Tag: focus

i ask again

poem: the thief

If i had no bills to pay,
i would spend
a month
locked away,
writing feverishly,
ignoring
all the pain
and distraction
so that these stories
can be finished.

This is what i crave,
especially now
that i am too disjointed
to fulfill my dreams
effortlessly.

For the first time,
i require stillness
and quiet
to coax
this reluctant lover.

Writing
has to be
seduced.

All of the odd jobs
that i use to survive
feel like betrayal;
i seem incapable
of meeting
my unrealistic standards
because these words
constantly
fondle me.

So, i am again a thief,
stealing time away
from the vital,
the necessary,
and the sane
to dance
with this ink
flowing from my pen.

16 december 2015

poem: leap into the unknown

Fear could conquer
the most determined mood –
the persistent worry
that i am not enough,
that i have gotten too old,
that i wasted all my time.

Persistence comes not from courage
so much as desperation –
this is what i love to do,
anything else would be work.

So, i have no choice.

i leap into the unknown,
trying more with each day
to brace myself with the strength
of self-confidence
and the realization
that no matter what i do,
it involves risk –
what a betrayal it would be
if i stayed motionless
out of anxiety,
when i could have moved mountains.

8 august 2013

how hard is too hard

Tonight I was supposed to go out and break bread with other artists, but when the meeting was canceled, I continued on the path I had followed all morning and afternoon – taking it easy, editing photos, coding one website, helping another web client, adding products to Houzz, and simply taking time to rest.

Sometimes an unexpected blessing like this forces me to realize how much I need down-time and quiet. A large chunk of this evening passed me by while I napped, my cheek pressed against the pages of the book I had intended to read. When the phone rang, I was so far gone that I could not move a single muscle to answer; almost instantly upon interruption’s cessation, my thoughts wove their way back to dreams.

I know I’ve written about how shocking it is to me that I need quiet stillness beyond daily meditation before, but apparently, I am a remedial student on this subject.  When I was married, living in the city, there were enough natural distractions to keep me from going overboard.  Indeed, watching my energy get pulled in too many directions could make me agitated. That has changed.  My solitude and the business woman in me, who puts the whip to the artist’s back, conspire against fantasies like weekends.

Although, I should not blame the business. The drive to create goes very deep.  The need to work is all but irrepressible and would gladly sacrifice anything on its altar. Obviously, I cannot allow it to drive me to the point of illness and burnout.  However, I am not always intelligent about my limits.

Desperate for some balance between this compulsion and the rest of life, I have been reaching out to others like a fool – hoping that I can be given what I cannot easily provide for myself. Relationships are the one thing that will pull me away from what I ‘ought’ to be doing.  As odd as it sounds, I really enjoy being around other people even if they are not actively socializing with me.  Their noise, watching how they interact with each other, it all soothes me. Only recently, this tactic has not worked either.

Left to my own devices, I keep going until at some point, like the past two days (which are actually supposed to be ‘days off’), I collapse.  Moving the mouse has felt labor intensive.

This afternoon, waves of guilt kept assaulting me, even though I challenged their judgment with the evidence of my unsettling fatigue. ‘Look at what’s going on,’ reason told the emotion washing over me, ‘my mind has grown restless and weary.’  Just after lunch, I realized with a shock that it has been nearly two weeks since I have written anything more substantial than a blog or a poem. Once I was able to stifle the fire to write the book in favor of other deadlines, I have not stepped back into its flames. For me, that is highly irregular and a little alarming. Important and trivial things have been slipping, more so than usual. The stark realization that I have not been doing well physically feels like an excuse, but even with tonight’s rest, I know, I am still in danger. My flesh continues to ache and complain.  I must be careful.

Yet that to-do list makes me tremble, intimidating me with its glowing eyes and fear of abandonment, if I even dare to glance in its direction.

I must be kind to myself.

So, I will do some dishes (the tears of pain will help exorcize those last shreds of guilt) and then tuck myself in bed. As for this blog, I will end with a poem from my collection, ‘a seed of wild kindness,’ that feels wondrously applicable to this particular moment:darwinandandre copy

Quiet has taken over the world,
muting it in tones of gray,
softening the ground
and rocking us to sleep.
The rain caresses,
it plays lullabies,
it delays work
and encourages huddling
under blankets.

This is not a day
to move mountains
or change society –
it is a time to rest,
reach within
until the soul is opened up
to the gentleness
of creation.

worry for a friend

broken heart copyTonight, I am worried about a friend of mine. It bothers me that I cannot do more than just provide a meal and listen to the chaos moving through his life.  Every once in a while, I wish I had the resources to transform the world – or even a few individual lives – but for now I don’t. It is all that I can do some days to keep myself going. Perhaps that is why I wrote the blog that posted several entries ago about being defiant in conversations about the future. My current calmness came about because I clearly recognized it was an issue of survival to accept that I cannot predict the future, good or bad.  If I kept to my old patterns, I would continue tearing myself down with negativity or paralyzing myself into immobility through blind fear. Without some self-awareness, I would run the risk of over-compensating and sabotaging myself with hubris.  It has been hard work – meditation, prayer and cognitive retraining – to get to the place where I am now and it often seems like I am standing on the pivot of a see-saw that has been greased. I have to stay awake to stay balanced.  Sliding off in one direction or another can be fast and frictionless; being centered requires constant, conscious practice.  But none of that helps him.  I listened to him talk and felt the ache of powerless start.  I cannot rescue anyone; I cannot ease his suffering.

He has crossed the boundary from stressed and vulnerable into something more perilous.  I realize that I walk a thin line most days, as most of us do. Viscerally, I also know how easy it is to fall.  Watching such troubles happen to someone that I care about, listening to his grief when I cannot do anything substantial to help, continues to feel overwhelming even hours after I dropped him off at his cold house and watched him trudge up icy stairs.  An ache of worry moves within my skin.

I tried to write about other things and failed.  Watching television made my head hurt as though avoidance created this cacophony within my skull; I kept turning the volume down until I was left with silence. Then I started typing in poetry but couldn’t focus. Website coding suffered the same fate.  I could not figure out what items to put for sale on Houzz.

sea foam
sea foam

Then I stopped thrashing. Experience has taught me that the more I try to distract myself the longer this agitation will last, although sometimes I am a bit thick-headed and forget the lesson for awhile. Thus, I am left with waves of concern crashing over my awareness.  Since I cannot fight them off, and continuing to ignore them would be foolish, I have been watching them come, flow over me, and then pull back to regroup for the next inundation.

Simultaneously, I am holding in my palms an acute understanding that all human beings are ultimately small and vulnerable and that, in turn, leaves my zen trembling.  Just barely, I stay on the center of the see-saw by looking deeply into my heart and seeing that loving calm and still quiet remain, like an impervious rocks, allowing all the emotions flow over, recede, then come back. I am somewhat soothed.

roxi 300x300At any rate, I had vowed to write a blog when I got home tonight and I try to be true to my promises – even the ones I make to myself for no good reason.  So, I here am.

Instead of writing anything of note, though, I have decided to leave you with a picture of my cat Roxi (also known as Roxanny Wanny of the Big Ginormous Fanny).

Years ago, when a spasm of bordem (on my part) met with blessed patience (on her part) I put the this wee feather boa on her to make her look like a lion.  But, instead she looked like Animal from the Muppets.

At any rate, the photo always makes me smile – and I needed a smile tonight.

May these words find you warm and safe and surrounded by love.  Peace be with you all.

the engine

the engine

An engine works tirelessly,
tucked deep within me.
Inside my ribs,
it provides a solidness –
the foundation for my heart –
while its churning cogs
reach up through my spine
wildly agitating my mind.

I cannot escape its persistence
for it drives me fiercely,
like a rider in the Pony Express,
filling me to overflowing
with need and inspiration,
caring not one whit
if I am awake or asleep,
able or ill.

If I were to surrender
and attempt another kind of life,
this engine would torture me
for my sin.

As it is, the driving pulse
pulls me up and pushes me hard,
demanding I keep going
even when I stand trembling and naked
before the icy whip of vulnerability,
or when my confidence wears too thin
because it was eroded by cruelty.

No infirmity nor calamity
has managed to turn the engine off
or even damage it severely.
It has amazing gifts at self-repair.

Whether the rest of me
feels ready or not,
it drags me back onto the rails
and starts the wheels of art
turning again.
It refuses to listen to my whining.
It allows for no excuses.

I weep with gratitude
for the relentless,
constant,
blessed
engine
that moves me on and on,
giving form to my days
and reason for my breathing.

— this is a first draft, written today (29 December 2013) when the icy whip of vulnerability is biting me most cruelly. But here I am, in the studio, being consoled by art.

two mornings

reactionsi woke up twice this morning to radically different days.  The first awakening came at 6:58, on the heels of a terrible dream in which i confronted people who had wounded me, all the way back to the earliest days of childhood.  Don’t we all want answers when confronted with incomprehensible behavior?  The writer in me gets preoccupied with motivation.  Some forms of abuse and cruelty appear meaningless to me. My brain stops in its tracks when confronted by such actions. i cannot comprehend them.

At first, i thought my subconscious was engaging in wish fulfillment.  Like a reporter asking questions, much more calm and dispassionate than i expected, i begged them to let me know why they perceived me as someone they could hurt, why they had stopped caring about me, how i became someone who could be written off so easily.  Only, as it unfolded i could see i had become a ghost in my own dream. None of them answered me, which is what made it a nightmare.  More than ignoring me, they each in turn acted as though i had never existed.  i finally struggled into wakefulness, overcome with powerlessness and solitude and irrelevancy.  Tight muscles barely allowed me to struggle out of bed.

i had hoped to see the eclipse, but clouds covered the sky.  Given my mood, it struck me like a slap.  i fell as low as i have been in months. It took everything i had to crawl back into bed and pull the covers over my misery.  For once, i lacked the energy to fight the misery or the doom-drenched thoughts that my subconscious had brought up.  i allowed them to wash over me without struggle and start filling up the room around me.  After probably an hour of agonizing, thoughtless sorrow, i fell asleep.

darwin the dogThe next time i woke up, spontaneously and effortlessly, it was a few minutes before nine.  Instantly, i could tell the day had transformed into something radically different – so much so i wondered if i had somehow slept through Sunday.  i cannot remember what dreams i had, if any. As far as i can tell, no great and abiding answers to the griefs of life seeped into my awareness during that hour or so of unconsciousness.  However, i vividly recall the sunlight pouring through the window and washing over my face, the way the dog’s nose felt as he nudged exposed fingertips, the wild purr of delight as my youngest cat figured out how to burrow under the covers, and the warm comfort of being tucked inside comforter and quilt.  Possibility occupied the emptiness left by mourning’s departure.

glazesToday has been hard physically.  i mixed seven batches of glaze – that’s roughly 10 pounds of dry ingredients per bucket i had to gather from the raw ingredients. This involves numbers which always cause some anxiety.  After i finish this blog, i will begin adding the water and mixing these contained heaps of powder into true glazes. Happily, my job has been made easier by help: another gathered water, cleaned the mixing buckets and sieves and picked up the last few ingredients i needed for the last two colors of glaze.  i am grateful for the help, but the task still daunts me.

Unfortunately for everyone within a three mile radius, this is also the second day during which i have completely avoided any kind of simple carbohydrates, and believe you me, my body is angry about the lack of sugar.  Even more annoying, my ego keeps kvetching about the need to revert to the strict food laws that i lived with for years.

That said, after the second morning, all the burdens, chores and complaints felt smaller. Manageable.  Irritating to the point of chafing, but not debilitating.

As i finish up writing, the sun is still shining. The spark of optimism that the sun worked into my psyche has been encouraged by my determination and taken root.

Now i get to watch Netflix and Hulu while i add water to powder, mix well, sieve until smooth and thus create glaze.

 

determination

In the most desperate moments of my life, i have had several things that saved my sorry self.  Unexpected kindness, that has done wonders.  The daydreaming that i talked about in the last entry, that has helped as well.  Love, thankfully, has found me when i have been truly desperate.  A few miracles found their way to me.

fiercenessBut something else has helped to which i do not give enough credit or gratitude.  Determination.  Or, if you prefer, bloody minded stubbornness. The ability to square my shoulders and keep going no matter how foolish or doomed my path seems has surprised me. This does not come from optimism or confidence, but rather a idiotic refusal to surrender. Often, it takes all i have to keep going – and i have been known to collapse the instant the crisis passed, consumed by the doubt and insecurity that my bloody-mindedness pushed off.

Sometimes, that determination is only expressed in getting myself up in the morning, fighting pain and fatigue to stand and ready myself for work. In a few instances, it has been more profound.  But as i write tonight, i am really thankful for my pigheadedness.  It got me through today.  In all likelihood, it will get me through tomorrow.

 

mornings

In some ways, this has been the perfect morning.  Instead of waking to an alarm, screaming or singing in my ear, i turned everything off last night with the express intention of myself sleep and dream until i no longer had need of either.

awakeningWednesday and Thursday  are supposed to be days off from the Studio + Showroom, and at long last, i’m starting to take that seriously.  My endless to-do list might suffer slightly from my taking time away from work, but work was suffering from not having time to myself.

i admit that i need down time.  My ex husband would probably be elated to hear this – if he remembers any of our arguments about my being work-obsessed – but i have finally learned something he tried to teach me.  My body and my mind, if not my ever-eager heart, find moments when i am still and quiet and allow myself to recharge absolutely necessary.

For years, my main down-time had been when i had quite literally crashed too far to work.  i have artistic endeavors that govern nearly all levels of ability.  If i am fit and hardy, then i can throw.  If i am feeling a little weaker, but am still mobile that is the time for sculpting or painting.  If standing feels like a burden, then i can code websites, do promotional work on social media, and of course, write. A notebook and a pen in bed have been the midwives for the birth of many words.

first movementsHowever, the push to do the absolute limit that i could every single waking moment rarely let up. It is as if working proved to myself that i had meaning. And these creative endeavors bring me such happiness. Time spent doing chores or even taking the dog to the beach felt stolen.

Until the last six months or so, that is how i perceived at down-time.  It wasn’t a time to relax, but instead it was time to focus on some form of creativity that was more intellectual than physical. When i was truly down – due to illness or injury – i comforted myself with the thought that i had done all i could as long as i could.  No solace could be taken in my immobility and inability, they had to be endured until i could work again.

However, the need for quite stillness is no longer something that i can deny.no words

Actually, i blame meditation for making me accept the lesson that my ex tried to teach.  i started meditating regularly a year ago.  i began a meditation group not quite two months ago and i still meditate on my own nearly every day.  Anyway, there is something about the stillness and quiet that comes when meditation actually works (as opposed to the other day when i wrote about how characters from my story had their way with me) that is delicious, nourishing and joyous.

And now, i crave that blissful calm.  This morning i sought it out actively. My body ached, my head still felt feverish. Every sense of my being wanted that quiet stillness.

For a good half hour, i laid in bed awake and able to move, but utterly still in both mind and body.  The comfort of the mattress below me, the warmth of the covers and the crisp morning air against my cheeks filled me with sensation.  Light from the window played across my face, delighting me with its gentle warmth.  i gave myself time to lie there and simply be, with the cat purring beside me, the dog moaning in his dreams at my knees, listening to the other cat fight imaginary dragons in the living room.  Thoughts barely existed, and those thawhile workingt came up floated through my mind like dandelion spores.

Now that i am up and moving, i continue to feel deliciously unburdened.  i am more centered than i have been in days.  Writing still has a firm grip on me but i do not suffer from any guilt or remorse over taking these hours to be kind to myself.  This is a huge transformation for which i am amazingly grateful.

But i’d better get back to writing the book before i start feeling lazy.