Marguerite Bryant - Artist and Writer

Title: My Body Remembers (for Mary Louise, my mother) Mixed Media
Title: My Body Remembers (for Mary Louise, my mother) Mixed Media

1. Who are you and what inspires you today? 


I am an artist and writer living on the beautiful northern California coast with my mighty good man named Storm, two dogs named Bonsai and Farrah, and a cat named Squeegie. My work has appeared most notably in the best selling book by Marney Makridakis: Creating Time, and also Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson.


I am inspired by life everyday, and I love to treat my life as a treasure hunt for miracles and inspiration. In fact, I am currently on a year-long quest to find the miracles within each day. Sometimes they are big miracles: like finding $200.00 cash when we needed money for the bills.


Some of them are small synchronicities, like this one I noted on Sept. 22nd: “I dreamed of Leonard Cohen coming to visit last night, then found out today that is was his 81st birthday! I sent him blessings in a mental birthday message from my heart to his.”


I decided to do this project because after a couple of very rough years, I needed to be reminded that miracles happen everyday, not just in the world, but in MY LIFE too! I love this miracle project, and intend to keep noticing and notating miracles for the rest of my life! (I keep a miracle file on my desktop and just add a line daily, so it only takes a few seconds!) This project has revamped my definition of miracles, and opened up my eyes! It's made me realize how blessed I am, and how God takes care of all of my needs and always has.


Year-long projects, in general, are a wonderful way to grow in new and exciting directions. In autumn I always start percolating about what my next year-long project will be. I know when I have the perfect project when a feeling of “YES!” reverberates within me. It all begins with a simple list of ideas and the desire to make it fit easily into my life. The end result will always bring me joy and delight, so I will look forward to it each day.


Some of my past year-long projects were:


-A black-and-white photo per day for a year (Which culminated in my own one woman show and a calendar from the best 12 photos)


-A butterfly per day for a year (Exhibited at The Butterfly Project in the Holocaust Museum)


-Jazz Art Play: Each day for a year I listened to jazz for 15 minutes and doodled.


Please tell me a favorite story about your childhood? What positive life principle did you learn from your parents/caregivers - that still informs your life today? 


I lived with a wonderful foster family called The Honeys when I was 2 to 5 years old. (Blessedly, they were just as sweet as their name!) I was so happy there, I could have stayed forever if they had let me! I called my foster mother “Little Honey,” because she was 4'10 and sassy. Everyone adopted the nickname, and she was Little Honey for the rest of her life! She was my favorite human being on the planet for many reasons. The most primal reason was that her love saved my young life after my mother committed suicide.


As a child I was an adventurous tomboy and a wanderer. I was supposed to be home when the streetlights came on, and one evening I got distracted and came home a bit late. Little Honey used to say I was so friendly that she worried I would get into a car with the first stranger offering candy. (for I was also a chubby kid with a sweet tooth!) She almost called the police that night. When I finally did get home, she yelled at me, spanked me, and we both cried...


The next day she called my dad to say it was time for me to live with him because her nerves could no longer handle my wandering ways. When I learned that I would be leaving her loving and stable home, I was heartbroken. I loved my dad, but he had quite a temper. Moving in with him was hard on me. I missed her steady, reliable love, and wondered if I would ever see her again. But I am grateful to say that The Honeys remained a part of my life always. Little Honey made sure that I visited them 2 or 3 times a year throughout my childhood, and beyond.


I am grateful to Little Honey for teaching me about keeping the bonds of love strong through frequent communication and genuine interest. Although I lived a life of wanderlust that she viewed as strange, she was always my biggest cheerleader. She honed in on my gifts and talents in ways that made me feel genuinely seen, known and loved. She showed me, through her actions, how to love well. She also demonstrated beautifully what young people need in order to thrive and become themselves. I am currently sharing what I learned from her with a foster child who struggles with depression. I know that Little Honey's spirit is smiling at us.


Was there anything in your past that caused you pain, struggle or hardship? Share briefly if you feel comfortable. 


I survived a very rocky childhood that leaves me marvelling at my own inner strength. My mother committed suicide when I was almost 2, and I lived with a wonderful foster family for several years while my dad battled in court for custody of me. He finally won, but then ended up being abusive, prompting me to leave home at 16. (and this is just the tip of the iceberg)


If relevant describe a difficult event or circumstance in your childhood, teen or adult years that caused you to "act-out" or "act-in" in a detrimental way. How has your emotional pain been a wake-up call for growth? 


My family lied to me about my mother, so I didn't learn about her suicide until I was 22. I had just graduated college and was about to begin my life as an adult, so the timing was really bad... I felt like I had to start from scratch, because nothing I thought I knew was true anymore. When I asked my grandparents (her parents) about it, my grandma tried to explain it away by saying that I had been “a terrible 2 year old.” The message I received was that I was such a bad kid that I drove my mother to end her life.


At that point, I just started running, and I didn't stop for many years. I lived in a van and worked odd jobs all over the country. When I was on the road, it was like my troubles were balloons floating lightly behind me. When I stopped running, for even a little while, my long avoided troubles hit me hard in the back of the head! It took years to be able to stop and sit with my wounds. But then another tragedy would come: a car wreck, a miscarriage, the death of my husband, and down the road I would be running again...


When my dad died, I was too exhausted to run anymore. I needed a stable home where I could process my grief, which was very deep and wide, from all those years of avoidance. The money my dad left me allowed me to do this, and I am very grateful. Being able to sit with my wounds and accept them without running has helped me, little by little, to finally heal. I still have healing to do, but I now know that I can handle anything that comes my way without running.


What is the main thing that you have needed to heal in your lifetime?


When my mother killed herself, it caused an almost fatal wound in me. I was too young to remember her, but I never felt complete without that precious mother love. My grandma essentially blamed me for my mother's suicide, and I went through years of self-loathing that I am only now beginning to emerge from. The message I got from her was that I was so bad, so unlovable, that my mother had to kill herself to get away from me. That was a huge burden to carry through life, so much so, that I am amazed I am still here.


What is your greatest strength as a result of that healing?


Self-reliance is probably my greatest strength: but not in an insular or detached way. I know that I need people, but I learned from an early age not to expect things from others. (Paradoxically: expectations still remain my largest hurdle!)


I learned many ways to sooth myself, because I realized that no one else could really do that for me. Most people are used to being soothed by their mother's, so learning to do that for myself was really a survival technique. It still serves me well, and I have grown stronger and better at it. With it comes a knowing that I can survive anything that comes into my life.


What is your favorite creative healing modality? What makes your feel alive, passionate and whole?


I started keeping a journal at age 11, and now I have almost 300 journals! I write, do art, rant and rave in my journals. They've been therapists, mentors and friends to me. I can show up on their pages and be totally myself in any given moment without fear of judgment, rejection or abandonment. Journals are simply a vehicle for reaching the truth: I am wise and know what's best for myself. My journals help me to get to that place of knowing. They are my main tools in the archeological digs for the treasures buried deep within me among the wounds.


Please describe the details of your creative process and how it has evolved.


My first journals had a date on each page, and you were supposed to write about your day in a tiny space. I quickly realized that wouldn't work for me, and started scribbling through the dates so that I could keep writing for as long as I wanted. I eventually switched to blank journals, bypassing the problem of dated pages altogether. I've experimented with many different sizes, shapes, lined, unlined, etc. I've also made journals myself, some professional looking and some made from recycled scraps. I find that I feel more free to be myself (and lose myself) in journals that aren't fancy. Lately I have been gravitating toward dollar store journals with spiral spines, since I typically go through a journal every 2-3 weeks. The spiral spine allows the journal to open flat, which makes art happen easier.


I love to experiment with new journal techniques, prompts and art, and I have recently been very much enjoying two modalities I learned from Shelley Klammer! One is making a 3-4 element collage in my journal quickly each morning and reflecting on what it tells me about myself throughout the day. The second is taking a magazine photo that touches me deeply, gluing it into my journal and then writing a poem about it. I love these two new techniques because they are quick, yet yield deep and profound and surprising results. I also love the way that they add so much visual intrigue to my journals when I flip through them.


Describe yourself as whole and healed. Who are you in your essence?


I am strong and steady in my love for myself and the world. I accept everyone, and my love improves all that I touch. The pain I've endured has become a garden of compassion within me that people feel comfortable in. My creations ignite healing and inspiration from a place of deep and hard-won authenticity.


If the major healing theme of your life had a book or a movie title what would it be called?


“What a Difference a Day Makes”


When your mother ends her life while you are still a baby, there is a constant message that plays in the back of your mind: “Like mother, like daughter...” (My mother didn't stick around, so why should I?) Holding onto life when I felt like ending it all became a daily victory for me. When I thought things couldn't get worse and I should just end it all, I held on, and the next day things always looked more hopeful. I eventually began trust the power of holding on until tomorrow, and it has never failed me.


How has your past pain informed your life purpose? How do you specifically want to contribute to life?


I love journals, and they have been my main form of transformation in this life since I began writing and making art in them at age 11. No matter what I deal with, good or bad, they are there to help me figure out how I really feel, what I could try, and what is best for me. The extra bonus is that once I finish a journal, it also serves as a record of my life. (I thought I would remember everything, but I most certainly did not!) I am currently re-reading my journals, and it's so fascinating to see how I have grown up in their pages. They are not always easy to read, but I regret nothing. I am reading them with the intent to write books on the healing powers of journals. This has always been my dream, and I work at it daily.


What strength-based inspirational advice would you give someone who has similar challenges?


There is a wise one inside each of us who knows what is best for us. Writing in a journal is the best way I know of to access the inner wise voice. All that is needed is a journal, a pen, and some quiet time. If I feel really bad, I will simply write: “What hurts?” Then I make a list of what is upsetting me until I can't think of anything else. This serves as a baseline to work from, so that I can accept how I feel and comfort myself into a better place. No matter what I have gone through in life, this always works to get me unstuck and feeling better.


For me: the wise one is God within speaking quietly to my soul. In this age of social technology, it is tempting to turn to others for advice. All that others can really offer is opinions, because they are not experts on me. Communicating with the wise one is a solitary endeavor that yields priceless treasures that no one else can provide.


What famous inspirational quote sums up your life journey?


“When you're living from the heart, every moment brings another chance to fall in love. The only thing you must do to live a deeply romantic life is to base every decision you make on love: self-love, love of others, love of ideas, activities and places, love of smells, tastes, sights, sounds and textures. Living this way brings romance into the smallest, most ordinary moments, and leads to a lot of large and extraordinary ones.” ~Martha Beck


Create your own quote to inspire others on their life journey.


“Life is a perilous adventure and none of us escape unscathed. There are priceless treasures buried deep within our most wounded parts. It's a treacherous treasure hunt, but we need not be afraid, for we are never alone. The wise one who lives inside our hearts has a treasure map, and will not lead us astray.”


About Marguerite Bryant

Hello ~ My name is Marguerite Bryant, but most folks just call me “M.” I am a writer and multi-media artist, but a creative journal keeper at my core. My journals are the birthplace of all of my best ideas, and a safe place where I get to know myself deeply. Keeping journals has helped me to stay balanced in the darkest of times, and then healed me on the other side. I think the world would be a better place if everybody kept a journal, and I'm writing a book about it!


Blog: Red Balloon to the Moon