Tag: rest

poem: i would dance

Oh, i would dance
in the bright sunshine.

Let the cold breeze
lead me
in a scandalous waltz.

i would throw myself
into labors like Hercules,
moving mountains,
transforming the world.

the hardest thing
is to be quiet,
to let the body
that craves action
and touch
to lie fallow
and heal.

My mind can race
the stars,
but today
these aching muscles
have nowhere
they have to go.

17 november 2015

a cat and a dog sleeping in each other's arms

poem: my skin craves

My skin craves
warm sunshine
while the rest of me submits
to the quiet,
insistent needs
of healing.

The world has contracted
to lovely soft rest,
filled with cuddling animals
and sensuous silence.

In this moment,
i need this womb.

It is a cocoon
in which i mend
and transform.

In an hour
the story may shift
to include
intense movement
and striving.

Only, right now,
body, mind and heart
into words
and warmth.

31 october 2015

giving myself some rights

Early this week, i was introduced to the idea that small business owners have rights – even in a highly customer-centered field like art.

As soon as that lesson penetrated the outer layers of my skull, particularly the idea that i have the right to say no to jobs or appointments or obligations – or at the very least, no not now, without any firm justification other than i felt the profound need to form the letters “n” and “o” in sequence – the course of the next few days shifted miraculously.

i am still breathing so much better than i thought i could be, unafraid to use my asthma medications since i can finally get refills.  This has lead to my enjoying better stamina than i have in years, which has lead to more physical activity and more joyful, aching soreness.  However, while breathing is a blessing beyond measure, i can testify that this is not a panacea to all problems.  i continue to have issues with coordination and confusion, i am exhausted from healing and overwhelmed with stress, duty and responsibility.  After embracing the idea that i could say no, though, i realized the world will not fall apart if i took a couple of days to be kind and gentle to myself. Indeed, given how profoundly i feel at risk of dissolution, i have a duty to myself (and my customers! and those with whom i work at cooperatives!) not to let myself fall apart.

TIMG_0286he only way to keep that from happening is kindness.

So, i gave myself some gifts and worked through the guilt surrounding my magnanimity.  For two days, in between errands and appointments, worked on art (poetry, sculpting and pen and inks.)  The busier i get, the more i have to keep in mind: art comes from a place of stillness for me.  If i do not have a certain amount of quiet solitude, i will not be as effective as an artist, much less as a human being.

i kept my involvement with email and social media to the barest of bare minimums.  While i did spend an inordinate amount of time compiling to-dos for every client and project, while nestled in warm blankets, i also was merciless about their priorities.  What had to be done at this exact moment?  What could be done by Monday?  What could be done by next Friday?

Once those choices were made, i let myself have some time to watch a couple of movies, to cuddle with the animals, to read a book, to simply sit in silence until the screaming of anxiety was not so loud.  Then the art and word began to flow.  Probably, there are people who will feel terribly let down by this blog – and maybe i shouldn’t have written out that i actually took some time to make art and rest – but, this was a huge realization for me.  Usually, i have to be in physical crisis to really take downtime.  Indeed, the drive to make art is fairly merciless, pushing me forward despite myself.  But, this morning, i feel so much calmer and more capable – and that wouldn’t have happened if i didn’t act on having the right to say no.

finding things on lost days

For three days i have been completely non-functional as a human being.  i had not realized until i finally logged in to blog and maybe upload some more poems to the online store, i was already struggling last week when i was writing about Jesus and $10,000,000.

Still, these past seventy-two hours have been pretty special, even by my standards: all i could manage was sear air into my lungs, let it rattle around for awhile before pushing and shoving it out with an inordinate amount of effort and pain.  The constant whistling movement of air still threatens to drive me mad.  On Thursday night, i tried to fight my growing uselessness by throwing, only to get my left ring and pinky finger caught in seven pounds of clay as it was spinning at high speed.  Thank God – and i don’t know how else to explain it – other than a fixable dislocation and some soft tissue damage, i seem to be ok.  By today (Sunday) i can move those fingers gently without too much wincing.  Holding heavy objects is still a bit difficult, but otherwise i am surviving.  insomniac face

Make no mistake, in any decent spells i enjoyed during the last three days, tucked between hacking up lung one or lung two, i was asleep.

But there were a few moments, usually in between when the cough syrup started to kick in and before it became effective enough to let me rest, during which my mind began racing like a hamster on a wheel.  i started thinking of all the things i have not had the time to do, of the items that get shunted to a low enough priority that they never really get done.   The mountainous to-list has no visible peak, it extends into the clouds, possibly sailing past the moon with all the rest of the trash cluttering Earth’s space.

My mind kept remembering everything i have ever needed to do and haven’t done while i was only capable of sweating and breathing with a rattle. Few experiences are more conducive to a sense of uselessness. Sadly, even when i am doing well, the problem remains.  i am one person.  i make art.  To a certain extent, i will always be juggling priorities, stealing time for what makes life worth living.  And, of all the things that i had found during these lost days – and there were many to-dos that had slipped off the mountain, tiny pebbles fallen into the sea of neglect – this one realization was the most precious.  i am one person.  i make art.  It is unreasonable for me to let those things that i cannot get to quickly plague me, because i am not wasting my time.

i am just one person.  Today, i am one person who sounds like Mighty Mouse (according to a mirthful friend) and has finally regained the ability to stand for more than four or five minutes without having to grasp the wall for support.  i may have lost the day as far as work goes, but i have regained some sanity. i have remembered something important: i can only do what my flesh permits in this moment.


low charge

lovelygreenbowl5I really want to throw today – I do.  But, I am exhausted to my bones. Alas, fate intervened and messed up my plans. For whatever reason, just standing and moving and breathing are taking everything I have.  Even pen and inks feel too strenuous – my posture has to be too good. Only three sentences into this blog, I have already committed about ten spelling and grammatical mistakes my turgid mind could not immediately see.  Thank God for proof-reading.

Still, I am trying.  Meditation group met this morning and afterward, I opened up the studio like a good business woman. Now, I await a call for a web client at 4 pm.

In the meantime, I have surrendered to my exhaustion.  I have been writing and enjoying the lovely quiet of the day.  When writing gets to be too much, I meditate for awhile (setting alarms, because I do not actually want to sleep even though I really want to sleep.)  After twelve minutes of stillness, I can start scribbling again.  Thankfully, as first drafts, the unavoidable mistakes don’t matter so much. I can be kind to myself.

Earlier, I realized, this is the closest I really get to days off – ones where I am too tired, in too much pain or too punchy to work effectively.  And really, this isn’t so much a day off as a few hours.

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.

restless wanderings


Restlessness conquered me yesterday.  Thoughts and moods carried me around like they were rapids on a river.  Every time I tried to pull myself toward work – away from rest and relaxation – a firestorm of ideas rained down.  All of them came unfocused and screaming about their importance, leaving me befuddled with inspiration.  What could I pick out of that cloud of diffuse urgency?  Then, when I moved back into repose, either curling up with a book or listening to music, without forcing anything, the restless wanderings quieted to a delightful peace.

Too often, I fight against the thought of downtime.  My conditioning to work hard, the only excuse for idleness being a complete crash into illness or inability, has born the whip down on my back more often than I can say.  It has been easier to surrender my outrageous stress about finances and the business, and even my spasms of loneliness, than to disempower the voice that scolds me for being lazy every time I take a few hours out to relax.

However, I found myself relaxing regardless.  The to-do list stayed there, impressive and ominous, but it did not topple down and crush me.  Many of the glorious ideas continued to be present within my mind, kind and patient, waiting for me to get back to the wheel or the sculpting stand.

And, today, I am going to be taking more time to keep my foot and ankle up after falling on the ice and snow walking the dog last night.  My goal, if it can be said I have one, is to keep the restless wanderings from taking residence in my head during this beautiful afternoon.




The work I should do

The to-do list continues to loom ominously.  I have to finish the inventory, do the book-keeping, finish updating the website and the new ebay store.  Each of these tasks will consume a lot of time, which is daunting, but I have been plugging away at it.  During the last 48 hours, I have done a huge amount of web-design and the accompanying proof-reading, layout adjustments and link checking.  Both last night and the night before, I stayed up well past 2 am (not a real stretch for me) obsessively coding.  If I am generous to myself, I am half-way done.

Alas, right now, I feel trapped by these duties that I do not want to do – what I long for is unstressed time to paint, sculpt and write.  If I am brutally honest, I might even prefer to curl up in bed with a couple of cats, a dog and a good book, just because this body is so cold and weary. My reluctance to push forward fiercely reveals the tremors in my heart; I can find it incredibly hard to sustain courage and determination.

The less I engage my creativity, the more it starts to effect my mood.  For the past few weeks, I’ve felt the shadows of grief and overwhelm lingering around my edges and have been doing everything I can to keep it at bay and also get these important chores done.  However, I can feel the sacrifice of it – my entire spirit yearns to work on the novel, to jot down the poems swimming in my head, to bring the painting currently haunting me to life, to finish the pots.  Discipline has been hard to maintain; there have been a few days that I just threw myself into prose or poetry or simply hid under the covers until living seemed possible again. Today was one of those mornings – it took me until after eleven to really start moving around. I felt numb and broken. Of course, once I staggered out of bed, I went right to the computer and started working on websites.

The artist in me suffers.  Even my own writing, particularly the book that I’ve been working on lately, goes so forward at a glacial pace, despite how much it invades my thoughts and dialogue from it burbles out of my mouth.  Too much of the time I spend in front of a computer has been sucked up by this internet renovation.

I am writing this on one of my “days off” which never actually seem to be fully free of these chores and obligations, even when I keep myself out of the studio.  For a few hours, even though I could not afford to, I went out into the world, window-shopping and wistfully thinking of what it would be like if I had someone to distract me from these two overpowering needs to work: one one side the things I must do and on the other things I long to make.  It strikes me as odd – I live with my solitude better than I expected to, but when I need a break or encouragement, I find myself acutely craving a relationship, someone to take me by the hand and distract me or reassure me. What a shame I have such a hard time reassuring myself or allowing for distractions.

These few words are my treat, before I go back into the code, trying to figure out why two pictures won’t display on the internet (shyness? shame?  obstinance?), how to organize my original paintings for sale, and how best to utilize the ebay store when I also have things for sale on ashafenn.com.

There is so much work I should do.  And right now, all I want is to relax, rest, write or, if the words don’t flow for me because my brain is too addled, read.


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.