So here’s the first thing I want to say to all my fellow henna-conners from this year:
To a select few this may not be particularly surprising – but to most of you, I hope you will accept this apology as this year’s henna con, for me, was a journey of a startling self-discovery – where I learned that while I am happy and joyous in giving and sharing, I am conversely quite unable to receive and accept. The abundance of love, support, and adoration I was faced with during henna con came as a complete and utter shock to my system this year. Although I had prepared for my classes, my flights, my accommodation and all the logistics in-between, the one thing I had NOT prepared for, was the LOVE. People I had never met came up to me to express their dedicated following of my henna journey. Or tell me how much they were looking forwards to my classes. Or how much they simply loved my work, and that they would love to wear my work if I would have time to give some – but I was just ill-equipped at graciously receiving such blessings and compliments. In fact, towards the end of the weekend, I began to wonder what exactly was happening within me to feel slightly and oddly detached from the very apparent tidal level of emotion that was washing through henna con – Was it me? Was I doing it wrong??
As my cases were packed, my room was checked out and my airport transfer was en route, it took [a very special new friend in] Larissa to suddenly say* to me:
“Connie, I truly hope that you can find it in your heart to be able to accept and receive all the love and support that we all have for you and have shown you this weekend, because you truly deserve it.”
[*or words to that effect – I forget exactly as the light of epiphany was so bright, it was blinding and distracting]
It was the first time I felt my emotions threaten to take over me – and this is coming from someone who sat in on *that* Catherine Lent class where she discussed “Am I an Artist? Or a Therapist?” – the one class where EVERYBODY cried. The class that periscope was not allowed in due to the number of crying people. The class that should have come with a warning and packet of tissues! I had welled up in that class. I began to question all that I am as an artist and how I connected to people – but it had, yet again, remained under complete control. Which was curious to me – at the time.
On my journey back home from LA, I remain composed. I actually slept almost the entire flight. When I heard my husband’s voice on the phone when I landed, again, I remained remarkably composed. I noted to myself that this was most unlike my first time experience of henna con back in 2014 – where I cried the instant the plane took off – and several times more during the flight itself. This time: No tears.
My husband collected me at the arrival gate. He was a sight for sore eyes – and I was grateful for his presence. We returned to our car and began the drive home to return in time for collecting our children from school. Along the drive, he inevitably asked me: So, how was it?
How was it?
It was surreal, I said.
Like an out of body experience, I said.
I told him that everybody truly welcomed me with open arms – both physically and metaphorically. That I was greeted with genuine lovers, fans and supporters of my work. I was given compliments and acceptance several times over for my achievements and contributions to the henna community. And yet it had all felt odd to me.
And as I looked at my husband, and allowed his love back into my life after a week apart, I realised the walls I had built to cope had opened – and all the love I had been denying myself during the pilgrimage to henna con came flooding in with it. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the emotion of it all. All of the LOVE. All of the FRIENDSHIP. All of the FEELS and all of the EVERYTHING. The tears were unstoppable, at once grateful for the experience and yet tinged with regret. He asked if I was okay – extending a hand to hold in support. And I realised that I was more than okay – I realised that I was truly loved and accepted by a tribe of incredible, incredible people, people I have looked up to for years – who happened to be a wonderful group of henna artists – but I had been ill-equipped to deal with the rewards I had accrued from my dedicated, passionate and obsessive hard work over the last two years.
This year’s henna con for me was a massive lesson in self-discovery. Realising that while giving is a wonderful trait, the ability to RECEIVE and be present in the here and now to accept such gifts is just as important. Gratitude is not just about being grateful – but also about having the ability to acknowledge that you deserve the good things happening to you – that you are worthy, that you are enough, and you are not vulnerable or weaker in doing so.
I’ve read my fellow henna dragon twin, Jason saying “I’m so glad I said Yes to myself and hennacon this year.” And I realised that as twins, though his journey may have been a few milliseconds shorter, he must be the older sibling as he was one step ahead of me in saying Yes to himself. I realised I had said Yes to henna con – but had not yet learned to say Yes to myself.
So, let me once again reiterate the apology at the top of this post: Sorry.
To everyone I met who give me such high praise, such love, such support and such encouragement: I was not equipped to truly appreciate the wonderfulness that is You, your love and your support. I did not give you the appropriate attention, and graceful gratitude that you deserved. And I did not accept all your blessings or acknowledge them as I had earned them. I am a work in progress and always under construction – and this is a huge epiphany for me. But it is incredibly fitting that the biggest life lesson I have ever learned, was through the immersive and connective experience of Henna Con as painstakingly planned and meticulously organised by the McQueen family at Henna Caravan…
Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Extra special thanks go out to some special people who really took the time and extra effort to really get passed my protective boundaries and really impress their love and support on me. While I am super grateful to everyone who attended, organised, volunteered throughout the epic event of Henna Con, here are some who managed to slip under my protective radar – in no particular order:
Eva Wagner, Karelia Sunflower, Vanessa Rosen, Larissa Reinders, Antoinette Hippe, Fatima Oulad Thami, Wendy Rover, Wendy Feldman, Catherine Lent, Jessica McQueen, Carissa McQueen, Patricia Hu, Jamie Sawyer, Jason Alan, Cara Snyder, Leah Redell, Victoria Welch, Manisha Mistry.
You guys are awesome *sniff* :’)