"mistaeks are mandatory" // Truth Tribe interview: Syda Howery

Syda Howery is messy grace in action, spilling her soul in bold brushstrokes, dramatic ink swirls, luscious texture, and vibrant pops of color.

She believes that "mistaeks are mandatory," and has come to embrace the freedom of so-called imperfection not only in her artwork but in daily life.


Syda (The Motley Turtle) is a "Mixed Media Pursuer," having discovered art journaling in late 2010 and creating her first page at age 45. She says, "I had no idea what I was doing, and to be quite honest, most days I still think I have no idea what I am doing. But I love mixed media and have no idea how I managed my life without it."

Syda's passion for expression and commitment to "mistaeks" are an inspiration. She's also a long-time member of our phoenix soul community, daring to reinvent herself as needed. She calls herself "an often compulsive, sometimes neurotic, coffee-addicted introvert wearing the pants of a Domestic CEO," and believes "life is messy. Art heals."

I'm delighted to welcome Syda to our Truth Tribe with her interview in The Phoenix Soul: MESSY GRACE.

  artwork by Syda Howery

artwork by Syda Howery


In her interview, I asked Syda to tell us more about making "mistaeks" and why she thinks they're actually necessary. Here's part of her response:

We place a lot of value on perfection. Perfection is viewed as success and anything less than that is failure. We make it so difficult for someone to admit a mistaek. I considered the many ways we are often berated, punished, or ridiculed for being wrong or making an unpopular choice. I began to question the belief that mistaeks are failures. What’s so wrong with making a mistaek? Why is making a mistaek labeled bad?
— Syda Howery, Truth Tribe interview, TPS: Messy Grace

Syda offered encouragement for TPS readers who struggle with embracing their mistaek-making:

Many of us have been raised to believe that mistaeks are bad. Let’s turn that around. Give yourself permission to make mistaeks. No one is perfect and we all make them whether it’s in art, relationships, parenting, or finances. I’ve had a car repossessed. I’ve married (and then divorced) a jerk. I’ve torn up art and thrown it in the trash. I’m pretty sure my daughter, 19, wishes my helicopter would crash.

Certainly some mistaeks have further reaching consequences, but I believe that most mistaeks move us toward the opportunity for self-discovery, change, and magic. Embrace your errors in judgment, choices gone awry, and acknowledge the bravery it takes to make them. Let’s call it practice. Give yourself permission to practice. Allow yourself the space to do something badly. You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it. Write bad poetry, make mud with your paint, draw a wonky face, sew crooked seams, burn the toast. Some people like burnt toast. Practice makes better and sometimes you do get a do-over.
— Syda Howery, Truth Tribe interview, TPS: Messy Grace
  artwork by Syda Howery

artwork by Syda Howery


We went on to talk about anxiety and depression, feeling "good enough," the symbolism of the motley turtle, what messy grace looks like to Syda, and more. 

Growing up, I rarely felt good enough, smart enough, worthy enough. Today it remains a struggle and permeates a good portion of my life. One of the messages I received growing up was that “others” would determine my worth. You could say that most days I’m still waiting for “them” to show up. While intellectually I know that self-worth must come from within, emotionally it can be a challenge. Let’s be real. It’s hard. As the inner battle plays out in my mind, I make art until I can feel my heart cracking open just enough. I believe that when we share what we need through art, it is as much a gift to ourselves as it is to those who receive it.
— Syda Howery, Truth Tribe interview, TPS: Messy Grace

I'm so grateful Syda let her "heart crack open just enough" with us and shared her story of messy grace.

Phoenix, how do you feel about making "mistaeks"? What if you tried letting yourself enjoy the process?

What does messy grace look like in your life? 

love & respect,