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From treading water to riding the wave!

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(Above: 'Whale Dreams' & side panel art is 'Dive Deep' by Leah Piken Kolidas, www.bluetreeartgallery.com)

*WARNING: This post has excessive use of nautical puns! :o)

We all use metaphor in our day to day lives and this was never more obvious for me than after our move interstate. To say I felt like a fish out of water was an understatement especially with the loss of all the connections of my previous home town and my previous work role in women's health. My position being made redundant left me sinking under the weight of my own self-doubt. Not only the loss of identity but the disconnection from so many amazing women that I worked with, both colleagues and community.

So with my head swimming, I began treading water in this new world. No job, new house, strange surroundings, not knowing anyone…. Who am I now that am not doing what I've always done in the place that I’ve always felt comfortable in?

The beauty of the art process is the clarity that it gives you. So I began to draw what it felt like to be treading water. The waves were so high I couldn't see the horizon, or anything for that matter. All I could focus on was staying afloat. This is the struggle we often find ourselves in, we focus so hard on trying to stay afloat that we forget to look at the opportunities that surround us.

Drawing my feelings gave me a bird’s eye view of where I sat in my giant ocean of self-doubt. Cradled in a wave I could hide away from the world and never come out, but being safely tucked away can also be a lonely place... Reminds me of that quote by William G.T.Shedd:

"A ship is safe in the harbour, but thats not what ships are for"

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So taking a deep breathe, I jumped up out of the water and beyond the towering waves. What I saw were so many opportunities to do things differently, to steer my ship in a new and exciting direction. To do that though I had to pull up the anchor of self-doubt weighing me down and have the courage to sail beyond what I already know, into unchartered waters!

What I learnt from this process is that despite feeling grief over all that I had lost, I had an opportunity to do things my way, to say goodbye to the old me and give birth to a more authentic me and a new direction. I take with me all the wisdom I learned along the way, the precious friendships that help to keep me buoyant and the knowledge that while there will be rough seas there will also be days where the ocean is calm and crystal clear.

My Inner Thrivings...

Treading water or riding the waves are not your only options!

You can also take a deep breath, dive down below the surface and see what beauty and dangers lie in the depths of the ocean. Or, you can lay back and float, learning to relax and just 'be in the moment' for a long as you need. You can swim in whichever direction you want to, towards the horizon, the safety of land or towards another vessel. Be sure to stop and rest along the way though!

You have the power to steer your ship in any direction you wish!

Having something that you love end can be painful, but it also gives you the opportunity to climb the mast of your ship and explore new horizons. You also get to steer your own ship rather than someone else doing it for you or telling you which direction you should take, or how fast you should go. The key here is to grab hold of the helm and steer your way despite old maps that directed you to where you thought you should be going.

Riding the wave can be exciting but you also need to rest! We would all like to ride the wave of life, flying high upon the crest of the wave, bounding towards our new dreams and goals. It's a balancing act though when we have life commitments – family, work, study, bills to pay. Riding the wave can leave you on a high, but you can also fall off if you don’t ensure you remain nourished and rested along the way with adequate sleep and exercise, wholesome food and connection with those we love.

If you feel like you’re treading water, use your life raft: Be sure to make sure your life raft holds all the things you need to sustain you. Ifyou dont have a life raft, maybe its time to invest in one! A good friend to talk to, some time out to breathe, opportunities to laugh, dance, read a book, do some art! Maybe it’s about saying no, and putting yourself first for a change!

Learn to swim:

If you are feeling like you don’t have the resources to stay afloat, it might be a great opportunity to learn some new strategies to help you along the way. If you can’t afford to see a counsellor or join a group, there are plenty of resources online... There is also an abundance of wisdom in our women friends for which to draw on. If you already know how to swim but still feel like you are treading water, maybe it’s time to change from freestyle to backstroke! Sometimes small changes can energise us, move different parts of our mind and body and get us to see things from different perspectives.

If you are feeling like a fish out of water, that’s ok!

Allowing yourself to be out of your comfort zone helps you to grow strong, to get your sea legs! Show yourself some compassion, be gentle with yourself and know that your inner wisdom will guide you whether you find yourself on dry land or navigating the rough seas.

May you travel safe wherever your journey takes you :o)

Mandy Flint - Art Therapist & Social Worker

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