Tag: fear

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.

poem: fear

i am afraid.

Every time the phone rings,
tremors
go down my spine:
i drown in irrationality
and uncertainty.

Questions flood over
a paralyzed body:

What will be demanded of me?
What can i give,
when i have nothing?
When i am so badly broken?
Who will have an opportunity
to judge me now?

Even as i get better,
crawling out
of the deepest pits
of anxiety,
i am often non functional,
brought low
by illness,
or by this ridiculous fear
and the sorrow
that rides on its back.

i need lessons
in courage.

i need the fire
inside my heart
to burn
in such a way
that i can withstand
what comes.

Oh,
i need faith
in my purpose
and being
especially
when logic
says
everything
is
crumbling
around me.

13 december 2015

The joy of Monday

Written 7 December 2015

Today, i worked at Harbor Artisans in Belfast.  In the peaceful quiet of a Monday, on the heels of a rather busy weekend for the store, i was able to spend most of my time writing.  First, i finished catching up on typing and editing my poems for the year, which included categorizing them into three different collections – two by theme and one for all the rest.  i ask again

However, the magic happened after that.  My hands were not very good for typing today, so i did not want to spend time frustrating myself working on a client’s project when that could happily be done at home where the muttering would bother no one.

Perhaps, i should also admit to a certain amount of awareness – for once, i had a singular sense of purpose.  i knew that this was the direction my spirit should go, into the stories that have been haunting my mind and dreams. Obeying that impulse, i took out the 3 x 5 cards i had bought in order to give my current novel a coherent structure.  For almost a year, this book had been creeping forward in several tablets of paper and in a ridiculous amount of digital files – all haphazard and spontaneous, creeping out during moments stolen from other work. The arc of the larger story has always been there, but the order of the chapters and the fine details about character and location had been unstable. This is a massive amount of information i am parsing in a memory compromised by healing and pain: this book crosses over multiple dimensions, includes at least two beings with the power to eat gods, several dragons and an abundance of characters whom i find outrageously fun to write.

Today, those 3×5 cards began to grow: one for every universe, one color to track protagonist, one for antagonist, then a stack for characters, finally one for all the major scenes, with a delightful number of them already in draft form by hand or on the computer. The book is much closer to complete than i thought. By the time the stack was collated and rubber banded together, i was humming with joy.  My sore body started dancing and moving with energy i have not felt in a long time. haiku Every bit of energy in my body was aligned and blissful.  Supreme confidence and a deep and abiding delight to be living this life filled me up like love.

About two hours after i stopped writing – having cleaned the store, closed the register, picked up the dog and driven home – i began to come down from the elation.  My spirit began to quiet.  A good friend waited for me at the house, we had a wonderful chat, i ate my dinner, all the while feeling my body lower in energy and embrace a peaceful calm.

Only, after she left, stillness started to turn on me.  The space opened to thoughts outside of flow, running against bliss’ current, doubting the certainty of action that had been such a blessing when i chose to work on the book.  It started with my phone impudently flashing bank account’s meager balance to my unexpecting eyes.  There is someone i wish i could help financially, but i cannot get blood from a stone. Every time i look at my washing machine, i feel a huge stabbing of guilt because i am so far behind on that bill, which in turn stoked a panic about all the bills i haven’t been able to pay while i had been unable to throw or move or function and the medical tests i’m having tomorrow and on and on.  Like an avalanche the stress can pick up to terrifying speed and mass as it moves.

i have worked so hard to recognize what is going on within my mind and heart so i do not feed such things, so panic and self-loathing flow through me as quickly as possible, but in that moment i was falling into belief in the worst about myself, ready to ignore the blessings of the day. i could have ruined one of the most sublime miracles of joy i have experienced in months.

i am burningBut, even then, the book saved me.  As i let the complaints about my competency wander through my mind, a character from the nexus wandered in. She manages to do amazing things despite what is a completely broken down situation.  As i wrote one afternoon, probably in early spring, she arose out of nothingness, a bit of the book that i did not expect but that has since been recognized as a pivotal point.

At any rate, by the time she entered the story, she had survived bankruptcy, lost nearly everything, but steadfastly kept working at her passions and helping those she could.  In what is probably the best testimony to my potential madness, i take great hope in the fact that she poured through my hands effortlessly and unbidden.  More often than most would believe, my writing has saved me – even if it is simply by giving a good role model for transcending financial chaos and social devolution.  Almost immediately upon the thought of her, i moved from anxiety back into the exhausted stillness.

Now, here i am, writing again.  The flush of flow has started to rev in my veins and i wonder if i will be up all night writing.  It seems likely if i don’t walk away from the computer after this blog.  It doesn’t matter, i have tomorrow morning for clients, and i will make good on my word to them.  For now, though, i am very tempted to lose myself in the story and the dream and the miracle of language.

right on the edge

For weeks, i have been having profound issues physically. Even my ability to produce art, beyond sporadically writing poetry and fiction, has completely stalled. i lost most of the week before last, taking four sick days. For a while, i rallied, although after three days of shuffling through my obligations, things took a troubling turn. i went to the emergency room on Tuesday evening and got home fairly late Wednesday, without any joy.  Everything between now and then has been a blur of misery.

i have been struggling in the most profound way. The smallest things cause tears to stream down my face.  The world keeps spinning on me.  Food has become the enemy, all of it digestible only with intense suffering and pain. Usually, i cope very well with pain – working around it – but this is different.  i am graceless, frustrated, constantly on the edge of cognitive overload.

IMG_2380
poor Martin

i could not even let my cat, Martin, cuddle (he is always starved for love) – the physical contact made the pain one whisker more than i could bear.  Eventually, he figured it out and started sitting beside me, cautiously creeping closer and closer, until i was in a good enough place for him to curl up close and get pets and scritches.  Thankfully, Roxi and Darwin are more self-sufficient, content to sit nearby and rest.

The worst part of this has been how it debilitates me emotionally.  My issues with anxiety get augmented wildly by this level of exhaustion and pain.  Chronic illness can lead to feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness, but this has been a much stronger reaction than usual. i keep getting jumped, every phone call, each time someone knocks at the door, each time the dog barks like he announces the apocalypse, i nearly come out of my skin. i freeze and shudder and cry. There are a few really unflattering anecdotes i could share about hiding until the unexpected passed – and i acknowledge the irrationality of it. The fear is useless and misplaced.  However, this knowledge doesn’t make any difference. Indeed, the feeling of anxiety was so overwhelming and acute that i unplugged the house line for three days, knowing that people could text or leave a message on my cell (the ringer was set to vibrate) if it was urgent. The boweddown_11x14mail piled up, because i could not get to the box, either physically or emotionally.

Today, i was treading water slightly better, and predictably life felt a little more possible, a little less terrifying.  However, no illusion dwells inside my heart.  As i write, i have expended what energy i have, dinner is at war with my gastrointestinal system, and i can feel the anxiety ratcheting up.  Useless worries crowd my mind.  i try so hard to redirect myself into gratitude – this is a whole meditation/prayer i use to get through, focusing on whatever i can find to be grateful for inside even the worst present – but for now, i am a mouse and my fears are a cat.

Still, i am surviving. i am working to make bloodyminded stubbornness a blessing. All i can do is focus on tiny bits of work before i completely lose myself to sleep and pain.  In tiny, baby steps, i am making progress.  As you can see my website and online store are back up and running, i have edited the books i’ve completed this past month, and i continue to write the one that has its hands wrapped around my heart.  And if i remind myself of these tiny steps forward, maybe the rest of the hulking mountain of problems and fears will seem less intimidating.

addiction to art’s flow

IMG_1554Over the years, i have known too many people who struggled with addictions to things like cigarettes or shopping or sex or alcohol or drugs, or some combination of the above.  Watching their struggles, i felt this immense gratitude (along with waves of compassion) that i had not fallen down the same path.

Only, recently, i have realized that i did not escape the gene or the effects of environment that can foster addiction.  In a very real sense, i developed an one of my own – to getting lost in the flow of art.  When i make art, everything else disappears; my entire being seems to dissolve in the way the clay, paint, ink or story moves.  i crave this.  i demand it.  i seek it out, even if i am scribbling on a napkin.  Indeed, i will continue chasing after art even when every speck of evidence tells the sane rational people around me that this is a foolish, self-destructive path.

For the past several weeks, I have been trying very hard to redirect a portion of my effort and energy into finding more freelancing jobs, exploring other options for employment that can coexist beside my current business and obligations. Indeed, i am even preparing myself for the very real possibility that art must be put on hold for awhile, so that i can keep a roof over my head and food in my animals’ bellies. In addition IMG_1545to seeking non-art solutions, i took an amazing small business class to see how to better move through the troubling arena of selling art.  i am doing all i can to put myself in a better position.

i acknowledge that all these chores are necessary things, and good places to put my energy.  After all, financially at the very least, something has to shift quickly.   However, there is a drawback. i do this knowing that the energy to which my body has access is limited. Therefore, devoting a large portion of my effort into these areas has meant that other responsibilities and joys suffered. My dog is shamefully lacking time at the beach to romp and roam.  Except for meditation, my self-care has flown out the window.  The stress is wearing on me; i am letting everyone down while i scramble for better paying jobs and new galleries to sell my art.

As i fill out applications and take tests on my competency in different subjects (discovering that i am happily quiet competent at many tasks), i have been doing the same thing i did during graduate school and undergraduate and nearly every traditional job i have ever held: i am leaking poems and art like blood dripping from my hands.

The more i try to focus on other things, the more the art surfaces. If i swear off art even for a short period, my entire being destabilizes IMG_1547and creativity bleeds into inappropriate places and spaces.  Dialogue for plays murmurs from my lips while i am in the shower. Poetry finds itself scribbled in the margins of notes i take, just like in college.  Drawings swim around in my mind until i have to draw them – not just once, but twice or three times – in order to expunge the image.  Stories that were put aside earlier due to lack of time haunt both my waking and dreaming mind; characters shake me and demand their due.

For six days, an intense, nauseating migraine has been wreaking havoc with my brain, eyes, thoughts and coordination.  My  memory is off; my attention span, worse.  Writing, like i am doing right now, actually hurts as much from the effort of putting one letter after another as from trying to focus through enough visual distortion to make the IMG_1556whole world brighter than a sparkly Twilight vampire.  The one thing that has soothed is art: the flow of ink, experimenting with watercolor, the comfort of line and form.

Even when i am at my worst, i bleed art. If i try to pretend i am a normal person, like the adult that i imagine everyone else to be, then the bleeding becomes a hemorrhage. The compulsion to make it grows irresistible.  It wails within me, disconsolate and brutal, until i give in.  So, i feed the addiction, no longer caring if i am forgetting other things, neglecting important obligations or crumbling into dissolution.  Inside the flow of creating, nothing matters but what pours through me.

And, for that, i thank the entirety of this super-sparkly Creation, every moment, including those dripping with pain.  There are worse fates than being a hopeless artist.  This strange little addiction feeds my soul; it helps to pull me back from despair; it fuels the rest of the struggle to move through this life.

shyness

It occurred to me the other day – I am actually quite shy.  I can ignore the fact, because I do a lot of performance and teaching.  With my friends and kind strangers, I flood over where boundaries should be.  Plus, I can be rowdy, prone to telling off-color stories and jokes – flaws which are fueled by the delight I take in making other people nearly choke on their food or spit up their drinks during an eruption of laughter.  Ask me about my art and writing and I will bubble forth with enthusiasm and passion.

timchin_may2014_0022
I do not look shy in this picture, but I am…

These qualities seem to make a diagnosis of shyness counter-intuitive.  But, I am quite shy and have a lot of social anxiety.  Dating is nearly impossible. I remain cautious even with friends, particularly when I know I am suffering.

Professionally, I have dedication and need to push me forward.  Still, some aspects are easier than others.  Performing my poetry can be done without too much pain, the poems themselves seem to give me courage.  Going to a gallery opening can often be enjoyable.  Alas, even though  I get through the event okay, afterward I often find myself drowning in a keen sense of awkwardness.  I remember how graceless I can be; I grow haunted by every word mispoken and each word I didn’t listen to closely enough. If I am stuck in a room full of strangers, I will pick one that looks the friendliest – or the loneliest – and strike up a conversation.  At that point, my work is done.  If someone else wants to talk to me, they have to introduce themselves.

In a profound way, this strange shyness has cobbled my business.  Approaching gallery owners, picking up the phone to do cold calls, submitting my poetry or books to people I do not know, even reaching out on social media to artists I would love to have contact with, have seemed so intimidating that they might as well have been impossible.

And yet, I have done it.  In the past month, I have been submitting.  Today, I mail out a demo pot to someone in Santa Monica.  Actively, I research new galleries – I have query letters ready to go.  I have been creeping forward – and there is a certain level of pride about it. You see, (and I both knock on wood and give thanks as I type these words) making art is fairly easy for me.  Sit me in front of a wheel, and if I am physically capable, I will throw.  Put pen and paper in my hands and you will get either a drawing or a poem or both.  Maybe some scribblings for a book will fill the pages.  This part comes fluidly most of the time and brings me indescribable joy.  However, selling my art comes right against this fear, this anxiety, this shyness – and as a result, I am a little more proud of myself for doing that than I am finishing the novel or the set of dishes surviving firing without flaw or the pen and ink that makes someone stop and stare mouth open.

Now, I just have to keep at it fearlessly!

joy in art

10483983_295400057311713_1087486501397953590_nLast night, I had a list of things I needed to do.  One client needs her newest media added to her website, another needs me to finish researching, a third really needs me to do a couple of flyers and to update her website.  For myself, I need to finish the most depressing cash flow analysis in the history of time, every number of which generates another wave of hopelessness, make a list of what emergency things I need for my art to stay in business, and I have the book I just finished that needs editing.  Not to mention, this blogging and the other writing I’m working on have been impatiently waiting for their due time.

And, I should mention, I am exhausted beyond all measure.  The pain and disability that overtook me this summer has not loosened its grip one iota.  Each time I stand it feels like someone poured lava down my legs.  Some days I feel like I still have my mind, others I languidly wonder if my brains have been replaced by goo.  Too often, I have to use my left hand to pull the pen out of my right, because my muscles clamp down too severely.  Every step, no matter what direction I am going, comes at a great cost.  If I were a car, I would be running on vapors with a loose axle. I would never pass inspection.

This is the lowest I have been since my divorce and the second time in my adult life that everything  that I thought was worthwhile and useful about me has been stripped away.  The thing that got me through the first personal deconstruction was my art. I lost all my stability, I had all the love I had ever known repossessed like a car, I was told unequivocally that nothing I had ever done meant anything.  So much flowed from that loss: story, poetry, painting.  Each of the mediums in which I create took a leap forward, I became a better artist because art was the only thing tethering me to this world.

Perhaps that is why this summer has been so torturous, realizing that as much as it soothes me, as much as it gives me my sanity, what a fundamental part of my being creativity comprises – I lack the basic skills to make my art – or my writing – help feed me.  Or, and this would be so much worse, I am doing everything I should be doing but I lack whatever magic is need to make it work. It’s not like I am asking for the world, either – just enough to pay my bills, feed me and keep making art.  For four years, things were going fairly well, despite major setbacks, I still sold enough art to keep hunger at bay.  This year, though, I cannot give my work away.  Even my time doesn’t seem valuable to my own students, for they no longer want to pay for it.  If I am just ignorant and stupid, then those problems could be fixed.  However, if this is the economy or my art being out of fashion, then there is nothing I can do.  This is like a graduate course in acceptance and surrender.

Since I threw myself into this venture five years ago, I have been visualizing, demanding, pleading, begging the universe and still, here I am drowning in work I find difficult and disharmonious with my basic formatting and the work that gives my life meaning is not saving me.

I have no idea what I should do.  As usual, I want to turn to art, but lack the energy, focus and stamina to do much:  poems, the book on meditation, the pen and inks.  The thought of the wheel makes my heart ache.  Part of me wonders if I should try to give this up – but it is integral to me.  One thing I have learned is that whether or not I am selling my art, the need to create is interwoven into my DNA.  flyingfallingIf I have to, I will be able to give up pottery.  My hands will itch for the clay, but I will survive.  If my brain continues to rot inside my skull, maybe someday I will be forced to give up writing.  But, until then, I know words and images will creep out whenever there is a moment.  On nights like last night, I will forsake all the things I have to do so I can steal time to start drawing and writing.  The picture at the top of this blog came through me last night.  This one a few hours earlier.

Which ends the long preamble for my point.  Yesterday,  I was eating while the picture immediately above was drying, someone came to my studio.  I had thought we knew each other well enought that when she asked how business was, I could answer honestly.  Alas, she refused to hear any of my desperation or concern, she kept shaking her head and talking about how these drawings are so joyous.  At that moment, I had needed someone to hear my worries, so I felt thwarted and invisible, but after she left I looked at the drawings – particularly the one I had just finished.  The joy made me frustrated, it felt at odds with the emotions that no amount of meditation can completely stop from churning.  Later that night, hoping to give voice to how I was feeling, I drew the image that begins the blog.

So, as you can see, it came out joyous.  All of yesterday’s works (that were not garlic related) were drenched in the holy spirit and bliss.  Neither woman is plummeting to her doom, just flying or gently floating.  Gravity still has a hold, but something is keeping them up.  Just going through my instagram feed I saw an insane amount of joy in post after post after post.  During the divorce I painted things like this:

divorce_red

And now, when I’m just as low emotionally and much lower physically, I am drawing things like this:

IMG_3277and sculpting things like this:

IMG_3210and painting like this:

annunciation

Last night, after I drew her flying over that farmland and mountains, I sat there, starting at the art that had just launched out of me, prying the pen out of my claw, wondering what these images – and even the poems – are trying to tell me.

As I staggered off to bed, I realized that in a strange way these works made all the instability, rejection and internal suffering seem irrelevant.  Meditation has been helping me realize that I am separate from the drowning, even as I am gulping down salt-water.  But I had not realized what my art might be telling me.  Could they mean, with or without this studio and this level of creativity, things will be okay?

 

 

 

 

respite

For days, I have been working through overwhelm, worry and heartache the only way I know how – turning to friends for advice and comfort, meditating as much as I can, and surrendering to my body’s demands.

I have slept, rested, prayed and made what art I could.  Some of the art was lovely, some oozed with suffering and unconquerable hopelessness.  I wallowed, for certain, but my misery was interspersed with flashes of resolution and calm.  For the first time, I could celebrate my strength, even as i wept over its cost.  However, in a classic example of cognitive dissonance, I have also been stubbornly refusing to accept defeat, even though logic suggests it has already arrived.1896999_10203583401337128_274120720393616886_n

Will can be an awesome force, challenging the universe to remake itself into the form of a dream.

Last night, I fired a kiln.  This meant I could start my day slightly later – I stayed in bed and bed and retreated into poem and story for the bulk of the morning.  Once the studio reopened, I could retreat from the heat by coming upstairs for more of the same.  I wrote, then I meditated for 36 minutes (keeping track with a meditation timer on my phone that also prevents me from falling into spontaneous napping.)  During those moments the howling of my need quieted to stillness.  I dwelt in a creation nearly devoid of thought – filled only with  sound and sensation.  For the fist time in over a week, my mind and heart found place.

Of course, as soon as I get up from this blessed sanctuary of silent stillness, the world will come rushing back.  My heart will remember its lonely grief.  The monstrous collection of worry and obligation that towers over me will flex its claws and leap, aiming to sink them into my tender flesh again.

It has already tried.

Only, I am still in the embrace of meditation, so for right now, the monster slides frictionless off my awareness, falling into a puddle of unimportance on the floor.

Ask me again in an hour, or in a day, if I have maintained such equanimity.

As delightful as my practice has been, as much as it unlocks joy and love, I remain a frail, failing human.  Even my the creativity that floods out of me cannot protect me from loss and failure and pain.  Despite my growth as a human being, I find myself desiring, grieving and despairing.  Indeed, I have fought ultimate darkness this past week, by doing nothing more than accepting its presence, watching as it made plans and ranted about hopelessness, allowing it to thrash around inside my chest while I waited until faith, love, art, friendship and my innate stubbornness could take over again.

There remain times when I can manage is to not drown in those troubling nightmares for too long.  For this I am grateful.  For this, I meditate and write and pray and hope.

10 August 2014

the shining sun

Yesterday I called in sick to work, canceling appointments and posting that the studio would be photo 1closed.  I spent the whole day either in bed or sitting in the recliner trying to muster up the energy to get back in bed. This was the culmination of two weeks of increasing physical misery which, of course, brings on emotional distress.

This morning, I still felt unable to function, my thinking foggy and my body woefully lethargic. I canceled  another appointment and eventually got up hours late – slowly, turgidly, my muscles screaming in resistance. About noon, I managed to put the open flags out and I am here – writing, being quiet and still for my headache will abide no music, but I am here.

While this must seem so simple from the outside, the act of getting up, showering, dressing and walking twenty feet to the studio to sit in another chair, from inside my skin it feels like a triumph – something that should be celebrated in song and story!photo 3-1

As I moved between house and studio, the shining sun beat down on me, and I was reminded that I am alive.

I have been uplifted by two other events: with help, I unloaded the kiln.  Some gorgeous agate pieces came out – part of a commission – a thank you for one group of  people who helped paint my studio.  They left me joyous.

But, before that, I had already been somewhat soothed. After I struggled out of bed this morning, still feeling terrible, I began to scratch out a letter.  As word followed word, the gentle sensation of my burdens being lifted washed over me.  It felt miraculous.photo 2-1

I do not always understand why I have spells of despair – sometimes they have a cause, an illness, a stress or a trauma, but other times, it feels like I am simply worn down by life in a way (I would like to think) most people manage to avoid.  However, this morning, having moved from the bed to my recliner, I wrote a long letter to someone I love.  While I was answering a direct question, I think I was also hoping for clarity.  I described painfully real and concrete fears that have been wandering around in my head for the past few weeks.  Both the act of confessing the fears – they are always much more terrifying when they remain bottled up, growing like mold inside dark, confined spaces – and reaching out with the fullness of love comforted me.  Truly, having someone to whom I could send that letter is a blessing, no matter what else happens.  For all I know, what I revealed could end everything between us, or it could have no impact at all.  In a way, repercussions seemed irrelevant when compared to the release inside my heart as I wrote.

Possessing the capacity to love is a glorious blessing, the importance of which cannot be understated.  It reminds me that I am human.

None of my problems are better, really.  My dreams and dread still tumble around chaotically within my skull.  However, the shining sun and these lovely pots and the warmth of love still burning in my heart have all shown me that this life is a wondrous gift – for which I am grateful.

poem: two channels

Two channels run deep within me,coming in with the tide
each claiming part of my energy’s flow.

On one side,
a deep and rocky trench
filled with humbling, painful knowledge:
i can be a terrible human.
i masturbate.
i lose too much time
to pain and weariness.
i talk too much
and listen too little.
i feel anger and shame;
i allow frustration and judgment
to escape my lips.

Afraid as i can be of people,
trembling and nauseous after social encounters,
my neediness knows no bounds –
i thirst for love and companionship
like a wanderer in the desert.

An acute awareness
of my faults, flaws and failures
flows over me,
always moving,
constantly wearing me down
with its rapids and crashing waves.

The second river,
parallel to the first
but of such different character
it could be on another planet,
burbles with the joy of being.

Calmness, stillness and affection
flow over smooth, lovely stones
with slow, gentle caresses.
Change comes kindly,
full of tenderness
and incredible warm comfort.
Love fills this water,
rising from the depths,
penetrating everything within it.

For now, i travel
on a thin strip of shifting sand
between these two rivers,
falling in one
only to find myself
carried away by the other.

The chance to make
a permanent choice
of which course to follow
has so far been denied to me.
i can leap into the river of love,
but eventually find myself
spat back up onto land,
much too close to the other shore,
caught in its gravitational pull.

For now,
the best i can do when treading water
in the depths of cold self-loathing
is to remind myself
that the warm flow of love
still exists.

2 february 2014