My Voice is a Butterfly
Updated: Oct 19
Photo Credit: My Client who Purchased this Art Piece.
12"x12" Daniel Smith Watercolor on Khadi Deckled Edge Recycled Cotton Rag Paper
My most recent speaking engagement came with it a lot of stress and anxiety. I wish I could tell you it was a wonderful experience that was perfectly delightful. Rather, the event hung over my head with gloom and doom. I was so anxious the week before, totally afraid I would blow it and not be able to put to words the summation of my trauma healing. The reason why is that ever since I was a little girl, I was encouraged to be silent about our family's problems. It was taboo to speak about anything outside of our family.
Being the kind of big mouth that I am, I got into a lot of trouble because I struggled to stick to the rules. When I was an adult, one of my sisters asked me never to tell another soul what happened to me because it was her "life too." I wanted to respect my sister, but I was torn between the anguish of silence and the anguish of family loyalty.
On one hand, I needed to be good to fit in and be safe in that dynamic. On the other, I was dying from living so suppressed and keeping my truth and my story inside of me. I didn't know how I could truly be an expressed artist and storyteller if I left these knowings caged inside my heart.
This internal dissonance became more than I could ever bare over time and I caved and began telling the truth of my experience more often. I learned throughout that journey in my adult life that speaking uncomfortable truths was very frowned upon. You could get labeled a victim, told you were possessed by demons, or that you are a disruption to others' peace and to the flow of the world. You had to be good, play nice, keep quiet, show up and support family at whatever cost, even if that cost was your own mental health. There are so many other things I learned that really didn't serve me or anyone else for that matter. I came to the conclusion that to be silent is to die a slow and painful, caged death, but to speak is equally painful, but at least liberating.
That was what I internalized over the years and I have spent the last decade of my life undoing these damaging beliefs while learning to find my voice. I want to believe it doesn't have to be so painful, yet I still have yet to discover how it can feel nourishing and connecting to share my female stories in a world that favors silence, productivity, and isolation and tries to sell female empowerment in a clean, glossy package of strictly positive and beautiful, can-never-be-messy.
I am still trying to find my voice if I am being honest with you. A good friend reflected to me "But you regularly speak about confronting issues on Facebook. What do you mean you haven't found your voice?" I didn't know how to respond, only that deep down it feels like my story can't come out. Like it is stuck somewhere inside of me and hasn't really been allowed to come forth the way it wants to or even can. I think this is the case because ultimately, it simply doesn't feel safe.
When I started painting My Voice is a Butterfly, it seemed really important to me to get these emotions out. I wasn't even quite sure what I was painting or what the symbols represented, only that they did represent something important and necessary. Something fundamental to what it feels like to be afraid to speak or to feel unable to speak.
For me, it means that my voice is a transformative and delicate process. I think it is still in the cocoon stage. I can feel my story gestating within me, like a caterpillar gestating in a cocoon. The cocoon is a womb-like sack that builds a whole new being by first turning it into goo and rebuilding the butterfly as a completely new creature.
I feel that is what is happening to my story. And every time I share my story, it is in the process of this transformation. I wonder often what form it will take on next. Who will I become in my next iteration? How big will my audience be (often it is just me!)? Can I be okay if it is only myself who gets to witness and hear my story? Can I be okay if it is more than me?
I hope that in the process of sharing my story, coming to know my story intimately, I can perhaps re-forge it, transform it, into something that will inspire others and won't be so vulnerable, so scary, so gloom and doom feeling, and maybe it will be more palatable and less icky feeling. I think that is more than a journey, maybe an excavation into what is hidden within me. Is it necessary to be palatable? Or is this just me trying to turn my own creative, messy, dark self into something worthy of our patriarchal, light-obsessed society?
I want to share one last thing with you, which is that the person who adopted My Voice is a Butterfly really resonated with the message. As I was painting this piece, she shared with me that it was healing her in the process as I created it. She was seeing a coach with her own business who encouraged her to speak her truth, share her story and find her voice. She felt such a strong resonance and power come through the image. When she shared with me the healing that this painting activated in her, I was very touched because I had never before realized that my art could channel and bring healing to people. I cried tears of joy and gratitude. Through this process, I was able to see how my art could heal not just myself, but others too, and then heal me again! It is a beautiful figure 8 loop and feedback system that nourishes all.
What do you think about My Voice is a Butterfly? What do you think about the symbols in the piece? Could you relate to any part of this story?
If you liked this painting and want to purchase prints or art products, you can find it in my artist print shop at the link above.