if I could tell my younger self anything, I’d say be who you are
It’s taken me half my life to feel comfortable in my own skin. If I could tell my younger self anything, I’d say, “be who you are.” I drew and painted this piece in celebration of living your own truth, finding your most authentic self, and doing what makes you happy.
i’m grateful for this period of creativity in my life
I had never heard of ‘soul care’ until this morning as I was listening in to the Possibilitarian podcast hosted by artist, Kelly Rae Roberts, and Nichole Poinski. A light went off in my head as I contemplated why I feel so tired much of the time. Giving of yourself constantly is draining. I realized that I’m deficient in soul care. I think soul care is making a habit of practicing self-kindnesses, taking time to connect with your heart, and engaging in what feeds your soul and uplifts you. It’s finding ways to refuel and energize emotionally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically. I’m convinced that I’ll never have balance in my life – it’s just not possible. I have a job that’s extremely demanding, and at the end of the day, my light is barely flickering. I’m always just hovering over burnout. During this season of my life, I may not be able to change that, but I can counteract the fatigue by changing little things. I’ve decided that at bedtime, I’m going to identify five things that I did well during the day instead of checking my work emails or thinking through my to-do list for the next day. Maybe I responded with grace to a negative conversation with someone instead of reacted out of defensiveness. Maybe I took a 15 minute walk during my lunch break, which I rarely take away from my desk. I can try harder to practice gratitude instead of looking at all the things that are weighing me down. Tonight, I”m grateful for this period of creativity in my life. I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I’m grateful for the spark. I finished this little piece tonight. It’s interesting to see how something turns out, as it never ends up the way I expect, and I have to silence the self-critic. But I remind myself that art is a process, and l’m growing. And, the inspiration that comes with it is gratifying.
one day I’ll return to Taiwan; until then I can dream.
This is a light sketch I drew this morning. The inspiration behind it is the reunion in Taipei, Taiwan, that I had with my birth family in 2012. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since. I met my two older biological sisters and their spouses, my older brother, my uncle, and nieces and nephews after nearly three years of searching. My birth parents had both passed away, so I did not have the opportunity to meet them, although my sisters gave me photos of them. Our reunion occurred during the Lunar New Year. I long to go back and visit my family, thus the silhouette of the Taipei skyline sitting in the background. I drew the silhouette from a vector I found on Google. The tall building with the spire on top is Taipei 101, a landmark super tall skyscraper in Xinyi District, Taipei. I believe it’s still the second tallest building in the world (the first one being in Dubai). My sisters took me to this architectural wonder. There were floors and floors of high end shopping and larger than life murals of models advertising Burberry and designer fragrances. It was fantastic fun and good eating.
I later painted the drawing and didn’t like the way it turned out. I actually like the sketch better because of its simplicity. Oh well, it’s good to keep practicing. One day, I’ll return to Taiwan. Until then, I can dream.
when you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy
My family and I took a vacation to Florida recently. We went to Epcot Center, which I haven’t had the opportunity to visit since I lived in Orlando years ago. It was my daughter’s first time to Epcot. Despite the heat and humidity, it was such a fun time. I felt pure joy watching her face light up as she took in all the sights, as though she were a young child again.
Joy is something that I don’t naturally embody. I have to work at it. Typically, others tell me that I’m calm, kind, or compassionate, but never joyful. I’m pretty sure that on most days, I don’t feel particularly joyful at work – more like drained. Creating this piece put me in my joy zone straight away though. I used coloured pencils, acrylic paint, some leftover designer card stock, and a little tacky glue. After drawing the figure, I traced over the dress using white copy paper in order to create a pattern. I then cut the pattern out and cut it down further into smaller sized shapes. Next, I used the patterned shapes to cut the card stock into quilt-like “squares.” I glued the squares using tacky glue onto my canvas and mixed sage and white acrylics to paint the background.
I rarely have days like today where I spend the majority of the afternoon dabbling in art, but I intend to to make more time for it. I’m reminded of this quote by Rumi, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” That is what art is for me, a river of joy.
It is a beautiful, cloudy day in the Pacific Southwest. I’m enjoying a morning cup of Earl Grey with my paints and brushes. I’ve been art journaling almost daily lately and wish that I could spend my days drawing rather than working. Sigh…I was telling my husband that I’d really love my own art studio and to take some classes, but for now, I’m happy dabbling at my dining room table. I’m never completely satisfied with what I create, but it’s fun to experiment, and figure out my own personal style. Hoping to invest soon in more art supplies so that I can explore even more. I love Claude Debussy’s quote, “Music is the silence between the notes.” So it is in life – silence is where I often find inspiration.
little did I know that she would bring such joy, healing, and singular love
One of the best things that has ever happened to me is having my daughter and being a mom. I lived in an orphanage for the first four months of my life and grew up to be an extremely shy, introverted kid. I didn’t relate well to my peers and especially to adults. Many kids who grow up in orphanages have insecure attachments and grow up to have attachment difficulties as adults. I was often told that I was aloof and that no one felt that they could connect with me. I felt a deep sense of shame because I was constantly perceived as someone with a “vanilla” personality or a wall flower. When my daughter was born, something changed not only physically but spiritually and emotionally within me. Little did I know that she would bring such joy, healing, and singular love into my life. She is truly my light and taught me so much about life and about myself. Mother daughter love is for her and grew out of something I’ve wanted to create for awhile. I’m so grateful to be a mom. I often wonder what my birth mom was like and what our relationship would have been like had I ever had the opportunity to meet her. I’ve only seen her in my dreams and can only hope that she is in a better place now.
shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang, I am the warrior
I’ve been inspired lately by the podcast, Possibilitarian, hosted by artist and author, Kelly Rae Roberts, and her Community Care & Engagement Manager, Nichole (I need one of those). I love that the show is so authentic, and honestly, not that well produced – and I mean that in the most uncritical, appreciative way. It’s free-flowing, soul-to-soul dialogue on bravery, tenderness, and achievement. I feel as though I’m sitting in Kelly Rae’s living room having a heart-to-heart conversation with the hosts. In Episode Four, Kelly addresses a question from a listener who dabbles in multiple art forms and feels like she hasn’t yet found her personal style. There were so many things Kelly Rae shared that jumped out at me. Getting into a space of experimentation was the first thing. I don’t like to experiment primarily because I want whatever I create to turn out perfectly. Well, duh…that’s typically not how it goes, especially if you’re a novice like me. I tend to get in my own way. Kelly then spoke about studying the work of an artist(s) that you’re particularly drawn to and living in their style as a starting point. For me, that artist is Kelly Rae. I love her work. The other things that struck me were to keep going; to keep making really bad art until I’m not making bad art anymore, and with experimentation and practice, my style will emerge. To experiment for no other reason than for the pure joy of it. To create for the sake of creating. To silence the noise. That’s a hard one for me because I’m such a little perfectionist – I’m determined to to work on that. My take away is to enjoy the process. Emulate the work of artists who inspire me until my own personal style takes root.
The warrior came as a result of studying Kelly Rae’s art. I was experimenting and wanted to create something that reflected my heritage. Then the song, The Warrior, by Scandal came to mind. I loved that song in the 80’s. I reflected on all the things I’ve processed related to my adoption. Adoptees are warriors. We overcome separation and loss, grief and trauma, racism, identity issues, and other hurts due to not knowing our pasts. I don’t always feel like a warrior, and things don’t always make sense in life. But in art and music, that’s ok.
clearly, my parents did not associate the nightmares with adoption trauma
When I was a little girl, I had terrible nightmares. I literally became sick to my stomach when it was bedtime because I knew that as soon as I fell asleep, I’d have a bad dream. Night time was always a battle, and my mom had little patience for all of my wanderings out of bed. I was particularly afraid of the dark. I’m talking beyond your normal childhood fears of the dark. Some of my friends lived in wooded, rural areas, and I remember at sleepovers being spooked by what I imagined was out there, hidden in the shadows. It didn’t help that everyone shared ghost stories about Lizzie Borden and Bloody Mary. Why did we ever think that was a fun idea? Nightmares or night terrors are not an uncommon childhood experience. My daughter had them frequently when she was pre-school aged. If you’ve ever had nightmares, you understand how frightening they can be, especially to a young child. The feeling of helplessness and paralysis that the nightmares rendered was overwhelming. I didn’t understand why I had them, although now I know that many adopted children experience nightmares due to trauma. In those days, therapy was unheard of for adopted children. Clearly, my parents did not associate the nightmares with adoption trauma. I don’t think that such trauma was even recognised. As I got older the nightmares subsided. To this day, however, the memories of what I dreamt are still so vivid. At night is a recollection of those terrible dreams, but much less terrifying.
the beautiful thing about art is that there are all kinds of it
When I started art journaling, this was one of my first pieces. I think I completed girl with a musical heart in 2015. I have always been inspired by the artwork of Kelly Rae Roberts, who ironically started out as a clinical medical social worker. I bought her book, Taking Flight, and still go back to it for inspiration. Brené Brown is another social worker who I’m inspired by and has much to say on courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. Social workers rock, but clearly I’m biased.
When I look at this piece now, I feel that it looks rather unfinished and almost too clean. I tend to be a perfectionist and extremely self-critical. I’m working on letting go, even though everything in me now wants to grab my paints and “fix” this piece so that it looks messier. I know other adoptees who say they struggle with perfection. It really colors my world from the appearance of my living room to body image. Now that’s a loaded topic for a female adoptee who also happens to be a not so thin Asian. Anyway, I guess the beautiful thing about art is that there are all kinds of it, and one is always evolving as an artist. In this piece, I felt inspired to include something that represented the importance of music, thus the musical heart. So here’s to music and art and creativity. Onward towards exploring and dabbling. We’ll see where this journey takes me.
through the arts, not only do we find community, but also healing
Thanks for joining me. I’m launching artful adoptee to share my thoughts, ideas, and lived experiences through the lens of art, music, film, dance, and prose. In this busy world, I find myself ever drawn to quieter places where I can create and contemplate the things that inspire me most.
Photo by Yannis Papanastasopoulos on Unsplash
Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. — Thomas Merton