Aren’t you glad when an artist writes a song about being down and out? A poet tells of their despair? Don’t you feel less alone, and a little more understood, especially when you feel lost and utterly alone?
Today begs for some sharing of work-in-progress. Even though it is raw and vulnerable material.
You see, I’m inspired by my 16-year-old nephew, Thomas, who is struggling, yet making art from somewhere deep beyond his despair.
If you’ve ever struggled, or are struggling with a sense of meaninglessness and existential loneliness, this is for you, too.
Tommy, we’re not track runners, but this is the image that comes to mind:
It is dark, and we are runners on the same relay race team. In quantum space and time, there is no past, no future, only the present. So I am running toward you, or you are running toward me.
We are meeting in this dark field, disguised as a track. I am holding out a glowing baton of light to you, the way a relay runner passes the baton to the next runner.
When I was your age, I ran that thousand mile race through sadness and anger, and eventually came out the other side.
But almost didn’t make it.
Through most of it, I felt like I was clinging to the narrow ledge of life by my fingernails. No safety net.
Finding a sense of belonging, my higher purpose as an artist, and the quest for truelove set me on a pilgrimage of the heart, where I traveled alone throughout the Western United States in a 1972 Volkswagen Camper named Freeda.
During my pilgrimage, I made art in my sketchbooks and kept extensive visual journals. My art studio was as portable as my life.
About the image:
That’s a self-portrait taken somewhere in the Northern California redwoods.
In a painting class with Holly Roberts, she shared her technique of oil painting on top of photos, so I experimented with that right in my sketchbook (in acrylic as oil would not work in the book).
When I paint, words and ideas always download into my brain. If they don’t get written down, they are lost forever. All I had was a pencil, so I wrote right on the page and then continued painting around it.
The text on the right reads:
Do you know what it means to be lost? Do you know what that feels like?
Lost not knowing where you belong. Not knowing to whom or what you could possibly belong.
I tried to find myself in you. I tried to find myself everywhere and in everyone.
I was lost.
For so long I could not be found.
I did not belong until I turned around, through the beckoning door. And stepped through.
I stepped through.
A wound is a door, all of the great mystics say.
A wound is a door.
And I stepped through.
— excerpt from Drivin’ & Cryin’: A Visual Memoir from Alaska to Mexico by Lisa Sonora
A Teenage Mystic Among Us
If you read Thomas’ Instagram posts (he gave me permission to share with you here), you’ll see and feel his struggle and search for meaning, love and connection.
He writes of wanting to be seen, heard, loved, mixed in with his love of science and quantum physics. He says he wants to float in space, write a book, find form for his genius (true gifts), and connect in meaningful, not superficial ways with people.
All of the world’s mystics and philosophers struggle with this, and so does anyone who has suffered a wounding so big they fear they’ll never be whole again. So he’s in good company. But still.
I am both worried about him and incredibly inspired by his courage in writing and sharing.
All I can think of to do is share my creative journey with him and point him in the direction of teachers who can help him actually float in space (while still being very much alive and Earthbound), show him how to express his higher purpose and find his tribe.
So do go see his work, share your thoughts and share his work with whoever you feel would benefit.
Artist as Guide (or Guidess, as the case may be)
When take our pain and turn it into art, we become healers, shamans, guides and guidesses.
At the very least, when we dare to share that art, it has the potential to connect us — to others who need to hear our message, but also to connect us to those few people in the world who really get us and our work.
In a world where we measure our so-called success or popularity with millions of likes or thousands of followers, what we really need are just a few people who understand and love us. If these few people are spread across different time zones, all the better. Then it’s never too early or too late to call.
Art making is soul making.
Art is the artifact of an inner journey.
In case you ever thought creating or art was frivolous.
Art is a language to speak the things we think and feel but cannot say.
What to Do When You Feel Lost and Utterly Alone
When you feel lost and utterly alone, the temptation is usually to hide out and isolate. You probably won’t feel like creating.
That’s why the following three things might seem counterintuitive. Maybe you are able to do one of these three things. Do ALL three and I promise it will make a difference. Try and see for yourself.
1. Make Your Art
“You can hold a Kleenex in one hand, and your paintbrush in the other.”
This is something I’ve assured countless students in workshops. In other words: You can feel like shit, and even be crying, and create anyway.
Making my art and helping you make yours is my soul’s purpose. Here are some things I’ve written that will help you make your way. Especially if you don’t think of yourself as a “real” artist or even creative.
2. Share Your Art
Start a blog, use Instagram or other social media channel of your choice. It’s going to feel scary as hell. Do it anyway. Yesterday was an ideal time to start, today is even better.
If Thomas can do it, so can you.
It’s almost impossible for me to share this piece today (huge stomach ache as I wrote), but I can’t stop thinking about my nephew. And how I want him to know he’s not alone.
It’s one thing to say: Dude, I’ve been there. I get it.
But it’s another thing altogether to dare to show & tell the searing truth about our experience.
Think of it as SOUL Show & Tell.
Here’s what my very first blog post looked like, published in 2002.
And some of the more daring/oversharing things here on the blog to give you courage.
3. Dare to Connect
Call, text, email someone. Reach out and dare to connect and let them know you are struggling.
Ask for what you want. Scripts for you: I’d love to talk when you have a chance. Are you up for a visit? It would mean a lot to me to get together. More daring: Hey, I’m in the weeds need a hand. Can we chat?
Ask a few people in case they are busy or not looking at their emails or phone.
To dare to connect is something I have to stretch waaaay outside my comfort zone to do.
It’s not easy for me to be that vulnerable or ask for help. So it’s a conscious practice.
Ken is my best friend from music school in Chicago. We met when I was a teenager. He has always loved me and seen me, even with all of my flaws and so many growing pains.
We all need people who see us, truly. When they let us know: BOOM. That’s magic, isn’t it?
Thomas, if you’re reading this, you’re a Gorgeous Genius and I love you—and can’t wait to see what you’re going to create with all of that passion inside of you.
I have an idea for that book you want to write. I’m so proud of you. Hang in there. It gets better.
What are you struggling with?
That is one of my favorite questions. I remember being asked that by an intense and mysterious woman in San Francisco long ago, and it led to one of the most meaningful conversations ever.
Who do you know who is struggling?
Reach out and let them know you are thinking of them.
I’d appreciate you sharing this post with anyone you think would benefit. Young, old, wise, innocent.
We ALL need someone, at least one person who gets us, who sees us. We need to reciprocate and share the love around.
Thank you for BEING here today and for your kind attention.
Image Credits: “Muse Lighting the Dark” original painting by Lisa Sonora 2002, Acrylic, Collage, Oil Pastel on Paper. Starry sky photo by Ryan Hutton and the track photo is by Photo is by Chris Karidis