Our Skin is Our Freedom

Illustration

dealing with procrastinationThe shower tells me to slow down. It’s the end of the night. It’s time to calm my soul, dress it for sleeping. But I can feel my body still longs in desire for anything that tells me, “you’ve done enough today.” Earlier today I didn’t finish editing that image. The animation is still in the same state it was last week, as are those two emails that are sitting in the drafts folder. I didn’t start on any of the three illustrations I have due soon. I took a nap midday, before I even had lunch. And forgot about half the other things that are on my list of to-dos and to-dreams.

anxiety and self-care
My hands are scratching at the walls that contain me, my skin. It’s so limited to its own time and space. Joined with the warm droplets that are supposed to soothe, but only excite irritation.

My hands don’t stop. I circle in the shower, feeling everything, everything tearing apart, doom imminent, knocking at the door.

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My eyes dart around thinking about everything that I didn’t do that day. In every corner of the stall, associating with each crevice my eyes can find, a different disappointment for the day. All the dreams I wanted to start on, the assignments, tasks, and small self-imposed habits that today were proven that they are indeed not anywhere close to habits.

My hands don’t stop, my eyes don’t stop and my breathing joins in. Anxious, it is breathinbreathingbreathing. Beating to the rhythm of hopes, dreams, pressures, expectations, and fears. Shame and guilt arise in a chest that already feels like it’s drowning. And drowning is not where you wanna be at right before sleeping. And you want to sleep because tomorrow will be an early start. And you can’t stop it. Stop your hands, your eyes, your breathing.

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You stop. For a second your breath stops, holding itself saying: “I’m done. I’m exhausted, tired, done.” And then it lets the breath seep out, with it your whole body slips into that air. You leave with exasperation in the flow of air through your lips, and you come back in with relief.

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You didn’t accomplish everything you wanted today. But you breathed, and you walked and lived. It’s all in that breath, that gives up, it lets go, and everything opens up.

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Your eyes relax, and the eyebrows that were before lifted, finally rest on the knowledge of safety. Your hands stops scratching and decides instead to lay by the side of your thighs. Your breathing is breath, and it is stroke, and it is freedom, and acceptance.

your skin is your freedom - mindfulness
It is there. You’re there. Your skin is your freedom, and your body your temple.

I wanted to do them all

Sketchbook, Uncategorized
image of a cage
It’s hard to be realistic on our goals. I mean. At least for people like me? People that dream, and see so much opportunity everywhere, so much that can be. Everything is another road, another path that could be traveled. Trying to be realistic is like asking us to cage the bird, to kill the fire, to drain the energy, imprison the free spirit.
So why do you ask me that? Why do you ask me to be realistic?

Orange Unicorn 16 – Nature 3

Orange Unicorn
Orange-Unicorn_016

As much as nature humbles me, breaking me down, admitting how small, how tiny and how quick I am to die… it also strengthens and reminds me that we are all beautiful.


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Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!
You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

Orange Unicorn 14 – Nature 2

Orange Unicorn

Orange-Unicorn_015

It’s good to remember, that we’re just starting. I think this is true even for those of us who feel “old.” This world has lasted a lot longer than we have, and maybe that can help us see the world with a more open hand, open heart.


Previous episode – Next episode (to come)
Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!
You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

Orange Unicorn 14 – Nature

Orange Unicorn

Orange-Unicorn_014

Haven’t updated in awhile, but here it is. There’ll be a couple more with nature. After that I’ll be taking a break (I know, it’s like I was already taking a break….) from Orange Unicorn to reevaluate the style, the colors I use and how I want to keep moving forward with this project. As far as I can tell it’s been moving towards something a lot more self-care and mindfulness focused.

Thank you for being with me on this journey so far. It’s not always easy for me, but I’ve been updating this blog somewhat regularly for a year! And I hope you stick around on what is to come!


Previous episode – Next episode (to come)
Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!
You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

An Open Letter to the Church, from a Queer Guy

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Dear Church,

Two disclaimers to start off. First, We don’t have to agree, we could both be wrong. Second, I’ll use the term “gay” or “gays” to refer to the LGBTQ+ community in a broader sense.

I had a lot to say. But there’s already so many people’s voices, and so much already being discussed and said. Just do a google search and you’ll find different voices, different opinions on all sides. So I’ll keep this brief.

The two cents I wanted to add is this: Some of us from the LGBTQ+ community already go to church. We’re already here, sitting in the pews, listening, listening, listening.

What was hard for me, about my relationship with you, wasn’t necessarily everything that was said – a lot of what you taught me was good and enriching and beautiful. But I think that every time we talked about gays, we talked as if they were outside the church, rather than right there, like I was.

Most of the time it the conversation emphasized the us and them, this complete separation of gays and Christians. It was as if church members and LGBTQ+ community members were like water and oil, never mixing. Even when I’m here saying this, it feels like I for a brief moment have to exclude myself from you and only be in the gay community.  Almost, as if I can’t be in both. Which is not true. I’m a part of both communities.

But there I was listening. The hurtful things were said because you didn’t see I was there, listening; you thought I was outside of your community. And I understand, it’s not the easiest to take off the lenses that you received from those before you.

But, please, remember.

We’re here, with you. We sit next to you, helping out with kid’s ministry, assisting in worship and service, every Sunday.

Please, remember.

We are your daughters, brothers, best friends, and cousins.

We’re right here, and we’re listening. So please, listen to your friend and their struggles when they come out. Listen.

One last remark is that I do not in any way represent the entire gay community. We’re all so different, with different stories and experiences within and outside of your community. Some of us have been ostracized, some of us have left you by choice, some of us struggle to remain friends, and I’m sure there must be some of us who are doing just fine with the way things are.

My experience with you, I have found to be one of the best ones out there, and it saddens me when I find out about many others who have had it harder than me, being rejected and from their communities and families.

Thank you so much for your time, your patience in listening to my complaint. I’ll strive to work for a better relationship between me and you. I know we’re still figuring this all out, and it’s hard and complicated. But thank you for trying, for caring. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes.

Sincerely,

Andrew Gilbert


I have wanted to write something like this for the longest time. I only found the courage to finally post this after a recent Sunday when the Calvin College pastor, Pastor Mary, talked about the subject in a very loving and caring way. The sermon was recorded and can be watched here.
Also please note that the way she talks about it, while still holds onto a “us” and “them,” paradigm she acknowledges this and confesses the difficulties of bridging this divide.
If you want to engage the whole debate of whether homosexual activity, two persons of same sex getting in a relationship, is correct or not, I ask that you do that in private, rather than out and loud here. I just want to keep it more civil. Also, some literature that I’d recommend before you fly at all the arguments out there, would be:
Torn, by Justin Lee
What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, by Kevin DeYoung
Bible, Gender and Sexuality, by James V. Brownson
Washed and Waiting, by Wesley Hill
I’m sure there’s other ones I’m skipping, but this can be a good starting place.
I also recommend listening to this episode of the Liturgists Podcast that definitely made me cry when I listened to it.
Lastly, if you can’t afford the books, either money or time-wise, a good place to find some reading material could be here. Though some of the reading material might make you uncomfortable. Look under “blogs,” for free accessible material.

Orange Unicorn 13 – Joe Is

Orange Unicorn

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We all are Joe.

If it resonated with you, share it with someone that you want to show your appreciation for!


Previous episode – Next episode (to come)
Your support means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. So if you’d like to stay updated with the webcomic make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!
You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

An Exploration of the Colors of Memories and Identity

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I started this series on one of those days where I felt left behind by myself. My past self looked at present me and felt disappointed.

“You changed. We’re not the same anymore.”

But who is this past self?

Because when I look back so many of my memories are muddled together. They’re like shifting sands, they’re inconsistent, constantly reshaping and retelling themselves. Little details are filled in by a brain that I’m not sure I can trust.

Do you remember that tree stump you stood on and declared to the world your love for life and the skies?

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But I still have this sense of identity. This Andrewness that is me. I recognize myself as sensitive, playful and imaginative. I’m often sad, but I can have a lot of fun as well. I’m disorganized and impulsive, and rarely finish my projects.

Do you remember the tree you and your friends climbed and you would sit in for hours talking about something, and you called it the “Cow’s Tree,” or maybe it was “Bull’s Tree”?

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There’s specifics of my own personal life-story.

I was born in Anápolis, in Brazil, but lived most of my life in Viçosa. A college town, populated with hills and pot-holes and a beautiful sunset every day. I lived with my parents and 3 siblings, all of whom I had very different relationships with, and their different quirks interacted with mine to bring me here where I find myself studying Fine Arts at a Christian Reformed college.

Do you remember that keyhole you looked through, trying to see what was on the other side?

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Sometimes, if I don’t interact with someone from Brazil, it feels like my existence in Brazil was a parallel world completely disconnected from today. How do I know I’m the same person? The one who left Brazil behind for a college degree seems so different from the one writing this blog post. Sometimes I need to call my parents, or hear my friend’s voice to remember it all happened.

Do you remember the nose and lips, of that first kiss?

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But then, the memories I have, even if they seem so obscure, uncertain, and limited, they still inform my decisions, thoughts and feelings today. What I believe in or not is informed by those memories. I unconsciously choose to believe in these and live by these memories.

Do you remember that flower you plucked for your mother?

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Memories are often connected with our material senses. Which I think is incredible. Many people write diaries, and in those visual symbols they re-find their memories. There is that smell that reminds you of that hug right before you left. Or that soft humid smell that breathes with the air from where you came. There’s that touch that brings back memories of when we were.

We keep old objects: the baby’s shoes, or the wedding dress, the books and sketchbooks we filled. A t-shirt or mug from this place or event. Souvenirs of our travels to remind ourselves of the past, of where we were, what we did, but also who we are. We pin memories to physical, sensorial, and bodily experiences.

Do you remember those chubby fingers you had as a 6-year old?

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This is why, especially older people, are so preoccupied with pictures. They knew what I didn’t as a kid. That you forget things, everything changes. You move different places, leaving friends behind. And you can’t quite remember their faces and names. And your sense of self feels a little bit less steady and certain. Who are you, at the end of the day? As a kid you chased orcs with wooden swords, now you write angsty phrases that you put as your Instagram captions.

Do you remember that window you saw, when you walked back from the bus stop to your house, and you couldn’t help but imagine that someone lived in there, and that they had a life just as complicated as your own?

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And while I do feel a connection between me-7-year-old, me 16-year-old and me-today, slowly I’m realizing I’ll always struggle to reconcile the changes that I go through. The places I go, the people I meet, the goals I reach (and the ones I don’t), they’ll all shape me. They’ll keep changing me, even as I struggle to keep all my pieces together in a coherent shape within a single identity of Andrew.

Who are you? Who am I?

 

 

 


 

This inquiry into identity, and the connection to memories started with some philosophy video that I saw that questioned this connection between memory and self. At first I didn’t understand what he meant; I felt pretty safe in my own identity. Now, though, I see these questions haunting me a little. Sadly, I don’t remember where I saw the video, or what it was called, otherwise I’d share.

I’m trying to frame the watercolors depicted above, but it’s a pretty expensive endeavor. If you’d like to help me out you can check out my Etsy store. I updated it with prints of these watercolors as postcard sized, but also have a 25% discount on all other items!

I also wanted to try and work with a similar format to the previous one on depression. Hope you liked it.

Thank you for reading through this post, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

 

 

Drawing Series on Depression and Anxiety – Part II

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(Continued from this post.)

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So it’s gotten better, but I want to go back to understand a little bit more of what this all was. Sometimes I think we’re quick to jump to the solution, we want to speed through the problem as fast we can—reach the other side. But we’re here on Earth, aren’t we? We’ll reach Heaven eventually, won’t we? We might as well learn to take it slow, and learn how to read our problems. We have time to figure things out. And that’s something I’ve learned, and am still learning: there’s time to figure things out. I guess sometimes the whole “You only live once,” makes us feel like we’re not enough in this moment.

Going back to the problem. Recently I felt the anxiety coming back again. This past year was hard. Everything in my life seemed to be spinning again. Things that were, weren’t anymore. The person I looked at in the mirror was different, unrecognizable. I felt like there was a hole in my stomach, a black hole sucking in everything I threw at it, never satisfied. And the ghost-like feeling started to come back.

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I asked a couple people on Facebook to maybe help me coin a word to sum up this feeling.

Alex Johnson came up with “Anonrious,” a combination of anonymous and vicarious. She explains that “vicarious living makes no difference in your own life,” while “anonymous” conveys the ghost sentiment.” Which I think works with the idea. As I see it, anonymity contains a certain powerlessness behind it. The anonymous are weakekend, while those who carry an identity are strengthened, and have power, and influence.Anxiety

Ian Nery Rocha came up with “Miere.” For his thought process, he said: “I would choose a short, seemingly unimportant [word], as the sentiment it describes.” I think this also fits well with the concept; the person dealing with depression often feels unimportant, asking for attention (and help) is an incredible effort in itself. They feel tiny, small, impossibly small, as I did.

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To tie it all together:

Depression is connected to problems of Body, problems related to physical sensations that we often shut out. Depression carries with it a ghost-like quality of life. Depression is tied to “I’m not enough.” It’s tied to “I should already be good at this—at living.” Depression brings with it a lack of identity, lack of importance and of influence. And we should understand more of this reality before we go throwing solutions at a friend dealing with these emotions.

I still carry my Sadness with me. There’s still part of me that is enamored with him; he feels like he’s a piece of me. I want him. He makes me more real. But through therapy, the practice of mindfulness, and through the help of friends and family, I’ve also learned how to not let him take over me anymore. I’ve learned to trust others to help me.

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This is all coming from my own experience. The world is big, and some people tell me that we have more than 7 billion people on this Earth. So please don’t assume that my own experiences encompass those of others. Each person may feel depression differently. They also will have different paths then mine, where therapy may not be enough and medication is needed. They may also find practices other than mindfulness and meditation that help them more.

The last thing I want to say is. Don’t feel like you have to worry about me. While I’m not perfect, I’ve grown a lot and have learned a variety of system-checks to keep my depression at bay. I’ve had the help of my parents and close friends. If my own life is ever at risk because of depression, I’ll let someone close, who can help me, know.


I wanted to talk about depression and anxiety. It’s something that I care deeply about, because of my own experiences and of those close to me. There’s a couple of other blog posts that touch a little bit on these topics. If you want to check them out here’s a small list of items relating to this topic, either by referencing it, or searching for solutions.

Liiiiiiiine

What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

Remember This 4

Remember This 3

Thank you for reading through this story, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.

Drawing Series on Depression and Anxiety

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Imagine me, younger, around the age of ten. my hair is longer and lighter. My nose hasn’t grown yet; it still has soft curves. My eyelashes and eyebrows are dark and heavy, hiding my eyes a little. I’m standing on this hill, just outside my house, my legs straight, my gaze firm as I look out into the city that fills the valleys and climbs the hills. The hill I stand on is covered in a green sheet. Not exactly the green you’re thinking of, but the green contaminated with a blue cold and grey tint; the sky is filled with soft shapes and gradations of clouds. Everything feels a little bit quieter. And I’m there on the hill, just quietly sad. My body feels empty, and so does my heart.

I have this memory from childhood, and I don’t recall if it’s been fabricated by my brain or if it happened.

I always was a little bit of a sad person. Even a sad kid really. I’ve heard from people that they see me as a joyful, calm and happy person. But I think I always carried with me a certain weight of sadness. Sure, I also had my happy moments, but there was sadness lurking about within. Almost like my happiness always had to be tinted with sorrow.

I don’t know where it comes from, why it existed. Why it exists. Maybe it’s my sensitive heart. Or maybe it started when my friend died in elementary school, run over by a truck when he was biking. I was 7, he was 6.

Maybe I’ve been enamored to sadness. Sadness has a richness of its own. It’s very nuanced, and feels real and tangible.

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Wherever it came from, this sadness hit the hardest in my teenage years.When I entered puberty and suddenly saw everything changing around me—my own body, my friends, the place I lived in—suddenly carrying my friend Sadness wasn’t ok anymore.

While I struggled to grasp my emotions, to gain some control of them, a friend committed suicide. He was almost an acquaintance really, but we were getting closer. This event ignited my own sadness, and suddenly it burst into thoughts of self-harm; and suicide made its space in my mind. Talking with my mom, we agreed that I should see a psychologist.

I had already struggled with a mild degree of depression, but suddenly I felt like the whole world crashed on me—anxiety was thrown into the mix. I felt unable to solve my problems and unable to be of any help to others. Looking back, I think I felt like a ghost. Unable to affect any real force or change, in the world, or in myself. My pain was cerebral, emotional, abstract. But to some degree I truly felt alienated from my body, and I decided to forget my body. Unable to enact change, I let myself slip more and more into the abstract self, into my head, away from the physical.

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Going to a psychologist for the next year or so really helped me. It helped me deal with insecurities, helped me see myself not as incapable, but as weakened. I could build myself up, slowly.

(To be continued)


I’ll post the second part to this on Thursday the 8th.

I wanted to talk about depression and anxiety. It’s something that I care deeply about, because of my own experiences and of those close to me. There’s a couple of other blog posts that touch a little bit on these topics. If you want to check them out here’s a small list of items relating to this topic, either by referencing it, or searching for solutions.

Liiiiiiiine

What Made Me Cry This Week – Yoga

Remember This 4

Remember This 3

Thank you for reading through this story, your support, time and attention means a lot to me: it helps me keep going. If you’d like to stay updated make sure to follow the blog – button is off to the side!

You can also follow my Facebook Art page, Instagram (@jandrewgilbert), and Twitter (@jandrewgil), for updates.