Month: February 2015

What a difference a few days make…

loveI write with a certain trepidation, because this seems too good to be true. Knock on wood for me.

While I certainly don’t want to jinx it – and I continue to suffer from some financially induced panic (doing homework for a small business class and paying the bills and buying groceries, omg! Overload!) – I think that maybe my mood has turned the corner.

If you’ve read this blog at all this winter, well what meager offerings I have been able to post, you will have noticed that I have been suffering somewhat. While I know that the troubles I experience are a result of my own decisions, like choosing to work in the arts rather than embrace the insanity that would come with stifling these impulses, the big ugly unavoidable problem has been my health. Without good insurance, there was nothing I could do but move from crisis to crisis, with small periods of vulnerable stability.

My lungs gave out in a big way over the last week and a half, as well as a few other things (back, dislocated fingers, etc.) Because I had previously had to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars to get maintenance meds per month (which I could not afford) I had been doing without anything to treat my asthma. Until I would get bronchitis. Or pneumonia. Or have an attack so bad that I was passing out. For awhile, I would bankrupt myself to get the meds to keep me alive, but then I would get a bit better, and not be able to justify bankrupting myself again the next month when I could technically breathe. I cannot express how much of the debt I carry is because of medical expenses – one month’s massive need making me have to charge other things like food or being charged themselves. It has been a vicious cycle.

At the beginning of the year, I found out that my cheap but terrible health insurance was getting canceled. Starting Feb 1st, I signed up for a plan with Maine Community Health Options. It costs me over $150 more a month ($380 A MONTH – another cause of financial panic) and seemed to be not much better than the other plan. Until I went to the doctor on Wednesday.

I found out my new health insurance covers my asthma meds! She gave me refills on all four prescriptions that keep me breathing (along with an extra to kick start my lungs and help with the back and hand) and I only had to pay $60. All of them together would have been at least $400 before. I stood there at the pharmacy, nearly weeping with thanksgiving. And this isn’t a one time deal. I will be able to get these meds as long as I can find that $380 a month. The big expense of that $60 was a rescue inhaler, which I might not even need if the maintenance medications keep coming into my hands.

I have only had these asthma medications for three days (Hosanna in the highest!) and already I feel so much stronger and less overwhelmed. Of course, I still have enough work on my to-do list to have three people doing overtime, and probably always will since I am a sole proprietor/artist. Truthfully, I am really not less broken – I still have asthma, after all – not to mention diabetes, thyroid disease and irritating neurological issues. But, with the medication, I can treat at least this one problem well enough to enjoy the movement of air through my lungs rather than wanting to cry with each breath’s pain.

A small thing, really, but something so delightful it is hard to explain its full impact.

The effects of this blessing spill over into evdancingtreeoflifeerything, too. Today, running errands, I was able to spend money on groceries (AARRGG!!! The Spending Money Guilt!!!) and lug them to my car without the help of a friend. She got to go home and sleep before her night’s work! The blessing expands out into the world.

Even the financial stress seems solvable on some level, because if I can breathe without it taking all my energy, and get stronger, maybe even treat my endocrine issues better (will insurance pay for that too?!?), then what new avenues have opened up for me? It boggles the mind!

The only thing that jars my mood, unsettling my celebration a bit, has been this thought: what mountains could I have moved if I had the right to healthcare? How much better off would my business be if I hadn’t had to struggle for breath during these last six years? How many other people cannot afford maintenance medication for issues like diabetes or asthma, and wind up lurching from crisis to crisis. Now my health insurance is still bare-bones. If I have a major crisis – an accident, get some life-threatening disease – I will absolutely financially implode (high deductable! lots of things still not covered!). Ah, but I do not want to dwell on the negatives and the injustice of healthcare in the US right now. I am deep in a state of (anxious) gratitude.

I want to tell you that being able to breathe deeply, to feel air fill all the functioning areas of my lungs without labor, to be able to hold it for just an instant without coughing, to release that breath without searing pain – this is JOY. This is a blessing. This is something marvelous – and this alone has helped to conquer despair.

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.

 

Jesus and $10,000,000

movetomyheart  thisboldfiercemadness It started two days ago with a varmint. Something is in the wall upstairs and in order to make life easier on my tenant (for i am aware of how much sleep deprivation sucks,) i bought things to capture or smite said creature. Alas, yesterday i got home from the errand too late to do anything with the supplies.  However, i awoke with determination today.  Sadly, following the recommendation to put the trap in the basement (the most likely place the critter got in) meant i had to shovel a path to the basement door.

lovelostAnd that is when my back started to be unhappy. Three shifts between shoveling and then laying on a heating pad with one break to go to the bank and i was done. It took all my strength to get to the couch – going the extra four feet to the bed was out of the question. i realized i wasn’t going to be writing when i had left my pen on the table at the wrong end of the couch and could not get myself up to retrieve it. Back onto the heating pad i slumped, when almost immediately a neighbor called. The phone chasinglovewas just out of reach and my attempts at psychokinesis were still a disappointing fail. valentinesdancerMy cell phone (which cannot hold a call at home, but can text) was beside me, so i texted her – she said we could talk tomorrow – at which point the dogs went insane. Barking, growling, racing through the house, dancing.  “OHMYGOD!”  They kept barking “SOMEONEISHERE!”

i don’t care if someone is here, i texted to my neighbor and a friend with whom i was also messaging, it could be Jesus with $10,000,000 and i still can’t answer. i just can’t get up.

Don’t worry, came the response, Jesus would just shove what he could under the door and come back tomorrow.angelandspirit

dancewithspiriti found myself grateful for friends, for having a sense of humor when i can’t quite manage standing, for the snow that was coming so i wouldn’t feel guilty about going nowhere tomorrow so i can be gentle to my still screaming back. About an hour ago, i had to push myself to get the dishes done in case we lose power in the blizzard they keep predicting to hit.

Yet, physical complaints could not dent my joy. Today was a lovely day. i wound up getting a tremendous blessing. In the middle of this irritation, while moving from heating pad to cool, from prone to sitting up, i made some lovely art. It is Valentine’s day and i thought to make images of love – not love of a person specifically, for that is not my situation, but love in general, love that was lost but still lingers, dancing with Spirit, or alone, but filled with the rhythm of love. Even in this cobbling situation, i could at least draw dance. And that made me happy.

Just a reminder about yesterday’s blessings, if you missed it on my twitter, facebook, linkedin or Google+ feeds.  Any purchase ($10 or more) on my online store is 20% off with the coupon code HUZZAH! to celebrate getting credit card processing set up independent of paypal!  Woo Hoo!  If i got too mopey when i couldn’t sit up and draw, all i had to do was think about that… and huzzah! If you want one of today’s pen and inks before i get a chance to put them on the store, just email me at asha@ashafenn.com

Now i think i have the strength to make it to bed.

pecha kucha redux

Well, if the weather is our friend, the Bucksport Pecha Kucha will be this coming Thursday (now nearly tomorrow) at the Alamo.

i should be practicing tonight, but a migraine laid me low for a few hours and still has not left me. (Why do they tend to come after an asthma attack?) When even the still, silent darkness got to be too painful, i decided to make myself useful since i was just as wretched resting. So, i have been doing a job that does not require much in the way of thought: putting more poems on the online store. The poems are already written and recorded – i just have to listen to them (my brain is not working well enough to remember what i wrote!), do the tags/keywords and create the product. Really, this is something half my brain can do, which is good because that’s about all that’s functioning right now.

Only, these poems have been soothing me. Mailboxes – written sometime in the past six years – could just as well have poured from my pen today. Losing cohesion reminds me that no matter how stressed and insecure this moment feels, i have fallen apart before and found a way to put myself back together. Love poem to sleep made the thought of rest and dreams, even while alone in my bed, titillate.

i am not quite halfway through this process and i have 160 poems already available. i can feel productive even while wondering if my brain will actually explode within my skull, or if it will take my skull with it into the room.

However, the real miracle is that these poems remind me who i am. In my pecha kucha presentation (titled Recreation) i will be talking about (SPOILER!) transformation on a personal and community level. This subject is immediate for me – and visceral.  The risk and change in my life over the past couple of months has been intense.

whispersThese poems have been reminding me who i am, down in my depths. When i work, the ego dissolves: i become nothing more than the words, the lines of the poem, the forms and stories. In those moments, the universe aligns and all is well. My burdens find me quickly enough when i step away from what i do – stress can overwhelm me when i cannot work. If i deviate from art long enough, i forget who i am. i become the stress, the vulnerability, the financial stupidity, the isolation. The fact that i live on a razor’s edge, like every other artist i know, because i have chosen to pursue these dreams, can feel like a condemnation of my being. Yet, when i pick up the pen, or like tonight, when i drench myself in what i have already done, i am soothed. Granted, there are things i would reword now. The chronic editor could always change something. But, they are proof of my passion.  This art pours out of me: thousands of poems, several novels, at least two dozen short stories, God knows how many pots – thousands  both large and small by now, hundreds of drawings and paintings.

i can forget that i have created much, and it has been wonderful. Tonight, i am using the realization that i am not as useless as this migraine makes me feel to inflate my heart. Let it fill me up.  Let it give me courage and hope!

Pecha Kucha

01232015_af_letloveandjoywinAfter a rough start, today became consumed by car shopping and going over my presentation for tomorrow’s pecha kucha. (Now today’s pecha kucha, i suppose.  Winter has made me an incorrigible night owl again.)

i am fascinated to see what tomorrow will bring; i can’t wait to hear the other presentations.

Hopefully, the weather will not turn against us unexpectedly and the roads will be wonderful by the time we are all going to the Alamo in Bucksport.  So far, all are optimistic.

i will write more when i am not completely consumed by the words i will be uttering tomorrow.  They barely allowed another chapter of the book i am writing to puddle out of me this morning.

Although, i suppose i can remark on one accomplishment for which i am grateful: my online store has 568 different choices for you.  Paintings, prints, original pen and inks, greeting cards, bookmarks and .mp3 files – all await for purchase.  My data entry marathon nears its end… only 100 more poems or so.

See you tomorrow!

offline/online

In a flurry of activity,  i have lost track of time.  It took me by surprise today to see it had been well over a week since i last posted, and that i’ve barely tweeted or shared a status on facebook or google or instagram in even longer.

Nonetheless, it feels like i have been online every waking moment.  When i saw how long it had been between blog entries, it shocked me.  My computer’s keyboard is rapidly losing its letters from my typing.  dancerwithinkspotsi have been working on poetry, writing more chapters of the novel, but most of the time in front of the computer has been spent being a serious, determined business woman.

i set myself with an enormous task and have been slowly, meticulously, determinedly throwing hours at it.

It had been my goal to get my web-store online and buffed up by the end of January.  Pursuant to that end, i have added about 450 items (i should hit the 500 mark before i go to bed.)  This was truly an epic labor.  nowordsNetflix became my friend, keeping me company while i uploaded image after image.

Please, check it out.  Affordable luxuries (spoken word poetry and prose for $.99 a piece, or even less if you buy a whole collection, $9 pen and ink originals) sit beside 11×14 matted prints ($25), larger pen and ink uniques ($45-$80) and original paintings (they can be in the hundreds.)

I look forward to feedback.  I adore hearing about where people put my prints and paintings.  One of my favorite stories wdancerwithasweetsmileas from a customer who used this print as a template to redesign her whole kitchen.

The process is not complete – and at the rate i am producing pen and inks alone (and, oh, the flood of poems!) the store promises to have new stock on a nearly continual basis. Today i uploaded over 40 items alone – there are still over a hundred poems, at least two dozen bookmarks and close to fifty prints waiting in the queue to get inputted.

Maybe i will get the bookmarks done tonight.   dancingoutyourheartThat might lull me sleep with that contented feeling of “job well done.”  Or, at least, just wear me down enough to get several solid hours of rest.

In the middle of this saga, i have stolen time to work on the pecha kucha presentation (this THURSDAY at 5:30 pm!), search for a new car (as much as one can online) and use every spare moment to make art. Oh, how i have been overflowing with story and poem.  The time spent doing data entry has felt a touch more frustrating because of the other things that want to work their way out of me.

falling copyWinters can make me go a little crazy, i think.  The isolation either fuels the art or has me spin round in circles, so overwhelmed with what i want to do that i cannot focus on one thing.

Rather than spin aimlessly, i forced myself to focus on what i knew needed to be done.  And someday, i’ll feel like i’ve caught up with at least the data entry on my store.

Catching up on everything seems like a wild, crazy dream.  Plus, even if i did look about me to find everything done, i’d just dream up something new and instantly be behind again.