It has taken me four years to complete this awesome deck, using my non-dominant hand! Talk about HARD, but so worth it.
Why do inner child work? Well, because…
“No one is coming to save you, but it is not because you are unloved. To the contrary: You are so revered, so adored, so magnificent, that to send to you a savior would be to destroy your opportunity to become what you are in truth, to realize yourself fully, in the glory of your divine humanity.
It is true, there are those who need surrogate representatives to protect their interests: the children, the elderly, the sick, the caged, the oppressed, and the mad, and there are not enough heroines to care for them all.
No one is coming to save you because you are the hero, the heroine who has come to free up life here. Yours must come first. There is no other way.
If you were not required to save yourself, you would not know what it takes, your compassion would be shallow, your eyes would be dull and cloudy, your strength would not hold out.
If you refuse to save yourself, you condemn creation to incompletion. Those you might have healed, might have protected, might have represented, might have loved back into wholeness, may not fulfill their own destinies either. For some of these unknown persons, you may have been the last dry match in the the world, and it would be enough to set them ablaze by your example.
You don’t need the white knight. You are the wild horse racing the wind.
You don’t need the holy man. You are already holy.
You don’t need the medicine. You are the medicine.
You don’t need magic. You are a living miracle.
You don’t need acceptance. You are loved and adored beyond measure.
You don’t need courage. You need faith.
There is nothing wrong with you. Be who you are: who you really dare underneath all the lies inside you.
You are the return of the promise. The peacekeeper. The grace giver. The redemptive force of Creation here to uplift the broken-hearted.
No one is more qualified than you are to do your holy work.
Apply all that secret knowledge. Set it in motion. Give it form in the world, and become the living gift that never empties.” ~ Alison Nappi, Author
If no one is coming to save me, I will save myself. And if this is what I have to offer to humanity in my lifetime, then I’m happy with that. There was so much healing that occurred while I was making this deck, and it was fun to do. However, there was much more trauma to come, and working with my inner child through this deck got me through it all!
The deck started out small, and was meant for personal use only, but it transformed itself many times as I went along. It soon became huge and MESSY!!! And that is OK, as the process for creating it felt huge and messy. There was lots of scribbling and mistakes and I didn’t always like the art created, or the story that was told, but that’s okay because I was not about to ridicule my inner child, when I could clearly see the creative beauty flowing from her so naturally. In my opinion, the nightly art room messes that adult me had to clean up constantly were worth it, because my inner child was having fun and letting negative shit go, while my subconscious was adapting perceived danger protocols to my present life!
The initial idea was to create a deck composed of art made in my elementary school classroom, with only the thought of releasing it as an “art activity deck”, each card highlighting a different art style or process, with step-by-step directions on how to do the project on the back of each card. (Of course that was the project! I was an art teacher!) Going with this idea, I used photographs of student work and teacher exemplars created over the course of 11 years teaching elementary school art, in Las Vegas, to create this deck of 80 cards. I ordered one copy, and printed it on-demand for use as a promo deck for my own personal use.
Around this time, my dad’s health was significantly declining. He was in and out of the hospital several times a week for the last year of his illness. I couldn’t wait to get the promo deck so that I could show him all the things I taught my students. But it was not to be. I received the deck in the mail on the evening that my dad was released from the hospital, after having a pacemaker surgery. I didn’t open it until I got home from his hospital room, later that evening. I was seeing it and photographing it for the very first time, when I received a call from my mother, telling me that my dad had fallen out of his bed, and while she was trying to lift him off the ground, he had a heart attack and died, on the floor, in her arms, at age 63.
Needless to say, I had to put this project down for a while until my heart could handle it again. And then I had to ask myself if I could ever be happy using that deck because I associated my dad’s death with it. My dad was the one man that I knew I could count on, although he wasn’t very nice, and he didn’t really accept me for who I was. I was at a loss, so much so that I can’t even begin to describe the sadness and hopelessness that have haunted me in the last four years, since his passing. I realize that it wasn’t the deck’s fault that my dad died, but suddenly the deck wasn’t enough. It was static. I needed something that moved, that changed, that evolved and transformed. At this point, the deck would need to dance to bring joy to my pain.
After my dad died, my husband and I moved to Oregon in a 31 foot RV. I had always wanted to move to Oregon since I graduated high school, but I had promised my dad that I wouldn’t leave until after he was gone. We all knew his time was limited, because he had been suffering kidney failure for about 7 years. Once he was gone, moving felt like a binding contract. It was a promise, after all. Once I found myself alone, (besides my husband), in a new state, with no family or friends around to support me, I thought of another way to personally use the deck, and after a while, I started using it as a springboard for recalling the past. I wanted to remember everything about my childhood that I could. I missed my dad. I didn’t want to forget anything. And truthfully, I was really mad at my mom for the relationship that we had, which was a very detached one. I did not want another parent passing, without trying to understand their child. I was not even speaking to my sister at the time, and that had been going on for many years.
The practice of using the deck to activate memories was started in my art journal. I shuffled the cards, and allowed the universe to guide the process. In my journal, I would make a quick sketch and write a journal entry using my non-dominant hand. At this point, I was now thinking of the deck as an “art therapy deck,” rather than an “art activity deck,” and I started using it in this way, with the idea of putting art therapy suggestions on the backs, rather than a step-by-step art activity.
Although I found it ridiculously hard to draw and write in this way, I quickly realized that this technique enabled a significant connection between me and my inner child, a part of me that I thought was gone. I was amazed at the memories recalled and the often humorous journal entries that were taking form on the pages. The stories were unexpected and spontaneous, and I didn’t know what my inner child would say in response to the art and prompt on each card. I was remembering things I didn’t even realize I’d forgotten. Best of all, I was remembering my dad. I found it very interesting that my brain was so focused on how to draw and write, in a new way, that it wasn’t censoring my writing.
I allowed it to unfold in its own way. I did not judge it, and I especially loved the process because, although I was grieving, it allowed me a safe space to escape to the past, a place I was longing for desperately. But it also guaranteed a safe travel, with a one way ticket back. It wasn’t like telling these stories to a stranger, or even worse, to someone who may or may not have a different version of my same story. It was my little secret story, and it could always stay that way if I wanted it to. It was in my journal, after all.
I can only write BIG and SLOPPY using my non-dominant hand, and it wasn’t long before this project was too large for my little art journal. Also, the outlines and color on the opposite page were bleeding through the backside of the journal paper, so I transferred the project onto single sheets of oversized drawing paper. After I transferred it out of my journal, I realized that my sole purpose for creating this deck was healing my own inner child. Just as it had grown out of my journal, it had grown out of my heart and mind. It was something that would require a large amount of time to complete. It was never meant to be small or easy. It was never meant to give directions. It was meant to inspire the healing of the wounds that keep me stuck. It was meant to move me. And so we danced.
So many things happened as I continued to work with the deck. During the world-wide Coronavirus lockdown, my mom’s house, and the entire contents of it, burned to the ground, taking with it all of my childhood belongings, and the proof that I was ever a child in the first place. The fire was devastating, but we pilfered through the remains for more than a month, trying to save anything we could. During that time, I really got to know and understand my mom. Spending time alone with a parent, as an adult, is both exhausting and fucking legit beautiful. We were finally able to talk about things, all the things that needed to be discussed, in order to actually “see” one another for the first time, through a lens that wasn’t dirty.
My relationship with both my mom and my sister had been hard pressed since birth, and we had gone through periods of estrangement throughout my lifetime. I’ve always felt like she loved my sister more, and she didn’t understand me because she didn’t want to. Strong-willed Aries has difficulty understanding a Scorpio Moon baby, and I have always been ridiculed for my sensitivity. When I was young, she and I didn’t get on very well. The favoritisms and double-standards shown by my parents made it impossible for my sister and I to get along. I realize now that my mom didn’t mean to do the things I thought she did on purpose, and that she was trying her best. I was able to share the promo deck with her, and I read her many of the stories. I was outright scared to even tell her about the stories in the guidebook, fearing she would reject me for my idea, and especially for the writing that involves her. I insisted on reading it to her before I let anyone else read it. If she hated it, I was planning on not publishing the stories, but giving generalized ideas for working with the inner child, using the energy of the card instead.
To my surprise, my mom loved both the deck and the stories. She is the one who persuaded me to use my art responses for the deck images, and put the elementary students’ artwork in the guidebook, and she also suggested I add a section after each card that explains inner child versus adult perspectives. It is amazing how many of our adult perspectives are formed when we are little. I have always thought that my mom did not want to understand me, but the truth was that she just really didn’t know how to begin. Perspectives on both sides of the fence have been updated! And not only was she finally seeing me with fresh eyes, I was finally seeing her!
This deck has really benefited our relationship by opening us up to conversations we would have never been able to handle prior to the discussion and viewing of it. Not only that, but my sister and I are closer than ever. Truth be told: I never hated her. I hated the situations that we were put in that teamed us against one another, and I hated the favoritism and the double standards, but none of that was her fault. She was just another child suffering in an unfair environment, and if anything she had it way worse than me. I was her big sister, and all she ever heard was how much I despised her. I see the error in this now, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to rectify these very important relationships.
I couldn’t be happier about creating anything in my life, and I love the way this deck turned out!
Healing. There is only one way through this portal. You cannot go over, or under, or around… You must go through. This is a door, not a window. SLAM IT!
And now for a funny video of me practicing with my gimbal! 😂 Yes, I’m wearing a neck brace, a posture corrector, and tape holding my glasses from sliding down my nose… It is what it is, y’all. Sorry, not sorry. 😂