Holding the weight of my family and having to be the “in charge” strong one is easily one of my greatest fears, and yet here I am each day doing it.
At the same time, I also find myself needing to move closer and closer to letting someone beloved to me go. Each day I am nearing this threshold of having to say goodbye forever, and yet here I am living this truth. As I stitched, I realized that the chaos that requires me to forfeit my control was already here, it wasn’t some future state activity I am already in it knee deep in it all of its tawny fur caressing it each day. This realization somehow loosened the grip fear had on me.
Nothing has changed about how hard all of this is to face each day, but I do have more peace. Part of what this creation helped me realize is that a lot of my energy has been spent on resisting what is in my life rather than accepting it.
There is something liberating about turning towards what is hard and getting to know and feel it with the same intimacy you would a lover. Not easy but worthy.
I have hung this project on my wall now and when I look at it, I feel mostly happy with my composition and embroidery skills, but primarily I see it as a reminder to welcome fear completely into my life knowing that it too has something to offer me that needs my tenderness too.
I share this story and image as a reminder for you that your art can be a scared place where you too can welcome life’s biggest challenges and find insight and meaning.
Our creative expression is so much more than just beauty or skill it is an extension of our selves a way in which we can know and understand the world we live in.
Thanks for letting me share this example from my life with you, my hope is that it serves as a reminder for what is possible in your own creative practice.
All my best,