Tag: blog

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?

 

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–

 

beautiful, joyous women

imageFor the first time in quite awhile, i was able to sit down and draw. As i wrote in my last post, i have been having a hard time working up enough focus or heart to make any kind of visual art.  Only a handful of pen and inks and two half finished paintings had come, along with a very small amount of pottery.

imageSo, tonight, after the errands were done and the snow started to fall, i let myself be romanced by the beautiful incorrupt smoothness of good drawing paper.  Once more, as it has so many times the past eighteen months, i was struck by how much joy the fluid ink manifested, particularly given the aching pain still echoing in my emptiness.  Yesterday and today, i have felt a bit like i am coming back to myself, but the process is strange and surreal. Half the time, i feel like i am still completely lost.  The other half, i feel like a mason, laying brick after brick, rebuilding.  “The reconstruction goes slowly, ma’am, but the foundation will be more stable in the end.”

imageAt any rate, as i drew, my spirit lifted.  i realized that there is something for which i need to be more thankful: the gift of joy.  Even when traveling through perilous darkness, i have been able to steal moments of joy, beauty, fleeting seconds of grace. i have held them all in my hands, glowing shards of memory, to light my way in dark places.  Tonight, i got a chance to let my fingertips be a conduit for love and happiness i did not see within my heart at the time.  If such a blessing doesn’t remove the darkness, it will at least warm me through this frozen night.

 

false starts

Over the past month, i wrote at least six blogs, then deleted them or never published them. Dozens of poems hemorrhaged out of me.  With each new one i thought, ‘This will be something i can share with the world,’ only to type it in and be paralyzed by trepidation. As i have moved through these days, i kept wondering about the kind of writing and art i want to share with the world.  Creating beauty can be a raison d’être on its own, but what about the art of change and chaos and loneliness and pain?

theoceanNothing i’m going through right now feels pretty.  Exhaustion and pain have worn me down more than they have in years.  Whatever equilibrium i enjoyed before has been destroyed. 

Unstable, i have been unable to find a new balance.  The most terrifying depression i have experienced in years gripped me to the point of death two weeks ago, and even now, i am having a hard time shaking off its shackles. Except for poetry, art just stopped cold in its tracks.

Unfortunately, i have had spells where i was not making good art for a long stretch, because of mood or physical issues, but to get so low that the desire to make anything at all just tapered off into weariness, that terrified me.  It robbed me of my will to live, because without this engine inside me, creating even when i am asleep, constantly driving me forward, i am absolutely lost.  i searched for my desire like the suffocating for air, but for days that seemed to stretch on forever, i could not bring myself to work. Staring at the half finished painting brought on nothing more than increased sadness and impotence.  i lacked both the strength and focus to bring even the simplest of stories or forms into being.  Sitting at the wheel stained my face with tears more than it did my hands with mud.  Eventually, my imagination grew so disheartened that even inspiration silenced itself.

If you had asked me before this crisis how much of my self-esteem is wound around the art that i make, i would have unwittingly lied. Until this experience, i did not truly know. Even as i turned like a wheel, head and then feet, falling into the pit, i could blame other things for my descent: the realization that my physical pain won’t get better without medical intervention; the epiphany that many things (particularly anxiety and depression) are not actually a matter of my being weak or undisciplined but are caused by my brain’s chemistry and thus also require medical intervention; the understanding that the longer i am paralyzed by these things, the more unlikely it is i will preserve the freedom to keep making art; and the sharp certainty that i will need help from those that love me, whether i want to ask for it or not. 

Maybe those would have been enough to cause the crisis, but what surprised me was that none of these truly depressing facts compromised me half as much as being so broken that i could not do more, or imagine doing more, than scribbling down maudlin poems.

i should not disrespect verse. Without that outlet, i would have been in even worse shape. Certainly, one of my previous depressions would have ended me.  For decades, i have given poetry credit as the saving grace in my life, a true blessing, a refuge into which i can tuck myself until the suffering abates.  This episode of despair, however, taught me that my fundamental needs have grown. i have rooted myself deeply into visual art, into storytelling, into clay. The thought of losing those made my existence completely worthless. Honoring the love and friendship i have been given felt impossible, when all i could see was how much my suffering effects them.   Even the poetry i was writing seemed likely to spread despair like a contagion.

i crashed on the rocks, but didn’t realize i had hit bottom until the next morning. Sunrise surprised me.  i shook with weakness and fear from where i had been.  Climbing out of that hole has taken many days, and i fear i am not finished. My footing keeps giving way, and i fall back into the mire, flopping like a fish trapped on land. Even as i start to make art again, pen and inks, a tiny sculpture, i continue to shake with the nakedness of vulnerability.

Now that i am aware of this newly exposed nerve – and still have all the other problems standing on my neck, trying to force me back down into the muck – i have to find a way to mitigate them. i must discern how to save my life.

But, i get ahead of myself.  i keep fearing for the future when the present is shouting at me.

In this moment, i am still trembling and weak from this spell of sorrow.  Sunlight makes me blink as though i have been blind. The warmth and darkness found under covers or curled up in the couch’s deep corners still feel so much safer, like a shell under which i can hide. When i do move, it is with the uncoordinated awkwardness of a fawn trying out its first steps.

If i manage to think clearly, in those moments of blessed clarity when depression forgets to crush me with is suffocating weight, i feel like even this crisis has changed my relationship with the world.  Only, i have no clue what will manifest from this.  Newness remains formless.  i can sense many of my give-a-damns have irrevocably broken, but lack the internal clarity to see which. My mood remains too fragile to aimlessly poke around the shadowed corners of my psyche; i am afraid what stresses and sorrows might come flying out and completely undo me. 

Nevertheless, without my seeking it out, one possible benefit from this crisis has been laid bare:

i have lost my will and desire to continue this dance of self-hatred.

i am simply too exhausted and my spirit’s too raw to listen to that music any longer.

For years, i have felt i had to be someone that i am not.  i have absorbed so much advice, heard so many suggestions as to how i could be better, and i have believed them. Indeed, i had a long list of my flaws and limitations that i was determined to transcend. i tormented myself trying to become someone who has skills and gifts radically different than the ones with which i was naturally blessed.   i learned bookkeeping, for heaven’s sake!

i am so weary of trying to remake myself; i long to find some way to exist, to thrive, with the talents and flaws that already reside within this skin.  i want to stop pruning myself in a fruitless mission to conform to a shape unnatural to me; instead, i would be wild, find out what can be done with nothing more than sunlight, wind, rain, the seeds already planted in my soul, and the love to let them grow. i want to strengthen my roots as i reach for the sky.

fallingintotheoceanWhen i fight hard enough to think about things clearly, i only see two primary needs in the short term, both of which will help end self-hatred’s waltz: to be kind to myself, kinder than i have been before and more forgiving, and to follow my still, quiet voice. 

Kindness and listening. 

Kindness and internal awareness. 

Kindness shoving a gag in judgment’s screaming maw. 

Earlier, i heard the whisper within, telling me to rest, to write, and here i am.  Perhaps i will even publish this blog.  With such a little spark of progress, hope raises its head out of the mud and takes a deep breath. 

If i give myself the gifts of kindness and deep listening, things might keep getting better. 

Maybe, soon, i will have gained enough strength to rise and start burning with word or image again.

7 february 2016

missing days

It had been my goal to blog every single day remaining in 2015, but i missed two days for no reason other than overwhelm. In eight days, i am going to have an appointment about a hysterectomy and now i’ve discovered there is a serious issue with my hips that has been causing much of my pain walking, sitting, standing and generally moving. i knew i had a problem with my legs, that is what drove me to the doctor because i was desperate with pain and my right leg to stop farting off and not working, but really thought there would be a non-surgical option – “if you just do exercise a, you will get all better.”  Alas, that is not the case. So i will definitely have one, maybe two and possibly even three surgeries this winter.  If it weren’t for friends, i would have fallen into a puddle of self-pity.

Oh, but there have been miracles this holiday season.  For a week, i have help with the chores of life and business, and it has been delightful, but this temporary relief has explained why i struggle so much alone.  Having someone here to see the difficulty i have just standing up and walking much less trying to get serious work done, the pain i am in, my distracted focus, had the unexpected effect of making me understand i can be intensely cruel to myself. Friends have been saying this a lot, commanding me to “Stop insulting my friend this way!” when i go on a tear about how awful or lazy i am. However, it is different when someone sees you 24/7.  So much denial exists when i am alone; i can tell myself that i ought to be able to overcome anything, when i fail it feels like torment.  Looking about the house to see that which i have not finished, those jobs that i cannot manage, i give myself no quarter.  It has only through other, more compassionate eyes, that i can see, ‘Ah, yes, there is a reason for this.’ and ‘Oh, maybe this is not failure so much as a setback.’

In the next few months, i intend to get myself sorted – which, i can’t believe it so i will type it out again, will involve another surgery at least, but probably more than one.  The past twelve months have made me confront the limitations of my body in ways that i don’t particularly enjoy. However, denial has stopped working.  In order to be a fierce, strong woman i have to reclaim some health first.

Still, i cannot complain that much.  This year has been a miracle too. i have learned so much about myself, i have come so far from where i started this journey eight years ago.  The fact that i have gone through this financial and physical crisis without getting self-destructive is remarkable.  However, the biggest lesson needs to come to me in 2016: how to forgive myself for my weakness, how to forgive myself for what i see as failure (by redefining both failure and success?), and most of all, how to regard myself with confidence and treat myself with compassion.

From there, i believe the other things i need – better financial stability, a way to make my art feed me, writing a new story for myself – will fall into place.

As for tonight, the lesson is: i can fuck up and be forgiven. This is really miraculous for me.  Already i had learned that a tremendous amount of physical limitations and emotional chaos could be processed by others and they could still love me, but this kind of subtlety had been suggested but not proven. Yet here it is, proven tonight: i can make thoughtless mistakes, apologize from the heart, and be not only forgiven but still loved.

If another can do that kindness for me, then shouldn’t i aspire to do the same for myself?

without technology’s hum

IMG_0004Since we closed the popup, i have been avoiding technology.  All the social media accounts have lain fallow, i have not even typed in the poetry that is literally gushing from my fingers.  Not content with the solitude of the house, i have been keeping myself walled off in the newly created house-studio, locked inside what had been my livingroom and spare bedroom.

Even the kitchen seems to be too convivial for my needs.  Each time i go to do dishes, i wind up listening to music and singing – which seems at odds with the peace that i am actively seeking.

Sunday, in response to some interpersonal strife, i became truly draconian – unplugging one phone and turning the other off.

i have needed silence. i have needed stillness. However, the silence has not been that quiet – it has been filled with word and image.  My heart felt too heavy (interpersonal strife-wise) to write long prose.  Instead, i focused on pen and ink haiku. As soon as the art began to trickle out again, it turned into a flood.  In forty-eight hours, i have written about twenty standard poems and i had to refill my ink jar three times, i drew so much.  i have made over 30 tiny pen and inks – this form of art feels like a compulsion at this point.  i feel agitated when i am not making art, fully content when i am.

Today, though, i have been forcing myself to work on somewhat unpleasant jobs, taking time away from the flow of creation.  I enjoyed no fewer than six phone calls to the Healthcare Marketplace (five were disconnected midway through), two to local health insurance companies, one to my current health insurance company.  But in the end, i got new health insurance to replace the plan that the old company canceled.  The dog went to the vet – he’s lost over ten pounds! – and got his license for the year.  i got more dishes done, along with the litter, and the laundry is sorted to wash tomorrow.

Practical and necessary jobs were finished.  The weariness i feel is somewhat earned. Yet, even as i type this up, i stare at the bottle and pen.  With all my heart, i want to throw myself into drawing and forget the rest of the world.  Even through the chores of the day, every spare moment i could (including the two hours on hold for various healthcare entities), i drew with pen and ink and wrote these wee poems.

Too many were just for me, expressing my current frustrations, sadness, gratitude, hope, confusion, as well as my dismay at the cruelty and oddness of people, and repeated calls to be stronger within myself.  This art made me feel a bit self-indulgent, but it helped to create. i lost myself in the flow.  Everything else became quiet.

And, now, i am overloaded again – ready to throw myself into the search for silence.

 

on dead mice and personal growth

One of my cats – I suspect Martin – has finally learned how to smite a mouse.  IMG_1225I discovered this yesterday morning, while staggering through the house to get ready for a day in a gallery.

This is particularly exciting for him, because Martin is not necessarily the strongest candidate for cat-mensa I have ever known.  He is, however, beautiful. Ridiculously so. That gets him through a lot.  Also, he sweet and very loving if he trusts you.  You’ll have to take my word on that last statement, since I appear to be the only person he trusts (enough to put ribbons on his head!)

At any rate, I found an entire mouse family that had been brutally shoved across the rainbow bridge.  When I happened upon the scene, Roxi the cat was poking the distorted corpses with a look of horror on her face while Martin ran over to me, started rubbing up against me, purring, awe-inspiring joy beaming up at me through those slightly vacuous golden eyes.

Prime suspect number one.

He does so love the toys that move on their own.

And now for the personal growth part.  Rodent removal has been in every lease I have ever set up as my tenant’s job, but right now I have no renter… so, I had to step up.

He is so proud, beaming down from heaven.
He is so proud, beaming down from heaven.

In previous experiences with such things, my phobias made me dress like I was about to walk on the moon.  I used a broom or long-handled tongs, gloves, glasses, a coat, etc.  This time, even though my aversion was no less strong and I kept apologizing to the wee victims of Martin’s glee, I was able to use the shoveler for my wood stove and a stick – carry them out without protective gear, and put them in the graveyard of dead things (which has not seen a lot of use since my cat Andre the Giant Cat died.)

Necessity, it appears, is the mother of transformation as well as other things.  As I flung the corpses, I thought about how much this actually means – I have conquered a lot of my fears, big and small, and keep making progress on those that stick around.  For the past two weeks, I have been a mess of stress and anxiety, barely able to function, praying that if I can’t feel better at least I’ll learn to fake it more convincingly.  With all my might, I’ve been trying to ooze pain quietly, without the loud and lusty complaints that usually accompany such downturns.  In that kind of distant, observational way in which I notice change in myself, I saw the ability to remove the mice despite my horror and fear as a sign of personal growth.  I am still improving my ability to walk through the world, traveling through both its good parts and its disgusting parts.  Oddly, since I was shaking with the power of the “eeeewww,” I realized the task was vaguely empowering.  I could actually do it, after all, without tears or a full body suit.

Yesterday, after I got to the gallery, the sense of empowerment persisted.  I sent out sixty-one post cards to promote my art. My good mood lasted until this morning, when I awoke from nightmares feeling utterly hopeless.  Like a zombie, motivated not so much by need as an inability to figure out what else to do, I started going through the list of things waiting for my attention: including writing a blog about rodent removal and personal growth.

And, like magic, writing this has made life better.  Halfway through the blog, I felt brave enough to place an ad about the rental. I think I might actually have enough strength now to deliver pottery and run errands before the torrential rains come.

I keep looking for solutions to my loneliness, to my fear, to this outrageous, crippling sense of vulnerability.  Perhaps the only way to really see any progress with such things is to focus on the tiny, small improvements: personal growth, one mouse at a time.

Aw.

IMG_5588I threw seventy-five pounds of clay today – creating chip and dips, salad bowls, knitting bowls and a few other odds and ends.  In the middle of what promised to be my largest bowl, my favorite rib snapped in half.  The bowl tore in half, but that was nothing compared to my dismay at losing this particular rib.

I bought it at Manassas Clay when I was first learning pottery (and really terrible at it.)  This rib moved with me through all the levels of development, until I could throw lovely thin bowls that made my heart sing with delight.

IMG_5589It was at least twelve years old, probably even older.  Given that I used it nearly every day I have thrown, I shouldn’t be complaining that it finally died.  Only, I am.  It’s like losing a small, inanimate friend.  I threw my first pieces without it, two huge salad bowls and then one massive serving bowl, and felt its loss keenly.  I told my students I should have some kind of eulogy for my favorite rib:

You worked well, lovely little bowl rib.  Job well done.  Now I appear to be a good enough potter to get along without you, but darn, I am missing your perfect curves already.  I keep sighing and shaking my head at the senselessness of your loss.  Rest in pieces.

compulsion

(published at 1:30 am, May 13th)

Every once in awhile, I am faced with a compulsion that I cannot deny.  Tonight is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

All I wanted to do was sleep – truly and deeply, that is what I wanted.  Physically I am in misery – migraine and eye problems, compounded by a whole host of other pains that have plagued me today.  However, as I settled into bed, my head hurting too much to sleep, I decided to console myself with the Psalms.  I started to re-read the 46th Psalm with my good eye and that started an avalanche.  I wrote a rosary cycle from lines of the psalm.  Then I remembered many hundreds (part of me wishes I was exaggerating on that, but there are at least a thousand) of poems and meditations and prayers that have been such a huge part of my spiritual life.  And, in a way, I have been shy about sharing the full extent of it here.  (Surprise!  Bet you didn’t see that as shyness since it has been spilling all over the pages!)

At any rate, I don’t want to beat those who are interested in art and the artist’s process alone with my spiritual thoughts and practices. Yet, these poems and prayers are an intimate and vital part of my daily spiritual life. Obviously, they creep into this blog here and there – but I realized tonight, I can do both sides of my life more justice with two blogs.  This one will keep talking about art and the business of making and selling it – and no doubt faith will play a role since it is what gets me through the day – but the other blog will focus on prayers and meditations, including those rosaries that I love so much and never really talk about to anyone else.

So here you go – my other blog.  The first post went out tonight, and within an hour I had twenty more blogs queued up.  I haven’t decided how much I will flood social media with these writings (again with the shyness), but I am sure they will show up.

Oh, and one more thing before I go: a note on capitalization.

see... pretty lowercase asha
see… pretty lowercase asha

I never capitalize my name  – asha fenn – because I like how it looks lower-cased too much.  (Seriously, no more deep thoughts on that one, it just looks prettier.)

However, in a lot of my poems – particularly those when I am in conversation with God or contemplating my place in the universe, I lowercase the “I” – and this is not a mistake.  Indeed, when writing on these subjects I am actively attempting to keep my ego in check and to think about myself differently than usual.  For a long time, while I wandered in the wilderness of my grief, everything was lowercased.  When I publish old poems here, I keep the original punctuation and capitalization – the same will be true on the other blog.  Quite reasonably, I can say that during those times, I felt small and unsure.  But, even now, when I am on my knees in prayer, the lowercase i feels more appropriate.  Feel free to disagree with me, but at least I’m warning you… this is a conscious choice.  Except when I mess up and leave an errant i in an otherwise capitalized essay.

Which happens more than I’d like.

What’s the saying, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most?”

101 blog posts

water2bI just realized, this is my 101st blog entry since I deleted everything and had to start the blog process over again. 101 entries ago, I wrote while still in shock over the years of entries lost.

Now as I type these letters, I find myself laughing.  I wonder what I have written in these 101 blogs.  Never more am I a creature of the moment than with the written word.  Once I start a new project, the old almost disappears from my mind.  Although, I have tried to treat you well with my work.

These past six months have been a real whirlwind for me, hopefully the journey through these blogs entertained you.

Now for the next hundred!  As long as I don’t delete it all again.

For the 101st blog to have some flourish, I will leave you with some poems of gratitude.

the best year ever:

two poems about gratitude:

thank God: