It’s the end of the world as we know it

It feels like the end of the world. And I’ve been thinking maybe that feels not only fine, but comforting. Maybe I prefer it! Obviously there are things that are not great, like grief and terror and violence. We’re all spending a lot of time thinking about that. But what about the aspects of the end of the world that make my life better? I’m going to share some with you.

You can watch me talk about it here in a sparkly headband if you want to…

… LIST OF WAYS THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMFORTING…

  1. Who cares that I’ve had to put my career / calling on the back burner in order to homeschool my children, or “manage their online learning” which let’s be honest, is not my ideal job. I never said, hey when I’m 43 I would like to help my child click a cursor and type numbers in a text field to complete a math assignment while my three year old tries to tackle me for ten hours a day. I did not say that. But you know what? Who cares, because the world is ending.
  1. If the world is ending, then all I need to do at any given moment is figure out how to enjoy myself. Even if it’s impossible, that’s my only job. I can let go of any other problems. This is maybe my last moment. 
  1. There’s no need to fret about what it will mean in ten years if my kid can’t figure out how to manage his anger, because none of us will be here, because our planet might not exist. So I don’t need to worry about that.
  1. If my kids are being assholes right now, that’s understandable considering that the world is ending, and/or their mom is losing her mind. It’s a rational response.
  1. I don’t need to listen to any more parenting podcasts.
  1. I can let go of saving for my kids’ college, or worrying that I’m not saving, because there won’t be college.
  1. All that time watching cheeseball disaster movies was good preparation. I get to find out who my disaster movie persona is now. I can say, I don’t give a FRUITCAKE what you think, I’m going to shave my head and walk around in a tank top. Oh who am I kidding, I’m not Ripley. I don’t know who I am but I get to find out now.
  1. I can embrace my true destiny as a founder of a new world religion / order ala Earthseed, like Lauren from Parable of the Sower. I can speak my verses out loud and gather followers as we walk on the highway evading violent firestarting desperadoes. If you haven’t read Parable of the Sower it’s incredible for a lot of reasons, but one is that when I read it a year ago it seemed like science fiction, and now it seems like a roadmap to how we’re going to survive.

Lauren is ready for that moment with a theory of god and change and the destiny of humankind, and she isn’t shy about stepping up to it (and she’s only 15!) I don’t have to be shy either. This is what I have to offer. I can’t shoot a gun, I can’t set a leg that’s broken, I’m not good at building houses but I can create community and lead rituals and invite people into our safe haven.

If you don’t have a spiritual doctrine you’ve been crafting for 15-43 years, think about what you DO secretly want to do. No matter how audacious or ridiculous or ambitious it seems to be, now is the time to say it out loud. Drop the charade! Wear what you like! Change your name! Cut your hair! Say what you feel! It doesn’t have to be with exclamation points. 

  1. I’m tempted to say, why bother with the dishes or keeping the house clean… but I’m actually feeling the opposite. Over the weekend I deep cleaned and my 7-year-old was INTO it for no reason that I could tell (except that he’s a Virgo). To him it was a way to hang out and play with weird blue liquid in spray bottles, it was a science experiment, a game to put his world in order. Hanging out with him helped me see it like a game too. Why NOT see it as a fun way to pass the time? Might as well wipe the dust off all those surfaces and make them sparkle.
  1. Which brings me to: things surprise you when the world is ending. What you thought was important is pointless, what seemed pointless is what’s keeping you sane and grounded. Career, school, imposter syndrome: nope. Dishes, dusting, disaster movies: HELL YES.

Maybe the world won’t end. Maybe in ten years my kids will be dusting and whispering to themselves about what they’re going to do about mom’s anger management problem. That’s comforting! I’ll take that, if it means we still get to be alive in ten years!

I’m Coach Faith Ra and I also go by Faith Helma and these days I also am called by my alter ego name MOOOOOO-OOOOOOM which is the reason I am losing my mind and coming out here to my art garage to put on a sparkly headband and talk to you about the end of the world.

What does your new world look like? Let’s talk about that next time. (IF THERE IS A NEXT TIME).

I feel fine.

Motherhood kicked me in the a***

Since we just celebrated mother’s day (or skipped it entirely if you’re not down with the pressure holidays), it seems like a good time to re-introduce myself and one of my favorite topics.

Hello. I’m Faith Helma. I’m an artist / creative guide and I would not be who I am today if motherhood had not kicked me in the aaaaaabdomen.

If you’re a mother, you know what I mean. If you’re not, swap “motherhood “ with big life transition / roadblock / curveball of your choice.

Turning 50.
Getting pushed out of a job you love.
Deciding not to have children. Starting a business.
Traveling around the world for a year.
Breast cancer.
Building your own house.
Caregiving a parent at the end of  life
Falling in love.

The hero quest starts with a call to action — an initiation —and for me becoming a mother called me to action in the most humbling, loving, brutally shamanic way.

I went in knowing it would be hard, knowing there was so much I didn’t know. I had no idea.

It’s probably similar to climbing a mountain or doing any other impossible thing. You’re in it now. There’s no going back.

What do you do, when you’re deep in it and there’s no going back?

That’s the exciting part. And that’s why, for me, no matter what logistical challenges motherhood throws my way, from childcare to balancing work and family to lack of paid leave to health insurance to dentist appointments … and no matter how physically hard the act of parenting is, from projectile vomiting to 2000 hours of wiping poopy butts to the neverending rush of leaving the house in the morning… I’m getting to my point here… for all that, I am grateful for the ways it pushes me to be real, to be honest, to be stronger, to be kinder. To be more creative.

Its made me a better artist even though I’ve technically produced far less since my first child was born 5.5 years ago than I did in the fifteen years before.

It’s fundamentally changed my idea of production and art and who it’s for.

IT’S FOR ME.

I used to think of self-indulgence as the worst thing an artist (or human) could be.

It took going through the marathon of giving birth then realizing I was in charge of someone else’s survival 24 HOURS A DAY to free me from this fear.

Suddenly self-indulgence didn’t sound so bad. Are you kidding? That sounds AWESOME.

I would kill for ten minutes a day of self-indulgence.

Owning that, claiming that is so liberating!

My art is for me. If I make art and I’m the only one who likes it, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

That’s my challenge for you today. If you set out to make art for you and you alone, what would you make?

And if you’re someone who wrestles with the fear of self-indulgence, ask that troll: what’s so bad about indulging myself? What’s the worst that could happen? Could anything good come of it?

Let me know what you find out!

Faith

p.s. If you are wanting company as you wrestle with your trolls and claim your human right to be creative, consider joining the summer of creative magic!

Artist Residency in Motherhood

Hello, dear friends.

For the last 3+ months I’ve been in the newborn dreamtime, remembering the things that make it maddening and miraculous. I have been thinking of you and the work we are all doing in the world to keep the flame of creative healing and revolution alive. I’ve been crafting manifestos in my head, while I’m cradling a tiny human in my arms.

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In some ways this has been much easier than the last time around, when it was all unknown and I groped forward guessing at the unknown. A lot of beautiful, hard-won truths emerged from that unknown, and I am surprised to find that this time around, even on the hardest days/nights/days, it’s a lot easier. This time it’s a known challenge. It’s looking down the path and being able to see a bear coming towards you and reaching for your bear spray, versus listening to grunting in the darkness and wondering what it could be and letting your mind race to all the worst possible outcomes. (I’m not sure why I’m drawn to bear metaphors when it comes to motherhood – something to explore in a future creative time).

So many things seemed impossible the first time. The fact that some of those things now seem easy helps keep me going when I hit a snag that feels impossible (like how to handle bedtime with two small children, or how to figure out childcare, or how to take a shower).

I tell myself: right now this seems impossible, but soon it will be possible, and then it will be easy.

Which is not to say that it is all sunshine and rainbows over here. (Obviously, since last week it was toxic wildfire smoke for all of us in the Portland area). There are plenty of times when I am feeling grumpy or edgy or full of self-pity or exhausted or coming down with mastitis AGAIN or taking my baby to the emergency room because his fever is too high or waking up with a four year old’s foot in my face. Trying to go out into the world with both my children is total madcap chaos and it takes all the good humor I have to laugh at myself as I chase my four-year-old across the park while clutching a tiny baby to my chest.

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A moment of stillness

It feels impossible, but I am doing it. Doing it badly, sure! But doing it!

And I have tools to help me when I feel overwhelmed. I can take five minutes to draw out my feelings or put my hand on my heart and breathe or pull a tarot card or text a friend or go on an imagination walk.

The beautiful thing is, when I use these tools, my kid picks up on it and dives right in. I’ve gotten so many great ideas for exercises from him, like stomping around the room pretending to be the bad guy, or building yourself a literal safe fort space, or scribbling all over your (or your mother’s) five year plan.

This is a whole different way of seeing myself and my life and my creativity. Motherhood isn’t the thing that keeps me from practicing my art: it is the practice. The challenges are impossible to separate from the rewards. This time around, though of course I do need breaks from being all mom all the time, I am feeling less of a need to escape from it and more of a desire to dive into the mess.

This has been my artist residency in motherhood (an idea I first heard of from this brilliant artist/mother, Lenka Clayton). Mothering my children makes my creative work stronger, and creative work makes my mothering stronger.

 

What if where you are is exactly where you need to be?

Hello everyone! How was your summer? Mine was a glorious mess of contradictions, so most of the time I was days behind in my creative self-work, sorting through the various stressors that had hijacked my nervous system.

When I did have time to catch up with myself – to dance around with my kiddo, to sit down and draw and write in my journal and ask questions and breathe – the knot would loosen enough for me to remember: OH YEAH.

Oh yeah – there’s no such thing as doing it perfectly.

Oh yeah – I am a human being and it’s okay to mess things up.

Oh yeah – that’s how I learn: by messing up. It’s okay for me to be honest about it! That’s the only way to learn from it.

Oh yeah – When I don’t have childcare, things go nuts. Right! I’ve been here before. This happened last summer. I can figure this out.

Oh yeah – what works for someone else might not work for me! That’s not because I am a FAILED HUMAN. This isn’t a contest. No one is winning the Best Mom Award.

Oh yeah – I don’t have to be hard on myself! That’s a choice. I can choose to be gentle and loving. When I do that, it’s easier to be gentle and loving with those around me. Especially my sweet little 3-year-old monster who is figuring out how to be a human being too.

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We relearn the same lessons over and over, don’t we? And then get mad at ourselves for not learning it the first time, even though of course we didn’t learn it the first time. Learning is circular and repetitive!

Look at how much you are learning right now. Look at how far you’ve come. Think of where you’ll be a year from now. What if what you’re doing right now is exactly what you need to do to get there?

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That question is a big one in my life.

I first heard it ten years ago, at a workshop led by an Australian performance artist named Margaret Cameron. The workshop was part of an international festival for women theatre artists. I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choice to fly all the way to Denmark to take part, but here I was, in a workshop led by a woman wearing (in my memory anyway) a flowing muumuu and turban.

I tried to be open-minded but she seemed to be making it up on the spot, leading us on a ridiculous journey across the stage like we were children. I was jet-lagged and grumpy. What am I doing here? What am I supposed to be learning? What is she training us to do exactly? My inner teenager rolled her eyes HARD.

And then something happened. She asked several questions:

What if this is exactly where you need to be?

What if what you’re doing right now is exactly the right thing?

I know it’s not – but what if it was?

What if you are doing exactly what you need to be doing?

Something about these questions made me stop and notice that I had a running commentary in my head of this is dumb, you shouldn’t have come here, you’re not doing this right…

These were familiar thoughts. I realized that in most moments of my life, my brain was buzzing with this refrain.

And how liberating would it be to imagine – not even to believe, but to CONSIDER – that I might be doing some things right.

It felt radical and dangerous and ridiculous all at once. And in that moment, everything shifted. My energy shifted and suddenly this workshop was blowing my mind. Suddenly Margaret Cameron wasn’t some kook, she was a fucking genius.

I remember thinking, I wish I had the courage to do what Margaret Cameron does. To share my silliest, scariest, most heartfelt ideas and not care whether anyone thinks I’m a fool. To patiently wait for people’s resistance to fall away, or not.

Her blithe confidence seemed absolutely alien to me. I thought, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll be ballsy enough to do something like this.

Today I was thinking back to that time, and I realized: holy shit – not only was Margaret Cameron’s question a great exercise in shifting perspective – it was RIGHT.

I was exactly where I needed to be in that moment. I was doing exactly the right thing. Every single thing was the right thing, even the parts I thought I was doing wrong. They all led me to where I am today – a place I couldn’t imagine ten years ago.

I thought I could never be brave enough, confident enough to risk looking like a fool. But here I am!

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Where will I be ten years from now? I can only imagine, and experience tells me the reality will be wilder than my wildest vision.

So what if it’s true for you? What if everything you’re experiencing now is preparing you for where you’ll be in ten years?

Does anything shift when you ask yourself that question?

From DIY to Revolution in 10 Easy Steps

I had a session with someone the other day, and one of the things we talked about was how to build in accountability when you have a big idea, without making the pressure so big that you bail on it altogether out of fear.

This struck me as something we all struggle with, or at least, those of us who like to dream big. There’s a tendency to think that step one is doing only for yourself, and step two is sharing it with the world in a huge public way.

When in fact, there are a lot of steps in between.

In our session, we wrote out what those steps might look like, and came up with this:

  1. Do it for yourself
  2. Tell friends what you’re doing
  3. Invite people to play with you
  4. Invite a few strangers
  5. Publicize it
  6. ?
  7. ?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. Lead a revolution

I’m not sure what happens in steps 6-9, but I’d love to hear your ideas.

In the meantime, if there’s a project you are excited about but scared to share with the world, here is my assignment for you: what is the tiniest, easiest, most fun way you could share your thoughts?

Could you tell your kids about it?
Could you mention it to your friends over drinks?
Could you write a note and leave it somewhere for an anonymous person to find?
Could you write about it cryptically on facebook?
Could you google it and see if anyone else is as excited about it as you are?

Or here’s a thought: you could say something here or over on the facebook page! I’d love to know what you’re excited about.