by Amber Goodwin, Merchandiser, Goonellabah, Australia
When I was little I was always freely expressing, I loved to make sounds and tones, and sing. I loved to move my body, music or no music, I loved to play and make things with not a thought on ‘how it would turn out’… my heart had something it was feeling confident to express and I loved this feeling.
However, after a few knocks here and there I began to believe the harsh rules, conditions, expectations and beliefs that were placed on me and I began to squash my own expression so as to not upset anyone else … and in doing so I have held my natural expression back, which has felt crippling for me ever since.
I had an experience recently where I took up the offer to do some art with Rosie’s ‘Expression through HeART’ art class. I needed a mask for a masquerade ball I am attending so that’s what I decided I’d make.
I googled a few mask pictures to get an idea of what I liked and found one that I loved. I took myself shopping to find the materials I wanted to use, and whilst I was looking at options of material, I found it hard to make a decision. It had to be exactly like what I saw in the picture, and for a fair price. Soon I became quite tense as I was taking too much time. I then realised I had to just be practical and take what would best suit and move on to the next thing. However with each item, this feeling of not being confident, of being afraid that I’d not get the right things and end up with something that wasn’t right, kept coming up. After two hours it had become a somewhat painful experience!! However, when I looked in my basket, I loved what I had ended up with – feathers, pearls, gems and lace. Wow! I thought, even though that was a bit of a struggle I really love what I have chosen.
The next morning I arrived at the art studio where I was shown to the space I could set myself up, and the textiles I could use. I took my time to settle and set up my area. I got everything out and ready but found myself hesitant to start. I felt exuberant about making something but felt tense and uneasy about how to do it… I was so afraid of making a mistake, or doing it wrong, or ruining the materials I had paid a lot of money for.
I started with preparing my mask, which needed to be stripped of its existing cover. I began to struggle with peeling the glue off, becoming more tense and pressing on it harder and harder until I accidentally snapped it clean in half! Well, that made me stop!
I sat back for a moment, I felt so tense… I thought to myself “what is going on with me?”, “nothing should be this difficult”, “why is this such a struggle for me?”, “I need to come back to myself”.
I brought my awareness back into my body; I felt the tension in my arms and shoulders and chest and noticed my breathing felt constricted. I took some deeper breaths and then let them go, and allowed my breathing to become more gentle; I got up from my seat and moved around a little to allow the flow back into my body.
I wasn’t going to let the fact that the mask broke stop me, and thankfully I managed to superglue the mask back together and continue.
The next part was gluing the material on with the hot gun. Now this was a somewhat tricky task as the glue dries fairly fast and the material can be a little flimsy.
Once again I began to tense up and feel awkward and uneasy about how to do it, not knowing if it was going to turn out right. At this stage I was well and truly over feeling this tension so I asked for some help. It was suggested to me to try the glue out on a bit of cardboard first, so I did and felt a little more confident as I now understood the way the glue worked.
As I continued with each step I felt the tension rise, but I also kept choosing to stay with me, to feel my body and my breathing and to take one step at a time. I found that as I stayed with me I was feeling more confident as I went along and I started to feel a little more adventurous and ‘freer’ in what or how I might do the next thing.
With this I began to realise that I had been so incredibly hard on myself, and this ‘being hard’ had been making things hard for myself.
I realised I was still subscribing to the harsh rules, conditions and expectations that had once been placed on me and was not allowing myself to feel what was right for me. But now I had chosen to be in a space where this was not happening… a space where I could let go, take my time, feel how I might do things and be with myself without feeling I needed to change or do or be something different to meet others’ demands and expectations: in this staying with me I could feel a lovely-ness and an allowing in what I was doing, and I started feeling confident in the choices I was making.
A beautiful conversation opened up with the women I was doing the art with and there was an openness that felt lovely. One woman then began to sing, and we so naturally joined in and all began to sing and gently move to the music that was playing… I felt like I was five years old again except that now we were beautiful grown women – it felt amazing.
As I completed I began to see and feel that what I was making was actually truly magnificent! I became tense because for a moment I thought “after all that fuss I wasn’t allowed to love what I had made”; but there it was, staring me in the face, (pun intended) this beautiful, delicate, feminine and absolutely gorgeous masquerade mask, and not only was I feeling confident but I could see and feel I had made a celebration of me!