Don't know where I heard it recently but I love it: "Everything you want your life to be is right there hiding behind Fear." 'nough said...
Just over two weeks ago the husband of a friend and former co-worker passed away suddenly. I didn't know him well. Many people did however. The church was standing room only and those who arrived at the time the funeral service was slated to begin found themselves standing on the portico or stairs or in the parking lot.
Today I got together with a friend and fellow artist. We work in different mediums. We come from different generations. Different genders. Many significant differences. And we share many things in common as well. Such a combination often leads to deep conversations mulling the questions and challenges of our artistic journeys let alone journeys as human beings. Inspiring and hope-filling, these talks are of the ilk that carry the odd or the magnificent gem of insight, or two dozen. I love these. They make me feel like I am LIVING a life worth living. Today I heard myself saying "loss is not a bad thing." In our culture we shun it and run from loss at every turn. I imagine there might be those who would argure vehemently -- if not run and hide from that kind of a statement. "Loss is actually a good thing." I pressed on. It is how we best learn. It moves us forward -- when we allow it to be felt. When we run from or hide from or deny loss, we become mired in the thing which we cannot leave behind. We stop.
This isn't at all to say the death of my friend's husband was a good thing. It's unimaginable to me to lose a partner of 41 years. My thoughts are along the line that loss happens. Loss is simply and undeniably part of life. It is in the meaning of the death, just as it is in the meaning of the lived experience that the gems are found. The golden nuggets of insight and awareness are buried right in the center of the loss. If we run away or hide, we lose the opportunity to see the gifts of the loss.
I've experienced death since I was very young but my earliest great loss came with the death of my sister when I was fourteen. It was a sudden and unexpected death. There were many extenuating circumstances which made processing her death extremely complex for every member of my family. For me, I hardly ate or spoke for a week. When it came time to go to the wake, (open casket) I was mute and barely responsive. I sat at the table while family members gathered to drive to the funeral home. I remember noises. I guess people were talking to me but I couldn't respond. I was so deep inside the loss I was practically unreachable. Someone put a shot glass full of wiskey infront of me (a rural midwest last ditch cure-all) to "calm me down" before leaving. I stared at it. I didn't want to be made calm or numb or drunk. I wanted to experience this loss and to talk about it and understand it, or at the very least ponder it in it's depths, in MY depths. I don't know who drank the shot.
In a culture where we fear aging to the tune of billions of dollars a year in methods to hide or stave off its symptoms (isn't aging about loss?), talking about the gifts of loss let alone the gifts of death is pretty radical. But I think my sister's death, while grievously tragic on SO many levels, gave me beautiful gifts as well, just as her life did. So too the death of my friend's husband taught me to practice smiling more because this man was rarely without a smile and that memory alone (among millions for those who knew him well) marked him a beautiful example for us all to BE happy in this life, in our work and in our play. For this life is temporary and all too soon lost; and it is ours to decide how we will mark it.
So, the loss of a relationship or the loss of an opportunity, or position, or friend or favorite whatever, or the loss of our youth,... it's all challenging. Loss hurts. Loss shakes us and can hollow us out. But loss never, never comes without gifts as well to heal, to fill the gaps, to strengthen and beautify that which remains of our selves and our lives.
Loss is perhaps the ultimate experience of the convergence of Fear and Love. Explosive with shock waves and all.
So, today is November 24th. For 52 years I've known it to be the anniversary of my birth. Tonight I realize it is now also marked as the day the decision to not inidict the Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson was passed down. My daughter is in St. Louis visiting her father. So I am thinking of her as well; but I realize I am thinking of her as a white mother thinks of her white daughter's safety. If my daughter had darker skin, the list of safety concerns would be much longer in this country. And the list would have been much longer FOR much longer actually. Statistically and as confirmed in today's decision, my daughter is far safer from police officers than her African American friends simply because of the color of skin. Still.
To Kill A Mockingbird has been referenced a few times in conversations today. We have come so far; and yet we have so far to go. I attended a meeting today at the University in town where we continue to plan for the MLK Day events in January. Tonight I think too of the people on that committee who have far more riding on the decision today than I do, though, really, this being home to all of us, we all stand to lose a great deal in such decisions and the consequences short and longterm. This year's national theme for celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is centered on the great deal of work yet to be done. Amen.
"Insidious Fear," that should be a character's name in a novel. He or she would lurk alot, pretending to be busy elswhere; and show up late or early to functions he or she wasn't even invited to. Sounds plausible.
I have not written in a week because I have not known what to write; and in that time I have continued to encounter Fear and Love and to learn from these encounters. I simply believe Fear and Love are what I need to be writing about. Realizing this, I am returned. Tonight I am a bit stunned by the news of Ferguson. Tomorrow I will write about Fear and Love and Life and Death. There's been a lot of everything going on of late. Tonight I will be stunned, tomorrow I will write.
Not counting the days any longer. Wow! I've begun stepping forward into my new blog. I figure I will quite often include items related to Fear and to Love as I talk about my art adventures. Thus the new title of the Blog as we move beyond "The Fear Chair Project."
Yesterday was officially "discombobulated day." So I rested. Today, I attacked my files on my computer, addressed SOME of the issues on my website, and finished up the last bits in my second series of fiber collage prayer flags. It was a day of facing things I'd put off. Clearing the "shoulds" out of my head. Still much to do. My computer died midway through work on the website. I need to snap some photos of the second series so I can shop them around galleries. And my photo files on the computer will take eons to organize, not just a day. But today was brilliant. I am very grateful to be moving forward. I think I needed to let go of the FCP completely so that I can move on.
Which reminds me, I also need to get an artist photo and bio to the charity the FC is going to for their fundraising event program. Eek. Starting tomorrow's list. Very exciting to be excited about getting my art out into the world. This has always been a bit sticky for me. So much has happened in the past couple months to nearly jetison me into my next phase as an artist. Little bit scary still but focusing on the Love of this time in my life! So much to Love in life right now!
Best be off and write up a list of to dos for to morrow...
Post chair carrying Day 51
What was I doing mid-point in the day marking the exact amount of time equal to the amount of time I carried the chair? I was helping to break down the local library booksale. Boxing unsold books and folding up tables. Moving everything back into storage. A few people tried to tell me to wait for help moving the tables or let someone else move the shelves or boxes. I am a carpenter/general contracter in addition to being an artist. I tear buildings down and build them up again. When my husband and I built our three story house ourselves, we joked that he was the brains and I was the braun. New to contracting, at that time, he told me where to move a stack of lumber and I did. We figure I've moved our entire house -- at least once. The thing is I am small. 5'4" and around 110 lbs. Oh, and I have gray hair. But, raised in a big family on a farm in Minnesota, I learned to like work or I would be miserable. So, one of my favorite things to do is move stuff (another favorite thing to do is digging, yes with a shovel). I don't belong to a gym. I do work for my workouts most of the time. Today I'd hoped to get some yardwork done but the 25 degree breezy day just didn't cooperate. So the opportunity to help out friends who'd been working all week by lending a hand to speed up the booksale take-down was just perfect all the way around.
So, marking the end of my FCP officially here is about as anticlimactic as the decision to stop carrying the chair. It's just another day doing what I do. Again, I will incarnate the blog somehow on my website but as yet I am not certain what form it will take. I am certain Fear and Love will be discussed from time to time, whatever the main theme. The FCP was/is life-changing on so many levels. The lessons of these past 101 days will come up often as I live my life, I am sure. And of course, life will offer many the opportunity to re-learn or to learn new lessons as well.
Funny, I still don't know if anyone is even reading this....
If you are check out tomorrow and see what the universe, god and I come up with! I, myself can't wait to find out! :)
Post chair carrying day 50
Here we are. Tomorrow afternoon will mark the same amount of time without the chair as the amount of days I carried it. Wow. Brilliant. Beautiful. Joyous. Quiet. Anti-climactic. Simply done.
It's Friday. I talked a bit with friends today. Carol, whom I've written about was one of them. Talked with my sister. Talked with my daughter. My husband. My dog. Heard myself saying this has been one of the most notable weeks of my life. Not because of the end of the FCP or post-FCP, but because of where the FCP has taken me, which is to this moment. All week. A week of moments. Not just the FCP brought about this sense of presence, of course, but other experiences along these 100+ days as well; and then too all of the experiences in my 51+ years as well I suppose. It's been one of those times one notices her entire life led her to this point.
This week has been continuous moments of presence, mindfulness, allowing. Of course the moments were mixed with thousands (millions?) of experiences of being human; but never before have I felt so present in those experiences. A strand of pearls. Every moment precious in it's own existence all the more beautiful joined along the strand. There is still effort and likely will be all my life, effort and discipline, learning more and more about how to be present with myself and others and All -- including of course Fear and Love. I am encouraged though in this moment and inspired and grateful, mostly grateful. Most humbly grateful...
post chair carrying day 49
Funny, nearly 100 days of exploring Fear and I realize tonight I am running out of things to say. Fear is present in my life. The "water table" I wrote about still exists; but more and more I find that Fear comes up in life everyday but it is an ebb and flow rather than a whirlpool or tsunami sensation. Perhaps it is that after nearly 100 days of practice, Love accompanies Fear quite naturally and calms it, calms me, assuring me all will be well, all IS well.
A brief story: I play solitaire on my computer. I am not by any stretch of the imagination a "gamer," I am, recall an earlier post, a "techno-dinosaur." The other day I noticed an internal conflict arise when I hit ctrl z to undo plays. I thought, if this were real solitaire, with real cards, there's no way I could undo that many plays. And I suddenly wondered if I was "cheating" to be able to undo 5 or 10 plays. It was tiny but it was Fear, Fear that I was a cheater. I've had this irksome little thought before but never had the nerve to explore it. So I explored it the other day. It only took a moment to look at it and realize, no I am not a cheater. If I'd be playing with cards, I'd abide by the rules and the limits of the game at hand. On the computer I am simply abiding by the rules and the limits of the game at hand. And so (it smacked me upside the head) it goes with life. In ALL situations, in ALL living, ALL we can do is play by the rules and limits of the game at hand. Other people seem to get this much better than I. I am 52 for godsake. So, I realized the rules and limits of THIS game, Life, include that I get to choose the focus of my energy. I am not cheating or skipping steps or missing any point by choosing Love and Joy and Peace and Abundance over Fear and all it's incarnations (anger, self-pity, apathy, to name a few I've chosen in the past). So, now I see clearer, my choices are clearer. Every day.
I know life will be riddled with surprises of which I will be afraid (I just learned last night that the husband of a friend died suddenly, things like that); but in this moment, I know this practice works for me.Actually, right now I can think of a few of situations and people for whom I am afraid; but the predominant feeling, the predominant energy I feel isn't the Fear. I recognize predominantly, I feel Love. I feel Love for me and for others and for Life. Love, compassion, empathy, hope,... These are much better alternatives to swim in than Fear. Ultimately, if I were in turmoil, I'd much rather find my support persons saturated with Love than with Fear, for their sake as well as mine.
So once again, I am grateful beyond expression for the FCP. This experience has altered me internally as if I've been re-wired. I explained to friend today whom I saw for the first time in 26 years that all my life I internally referred to myself as "Little Much-Afraid." What I have learned about Fear and Love and living in the present is precious powerful. (Perhaps I should have stopped at "beyond expression," lol, but I kind of like "precious powerful," it's pretty accurate -- if clunky.) No longer much-afraid, I am simply and powerfully Anya, walker in this world, swimmer in these seas.
I do wonder, as it became time to let go of the chair, (and time to accidentally lose the totem) I am feeling it may soon be time to let go of this blog strand. What will it become? I don't know. About my art? About Art in general? About Art and Fear? Hmm,.... in time, I will know. No Fear.
post chair carrying day 48
I had an incredible internal day. While I've given Zen meditation a try, I've been studying a bit Vispassana meditation and today began. It suits me incredibly well. I don't know if I will ever go for a ten day training. That would be cool but in the meantime, I can explore and step into it. Today was mind-blowing. Just a taste and it was/is amazing. It is work also, so I am grateful to have listened to when I am ready.
Also, yesterday I met an incredible dog. This is redundant I know, all dogs are incredible. Animals in general really, but dogs are golden. This particular dog was the most present being I have ever encountered. In general, dogs are simply present, I know; but this dog (Bo) more than any I've met held my gaze and seemed not even to have the outer shell of a dog body but to simply be soul, spirit, life-energy looking back at me. He had a face I would look at and feel as if it were a human face, he was that relatable. What I learned from Bo was to simply be in the present. I've been working on that for some time, most intensely since taking up the chair almost 100 days ago. So, perhaps I was just ready to meet Bo and was able to see him; but he was utterly present for the hour or so I was with him. He requested through body language, all the loves any dog would request. It wasn't that he didn't act dog-like. He was very dog-like and he was more. A beautiful soul. And all day I found myself grateful for the present and grateful for the lesson Bo deepened for me to BE, to LIVE in the present.
I told my husband tonight about Bo and about the lesson I learned. I added, "it's not that there aren't challenges in life today, there are; but somehow, I am not burdened any longer by the Fear of those challenges." The meditation, Bo, the loss of the Love Fear Chair; something has shifted for me this week. Something like plate techtonics has slid below and lifted in me. It is a time of change. Much work to be done still. Each day. One day at a time.
I want to add too that I just learned on FB that the husband of a former co-worker passed away last night suddenly. He was a man who always smiled. I saw him deal with some difficult issues but still he found things to smile about. He raised three strong, loving children with his wife. The family is deeply close. My co-worker and her husband were in the not-so-distant honored with a community recognition for their devotion to our town and to the children of our town. They were a good team. I imagine she is devastated tonight. She is in my heart, as is he and their children. I don't think he will be far from them. His smiling strength will linger with them, I believe throughout their lives. But he will be missed bodily by his loved ones. He will be missed fiercely.
In the midst of Life, Death. In the midst of Death, Life. We have no choice in the matter. The two are conjoined. We can turn our faces, we can run, we can try to hide, our Fear doesn't change matters. So I suggest we, I stop turning, running, trying to hide and use the energy to dance all we/I possibly can with this strange and beautiful gift that is Life...