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I've always been a knitter, but never crocheted until about 4 years ago. My specialty is afghans..I love the color combinations, different stitch patterns and the fun of creating something new each time. It is so important to have a few different creative practices, so when you get tired of one, you can move onto another and then around and around. I belong to a knitting/crocheting circle and love my precious and creative time with these women.  There are all levels of yarn workers there and we all support and help each other. What a great network and circle of amazingly creative women. Most yarn stores have circles or times they allow for open knitting. Check out your local yarn shops. Here's just a few creations.


Loving your life whether you are partnered or alone....a few essentials to being alone and being OK

Chances are, at some point in your life, you will find yourself living alone. I know, that is probably a frightening thought that makes you want to join right now! But that is what I am here to write about today. Whether in my psychotherapy private practice or amongst friends, when I hear someone say, but I don't want to be alone, my ears perk up. I become incredibly curious and want to hear more. There is a rampant fear in our society of being alone. That is why the internet chat rooms are so popular, dating sites are popping up all over and why so may feel like outcasts if they are not partnered. We do live in a coupled society and the idea of living alone scares the crap out of almost everyone. I'm here to tell you that being alone is not a death sentence and it is different from feeling lonely. Being alone and OK and enjoying the company of ourselves is a learned art, but does not require a PhD. It does require a fair amount of self-awareness and the ability to challenge thoughts that have you thinking and believing you are doomed if you are not partnered or alone on a Friday night.

There is a saying that goes something like, feeling alone, in the company of another, is one of the worst feelings you can have. Or, I'd rather be alone than in bad company. Being with another who doesn't “get you,” ignores you, and/or doesn't “see” you has to be the worst. Know what I'm talking about? There is a difference with physically being alone and being alone and feeling lonely. You can physically be alone and not feel lonely AND, you can feel lonely whether you are literally alone or with it? So, what makes people fear being alone so much? What is it about being in the company of yourself that has you feeling like you are at deaths' door and panicking? True, we are a social species. We like being around others, most of us, and, and we the feeling we have when we connect with another is amazing. It is a natural high. There is nothing like sitting with another human being, connecting, laughing, feeling, heard and seen and having a grand ole time. Yes? But, you can also be in a room full of people and want to run to the nearest exit. I am not going to go into the psychological specifics of personality disorders and social phobias, that can effect ones ability to connect to others, what I am going to write about is what do you do if you find yourself alone, divorced, widowed and/or unpartnered at any point in your life and feeling unprepared or frightened. How do you A. Take care of yourself? B. Be alone and not have it be an overwhelming experience. C. Being alone in your own company and shall I say, liking it.

I feel I can write about this topic, because I have lived alone for most of my life. I have been in relationships, shared my home with another, but I have never married or partnered for a long period of time. I am also a licensed marriage and family therapist, which, is funny, because as someone asked me recently, if you've never been married, how can you counsel couples? Well, my reply is, I work with relationships. Whether it is the relationship you have with another or the one you have with yourself. You can't except relationships even if you are single. I have learned to enjoy my own company, developed interests, hobbies and friends who I love, and I have learned to not take myself too seriously. Let me say, it didn't always come easy. It has taken me feeling utterly alone and lonely to want to understand this state I could fall into. I have worked on it in my own therapy and gained a lot of insight and knowledge concerning my own process in the face of being alone.

So, here you are, the weekend is quickly approaching and you have no plans. You begin to feel anxious, because this means, and the meaning you make out of this is very important, but you will literally be ALONE! (Reality check; it doesn't mean you or your life is worthless!) You call a few friends and/or family and they are all busy. Another buzz word...busy. Because, you know, if you are not busy, you don't have a life....NOT! Now, it's Friday and you have nothing planned. The thought of sitting on your sofa alone feels like you've been set out to a stormy sea in a canoe with no paddles! You begin to panic. The loneliness creeps in. Your thoughts start to run wild and before you know it, you've decided your life has no meaning, no one loves you and if only...(fill in the blank). So you head to the nearest 7-eleven and buy Hot Cheetos and a large coke! This does not have to be the scenario...You do have a choice. Having a choice is important to remember, because, you can also choose to do any other number of things and think many other number of thoughts such as, I will be fine, this gives me time to...

There is a very BIG world out there. There is so much we can engage in and learn. But, for some reason, we are meant to believe are happiness depends on whether we are partnered and to avoid being alone at all costs. I am not saying that being in a relationship can't be a need or a wish what I am saying is that how can you make the most of your life when you find yourself alone? How can you be happy with what you have instead of being unhappy with what you don't have? You can be content! When I ask people what they like to do they usually look at me blankly. Eventually, they might respond, Well, I like to garden, listen to music, play with my cat, etc. When I ask, when was the last time you did that, they stare blankly again at me. Have you actually thought about what it is you enjoy engaging in in life? It can be as simple as listening to a CD you love, calling an old friend, knitting or learning to knit, walking with your dog, taking a cooking class. Do you volunteer? I might also ask at this point, do you like being with yourself? Do you find yourself entertaining? Can you be with yourself and not feel critical or do you judge yourself endlessly? What are you grateful for in your life? Have you engaged in anything creative lately? I don't mean you have to paint like Picasso, but have you collaged, journaled or planted some flowers? And, the million dollar question, why not? Oh, that's right it takes time and I'm too BUSY.

If you don't want to take part in another activity that you do by yourself, then take a class. Take something fun like improv. Join a few Meetup groups. Get out and live. If you are not able to get out, enjoy your home. Plant some plants, invite people over, turn on the music! Be curious about yourself and what makes you feel good. Stop thinking someone else has the power to do this for your. Learn to be in the company of yourself and enjoy it. Begin with a reality check and write a grateful list. I know you've probably heard this and cringe at the idea, but it does work. We forget what is working and what we do have until we bring attention to it. When you are done reading this, write down all that you are grateful in your life. I bet you can find at least 5 things or people that add to your life. You don't have to wait until you have a life-altering experience to realize this. For some, it takes a heart attack or a terminal diagnosis to bring attention to how good they have it and how meaningful their lives are. Don't wait until your life is in danger! Practice it now. And, practice being in your own company and not wanting to run and hide from it or mask it over. Be present and curious about yourself. You don't have to run from being alone. And, if it feels intolerable, go out and listen to some music, go to a bookstore, rent to a movie, take a long walk, but don't sit and demean your life and/or yourself.


Colored pencils
Do you WORRY about things that haven't happened yet? Do you live in the past and the future and NOT the present?  If your answer is YES, most likely you live withANXIETY and WORRY. When you don't live in the moment, you create many WHAT-IF's. What if's create a sense of unknown and a sense of having no control.  My belief is that anxiety and worry mask what you are actually FEELING.  For instance, what is behind yourWORRY?  If you were to take the mask of worry off, what would be left? Sadness? Fear? Aloneness?  Is it possible you might be experiencing any of these feelings?  What would happen if you felt the feelings instead of the anxiety?
Tissue paper collage mandala

So, what can you do and how can ART help YOU?

I've been keeping a journal all my life and, as I've gotten older, my journals are much more revealing and connected to my heArt. I used to just write what I did that day, or who I saw. Today, my journals include emotional states, thoughts, feelings, anger, sadness, joy and ART.  Mostly, collage, or images I come across that speak to me.

Recently, at one of my Mandala workshops, I met a woman named Cola Smith, who is an artist. I later came across one of her paintings that touched me titled "Earth Mother." The heading of the chapter, where it appeared was called Heal and Nurture, which is something I'm personally working on these days. The painting at the left is by Cola Smith is from the "We' Moon" '09 Date book.

I also cut out and paste horoscopes that have special meaning for me, images that come to mind that need exploring and almost anything that I can cut, draw, paste, or adhere to my journal.

Journaling is my friend, therapist, sounding board, dart board and much more. I invite you to add the art of journaling to your daily practice.  You will discover a sense of clarity, calm, joy, relief, creativity and more.


Mandala Nest
You will need:
a blank piece of white paper any size or journal
colored pencils or markers
collage images cut from a magazine
glue stick

Begin by tracing a circle on your paper. You can use both drawing and collage or stick to one medium.
Close your eyes and breathe and begin envisioning what you would like to bring into your life. What is it that needs attention and makes you feel whole. Nothing can replace your children, but there are aspects of yourself that you can develop and explore that maybe have been pushed aside.

You can tear or cut collage images and glue inside your circle and you can draw shapes, symbols and images too.  What you are doing is basically using your mandala to create a personal nest. You are gathering and building a new nest to promote greater self-awareness and insight into who you are outside of parenthood and for this new chapter in your life.

Once you have created your new nest, sit and reflect on what you have created. You might want to journal about any insight or messages you have received from this process. How do the images, symbols, colors speak to you? How do you feel when you look at your mandala nest? You can also do your mandala nest in a journal and continue to add to your nest. Have fun, play and tap into your creative soul!

Have you ever noticed how color can shift your mood? Color is all around us. But what is color?  "Color is light and energy." ( I've purposely created this post with many colors for you to see your reaction to the various colors. An example of how color can affect our mood is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which causes some individuals to experience depression in the winter months, when darkness arrives. Or, have you experienced a shift in mood when you look at a rainbow? It is really amazing how color can affect our state of being and it is important to know what colors calm us, excite us, bring us down, etc.  For the exercise below, you can mix colors or use the colors as they are. 

Supplies: color pencils, markers, or pastels. 81/2 X 11piece of white paper.

1. Fold the paper into 4 squares.  

2. In each square you've created, write a feeling, such as mad, sad, happy, lonely, etc.
3. Using color, assign a color to each of these feelings. What color do you associate with mad? When you feel mad, is there a color that comes to mind that represents mad to you? You can color in the entire square or make a marks or images, it doesn't matter.  

It is interesting to use this chart as a guide to see if there are colors you tend to use more often in your art work. Also, if you identify a color that makes you feel happy, you might want to consider painting a room in your house this color, or buy sheets or pillows in this color. Be aware when you change colors in your surroundings if something in you changes. You might also want to wear different colors to see how that affects your mood.

Have fun playing with color in your life and see what happens!

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