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Post-chair carrying Day 25

 

Primed the little Fear Chair today. Will paint tomorrow. 

 

Reflecting a bit on the whole FCP. Partly because I've decided to get this "little Fear Chair," and partly because I just went through a few days of Feeling quite a bit of Fear in response to knowing a friend is in a rather unstable place then not hearing from her for days (heard from her today, she's fine). My sister is very good at reminding me that 99% of what one worries about never happens. I know this. I get it. So, why then did I sometimes feel overwelming Fear before hearing again from my friend?

 

I Love my friend. I Love her very much. I believe Fear is the opposite of Love. But they are flipsides to the same coin. Opposites are not unrelated. If I didn't Love so much, I wouldn't Fear so much at the thought of something happening to harm my friend. I wouldn't hurt so much when she is hurting. I wouldn't be moved to care or to reach out. But the price of Love does not purchase the subject of our Love. Those we Love do not belong to us. And someday, someday, ... someway, that person we Love will be lost by us. This is frightening. When I am able to (or caused to) look at this, it stirs deep Fear. Of course. 

 

We spend the vast majority of our lives going on as if death doesn't happen. As if loss isn't in our future. Inevitable. We get pets. We fall in Love. We have children. We bond with friends. We fight and make up. We work at our relationships, growing deeper and deeper in our connections. And all will someday end. Somehow. Yet we connect. This is a scary thing to think about. 

 

I remember a friend, I think I mentioned him a time or two. He was my mentor and he passed away two weeks after turning 80 in 2005. I was his medical representative, which meant we were very close and that we had talked about what my being his representative might mean. And we had talked about his arrangements for after he would die. Yet, of course, when the time came, I still felt as if nothing could have prepared me. I just went over to his house the day after Labor Day and he looked like hell, still in his pjs at noon. I could see he was not well and took him to the emergency room. It turned out he'd suffered a heart attack over the weekend sometime. He spent the next week in the hospital. Received a splint on Wednesday and was slated to leave the Hospital on Friday. We'd made arrangements for him to stay with my family in the front room until he was fully recovered. Friday, early, we were on our way to pick up a "hospital" bed when the hospital called that he'd gone into cardiac arrest, twice. They revived him and he was in ICU. We went immediately to the hospital. 

 

I stayed in the hospital as close to him as they would allow, sleeping on the (purposefully?) uncomfortable ICU waiting room platforms every night in case he needed someone or incase a decision needed to be made. Late Friday he arrested again, and they estimated a rib broke in reviving him again. At this point I had to listen to what he'd told me a long time ago, that he didn't want extreme measures to go into keeping him "alive," if it meant he would be tied to machines. When he was stable, Saturday morning I talked with him about what to do if he arrested again. At this point his kidneys were shutting down. (His heart doctor took my husband and I late Friday evening, into the bowels of the hospital to where we had to don gowns and booties to show us what my friend's heart was doing. We saw video of his heart arteries literally constantly  blocking and constantly creating new pathways to get blood where it needed to go. His doctor was astounded, we were astounded. And we all knew it would not last and was not enough to keep the rest of him going.)

 

My friend's name was/is Ralph. He agreed there should be no more "code blue" for him. So we settled into just being with him. He had many friends and over the next 2 1/2 (yup) days, dozens of people were buzzed into ICU to see him. Ralph was the kind of person who never met a stranger, everyone became a friend. He told jokes. He reminisced. He rested with friends near and dear. He was so completely himself even as his body continued shutting down. I slept when I could and ate when someone would give me food. But my focus, my complete focus was in making certain Ralph didn't die alone. He had told me once that that was his greatest Fear. 

 

Ralph was a WWII veteran who served in the South Pacific. As a matter of fact, he was in the Marines through three wars. He married 5 times and the final was the love of his life. She was from Japan. Her family adopted Ralph and he them. She died in 2001 when Ralph was in surgery having 3 stints put in for his heart. She had an anurism burst and died before he woke from surgery. It devastated him. His friends rallied to insure he get through the first critical months without his lovely Harumi. But he missed her like crazy. Two months later Ralph's best friend and fishing buddy's boat capsized just outside Tillamook Bay. He hit his head and drown.

 

On Ralph's last day, he was freed from all the machines but the heart monitor and an IV. He'd called for me at 3 a.m. to sit with him as he was feeling agitated. I sat with him. I massaged his forehead. I read to him. We talked a bit. We sat quietly. At one point it seemed he was nodding off so I lay my head on the bed, still holding his hand. I felt him stir after maybe ten minutes. I looked up. He was watching me. Smiling but with a sad sleepiness of a little boy who just wants to go home but has to wait.

 

Later that morning, he was moved to his own room out of ICU so people could come and go (there WERE that many) to see him. He continued to hold audience but it was clear he was growing confused and tired. We let him rest frequently. Always making sure someone was with him, until around 3:30 he asked if he could be alone. I assured him someone would be right outside his door if he needed anything. And for the first time since Friday, I left him alone. I did post a friend just outside his door to let me know if anything changed. Around 4, everything changed. She called me and we went in to the sound of a flatlining heart monitor. The nurse ran in at the same moment from the desk. He was still breathing but his heart was stopped. All of us there circled Ralph's bed. I took my place just to his right and held his hand as I had all weekend. We wrapped him in our love and our presence and we prayed and I whispered in his ear that it was time for him to let go. It was time for him to rest. That I, we would love him forever and now it was time he go where Harumi is.

 

In the wake of his death, family and friends who lived far away were called. Arrangements were made. Another of his good friends stayed the night in Ralph's room with his body. I had fulfilled my promise to him that he would not die alone. So I went home. In a stupor that lasted at least another week, I went home and prepared to publicly say goodbye to my friend. 

 

But a funny thing happened. Family flew in. The wake was small and private. Ralph had not wanted a viewing but some of the family insisted and one very good friend had been away the weekend he'd died. I was there through everything. But I was as if only an observer, though I was very involved in arrangements and activities that needed doing. And when it came time for the service, culminating all we had been through, I only read a letter from Ralph's heart doctor who was back East but was so moved by the man he wanted to say something to family and friends.  I prefaced it by acknowledging how much I'd learned from Ralph, most recently and perhaps most importantly was how to "die Living rather than to live dying." but also something I'd learned in the last week after his death, that "We do not own those we Love." We hold them close, we LIVE with them, we watch them grow, we Love them madly, and we even may watch them die, but we do not own them. We only own our Love for them.

 

I needed to tell this story again. It opens my hands. It opens my arms. It allows me to let go the Fear in Loving someone deeply.


Post-chair carrying Day 24

 

I found my little Fear Chair! It's very cute. Needs to be primed and painted. WILL go on my keychain. I WILL post a photo when it's painted. Will write about what it means as I go along...

 

Note about finding ones purpose in life. When it was clear to me, and it was OH SO clear to me that I should carry the original chair around symbolising Fear, the Universe/God collaborated in such a way that, as I drove to the thriftstore, I was 100% certain there would be a chair there. AND when I told the Universe/God it could only cost $7, because that's all I had in my pocket, I was certain I'd be able to afford it! And when I got to the thriftstore, I walked straight back to the corner of the store where I "knew" it would be. And, there were actually TWO identical chairs sitting there. Six ninety-nine apiece. There was zero Fear in that experience. There was 100% belief. And it went off gloriously. And the whole FCP was glorious (though not all easy-peasy).

 

Why do I not learn to Believe 100% and leave Fear at zero more often?

 

Actually, since doing the FCP I am happy with how low the Fear factor has been. But that Belief factor. That needs to come up a bit. A serious bit actually. And, I know they are related. 

 

I think I need to do something to take care of myself. It's been a while. I'm not very good at that. There's been a lot of taking care of others lately plus the health issues. And I think I am a bit depleted. I tend to be much more courageous and Trusting when I take care of myself better. Hmmm.... 

 

It's been 3 years since I had a massage. That thought's been trickling into my consciousness lately. I think I'll call tomorrow. Writing it on my hand as a reminder right          now....

 

 


BIG

Post-chair carrying Day 23

 

Nothing is quite so riddled with potential potholes of Fear like being a parent.  And when your child/ren get older, the owies get bigger. I am SO gaining understanding for the agony I put my parents through. Letting go of Fear around your child's life and well-being actually doesn't stop when they move out. It actually becomes more difficult in ways because you don't see them or hear from them as frequently and because you have zero say in their choices. When I was pregnant someone told me deciding to have a child is like deciding to live with your heart outside your body. When that heart takes itself out into the world and lives on it's own in another city many miles away, I begin to understand the person's point on a whole new level.

 

I had to get that out....

 

Wanted to mention a conversation snippet from yesterday. Talking with Carol, she mentioned she'd walked past a church and seen a poster in the pastor's office that read (she thinks, but what does it matter if it really did or didn't say this?) "God is Power." We two agnostics sat with that for a moment then began dissecting it. For some reason it struck both of us (she for a week longer than I since she's the one who saw the poster) squarely at the center of our experience. 

 

Not, "God is powerful." This is something I'd heard all my life, being raised Catholic. But "God IS power." Carol and I are both reading about quantum physics lately and so we are very keyed into this because of that as well. The thought that God   Is     Power resonates. So I shared with Carol that because of the Fear Chair Project, I lately have gained deeper and broader understanding that Fear is HUGE. Fear is POWERFUL, far beyond what we can even know I think. It reaches so far back in our history, in our individual and collective psyches. It finds it's way into FAR more interactions and reactions, I think, than people realize on a day to day basis. Fear, unbenounced to us often shapes our lives. Fear Is Powerful! I believe Fear and Love have come to be the MOST powerful agents/things in existence in this human experience. BUT, to contemplate GOD IS POWER, makes me realize that as ginormous as Fear and Love are, there IS something bigger, something that trumps "Most powerful" and that is "Power" itself.

 

For years I have replaced "God" with "God,Universe, Spirit Source of Life (G.U.S.S.)" I believe I will revert to the use of God again more frequently. "Universe" is not power. Universe is BIG but it is not power. And if I must call the Power that IS Power, why not use the word "God." 

 

This also sparked a conversation about whether at the level of "God is Power," there is, can be, must be an equal and opposite. Must evil be AS "Power" as God? According to science balance is what the universe is dependant upon. Equal and opposite reaction and all that. Then there is the religious dualism and yin yang perspective as well. And I am all for balance. I LOVE balance. Yet. Yesterday I found myself wondering if .... if "God IS Power" is beyond the most powerful things we can comprehend, wouldn't the properties of God also possibly be beyond the limits of our comprehension of properties? That is, could evil be ginormously powerful but ultimately God would be beyond this as God IS power? So, perhaps, God doesn't need a balance point? Evil can try to match God but God being the positive force is beyond powerful. God IS power. And, yes, out understanding is that power has positive and negative forces within it. Can God be power beyond this understanding as well and be purely positive? I don't know.

 

Anyway, related to the FCP because these questions of God would not have been approachable for me a few months ago. I was too wrapped in Fear. The FCP has blown my world wide open. So many thoughts I was afraid to explore are now very possible for me. All my life I have watched people ask very good questions and I have sat by the sidelines thinking "I wish I knew how to ask good questions." I see now that Fear stood before me much to closely for me to open my mind to questions. Not that I was afraid of the answers, I literally didn't know how to ask questions very well, so of course discovering answers has always been extremely strenuous. I am beginning to see that opening up to my Fear and my Fear OF Fear allows me to be more present with life and with the questions that answers require. Knowing Fear and  being comfortable in it's presence, my curiousity, my hunger for growth and learning are no longer buried or silenced by it. And Love gives me voice.

 

 

 


Post-carrying Day 22

 

I was right last night. The Fear WAS staring me in the face AND I did need some time with it. It WAS big.

Here's what I wrote about it this morning:

 

"I am afraid. I am afraid I am not an artist. Will never be an artist. I am afraid I am kidding myself that I have a purpose. So many times I've thought I found my purpose and worked very hard to bring whatever that is into fruition and all those times, life knocked me back on my ass and said "what the hell were you thinking?" So I don't trust my judgement about what my purpose is anymore. 

 

"I've been filled with passion and worked very hard before and now I feel with the prayerflags, with my art, I am sitting again at the foot of the mountain. All my bags packed but this mountain has never allowed me to summit. And I question whether I want to even bother again trying. 

 

"So I sit here, cowering and crying and tired and scared.

 

"That is why I haven't got prices up on my website and that is why I haven't contacted galleries or shows.

 

"God, Universe, Spirit Source of Life, do I have a purpose? and what is it? Is it just to be a wife and mom? which are great. but what about who I am? Can't I be someone who does or makes or be's something unique in this world that finds a place somewhere? And if not, why did you plant in me this longing, this hunger in me for such purpose? Is my purpose to always be seeking a purpose, never satisfied? I am afraid that is so."

 

So, there it is. The BIG Fear. Fortunately I have a great friend in Carol and after reading this to her, we talked. Here is what I learned:

 

#1 Since Carol has known me (18 years) and before (since I can remember actually), I have struggled to become, to BE an artist. I have not made much money, though I have made some, yet I always, always make art and it moves out into the world. It is what I do. It is who I am. I paint. I create. I can't not be an artist. 

 

#2 I am NOT a businesswoman. It is AS important to know who one is NOT as it is to know who one IS. I am NOT a production artist. NOT a commercial artist. I AM a professional artist and so will sell my works. However, selling online will have to be done in a way that works for me, which means it may simply involve e-mailing me if you see something of mine you like and want to buy and we'll negotiate that way for now. Yes, there is practice in Trust in this. (Prices WILL be posted).

 

#3 Pretty and Beautiful are NOT the same. My art is NOT pretty. Once in a while one will be pretty, but likely that piece doesn't hold the Beauty that un-pretty pieces do. My art tends to be beautiful in that you can look at it and then look again and see something different. It usually isn't my images you see but your own interpretation of images. And they likely won't often match your couch.

 

#4 I AM a painter. I paint with acrylics and I paint with fibers. With both mediums, I apply color to create shape or mood or thoughts on the "canvas." Right now my primary medium is Fiber. Creating prayer flags and Fiber collages are the clearest form of allowing the Source to flow and express through me that I have ever experienced. They are spiritual as well as artistic practice. I will still paint with acrylics but my focus for now needs to be the prayer flags and fiber collage.

 

#5 I climbed Mt. Shasta when I was 34, with a 72 lb. pack on my back and I weighed 104 lbs. myself. I know how to climb mountains. One       step       at        a       time.  Incredibly focused and incredibly present. Making certain always to take care of water and nutrition needs all along the way. Listening. Watching. Knowing. Trusting. And Learning. I can climb this mountain that stands before me now. This mountain of my purpose. But I needed to drop a little excess weight in the bags, the weight of expectation that I "should" be a commercial artist, that I "should" approach my art like a business, that I "should" make pretty pictures, that I "should" always be an acrylic painter primarily.

 

This was huge. HUGE. HHHHUUUUUGGGGEEEE. And now admitting it is ginormous. And so in the same instant, ... it becomes not-so huge anymore. I have a clearer sense of who I am, who I am not and how to proceed in the direction of my purpose. This is liberating. I've been terrified of admitting to myself that fiber collage is my primary medium for "painting." I've been mortified that I might not be someone who paints pretty paintings. I LOVE pretty paintings. But I do not generally paint them myself. I am looking for REAL paintings, the BEAUTIFUL that is sometimes not pretty at all, sometimes it can be but not usuallly.

 

My next step today was beginning the clearing of my studio of things gathered through the years that I will never work on. Wish I had "7 lifetimes," as Carol said, "but I don't," as we talked about this. It is an outward, physical expression of clearing my bags as I climb the mountain. Letting go of internal AND external "stuff," that have been burdening and blocking me on my  journey to finding the mountain, let alone climbing it. So I began....

 

 

 

 


post-chair carrying Day 21

 

Woohoo, biopsy benign! The down-side is they didn't get it all because it was in a really innaccessible place and with my pre-cancerous past, they want to go back in in six months and get all of it for biopsy -- and to get it out of me. Sigh. Good news and wait. My doctor said he wouldn't sleep well knowing there was some left in there given my history. Grateful for a thorough doctor.

 

Mostly tired tonight. I went out for the first time in a long time. Also, I am not wanting to look at Fear tonight. I know it is here. I need a little time with it before writing. Something big I don't want to face is staring me in the face. So, to give myself a little space, I will write tomorrow.


post-chair carrying Day 20

 

How could I have carried the chair for 50+ days? Day 20 without the chair seems like a long time to be blogging!

 

The sedative is out of my system. I feel great except for a bit of a sore throat which I trust will be gone soon. Turns out I must wait for the lab results to find out what our possible "new plan" will be. I am choosing to continue to "not worry" however. I think the worst at this point, since the growth was only 8 months old will be that we'll have to do more frequent checks. These sorts of pre-cancers are slow growing and so take quite a while to become cancerous. So, I am feeling confident, we'll just have to nip them more frequently if that is the case. All is well. I will just remember to tell them to give me a dose of Phenergan or some such anti-nausea med. before I leave the hospital as well.

 

On the Fear Front I actually had a greater challenge today in-that something I am working on with a dear friend suddenly went way differently than anticipated. My friend, out of Fear, needed to choose a new avenue, a new approach without telling me and so when I found out, this triggered MY Fear of things going all haywire. We worked it out in the end. Came to the realization that this was merely a setback and that the ultimate goal was still the ultimate goal we'd both originally agreed upon.And that perhaps we will simply arrive at that goal by different routes than originally anticipated. All is well.

 

This brings up Triggers however. Fear Triggers. I don't know that I've used that term before in this blog. I don't think so. I should have. They really are what #1incites Fear and #2 draws our attention to what makes us afraid so we can understand and choose our course of action. So they are both the problem AND the solution. The trick is to learn what ones Triggers are. 

 

I think for me, the first step had to be to learn what my basest Fears are. To admit to myself what my Fear looks like and what I look like when in Fear. I'm not saying this is the route for everyone; but for me I think it works best. I've tried for years to just look for the Triggers and learn how to deal with those. But really, for me, that was futile for the number of Fears I wasn't even aware I had! If I don't know I am in Fear, how can I possibly identify a Trigger?

 

Tonight my Fears were embarassingly easy to identify. I was afraidmy friend's choice to "go a different route" would be a setback that would derail the entire project. I was afraid of the unknown when the other person changed plans. So I was in the end able to tell my Friend that sudden changes without discussion is a Trigger for me. Not that it is my friend's responsibility to not make sudden changes, but at least now we both know this will bring up Fear for me. And perhaps, in both of us knowing and discussing it, it won't be as much of a Trigger. And too, my friend was able to identify what created the Fear that ignited the sudden change in plans. And so we both are aware of what will risk Fear responses in the other and in ourselves. 

 

This to me feels courageous. This to me feels greater than just learning about my own Fear and Fear responses. Being such social creatures, identifying and understanding Fear dynamics in a relationship seems incredibly wise but also riddled with trust issues and Fears in itself. Yet, tonight, it feels as if there is not really a choice. In close relationships, this seems the best route to take. 

 

I am reminded of weeks ago when another friend, Carol had some issues with me she needed to be honest about and discuss with me. Carol is 20 years my senior. She is a remarkably strong and intelligent and deeply caring person. I am very fortunate to be her friend. I know this. So, when she needed to be brutally honest about something I was doing and her response to it, the interaction felt well lit by wisdom but was also a labrynth  of trust issues and letting go of Fears that lirked in the shadows of my awareness until then.

 

It is when we are called upon to take notice of Fear that we have the greatest opportunities for courage. Not only on the grand scale as when fighting battles but too in the day to day wrestling with the trip-wires that inevitably will catch us because we live with other human beings who have minds and needs and Fears of their own.


Post-chair carrying Day 19

 

I am not feeling well again tonight and so won't be posting much. I had an upper endoscopy and anaesthetic always makes me very ill. Though with a UE one gets a sedative rather than a general, they had to keep me asleep for longer to deal with something they found and I trust the added sedative had a similar affect on me to a general because of this.

 

So, tonight I feel very nauseous and have chills and must wait until tomorrow to find out why my doctor "needs a new plan" of action. I am hopeful, for in his notes he said "not to worry." What he was doing was a follow up on a duodenal adenoma he took out last January. Apparently something was there again today. It will be biopsied of course but the fact of it being there was unexpected. 

 

So, Fear,... 

 

Choosing to focus on the Love and remembering all my mantras and tools and going to bed watching "Philadelphia Story." 

 

All will be well, all is well... 

 

Can't wait to get this sedative out of my system though too.


post-carrying Day 18

 

I was busy all day but it just seems like I didn't get anything done! Days like this are hard. We eschew unproductiveness in our culture. I would never say the day was "wasted;" but days like today do feel dissappointing. But dissappointing to whom? And, why? And what is the criteria for "getting something done?" Is it checking everything off the to-do list? That's one way to guage it. Yet, doesn't life USUALLY interrupt the best laid plans? Yes. So, why is an interrupted to-do list a dissappointment?

 

Well, some things on the list simply were pains in the butt in the end and I never figured out how to get paypal set up with my website -- for one. So, there is the expansion of the time estimated to complete a task --  problem. 

 

Then there is the  -- I lost track of time and worked on a piece in my studio longer than the time I'd alloted -- problem

 

And, of course the -- appointment  scheduled in the middle of everything so there's the transition time and getting there then transition time and getting home -- problem.

 

Oh, and --- oops, I forgot to pay those bills, better get those taken care of -- or, yikes, forgot to fill and run the dishwasher last night --- or, the cat has a hairball and guess who gets to clean up THAT surprise ---basically, the life's little interruptions to the schedule -- problem

 

Some days just flow beautifully. Planned or unplanned, some days just feel like a song. Why do other days feel like ten different melodies are vying for attention at once? More importantly, why are those days SO hard, so dissappointing as we sit back at the end of them to trying to relax or just plain fall into bed?

 

I think there is a Fear of unproductiveness in our culture. I know I feel it. Moreover, it feels like such a Fear sweeps wide across the expanse of the American work ethic. At heart, for me it is the Fear that underneath it all, I am lazy. That because I sometimes don't tick everything off my list every day, or because sometimes I truly relish just a lie down, I am lazy at heart. And if I am? Well, according to the work ethic, my worthiness drops. This relates to the "what do you do?" story I wrote about maybe a week ago. We identify with what we do (and what earns money). So if we don't do anything, we are not anything. Do nothing, be nothing. Even, do little, worth little. 

 

I don't really buy into this at heart but at times it seeps into my own expectations of myself I am afraid. There have been times in my life when due to circumstances, I did very little and was thereby forced to travel those dark deep roads to find my core value appart from actions and deeds. It was treacherous, frightening and risky work but I came out understanding far better that value is inherent not earned. 

 

Shortly after one of those dark journeys to my core, I encountered a man who offhandedly told me I needed to make more money because I was worth more than the work I was doing and it was an embarrassment that I didn't see my value. This led to a discussion of why some work is valued at higher rates than other work in our culture (he worked the same hours as I did at two jobs but made many times more money than I did). This man went so far as to say that someone who makes little, though he works hard is less valuable to society. My mind went immediately to the wonderful, joyful man who's worked for years as a "bag boy" in a grocery story in a nearby town. This man will never advance in his position due to developmental limitations yet every, and I do mean every, person he sees gets a huge "hello" and "how are you doing?" along with a big smile. I pointed to this example of what I saw as a man who is tremendously valuable to the community he serves and to humanity for the positive energy and joy he spreads every day. My example was scoffed at. Which made me cry a bit. 

 

So I told the story of my sister who was institutionalized at age 4 because of profound mental retardation. Her life was a burden to her and she was a challenge to many. Yet too, there were joys, there was beauty in her and because of her. She never earned a penny. I asked, "was she not valuable?"

 

Both examples fell sadly on a closed heart which I must admit was a man believing the extreme version of the work ethic yet he was a man well admired in his own community and business world and so people listened to him, which is the saddest of all to me. His value-system was, if not passed on by him to others, certainly condoned at the very least.

 

This to me just shows how hidden our Fear of non-productivenes is. Our Fear that we are only valuable insofar as we produce. Yet we don't see what this Fear says about how we feel about ourselves and also about those around us. Just as we cannot truly love others unless we love ourselves, I don't believe we can truly value others intrinsically unless we recognize our own inherent value. That is, see that even if I get not-a-single-thing done, I am still a valuable, vital human being. This is easy to preach, it is far and wide more difficult to live. I am reminded of Herman Hesse's "Siddartha." It is one of those books that deserves a read from time to time in life... perhaps again....