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Child's hand reaching for a horse on a farm
"Innocently Reaching"

Over the past year, I started submitting my images to juried exhibitions, grants, and awards. It's been quite a grueling process. Writing, rewriting, and rewriting again, project statements, artist bios, and resumes. Looking at your image and writing the message you are trying to convey but never having the "right" words. I'll be honest perfection kept me stagnant for 6 months. Wanting to apply, then missing the deadline. But one day a lightbulb went off and I told myself submit the work the way it is no matter what, because if I don't I'll never know what could have been.

I've been honored and grateful for the acceptances so far. What I haven't mentioned is the rejections. "We appreciate you applying, your project was not chosen." "We have selected another project for the award. We wish you continued success in the pursuit of your personal project."

Each time I received a rejection, I felt shame. My mind said, "You're not THAT good. You should stop submitting work to shows." As I researched new grants and shows to apply to, I'd look at previous winners of awards and compare my work, writing off many applications believing my work wasn't good enough. I didn't speak of these rejections or feelings of shame, and they stayed with me, growing deeper and deeper in my mind till I was no longer creating art. It felt like I was sucked into this dark vortex of lies unable to breathe.

When I looked at this image of a child innocently reaching, not giving up, I realized rejection is apart of life and growth. If I view rejection, not as failure but as an inch towards reaching that horse or a step in the evolution of a project, my view of rejection changes. By acknowledging my shame, it is instantly weakened and I remember the truth. Rejection is helping me be more resilient. Showing up after a rejection makes me stronger, defines, and molds my creative journey.

I get lost in the deep dark woods a lot. It does not come naturally for me to be positive. It’s very easy for my mind to spiral out of control. I get frustrated looking for the way out and often forget the ways I have learned to navigate these woods. (Like using All Trails).

When I’m lost I become numb. My mind is never rational. I start “shoulding” myself and feeling unworthy. The comparison begins and I can’t seem to remember the truth about myself in my heart. All I can do is keep walking and looking for a way out. I end up in circles, never getting anywhere.

After running myself ragged, I realize I need to stop for a rest and breathe. I look around and notice the leaves falling from the trees. I can hear them falling one after the other, it sounds like heavy rain. I’ve never heard leaves falling. I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped long enough to listen.

As I listened and appreciated mother nature, I felt calm, my mind stopped running.

While I don’t want to be lost it’s part of my rhythm and I’ve learned to be okay with it. I can’t control being lost, and I can’t find my way out with positive affirmations. No one can find me and help me, I have to find my own way.

I hold on to the clarity and confidence that come when I get out of the woods and the joy and freedom of not dealing with shame and perfection.

Being lost is a part of life, and when I stop frantically searching for an exit, I remember self-compassion, gratitude, and rest. Then I will find my way out of the woods.

Sticks and Branches at Wyoming Pond in Wyoming, Rhode Island

It’s easy to live in fear without knowing you are afraid.

Fear slowly builds a nest in your head, adding a twig of shame here and a stick of powerlessness over there. It doesn’t stop till you are that other version of yourself, the one hiding in the corner, curled up in a ball, alone.

Fear causes you to dumb down your beliefs and you get good at making excuses for your choices. Complaining becomes normal because you have a hard time experiencing any joy.

Fear causes you to question your relationships. Constantly wondering if you did something wrong. Always saying yes because you are afraid of disappointing someone.

Fear makes you build a wall, to protect yourself from anything remotely difficult. Failure is not an option so you try and control every outcome, never leaving room for creativity or spontaneity.

Fear causes you to compare yourself to others and envy them. Wishing you had their strength and discipline. Yearning for the body that looks good in that dress so and so has on. After all that comparison, you feel unworthy in the depths of your heart.

Fear consumes gratitude. It creates a dark cloud in your head, where all you can do is keep hustling and numbing yourself till none of "you" is left.

Fear is a liar.

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