Loving the Artist’s Soul

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The Devil Made Me Do It, from Operation 365, one painting a day for one year, http://www.carolineallen.com

I have a stormy, rocky psyche, thrashing prophetic dreams, tumultuous crashing waves in the soul, wild moments of beautiful artistic abandon, spontaneous crazinesses. I’d rather be by the ocean or in the woods or around a bonfire at night than anywhere else in the world.

My intense moods don’t happen often enough or with enough severity between the ups and downs to be diagnosable — believe me, I’d know, after 20 years of therapy. But somehow I got it into my head at an early age that the way my insides worked was in some way wrong.

About 20 years ago in Seattle, I was really struggling with the why and the what of who I was. I was still doing journalism part-time to pay the bills, and doing some fiction writing, and I was trying so hard to find a way to dampen down the tumult inside me. Yoga, pilates, Buddhist meditation, shamanism, reiki, massage, psychotherapy, spiritual therapy — I was trying them all. I even became certified in some of them, even began helping others.

Then I was driving my car in Ballard. I can remember exactly where I was when I had the epiphany, at the corner of 15th and 65th. I’d been full of anxiety for years and it came bubbling up as I drove. The universe said: “You’re trying to dampen down the passion of your soul. What you call anxiety is your passion. It feels bad because you’re trying to thwart the very essence of who you are. Stop. It is the wrong way.”

It was a turning point. It would take a few more years to figure out the answer. I decided to turn myself over to fiction writing and visual art more fully. I had been leaning toward becoming more of a metaphysical healer. You can’t swing a cat in Seattle without hitting a metaphysical healer. In the metaphysical community, there seemed to be all these rules for what made you a good person or a healed person. I felt like artists were allowed to be more wild, more raucous, more out of control. My tumultuous soul couldn’t fit into that metaphysical box anymore.

And so I dove into visual art and fiction writing — Sunday life drawing sessions, art workshops at Gage Academy on Capitol Hill, writers’ conferences. I took the short stories I was writing and turned them into a book, my first literary novel, Earth. I remember once after doing visual art all day, I was walking from my home on Capitol Hill to a friend’s house a mile away, and something was different. I stopped next to a tree and tried to figure out what was going on inside me. I was happy. Thoroughly happy. I truly didn’t recognize the feeling. I had to stop and figure out that I was happy. It was because of the art. I was not dampening down my passions anymore. I was expressing them.

I’m now writing my second novel, Air, for publication in the autumn. My psyche is all blustery with the writing, even more than its normal bluster. It was intense. I asked the universe: “What the hell is going on with me?” And the universe told me.

“Remember years ago when we told you not to dampen your passion? Well, now, we not only don’t want you to squelch it, we want you to celebrate it! Love it. Glory in it. You still think that side of you makes you hard to love but only because YOU don’t love it. You are one of the lucky ones, an artist! Celebrate it!”

Yes! My artist psyche is a storm-battered cliff in some wild corner of the world that no one has settled. It is raucous storm clouds looming over the distant edge of the sea. It is thunder and lightning, whirling tornadoes, engulfing tsunamis, battering hurricanes.

It is a force of nature.

To read more about my visual art and about the novels in the Elemental Journey Series, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, go to www.carolineallen.com.


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