Tag: sorrow

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.

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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.

twenty minutes

raining i just used up all the hot water in the tank doing the dishes and it will take twenty minutes to get some warmth back.  The limitations of my hot-water heater has given me a chance to blog.

Part of the reason that the dishes had stacked up for so long was that my injured hand could not hold the dishes well or without significant pain.  The other reason is that when confronted by the desire to make art and the need to do dishes, the former almost always wins.  At any rate, while i cleaned plate after plate, rejoicing over my left hand’s healing, i started mulling over the other things i have not been doing as i should: blogging, posting on social media, just generally reaching out even to my customers.

Part of it has been a conscious choice as to what kind of art i should make. i am aware that what is welling up inside me contains sorrow and fear.  The decision is whether or not to give those emotions a stronger voice.

Years and years ago, a friend typed in a lot of poetry for me when i was having health issues that made the job impossible.  Those poems contained vast despair, interspersed with moments of bliss.  Watching how she reacted to that collection silenced my pen for a bit, even though she kept thanking me for the rare poems of joy.  Then, a couple of years ago, someone blue hairwas looking at thespirit_goddess paintings to the left and shook his head, saying no one wants to see pain.  By that time, my art had already shifted toward things like the holy spirit to the right.  Despite whatever internal grief i suffered, my art channeled happiness.  So i smiled at my friend’s advice,  because, somehow, i had already taken it.

That is, until this winter.  i cannot count the times i stopped my hands from drawing or painting or sculpting because i sorrowknew the things rumbling about in my mind would produce art like that to the left which flooded out of me six years ago.   Art can be a purging – an exorcism of grief and sorrow.  This helped heal my soul all those years ago.

If i want to be honest about my experience of life, there will always be a bit of art that will evokes the darkness.  Sometimes, even when i give myself leave to create something just for the sake of my sanity, the joy still peaks out.  A drawing of howling despair turns into song. There will also always be joy – peeking through even during the hardest times.

This is not one of the hardest time.  i know that, deep in my soul.  i can go back to poems written years ago and realize how much sunlight has conquered the sorrow.  An indefinable, unconquerable strength has kept me going this winter and for that spark of grace i am wildly grateful.  May it continue to keep me slogging through.

However, i have made a choice, for myself alone.  i don’t think i am going to quiet the art that would come forth, even when i know it might be soaked in blues.  The cost of keeping it bottled up is too high – for it stifles what other art that would come.

 

poetry: Roo

IMG_0035She sobs from loneliness,
her whole world upended
by the absence of the one she loves.
With each whistle, moan and bark,
i realize more fully:
i have been her.
Intelligence does nothing
to mitigate the sorrow
that can cling to solitude.
When the heart is focused,
demanding that one person,
beating in an echoing chamber,
an endless loop of need –
all one can do is howl.

written 1/16/2015

cognitive dissonance

I took another day off today.  I wrote, I surfed the Internet, watched Hulu, listened to the storm outside my window.  There was no great master plan behind the time off, just pure emotional and psychological need.  I woke up so low this morning, I was having to find reasons to keep moving through the day.  The inertia was crippling, and I could not make it out of the house.   The weather meant firing a kiln was out of the question, so I convinced myself fate meant for me to have another chance at rest and relaxation.

Before bed, though, I started painting.  I blacked out the canvas, letting the darkness of my mood take over.  This is what I came up with:

image

 

it it could not be more different from my mood.  Indeed, she is the sibling of another painting, the one I took off the easel because I thought my mood was too desperate to work on something that happy.

Tucked into bed, I am marveling.  I do feel soothed from the time with the paintbrush and pallet knife, and utterly mystified at the art pouring through mt at this desperate hour.  Where is the joy, and the love, and the shining brightness coming from?

poem: you wanted me alone

The first draft of this was written over a year ago, but how it still applies:

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He said You wanted me alone.
Childless.
Miserable.

My love for him
flowed deeper than the ocean,
despite the pain of ending,
as he swore that it was impossible
for anyone to love me –
particularly You,
my Lord, my God.

Every single day,
those words float through my mind.
i cross the foot of the stairs
at the peak of which those statements
were first uttered,
and they float back down to me,
echoing ghosts of heartbreak.

No anger accompanies them,
no outrage,
just a quiet wretchedness.
It is hard to challenge
those damnations
while i have been trapped
in this long loneliness.

Every time i have allowed
my heart to rise up in the hope
that love might find me again,
the object of my desire has asked
for my bank account numbers
or hurt me.

Jesus, You have given me words,
You have given me art,
but in the depths of night
when i am alone,
i am aware that the products
of my hands
cannot hug me back.

When he said those things, Christ,
he believed them.
His attitude became proof
that i was utterly unloved.

How much of my begging,
Lord,
has been because of this grief?
Your love had gotten me through
so much trouble and trial
from the earliest days of childhood.

Losing that undid me.

In the years since,
how many times have i come
on bended knee,
begging for you to love me again?

When will this doubt
that i never harbored before
he said those things
ebb away?

When will they stop following me
through my days?

poem: on love

The poems lie pressed onto the page,
like leaves,
thin, translucent reminders
of loves
that flowed in my heart,
as deep as the ocean.

i love too easily.IMG_2898

i crave connection so much
that i fling my heart open
to whomever walks by.

The joke used to be
five kind words,
and i would be yours.
As i aged,
my standards got higher,
it took at least seven.

It is a fault, i know,
a dangerous one,
but i cannot seem to change
no matter how badly i am hurt.

The love continues on,
long after self-protection
mandates separation.
It might grow quieter,
its tides combining with new loves
that i have stumbled upon,
but the ache of attachment persists.
The pain of loss can be gutting.

Like an irrepressible optimist
or just a fool,
i keep crawling into my cave,
licking my wounds for awhile,
to reemerge eager,
unable to stop myself from falling.

If i am honest,
i will tell you how exhausted i am,
how i have put my heart back together
so many times
after it was broken to pieces,
that i can do it automatically now,
like a jigsaw puzzle
done one too many times.

The pieces slide back into place
with my eyes closed.

Still, i look across all those poems,
the stillbirths of my affection,
and i wonder if they meant anything
to anyone –
other than providing proof
that my spirit has not died
in this wrenching solitude.

24 july 2014

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

sunlight and mood

For two days, I was struggling physically on a level that really demoralizes me.  Once I lose grip on my health, to the point I can’t walk well or function for at least four hours a day (even if those hours are isolated with several hours of less function in between), I start to despair.  I don’t know how else to describe it, I know it isn’t particularly rational, and I fully realize the look is not attractive. Ironically, if you include writing, I can get a lot of work done during those days (the prayer and meditation blog is queued up through July!), but the work is not always what I want to be creating. The two major pieces of prose I’ve wrote (one the day before yesterday, one the day before that) disappointed me, despite being well written.  One centered around feeling invisible and the other on how hard it is to be one of those people that society seems to forget, neither poor enough to get help nor rich enough not to be drowning. Both pieces echoed this sense of frustration, vulnerability and the acute fear that all the terrible things said about me, all the times people have predicted my doom (nearly every artist I know has a chorus of those voices following them around like we are in some Greek tragedy) were true.

So much of my writing – poetry in particular – has shifted to themes that are happier and more centered. Most of the time, what ever spells I spend in darkness have been shorter and caused by something tangible – like being ridiculously unable for two days.

So, yesterday, I was quietly thrilled when I found myself able to matt and frame some paintings and bother one of my favorite students with my jabbering.  Then, I managed to be social at a wine-tasting where I was the featured artist, although I fear some of my anxiety leaked out my lips a bit.  Afterward, I conquered a mountain of dishes (after which I sang a small song to celebrate my victory) and very quickly afterward staggered into bed.  However, the poems I wrote last night were not drenched in sorrow.  Worry, sure.  Pessimism, a bit. Loneliness, oh heck yeah.  But the knife of wretchedness had lifted out of my heart.

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what a happy goober.

After nearly twelve hours of sleep, I managed to get out of bed this morning without walking like a hamstrung Quasimodo.  After a couple of hours of poetry and putzing around the house, I took the dog for a quick hike – 50 minutes though the woods – before opening the studio for the day.

There is a miracle that happens in the sunlight, feeling the breeze off the harbor and looking at that dog smile with such joy.  It melts away the stress, even though my situation hasn’t changed.  The act of moving over that uneven ground makes me feel more at home within my body.  Usually prayers and thanksgivings float through me while I walk, but today, I simply enjoyed the quiet melting of those last shreds of despair.  The forest comes back to life – the sight of it filled me with poetry and gave me hope for myself.  After this terrible winter, we all have the hope of rebirth and happiness.

But I have one last observation, that struck me as I got the studio ready to open for business today.  When a student has a sudden run of difficulty with a throwing, when they race to the brink of despair thinking they have forgotten everything and suddenly and profoundly suck, I am always reminding them to check the wheel, check the bat, check the tool they are using.  Sometimes, the cause for their problems is actually external, or at least definable.  I can point to something and say – yes, this, this uneven wheel head is why everything you make is slightly off-center (one of my kick wheels has this issue).  There is no cause for despair or insecurity when the problem is in the environment or the machinery.  It becomes a call to either fix the problem or learn to adapt to new conditions.

In a way, I really have to get myself to look at these spasms of wretchedness the same way.  When my body is broken or overextended, I do not have the resources other people have to just bounce back – it takes time and that takes a toll on my mood.  I do not enjoy pain.  I get tired of weariness very quickly.  It was an exercise in faith this week to let myself be discouraged and down and not fear sparking an ongoing depression – and frankly, if someone were grading the exercise I do not think I got a passing grade.

 

darwin_closeup
seriously, such a happy goober

As I cleaned the wheel off, I realized with a shock, I had a mechanical issue sparking my problems and just like my students I had run to the easy explanations:

I am worthless, I am doomed, I am terrible.  Once the physical issues lifted, even slightly, the despair could melt away in the sunshine.

Which just means, I have to remember what I teach.  And I have to get the dog to look like this more often.

 

two steps away from oblivion

As good as my mood has been for the past several weeks, I am aware that I always walk two steps away from oblivion.

angel_smThere has been great progress, though, for I used to be one step away from oblivion.  Indeed, I spent a lot of time with my toes dangling over the edge.

A quirk of my character refuses to let me to take most things for granted. I have been told my endless ‘thank you’s for even small acts of kindness are off-putting. Each great pot I throw still wows me, because I remember the many long years when I could not throw well at all. When loveliness comes out of the kiln, I find myself singing and dancing. Every month I manage to pay my bills, I celebrate (albeit from a place of anxious overwhelm).  When my friends reach out to me, I rejoice in their actions.  The good painting, the poem that makes me smile, the story that bears some grace, all leave me wildly grateful.

The flip side to this gratitude is the keen and certain knowledge that these gifts can be lost at a moment’s notice.  Whether we realize it or not, we all stand two steps away from our personal oblivions.  None of us has any real security, even if we can convince ourselves that we do because we cannot know the future.  Illness, an accident, financial stresses (and who is without those) – well, I will stop naming them.  There are countless ways to fall into oblivion.  Focusing on them is unhealthy, which I know from experience.

If I estimate conservatively, I spent a decade wallowing in fear and anxiety without the ability to move forward effectively.  PTSD, general anxiety, debilitating illness, I can come up with a lot of reasons why I was stuck, but honestly, the reason why isn’t half as important as my getting to the place where I could be brave and start moving.  Angel

So I keep going, seeing the edge beside me, realizing how vulnerable I am, and yet knowing that even if I fall in the most catastrophic way possible, even if I lose everything, this movement is better than the fear and paralysis in which I was trapped.

And, tonight as I write, this is the blessing for which I sing thanksgivings.

quiet morning of writing

The pile of things I have to address built up until they became a mountain from which I cower. There are some aspects that I am excited to keep working on: finishing commissions, throwing for a new marketing project, making more sculptures (what a wonderful thing to have on a to-do list!).  Then there are the second tier things: trying to figure out a safe time to fire given this weather, finishing the inventory, cleaning and organizing the studio, checking to see if any paints or glazes were frozen during the power outage.  Those hurt a bit more.  The last category – arguably the most important – involves the jobs that make me want to flee: doing the financials for 2013, getting the sales tax paid, tweaking the business plan for 2014.

Running a business still feels like it is something slightly beyond my skills, particularly at this juncture when I realize I have overreached and miscalculated. An overwhelming urge to pull inward and hide from the world has to be overcome – for that will not make the situation better, even if it feels safer.

As I type I clearly see that my physicality has become involved in the situation, too. Whether or not this is from the other health issues I’ve had lately or if it is a subconscious avoidance tactic, I ache, my head throbs, and every inch of me wants to crawl back into bed and offer no resistance as the snow covers the house like a blanket.  Putting letters in the mailbox, the cold was excruciating; the wind, like a knife. My vision was even blurrier after coming back into the warm house. Given the theme of his winter so far, it goes without saying that another winter storm rolls in. That, all on its own, overwhelms me.  As I walked the dog this morning, he became scared at the sharp sounds of trees cracking and snapping.  If we do not lose power tonight or tomorrow, I will consider it a gift from God.

Also dismaying me, I have been forced to watch as the afterglow of my zen and connection from New Year’s Eve/Day faded, although what I wrote during those hours pleased me greatly.  As I typed up those poems, I kept wanting to pull back the bliss, grasp it tight in my greedy hands, refuse to let it dissolve.  Last night, an understanding friend suggested that it feels like you’re a balloon from which the air is slowly leaking. That level of peace and bliss, at least for this errant soul, cannot be maintained forever. I am bound to become the plaything of anxiety and sorrow and guilt and confusion again – as I have been this morning – and now it becomes my task to remember the moments when I am not those negatives and drag myself back into the light.  Only, I am awfully weary and am intimidated by the thought of dragging this bulk around.

So, I am doing what I do best when confronted with overwhelming obstacles that seem unconquerable: distracting myself from the possibility of impending doom with words. I hide in a comfortable chair in front of my computer with the hope of losing myself for awhile.  So far, so good.

Every year, I start a new poetry file.  Last year’s wound up gathering 215 poems in its electronic arms, which feels a bit unsatisfactory to me.  I want to write more this year; I want the words I put together to dance with more grace.  However, this does not add to my burdens or cheapen the happiness of writing. I delight in new beginnings: the blank journal, the fresh document, the first poems of the year.

Tomorrow’s blog is the first poem I wrote for 2014, just after finishing the blog entry from the 1st.

To imply that I have spent a quiet morning writing because I am dedicated to my art is partially a lie.  One of my greatest blessings is how much I love writing.  It is the artistic outlet that calls to me the loudest and on which I spend the most time.  However, I am hiding here deliberately – this is absolutely a distraction and an escape from fear, anxiety and duty.  These poems, and the prose that has been flowing from my keyboard in tiny drops, have always been my greatest solace.  Even though I write in a room alone, these words keep me company.  They lend me their courage.