Tag: happiness

gratitude

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

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

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

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

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.

poem: sunlight warms me

Sunlight warms me
until my resistance
melts away.

i am enough
in this moment.

After years of resistance
all struggle dissolves.

My spirit has found
some lovely courage,
tucked inside a box,
hidden in the quiet corners
within my skin.

It tastes sweet;
it fills me
with hope.

For days,
a broken heart
kept me
from putting
pen to page –
but grief and brokenness
have had their time.

i am smiling,
ready to shine,
filled with the promise
of better days.

10 april 2016

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.

 

 

feeling like an artist

IMG_2515When i make art, i do not necessarily feel like an artist.  i feel like a lucky fool who is getting another chance to do what delights her.  Indeed, during this year of relative hardship, i have had very few moments when i felt like an artist.  Lots where i felt like a mess, or a sales woman, or a failure.  But, few where i felt empowered by what i have created.

This past weekend, i received six of my pieces of art back, professionally framed, and that made my heart soar. Then i put 66 small pen and inks and 10 large ones in mats and bags, which elevated my spirit further.  Saturday, i participated in the Bucksport Art Festival and for the first time this year, got a chance to see a huge amount of people react to my artwork.

And that made me feel like an artist.  More, it made me feel like hope is something more than a delusion.

stealing time

A thief again,
i have been stealing
from my obligations
to other people
and giving time
to myself.

i hide away,contentment_alt
turn everything off
but the sweet stilling music.

Guilty like Robin Hood,
i steal from those tasks
that gobble up days in a mouthful
and give a few intimate hours
to mold a figure in clay,
to let these words
flow across the page.

Reality struck me like a blow
last Tuesday –
the ten thousand chores
on a dozen to-do lists before me
will never go away.
One task accomplished,
three rise in its place.
Requests and demands
will always come
like moths to a flame,
the light of energy and ability
being irresistible.

i have to learn to say no.

Even better,
i must learn to state
“not now”
with singular clarity and purpose.

In my heart, i begin to believe
that i am fully valuable,
deserving of peace and art.
Even without that justification,
the results are profound:
after a few quiet hours,
i feel restored.

Even the mountains of toil
for the benefit of others
do not feel as heavy
with ink staining my hands.

What a difference a few days make…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mess from Chaos

I have not been dealing well with the chaos of my environment. Mess I can handle, in abundance, but I have to have some semblance of mental order if not physical.  However,  both my home and my studio have been utterly uprooted. The longer this went on, the more agitated I have felt.  It started with moving shelves in the downstairs in the studio. Trying very hard to put things into order seems to increase the upheaval.

Of the many difficult choices I have made lately, closing my studio for the winter was oneDSCN5426 of the hardest.  I love that space.  The happiest I have ever been in my life has been within those four walls, making art.  Although, “closing” really is the wrong word. It is not like I am surrendering my business or the making of art.  However, if this winter is even half as bad as the last one, I will not be able to heat both buildings.  With luck, there will be a lot of heating through kiln this winter – for I should be able to throw and sculpt during the days after the kiln has run and on the days where it is simply warm enough to work in the space.

Between now and when it is becomes too cold to work, I want to get as much throwing done as possible around my other obligations.  I feel a great pressure to get as much done as possible before the weather turns completely. As much as I dislike the logic of this decision, I still believe that choosing to heat one building seems to be the wisest choice.  It gives me the best chance to keep being productive.

Finances are not my only reason. I have been experiencing greater problems managing stairs.  Some days, I feel like I can climb mountains, others I am falling and staggering and not able to walk with any kind of grace at all.  The unpredictability irritates me.  Fatigue has not gotten better, either.  I am forcing myself to work, having to pick what I do depending on how my mind and body are fairing in any given moment.

To help combat this, some friends moved my painting supplies and easels and some furniture from the upstairs of the studio to the house.  The paints and glazes and clay cannot freeze, so they would have had to move anyway.  However, easels and brushes and canvases are not returning to the studio. My ability to make it upstairs is simply too unreliable.  I am hoping that having the tools of my craft here, in the house, I will be able to make art even on my worst days.  patienceCertainly it will take some of the risk out of winter – I will not have to travel over ice and snow.

Tonight, I am tired and sore but I had to write this out before I went to sleep.  It has only been with the help of my friends that I am back into what passes for a normal mess from that painful chaos.  I am so ridiculously grateful to them – they were able to do this work, to help me.  Their kindness makes me want to sing!

With such good friends, I think that I will be able to get through what comes.

poem: the thief

10614261_289799811205071_4508236065730935590_ni laugh loudly.

i have been told
my laugh bears
the dulcet tones
of a braying donkey.
It explodes out of me –
i become so full
with sudden joy
at whatever tickled me,
that i forget
all the struggle.

This is a salvation.

i can lose myself
in the delight
of a beautiful day,
or the clay flowing
through my fingers,
or the majestic dance
of ink across a page,
or the unexpected delight
of a quietly spoken joke.

Subtlety is not my strong suit.
i cannot keep things hidden well.
Compartmentalization can be done,
but at a high cost
in energy and spirit.

Alas, this means that darkness,
when it grabs hold of me,
also enjoys my full attention.
It dominates and crushes
until i can divert my attention,
until i find some blessed distraction.

So i steal what joy i can
particularly on days
drenched in the blues.
I seek out sunshine,
rainbows,
fascination
and smiles.

Like a shameless thief,
i rob from pain,
cramming laughter, flow and celebration
into my experience.

26 august 2014

The first good day in so long…

studio1_8162014I woke up today at 7:30 am and emerged from bed without massive pain or weakness.  Darwin was willing to go for a walk with me – his normal reticence to have me go long distances had subsided. (The dog has watched me fall one too many times.)

I was able to move through some other issues – advertised the rooms I have for DSCN5425rent, got flyers printed for Lessons for Luddites, and generally started creeping forward a bit.  Movement was such a blessing after this time of suffering.

By 9:30, I opened up the studio.  Instead of launching into throwing immediately, I started a project that was suggested to me in the spring: I moved some shelves around in the studio to create more room. 10559691_285107358340983_3120328998300752607_n Thankfully, they were all on wheels, so the job wasn’t too onerous.  Still, dusty job and a lot of effort for me right now.

The whole time I worked, I felt like life was more possible, as though this might work out.  There is something very satisfying about getting space in order.  I started daydreaming:  maybe I will be able to pay my bills, perhaps I will be able to heat my house this winter after all.

Before I left for the day, I threw six lovely bowls – at least four of which are for the Blue Heron in Bangor, Maine.  And I kept feeling happy and joyous, right up until I stopped creating.  Suddenly the pain caught up with me, like I was tackled down to the ground.  As I brought in the signs, I realized some checks I was expecting haven’t yet arrived – and won’t be for nearly what I had hoped – and suddenly, anxiety and loneliness began to howl through me again.

Something happens to me when the art ends – I more vulnerable to any form of distress.  Left to myself, I have a huge amount of free floating anxiety and depression rattling around in my brain.  Loneliness – as a friend told me the other day – can become quite an existential problem.  I have to agree.

Still, I am trying to hold the demons at bay by remembering: this was such a good day.  The first good day in so long.