Tag: frustration

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

i ask again

poem: writing’s work

Months ago,
something terrifying happened:
writing became hard.

Having word follow word
no longer felt effortless.
The flow of story
would wash over me,
not with the glorious
outpouring
of a waterfall,
but like rapids –
filled with bumps and turns
and inconsistent quality
and speed.

Letters smashed artlessly
across the page.
i think they knew
i had lost faith in them.

My words must have known
that my fear
had left too many works
utterly forsaken –
story and novel
stillborn
in boxes and harddrives.

So, they moved back,
away from my greedy hands.

They became coy,
hard to follow,
even harder to press down
onto the page.

They refused to cooperate
until i promised
to do better
by them.

Tonight, line follows line,
a marvelous orgy of poem
that might be a monument
to horrible, self-absorbed drivel.

i cannot judge,
because everything i do
feels woefully inadequate –
but, my heart
has begun to beat again
just because
of this glorious
outpouring.

During a pause
in this miracle,
i open up my hands,
palms heavenward,
and sing thanksgivings
that the river
has begun flowing
again.

22 november 2015

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.

Dismissed at a cooperative

Well, today’s blog was just handed to me. A woman came in, wanting to apply to this cooperative next year.  I told her how the jurying in process went for me last year, then began searching for some applications (telling her that I didn’t fill out mine until the day of jurying.)  While I went through a binder of paperwork, she waved her hand in my general direction and proudly told her friend (as though I weren’t standing right there, binder in hand) that I had to be a consignor or somethingtimchin_may2014_0044Her tone was so dismissive, as though my being a full time artist, or a member of this cooperative, could not be remotely possible.  She judged me solely my physical appearance – and seemed absolutely shocked when I asked why she would say that.

She became flustered, stammering, “Well, I don’t know anything about cooperatives.” However, she admitted to being in one a few moments later, using the information to cut me off when I tried to explain our levels of membership and consignorship.  She kept talking about me to her friend as though I were deaf or stupid.  It wasn’t until much later that she thought to ask what I make and how my sales have been.  To the latter, I answered honestly, even though it made her seem even more dismissive.  I wonder if my lack of sales at this particular venue made her comments throw me a little more than they would normally.  Just like I wondered if she would have treated me more like an equal, raised her eyebrows with a little less sadness, if the printer had not jammed while her receipt came out?

But, what surprised me most is that I called her on her assumptions.  Instead of just sitting here, wondering why she thought to define me so completely, I asked her why she spoke those words.  Rather than worry that I might look unprofessional in my dress and jacket, or that she is judging me because I am as round and soft as one of my Buddhas, or because I had days worth of sales receipts spooled out in front of me when she arrived, trying to update the calendar with neglected sales totals, I asked her why, specifically, she insisted I couldn’t be a member.

There is nothing wrong with being a consignor. In retrospect, that would have been the much smarter choice for me this year, but what, in specific, screamed to her that I could not possibly be a member here?  I never did get an answer, just an increasingly awkward social interaction.

Her work is awesome, I have seen it at the aforementioned other cooperative.  I sincerely hope she gets juried in.  Having her work here will be good for the store.

And, I am oddly thankful to her.  She taught me something about myself this morning.  Even with all the meditation and the prayer, I have grown impatient with people who prejudge me. Like Harlan Ellison, I cannot stand being laughed at.  Countless flaws dwell within me, I know, but I am not a bad artist, nor am I unprofessional, nor am I lazy, nor am I dimwitted.  I do not deserve being made fun of nor dismissed out of hand.  Thankfully, I no longer suffer foolishness lightly – particularly when I am the fool – and I am apparently willing to challenge it when it wanders out of someone else’s mouth.  dishes

So, I’m not as nice as I was yesterday, but I have discovered that when I broke down and asked her why she judged me lacking, she could neither define or defend her assessment.  All she managed was that short dishonest stammer.  After they left, and I fixed the register’s printer, I stood in front of my art for a minute.  I reminded myself that each piece was made with my two hands.  The serve as proof of my joy, strength and courage.  Even if my dress and jacket look bad, or my hair is curling more wildly than usual, or the random blemishes on my face deny my 44 years on this earth, or my focus on the missing sales totals made me seem less effervescent than usual, I am still a good potter and have art coming out of me, in tiny beads of word and image, like some kind of blessed sweat.

disappointment

brokenpotsMy body did not want to cooperate with any of my plans today.

Meditation group wound up being canceled – I could not open the studio until nearly 4 pm.  Of the three jobs I had today: finish glazing, load the kiln, and teach my new student, I think only the latter went well.  The pots to the side, a lovely mug and chip and dip, slid out of my hands as I tried to put them on the shelf.  It can be so desperately frustrating.  Some days, my hands work beautifully, I can throw and create art and everything is wonderful.  Days like today, though, not so much.  I did manage to throw three bowls for my student, and as she continued throwing on her own, I loaded and started the kiln.  But each job took much more focus than I expected.  By the time I finished, I was absolutely exhausted.

For the past hour, I have been daydreaming a story, knowing I should do the dishes and work on the house, but I cannot even muster the focus to put pen to paper.

All day, I kept myself from getting too discouraged by reminding myself that tomorrow might be better.  Tomorrow, I might be able to throw.  Tomorrow, I might have the time and presence of mind to write.  Tomorrow might be better, if I am able to rest tonight.

stop working so hard!

In the past two days, I have had no fewer than five people tell me that I really need to stop working so hard.  As I listened to what they were saying, I grew disquieted because I didn’t know how to respond.  On one level, a lot of the work I do brings me great joy. Every once in awhile, it feeds me, which is another source of happiness. Sometimes, it even pays the bills. At best, balancing my health and my work load is a difficult dance, but one that I must undertake.  On the other hand, part of the reason I am so exhausted and stressed has come from trying to get the house ready for market, and if we focus on that chore in isolation, I would really like to stop working so hard.

The house-mess has been going at a glacial pace, too.  By the time I am done in the studio or with the errands related to my art (May being a particularly work-heavy month, getting work ready for the rush of summer) I have very little energy and strength left over.  Taking trips through the past, which is really what I’m doing as I sort through things, can be emotionally taxing, not to mention physically so.  The reordering and purging of the house cannot be done fast enough, to be perfectly honest.  It makes me both impatient and grumpy.  Soon, with luck, my attitude will change.  The kitchen is nearly done, and if it’s not a deluge of rain next Saturday I’ll have a yard sale to get rid of lot of stuff.

But, for now, the only way I could respond to the request this morning that I slow down and not work so hard was to take a couple of hours this afternoon to quietly write.  As I scribbled the words down and then even more when I opened up the computer to start typing them in, I felt unbelievably grateful.  This gets to be part of my work – something I enjoy so much that it’s indecent.  The joy in these keys renders my frustration over the rest impotent.

And i will stay that way until i get off work tonight and have to resume the struggle with the kitchen.

ow

Last Saturday, I hurt my back.  For the past few days, I managed to either ignore the pain or work through it.  Unfortunately, denial did not endure forever.  Last night, I barely managed to function as a human being – I was reduced to tears loading the kiln – and today I have not wanted to push it too far. Standing in the studio, I looked at the filthy floor so desperately in need of cleaning, the list of things that need to be thrown immediately, the other kiln that needs to be loaded. I knew better than to attempt any of it, lest I be in this state for many more days. So, after I did what I absolutely had to – cleaning the work table for tonight’s event – I came upstairs to write.

As soon as I could coax my back into a more comfortable position, the world became a better place.  The book is treating me well, flowing quickly, and I am grateful.  The only catch has been my frustration over not doing what I feel like I should be doing. Shoulds and oughts can really ruin a moment if I let them. My sense of responsibility carries a vicious whip. This seems like a cheat, really, to be writing instead of throwing.  In a sense, this is a study in patience: I have to hold myself back so I will not make my pain worse.  On another level it feels totally hedonistic, because I want to keep going with this story.

Mostly, I’m grateful that my life is structured so that I can redirect my impulse to create into what I can do at a given moment.  I can sit on the couch and throw myself into poetry, this story, and the brainstorming that will become the next story.  I am blessed and joyous…  as long as I don’t try to lift anything terribly heavy, move sharply or stand for too long.

Pieces of Loneliness – Job

Another chapter from Pieces of Loneliness

Job

Suffering in silence has never been my forte.  Of course, I have managed it a few times when no one was around to hear my complaining, but give me someone within earshot and the complaints will flow forth from me faster than they can run away.  Thankfully I learned to put pen to paper and thus expand the audience for my sorrows.  It simultaneously saved the few friends I have by spreading the burden to an inanimate object and keeping the worst, most judgmental of my whining in print.

If I am not a descendent of Job, I should be.  Although I have to say, my suffering is not as profound as his.  One cannot lose children one never had.  And, my body is blessedly free of boils, for which I give thanks.  But, a common thread between my suffering and his remains.  We both remain steadfast that this pain is undeserved.  When I read the book of Job, I was most struck by how alone he felt.  Granted, he had suffered terrible losses and was steeped on mourning, but the self-rightousness of his friends made him feel utterly alone.  I know the feeling.  Platitudes and rejection have met many of my darkest moments.

Suffering in itself brings on a sense of isolation.  Being confronted with all the ways in which the pain is deserved makes it worse.

Still, though, I can comfort myself with the realization that my suffering is not as terrible as it could be.  I have a home.  Most of the time, I have enough to eat.  My solitude does not wound me as it might someone else, for I live with myself well.  Yet, even as I write these words, the issues that weigh heavily on my heart shift themselves, making me doubt the wild faith I usually have in my purpose.  Magical thinking, delusional faith – whatever you would call it – usually makes my movement through this world fairly certain.  I have a Calling.  I have experienced miracles that led me to believe that I have a vocation.  Not just that I write because my own internal drives make me, but that the whole pull of creativity is what I should be doing.

But that journey – to do what I have felt called to do – has been complicated.  Perhaps I misunderstood the divine encouragement that came my way.  It could be that I thought “write” actually meant the broader mandate to “create.”  Or, I could be suffering the reversals that any artist ought to expect.  Unfortunately, I lack the confidence to know which is true.  I could have careened off the path so many times – in fact, I have – perhaps whatever divine sanction I had was forfeit.

Ah, I am not a true Job.  I am always too ready to blame myself for my situation.  From my personal failings to the lack of talent I perceive in myself, I am constantly committing the sin of hopelessness.  As much as I can believe in my purpose, I continually doubt that I possess the strength, talent and wisdom to pull it off.  These reversals chisel away at my heart.  I grow despondent and withdraw.  The time that I ought to use to dig myself out of my problems winds up being spent crying and whining.

I wonder what Job did when his troubles started. By the time he was boil covered and homeless, he knew that there was nothing he could do to fix is life but in the beginning, when it was his livestock and livelihood, did he scramble to fix things?  Did he beg his neighbor for a loan of some sheep?  Did he try to sell off some of his land?  Did he start grumbling to God then?

I do not know of a single person who is doing well right now.  There are millions, probably billions, of people who have problems graver and more intractable than my own.  The things I whine about – loneliness, insecurity, instability – none of them are as terrible as they feel in my heart.  The blessings of my life far outweigh the sorrows.  Just a few weeks ago, I was sick enough I thought I was dying.  During those moments that I danced with death, I felt awesome peace and love.  Forgiveness reigned in my soul.  Absolutely no Jobness dwelt within me when I thought I was leaving this world.

Living is so much harder.  Drowning can seem preferable to treading water endlessly.  The former implies eventual rest; the latter, perpetual exhaustion.

Still, I have been deep in whining since the tiniest shreds of decent health have been coming back to me.  It is almost as though the more capable I am of solving my problems, or at least adapting to whatever blockade has been plopped into my life, the more terrifying and impossible it all seems.  Placing one foot in front of another can wear me down beyond my ability to express – but when all movement was denied to me, I found some measure of peace inside my powerlessness.

This is a time of wild, mind-boggling change.  I have shed a lover, a tenant, my illusions of family.  My dreams have fallen – some breaking into bits, others struggling forward, perpetually transforming.

Cry out like Job.  Why, God, have you cost me so much?  Why do you demand that I move forward alone?  Why do you stay silent, when before you gave me such loving answers?

Then I come to my senses a bit, and realize that the wonder of this ink snaking across the page, creating forms intelligible to other people, the desire and need in our souls to connect with each other, the bliss of having these pages to turn to even in the worst of times –

all of this is my answer.

I have been given such gifts that they will save me.  Even if I lose everything, I have been given this time of words and form and images and creating.

Thank God.

Even in my loneliness, I am no longer complaining.  Despite my utter vulnerability, I feel at peace.  And, I came to this point by listing my complaints and realizing that they were nothing next to my joys.

free will and faith, stubbornness and depression

i lost my temper this morning.  Even though i am a pretty terrible Buddhist/Christian, i do make a serious effort not to say mean things or be snappish and today i failed miserably. If i am honest, i can give you reasons – mitigating factors of feeling miserable, crushingly alone and overwhelmed – but to this studio member, i was bitchy. Either i will be forgiven or not, but the words came out of my mouth and – much worse – in that exact moment they were true.  My problems loomed so massively inside me, my cognitive overload crushed me so badly, that i did not have room to care about anything other than the task at hand.  Once it was done,  i apologized and said i was in a place to care about other things again, but i don’t know if those words did any good. They certainly failed to evoke the same power as the original utterance. As the hours have ticked by, i have been recriminating myself over my vocalized irritation.  Because i am a poet and a navel-gazer in general, this has lead me to start pondering four things: free will, faith, stubbornness and depression.  And you’ll need a paragraph of background to understand why:

For a few months, life has been growing more and more challenging.  In early October, a second neurologist confirmed what the first has thought since October of 2011 – that my nervous system is being slowly digested by my immune system. Alas, that is as far as i can get with a diagnosis because my health insurance won’t cover any tests. Indeed, i have to find a way to pay the nearly $300 bill for the second neurologists’ time, since that was not covered because he’s a specialist. These problems have been around for a couple of years, but they have gotten much worse over the past six months. With some horror, i watch the situation get worse while i frantically try to make it better. The failing of my body includes massive pain, problems walking, unpleasant confusion, issues with manual dexterity (a real blow for me, given the art i make) and constant headaches that have made even the most basic thinking difficult for the past two months. This is not the first time i have struggled with hobbling ill-health, but this time i lack the support structure i used to have.  Not to mention the wonderful (pre-divorce) health insurance that i still dream of fondly.  All in all, being so unstable physically makes me feel much more vulnerable and alone generally. Then, about three weeks ago, i found out (in a failed attempt to get life insurance) that my A1C was terrible.  Either i have lost my genetic fight with diabetes or the stress from running a business with all the health issues has gotten to me. But, again, i cannot afford any actual doctoring for this.  Nor can i afford any prescriptions (which are also not covered by my health insurance) so other than cutting out carbohydrates from my diet i am on my own.  Which, truthfully, gives me some stress.

Which is where the musings on free will, faith, stubbornness and depression all come in.  Being sick is depressing.  Being this vulnerable to financial and physical instability is terrifying and depressing.  Being so unrelentingly single is depressing.  Feeling like i am not enough to get done the things that need to get done is depressing.  Every day that i am not able to throw or paint leaves me agitated, wondering if these problems are permanent, which in turn is depressing.  i wish i could say that i have blind faith that things will get better and be awesome, but i don’t.  Free will can mess me up – both my own and others.  i cannot make people buy pots.  i cannot force them to support my kickstarter.  i can beg for help, but that does not mean i will get it.  i can argue with the insurance company, but they do not have to bend to my will.  i can go on healthcare.gov but that does not mean the site will work. i can develop crushes, but that does not mean i will be going out on a date. Moreover, as i have written before, my own free will matters more than i can say.  Do i choose to eat as well as i can? Do i choose to move my body much as possible, even if it’s just walking, bent like Quasimodo, in circles in my studio? Do i choose to snap at everyone i meet, or do i try to be friendly and kind and act as though nothing is wrong as much as i possibly can? Do i forgive myself when i am bitchy? Do i drag myself out of bed when every cell is screaming in pain?  Do i face my depression down – spitting in its face as i wrote in a haiku the other day – or do i crawl into a hole and cry?  (Both might be the answer to the last question.)

angel_smFaith, when i look at it on days like today, becomes a hard, cold choice rather than an effervescent feeling of belonging or certainty.  i have to make the choice to believe that things will get better even though i know there are no guarantees, even though i am close to tearing my clothes and covering myself with sackcloth and ash.  i have to gird my loins and believe in myself and what i’m doing enough to open the studio and start writing (throwing is way beyond my abilities today.)  I have to be stubborn in my faith, forcing it to stand like a breakwater against the waves of vulnerability and despair.  Even more, i have to do this when everything inside of me – every emotion, every sensation – screams that life is too hard, too unfair and too lonely to bear.  Today, i do not feel faithful; i feel forsaken.  Optimism has drained out of me these past three days of intense physical wretchedness. Friday and yesterday, i barely wrote, only drew a few melancholy sketches and drained myself to nothing working on pottery.  There is no way to be kind to myself when there is so much that i have to do.  Kindness would be huddled in bed with a heating pad, under covers, cuddling with the animals.  Stubbornness requires me to sit here at my work table typing away. Right now, all i can do to keep myself going is to act like what i do, what i am, matters and then ground myself in this determination.

And now we have come the synthesis, how all these four pieces fit together in my heart right now:

i use my free will to stubbornly choose faith to fight off the demon of depression.

And, God, i hope tomorrow is a better day.  The prayer is so fervent i lit three candles for it.