Tag: peace

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: dancing joy

Joy
ran off
like an unfaithful wife.

She giggled
and in her swirling skirts
started dancing
with others.

i couldn’t even be jealous.

It is how she is.

Better to have
a sliver of her kindness
than none at all.

Before,
eventually,
i won her back,
but this time
none
of my awkward swaying
has seduced her.

She refuses to move
into my arms.

So i wait.

i sing songs
while she twirls
with indescribable
beauty and grace
around others,
and i remember
the glorious miracle
of her fingertips
and her laugh.

14 may 2016

poem: how many times

How many times
have i prayed,
a monster of need,
tiny hands grasping,
flabby arms flapping,
begging,
disconsolate,
stewing in hopelessness.

Such desperation
is exhausting,
and it did me no good.

My worst nightmares
have begun to come true
and i cannot rise
to the occasion
higher
than i already stand.

The worst
has begun
coming to pass,
but such losses
dance
with contentment.

The dog’s last breaths
taught me
about gratitude,
about finding
loving kindness
even in agony.

With a teacher like that,
what could i do?

Suddenly,
all my praying stopped.

For if i can find
peace,
calm,
stillness
and joy
coexisting
with this pain,
grief
and failure,
then who am i
to pretend
i know
what i need?

7 may 2016

It has taken days to write this down…

For years, i have struggled with how personal i should allow this blog to get. It is an odd conundrum to have, given my general disposition. In conversation, i have very few boundaries. No personal embarrassment will stop me from making someone laugh.  As a poet, i am a spiritual and emotional exhibitionist. There is very little that i won’t write about, and have a peculiar lack of shame when it comes to flinging my secrets out into the world.  Think of a chimpanzee throwing it’s feces at random passers by, only substitute poems.  In rhyme or blank verse, i will describe any level of transgression or epiphany, love or suffering, without a thought.

If i appall someone with my poetry, after i am done celebrating my aim, i am quick to add: a poem is to a novel what a polaroid picture is to a movie – a tiny snapshot of reality, of Truth (if done well,) but not necessarily something eternal.  Writing can be an exorcism of sorts.  Once the words are down on paper, they do not haunt the heart.  These words may reflect a moment of profound grief or trauma, but that no longer apply to every moment of my existence.  Likewise, much to my shame, that moment of bliss and understanding might have also been swept away with the tide.  So, this temporary nature of the poem has left me feeling like the nakedness of the soul is appropriate.

Only, i have tried to walk a fine line here, in the prose, in this primary blog, between what i want to write about and what i deem appropriate for polite society.

Many people have told me that i already reveal too much and should back off.  Only, this afternoon, while i sit here waiting for glasses, i have no desire to be cagy or polite or wrap a cloak of denial over the situation in which i wallow.  This journey that i will be traveling for the next six months or so will require everything i have – keeping up a facade, or being vague about my problems, will not work.  Or, rather, it will take energy that i do not have to give, so today i will shed my inhibitions and tell you exactly what is going on with me.

Only, now that my defenses lie scattered around me on the floor, i suddenly feel shy. i have noticed that it is cold.  Perhaps i am remembering the loss of yesterday, twenty-four hours martyred to maudlin moaning and cuddling up in bed with animals.

A lot of what plagues my mind i have written about incessantly: a pitiful lack of courage, an over abundance of anxiety bordering on the ridiculous, continuing problems with my health, financial insecurity. These are all still present and strong – although, maybe, i am doing better against the depression/PTSD/anxiety than i thought, because i am still standing. In the parts of this blog focused on my spirituality, i have talked openly about despair and doubt as much as i have communion and joy.   

At least six months go, i reached the level of overwhelm that made coherent thought and action nearly impossible.  Instead of actively swimming through the currents of life, i have been thrashing, choking on the waves and spray, reacting but not able to move in a coordinated and productive manner.  i know this, so i have kept praying and begging and reaching out; my persistence fueled by desperation.  Only, with one tremendous, mind-boggling, life-altering blessing (the discovery that this world is filled with love and kindness) set aside for a moment, the rest of my troubles have continued on undaunted and undiminished.

What has my guts churning today, though, is my health.  i have to get a hysterectomy as my uterus is horribly swollen with tumors (biopsy pending) and even if they are simply fibroids (please! i have been praying ceaselessly on that score) this will be major surgery.  My right leg, because these things happen in groups, has been having problems working.  Indeed, there are times it will not work at all. Thank heavens i had company over Christmas that could move my leg when i was experiencing one of these brown-outs.  Unfortunately, now that company is back home and i am left swatting at my leg in the morning, trying to get it going. Thankfully, my dog, Darwin, seems to have more sense than me and does a laying on of paws to get me started.

At any rate, that too is surgery and my left leg has the same issue but somehow, magically, still works.

The glasses i am waiting for come because my vision has been steadily declining for the past couple of years – while so much of my hair has gone white that i have been turned into a blonde.  My primary concern, though, even before they hysterectomy and the hip surgery and the collapse of my finances (for with these injuries, no wonder my ability to run my small business has been horribly impeded,) is that i am diabetic.  i have to get my blood sugars under control. Three quarters of my problem is that when i am horribly stressed out, my sugars go sky high.  Once the stress abates, A1C gets better. 

But, when will the stress abate?  Sometimes i think that letting my life fall to pieces without a struggle would be less stressful than trying to get myself to change and be strong, fierce and fearless. Surely accepting powerlessness and submitting to the crappy things that have happened like they are some kind of judgment would feel more peaceful than demanding things from life (a living, health) that it seems so unwilling to give.

Yet, of course, here i am, pushing against the wall with all my might and demanding that it magically become a door. One of my friends – for these delightful people have been the awesome blessing that saved my life during the past eight months – keeps syaing that she knows i will be okay because i am the most stubborn cuss she’s met.  Part of me hopes she is right.  However, every time i push forward, doing something that i thought was impossible for me, i feel a quiet wave of pride and a huge inundation of WHAT WAS I THINKING?

#

Twenty four hours have passed since i wrote these words.  Glasses have made my world have sharp, clear edges again.  A seminar about selling your work at trade shows has taught me much.  But mid way through the class, i had an epiphany:

my path must be different than that of my classmates.

Simply put, i do not have the health to do major shows yet (or create the stock i would need) – perhaps in the summer or fall, but even then, by not applying for them now i will not be accepted into them.  Moreover, i am still substantially hampered in what art i can make.  So, i will have to forge my own path – taking advice from everywhere i can, gathering inspiration from the stories of artists who can pay their bills – but finding my own way. 

At least, as my heartbeat quickens with that realization, i can take comfort in the fact that i can finally see clearly again.

8-9 January 2015

the year of friendship

This is the time for reflection, i suppose, a cultural urge to look back on the past year and mull over the good and bad as we try to discipline ourselves into smaller sizes and better behavior.

For once, i have no inclination to do any of that nostalgic reminiscing or self improvement. The past year was what it was, things happened both good and bad, and i am oddly at peace with it all – every moment my heart was broken and all the times hope returned. As for right now, i am keenly aware that i am doing all i can to make my situation better – no resolutions needed.

There was one remarkable aspect about the past twelve months, though, that is worth commenting on. This was the year of friendship. All illusions i harbored about being alone, about being isolated, about being someone who could just disappear from this world without anyone noticing were vanquished in a flood of help and love. i do not think i would have survived without this outpouring. Truly, though, it did more than just get me through one day and into the next, this experience transformed me.

And, i could not be more grateful.

meditation

poem: delicate balance

The engine
of my ambition
has broken down today.

It sits in the sun-drenched field
like an ancient tractor,
unwilling to move.

It has served its time.

All that is left
is this intense need
for quiet and stillness –
i would do nothing today
that would compromise
this delicate balance,
for one hand holds peace
while the other dances
with oncoming winter.

There is no shame
in movement,
for i am normally driven.
i love the days
when wild ebullience
flows through me
like music,
riding bareback
on ink
or paint
or clay.

Ah, but not right now.
In this instant
i am the wind
and the leaf,
completely clear
in my vision
if i don’t wreck my focus
by trying.

30 november 2015

poem: the still, quiet voice

She wanders the desert,
still reeking of alcohol,
unsteady on her feet.

At a volume
found only when
profoundly drunk,
she shouts
what she knows is the truth,
but the barren landscape
is impassive.

It cares not
for any
of her warbling words.

Loneliness paints the horizon,
shades of blue cover the mountains.

A powerlessness pervades
everything,
against which
she stomps her feet
and redoubles her efforts
to vanquish her body’s oscillations,
to stand straight and strong.

She will be heard!

She knows where to go,
she can see what needs
to be done,
if only reason
listens.

7 november 2015

singing prayers

IMG_0018 IMG_0022Last night, flooding had overcome my path.  Roads had closed in Belfast and Searsport, blocking my way home.  Instead of fighting against it, i stayed in Rockland for a while, got myself a decent meal, and then started heading north fairly late.

After all that rain, with my tiny car being buffeted by winds, it felt magical and surreal. The trees were already dancing like headbangers; music was electric in the air. i began to sing.

Song is an important thing to me – i adore music even though i have no real talents in that area.  IMG_0020This time, though, i was able to weave lyric after lyric, a seamless fabric of rhyme and rhythm, for nearly the whole hour home. Thanksgiving, fear, joy, loneliness, hope, stress, it all poured forth from my lips.

When my song finally stopped, i started thinking about the art i made yesterday, many versions of spirit and love.  In the only watercolor, the top right image, this woman holds her heart out to you, spirit flowing from her, dancing joy in her other palm.  As i painted, it made me wonder where the deeper currents of my mood might be going.  Last week, i lost my friend Fawn, next week i get surgery, night before last i had heard about another death that startled me, yet her face didn’t seem to be anguish to me. Much more the pain of change.

The dragonflies were for Fawn and her daughter.  i am gearing up for more dragonfly work.IMG_0019

The woman to the right cradles Spirit, letting it rest its broken wing.

And above to the left i included the last image i made: what a third eye she has!  The sun itself.

This is a terrifying time for me.  I have said this for months: everything is on the cusp of change.  This perpetual standing on the razor’s edge has taken a toll on my feet.  In six days, they will fix my left arm. i am facing a long rehab period while my shoulder heals itself. All of my bearings have been lost: financially, career-wise, emotionally, physically.  At this moment, i have no clue what tomorrow will bring. Indeed, i can dream and work to manifest what i need with the best of them, but none of truly know what the future brings. All i have to do is look at grief pouring over facebook to learn that lesson again.

Yet, in the middle of this, there was music.  The face to the right, just above these words, that gentleness looking at broken Spirit, made me nearly weep with joy.

There is a great parallel for my heart in this situation with my shoulder.  If i work at it, i can convince you that nothing is wrong, my fingers move even though i only sporadically feel them.  i enjoy full mobility and can keep you from seeing the searing pain; only a few movements are guaranteed to induce tears.  Indeed, i can make you laugh telling you stories about unintentionally flashing someone who was in my front yard or about the great lengths i am taking to make sure i can wipe my arse after surgery when my left arm will be all trussed up.

The jokes rarely end, but underneath them, in the quiet of the night, when i alone in my car singing, i realize that i am still completely raw from this summer’s great depression.  i continue to react with shocking intensity and vulnerability.  i am exhausted and raw.  But, then again, it is also i imagine how gently someone would hold the Spirit, catching it so it won’t fall, and then render it in ink.

Perhaps tonight i will sing as well.  Fear and hope, despair and joy all sound better in verse with a sweet melody.

 

Recumbent gratitude

Bear with me, please.  i am typing this on my iPad, because i lack the capacity to hold my arm up any longer. Right now it is supported by the softest of pillows while all three of my animals have curled up around me.  Alas, this means that while i am comforting my aching limbs, the autocorrect on my tablet will probably toy with me mercilessly.

Still, i cannot help quietly rejoicing. i think i might have turned a corner, (i knock on wood as i type) and if i have this is the cause of much celebration and delight.  For several days now, i have been able to work through some ridiculous pain – not without whining, unfortunately – but i have begun to inch forward.  What was impossible now seems uncomfortably intimidating, but within the realm of imagination and hard work.  Instead of trying to move the mountain with a spoon, i now have a spoon and a pick axe!  Improvement!

What has been making the coals of optimism start to glow, though, is the contentment that has started peeking out between the pain and stress.  The ocean of peace had been well hidden for weeks. Indeed, if i had not lost the way to it so many times before, only to rediscover its shores with the glee of an explorer with no short term memory, i would have mourned its loss forever.  Ah, but that is not entirely true.  i had fleeting moments of contact while i was actively creating, but nothing that lasted once the pen was put away.  Otherwise, i had been wandering the parched, dry land of despair and overwhelm.

But, for three days, i have felt peacefulness’ waters splashing around my feet while i drove, while i struggled with irritation and pain, while i tried to dissect the things i must do into subgroups: what must be done NOW, what can wait until tomorrow, what can be sacrificed on the bloody and fantastic altar of sleep…

There are things i have to urgently address.  My life remains in this long, twisting crisis, caught inside transformation and loss like a fly in amber. Despite that, i must attend to urgent commitments.  Galleries must be staffed (case in point, tomorrow i will be at Artspace in Rockland.) This weekend is the garlic festival in Southwest Harbor, and i will be getting help so this can be done without further injury.  (i am excited for the show, not just because of my new garlic dishes, but because the food is so good.)

For the first time since last winter, for no rational reason, i can feel the certainty that “all will be well” taking root in my soul. More than anything, this inexplicable, perceptible  lifting of mood when the burdens upon me remain consistent convinces me that depression has a chemical hold on my brain independent of circumstance.  Right now, the shadow of suffering still lies across my life, but “all will be well” begins to stand against it, growing stronger and starting to bud.  Like an obsessive gardener, i race to this miracle and try to encourage its flowering. i do all i can to create the best environment, including celebrating the small triumphs like today – gallery sitting, then cleaning the kitchen then loading and firing the kiln.

i am in pain, and exhausted, but i feel content.  The sins of the day – junk food and sodas – helped provide the energy i needed. Instead of my normal guilt, i anchor myself in “all will be well” and once more, i can feel the ocean of contentment all around me.

This lends to every thought and dream the light of possibility; it coaxes my stubborn determination back into movement.  Slowly, i have started trying again.  In the past three days i have submitted my art and writing, sought freelance work, researched more galleries and managed to push through so much pain to do what was on my “this must be done TODAY” to-do list.  And i kept myself from becoming undone by the things i could not do, and the mistakes i made, which might have been the greatest kindness of all.

As i type the kiln is firing and the dishwasher is running.  i did that – me – this broken unit.  i found hope, strength and focus that i did not believe existed within me anymore.

Once more, i find myself crying before bed, but this time my heart overflows with thanksgivings.

 

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.