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A Story of Abundance

This post will seem very random at first.. and maybe the whole way through.  But for me it’s all connected. Enjoy.

Part 1: My gray hair

My hair has been going gray ever since I can remember.  Both my parents have been gray (or covering their grays) since before I was born.  I started covering my “old lady” roots at the very least, 11 years ago when I graduated college.  That meant that every 6 weeks I would spend over $100 to deny my hair the color it was trying to grow in as.  About 5 years ago it went from every 6 weeks to every 3.

I always said there was NO WAY I would stop dyeing my hair until I reached my 60s or 70s. No. Fucking. Way.  My cousin stopped dyeing her hair in her early 40s and I thought “what a shame.”  My sister stopped dyeing hers last year and I thought “well she’s married so she can do stuff like that.” Single women in their 30s cannot let their hair be gray. Not an option.

Part 2: The sunrise in my new apartment

The first few months in my new apartment, I was waking up just before the sunrise (new apartment bliss I think, because not anymore).  I’d sit on my couch in the quiet and feel the room grow slowly but unrelentingly hotter and brighter as the sun rose slowly up, second by second.  With each passing second my world would go from dimly lit and cool-to-touch, to fucking bright and uncomfortably hot, and eventually I’d get up and move to the shade.

One of these mornings I noticed a quick bit of nonsense cross my mind; “oh right, it’s the sun, it’s not going to stop rising”  which is obviously a weird thought to have because of course the sun will continue rising. That’s what it does.  But I sat there in my living room not wanting the environment to change and apparently had some kind of split-second expectation that because I didn’t want it to, it wouldn’t. It made me view the sun as a force of bad ass nature that didn’t give a fuck what anyone else wanted. Every second of every day it moves along its path with zero consideration of what it might feel like for anyone else.

I wrote in my journal that morning that I wanted to use that unforgiving sunrise as a meditation for being unforgivingly myself, for not giving a fuck if someone else wanted me to shine a little less brightly in their living room.

I wrote: “Each time its lead me to thinking about not shining away from our nature. I saw a thing online that said something along the lines of ‘Shine your brightest. The sun doesn’t give a fuck if it blinds you.’ I’ve seen these moments with the sun as unapologetic, natural, strong, abundant and consistent. And that’s how I want to be. Sitting here for the sunrise will be a perfect place to meditate on that. But for now, I’m moving to the shade 🙂

Part 3: The new moon in Taurus, April 26 2017

In April of this year, one of the woke-lady-Bay Area astrologers I follow, Chani Nicholas, posted an offering on her site to “show you how to tap into and harness the potential of the new moon [in Taurus] through ritual and astrological reflection.” Sometimes I’m called to pay attention to these astrology/moon phase things, and sometimes I can’t be bothered.  For whatever reason when I saw the post about this particular guided new moon manifestation I decided to pay the $25 and have myself a little new moon party-of-one that week.

The first exercise was on manifesting;

This is a line of Chani’s I wrote in my journal: “The more we show up for ourselves, in a loving mature and supportive fashion, the easier it is to bring in the abundance we seek because we realize we ARE it.”

Then the last exercise was “Rituals for Taurus Rising,” unique to each rising sign. Something about that specific new moon for me, a Taurus rising, meant that physical appearance was a main factor.  So in the last section of the course, Chani asked us to respond to a list of questions she was about to pose. I took out my journal and paused after each question to jot down my reactions.

What did you learn about your image growing up?
Ugly hair” was #4 on the list.  Thank you boy from school who wrote that in my 6th grade yearbook.

What was positive?
NOTHING

What was negative?
All of it.

What do you still carry around with you?  What is still draining your energy?
All of it.

What self-image are you dedicated to healing?
ALL OF IT

What can you do to start healing?
Let my gray hair show (???)

As you can see from those question marks, I was not convinced of that idea.  I dismissed it as soon as I wrote it, closed the book and went to sleep.

Part 4: The part where Parts 1, 2 and 3 all come together

The morning after the new moon ceremony, I stood in the bathroom looking at my gray roots. Out of nowhere (or I guess out of the new moon in Taurus), the color growing in seemed to me a bright, abundant silver.  Instead of a heavy source of insecurity, all of a sudden it reminded me of the sunrise in my living room. My hair had been slowly and consistently trying to rise up and shine it’s light on the world (so cheesy, deal with it) and it wasn’t going to stop no matter how badly I wanted it to. All of a sudden my light roots seemed a source of abundance, which I still don’t fully understand.

After 11+ years of denying and hating a part of my nature, I stood in that bathroom surprised and confused by this new desire to embrace it.  I had a vision of myself as a 60-year old, finally letting my gray hair rise up and realizing that I really loved the color. I saw myself as a 60-year old wishing I wouldn’t have wasted so many years and so much energy trying to be something I wasn’t, trying to cover up a part of myself that never stopped trying to show up.  I was already a 35-year old who wished my 16-year old self would have loved herself more, I didn’t want to regret any more years.

Even still I was pretty sure all these new “embrace the gray” feelings would pass. A part of me hoped they would. Was I really brave enough for this? Day after day, it never passed.  It’s now been almost 3 months since I last covered up my roots. The new moon made me do it.

Conclusion: The Summer Solstice Art Exchange

I found this picture in a magazine and cut it out for no real reason, I just liked it.

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When the Summer Solstice art exchange theme, abundance, was announced I saw abundance in the sunshine in that picture. And I thought of the sunrise in my living room and how it didn’t give a fuck if it blinded me. And how in sobriety, me and all my sober sisters are learning how to shine as bright as we can. And how my slowly growing-in (gray + white = ) silver roots were proof that I’ve crossed some kind of line of self love I never thought possible.  So that’s what I wanted my abundance piece to reflect.

To quote myself, I wanted it to reflect how we are learning to be “unapologetic, natural, strong, abundant and consistent.”

So this was my plan:

combine

The picture of the sun shining down on those dandelions, and the words on the bottom right.  I thought I’d paint horizontal lines along the edges in colors I wanted to pull out of the picture; dark green, purple, white, blue, orange yellow and gold.

When I started with the horizontal stripes I hated them right away. So I tried to blend the colors along the side, but I think I’ve officially concluded I hate blending acrylic paint. I was stuck.

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Then I thought “sunrays.. diagonal lines.”  I thought I’d reflect the sun shining down on the world and started painting lines that way.

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At one point I moved the sunshine-dandelion picture out of the way and fell in love with those lines. I wondered if I actually wanted the dandelions there after all, slowly letting go of the way I thought this would go. That picture was the initial inspiration of everything, did I really want to lose it?

And the idea was to depict the sun shining down on the world and coloring everything with it’s brightness, but then I turned the canvas upside down and saw the sun radiating up.  Like a person standing on the earth letting their light radiate out.  I decided to at least keep painting the lines that way and see what happened.

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When I finished those lines, I had my answer.

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Sun rays shining up it was. And I let go of the original idea all together. The dandelion picture now lives on my desk where I can see it all day while I’m working.

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I hope you like it Natalie, I think you two are a perfect match.

Love, Sarah

Responsibility To Art.

creativeprocess.png© no idea

A few months ago I decided to sign up for an art exchange with women I know through a sober-ladies-private-Facebook-group.

Recovery Gals Art Exchange, we’re called.

With each exchange, the two women who started it, Tammi Salas and Sondra Talbert Primeaux, choose a theme and draw names out of a hat to partner us all up.

In signing up I was committing to creating (and finishing) a piece of art, on a schedule, and agreeing to OWE someone something. That was all pretty outside my comfort zone. I enjoy art but adding responsibility to it stresses me out. I also was in-between living situations and had for the most part, left my creative self in storage. I don’t really know what it was that lead me to sign up but before I knew it my name was on a post-it note and the deal was sealed.

The theme of the Spring 2017 exchange was EMERGE and I was partnered up with Susan, a lovely woman I barely know who lives in New York.

emergemindmap© Tammi Salas, 2017

As soon as I thought of the word emerge – an image of a flower growing out of a pile of rocks came to mind. Beauty, softness and light growing out of stuckness, surviving through darkness.

At the beginning of this project I also happened to be starting a brand new obsession with embroidery. So while my go-to visual art form had always been painting, I decided to try something new.

My two-week-long experience with embroidery up to that point had consisted of pre-printed designs in kits that contained rules and charts on exactly what colors and types of stiches to use. I looked for examples of flower and rock patterns online, and then decided to try making my own.

I bought an embroidery frame and thread in the colors that matched the vision in my head, drew the image with a pencil and got started. With the first outlines stitched, I wondered if this was a good idea. Nothing about it said “awesome” to me.

first pic

But I was going to see it through because Susan was depending on me to do what I said I was going to do. She would be spending her time and energy on a piece for me and I would rather die than let that be one-sided.*

I spent about two weeks on it, still not in love with what was happening but begrudgingly committed and beginning to be resentful. I didn’t know how to embroider curved lines.  The rocks are going to look weird. I hate this.

flower outline doneflower second layer donestem and leaf done

I was convinced that I’d end up in the all-too-familiar place of being unhappy with my artwork. If you’re any kind of artist then you know the special kind of hell I’m describing.

Then I went to Los Angeles for about three weeks to find an apartment and some furniture and I left my EMERGE art project up North at my mom’s. I needed a break and pretended not to know that that meant I wouldn’t finish in time. I got back to the Bay Area two weeks before our art projects were technically due to our partners and I needed to spend those two weeks getting ready to move myself to LA. So I emailed Susan to proactively apologize for the fact that I was going to be late. Big sad frowny face. The truth was I still didn’t want to start working on it again.

On night 2 in my new apartment – the first one I’ve ever lived in alone – I started Susan’s EMERGE project again. Mostly because I didn’t have anything else to do.

As soon as I started though, the energy and love and fierce drive to create was BACK!

Up until that night, I’d been in-between lives. I’d moved out of my apartment in San Francisco 7 months before and had been living at my mom’s while I saved money for a big move to Los Angeles.

I had space in my mom’s house, but not a lot and all my art supplies remained locked away in storage.

Something happened to me when I found myself in my own space, full of only my stuff. A part of me that had been locked away in storage – emerged!

I fell in love the piece and worked on it every spare minute I had. Before my eyes, my vision took shape and it was perfect.

finished still on frame

And then new ideas came to me like a rushing river of creativity.

I knew I was going to cut the flower and rocks out of the frame and I knew exactly how. I knew I was going to put it on a blue background and knew exactly which two blues to mix together to get the exact blue I was picturing. I spotted an old polka-dot shirt at the bottom of my “you may use this in an art project someday” bag-o-stuff and knew that it would be the perfect addition as clouds.

I’d originally tried to embroider the word “emerge” along the stem (you can see the holes from the failed attempt in the picture above) and gave up on that… that was during the “I hate this piece” phase.

But once I was in the heavenly dreamland of everything I tried working out, I sewed the word “emerge” again. It started out imperfectly (how dare it!?) but in the heavenly dreamland of art-that’s-going-well, I believed in myself and let go of the need to be perfect – which is always Such. Sweet. Relief.

Here She Is.  Beauty Softness Strength and Survival. Emerged.

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~~~~~~ ~~~~~~ ~~~~~~

I’m so grateful that I signed up for this exchange because as it turns out, having a responsibility to art forced me to step outside my comfort zone and to stay there until I reached the finish line.

Watching this final piece take shape became a metaphor for me as I sat there in my new apartment, in my new space, in my new life. The beauty and softness and truth of who I am is emerging as well and I’m grateful for this visual representation of that.

Life is good. And for that I am grateful.

*this is an exaggeration but it sounds good, right?

The start of her art collection

The vibe around my office can be tense at times, and especially between mine and this one other team.  Natalie is on that other team and through the battles that our respective teams have gone through, Natalie and I have always found a way to laugh with each other.

She asked me to make a “be grateful” painting for her blank room, which she’d recently realized was too blank.

By the time I sent her the picture of the final product, she’d made a second art purchase, inspired by the one I was making for her!

I’m excited for her new art journey, and honored to be part of the beginning.

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unfinished business.

This painting isn’t complete yet but I still want to post about it even, and especially, in it’s un-finished state.

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Up until recently, all my art has been very geometric and precise.  I do like that look, but there was more to it than just taste. I needed predictability.  I needed precision.  I needed control.

Expressing yourself creatively is a way to bring your insides to the outside.  For my art, it’s sitting at my desk and paying attention to what I feel on the inside, and finding a way to put it on that canvas.  Up until recently, I needed complete control over what came out.  Straight line here, triangle there.  I relied on blue painter’s tape for just about every piece I painted.

And that’s how, for the most part, I’ve been approaching life in general.  Our art is a reflection of ourselves and up until recently, I’ve been way too afraid to let any part of myself out without it going through a careful internal review process. No joke, every word of every sentence. Every move I’d make got reviewed by the internal committees of bullies in my head. My outward expression of myself was COVERED in blue painters tape.  Nothing ever went outside the lines. I’ve been so tightly wound around my belief that I need to work really fucking hard to be some perfect representation of one thing or another.  And I’m really fucking tired from it.

The point of this post is to recognize that my art, and therefore hopefully in my life as a whole, has started flowing more naturally.  That I’m learning to sit down, feel what’s moving around inside, and just let whatever happens happen.


 

Nov 27 update: here’s the final product:

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Astral insights

I just came across this transcript I jotted down of a Chani Nicholas full moon, lunar eclipse ritual podcast a few months ago. It’s some of the best self-affirming language I’ve ever come across so I thought I’d store it on this public blog and share it with those of you who read it.

Anytime we run up any sentiment of self-annihilation, we MUST stand against it. That is our job.

Anything inside of ourselves that says;
I don’t deserve this
I shouldn’t exist
I don’t have a place here
I don’t deserve to be here

is BULLSHIT and needs to be stood against very very FIRMLY.

We need to stop in our tracks and say;
No. I won’t have it.
I won’t diminish myself
I won’t shrink in the face of this.
I will stand for myself in this moment.
I will connect to myself and be present for myself and witness myself, and find a way toward coming back into relationship with loving myself in this moment.
I am finding that way right now
I will not leave myself here.

If we’re tired of being left, we have to stop leaving ourselves emotionally.

If we’re tired of being left out, then we need to choose ourselves every time.

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Jonny’s Wall

When my friend Jonny moved into his loft in SF last year, he casually mentioned me painting “be grateful” on one of the walls.

Then he came back from a two-month trip in South America early this year with gratitude in his eyes and a new motivation for me to paint his space.  We started talking about ideas and then we started talking about dates.  We set a weekend and crossed our to-do list off at a hardware store; scaffolding, paint and drop-cloths to protect the rest of his apartment (you’ll see why).

Bam.

Building, Finding, Being Support.

I’ve been taking private Pilates lessons for about 4 years now.  I was gifted from the universe with my soul sister Pilates instructor, Susanne.  She’s helped me come out of the stuckness and stiffness of my injuries, emotionally and physically, and to build the beautiful strength from the inside out for support… emotionally and physically.  She’s changed my life and I tell her that every time I think of it. This past January she started an 8am beginners mat class in which we would:

begin with Fundamentals and some great pre-Pilates exercises from the Pilates Elders, to warm up and mobilize the spine; then we will dive in to the level 1/2 mat work.

I responded to that email saying “i’m pretty sure you just wrote that description for me. see you tuesday!” It’s settled into a pretty standard small group of us, wandering in at 8am with sleep still in our eyes, all there in the name of our bodies and our health.  I’m the youngest by a few decades and with my slow and strong but delicate body, we all slowly get into the exercises and slowly continue to build strength around what supports us. I’m so grateful for Pilates, for the strength it’s shown me, and the community it’s given me.  To health!! Picture 50 Picture 49

May I remind you, please

  

The Be Grateful Project

As you may have been reading, my nephew and I orchestrated a mural project at his school and presented it to the entire student body on Monday, March 30 – the day they returned to school from their two-week break.  We kept it a secret mostly and brought the students out to the black top for a first-thing-Monday-morning-surprise-assembly.

I was excited to talk in front of a crowd (of 9 year olds, ha!) and bring my message to more people but in preparing for my speech – all I kept thinking was how impressed I was with my nephew.  He saw something happening (me putting “be grateful” places) and decided it should happen in his world (at his school) – and then he went and made it happen.

I struggled in finding my words for the speech and then listened to my nephew deliver his – full of sincerity and passion with no second-thought about how it might come across.  Kids are so real and true.

We tried to video-tape the whole event but Aiden’s speech is all we captured – which is what I’m the most grateful for in my life right now.  His words go straight to my heart – and straight to the heart of the matter.  Be kind.  Be brave.  Be grateful. Take action and make things better.  “Maybe use these words to think about the way you treat others or yourself.”

The other beautiful part of this experience – was how easily and immediately the kids bought into the idea.  We had each of the student council kids stand up after I spoke and read what it meant to them to be kind, brave and grateful.  They all spoke loudly into the microphone with their passionate thoughts on what it all meant.  (ok so this is the other part we caught on video.. I caught just a snippet on my iPhone before a kid next to me started spitting on the ground repeatedly and loudly.. oh kids 😉 )

Additionally, my sister had created in-class projects for each of the grade-levels and we gave each teacher one of my stickers and a pack of blank labels for each kid to create their own.

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I loved being in front of young people and talking to them about such a helpful perspective to remember.  I loved seeing how easily they agreed, and how passionately they’ve made it their own.

The younger generation is listening so closely.  I’m grateful to have started this conversation.  Who’s up next?

Here’s the first post I wrote about the very beginning of the project: https://begratefulplease.com/2015/01/06/inspired-by-the-inspired/

And here’s the second post, from when we finally got started: https://begratefulplease.com/2015/03/16/the-sort-of-secret-pbg/

The (mostly) Secret PBG

A few months ago, I wrote about my 9-year old nephew proposing what we now call Project Be Grateful (PBG) at his school.  Well it’s been moving right along and in a few weeks, it’ll all come together in what should be a really impactful event for his school and maybe even wider than that.

We’re doing a bit of an unveiling ceremony but I wanted to put up these little teaser pictures for now because I can barely contain my excitement.

Our first team meeting with Mr. Jones

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Laying the foundation

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The painting begins, Student Council kids were excited to get involved and get started

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Adding some letters!

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More to come in a few weeks!!