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I took a trip to Montreal and it, like my furniture painting became an exercise in my expression of self and further discovering those parts that had been a bit camouflaged for a long time. I had been feeling boxed in, a little confined with my identity. I’ll be honest, I sometimes wonder if my social media presence looks a bit like Mary Poppins (true story: someone actually called me that once and I cringed from every part of who I am), living a peaceful and perfect life by the lake and that is definitely NOT my reality.
I work at it though with a compassion for myself and a respect for how far I’ve come. It took practice to get to this place and a willingness to be really vulnerable and accepting of ALL aspects of who I am.
So this trip to Montreal ended up being a lot more than just a bit of experimentation with my image and a photo shoot. It became a glimpse into the many aspects of who I am and the permission to express that in order to feel complete as a person. Some might say it was a bit of a “reinvention” of self. I think we all go through a reinvention at some point in our lives. Sometimes it’s a critical moment like a divorce or a death of a loved one and other times, it’s the smaller every day, nuanced experiences that help guide us in shaping who we truly are.
Sometimes we do the opposite as well. We make a choice based on what is socially acceptable or what seems to be the more approved way of doing things and living our life. It is inauthentic and it often takes us farther away from the essence of who we really are. It’s those choices that don’t “fit” us that can lead to an unhappy marriage, a profession we never wanted but chose because our parents supported it, a lifestyle that is far from anything we enjoy.
And that’s how we lose the footing, the happiness and the fulfillment in our lives, BUT….we can find it again when we allow our curiosity to guide us and our openness to the unknown to expand the rooms of our self-identity that we inhabit.
You see, we are not fixed in any of this. That’s a construct many of us exist within because it is the safer way to be. We are actually meant to grow and expand and evolve every day from little experiences to the more soul defining ones.
I had to really put myself out there for this experience in Montreal. It required me to dig deep within the recesses of my sunny personality and let the other “colours” cascade through. You’ll see it in the photos. I can see it. I see a woman who had to rebuild her life, her business, her M.O. from the ground up. I see a woman that was heartbroken at times, really challenged by some difficult situations and for that, I am grateful because it’s in knowing that depth of emotion that I became a better therapist, a more compassionate person and a better version of myself.
I learned to appreciate the dark with the light.
In those moments where we feel conflicted with who we TRULY are and those desires to express ourselves versus who we feel obligated to be and how we should portray ourselves to the outside world, we need to:
So where do you start, you might ask?
What do we do when we find an old piece of furniture in need of a paint job? Many of us will walk right by it. Some of us will stop, pick it up and evaluate it to see if it has potential. And some of us will take the time to sand it down, paint it and bring it back to life.
Are we not the same?
How many of us walk past ourselves, thinking we need to change and condemn who we are without taking the time to see beyond the surface?
I speak a great deal about authenticity in my work and I try to live according to my personal values and truths. Sometimes, it isn’t as easy to do as we would like it to be and sometimes the reality of a personal or self transformation that did not occur can later stare us down as a harsh reality and a call to personal transformation.
I had an experience recently where all of this just made more sense. I stepped out of who I knew myself traditionally to be and embarked on a new experience in Florida, taking a furniture refurbishing course. It created a lot of opportunity for self reflection as I challenged my personal beliefs in my ability to learn something so opposite to what I do on a daily basis. As I was sanding, priming and painting these ancient pieces of furniture, I realized the power in doing the work to see what lies beneath its surface, taking stock and preparing it for a renewal. It was a mindset shift in accepting other versions of these otherwise run-down cabinets and tables, and it prompted me to appreciate and embrace the metaphor for my own refurbishment.
But before we begin this process, I learned that we need to take stock of all that we are before we try to change ourselves. When we look at ourselves in the mirror, we are often convinced that there isn’t any hope for change, and we reject what we see as our representation of the lives we have created. Sometimes it’s as though there are glimmers of the past looking at us with a knowing of where we have been and a questioning of who we have yet to become.
Much like those antiques that are being refurbished, we have an opportunity to embrace our past as part of what makes us unique, part of what defines every edge of our being. It is not a brokenness, but rather a representation of depth and character. It’s all in how we look at it.
It is much more liberating and gratifying when we allow ourselves to evolve and express who we are becoming rather than living in an image of our past.
During this season of self-reflection, I have spent my days watching old pieces of antique furniture transform into beautiful depictions of art. As I now sand down my own pieces of furniture on my porch and reflect on the past, I ask myself often how it is that we view the markings of an antique as a threshold to a cherished era, or its flawed surfaces as aged beauty? Often when we scrutinize our own past or the weathered lines of our aging visage, it is met instead with criticism and condemnation.