change

screaming_squarei am learning so much about myself during these past few months.

In a pinch, i can wake up early in the morning, consistently, although apparently never with joy.  i much prefer waking up in the very late morning after a night of work.

Despite having massive anxiety issues, i can put on a mask of confidence that, miraculously, people seem to accept as reality.  If i can keep the nightmares in check and manage to get some restful sleep every night, then i’ll keep getting better and maybe, someday, that mask will truly be real.

i am at peace with not knowing things… much more than i ever expected i could be.

After so long struggling, it looks like i might be able to get my house refinanced, avoiding foreclosure and a traumatic move.  However, even with that boon, it will be a long slog for me to dig myself out of the hole i am in financially.  Still, i have a slightly bigger shovel to use than i did four weeks ago.

Poetry and drawing will make their way through me, even if they have to ambush me during still moments. Stories, too, queue up and wait patiently for their time.

thesun_squareThe most profound lesson is that i am stronger than i expected, particularly when it comes to interacting with others.  Looking back, i don’t know when this shifted, but it is lovely to no longer care about those who hurt me like i once did.  Gone are the endless second guessings and guilt, well, unless it involves those i love – i care so much more then. Unfortunately, i remain quite wary of people after they have wronged me – but at least, now, i have the chance to work on it.

For these lessons, i am so grateful.  For the trial that i had to go through to get to this place, well, i suppose i’m grateful for that too. And, i know, this is just a beginning. In so many ways, i am still a hot mess. i will keep writing, keep drawing, keep working to maintain a balance between other responsibilities and the overwhelming drive to make art… and, maybe, i’ll be able to start blogging here again – for a month, all my effort has gone into my other blog.  Still, there is no rush.  All things will come in their own time.  In this moment, all is well.  For that, how can i be anything other than thankful?

 

too long

It has been too long since i have written here, although i have been writing like a fiend in other areas of my life. Four poetry collections are compiled and in the process of being edited and transformed into works that flow with some level of grace.  A short story and a novel keep plodding forward, although progress has been slow.  Most days, i fall into bed utterly exhausted and without a dent made in my to-do list.

My art has falls into stolen moments.  i have a thousand things i ought to be doing on any given day – from the regular job to housekeeping to managing the mental breakdown that seems to be stalking me to digging myself out of this financial hole.  However, no matter how busy or frenzied i get, i have to be creating, or i will truly lose my sanity. Huge amounts of micropoems and small drawings flood out of me when i have more than five minutes of idle time.  Most of them are being collected on another blog – handprints on the wall – to separate them from the work that requires more focus and editing.

Once these tiny poems are written, by in large, i don’t worry about them anymore.  When the drawings are scanned and cleaned up, they no longer rent space in my awareness.  Yet they are left, like the cave paintings in ancient times, scattered about my rooms.  They move effortlessly into the hands of others.

Hopefully, i will be back to writing here more regularly now that summer has passed and the demands on my time have begun diminishing.  Otherwise, i will be writing – just moving forward a bit more slowly.

gratitude

This morning, i awoke drenched in gratitude and joy. When the sun comes out, after so long in the torrential rain, it feels like a blessing beyond measure. This is what is happening with my life.

Too often, i have complained in this blog. In many ways, the last eighteen months had been a tail of woe – told in minor keys while my voice was hoarse with desperation. Now, i am filled with hope and such big dreams. i am adapting well to this life of regular employment. Even better, i am enjoying it. My art, thankfully, keeps pouring out of me. Yesterday afternoon was drenched in love, poetry and drawing. The one i love is once again close enough to touch; the starvation of affection is being sated. Even my face seems to be relaxing from the terrible pain it had been in. A solid three quarters of my face can smile now.

Usually i hoard these moments of joy to myself – choosing to throw myself into them rather than write them down on paper. i am often without moderation or restraint, fully imbibing happiness when it comes. The purging process of writing usually centers around sorrow and stress, not the delicacies of joy and gratitude. Oh, but, this time, i feel compelled to give thanks out loud and in song. That life can transform, even when there are still so many problems and stresses, is a blessing of the highest order. With greater success, i am able to choose in the moment what i want to be: joyous or anxious. Granted, there are still a lot of times when i fall down, but the shifts i celebrate in these words are as much internal as external.

So, today, even with my eye tearing, and my lips still frozen, i am swimming in an ocean of gratitude. Everything was worth it, to bring me this moment of satisfaction and contentment. With every moment, i am growing, deepening and swimming in love.

poem: a smile

i wish i could smile
in that particular way
that always ends
with my shamefully
thunderous laugh.

A delightful fire
curled my lips like smoke –
burning away the damp,
desperate
corners
of my awareness.

Even if this respite
only lasted
for that one
explosive
heartbeat,
oh,
it could still save
the broken shards
of my life,
filling
their jagged edges
with light.

Laughter,
smiling…
all day i have lamented
the problems with my eye,
and begged
for that vision
to be restored –
but
as i lay down,
weary and worn,
i find myself wistful,
longing
for a smile
that would slowly
take over this dour mood
until nothing was left
but the joy.

16 July 2016

Half a face

imageOn Monday afternoon at work, the right side of my face melted. I had been having the worst form of headache all day, and about an hour before the melting, I got an email which I read – probably erroneously (I want to blame the impending medical issues) – that I was facing immediate foreclosure. This broke my heart, as I have been trying to figure out ways to stay in my home, to rebuild my business with the help of my partner and to recover from this past year of intense physical and financial distress.

Heartbroken as I was, I was at work, so I put my distress aside. How I want to be strong and professional – this job means a lot to me and I have found it shockingly enjoyable so far. I refused to give quarter to my distress. I focused on what we were learning, and actively ignored the symptoms that had begun.

Within an hour, despite my desperate denial, the right side of my face slowly melted like a Salvador Dali painting. I could not close my lips and began drooling like a Mastiff. My eye refused to shut, drying out with ridiculous speed, which then caused slow, silent crying.

I have had bell’s palsy before, and assumed that this was the same issue. I tried to ignore the weeping from the eye that suddenly couldn’t close. I gathered all the strength I could to get past the horrible headache – like someone had rammed a railroad spike through my right ear until it came out the back of my neck. Within another hour or so, a second spike went from my temple to the back of my head. The tears and drool continued apace.

I kept talking, learning, working, trying to ignore it, pretending it didn’t matter, right up until my trainer noticed what was happening. Pretty quickly, even though I kept protesting, I was bundled into an ambulance and sent to the ER.

And, in retrospect, I am very grateful.

Apparently, it is very rare to get bell’s palsy on the same side of your face twice, and if it does happen it is often a sign of another neurological condition. We discussed my last appointment with a neurologist associated with that hospital – one not affiliated with the hospitals and practices I normally use in Bangor – and how strongly he suspected that I had relapsing/remitting MS three years ago.

Back then, I was stymied. He prescribed medications to help with MS – but I could not afford them. Not only that, but I could not afford the MRI that he needed of my spine and brain – because my health insurance at the time covered me only if i was struck by a banana truck on a Thursday. One orange on that truck, and I had no coverage.

And from there, everything was just forgotten. Even when I had better health insurance, the issue was not dealt with. Frankly, I had already suffered two major injuries and a uterus full of tumors in the mean time – so we had other things to deal with on a rather urgent basis. I cannot blame anyone else. Also, if I am honest, I was in no psychological place to be proactive about this potential diagnosis – it seemed like it would change nothing to actually be diagnosed. How would my health improve? Even with slightly better insurance, I still would not have had enough money for those medications.

So, I spent the better part of Monday afternoon and evening discovering that the vascular system in my brain is in tip-top shape, but the neurology not so much. My whole right side was a little effected, it seemed. My pupil in my right eye has taken a vacation. The weeping and headache continue apace. More and more, I was realizing the uncomfortable truth – I can pretend that I am not broken, that I am not troubled by health issues, but it is simply a pretense. What matters is how I work around these things, the systems I create to compensate for them, the strength of mind and heart that I bring to bear on each situation as they arise.

That said, I am utterly overwhelmed. The thought of foreclosure – trying to work with mortgage companies, banks, having to repair finances so devastated from a year without income due to health catastrophe after health catastrophe, leaves me trembling with fear. More than anything else, I have to be kind to myself – to understand that in order to make any progress on any of these vital and important tasks, I have to be a functional human being.

imageSo, I still don’t quite know what is going on. A few neurologists have MS being their best bet – but now I can finally get MRIs and other tests done to confirm or deny. The lovely and wonderful ER doctor suggested it could also be chronic lyme, and has tested me for such. But, what everyone agrees with is that something is wrong. I can do this wonderful job, I can still make art and write, but I will have to be intensely careful to protect what stamina and health I have.

Right now, I’m here at work in an eye-patch, so that the crying is minimized. Everything is a gentle blur, because my glasses can’t accommodate the eye-patch (or vice-versa) but I still have two good ears. I am doing the absolute best with what I have.

Mostly, I am praying for patience and understanding – not just from customers or coworkers or bankers or mortgage officials, but from myself. I have always been ridiculously hard on myself, and I have grown so weary of it.

I am doing the best that I can. That is all I can do. Especially right now, this is all I can do: be present with what I am doing, keeping myself from falling apart thinking of the future, anchoring myself in stillness and quiet and peace as much as possible.

And with that, I’ll close this overly-long blog with one statement: I am grateful that my trainer and my manager and others made me go against my desires and stubbornness to get me the help I needed.

a day off

roxiannoyedA few days ago, i called a friend and begged her to help me out today. i should have been in a gallery in Southwest Harbor, but knew if i didn’t have a day off to heal, decompress and rest, i would be creating a world of pain for myself.

She agreed, bless her heart, and here i am on the couch with the computer on my lap, heating pad (another gift from a friend) behind my back, my softest work dress on and very little work – other than writing and some gentle computerized toil for clients – getting done. Laundry chugs in the washer, but that is about as ambitious as i feel right at this moment. Having the whole day to myself feels luxurious. i don’t want to make too many impositions.

As a result, mostly, i am breathing slowly and with intent. Last night, i had a vivid dream about starting a meditation group at my new 9-5 employment which reminded me, i have been too exhausted to do my normal centering, healing meditation. So, as soon as i crawled out of bed, i mediated for the first half hour of wakefulness. Then, after a few poems and a small nap, i went back to it. i curled up here, on the couch, took that first deep breath, and was immediately beset upon by cats.

For weeks my female cat, Roxanne, has been angry with me. After Darwin died, she fell into deep grief. She stopped sleeping on the bed. Her pugilistic attitude toward her younger cat brother has not improved – if anything it has escalated. The only time where this lifted was when her favorite human in the world visited, but when he left again, she fell right back into her grumpy melancholy. Most of all, she still seems to be grieving Darwin – just as i am.

However, as soon as i sat down for tonglen this morning, she wrapped herself around my thigh. Her soft fur rubbed over my leg while she purred with ecstasy. Perhaps, she is not just grieving our beloved dog, but the changes that have come upon our life – transformations over which she had no control. If she could mandate the intricacies universe, she would have her bipedal slave around a lot more often. And have a minimum of 8 cans of wet food a day that she could stare at, eat two nibbles of, and then abandon. Failing that, she suffers.

As i pet her side, vibrating with purrs of sweet comfort, i am a bit surprised at how easy it was to give her joy.

Indeed, the same is true for me. Little things have been filling me with happiness. i have been surprising myself. In some ways, i am coping with this transition much better than expected.

However, there are a few fascinating little developments. After all these years working as an artist, letting my entire life revolve around the creation of novel, poem, painting and pottery, i had forgotten how strangely out of step i can be with other people. This is different than the loneliness over which i have written thousands of pages – this is being the one person drumming out a syncopated rhythm while the rest of the band is playing a march.

i am remembering all the years of my schooling, the years in the traditional work force during my youth. i always felt on the outside, but the past few years had driven the memory from my mind. Frankly, those i was normally around wanted to buy art or made it themselves. As an artist, i was focused and professional, but typically alone and self-driven. All education, training and help i received had to be sought out on some level. Being in a structured, large business environment – one to which i have adapted with some facility – drives home that my heart beats for different things than a lot of people, my thoughts come in at a different angle, and that the speed and grace of my gait as i walk through this world are not typicalIMG_0213

Also, i am being reminded that this body needs gentle, loving care. Working at home, i could vary my tasks frequently, nap if necessary, basically live as though i were a cat. When my health crashed over the past two years, i became more and more overwhelmed because it all landed on my shoulders, but i never quite surrendered – or at least not for more than a day or two at a time. Mountains were created and then studiously moved teaspoon by teaspoon. While i enjoyed this workflow, but that is not possible at this new job. i have to be able to sit still, focus and learn at high speed. My compassion will be tested, for myself if not others. i can see the pain of back and limb as a failure, as a judgment. But, these limitations are not condemnations of me – they are realities i have to face and to which i must adapt.

Part of that was asking – begging – for help today. i could sense i had reached a limit, and i needed to be gentle with myself. It is also governing my behavior today. Oh, there is so much art i want to make, so many chores that need to get done. For weeks, i have been treating myself with kid gloves when i come home from work – resting, trying to ease my pain, letting myself sleep when i need to regardless of how badly my to-do list stomps around. (It can act like Godzilla, thrashing around, tearing down my plans.) For the first time in my life, i have been fully accepting the messages my body sends me and obeying.

i would love to tell you that the dishes and all the laundry will be done, put a way and the floors swept and scrubbed today, while i still managed to get all the clients’ jobs done and finished the three paintings that i started last week all while airing out the studio and getting it ready to reopen. Oh, how i would adore it if i could confidently say that today will become the pivot upon which my life will turn and everything will be magically stable and glorious. But, if all i can do is sleep, or write, or rest here on the couch like a large drooling lump, curled up with a smaller purring, drooling lump, then that is alright. This is about what my body and spirit need more than my ambitions and dreams.

There are many people that i fail – like my poor realtor who has never had a pristine house to show because i still live here alone, and have to work around both my health and being perpetually exhausted – but today, i am deliberately putting that guilt and shame aside. It flows out of me on my breath.

This is the day for me to be kind to myself.

If i can manage that, then i believe, the rest of those who depend on me will get better results in the end.

And for now, there is really nothing more healing than this moment of contented cuddling.

on happiness…

angelkissesWhen i was very young, struggling with depression beyond my youthful comprehension, i can remember my mother fussing at me.  “You were such a happy baby!  So joyous! You could be fed last and still be happy as a clam.  You were always smiling!  What did you do to yourself?”

At the time, those were hard words to hear, they made me see my sorrow as a character flaw, but during the past few weeks, i have been remembering her admonition and wondering about it.

i have a job.  Soon, it will even start paying me. To sweeten the deal, i get to work with amazing, hilarious, brilliant people. Even though the financial hole i am in is deep and steep-sided, i can start bailing myself out by the middle of July.  Most important of all, i am feeling better. My endurance is better, my body feels stronger, this endless stream of work – which has become something of an unwitting summer ritual for me –  has not yet worn me down.  Most of all, i am being careful to treat myself with kindness and care – if i come home from work exhausted, everything but rest falls away.  i am transitioning from an intense night owl to waking up when i used to go to sleep, and that requires some soft adjustments.  However, there are glorious benefits.  i get to see the sun!  When i wake up without the crushing pain that had dogged me for so many years, i find myself in tears of gratitude.

Miraculously, with my burdens eased, i find myself content.  Peacefully happy.  Granted, there are moments when i panic; anxiety can still make me her plaything. Despair – particularly after reading the news or working on my bills – can attack me and pin me down.  However, i rediscover joy so much faster.  Deep within, this feels like i am returning to exactly that state my mother used to describe – the one who was smiling, entertaining herself, ebullient without reason.  My loud, rowdy laugh bursts out even more frequently than it did before.  And my art, when i can make it, makes that grin even broader.

All i can do is be thankful, and keep treating myself as i would my beloved: with kindness, forgiveness, understanding and gentleness.  My reward for such compassion, it appears, is a return to joy.

 

–written 26 June 2016–

 

poems creeping out

Gratitude21Today, delight burned bright as a sun.

i have rarely been this quiet within my mind – partly caused by the gentle softening of stress and partly because i am truly realizing that writing and art will survive this transition.

During breaks, after i got home, poems kept leaking out, creeping down my sleeves and spilling onto paper. The joy of it, as though it were some secret ecstasy, the greatest gift given to this lost lamb.

It makes me so very excited for tomorrow – when i can write more.

Each dawn brings makes me more confident. Perhaps, soon, i can lay down some of my burdens.  Different tenors of writings have come from me today.  All the despair has vanished, at least for now.

Very quietly, i hope and pray that the mantra that i spoke for so long, ‘i need to save myself and my art,’ will be true.

poem: enough

enough

ENOUGH
with the words of brokenness!

I AM DISSOLVED.

The last lingering strands
of coherency and continuity
tore.

All that was me
floats freely.

The bridge between
what was
and what will be
snapped
like a wishbone,
leaving this wandering mess
of sensation,
dream,
reaction
and memory,
adrift and rudderless.

All ambition withered,
trapped as it was
in the walled, parched garden,
abandoned by Spirit,
starved alongisde
worry and reputation.

Only the language lingered.

The habits of existence
left marks like chains.

The scripts stayed
easy,
cozy,
hard to surrender.

Like ancient blankets
made soft from use,
though threadbare
to the point of translucence –
and completely useless –
familiarity demanded
they not be tossed aside.

Until now –
the need to be free
triumphs
over comfort and safety.

Enough of the language
of judgment and hatred.

On to discover
new vocabularies
of love.

7 may 2016

poem: the miracle

Years ago,
i sat up
fretting,
worrying,
hands red and raw
from wringing them
in nightmares.

Only now,
every single aspect
of my greatest fears –
losing my home,
my reputation,
going bankrupt,
failing my responsibilities,
being so crippled
in both body and mind
that i cannot make art
much less work
at gainful employment –
has become a reality.

i drowned.

But, then the miracle:
people helped me
out of the murky,
muddy,
waters.

This is the reality
of my nightmare,
and yet,
in the stillness
i hear the soft melody
of grateful joy.

7 may 2016