Words and Art by J.Thoresen.
I’ve been giving the idea of comfort a lot of thought lately. Where we go for comfort. The things we do. And while I think we all need a space that provides us with less stress and anxiety. I’ve also been thinking that in many ways when we strive for comfort, we can actually throw ourselves in a rut. Although comfort is a natural program that we create to keep us safe with less energy input, sometimes it can become our prison.
Some people use drugs or alcohol to seek comfort, some people use relationships, food or sex. These are all more obvious examples in which comfort can create a rut. But I think we all pick our own poison. I don’t abuse substances but I get stuck in comfort zones. I hide at home and in my own mind. I avoid discomfort. I give in to my fear and anxiety. We likely all do in our own way. My Dad struggled with alcoholism, and while the ruts I create for myself are less treacherous, I’ve recognized just as he did that I can get stuck in a pattern of avoidance. And that can really be damaging. So just as he did, I’m fighting that urge to run back to my comfort zones. It’s a tough act to break though. And I’ve never felt more empathetic towards those trying to pull themselves out of the deep ruts of addiction. Even without that struggle, my mind keeps thinking and acting in a manner consistent with what I have done and said in the past. I get emotionally and physically uncomfortable when I attempt to try something new and different. And while my subconscious keeps pulling me back toward my comfort zone. Each time I try something new, I have learned that if I can withstand the discomfort for a short time, I open myself up to a life much more glorious than the one I live within a comfort zone. Through this practice I’ve started to recognize when I’m sliding back into my ruts. And I’ve found a few ways to move forward when I start feeling stuck. This is what works for me, so I thought I’d share with you.
1. Try something new.
Personally I’ve found the best way to push myself out of my comfort zone is to try something new. It forces me to meet new people, builds confidence, and has pretty much always been a catalyst for new creative endeavours. You’ll never know what you can do, if you never try.
2. Do something scary.
What is something you have always wanted to do but talked yourself out of? Whatever it is, do it! Sometimes growth is not only uncomfortable, it’s scary. While I’m perfectly ok with being silly and oversharing ridiculous things about myself, I often try to talk myself out of sharing my deeper thoughts and feelings for fear of rejection or conflict. So I decided to start a blog. I share my thoughts, poems, and art, and it’s really been a beautiful thing. I am learning it’s ok to share even the darkest parts of myself and I’m practicing being ok with rejection, and people opposing my opinion. Those things aren’t always easy to face but the more I practice the more I open myself up to deeper, and authentic interactions and relationships.
3. Agree to something you wouldn’t normally consider.
I don’t love group activities, but sometimes I agree and I almost always enjoy myself. It has helped me to discover how adaptable I can be with different types of people.
I get pretty stressed in a leadership role, but I’ve taken them, and have found I can actually be pretty great at pulling people together.
I love making art, but I dislike commissions. While I know part of this is that I prefer the freedom to make what I like, I also know that deep down I struggle to believe I am good enough. But I’m trying to throw that belief away. If someone approaches me to do something, they likely believe I am capable. So I try to believe it too. Because I am.
This is and will always be an evolving list. Because I’m always evolving, and I’m committed to the challenge of figuring out how to be my best self. And I’m discovering that the toughest part of that growth is facing the fact that I am often my own worst enemy.
Doing what you want takes courage. And it seems quite often we stand in our own way. I’m certainly not perfect, I’m always trying to sell myself on some story of doubt. Telling myself I can’t do this, or that. I say, “well maybe it’s just easy for that guy, if I was richer, more privileged, more talented, more personable, maybe I could do it too.” I shouldn’t even try, right? Wrong! It doesn’t matter if I’m taking a big leap or a tiny step, when I step out of my comfort zone I’m setting fire to all of the stories I’ve written to myself that say “I can’t.” You see I finally got sick of my own bullshit. I got sick of trying to adapt for everyone else. I got sick of the limitations I imposed on myself. I got sick of waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel and I lit that bitch myself.
And you can too!
The other night my son wanted to break a wishbone with me. Naturally I have a jar of wishbones ready for all of our wishing needs. And every time we compete for one, he yells, “you’re never gonna win!”
It always makes me laugh, but in my head there’s a little voice that says, “story of my life.”
He won, and his happy little bounce as he silently made his wishes made me happy. But it got me thinking. I’ve been making a lot of wishes the last while. Actually I’ve been making a lot of wishes my whole life. Usually I’m wishing that something were different. I have a big list of wishes ready, but I never seem to win.
It’s just so frustrating sometimes. And while I try to make myself think positively, I quite often feel like I come up short. I don’t think I’ve ever had something just come easily to me. It seems like there’s always a catch. Some rocky terrain to cover before I can get where I wanna be. And then I just wish I was stupid, maybe then I could be content. Maybe then I could stop dreaming and just settle. Maybe I could stop comparing myself to every other woman, artist or mother. I wish I didn’t care so much about everyone else’s feelings, and I just wish someone would put mine first. Choose me first. I wish I felt desirable, and I wish I could just fuck cause I want to, instead of on some fucking schedule. I wish I could just enjoy love, without the fear of loss always hanging over me. I just wish I could be like the cool kids and not give a fuck, but the fact is I will always give too many. Sometimes I am crippled by all the fucks.
Sometimes it makes me think I should hide. It makes me want to run away. Pretend to be someone else. Try on another life, see if I fit. But I’m not someone else. I’m me. Even all the fucked up and annoying fucks I shouldn’t give, are me. All of the emotions that keep bubbling up even though I try to ignore them, are me. I don’t wanna ride the complain train. But I’m not sure what to do when everything that’s happened is out of my control. And I don’t know what to do with the angry feelings that keep trying to come out of me.
I recently attended a workshop though, and our instructor said “the way it comes out of you is right.” She said “Work on one area at a time, but remember to take a step back every now and then so you can see the bigger picture.”
Obviously she was meaning the art, but life is art, and I didn’t realize how badly I needed to hear those words. So instead of running from this funk I’m in. I’m trying to walk with it, let it come out of me. So I went walking last night. I was thinking and trying to figure out if I’m even on the right path. If I don’t even know what I wanna do or where I wanna go, how can I get where I want to be?
As I walked though, I noticed that my path has gotten smoother just by continuing to walk it. Some parts of the trail have blown in, so I’ve found other routes. Even on the bumpy parts I’ve noticed I’m starting to make my own little groove. And it got me thinking maybe the problem isn’t my path, maybe the problem is that I’m always comparing my path to others. Life, art, love, feelings, fertility—wishes, none of these things are meant to be a competition. Each one is just a path. And we will each have our own experience. For whatever reason, my circumstances have provided me with the odd bumpy and winding path. But I’ve gotten pretty damn far despite all that. I do get tired, but I know now that my strength is in my perseverance.
So maybe if I keep going I can make more wishes come true for myself. I have already made it a point to try to choose myself, and to love myself first. It feels right, it feels good. And come to think of it, I could even go fuck myself. Check another wish off the list. Ha! I’m always giving too many fucks anyway, maybe it’s about time I lay some of those fucks on myself.
And maybe one day, I’ll even be thankful for all of the wishes that didn’t come true. Sometimes it’s been the blocked paths that have pushed me to take another route. Sometimes those roadblocks, led down paths that turned out to be even better than what I had imagined.
I just need to remember that just because one path is messed up, it doesn’t mean the journey is ruined. And maybe I don’t need to know exactly where the path is leading me yet, I just need to walk it. One step at a time. Find my own way. Make my own groove. Just keep working on one area at a time, and try to remember to step back now and then and appreciate how far I’ve come. If I like how it’s coming along, I can keep going. But if I don’t, I can always choose to go in another direction.
I’m just realizing that what really fucks me up most of the time, is that I start to think the picture I’m making is wrong because it doesn’t look like anyone else’s. And it never seems to turn out exactly how I envisioned it in my head. But maybe it’s not supposed to.
I want to end up with a sunny picture as much as the next guy, but maybe I’ve gotta paint with the colours I have right now. And I’ve been handed some dark ones. So why hide it. I can’t seem to get rid of what hurts, so I’ll hold it. Work with it. Walk with it. I need to honour it as it comes out. Sometimes when I’m too close to it, it seems like a mess. But when I take a step back and look at the big picture, it’s kind of a beautiful mess. The picture will never be perfect. But I’m learning however it comes out of me it’s just right!
I shouldn’t be painting, I have a ton of work to do, but I’m haunted. I had the most vivid dream the other night that I’m walking on a path through the bushes, a wolf comes and blocks my path. It’s not threatening, it just stands in my way. I’m tempted to back away but we just kind of stare at each other. It was really intense, and I start getting really scared. And that’s when I woke up. I don’t know if dreams mean something or not, but I can’t stop thinking about this one. So I decided to paint it out. And I looked up the possible meaning or message of the dream. This is what my life guru google had to say about my dream:
Wolves in dreams can represent all that is wild and “uncivilised” about ourselves. This can be a scary thing to confront. Wild can be untamed and bad mannered, but wild can also be pure and uncorrupted. Sometimes a wolf in a dream will be guiding us to find our true, authentic nature that we are afraid to reveal as we try to conform. The behaviour of wolves in their native environments can give us clues as to why we might be dreaming about them. Do you long to feel part of a group, or seek the support and kindred spirit of a pack? Do you feel a need to protect something that is important to you, and need the fierceness of a wolf mother? Do you need to approach a situation carefully, using the stealth of a wolf to get close without being discovered? Do you feel a need to express your true self more freely, let go of inhibitions and howl at the moon?
Kinda eerie. Makes me think anyway. What do you think? Do you think dreams mean anything? Or do you figure they are just some nonsense conjured up by our subconscious while we sleep?
You may have heard of the *study published in 2015 that found kids are “800 per cent worse” for their mothers. It found that children as young as eight-months-old could be playing happily, but upon seeing their mother they were 99.9% more likely to begin crying, release their bowels, or need her immediate attention.
While this study was obviously a fake, the observations about child behaviour where bang on. Some psychologists have even shared clues as to why this phenomenon seems so relatable for so many families. Upon reading some of these articles I noticed that my parenting style bares a striking resemblance to the toddlers within the fake study. So I took the liberty of noting these similarities.
Please tell me I’m not alone.
•A need for attention!
Just like your unruly toddler, who will suddenly throw down an epic tantrum the second you get on the phone, this mama is thirsting for attention. I haven’t had an adult conversation for days (maybe even weeks) so I’m gonna do whatever it takes. I’m hoping that you might turn your eyes in my direction. Or at least roll them. I don’t even care at this point. There’s a good chance I’m gonna get loud, and if that doesn’t work there’s always the possibility I will stop my feet and start having a little tantrum of my own. Someone please, just put me to bed.
•Testing the limits.
There seem to be a lot of parenting rules these days. The way we feed, raise, carry, dress and let our children play or sleep are now major points of judgement in the parenting world. I can’t keep it all straight. But I find myself overwhelmed, and anxious by all of the things each sect says I’m not aloud to do. Although privately, I know I’m just doing my best to raise a well balanced human, I’m always pushing the playground boundaries. I’m not terribly rebellious, but these rules seem so inconsistent. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to get it right anyway. So if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting looking somewhat sullen on my phone, and sharing some kind of processed snack with the kid.
From the moment that baby was placed in my arms I knew I was in big trouble. I am not one of those people that ran around tooting their own horn and saying what a great parent they were going to be. I’ve always been afraid of newborns, they can smell my fear. And that fear is tripled when I have an audience. I’m afraid my social skills are questionable at the best of times. And awkward is kinda my specialty. I’m nervous and embarrassed parenting in public because you’ll probably realize I suck. So if I muster up the courage to parade this train wreck, just show me a bit of understanding.
I love my kids. I’m actually really sad when I feel like we aren’t getting enough quality time. BUT, I’m also an introvert. I like having the space to think, I value periods of silence. I long for deeper conversations than our normal, albeit hilarious poop and fart talks.
And yet on the rare occasion I can steal myself away, all I can do is ramble on awkwardly about how irritating the kid can be. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but he’s obsessed with me.
•Can’t seem to control emotions
Okay surely others can relate to this. I’ve had to hold it together for a long time. I’ve likely had a host of positive emotions but I’ve also been lonely, bored or frustrated. I seem able to hold it together when I’m by myself, because after all, I realize there will be no search and rescue teams coming to help me. If we’re going to survive it’s all up to me.
So chances are if I’m even remotely comfortable with you, you may find me overreacting to everything. This is a cry for help. I need a time out.
•Underlying mental health issues.
Obviously this is a much more sensitive issue. Underlying mental health issues can definitely affect our moods. I’ve had anxiety all of my life. I’m generally scared to do most things, and I spend a lot of time fighting my brain. I don’t know why but my brain just loves to replay conversations or crazy scenarios over and over in my mind. Thankfully over the years I’ve managed to find ways to cope, and I rarely let it stop me from doing what I want to do. I have a ridiculous sense of humour and thankfully I can usually turn it on to get through most situations. I really push myself not to let fear stop me. However, a lot of that gets thrown out the window when it comes to my dear boys. I’ve often said that becoming a parent was like that scene in “The Grinch,” where his heart suddenly grows three sizes too big. This big love has my brain working overtime, imagining all of the ways I could possibly lose it.
If we’re on some fun little outing with our kids, while you are enjoying seeing them play wild and free in nature, I am imagining all of the ways a person can fall and die. It doesn’t help that I’ve been blessed with boys whom rarely show concern for their own personal safety. So if my mood starts to shift into the controlling, and cranky helicopter parent zone, know it’s not because I hate seeing kids enjoying themselves. I’m still learning my triggers and how to cope with these over-reactive responses to horseplay. The point is, the emotions I show are just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what is going on in my mind. Like a small child you might be able to distract me, but it’s something I that probably requires extra help at times. If I find it’s affecting my decisions I know it’s time to reach out. For me that means talking therapies, but I have taken anxiety medications in the past and certainly wouldn’t rule it out. Maybe just ask if I’m ok? I may not be.
Ultimately though the real reason my parenting becomes 800% worse around you, is probably because you make me feel safe in someway. Maybe something in you tells me I can put my guard down. I know that with you I can let it all go, my tears, emotions,————bowels, whatever. And if you’re brave enough to stick around I’ll know you’re someone that I don’t have to hide all of my idiosyncrasies from. I’m not trying to use you as a garbage disposal for my feelings, I just need someone to lean on through this season of life. I’m overwhelmed and feeling the pressure of wanting to raise a good human being, but terrified that I’m going to fuck it all up. Just like the little people, when I start to display these behaviour issues, I hope you realize I don’t need you to scold me. I am probably already ashamed of my behaviour, and considering never leaving the house again. What I do need though is a soft place to land, some encouragement, maybe a hug, but mostly a friend.
Life is magic.
You say I need only believe it’s so.
But I told life she was cruel,
On the night she let you go.
Life is magic.
Even when I question the belief.
It’s when I hold you close I realize,
what causes all the grief.
Life is magic.
I feel it as I watch our babies grow.
And I pray that I can show them,
What they really need to know.
That, Life is magic!
We create it as we speak.
That it is only through love,
Life reveals the magic that we seek.
It’s been said by those that know me, that I come off as a bit of a creep. I can be a kind of intense. And if you give me a cocktail, you can bet I’m turning into a total close talker. If I’m at all interested in you I’m probably going to stalk you a wee bit. You know the usual stuff, gather intel, do a background check, light surveillance, nothing too crazy. I promise its totally innocent, sort of a detached appreciation. I’m actually quite introverted and definitely have no interest in a possessive way. But, I’ll most likely come on too strong, or over share, and send you running for the hills. And even if I’m not at the wheel of my creep-mobile, if you are remotely in my orbit, at some point I’m going to say or do something weird. I’m generally always doing something to embarrass myself.
For the most part I’ve embraced it, I’ve even worn my stalker badge proudly. I love making my friends these creepy music videos, kind of a birthday-gram. They all share the same theme—obsessed fan. It’s all in good fun and thankfully they still accept me despite my special brand of weird.
But in this life long pursuit to connect with those I’m drawn to, I’ve made things weird on a few occasions. Recently I was reminded of one of the more notorious events in my stalking escapades.
I can remember when I first met him. He was quiet and handsome and had dimples for days. I barely knew him, but I knew I desperately needed to know him better. I can remember one time I saw his car pull into the only gas station we had in our small town. It was blocks away, but I ran there as fast as I could. When I arrived he was just leaving. I was completely out of breathe, but I tried to act aloof, managing to squeak out one word. One breathe-less “hey.” He said hi back, hopped in his car and left, and I collapsed to the ground gasping for air. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but nope, that’s me. This is just one example of the many embarrassing things I’ve done when I find myself attracted to another soul. He should have been afraid but for whatever reason he tolerated my intensity and we became friends.
A couple years later we were hanging out just doing the normal teenager thing, cruising around and hanging out with friends. My girlfriends and I were scrutinizing and exchanging the only selfies we had back then, our annual school photos. I was picking my photo apart, but he thought it was cute and said he wanted one. I was embarrassed because I had to give them to my mom first, but I told him I’d give him one later. A normal human being would have just set aside one of the leftover photos. But instead, I spent the evening constructing a giant poster board, using all of them. Twenty or so of the same photo and pose, in every size. The idea was that he would hang it on his wall, and if anyone saw it they would assume he was obsessed with me. A real stalker of my own, swoon! My girlfriend and I laughed the night away at the thought of it. We added blinking lights, shiny paper and tinfoil. The next day I went to present him with my masterpiece. But suddenly I felt a bit ridiculous and started second guessing myself. I was a bit worried he wouldn’t get the joke, and would likely think I was a total lunatic. But I threw caution to the wind, and decided to go for it. I put it in his truck and when we got a chance to be alone I told him to go have a peek. I was laughing, because no matter what I kinda think I’m hilarious. To my surprise he seemed totally unfazed by this monstrosity, he smiled and told me it was awesome!
Awesome? Perhaps this quiet, smiley boy is a bigger weirdo than he lets on. “Let’s go plug it in” I exclaimed. And the rest is history.
The point is, sometimes you are better off just letting it all hang out. I want to be liked and cared for just as much as the next guy, but getting close to people can be scary. I can be insecure, and I make mistakes attempting to do so. Some people get turned off by me, but I’m slowly learning those aren’t my people. Rejection is hard, but I’m a woman of many shades and I’m the only one who gets to define exactly who that is. Anyone else’s opinion is none of my business. Sometimes I’m intense, maybe a bit overwhelming, sometimes I’m introverted, probably kinda underwhelming. But I’m also a loving human being that desires intimacy with others, not in a sexual way, but a spiritual one. I need people I can be totally unfiltered with, laugh with. People who care about my story and remind me that although I feel like a misfit, I’m not alone in this journey. Apparently this is going to be misinterpreted at times, and may scare the odd person off. But there’s something special about it too. So I vow to be myself and see who stays. I’ve had success and found kindred spirits by doing so in the past. And I think those who are brave enough, might end up with a great friend. Someone who will always be looking out for them——albeit through a long range spying scope. Ha! But seriously I can’t help but be me, flaws and all. So I’ve decided to let my freak flag fly! Cause you never know who might be happy to see it.
Words and Art by Jessie Thoresen.
Words & Art – J.Thoresen
A spark I cannot tame.
Feel the warmth draw me in,
A moth unto a flame.
Can’t resist the urge.
Let the fire surge.
Come and make me sweat.
Pulsing with intensity,
Don’t let it settle yet.
Tell me you wanna tend the fire.
So even when just coals remain,
We have the warmth that we desire.
I feel winters grip,
The cold is poised to stay.
And I struggle being surrounded
By more darkness than day.
I wish I could be the moon,
A magic mirror of light.
A beacon to brighten even
The darkest of night.