Category: the business of art

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

After nearly two years, the studio has reopened.  Starting in 2018, it will be rebranded as Sunrise Studio and will include the art of the Common Shaman and Neko-Jin Designs.

Every Saturday in 2017 we will be open from 11 am to 6 pm.  Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, we will be open from 10 am to 7 pm, offering sales and free goodies.

For me, this is a new beginning.  The same dream, manifesting in a different way.  Instead of going it alone, I have business partners that are amazing and so skilled in their art.

This is the most amazing thing for me.  I have never stopped making art, but I had not the strength within me to keep the studio open or to teach.  Now, things are changing. Come help us celebrate!  Here is a link to directions to our studio.

Writing this on Thanksgiving is appropriate.  I am grateful beyond words.  To further entice you ere are some of the goodies that will be available at the studio this weekend:

 

 

starting over again

It seems surreal that i am back here again: being an artist who sells her work.  A week ago yesterday, we had an event here at the studio, after which i  committed to keeping the studio open every Saturday from 11 am to 6 pm for the rest of the year. Last night, i was so excited at the prospect that i barely slept.  Just being out here, making art, opening the door to sales, this is a big deal for me.

Truly, i believe that this is only happening because of the intervention of other artists.  Several provided me with amazing support when i face tasks that were impossible while this body languished in such a diminished state.  They have proven themselves willing to help me out when i have been overwhelmed.  In an act of belief that still boggles my mind, i have been blessed to share my studio space with creatives willing to partner their art with mine at these events.  You can see their work at these etsy shops, if you cannot travel to the coast of Maine:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/nekojindesign
https://www.etsy.com/shop/thecommonshaman
https://www.etsy.com/shop/theperfectcup

i cannot quite process the generosity of spirit that they are displaying.  Between these two and those who unflinchingly had my back over the past few  years, it has helped me create a new perspective when other people comment on my return to the world of art.  Things that would have crushed me when i was still alone, now give testimony to my good fortune.

At the first event we hosted, just over a month ago, people were surprised to see me.  They laughed, “We thought you were dead.”  Scores more told me that they heard i was having problems financially and physically, and that they were shocked i had made it through. i wondered why they talked like this, so comfortable at articulating their surprise at my continued existence, until i remembered that i am an introvert without family and have a learned to suffer alone rather than spill it out onto the shoes of random strangers.  Not to say people haven’t had to clean off the slime of woe after talking to me, but when i am on the edge of survival, i crawl into my hole and to heal.

Thus, when things got really bad for me, i retreated into art and the work that needed to be done to move from one minute to the next. It was all i could do. Overloaded as i was, i could not reach out; rejection would have been that one thing too much to bear.  No one else is responsible for those tendencies in myself, but realizing that they created the environment for those comments to appear was incredibly helpful.

By in large, i found i could eventually laugh at those statements and reassure people: i am alive, i never stopped making art, and here i am back to running a business, albeit part time.  However, it shook me to my core as a reminder that i am truly starting over.  The work i have been doing was invisible to the rest of the world, unless a manuscript wandered into your email’s inbox.   No one else saw that i had never fully surrendered; now, many can witness how reopening with hope and a support network is the greatest blessing possible for one that has been so alone.

Last week, a couple pulled me aside to discuss with great satisfaction what had been the hardest time in my life – when i had to start going backwards, cannibalizing the studio instead of investing in it, when i could not move my arm, when tumors had taken over to the point i could barely bend over without howling in pain, when i first found out that my hips would have to be replaced.  All this time later, they were still so pleased with the buy they got on the equipment i sold them so that i could keep living.  They let me know they had only come by to see if i was still selling off my tools at bargain prices.

While they gushed about the memory, i could not help but hear the echos of my the howling cries that night, realizing that with that sale of a wheel and kiln, i had admitted to myself that i was too broken to work. 

Exchanges like that would have made me feel excruciatingly isolated before, but my situation has changed.  i had people sitting beside me, ready to tell me things would not get that bad again.

My heart started to sing with gratitude over the miracle of human beings willing to roll up their sleeves and help me out, who stayed in touch and kept supporting my compulsive vocation to create.  Having people in your corner is always a blessing, but in this moment, when i realize that i am not hobbling forward by myself any longer, it feels like the sun has come out to shine on my life.

However, there is no room for denial: i am starting over as a business woman. People, quite literally, thought i was dead.  There is no greater indication that i am starting from scratxh than rising from a perceptual grave.  This voyage into business has to be different, too.  i am undertaking this journey hyperaware that my body’s needs cannot be pushed aside. Still, opening myself up be here in the studio, ready to make sales, feeds the best part of me.  This feels like a miracle.  i want to dance with gratitude; if only it didn’t hurt so much to stand.

And that sound you hear?  That is me shouting thanksgivings for the people who love me and are willing to help.

feeling like an artist again

This weekend we had an event at the studio.  My business sign went back up and we compensated for the fact that the studio is still in the chaos of change by putting up a tent and selling our wares from the front yard.  This involved both my art, and the art of my roommates – check out their work at Neko-Jin Designs and The Common Shaman.   (Their work is on the right and I can attest to the quality.  The jewelry is powerfully lovely and those pillows are freaking huggable.)

The experience has left me exhausted and in a lot of pain, but for the first time in ages I feel anchored in what I do – I am a maker to my core.  During the first day, Friday, I was able to make 60 wee watercolors and pen and inks. Although, insomnia did help with that glut of drawings.  Yesterday, I made about five slightly larger pen and inks.  Today, I was a poet.

Sitting in the sun with nothing to do other than create and sell art was a joy.

A lot of locals came by, pleased that I am not either dead or moved out of the area.  It let me know how far I have hunkered down during this past two years.  Oh, but the change in my circumstances brings up such optimism.  Life has gotten better.

This time in 2015, I could not move my left arm much at all, I could not throw, I lost nearly all my income for the full year. Surgery on the shoulder in October 2015, then a hysterectomy in February 2016.  But by June of that year, things began to change.

Even now, I am still struggling – my hips need to be replaced, I am in a cauldron of pain – and yet, I am still making art.  Somehow, I have survived all of the crap that came my way.  Even heartbroken, I made art.  Even when I can barely walk,  I am making and selling art.  I am working as hard as I can to keep my house and have been grounding myself in faith that I can do it.  There have been days that I had to dig deeper within for strength than I thought I went, but it worked!

I continue forward with both my regular job and the art that is my vocation.   The first has not dented my passion for the second.

I am so grateful for the friends who saw me through this weekend.  Perhaps I have been whining too much in these blogs, because what I should be shouting from the rooftops is how wonderful life can be when you have friends that have your back.  To be able to rely on people and know that they will be there for me, that is a priceless, beautiful thing.  They set up the tent, set up the products and then tore them down in the evening, three days in a row, all with out a stitch of help from me because I could not move any of those things. What a blessing it is to have people who do not just share your dreams but are willing to put their shoulders into fulfilling them.  This is a case of actions speaking so loudly, all words were drowned out.  Without their kindness, none of this could have been done.

Basically, this is a blog of thanks.  I am grounded in what I do again, which will help all things – the physical struggle, this financial difficulty, my regular job, my art.  If you were here, you would be able to see my smile, hear my loud, outrageous laugh and listen to me sing to my cats about the glories of life.

I have “all will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well” tattooed on my arm. Too often, I need the reminder. But, today, I did not read it.  Indeed, I did not even glance at it.  The next few months are going to be very hard, financially and physically, but good friends are teaching me that I can trust in the universe enough to reach out.  I am asking for help and receiving kindness.

This is the miracle of my life.

Because, I am talking about asking for help, I am compelled to say: you can make me $3 closer to being able to sustain myself while I am recuperating from surgery. My end of that deal will be to keep making art, even when I am flat on my ass in bed.

But for now, let not think of what could go wrong.  Instead, let’s sing songs of joy and thanksgiving!

The cost of hate

We as a species can be so filled with judgment.  Visual creatures, we can be easily seduced by both beauty and similarity.  We like what makes sense without having to struggle, so we gravitate to people of like minds because we find that the most comfortable.  I understand this.  My whole life, I have been on the outside enough to witness how people can cling to the familiar even when it is destructive.

Only, that avoidance has led us to a terrible place.

Today, neo-Nazis are protesting in Virginia.  As I stared at news feeds with tears in my eyes, I realized I cannot be silent.

Hate has taken over too many souls.

One alt right terrorist ran his car into a crowd of counter protestors. At least one person has died.

What has made this acceptable?

From what mental illness does this murderous disregard for other human beings spring?

I am outraged.  I can’t deny the anger bubbling up within me as I write these words.  With all the volume I can muster, I want to scream at those alt-right Nazis: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  You are damaging everyone; no one less than your own soul. The people you are so busy dehumanizing are just as vital and beautiful as you perceive yourself and your loved ones to be.  No race, or religion, or income bracket, or gender, or sexual orientation, or political opinion can make someone less human.  Neither can those qualities make someone better.”

The alt-right has opined about the hardships heterosexual, cisgendered white people have suffered, but to blame those difficulties on people who do not believe or look as they do is madness.  It could be a comfortable insanity, one bred from generations of racism and blame, continued because it is easier than analyzing why those prejudices are there, but that is the opposite of an excuse.

Is this as simple as being terrified of economic vulnerability and a changing world, but not being able to widen their view to realize that everyone so suffers? I know no one who is secure financially, for whom a death or an illness would not upend everything. 98% of the country is in the same boat.

I am troubled by the entire concept that people who look like me want to take the country back.  The United States was founded by immigrants who stole land from those who were already happily living here.  We have paid a high price for the sins of our history – genocide of Native Americans, slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese Internment.

Do not imagine that this has nothing to do with the current situation. We are barreling down the same exact path. Not to mention, those protesting have a twisted but tight grip on the past.

Of what consequence is it to those neo-Nazis and alt right protestors spewing hate that the same sentiments were what fueled the Holocaust and Apartheid and lynchings?  Did they ever study the horror of the Civil War?  Given the T-shirts, the confederate flags, and swastikas, it appears to be a point of pride.  They are lionizing people who committed crimes against humanity, who spoke for the worst that we can be. Given the love of Hitler I saw proudly displayed in tweet after tweet, it seems that they would willingly throw their souls into a bonfire to revel in hate and the delusion of supremacy.

Take our country back implies oppression.  That we could be two generations away from mass lynchings, genocide on the scale that it boggles the mind, institutional racism that crippled large swaths of the country for decades and that continues to be a plague, I wonder: from whom must the country be rescued? How was this forgotten? Why did we become blind to our failings? How did we develop a taste for hate again, or has it always been a secret passion in the hearts of so many?

I cannot move past my revulsion over this orgy of hate.  There is no good that could ever come from it. With every speck of news I wanted to primal scream, howl out my horror. The willful, murderous delusion being paraded in the state of my birth, that one human being is of greater value than another, fills me with outrage.  How could we have gone through World War II, the Civil Rights movement, not to mention watching so much senseless suffering from Apartheid, the Khmer Rouge, Rwanda, and countless other examples large and small, only to have parts of the population that want to charge down those same roads again?

Only, I cannot hate them.  I cannot feel like they are less, even if I am terrified of their madness. I know better, because I know that we all spring from the same source.

When my paternal grandmother died, my mother found a trunk filled with artifacts from the early klan.  There was my biracial mother, so studiously passing for white, confronted by the ghost of my great grandfather’s hatred.  When she told me about it years later, I wept at the sudden, acute understanding that my heritage contained both sides: the lynched and the one in the hood; the slave owner and the slave.

Like everyone else, the potential for both good and evil exists with me. It means I cannot hate those who protest on behalf of hate; but, oh, God, I can pity them because they keep themselves from such wonders.

One of my closest friends told me about his work within the gay community after Stonewall.  But those protestors could not hear how brave and strong he was, because they could not get past the condemnation of his journey. Likewise, they would not be able to watch the queer-trans couple that is a model of compassion and love, without letting judgment cloud their eyes.  They cannot hear stories of the brilliance of black men and the unbreakable resilience of black women, because they have to feel superior.  To me this is a crushing sadness.  What is missed when hate is the focus!

Because they judge so quickly, so wrongly, choosing to embrace a caricature of the foreigner, those protesters could not appreciate the stunning beauty of Spanish prose, the lyrical miracles tucked inside Sufi poetry, the way that other religions, like Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, and countless more can enrich their experience of faith.  Because of their race and faith, those protesters wearing swastikas and confederate flags could not hear the wisdom of Archbishop Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama, which makes me want to cry for them.

I wonder if their faith is too fragile to acknowledge other paths up the same mountain.

Given their hatred of everyone who is other, I wonder if they have forgotten “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” because otherwise  they could not be driving cars into crowds of counter protestors.

Honestly, I am having a real problem right now.

This experience is pushing my compassion to its limits.

I wonder if this is how my mother felt as she dragged that trunk down the stairs, staring in horrified disbelief at the books that called half of herself a monkey and an ape and accused an entire race of idiocy sight unseen.  It must have felt like such a betrayal; the hidden hatred of people whom she had lived with and helped.  I wonder how much of it was rage and how much of it was just despondency when she poured lighter fluid on that hood and robe and those awful books and lit them up.

That hatred became ash, dead and dust like the man who had worn them.

Right now, I am in pain, stumbling through my own journey, aware of how many of those people protesting would hate me because of my heritage, my physical health, my economic vulnerability.  I keep wishing to Christ that I am not simply shouting these words into the void when I say:

STOP WITH THIS TOXIC INSANITY.

Every human being – and that is what both those they deride and they are – is a worthy, valuable person.

I don’t care what you believe, who you love, with what gender you identify, from whence you came, what language you speak, you are worthy of compassion and love.

If we disagree politically, if we believe differently, that is no excuse.  We can still peacefully coexist. We cannot condone or encourage the mistreatment of others.

I am praying that everyone who protests for hate finds some ease for whatever agony drives them to this madness.  I hope they can stop before they start a war or harm more innocents.

Because, here is the kicker, all of us are human and capable of discernment.  We all have souls – and for this I pray, if for no reason other than saving themselves, turn them away from hate.

The Larkus Ending

The first time i heard this music, i was very young.  Before school, certainly – probably between three and four.  i remember listening to it, not for the first time, in the darkened den. This journey in music always struck me into silence. Perhaps that is why my mother put it on.  Once that opening grabbed me, i let very little other sensation come in. For awhile, i felt things.  My pajamas had footies and was made of the softest cotton.  i felt safer in those than i did in a nightgown.  The couch held me gently, its fluffy cushion under my head.  My mother read by lamplight, having turned off the overheads.

In all likelihood, she was hoping that i would fall asleep, but when the entire symphony joined that singular melody, like a group of angels following the first sad one to comfort it, in a crescendo of glory, i lost any connection to my responsibilities or her expectations. In that darkened space, i laid on my back, and dissolved into the lilting music.

i soared.  By the time i had heard it three times, i became utterly convinced that this was written just for me, to lift me out of my life and take me sailing through the sky.  The sighing melody alternated between sadness and joy, the singular and the plural, echoing down to my fingertips and toes.

To this day, i hear the first notes of that music and i am as enthralled as a child again, floating on clouds and rising through the air. The crescendos and the moments when one or two instruments seemed to take to the winds in isolation left me thrilled. From repetition, i knew they would not be alone for long. The subsequent swelling of sound made me fill up to bursting with joy.  It gave me hope. Maybe the same would be true for me. Maybe, someday, i would not be lonely any more.

If i had known that the instrument i heard was a violin, i probably would have demanded lessons, despite listening to my older brother’s rather taxing abuse of the instrument.

As the last three beats of the song faded away, i sat up on the couch, stretching the fabric covering my feet and legs as i crossed them. “What is a Larkus?”  i chirped, “And why is it Ending?”

It took a second for my mother to pull herself out of the novel.  Then she looked at me dumbfounded for a moment.  “What the fuck are you talking about?” Her voice was deep but not unkind.

“This song.  You told me it was called The Larkus Ending.  What is a Larkus?  Why is it ending?  And why is it so happy about it?”

She stared at me for a second before she started to laugh, “Oh, my God you are retarded.  I told you it was called THE. LARK. ASCENDING. by Ralph Vaughan Williams.”

My shame at my perpetual stupidity quickly surrendered to more curiosity.  “What is a Lark?”

“A bird.”

“OOOOH.”  Suddenly i knew why i had been flying through the sky in my footie pajamas.  That was why the music freed me from the ground.  “Can we listen to it again?”

She sighed, but was still clearly entertained by my mistake, “Will you be quiet?”

Bouncing on the couch, “Yes!”  Bouncing some more, “I will!”

“Alright.”  Very slowly she marked her place in the book and then she got up from her chair and walked over to the record player. Before the first notes started again, I had gone back to laying on the couch, ready to lose myself in the music. “Seriously,” she spoke to herself more than me, “I ought to just put this on a reel to reel for you, so you can listen to the damned song on endless repeat.”

She eventually did. It was fabulous.

 The Lark Ascending was the first experience of what would be a love affair with music.  i can get drunk on harmony and melody, without the help of any other intoxicants.  Songs that have become good friends, ones to which i consistently turn when i am in need.

To this day, the Lark Ascending is a miracle in my life.  The other day at work, i was exhausted and frustrated.  i had lost the ability to pretend that i was anything other than on the edge of what i could take mentally and physically.  During my last break, i retreated to the comfortable chairs, put on headphones, and listened to the Lark Ascending at full volume, from beginning to end.  i miss the soft cotton footie pajamas, but i still soar when i hear that song.  It left me strengthened enough that i could get through the last stretch of my shift.

The tiny girl that still lives with me remains convinced that this particular sequence of notes was written just for her, so she could fly no matter how lonely and sad she felt.

Thank you

Everything in my life is changing and i don’t know quite where it will end up.

But, i am trying again. That, in so many ways, is all that matters.

Art is for sale. Baby steps. My roommates and i have been talking about the potentials for the studio.  The fact that this house is filled with creativity, laughter, hard work and music leaves me overjoyed.

Even so, pain remains.  i regularly get overwhelmed with what i need to do, the art i want to make, the words that flow from me.  Today, i have been struggling hard against the feeling of powerlessness – that i am howling into the void. As i sat thinking about it, i realized the perfect thing to share.  This poem is in my collection New Vocabularies of Love.

And the sentiment has never been more needed in my life than right now.

naked truth

For weeks, i have searched for a way to talk about this through fiction, because i did not want to dwell upon my personal experience more than i already have.  However, telling the truth is what i do best.  And, to be honest, part of the problem is that i do not want to ask for help.  i do not want to talk about what i cannot do alone.

The first person to mention the near impossibility of the situation i was creating for myself was my primary care doctor, just after my divorce.  “Without doubt, you qualify,” she assured me, “with the PTSD alone.” The physical problems – asthma, thyroid disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia (or whatever that diagnosis would be now), the back and hip problems – they would all be gravy.  She all but begged me to accept that I needed to apply for Social Security Disability.

Only, the statement strung me up between two different agonies.  i need to work, for i cannot quite give myself quarter for any suffering – mental, emotional, or physical – but simultaneously, i feel like i am dying by inches, pushing myself too hard.

Regardless of my bull-headed stubbornness, i am drowning financially.  Even though i am working as hard as body and mind are able, i quite literally cannot make ends meet.

This is not a new story, unfortunately.  Nor is it unique to myself.

Over $20,000 of medical debt hangs around my neck like a noose.  This is the aggregate due from years of issues: two major surgeries, a hospitalization, three trips to the ER, two ambulance rides, not to mention every deductible, copay, and uncovered medication. Add to that the small business loan that i got when things were going ridiculously well, that now feels like cement boots.  This past month, in order to pay them, even partially, i had to forgo food, gas money and put off the mortgage for about two weeks. If you want to make me cry, lets talk mortgages.  i finally got it refinanced, but now, eight months later, i will be two weeks late.  The angry letters have already started. Not only am i at a loss for utilities and the cats’ vet bills, i have no idea how to buy the medicines i need to treat the aforementioned diabetes, thyroid disease and despair.

Last night, i wept because the list of things i have bought recently would not stop going through my mind.  i purchased a lawnmower because the grass was as high as my nipples.  My car needed new breaks, because stopping can be a good thing. Then i got $12 of new shoes so that I would have something other than the $5 flip flops to wear to work.  For my birthday, i bought a $28 pair of wireless headphone so my constant need for music would not drive my new tenants to madness.  When i got a promotion at work, two days after my birthday, i celebrated by going out to eat.  Let me tell you, guilt is a terrible seasoning.

For a solid year, i have focused on the regular job that makes reliable money, but its paychecks cover the mortgage, the small business loan and maybe my car payments.  All other responsibilities make me seem like a deadbeat.  Only by the time i am done working this job and making some art, i am exhausted beyond all measure.  Things like selling art have languished.  Too many paintings and drawings are collecting dust.

When i first heard the word foreclosure – only to find out that the mortgage company with whom i had been working for months had sold my mortgage – i reached out to a mortgage specialist.  It was my first day in the studio after having shoulder surgery, and i was still unable to bend because i was awaiting a hysterectomy.  The pain i faced was intense.

“You have done everything right,”  he said gently, “I am looking at how you paid everything off until the medical bills began to pile up…”

i am still digging out.  This month, i am short.  Something will not be paid and i have no clue how i will get the cats’ vetted, my medication purchased or food bought.  Meanwhile, i continue to get messages from clients who have not paid me, asking me if these long standing health issues have vanished so that i can do more work for free. This perception that art or design is not work worthy of being paid for, or that the artist is not worthy of being recompensed for their effort, devastates.  If you value what i do, if you like my art, then this is the time to let me know.

A $100 would pay a bill.  After that, it would be a war within my heart over feeding and maintaining my animals and myself and paying other bills.  The past three years have been, quite literally, hand to mouth.  Desperation has made me put art up for sale again, despite the exhaustion and overwhelm, and with that i hope to at least get the cats to the vet.

However, i bleed over my financial failings.  To a large degree, it feels like i bet on myself and lost – but i knew before i started working as an artist professionally that my health was compromised. Only the call to make art is something fundamental to me, it cannot be denied.  i feel shame that i fell into such disability that i was unable to continue my business’ growth. This fuels my determination to make good on every debt.  Even if i am still making tiny installments when i am ninety, i will pay everyone, even the ones to whom repayment has not begun.  i tell myself – ceaselessly, hoping the repetition will hypnotize me into believing it is true – that things will get better.

Still, i never forget, i am the person who is reviled by those who talk about the poor like we are pariahs.  i have been utterly undone – more than once – because if ill health.  Even now, living paycheck to paycheck, the struggle to maintain this level of activity is punitive. Daily i am faced with the choice between taking care of my health and fulfilling the responsibilities placed upon me. Even making art or writing a poem comes at a cost, wearing me down further.

How else can i live, though?

Being able to work feels like a privilege – and one too many have thought i could not manage.  My friends who are on disability are much braver than i am, able to move down a path i could not.  Unfortunately, i know, someday i may have to follow them despite my best efforts, but for now i am doing every dance i can to keep myself from that excruciating choice.

Whether i like it or not, i have to spend money on food, gas, car and house repair and medicine.  Therefore, i have to burn the candle at every possible point, throwing my work out into this world, no matter how exhausted i am.  Even if i were content to make art in a vacuum, which i am not, i am not going to be able to survive without more income.

So, here i am.

For once i am being utterly transparent about my movies and situation: i need your help if i am going to keep going as a human being, much less as an artist.  Your support will keep my animals and me alive.  If you buy a painting, or a drawing, it clears space for another to come into being.

And, if you are in the same position i am financially, i will be grateful if all you do is share this story, spread word about my art, and use both to build compassion for those of who us toil on fulfilling our dreams and who work our hearts out to live on the razor’s edge between triumph and dissolution.

 

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For a few hours yesterday, i published this blog.  However, i woke up after a night of howling nightmares and put it back into draft mode. The dreams kept going back and forth over the same ground – my subconscious pacing – obsessed with the one thing that i had forgotten to mention.  This blog talks about how troubles that i face came to be and how i have to ground my hopes in art again which can only be done with your help. Talking about the naked truth of my current situation made me feel exposed, more than all the poetry that i have written combined.  Yet the thing that my dreaming kept reminding me of was that i should not be alive.  During the past few years of struggle with agony and illness, i have tried to kill myself twice.  Haunting despair crumbled my heart more than i could describe. It has been because of friendships, unexpected blessings and hard work that i am still here.  i have a job that gets me most of the way to solvency and for now, my health lets me manage it, even if the margin is narrow at times.  i have friends that are unbelievably good and slowly i am coming to terms with who i am at this moment, and beginning to appreciate this hot mess of being.

So, yes, I am asking for help, for understanding, for a sense that i am not howling into the darkness – but i need to leave this writing by telling you that i am so grateful to have made it this far.

the blessing of dreams

i initiated contact.

As with all the false starts and suffering of my life, i am the root cause.  The blame cannot be pushed aside.

Because i wanted to check in, i sent him the message, asking how he was.  What i did not expect was to be confronted by a video of him with a woman i did not recognize barely two weeks after he had left my life.

While i cannot pretend to know the circumstances, i am also glad he has moved on.  The heart demands both: to be celebrating his happiness – that this transition from a place where he felt so alienated to one where he is among family and friends has gone smoothly and well – in addition to the vicious, visceral grief over this loss in my life.

How i love him.

The intensity of my longing left me blind for so many months; when my eyes opened, i had no other choice.  i could not demand from him what he could not give and i could not keep asking myself to sacrifice what i needed.

That sounds so civilized doesn’t it?  Like i am mature and kind.

So why does it feel like glass moves through my arteries to settle down in my toes and fill my feet?  Why does this piercing wail echo within my skin?

i lament whatever it is that seems to make me intolerable. Doubt and fear scream through me. Perhaps i simply cannot be loved?  Am i doomed to lose my friends? Thinking of the tenants upstairs right now fills me with an irrational sense of dread. How did they manage to abide my presence tonight? My partner would have rolled his eyes and been angry at me for overextending. Of course, he would have been able to soothe the physical distress away – but it would have been a chore for him. There would have been sighing and a stern reminder of my transgression. Instead of just dissolving in insecurity, i also would have been corroded by guilt.

They seem to get along with me now but what will i do or say that will drive them away? Will i start coming home to people who would rather avoid me, again? With all the storytelling i have been doing, could i even blame them? What in specific will spark the transformation? Will it be that one joke too much?  That inappropriate comment?  The wrong name or pronoun given voice by the scattered thoughts escaping my mouth? i cannot let my mind wander to the social stresses of work, or i will be trapped in this despair forever.

If i were not this useless person tonight, i would have been praying more fervently, a disciplined outreach to the Divine.  Only, when i am in this kind of state, i feel irredeemable. It does not matter on which sex or shading my anthropomorphism fixates, the Deity could not possibly look upon me with compassion, much less love. i am rapidly descending into the place where all i can articulate is my own worthlessness.  My lover could not love me back. Our entire relationship, in so many ways, boiled down to the rolled eyes of exasperation. My body is unbelievably angry with me.  i am eating like shit, making the whole body hating me conundrum worse. But for the love of heaven, i can only fight so many battles at one time. i am drowning. Even the good things that are happening barely penetrate this veil of suffering.

More than nearly anything, i don’t want to be writing this.  i want to tell you stories of love that work out – that one magical person who can look at me with devotion and joy.  i might wistfully wonder what it would have been like if i could have found that kind of love when i was young. My prodigious imagination cannot quite grasp what it must feel like to look into your beloved’s eyes at nineteen and be certain that you will still be with that person when you are ninety seven.  Or to be that ninety seven year old, still drunk with gratitude for the familiar soul still vibrant inside those same eyes.  What would i have been if i had been cherished?  Would i be on this path, flanked by cement barriers that keep me from deviating, that demands i learn how to warm myself in this vacuum of space, so far from the sun?

While i can still feel my skin, i can tell you it is soft.  The undulations of the body, like waves of the sea, can move with pleasure as much as they constrict with pain.  The harder walking has become, the more i cherish the joys of the senses.  i live for that moment when i am quiet and still, when the pulse in my back becomes a disembodied throb, because i am living within the fingertips hitting the keys or the music pouring through me.

i want to tell you stories about the dreams that flow through my sleep; i want to talk about philosophy and past lives and those moments of connection to the divine. Let me hear you laugh!  Laughter would utterly transform this night of agony.  Help me expand my experience past this skin, so that i can gain courage from the rest of creation.

Only, no one is here to help me shoulder my burdens.

You are a blank page of paper.

All i have to keep me sane – the only form of love available to me – resides in these words.  If i look into my heart, all i will hear is howling.  Somehow, these letters give me gifts that i cannot bestow to myself otherwise.  If word after word tumble out long enough, i start to believe in possibility and joy again.

i cry out to story, the truest of lovers: carry me away from heartache and this terrible throbbing in the back of my head, that travels down my spine until it hits that bubbling pool of lava tucked inside my vertebrae, somewhere behind the belly button that i cannot feel any longer.  Lift me up like i were an infant and hold me fast so that the safety of the embrace overrides all the weeping.

i wonder to whom i write those words.  The divine?  A character in one of my novels? The miracle that is language?

So many people have told me that they are proud of me for breaking up with my lover, just as they were proud of me for pushing aside my heart-song to get a job.  They point to all the ways my life could spring forward now, the freedom that i have gained, that i have proved i can make decisions for myself, the incredible opportunities that, of course, they see on the horizon.

Tonight, i am not proud.  Indeed, i am humbled almost to the point of dissolution.  If i thought it would do any good, i would cry out like Job, bemoaning my fate and demanding answers.  Only, i cannot forget: i am the alpha and omega of my suffering.  i reached out to this man so beloved today and got my just reward – the realization of how far i have to go before i could begin to entertain the possibility of being with someone else.  i chose to give my heart to everyone who broke it.  My ignorance and my cowardice do not minimize my responsibility. i chose to be an artist.  i chose to believe that i am meant to write in poem and story. i chose to get a job rather than take other roads.  Even if i were to abandon everything and fly away, i cannot escape my failings as a human being.

My body has betrayed my ambition, or vice versa, but either way i am in an unenviable position, torn between what must be done and these punitive limits to movement.  The journey that begins when i rise from bed and ends when i can tuck myself back in comes at a cost. In the shower i beg for strength to get through the day; in the darkness, head against cool sheets, i weep from the stress of pain. While i can compartmentalize what is going on in my heart and soul so that i can get through the day at work, i am running my reserves so low that i often cannot even write when i get home. Exhaustion becomes a form of impotency.

Once the pain builds to a crescendo like tonight, the walls of my compartments dissolve.  If i am lucky, i can stop the destruction through art. On the nights when i am too weary to do so, i have to soundlessly endure, making the ability to create Gratitude Prime. The tragedy of this is that i also lack the courage (although tonight it feels like bone crumbling fatigue gets mistaken for fear) to release the offspring of my spirit – whether it be painting or poem or prose – into the world.  Artistic paralysis threatens to become complete.

i wish Love could hold me, so that the warmth of belonging flows into me, and speak the magic words that would make me believe in my mission as a poet, as a writer, as an artist again.  Oh, to believe that this was still my purpose, to believe i have some form of sanction for this calling, this folly, whether it makes money or not.  Spirit, i cry out for miracles that i have already betrayed.  My heart slams around in my chest, its beats defying rhythm, as i think about how deeply i have betrayed my greatest blessings.  So many others would have removed this vocation from my hands, because they would have seen it as an act of mercy.

“Please, stop torturing yourself.”

“We are tired of seeing you bleed with unrequited ambition.”

And yet, here i am.  The rest of me prays for relief while these fingers keep typing.  If i have anything at all, even the most depleted vapors of inspiration, i will hide here.  That way i don’t have to talk any more about this outrageous suffering.

Let me tell you about the characters in my book that just dance through their pages.  They get to be the outlet for grace my limbs cannot manifest.  Hear about the universes i have created – they are rich and weird and have kept me safe inside the sanctuary of distraction and story.  Give me a way to write about the chaos of our times, how everything has turned sideways and is no longer recognizable to me.  Let’s construct lyrical poems about all the things that are still good.

To keep from returning to my complaints, i can go on about how when i am too far gone for complicated plots, i try to dream like a baby would. Strip the pretense of sophistication away.  Remember helplessness.  i can be held in arms, loved and cherished despite not having coordinated limbs.  Listening to the heartbeat of the one so steadfast and strong, i would be drowning in the most simple of loves.  You love me, i love you, there are no strings to that, no demands.  i can feel the arms around me, i can hear that steady rhythm, i can remember what absolute trust that kind of love requires.

That, i swell with ecstasy at the truth of this epiphany, is how i think about the Mother-side of God. i can be safe within those arms, cheek pressed against that warm chest.  It is the heartbeat of creation i hear. i dissolve in the golden light of belonging.

Then i would dispense with poetry for the night, as it requires me to live too deeply in the body.

i do not want to write about that.

Tell me what it feels like within your soul to love and i will confess to you that the hope and strength and a ridiculous capacity to muddle through actually spring from my ability to love not only strangers, but people who have hurt me or failed me or just turned out to be assholes.  In an ecstasy of exhibitionist conversation, i will keep confessing that this resilience and love all feel like madness during nights like this one.  i will weep over how it feels like people are growing more selfish, colder, turning brittle in their certainty.  But with my next breath, i gather up my broken pieces and tell you that miracles can happen and it all might change on a dime. Transformation can sweep up this sad, round little body, all the people i know and love, all those i work with, all that travel these roads i do, everyone in this state, each soul in the country and the world.  Just as i cannot point to one thing and say, This was the moment it all went wrong, i would not be able to say This is the moment everything got better. The change would be too fundamental to remember how it was before.

That uncertainty leaves me smiling.  Indeed it makes the green electric wail screaming up and down my spine seem like a celebration of life. i hurt, ergo i live.  Not to mention, things are changing even within wretched muscle and nerve.  i have been prone for over an hour and i have begun to feel the screaming in my legs finally make it through the lava in my back to my brain.  That settled glass is now sharp and tearing into my feet.  Surely that is a good sign, even if it keeps me from sleeping and brings on fresh tears.

It gives me time to close my eyes and reach out into the worlds that live within my imagination.  So many voices clamor to be given birth.  Stories float by like gifts to be unwrapped.

Perhaps i am more like Job than i thought. During this lifetime, i have lost my family, my husband, the partner that i still ache for, the chance to have children, too many friends, and all delusions that i am anything other than a hot mess.  However, inside the realm of fantasy and dream, i have a mother and a father and, depending on which story i choose, a lover or a husband or a breathtaking contentment in solitude.  There i can dance and sing and run like the wind.  If words fail, i can paint the most amazing pieces against the canvas of my eyelids.  The hands of dreams can sculpt in a way no manual digits could. This is the most intimate art, the sublime shards of blessing, which rises up within me for no reason other than to get me through.

  Job got his health back, his wealth back, a new wife, and better children to replace those he had lost – although i imagine the way it was all taken away left a permanent scar.  Either way, God’s favor shone on him again because his faith never wavered.

While these words are wet with tears, i cannot hurl my rage at the Divine.  i am too aware of my culpability, my free will to screw up.  And, before, i have had miracles but lacked the internal fortitude to build my future upon them.  So, i have to look at these lines, begun in a moment of excruciating rawness, as the blessing.  They are enough for they have transformed me from a babbling, self-pitying fool into an inert pile of gratitude.

i am learning more every day how to give what i have lost to myself.  Granted, the configurations of love will not be the typical ones, certain opportunities have been lost. If the scars never go away, i have at least learned how to embrace them. Joy, depth of experience and appreciation for every breath weave their way through my days, even if they have to move underneath a veil of darkness.  Letters drop like rain, eventually becoming an ocean of comforts that will be unique to this particular, peculiar experiment in humanity.

All i need to do is make art a rope to pull me out of my suffering, give thanks for what i have been given, and release myself into dreams.