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  • Writer's pictureLaurie the Writer

Mentor to the Artist - A Story of Reclamation

Updated: Apr 2

My journey discovering my artistic side and how art helps me understand the world & my role in it.

It’s the year 2011. I’m seeing a medium. A woman who channels wisdom from my guides. It wasn’t my idea but I’m secretly into it. My sister has been seeing this woman and has had some profound experiences with her, so I figure while I’m visiting my sister, I’m gonna get in on it. 

During our session, she says many things - about my life, my relationships, my career, my unique challenges, etc. When she starts sharing about my life’s purpose, she says writing will be big, or at least play a role. (Oooooo lala. I get excited! I’ve always wanted to be a journalist. Or Hemingway. Or Elizabeth Gilbert).

Then she says “Mentor to the Artist.”

“What?” I ask.

She shrugs and says, “That’s what they said.” The rest of the session continued with lots of interesting discussion, and then my sister and I went to get oysters and wine in the elusive PNW sunshine. 

I honestly didn’t think about this again for a very long time. I forgot about it. Because I knew she was wrong. I wasn’t an artist. How on earth could my path include mentoring others in artistic expressions? I couldn’t even do art. I remember at church youth group we’d often have an opening session that included art or playing a game, before we got into the God stuff. My best friend would head off to create some necklace, or popsicle-stick something, and I’d head off to prove that I was more athletic than all the boys in the building. Ironically, I would come to understand that one of the reasons my friend Sarah was such a dear friend is because we were both artists - singers, drama kids, writers, musicians. We were both super sensitive feelers. I would come to live vicariously through her because I chose The Athlete over The Artist and then forgot I ever made that choice.

But the truth is The Artist has been following me for years now. Maybe since birth. William Stafford writes “There is a thread you follow. It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.” The thread of my inner Artist can be traced back to early childhood; re-enactments of “Matchmaker Matchmaker"; endless charcoal drawings of Leonardo DiCaprio; writing poetry in notebooks I’d show to no one; conducting orchestras in my bedroom for the next great movie score; and playing a favorite track on repeat until my family forced a change. My mom once asked me as a kid, “Which would you rather live without? Music, or Movies?” An impossible question. She knew how much I loved both. But I had to choose she said. I said I’d keep music and give up movies. (Ahhh the agony)!

A few years ago I went into an art store to pick up some of my favorite pencils (arguably the best writing utensil human kind has ever known). At the check-out, I came across a sticker. In cursive and bright lettering it said, “I am an Artist.” I immediately threw it into my pile for purchase. When I got home I prominently placed it on my water bottle. I didn’t know it at the time, but my inner-Artist, who had been patiently waiting for me, had decided it was time to get much louder to get my attention. I remember feeling uncomfortable putting the sticker on my water bottle, wondering, “Is this true?” I put it on anyways.

This set me on a journey of engaging with and appreciating art that soon seeped into many areas of my life. When preparing to lead a facilitation piece that was upcoming for me, I said to my friend, who is a brilliant visual artist, “Ya know I’m an artist, right?” And she replied, “Ya I do.” I was surprised. A real artist sees me as an artist! I wanted to keep exploring.

Soon Friends were coming over to share their favorite album with us on Friday nights. We’d have a delicious meal together and then listen deeply and talk about all that we loved about the music, the lyrics, the production. Dance was becoming a part of my morning routine. Celine Sciamma’s films awakened something in me that had long been asleep. Poetry was finding it’s way deep into my heart - the exact right poems at the exact right moments to support the journey of becoming I was on. I found a song called The Blessing recorded by Bethel Music that helped heal some young wounded parts from my church going days. This art I was engaging with was cracking me open to feel parts of myself that needed love and tending. This art was helping me feel, and in turn, helping me heal.

How is it possible that listening to Sturgill Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” could leave me with a deepened understanding of my friend’s death and how he saw me and how my work wanted to be expressed in the world? I don’t know. But it did.

I started to realize that there are two ways to interpret and appreciate art. (Okay there are many but here are two that I’ve thought a lot about). One is through the eyes of the Artist, from the time/context/experience of when they were creating the art. Two is through my own eyes and however I’m interpreting their art through my own time/context/experience. Both are transformative. And by tuning into both I was starting to find more and more interesting questions to ask.

As Leonard Bernstein said, “A work of art does not answer questions, it provides them. And its essential meaning is in the tension between the contradictory answers.” (This quote was introduced to me through the beautiful work of Bradley Cooper’s Maestro. I am obsessed with it. The movie and the quotation). But what is the answer? That is really up to who is viewing and witnessing the piece.

Which led me to my next realization. I was learning to harness the power and wisdom of my inner Artist to guide my own healing journey.

Asking the simple question - What lyric stood out to me most?

In “You are Here,” The Wailin’ Jennys sing:

Every sign of love

Every seed that’s growing

Every sweet surrender

To that silent knowing

Will bring you to your knees

And closer to the reason

I mean the whole song is medicine to me. But to be told, at that time, that I had the wisdom and knowing inside me to know what was best, to know where I was going even if it felt scary or the seeds where still deep in the soil, to know that listening to my heart and to let my path unfold in it’s own time, was everything to me. For those of you who don’t know their music. . . stop what you are doing and go listen! And shout out to Jim Fowler for sitting me down one day and making me listen to “One Voice.” (Love you Jim!) They are so good that I keep a running document of all their lyrics that I am considering tattooing on myself. Except that I don’t like tattoos cuz they hurt. So I just keep the document. Just in case I get up the courage.

The more I let art move me in this way, the more I saw it in everyone else. Clients started saying things like “Oh my gosh this perfect song just found me.” Music really is medicine. The more I claimed my inner-Artist and my unique way of seeing the world, the more alive I felt. The more the world made sense to me. All the beauty and all the terror.

I’ve been reflecting lately on how exposed I feel in my work and my life. There seems to be an opening that feels beyond my control. A breaking open and coming out that I’ve been on the verge of for years and now just won’t stop even if I tried.  I believe it is my Artist who has awoken and has a lot of ideas! Who knows how this will manifest itself. It certainly is making me a better coach, facilitator, guide, friend, and wife.

As Kim Krans says, “The role of the Artist, after all, is to awaken that which has fallen asleep.” I love getting to discover what lives in me, both clear and awake, and more subtle and asleep.

Art helps us feel. And feeling is critical to healing and feeling our wholeness. Reclaiming my inner-Artist has awakened something in me. I believe in the transformative power of art to change things, and I’m so grateful to be exploring this archetype in me and in those I get the pleasure of working with.

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