July 2011 Self Care Retreat: Self Care Through Creativity

by Valerie on August 8, 2011 · 4 comments

Self-care retreat badge

This is the last week of our extended virtual self-care retreat that Cheryl of Gluten-Free Goodness and I are hosting.  Yes it was supposed to wrap up in July, but as Cheryl wrote so eloquently in her post on creativity, let us say that extending the retreat into August is about creativity.  Iris of Daily Dietribe wrote a beautiful post as our host for this topic.

Creativity was always an intimidating word to me.  Kind of like Art, or Music, or Choir, or Drawing.  I was also terrible at any school subject related to those.  Piano lessons were a disaster for me.  I thought being creative meant being good at those subjects.  I thought that through high school, college, the years after college.  I also always told myself I did not have time for things like scrapbooking or collaging because, after all, I was not creative or Creative.  Somehow I felt like it needed a Capital C.

Sometime after the stress of law school and the bar exam and moving to New York lifted,I started rethinking that assumption. It hit me that I needed a way to relax my brain, something I was never good at.  This was also around the time where I did not have the energy to work out or do yoga and was also spending a lot of time on subways and trains, so started reading more than magazines and fiction again.  I read Hip Tranquil Chick: A Guide to Life On and Off the Yoga Mat by Kimberly Wilson, figuring that since I could not practice much, if any, yoga on the mat, I should explore the off the mat component.  This reminded me of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, which Kimberly recommends often.  By then, I really craved some sort of personal project, so decided to work my way through the book.

The Artist’s Way (reading the book as well as about other people’s experiences with it) made me realize that I actually already used two of the main tools that many people used to nourish their souls and creativity – morning pages and artist’s dates.  I did not actually call them that, and while I did not always write my journal in the morning, I had been an on and off journal fiend for years.  As for artist’s dates – I just called them me alone time in my head – it started in college when I would get sick of campus remoteness and take the bus into Boston and walk around, see a movie alone (something that always seemed to horrify people) or go to a museum.  Taking a couple of hours to do just that was a tradition I kept after college when I was working, and then even in law school and after, though not as frequently.

I did not finish The Artist’s Way, but it allowed me to figure out three things:

  • I liked to write about a variety of things
  • One of the things I missed most from childhood was playing with pretty paper and pens and making collages
  • To relax I needed to find activities that did not involve too much thinking and more doing

So I started blogging.  And bought some collaging supplies. I made cards instead of buying them when I sent cards to friends and family.  I decided to collage a page at the beginning of every month in my planner:

  old planners 001old planners 002

There were lots of baby steps.  My blog focus changed several times.  Collaging was particularly welcome in the months where my chronic sinus problems resulted in bad insomnia.  I also started realizing creativity was as much about self-expression and an approach to life as making beautiful art.   I also realized that while my workaholic tendencies were there to stay, I worked better if I felt like I was nurturing myself with pretty images and paper and sights and surroundings.  And I realized I was pretty creative about a lot of things in my life – yes, they were mainly work-related or logistical, but they were still creative.

In addition to more passive exposure to beauty (ie museums, flowers), my three active creative outlets are:

  • Blogging
  • Cooking, particularly creating new dishes
  • Playing with pretty paper and pens, aka art journaling or collages or vision boards

The first two are regular practices in my life, but the third is something I only do once in a while.  A few weeks ago I attended my second Art Journal workshop of the year.  Art journaling, as it turns out, was something I was doing all those years ago – the journal pages were about recording wishes and aspirations for the month as well as looking back on some milestones those months.  I do not do it often enough, unlike blogging and cooking,but sometimes, days like yesterday, it is just what I need.

Speaking of yesterday, I hit the proverbial wall and needed a break from working.  I had not yet put away the art journaling supplies I had brought to the workshop with me, so I pulled them out and after about 40 minutes had put this together:

collage & supplies 001

A couple of pages from Whole Living magazine, some scrapbooking paper and a glue stick provided for a tremendously relaxing experience.  I wrote a little bit about why I was feeling overwhelmed in the notecard that then I glued to the bottom right.  And took a long nap. I woke up refreshed and restored. 

Now if only I can always remember to do this.

Baby steps, right?

This virtual self-care retreat is to inspire you all to make July a month of reflecting on self-care and the many ways to nourish ourselves.   We encourage everyone to participate in this event in a way that feels appropriate to them, whether through personal reflection, journal or other self-care.  If you would like to share your experience with self-care, we would love to include you in the experience, whether you join us for one week or every week.  You can write generally about self-care, or focus on one of the themes (movement, food, family/friends/pets, creativity and meditation and mindfulness), or write every week about each of the themes.  We ask that you link back to this post so that more people can learn about this retreat, and leave a comment for the weekly theme host, too!  If you would like to be included in our  roundup, please email a link to your post, along with your name and blog name, to us at selfcareretreat at gmail dot com by August 8 2011.  Feel free to use the badge in your posts.  Non-bloggers who would like to contribute, please email the full text to the same address and it will be included in the roundup.

Cheryl and I will be doing a round up of the Self-Care Retreat ASAP!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 gfe--gluten free easily August 8, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Lovely post, Valerie. I so love those journal pages you created. :-) Oh, when we give ourselves permission to relax and play, wonderful things happen! I'm still thinking about doing a self care through creativity post. If I do, it will be totally outside the expected.



2 Faye @ RawLawyer.com August 8, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I can so relate.

After law school, bar exams and articles (that mandatory internship we have here in Canada), I re-introduced myself to fiction. To reading for pleasure. It took some time before I could just relax enough to enjoy a book.

Oh law…


3 REM Runner August 9, 2011 at 1:40 am

Valerie, thank you for sharing your "self care retreat." I LOVE the idea and I followed your link to purchase "The Artist's Way." Thanks for inspiring me to make time for "doing" instead of "thinking."

I heard a great quote recently: "The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression." (- Dr. Stuart Brown, author of the book Play, It It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imgination and Invigorates the Soul.)


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