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Wow. I had a great post written about constipation, but it lacked context because I never posted the story about a decision I made back in late January. So today's post will be a rough explanation of January's event. Mind you, I did deliver a talk about my Beloved in February, that made me very "seen." It was a great experience and did share deeply, not at all what is described below; but what is described below is a self-indulgent exageration for the sake of keeping me in shame.


You'll have to wait until tomorrow for the constipation piece. Edge of our seats...


January 31st I explained thus:


My fear of being seen, of speaking my mind, of telling my story is deep and wide and it’s all about how people will SEE me. Not at all about how I see me. I want the accolades, but I can’t take the judgements, the pokes, the quizzical silences and non-reactions. Those make me crazy. Those make me crazy. THOSE MAKE ME CRAZY.


So, I only hint at what is inside. I only tell bits and pieces of my story. Then, through time, my confidence builds and more and more of me slips out as I grow in trusting others around me and trusting myself until a point comes when someone or some group of people slap a negative judgement or look silently at one another after I’ve spoken or, or what, or I stop making sense to myself. There, that’s the edge. Eventually I come to a place where I recognize my limited talent for expression. I recognize the edge of my ability to tell my story. So, I stand at the edge, that wall, that precipice where across the way I know is completion and fulfillment and I watch others leap their way across or I see others watching quizzically because they just realized I’m not “all that.” They see from the other side that I am, for all my talk and expression, still not across that chasm.


So, I sit down. I melt down actually. Into a puddle of muck. And I feel utter disgust and disdain and loathing for myself. And I know this will never ever change, this pattern and I will never ever cross the barrier. I can’t possibly know how to. I lay there in my mess while I feel the ridicule and pokes and disdain of others and their disappointment and eventual turning away. And I eventually turn away too and leave myself, that puddle of muck, there at the edge of myself; and I retreat back inside. Back to the beginning of the cycle. Back to playing at life, pretending half my story is enough. Back to cutting off pieces of myself to stay sane. To stay safe, to stay understood or at least accepted. Back to getting away with joyful living because I am invisible and don’t have to feel the edge.


The edges of me are where other people are. I recoil at the edges. Pull them up short. Tuck them under. Pretend they aren’t’ there. Because I am afraid they will get stomped on but more-so, because my edges are crusty and irregular and definitely not pretty. They smell bad too.


I’ve been living in the soft middle part of me. What if I lived at the edge? What if I don’t retreat with apologies or explanations? What if I don’t deny this too is me? What if I live a bit at this edge? Crusty and mucky. Just    Be     Here.


Deep breath. Stay with myself. Ok, my skin feels as if it’s all come off. It’s all dry and crusty, like the edge of me; and my guts are all mush. Black and formless. At the edge of me.


Can I sit with this disaster? Can I love? Can     I       Love      the fallen apart me? Can I just stay here a while? Not retreat? In regret? In shame? In deference, to bystanders’ feelings? Can I just be fallen? Fallen apart. Just stay with myself?


No scrambling for redemption. No apologies. No spackle, to patch back together the image of me that people like, or that I like, or that we all just allow to be me. The moment. The many moments of unrest. Of yuck. Of pain. With no movement. No promise of movement. No future. Only Now. Can I allow that? Can I finally just be a mess? And love at the edges?

I’ve been a bit scattered in my studio time the past couple weeks. This happens sometimes when tending to life. Sometimes Life IS the prayer flag. Right now, I am attentive to the colors and textures of my Beloved’s life and death and our life together, as I prepare to speak the story to others this week. There are layers. There is gold glowing through. And there are dark places to contrast the light. It is an intense experience of “Holding the Fire,” while my arms and hands are made of wood (see prayer flag by that title below).


By Wednesday it will all be stitched together and delivered (then I can return to the studio). Even as I go through my daily tasks, there is an awareness of my psyche and spirit working on this. Just as if it were a prayer flag. What a beautiful gift to me. Not without cost. Just as in making an actual flag, my ego gets a thorough scrubbing and is lain aside (multiple times - practice) in the process. That takes some doing. I have a strong ego that likes to be involved. But if making prayer flags has taught me nothing else, it continues to teach me this is the only way. This is the path through which love might flow through me into the world.

“Trust,” the prayer/meditation flag has been pieced together for over a week now. It sits, pinned together. Ready. It waits for me to begin sewing. Yet it sits.


This is painful. This waiting. For I cannot begin working again on the piece while so mired in my own ego. Don’t misunderstand that I think the ego a bad thing. It’s necessary to living in this world. However, the process of creating these flags doesn’t work with my ego too much front and center, or even a little off-center. So, until I can lay my feelings and thoughts about Trust (the flag and the concept) aside, the sewing machine remains silent.


Two months ago, I resumed trauma therapy to treat and cleanse what I thought was the fall-out from my Beloved’s choice to leave this world. The layers being peeled back are many and, I am finding, adhesive. The surprise though is that they have roots that go deeper than I had imagined.


If all my life has brought me to this place I am now, then all my life up until and including my husband’s death had been lived leading me to that point as well. Trauma isn’t isolated. It lives in context of one’s life. And I’d venture to say, much of what makes an event traumatic is that it connects in us/me to something else or many somethings from the past.


Trust is immense. It may be IT. THE thing. The key that opens up the path. My path anyway. First though, I’ve been spending a bit of time clearing away undergrowth and roots that have tripped me up for a very long time. That too though is about Trusting isn’t it?


Yesterday was a significant session of EMDR (I can’t recommend this treatment enough. I think it is the piece that has been missing from talk therapy) that reached back 54 years and healed a trauma that reached through multiple facets my family’s and my own treatment of me for years. Finally, finally, the memory was healed; and it’s a strange feeling but there is a sense that my neural networks are running through other events that stemmed from that one defining trauma and healing energy is firing through connections, rewiring years of related memories as well.


As I write that, I realize I am being stitched together, or re-stitched perhaps. I am the collage being moved about on the sewing machine. The colors, the energy, the connections, the details are all at work within me. In a new way this helps me see Mike’s death and even that trauma when I was 2, and multiple other events, that before were jumbled purple bruises in memory to be separate from who I am. Connected to me by love and compassion, empathy, sorrow, loss, but they no longer define the color of the network of my memories; and they no longer define me.


Trust in this moment. I am a point in time. Now. Born of yesterday. Bearing today and tomorrow. A point. A beginning.


Time to head up to the studio.


Presence     25x25 fiber collage prayer/meditation flag


“The Great Coincidence of opposites…” this phrase jumped out at me as I read a lesson this morning from Richard Rohr. He was referencing St. Bonaventure’s description of Jesus. I’ve studied many religions and practiced many forms of spiritual ritual in the last forty years. Having come first from Catholicism. I actually have a BA in Theology and had an experience in my early twenties that I believed was a vision meaning I was called to Priesthood. That was when my search for a definition of “priesthood,” and a spiritual base that accepted the whole me, parts and all, began.


For the last five years, that search has centered wholly on learning to love better. It started with my beloved who was suffering and in who’s suffering, I suffered as well. A path to and of Love grew out of suffering. From there, the path has led not to an escape from suffering, but right through suffering. Love has been my companion, my guide, my salvation and my agent of stripping away old beliefs. It comforts me. It tears me open. It is ever with me. It is ever in me; and I am in every present moment ever in Love.


The recent commissioned flag, “Presence,” as they all do, flayed me and lay me flat at times while working on it. Yet Love was there, and when I was able to hold Love, I became well aware it was holding me. In it is an image of fire and water, light and dark, cool and warmth, holding and stepping away. The “Great Coincidence of opposites,” is all around us. Whether you believe Jesus was a person, the Christ, or a myth, the great co-incidence of opposites held by one person is a powerful image. And it is in all of us to do so. For this is what Love is.

I learned yesterday that the goo that caterpillars turn into in their cocoons is actually the result of them “digesting” themselves. I feel as if a massive rift opened up in my life story. Caterpillars turning to butterflies is symbolically potent. So, I dove down that chasm to see what else could enhance my changing metaphor. Here’s what I found so far. Mostly just the facts for now.


Holicow! Caterpillars really are born with butterflies inside them! Not only do they digest themselves within the chrysalis, but everything is digested via release of enzymes (just like in our stomach) leaving protein-rich goo. How the butterfly happens is that caterpillars are born from their eggs with something called “imaginal discs” (imaginal discs – how perfect is that?! – Imaginal!) throughout their bodies. Each imaginal disc is the seed, if you will, of a butterfly body part. One for each wing, leg, antennae, etc. The imaginal discs don’t get digested with the rest of the caterpillar (perhaps they have a hull, like other seeds do which prevent them being digested – I will have to dig further for that). When swimming in the digested goo, or, poo really, the imaginal discs do what any seed would do in a compost pile, begin feeding and multiplying its cells.


I am so excited by this more mature understanding of this process. Really, it makes me giddy as a child. The implications for metamorphosis of my metaphor are too mind-blowingly ironic to express right now. It will take a bit more digesting.


Here’s how it relates so far to this present moment: Imaginal by definition means relating to image or imago (which is basically an image of an image). Today I finished sewing the prayer flag “Presence.” When I sew the hundreds of thousands of stitches in dozens of colors, it is done with a translucent film (water soluble stabilizer that later gets soaked off) covering the image. So, the image is “fogged,” as I work on it. I have to trust my memory of what layers were placed where and just where the beginnings and endings of fabrics are. I have to trust my sense of color theory. I have to trust that my sense of color theory can survive fogging the colors. Most of all I have to trust the Great Collaborator who guides my intuition. And I have to listen.


So, imaginal seeds of the prayer flag, the layers of fibers, the colors, the pieces butting up to one another are all there but under the film. And I can’t, once the sewing begins, look under the film. So today, when I got to drop “Presence” into its bath to dissolve the film, I again was reminded what a miraculous process this is. What a metamorphosis. The flags are often fulfilling of their purpose when just pieced. But for one, they can fall apart with a breeze from the open window or the brush of a sleeve (trust me on those). Also, they tend to have flatter, less textured colors and images; but with the free-style stitching, the details are enriched. Even a visual sense of movement often comes into play. One might say they soar! And, literally, once sewn, they can fly, as prayer flags are intended.

Reviewing the year is not so uncommon on the first day of a new one. It feels a bit trite. Today though it had to be done. I had not yet received the download of a new word for 2019. Reviewing the old year usually takes moments all throughout December as I approach God the Source requesting a word for the coming year. December this year was pretty busy.


It wasn’t Christmas or any other holiday that distracted me. December was busy fulfilling the theme for 2018. Well, not the primary theme. THAT theme was “Writing.” I did write a lot in 2018. Got three short stories written, finished and submitted another to the literary magazine, Glimmer Train (earning an honorable mention), and submitted a sizeable chunk (I be a writer) of a book for a fellowship. During the year, I experienced for the first time that glorious feeling when one's characters write their own story.


The sub-theme for 2018 however, the theme that occupied much of December was “Driving.” Sounds somewhat like “Writing,” so I have wondered if my hearing was off last year. Though I did, as I always do, argue with God the Source about the choice of words last year. Theme or not, December was another road-trip for me. One of four in 2018, during which I set foot in 22 states total. I’m not in sales; and I didn’t have art openings. Three of four weren’t planned. All were intensely instructive, rich in challenges and gifts.


So, I was distracted from asking and from listening for a word downloaded from God the Source. I was distracted until recent days; and today, bright and early, as I wrote my morning pages (actually, I was resting between pages) in came the word. An image of lace in my mind’s eye and the word “Work” downloaded as this year’s theme.


As always, the selection clearly landed in my being; and again, per usual, my response was a resounding internal “REALLY?” followed by “Are you SURE?” Then a long list of lovelier words I would feel ecstatic to live out in the coming year. I threw God Source a “Vibrant,” a “Trust,” a “how about ‘Thrilling’? You’ve not chosen that one for me yet.” Or “Joy? How about Joy? That’s something you and I’ve had words about. Couldn’t THAT be the word?”


Nope. The theme for 2019 for me is “Work.” Wow. Yikes even. I finished my pages feeling exhausted already. I whined just a bit more, “How can ‘Work’ be the theme when I just drove through 22 states in the last year?” I wanted “Rest,” to be the theme. Yet in the end, of course, I acquiesce. I trust. This will, as they all are, no matter the word for the year, be twelve months of challenges and gifts.


2019 will bring humbling and exhilarating lessons. Work. Vibrant, thrilling, joyful work it might be, trusting.


 (fiber collage prayer flag at the top of post is Compassion)

I made it through the time leading up to and the week marking the 3rd anniversary of my Beloved leaving this place. One thinks "time heals all wounds," but not always. I was deeply fortunate that we found each other in this world. He and I both knew the depth of this blessing, no matter the challenges physical and brain body might inflict upon us. So, this week, this day, this moment, I again feel I am rising "up from a broke-open heart." This is my life now. Though some moments some days some weeks feel impossibly painful, to have loved and to continue to love this man, Mike, has always been and is worth every moment.


While going through the slow descent into the week of his death, I finished the prayer flag "Strength and Resilience." There were many instances when I felt utterly scoured out empty of any sense of what these words mean. It can be agonizing to make these flags at times because, invariably that is what happens. I am cleansed of former perceptions of the prayers/words/titles. Yet, while feeling raw inside and out, I continue to show up at the table and at the sewing machine. Sometimes in tears. Sometimes completely unable to utter a word. It is then that the title becomes a mantra and a true prayer. When I have nothing else to give. And it is through this emptying that the deeper and truer meaning of the prayer can flow into me, carrying in its wake, gratitude.


During the week of the anniversary, I began in earnest the prayer flag "Presence." So how could I but stay as present as possible even in the throws of despair? This is what I did, to the best of my ability. And this weekend, as I begin my accent up from my broke-open heart, I shall begin to "paint with threads."

Strength and Resilience

Since my last post, I've driven to Minnesota and back to Oregon, driven to Iowa and then flown back to Oregon, finished the commissioned prayer flag, "Compassion," re-pieced then finished the prayer flag, "Strength and Resilience," participated in my first Open Studios Tour, gotten another commission for a prayer flag (working on that one), and have in the midst of it all got a nasty spider bite that eroded a sizeable circle of skin on my forearm before remembering the properties of honey and applied a honey patch. I'm going to stop that run-on sentence right there. You get the idea. Busy.


Busy is good; and busy is challenging. We all know this one too. In terms of my work though, it is also a challenge because busy-ness makes the monkey-brain in my head begin to think racing around and jumping on the furniture of my thoughts is a requirement. in reality, it is especially important in times of busy-ness that I need to have a practice in place of quieting myself, bodily and mindfully. November marks many things, it is my birth month, it holds the anniversary of my Love's choice to leave earth, and it was the month (one year before my Love died) that I began the disciplined practice of meditation. It is a full and rich time in which my brain and body feels deeply many conflicting emotions. 


The current prayer flag I am working on, fittingly, comes with the intention/title, "Presence."