Tag: worry

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.

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.

 

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:

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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?

 

 

 

 

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

Restless stress

written Sunday, 29 June 2014

Yesterday, inside the four walls of a cooperative, far away from my wheel and my studio and enough quiet to compose a story, I started to go a little crazy.  I had been asked some very good questions about my business that morning, and they kept ringing through my mind.  Unfortunately, answers did not rise up to greet them.  Instead, restless stress kept echoing within my skull – guilt over the bills I can’t pay quite yet, the amount of work the house requires, the long list of commissions I have to finish, my general incompetence as a businesswoman.  It all just took over, defying every attempt to be present in the moment.  As the day wore on and my physical condition deteriorated, those annoying stress levels kept shooting up.  The last drawing I managed before my hands quite me completely is below: the poem gives a hint of my state of mind. Unable to manifest contentment or hope, I rooted myself in stubbornness.  By the time I made it home, I felt like a dishrag that had been wrung out too violently.

keepflying
The poem: There can be no quitting when you soar near the sun – No matter what setback, keep flying – sometimes surviving means that you’ve won.

Today, I have stayed home, feeling for all the world like I have a stress hangover.  Even though I wanted to very much, I did not go to church.  Even though I kept imagining myself swimming in a lake, I stayed in.  Desperate for quiet stillness, I curled up in bed and rested, reading and thinking about writing (as opposed to actually picking up a pen.)

Yesterday the effort of worry wore me down – and I need time to recuperate.  The most irritating part was that I knew how useless the anxiety was, which added a sense of futility to the stress that made it even more stressful.  I could sense contentment just past my fingertips.  For every tremor of concern that made its way through my body, the memory of peace and contentment floated over my awareness.  I knew better.  I know better. Worrying about sales won’t get me more.  Fretting about the commissions won’t get them done faster.  Listing out every to-do that looms over me won’t make the mountain they create when combined feel less intimidating.  Ringing my hands over money won’t get the accounting done.  Wondering if I have enough energy and focus within me to finish everything I need to get done does nothing to increase my confidence.  Indeed, all that happened was that I became miserable and weary and despondent, the effects of which linger into today.

But, on the bright side, today I have been able to be quiet, still and thoughtful.  If I let myself go for a moment, I could easily fall into the same well.  After all, the work I wanted to do isn’t getting done.  However, I will not go there.  The relief of being out of the pit is too strong; happiness feels vulnerable enough that it should be protected.  I still feel weak, even though my body has finally stopped screaming in pain.  My heart no longer hammers in that odd syncopated way.  And, when I lose my grip on tranquility, I force myself to dig my roots deeper into peace by focusing on two other lists: the list of things I love and the list of things for which I am wildly grateful.

That helps a lot, but it didn’t work just 24 hours ago. The biggest lesson for me this morning was that none of these things helped yesterday.  I was drowning in my discomfort and no sparks of wisdom or reminders of my blessings or even the comfort I took in drawing could save my state of mind.  In the end, I just had to endure it – to accept that I was suffering and wrap myself in one comfort I had: that eventually I would be able to rest, restore myself, and the situation that seemed so dire would become survivable again.

 

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.

10341766_10203024107595134_1258225265593047701_n
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.

 

after the meeting

Yesterday, I met with a great group of artists – setting up the calendar for the new season at Harbor Artisans in Belfast.  Within that cooperative’s walls, we laughed and debated and hammered out the details for 2014.  In fact, we will have a new website soon – I’ll update this with a link when it’s live. So much could pour forth from my fingertips about these artist cooperatives (I am also a member of  ones in Southwest Harbor and Lincolnville) but last night while my eyes were stuck open and I lacked the strength to write, I promised myself I would blog about something different this morning.

The intended topic – realized here – centers around a recurrent anxiety, attacking after events like this.

Last night, I fell to pieces a bit, mostly because of my back. It had reached the level of pain that makes me desperate for distraction. Knowing that the discomfort will pass does nothing to mitigate my desire to soothe myself in the moment. As often happens, words kept bubbling forth from me – I started craving laughter from those around me. Stories dripped from my lips.  By the time we parted ways, I already felt the overwhelming urge to apologize for such selfish consumption of time and word.  Even though I had wanted to go to a party that evening, I couldn’t manage it.  The pain and the sense of social ineptitude made going impossible.

Once home, I washed off the makeup, changed, tucked myself into bed with a heating pad and three cuddling heaps of fur (how the cats loved the warmth!).  Still, I could not find my zen. Waves of anxiety too loud to ignore kept washing over me.  Since I needed to nurse my back, most of the things I would use to distract myself inside my solitude were inaccessible.  So, in the dark, I had no viable alternative other than to sit with the thoughts. Without trying to make it worse, I held each one in my hands. First, the pronounced fear that during the last bit of convivial conversation I was too rowdy and too loud.  Second, the acknowledgment that without a doubt, I complained too much.  Finally, the sad realization that while talking about the last few years, it surely must have sounded like a lot of drama, even though right now I find myself content more than anything else.  Thankfully, I have learned what triggers and influences to avoid – and how to stop fighting the negative emotions that do arise.

This morning, feeling somewhat stronger and more able, I look back at the meeting and the time afterward with more calm.

However, my determination to find out how to vanquish this post-event anxiety has doubled in intensity.

and now the whimpering…

Oh, God. I paid the bills.  Well, most of them.  The ones urgently due, in any case. If I ever start feeling prideful and cocky, all I need to do is take the stack of stuff I have to pay in the next two weeks, add to that the amount I ought to spend on clay and glaze and other supplies for the business, and balance them with the amount of income that I know I will get (Ha! That is a sad little joke every artist I know will get! There is no certain income in the arts; people are not forced to buy your work.)  Then, if I still feel a glimmer of inappropriate self-satisfaction, I can either boot up my old laptop and watch it have a seizure trying to run Photoshop or attempt to look at a webpage on my (pristine, perfect condition and yet still utterly obsolete and mostly non-functional) iPad 1, and the whimpering will begin in short order.

reading-alt
the face of someone reading a book she does not like… she is slightly happier than I am paying the bills

If I really need more humbling, I can try to draw on said iPad and watch it commit seppuku rather than open the app.  (I loved drawing on it.  The last successful drawing is to the left. This loss I mourn.)

Honestly, the bills were enough today all on their own.  I comfort myself with digital drawing and the whole seppuku thing made me despondent enough to write a blog.

To a certain degree, this is a seasonal disorder.  March has always been one of the hardest months for these spasms of stress (I know it’s still technically February, but these were the March bills I was paying).  The spring sales have not yet started and whatever money I squirreled away for the first part of the year has vanished.  2014 watched it fly away much faster than normal.  This incredibly harsh winter ate it up through fuel oil and repairs to the house after the ice storm.

So, I whimper.  I stomp around in a puddle of self-pity so deep it pours into my galoshes and soaks my socks.

Thankfully, this angst does not last very long (anymore.)  When I find myself drenched in self-doubt, I am overwhelmed with a compulsion to act. Furiously, I try to shake it off.  I turn to whatever might mitigate the stress and insecurity.  The delight I take in my work helps quite a lot.  The obsessive writing that has dominated the past two days reminds me that this is my calling – whether or not it is lucrative, or wise, or just evidence that I am a fool.

If I am in such a negative mood that I keep insulting the works of my hands, or I am so anxious that I cannot focus properly on making art, I pull out my business plan and comfort myself with whatever might be going better than expected.  If I can’t find anything that meets those criteria, I search the opus for proof that I am better at handling catastrophe than I was when I started this endeavor five years ago.  Running a business did not come naturally to me. Thank God, I am improving, even if progress remains slow and uneven.  With this inspiring me, I adapt my plans, think about how I could improve my situation, vow never to eat out again (even though I know it’s a LIE), shop for deals on iPads so I will be prepared when I sell something big enough to make me think I can afford one… and that all might soothe me.

Yet, if it doesn’t, all is not lost.  The next steps are meditating to regain my inner peace and itemizing the things I’m grateful for – a list that could go on nearly endlessly.  Ah, but if the nervousness has made me too agitated to maintain the discipline required for those tasks, I can still call or text friends and try to distract myself with their triumphs and tribulations.  Maybe I’ll just have them remind me that I’m not a lost cause.

After all that, if I am still morose, I set a timer for twenty minutes and just let myself stew in the dark quiet (not meditation, simply letting myself whimper with abandon).  I get bored of such drama pretty quickly. Usually turning on the lights afterward is enough to get me out of my funk. At some point, in the darkness, I am confronted with one unavoidable truth: I cannot do anything other than what I’m doing.  Even if I’m failing, I’m following my heart.  Even if the worst happens, even if I never make another dime from my art or my writing, even if I lose everything, it does not matter enough to make me deviate from my purpose.  I know deep in my soul that this is what I do – who I am.  The realization doesn’t make me happy, or renew my faith, so much as helps me surrender to the instability of it all.

That epiphany is helped by the other unavoidable realization that comes to me after twenty minutes of motionless self-pity: I don’t seem to be able to sit still for more than fifteen minutes (sadly, this includes meditation) without some form of art starting to poke at me for attention.

Speaking of which, the book I’ve been writing – which was already gently poking me before I decided to write this blog on paying the bills – has now begun to slap me lightly.

I should get back to it before one of the characters thinks to pick up a weapon…

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.