Tag: injury

the dam bursts and the water flows

For over a week, my body tackled my aspirations and strangled them in a choke-hold until we all lost consciousness.

sleeper-300x237For days and days on end, i could not manage to be a human being. i whined enough even my animals wanted me to quiet down. For two days, migraine aura messed up my eyes enough i couldn’t see, and the headache itself kept me from thinking clearly. Not one system in my body was behaving.  i was a lump of wretchedness, dissolving into sorrow.

And thus i was every moment when i wasn’t at galleries, and too many moments when i was sitting.  This was not my best week for engaging customer service.

But today, i can see! i can think! i can move! Last night, during those first hints that things were getting better, i was able to start getting my house in order, taking control of the kitchen for the first time in a long time.  Once more i reminded myself that if i can work, i do.

This is the closest i get to manic, i suppose. After so many days of being derailed, to be able to function is pure joy. i was singing this morning, because i had the energy to do it. Even if i fail today, even if i get nothing useful done, at the very least i have managed to exist with contentment and zeal.

i feel like the dam has burst.

i am trying to be fearless.  Mostly, i am failing.  i am having surgery on my shoulder next week, and i am terrified not of going under the knife, but of a long recovery at home alone.  i am dissolving in debt, still working with someone trying to desperately avoid bankruptcy, but each day that this financial dissolution couples with increasing physical disability leaves me shaking harder from fear.  To be honest, i have not discovered a mechanism for complete boldness.  Some gear or another in my bravery engine keeps getting stuck.  Instead of fluid courage, there is a lot of sputtering, stopping and starting, and uneven progress.

Actually, if you’re reading this blog, you already know that.

However, if i am totally honest, i can see other signs of improvement and change.  i got a nice rejection for a book i finished in July, which was evidence of courage because i actually sent in a submission. So, i can make the most of a wild spasm of hope. The strength of will it took to get here, today, to this gallery, despite the weariness and sorrow and illness of the past week proves that i have some steadfastness.  And, most importantly, i have finally managed to set up two events to start purging my belongings so i can move:



They will be this weekend, concurrent with the Maine Craft Weekend.

This morning, i spent a long time awash in gratitude, simultaneously praying that this sense of joy and strength can maintain itself until surgery on the 7th.  i am getting everything lined up: laundry done, cooking done in advance, cleaning as much as i can, making sure my downstairs bathroom will be useful to the one-armed gimp that i will be.

i need strength and joy right now.  And, thankfully, today i have captured the delightful echoes of both.

seventy-five pounds

IMG_1582On the 23rd of May, i hurt my left shoulder for the second time this year – an incident that left me screaming and clutching my arm to my chest.  For days, normal activity was severely compromised and making pottery out of the question.  Pain made me mostly useless.

Today, three weeks later, i threw seventy-five pounds of clay and transformed it into IMG_1579 eighteen lovely bowls.  For the first time in months, no piece failed; even as i got tired and sore, my coordination didn’t suffer.

i found myself singing with joy.  i kept murmuring thanksgivings.

This kind of blessing during a time of struggle gives the heart hope.  If i can throw seventy-five pounds of clay, i kept marveling as i finished the last, largest bowl, then maybe everything else is possible.  What a joyous notion!

Let’s see what i can get done tomorrow, and what art will come to me while i am at Artspace Gallery in Rockland on Monday.

The floor won

photo 4Two conversations derailed what I intended to write tonight.  I had gotten as far as typing the title and setting up categories when the evening escaped from my clutches.

I was supposed to describe cleaning the studio – how even though the floor is much cleaner, I still feel like it conquered me more than I conquered it.  For two days I have been bent with pain; even though I wanted to crumble – and did disintegrate a few times – I came back together and returned to work on the job.  My psyche needed the studio to be cleaner, more hospitable to humans.

After waxing on for awhile about the painful tedium of cleaning floors and how fluently cursive can flow from my lips when I’m on all fours scraping newly reconstituted mud up off the floor, and how being present in some moments doesn’t make them less unpleasant, I would have been telling you about how it is all worth it because I get to make the floors filthy again throwing and glazing tomorrow.

Only after two unexpected conversations, my mind is in a totally different place.  My attention has been brought to the person I used to be, to the greatest pains I have suffered and to the woman I am in this moment. This path has taken me through some terrible places and miraculous moments.  My current situation isn’t completely devoid of stress.  I continue to be lonely and feel acutely vulnerable. Oh, Lord, I still have a long way to go on the path of compassion and kindness.  Still, in the middle of all the whining I have done lately, I have found great peace and happiness.

In both conversations, I surprised myself.  In the first, I realized with gentle shock that I was at peace with something that had hurt me terribly five and a half years ago.  Talking about it, I finally could see past the pain of my reaction to what might have been going on in the heart of the other person.  Great forgiveness and compassion filled me. Indeed, for the first time, I could see the whole experience through his eyes, and from that view his actions seemed comprehensible.  A deeper peace settled within me.

In the second discussion, I actually lost my temper a bit about not being heard – because I had learned a great lesson that could not be muddied by misunderstanding. We were on the same page about how living in the moment – not projecting into the future or dwelling in the past – is the key to lasting happiness. I agreed with him that there are times when terrible things happen and you can do nothing to stop them – being present in the moment, even if it’s awful and painful and traumatic – can seem like an impossible thing but is necessary. Running away just makes the healing take longer; it encourages denial and prolongs suffering. Likewise, I concurred, refraining from revenge and hate even when you’ve been badly wounded by another can be necessary for the health of the soul.  Love is always the best way to respond to anything – however, where I vigorously disagreed was in how that love manifests as we walk through the world.  You do not have to keep dipping into the well of abuse voluntarily.  You can forgive and love but simultaneously strive to avoid situations with people who have treated you terribly in the past.  Masochism is not the same as enlightenment.  Ideally, any form of violence and cruelty should be responded to with love – but I argued that practically, in the moment of injury, the most basic act of love can be getting yourself through intact.

There are spiritual levels to love on on hand and the very practical needs of social interaction in the other. We can be compassionate and keep ourselves safe. If we do not stay safe, we can forgive those that transgressed upon us, but not allow them to wound us again. I have not demanded such forgiveness of myself when I was still actively suffering at someone’s hands, as he suggested is the ideal. In my experience, that was too much to ask in that moment. Those nows centered around survival. Peace and forgiveness came later, after the physical danger had passed. Likewise for smaller frustrations and cruelties: as they are occurring, practicality demands that choices be made to accept someone else’s judgment, or defend oneself, or avoid a greater confrontation. Perhaps perfection demands that we never lose our tempers or get irritated (although Jesus did, come to think of it) but reality often means that anger is sparked and we pray for grace in whether or not we stoke the fires and in how the flames escape us.

We can honor God within every single human being, even the ones who leave a swath of destruction through the world, without having to submit to their malevolent behavior.  There are moments that we have to love ourselves enough to be firm and protective.  There has to be a way to face the world in a compassionate, loving way, but do not allow ourselves to be hurt or diminished.  On a very basic level, we must love ourselves and treat ourselves with kindness.  We can get into a great philosophical debate about the non-existence of self and how we are all manifestations of the divine, but as we move through the world in these skin-covered constructions, there remain ways to hurt us.

More than I ever did before, I have been irritated and pushing back to behavior I don’t think is appropriate during the past year. My vision has cleared. It has been incredibly hard for me to finally wake up enough to realize that I cannot fix another’s problem by arguing with them or by indulging their whims to the point of self-injury, or by altering myself to suit their mood, or by letting them hurt me.  Love has to include myself – I am part of creation too.  I love living this life; I enjoy this particular skin-covered construction.  Rather belatedly, I have realized it is alright to make my safety and happiness a higher priority without sacrificing love or being less loving.

Perhaps this is too simplistic.  Almost certainly this is not the most fully enlightened model of behavior.  However, it has helped me quite a lot over the past few months.  Every time I do tonglen meditation, I realize that I can breathe in pain and suffering and sorrow and release kindness and joy and love. There are endless depths to love. The energy of a room can change just by breathing in negatives and breathing out positives. An eternal spring of compassion flows up within our souls into which this meditation taps. This practice helps deepen my understanding of the reality and omnipresence of love.  But that doesn’t mean that I would willingly allow someone to hurt me.

I don’t want to cause harm to other people either, but I have finally found out that I have no patience for those who would cause me pain. I find myself avoiding those who would insult me, or ignore me, or actively hurt me. Even when they are not acting out of malice, I consistently find myself walking away from cruel or judgmental or crushingly negative behaviors. My vexation has been leaking out my lips too often, but I still marvel at its existence. I know that I deserve to be treated better, just because I am a child of God – just like they deserve to be treated well for the same reason. Tonight, I found out that I could say with complete conviction that love for others, a global kind of love, universal love, does not conflict with being kind to the one looking out from behind these eyes.

Ah, I have written too much.  It might be hazy and indistinct because it is already tomorrow and my back is still singing with pain.  After I awake, when the sun has long since risen again, I will deliver pottery to a gallery and then come back to the studio to glaze. Surely the floor will be messy again before the next sunset.  But it will all be well, because I will be back to making 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.