Our guest blogger is Betty Rosen, from southern California, a gifted artist, teacher and candidate for certification in Creative Journal Expressive Arts. Like all of us, her life has been impacted by COVID-19. In moments of crisis and stress, she has turned to drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand to receive guidance from her own inner wisdom.
Coping Creatively with COVID-19
by Betty Rosen
I’ve kept some kind of a journal since I was in my teens, writing on colored lined paper to match my moods, sitting in my yellow bean bag chair, headphones on, music blaring. I used leather bound books of the 70’s, often gifts from my Dad. Then I found larger black Art Journals where I pasted ticket stubs, and collaged images of beautiful places I’d hoped to visit, and scribbled out heartbreaks. Later IBM Selectric typewriters were also a fave, and then computers entered our lives. I would journal, eyes closed, tears streaming, getting it all out on paper.
In the early 1980’s I was in a Women’s Studies major at San Francisco State University (SFSU). They actually offered a Creative Journaling class. I’d known other women who had kept journals. Our books held not only secrets and frustrations, but also daily appointments & phone numbers, visions for our future, and designs for a more welcoming society. The creativity and beauty I glimpsed in those journals inspired me to curate a Journal Exhibit: “Sharing Intimacy.” Ten of us took the actual pages out of our journals and mounted them in an exhibition case in the cafeteria at SFSU.
Fast forward through two careers in the Entertainment Business and living in Nashville, Tennessee. I knew I felt another calling. Finding Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, my friend Matt Lindsey and I committed to work this method. Those “morning pages,” pouring out 3 pages of blah, blah, blah daily did the trick for a time. Other exercises in Cameron’s book helped me carve out the time to become an artist and change careers.
My third career has been that of a mosaic artist, art advocate, and teaching artist. Yet it wasn’t until I found Lucia and the non-dominant hand journaling that I can say now I am fully satisfied. I was exposed to her work at a professional development conference on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I heard about her Creative Journal Expressive Arts Certification Training (CJEA) just when I was looking for something to augment my work. I wanted something that could enhance and legitimize what I knew intrinsically, experientially: that art-making heals us all.
The CJEA practice is so immediate, so instant, so accessible. My clients, my friends, my family, and I all richly benefit from these processes and experiences. It’s so simple. And I’ve learned from twenty years as a self-taught artist that simple, well, simple is hard. An art practice, for me, is like making a reduction in cooking: distilling ideas, shapes, images, down to lines and patterns.
In 2016 I moved in with my Mom (who is now 84 years old) in a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles. I thought it would be a pause while I righted myself during an amicable divorce. It didn’t take long to realize that it was better for my Mom to have someone living with her at this stage in her life. She’d lived there alone since her divorce 26 years ago. It’s a beautiful courtyard building, in classic 1910’s southern California Spanish architectural style, with a terrace and 360 degree view of the city. A building that old has problems and we’ve been trying to solve a water leak for the past few years. More on that later.
I started my CJEA Program with Lucia and ten other candidates in October 2019 near San Luis Obispo, California on the central coast. We were scheduled to meet there again in October 2020 to take our last in-person intensive, graduate, and become certified. But COVID-19 had other plans for us and for our planet. We will now complete the program online in an extended version, graduating in May 2021.
When COVID-19 hit the USA, I took all the precautions recommended by medical experts. I had to repeatedly tell my Mom, who is now suffering from short-term memory loss, that life had changed. With roles reversed, I did what all of us have tried to do protecting ourselves and our most vulnerable loved ones. And then on April 12th, while I was at my art studio a block away, I was alerted that there were workers in the apartment. Unannounced. Without masks. I panicked.
I sequestered my Mom in the apartment and stayed in my studio for three days. That breach of security, of potential contamination, on top of an already stressful life being a caregiver for my Mom, juggling three part-time jobs from Long Beach to Skid Row, and studying to be certified in CJEA methods, sent me over the edge. Fortunately, because of Lucia’s work, I knew exactly what to do.
I turned to Lucia’s book, Drawing Your Stress Away, her draw-it-yourself coloring book, and scribbled it out. Those pages follow:
Sadness & Confusion & Resolve
With my dominant hand, I wrote all the negative thoughts about why I shouldn’t or couldn’t take action. Often this is where my past pre-CJEA journaling would end. It’d be a safety valve. A vent. But then I’d invite the world to walk all over me or blame myself for events beyond my control.
RE: HOA/ WATER
I'm too high maintenance
Jews always sue
Jews want good deals
Jews want things for free
I should just trust men to handle things
Virus isn't deadly.
$ doesn't fix anything
I expect too much
It's too much effort
Nothing will come of it
I will piss people off.
Someone will get fired.
White privilege wants too much.
This time, with the non-dominant hand writing in green, I wrote from my inner wisdom, the truth within me. The messages from my inner wisdom/non-dominant hand offered immediate relief. This gave me the courage and guidance to take the necessary next steps. The results amaze me each and every time I do this process, and when I witness others do it.
I want my home to be safe
- Mom protected
- Respect in business practices for safety
- honest communication
- time back
- less stress
- water not coming into apt.
- Kim respected (Kim is landlady)
I am professional.
I value my & others work
I am a smart capable woman
I am reacting appropriately to this deadly situation.
I am not responsible if someone is fired
I expect what's safe & fair
I'm educated and compassionate
What others think of me is none of my business
Money has value, it would make life easier.
Lucia has said, many times since COVID-19, that her whole life has prepared her for this moment. Now more than ever we all need to boost our immune systems, relieve stress, and nurture ourselves and each other. I'm grateful for access to technology that keeps us connected while we reinvent our lives and shelter in place. I’m exceptionally grateful for the richness of this CJEA work, and look forward to continuing using the method and offering it to others.
Practitioner Candidate, graduating CJEA May 2021
Betty is a mosaic artist, community builder, and arts advocate.
Let us know what you think of this post in the comments below. Follow us and be updated by email when new blog posts are published.
Order The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari Press 2019) at Amazon.com