The image in the background of this photo is of one of my large, wall-sized paintings, Firebirth.
It was painted in 2001 with mostly a very tiny watercolor paintbrush over several months, before my life as I knew it was about to change drastically and dramatically.
Drivin’ & Cryin’
It was a life transition filled with drama, life, death (three, to be exact) betrayal of life partner and best friend (the best friend loss hurt more than the dude, strangely). All of my eggs* were in one basket, so there was a loss of home, career, livlihood, money, stability, everything…was just…gone.
The divorce lawyer I went to for help underlined the fact that my story was like so many women who give up their own career/money/security/credit/time/wisdom/common sense/ to become the helpmate to their spouse or partner in their business—and then BOOM! Lose it all when the relationship goes sideways.
Somehow, she already knew my story before I spilled the gory details.
Is she psychic? I wondered.
And just as fast, I got it.
Are you saying my I’m a cliche?
No. But the situation is.
She shook her head from side to side with a no, no, no…and wouldn’t even take my money.
Don’t bother trying to fight it. You’re young, she said.
*Your ovaries aren’t young…the voice of my gynecologist whispered in my head. Not being a mother or having a family would be a larger grief to unwind.
There was also a rebound love affair that was a different kind of disaster, which took my mind off all the big losses that happened at once.
Taking my mind off things is code for: gave me something else to obsess over while I waded into the deep end of grief.
This was a good strategy, because I eventually waded out. Barely, and by the skin of my teeth. With all thanks due to having a creative practice.
Thank you, creative practice. Thank you for my beautiful, creative life. Thank you.
Drivin’ & Cryin’ is the title of my forthcoming visual memoir about being humbled by grief, and then taking the road less traveled by. I set out to pursue a dream and went on a yearlong pilgrimage of the heart to confront my biggest fears, alone in the Western United States, in a 1972 Volkswagen camper.
Painting as a Creative Process
So about that painting. Firebirth is what I called it when it was done.
It helped me navigate a journey that was about to unfold. A woman on fire with creativity. About to be born into a new world. But first, there is fire. Like a phoenix. Firey hands of a thousand midwives —my true creative kindreds — ready and willing to receive me.
All of this interpretation and understanding came much later. In the moment, I just painted whatever felt good, in whatever colors called me. I started out with one sheet of 20 x 30 inch paper, and had to keep adding to it.
The image grew with an energy of it’s own and ended up at an unwieldy 5 by 8 feet.
That’s a lot of creative fire.
Why I *Really* Paint & Write
Artmaking has always been my form of therapy, my way of processing what is happening.
Artmaking is my path of wellness and healing.
Artmaking is what makes me feel good.
Artmaking = happification.
Often, word and image combine. And just as often, I’ll fill notebooks with just writing, or entire sketchbooks with just images and mark making. All three of these ways of creating serve me equally.
The Creative Mix
One of the questions most asked from participants in my workshops has to do with how much to mix or keep separate writing and image-making in their visual journals and sketchbooks.
The answer is: do whatever feels best to you in the moment.
Follow the lead of your inner creative calling. Sometimes words are the easiest thing to put down on paper. Sometimes it’s easiest to play with image.
If it’s difficult and fraught with efforting and bad feelings, it’s a sign that we’re off track. It doesn’t mean we suck or that we’re not worthy or good enough.
Whatever you are trying to write or paint or create, do what is easiest and most enjoyable. The rest will unfold from there.
It took me a long time to learn that in my own creative process. Even longer to allow that wisdom to spill into my life.
Good thing the creative process is a process, right? A journey. Not a destination.
For some years now, I’ve had the creative urge to set actual fire to this firey self-portrait.
It hung in my loft for about a year, but was a big presence to look at all the time.
Plus, it had the effect of frightening male visitors.
This could not be good for my new dating life, I reasoned, and put it into storage.
The BigAss Move
Last week, I just completed what turned out to be Phase One of the BigAss Move – my official letting go of all of my stuff in the USA to base myself in Mexico, where I’ve lived on and off for many years now.
Phase One, because…I did not end up completing the task.
Which is another (hopefully shorter) story for another time.
Phase Two of the BigAss Move will take place from August 27-Sept 1.
The plan is to sort through the remaining items I couldn’t deal with before (including the Firebirth painting), cut those down to about half or less, and then bring the rest with me to Mexico.
Letting Go Fire Ceremony
What I dream of doing is having a letting go bonfire at Muir Beach, CA on Saturday or Sunday August 30 or 31, in the company of my kindred friends who are able to join in.
If it’s legal and possible, I’d like to set fire to Firebirth, as a kind of Burning Woman celebration. And also invite everyone to bring something to burn, something to let go of to make way for something new.
I’ve participated in fire ceremony before, and it is so powerful. Magical even.
The idea is that each person arrives with an intention (and a burnable object) to let go of that has been difficult.
The more difficult it is to let go of the object, the ancients say, the more profound the healing.
If the object isn’t burnable, it is brought and then given to someone else in the circle to do with what they wish.
Letting go of something that we didn’t think we could ever part with is potent medicine.
This can encompass anything from old hurts and grievances, to unrequited love, or a cherished dream that is now just holding us back from what wants to happen next.
When we surrender to the burning fire what no longer serves, we find freedom to align with and attract what we really, really, really want.
Even if we don’t know yet what we really, really, really want.
We usually have a great deal of certainty what we don’t want, and that is all that is required for the surrender. The Universe and our unseen helpers do the rest.
I can’t think of a better way to draw a circle of completion around my time in California.
Of course, if you WANT this Burning Woman painting, tell me—before August 30! Maybe it belongs to someone out there. I just know that it’s not making the cut of what I will transport with me across the border.
Let’s Burn, Baby Burn!
If you think you can join me, let me know which date works best and I’ll try to arrive at a schedule that works for most. I’m flexible, either day works for me.
If you wish to join me in spirit—equally powerful—leave a comment with your own intention and the object you are letting go of.
We will add it all to the burning fire.
Contributions of favorite burning-themed poetry and prose is welcome, too. I imagine Rumi has something good on the subject.
We could also play Disco Inferno and do some crazy dancing.
Journal with me, too?
I keep forgetting to mention, in all the moving hoopla – that the 30 Day Journal project starts August 1.
It’s free to participate!
Journal with me, you and 9,998 others who will boldly dare to face the blank page for just 30 Days. Together.
Read all about it and sign up here: https://www.lisasonora.com/30-day-journal-project/
What would happen if 10,000 people journaled together for 30 Days? Let’s find out!
If 30 days of journaling seems daunting – don’t worry!
You don’t have journal every single day, and you can take the 30 prompts at your own pace.
You won’t be going it alone – we’ll all be in it together. Like a cosmically connected, super-supportive life raft for each other’s creative dreams.