Tag: change

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?

 

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.

shifting heartbeat

A quick moment of joyous celebration!

My taxes are all but done, all the background work done, ready to be filed tonight.  Slowly, i must be becoming an adult, because i actually did it this year without tears or weeping or too much of a desire to drink.

Responses are coming in to the 30 resumes/job applications that i sent out over the past week.  Now, obviously, none of this guarantees me a job, but still it is delightful to experience forward movement. Plus, after this long year of debilitating ill health, to feel strong and able enough to have a regular job feels like a treat in itself.

It’s odd how things turn, how heartbeats shift.  For so long, i had looked at a ‘job’ that wasn’t making art as a defeat, suddenly it is a blessing of the highest order.  i know i will continue to make art, and to write, but being able to pay my bills would be a major boon.

Best of all, for this is where my soul resides, i have been drawing and writing again.  The current story enchants me, the ones that have been stalled for the past year have begun to invade my dreams and thoughts again.

Several times, I have gushed my gratitude at friends saying, “i feel like i’m becoming myself again.”  However, the miracle goes even deeper.  The whole character of the world changed while i was down – it became a place of tremendous kindness and love – and now, i am able to put my weight on those blessings.  i am walking on different ground.  Oh, how that makes me sing, and laugh, and dance as much as these hips allow.

After the taxes are totally finished tonight, i will paint.  i already have the canvas on the easel, waiting for all my stuff done.

 

 

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

Things must change

I am writing this during my last day sitting in an artisans’ cooperative this year; Christmas Eve, 2015.

This marks an end of an era for me. A huge amount of the galleries in which i began this year are either moving, closing (or already closed) and a few others have had sales bad enough i have to make disappointing decisions. Most of my plans for the next twelve months remain purely in the realm of the  hypothetical. What i know i will do is make pen and inks, finish at least one novel, write as many poems as i can coax through me.  Soon, i will have another surgery, and afterward i have to dedicate myself to healing and transcending whatever comes.

Never before has it been so glaringly obvious and desperate: i have to reconceive how i move through my days, even as i acknowledge that my heart beats out art as much as blood. The question remains how to do this.  How do i walk that fine line between financial need and spiritual/sanity needs? As i wrote in a poem posted fairly recently, and the haiku below that i put on twitter, art is a fickle mistress.

Art is a lover
who keeps me chained up tightly
and would let me starve.

Starving is not a viable option for an irrepressible sensualist like myself. Giving up on art, which so many have told me is the most sensible option, also seems to be impossible. Yet, i fight against incredible anxiety and fears. As much art as i create, as much as i deepen my abilities in different mediums, i have been hoxed by this relentless worry. This cannot continue. One or the other has to surrender itself – either i continue making art and become relatively fearless in its dissemination, or i surrender to my fears and live a life painfully diminished.  i do not think i could survive the latter.

So, i have to find a way. There is no other option, really, this long succession of freelance and piecemeal jobs can be the stop gap, the way to keep going, until i find a way to make art consistently pay for bread and butter.  But i must keep my focus on that far off mountain top, where the work that gives me the deepest bliss and aligns my energy with the world so well actually maintains me.

One of the miracles in my life is that this past year has brought a slew of people who believe in me enough to help me get through some terribly difficult times. When i thought i might never throw again, my friends listened to my grief; they celebrated with me when i got back to the wheel.  Gifts of food, money, time, compassion and kindness kept me afloat. As i wrote earlier, this was the year of friendship. Perhaps that is how i can find my courage – to remember that there are people who don’t just want me to succeed but see it as something that will happen, with enough patience, stubbornness and resilience.

So, this blog is a bit of a shout out to the universe at large, steeped with both prayer and intent: help me change things. Help me find a way to make this work with the blessings and limitations i have. i cannot change the basic DNA of my being, so i have to find a path that lets me keep making art AND eat.

Things will change.

Things must change.

i am apparently too stubborn to surrender, so i must find a way to be courageous and maybe even a bit wise.

The whole engine of my heart and imagination manifests this transformation.

i wish you all the best for your coming year – may all people find greater peace, kindness and love in our worlds.

poem: the hammer

The hammer slides in my grip –
its heaviness too punishing
for my wounded wing –
yet, i do not relent.

Down flies the weight,
breaking and smashing,
words shattered until nothingness
is all that remains.

Countless stories told,
none of which
describe who i am,
for everything transforms
with this destruction.
Change is the hammer,
which prevents the past
from taking root again.

i have to be reimagined,
even if every syllable
has to shift and sway.

The act of recreation
has become as holy
as it is necessary.

i swing the hammer
to see who i might become.

23 october 2015

glue the leaves back on

sunflowersThe miniseries Story of Film presents a clip from an early silent film (i can’t remember the title, but the miniseries is great, so find out from them!) in which a child overhears that her sister will die before the trees are bare of leaves, so she goes outside to tie the leaves to the branches, to prevent the inevitable from happening (that might be a direct quote, i can’t remember.)  As i drove through Maine this week, i begged the trees to hang on to their greens. i felt nothing but fear for the coming winter.  Stay on a bit longer, please, or i will start having to take stronger action.

You won’t like it, i pleaded with the forest, if i start stapling those leaves onto your bark.  Or duct tape them down.  This is what hot glue guns are for, isn’t it?

However, time marches on no matter what i want.  This weekend i have to do a ton of paperwork to see where my financial future will lie.  Today, i was able to sell a kiln and a wheel, so i can finally buy fuel oil for the house – something that has been plaguing my mind as we barrel into winter.  It felt like i was cannibalizing my future.  Nevertheless, as sorrowful as it was to see these empty spaces in my studio and to recognize that in the long run it will make production slower, the relief of neither freezing nor starving while i’m incapacitated overshadows all grief. Hopefully, i will sell enough tomorrow that i can start making inroads on my debts.

Wednesday, my shoulder will be fixed. When i look back to see how much this injury has cost me in time and ability, it boggles my mind a bit. Given my precarious health, it can be so easy for me to tip over into wretchedness. i focus so hard on the day to day, keeping myself moving as best i can, that i often fail to realize that i am actually being hoxed by something other than anxiety and pain.  Still, i have every hope that i will come out of this with my arm fully functional. The rehab period will be a challenge, but the thought of not having to deal with pain after i heal gets me a little excited. The thought of being able to use both arms effectively makes me swoon. Even if i have to stand on one leg and do a backflip, i am working to see the bright side of each leaf that falls.

thisismylife_smThe reality is that time keeps marching on, no matter what i want.  My house is for sale, although things are not happening as quickly as i want on that score.  It could be my fault.  Unintentionally, i flashed a woman a couple of weeks ago when she was inspecting my front window in the early morning.  Unsurprisingly, she did not make an offer. i cannot blame her.

From my possessions to my mind, everything has been unsettled.  i don’t want winter to come, yet i long for Spirit to clear a path for me to move forward. This endless waiting on the edge wears me down.  Push-pull.  Hurry up then wait.  Work and then crash. My days move between extremes of wanting change and dreading it.

Still, i see signs that make me smile.  The other night, a moon-bow encircled the nearly full moon and i fantasized that it was a promise of transformation.  Recently, my daydreams have directed themselves into words, and more of them meander onto paper, a hopeful sign that i will get some decent work done while i am physically sidelined.  i have three novels and a collection of poetry to edit while i am one handed. Plus i have work for clients and friends. i have made plans.

Honestly, i am so exhausted that three weeks more or less inert sounds almost delightful – except for what i am sure will be intense pain with my arm strapped to my chest.

Despite myself, and with great caution – because i know that my heart and existence are still in such a precarious place – i continue to build up my reserves of hope.  Maybe it is because i seem to be surviving the changes that have already come. On some level, i have lost so many dreams and hopes that i have gotten practice at reconfiguring my life.  Certainly, the construction of my self-perception has shifted, losing all permanence and intensity.  Perhaps, i am sliding back into magical thinking.  Either way, i’ll take the respite from depression and worry.

IMG_1803So, today, what i focus on is that even though the leaves are turning against my will, i have been able to unpack some sweaters.  Even though i have half the number of kilns and 1/3 fewer wheels, i can still make art in so many ways.  Despite my financial woes, i will soon be stronger, with two functioning arms, and better able to work.

This must mean that my personal seasons are changing, moving from endless days of blues to days of golds and reds.

 

If this blog felt repetitive, i apologize.  Perhaps it is a product of this moving backward and forward, this eagerness and fear.  i race through ground only to be thrown back, so i have to cover it again.  At any rate, by way of apology here is a lovely picture of a cat.

 

the ugly stage

small_4small_7Today is my only day here, in the studio, dedicated to making art, for at least ten days.  i had grand plans – i would throw a huge commission, work with the slab roller to have some small sculptures to fill in the spaces between plates when they are fired, and none of that came true.  Instead, i spent the morning writing – a nebulous bit of prose that i will probably blog fairly soon – and then decided to be kind to my body again. small_6 This is becoming a theme.  Unfortunately, my shoulder (torn rotator cuff) is not getting better without my taking it very easy on that arm, and when i break the rules and do things like throw, or load the car with heavy objects, or try to scrub something, i wind up with days of intense distress and numb fingers.

So, i broke out the next messiest form of art: pastels.  Before i leave for the night, i will be loading a kiln and firing some lovely little garlic plates.

i have not totally wasted the day, no matter how it feels. small_2Still, i am frustrated with my level of productivity.  i don’t seem to be doing anything enough or well.

Yesterday, i did a huge amount of pen and inks while i was at a gallery enjoying the slowness of the day.  Given that i got my first positive response to a job application yesterday, after sending out God knows how many, i found myself drawing with a renewed fervor. i could feel the gun to my head cocking.

i have written about the long goodbye before.  Without doubt, this must be one of the most excruciating devolutions that i’ve ever experienced.  i am going down a steep hill at speed, shedding things as i travel: mysmall_3 house, my studio, my credit rating, my belongings, my sense of self.  For so many years, i have been wildly blessed with the profound knowledge that art is what i’m meant to do – it pours out of me like nothing else – and to have that last illusion stripped from me has been excruciating.  Instead of ripping it off like a band-aid, fate has been slowly twisting it away, molecule by molecule, a closed gallery here, a solitary day in the studio there, a long spell where i could not write because my mind was too chaotic, punctuated with crushing online sales reports. i have moved from a woman confident in her identity as an artist to someone desperately trying not to drown. The blessing of having no attachments, no delusions of self holding me back, does not yet diminish the agony of loss.

small_1When i lost my health, back when i was 28, i saw that as a profound death of self.  Forests were ravaged for the paper needed to work out that loss.  However, in its own way, it was brutal in its speed and efficiency.  My entire life changed on a dime, and kept changing, until i moved up here to Maine and my life began to transform for the better.  Helping, softening the blow, was the fact that marriage gave me some safety.  i had someone who could help pick up the slack, who could keep two people aloft financially.

small_5At the time, i wrote a hundred poems of love and gratitude, knowing what a gift that was.

Now, though the story is different.  There is no one to help around the house.  By the time i am done with a day of work, be it here or sitting in a gallery, i am too exhausted to do anything.  If you read these blogs, you’ll know that they have decreased incredibly in their frequency.  If you paid attention to my artistic output, you would know i have barely fired the kiln in months, and that is not just the shoulder prohibiting me from throwing.  The house i have on the market gives testimony to suffering, obvious to anyone who enters; the kitchen is in danger of becoming an EPA superfund site. Nearly every day, someone gives me advice – many to quit art, but many to pursue this gallery or that store.  Only, I am hoxed by exhaustion, able to follow up on a fraction of those leads.

None of my work, including the art, is getting a quarter of the focus it should because i am constantly struggling to keep my head above water. small_8 This is the heart of the problem when there is not enough strength or energy to meet every obligation: it causes increasing failure.  Like cash, energy is a limited currency – spending it on one thing means it will not be spent on another.  Harsh choices have to be made.  i devolve from someone who thought of herself as an artist, driven by the need to make art, to something different.  The art is still there, struggling, fighting its way out, but i am no longer what i thought i was.  The certainty and sense of purpose has dissolved.

Where there should be confidence and self-reliance, i am flooded with anxiety and depression.  This is a terrible little vortex.  The worse my art sales are, the worse my financial situation gets, the more insecure i feel, the less empowered i am to change things, the more the burdens of health and pain drive me further into despair.  Each part augments the next.  This is not intended as a whine so much as an expression of my current reality.  Moreover, i know deeply that this is my fault.  While i cannot control who buys art, i have made the wrong choices, trusted thsmall_9e wrong people and been generally unwise.

Responsibility falls on my shoulders.  And, whatever solutions there are to be had, will come from me as well. i keep praying, with such wild desperation that i’m sure the Divine is laughing at the melodrama by now, for art to save me. Tremendous and marvelous help has come my way, for which i have written another hundred poems of gratitude, but any lasting fixes will have to be through my own labor – if not through art, then through some other way.

So, i look about me, at this space i will have to leave, at the countless pieces of art i have made, at the words flowing from me and i know this configuration of my life is ending.  It is a goodbye, no matter where i end up or what joys may await me.  i am being taught not to cling to things – especially not how i perceive myself.  This is a lesson which i faced with such resistance, the universe had to treat me like a remedial student.

And, today, all i could feel was gratitude for everything.  These blessings i have experienced were beyond measure.  How many get to enjoy that singular sense of purpose and joy?  I was given this chance to throw myself into creating, day after day, for years on end.  Living in this community has been a wild and amazing blessing.  Finding the quiet and stillness that i have here in Maine transformed me.  So, that is what came out in my pastels – all of the blues became gratitude and dancing.

This thanksgiving is just as tangible and fierce as the drowning.  It keeps me aloft.  Gratitudes have become my own little floaties in the sea of life.  My life might be in the ugly stage, but i know from my art ugliness can lead to great beauty.

 

asha fatigue

Depression has dogged me since i was in the single digits.  Sadly, it has not stopped squatting in my psyche despite learning a lot of ways to use it, distract it and endure it.  One therapist suggested it wasn’t so much clinical depression as situational, but in the end, something happens to brain chemistry.  The depression becomes huge and impassive and unconquerable, unable to be unseated by anyone or anything, and it brings along its gang of friends – insecurity, indecision and isolation.

The last one really wipes the floor with me, in part because of “asha fatigue.” i used to work to convince myself that asha fatigue was a form of paranoia, that either people weren’t actually avoiding me or i hemorrhaged enough pain that the sound of people walking away made sense to me. Didn’t someone tell me that nothing is ever about me?  Also, i seek out quiet when i suffer, trained long and hard that no one else will want to lick my wounds.

And yet, with this bout of difficulty, i have had people admit they are avoiding me.  asha fatigue, it seems, is real.

My despair can be overwhelming, unpleasant, even when i am trying to hide it.  A sense of impotency comes over one confessor, and another just wants to shake me and make me realize how this is all my fault so i need to buck up and stop being morose. Another said that watching the endless stream of cosmic poo befalling me lately, whether self caused or not, made her uncomfortable.  From afar, another says this is all for the good and i will be free from a cursed situation and my own failures.

i hear them speak, voices rich in concern and the tones of friendship, and i watch as their words form a cudgel for isolation to wield.

If you ask me what i want, i suppose, i would love people to realize that though my dreams are lost, i tried with all my might.  And, it would be nice to feel like i am not alone in the world.  However, i admit that emotion is a lie – i am the Pluto or Neptune to a lot of people’s Suns – but i am still functionally on my own.

Plus, i really get it.  i am experiencing pretty intense asha fatigue right now myself.  i would give a small fortune (if i had it) to be out of the stress and despair and loss which imbues my days.  i would wave a magic wand and change who i am.  But instead, i am stuck here thinking about the people i love who have died, the bloody and broken shards of my heart all around me, the struggles ahead of me, and the absolute bleakness coating my vision.

 

**UPDATE**IMG_1919

i have spoken to a few people who suffer from depression since publishing this blog, both on the phone and in person, as well as a couple who don’t have classic depression but have gone through really shitty things.  And they insist it is not actually an asha-specific phenomenon.  It’s simply “depression fatigue” or “suffering fatigue.”  Does it make me a bad person to take some encouragement from that?

hard decisions

the studio 1
a view of the gallery part of my studio

i am selling my house.1523100_10205442122563997_4889260902811902224_o

There, i said it.  The words tumbled out of my fingertips, and hopefully the honesty of my hands can make my mind stop protesting and my heart stop aching.

For two years i have known that i needed to say those words, and mean them, but i have not had the will.  The thought wounds me.  i love this house, the studio that comes with it, the community in which i live, the friends that fill my life here in Maine.

11156367_10205457395985823_7308591026478660484_nThe first time i ever walked into this building, i felt like i had come home.

studio1It was a profound feeling – washing over me with sublime intensity. The house was by no means mine at that point.  The previous owners still lived there, their things covered all the surfaces, their music filled the air.

However, i was home.  This would be my home.  i knew it deep in my soul.

Most glorious of all for me was that it came with a studio, an extra building with two stories, where i could make my art.  In the beginning, it did not look much.  There were no walls, no floor upstairs, the stairs themselves were not really bolted down so they shimmied terrifyingly as you ascended.  It took nearly five years to get the space to where it was a truly functional studio and gallery space.  But, even during those years of transition, i made so much art.

The glory of that, i cannot begin to describe. All i have to do is walk through the front door of the studio, and a smile comes over my face.  In the mornings, i thank it for being there; in the evenings, i lovingly say goodnight and tell the echoing space when i will return. Over and over, people have walked into my gallery – random strangers from all across the country – and they have said the energy of the space is delightful.  It is the energy of the art that has poured out of me like a waterfall.

My animals have found their home here, too.  Darwin, in particular, seems asIMG_1223 comfortably rooted in the space as i am. IMG_0729 copy Both of my marvelous, timid cats have discovered all the best hiding places.  Not to mention, their Very Important Job is to hold down the bed.  Who knows if they will have such tremendous job satisfaction in a new space?  For them, this entire house is familiar and wondrous.

Even though all of us have gone through terrible times within those four walls, sorrow and divorce and struggle, it has done nothing to dent our affection for this environment.

Only, i have reached one of those junctures where being an adult really sucks.  i cannot pretend that everything is alright and that i’ll be able to keep stumbling forward, magically making just enough money to keep things going for another week. i cannot look to another to save me.  While it would be so nice for my default personality to change, so that having to deal with tenants and having to fiercely promote my art wouldn’t be so wildly difficult, i seem to be stuck with who i am. The time has come to accept it and try to work with my strengths rather than keep fumbling, trying to rewire my brain’s faults.  One of my neighbors, remarking on my obsession with art at the expense of important chores like yard maintenance, suggested that some people are not meant to be home owners – and that i was firmly in that group.  When i have the courage to look unflinchingly at myself, i do not think she was wrong.

studio1_8162014Also, there is a practical consideration: this space was designed for a family, for me and my then husband to finally start a family of our own.  To be the habitat of one woman, even though i can fill the walls of both buildings with art, is a waste of this glorious space.  And, as i dissolve the pottery side of the studio over the course of the next ten months, my art will become more portable.  Paintings, pen and inks, poems and fiction can come into being no matter where i end up or what i am doing.studio5

So, now, the big adventure will be finding out what happens next.  i have no clue where i am going or what i will be doing – other than i will be making art.  The more i became convinced over the past couple of months that i had to give up my art to other obligations, like a real job, the more suicidal and depressed i became.  Letters were written; plans made.  Then, Sunday before last, someone else’s anger kicked me out of my despondency like cold water to the face.  The axis of my world shifted until i began making plans on how to live, even without this home i love so much and the full, wonderful life that i have created in Maine.  It is possible… i just have to find a way.  For now, all i really know is that one of the steps, however heavy-hearted it makes me, is to find a new home.

studio_008_02232011This said, until the house sells and i have to face the massive transformations in my life that will cause, i will keep on as i have been.  Running my business, making art at this furious pace like each day at the wheel or easel is my last, looking for freelancing work to keep the utilities on, will continue to form the pattern of my life.  I will keep staggering from week to week, day to day, minute to minute, trying to tread water rather than drown.