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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....

Post-carrying Day 17


Today felt physically better. Began eating normally. Then got sick again. What's this all about?


Decided I'm getting a tiny chair to paint an put on my keychain. Hear that universe? Tomorrow (I WILL feel better) I begin looking for the perfect little Chair.


The Little Fear Chair (LFC) came up in a conversation with my sister today. I was unloading about some Fear I need to examin and, well, unload and asked "god, do I need to start carrying my Chair around again? I am really stuck here!" She said, "well, maybe something smaller." BAM! A little reminder of the Fear Chair idea was born. 


Her point was a good one. She said the original Chair needed to be big because I needed to bump into others' reactions. This is true. But now I've reached a point where my Fear is all about me, and I SEE that. This too is true. I have written a bit about the detatchment the FCP has helped me develop. The differentiation, I think is the technical term. That is, I see myself separate from others as I have never seen before, even people I love. This has been an awakening that I've tried through talk therapy, writing, art, meditation, etc... for years to get to. I am very grateful.


But I think with the ending of the 30 in 30 challenge I've fallen for various reasons back into comparing myself to others. This is NOT detatchment, not differentiation, not actualization at all. And it is doing me harm. SO, a return to the Fear Chair is a good idea. But my sister is correct, carrying a big chair around would be going backward too. Responding to people's reactions to my differences and to my burden of Fear is not what I need. I need to recognize my difference and the Fears that remain mine myself and to honor and celebrate all this about me, myself.It will also be the totem for me of what I was and am capable of as a vulnerable AND strong, Fearful AND courageous person. THAT is what the LFC will be for me. 


I will keep you posted on what the Universe brings me and what I do with it....


Also returning to a bit of Jungian reading... I studied years ago but left analytical for cognitive therapy. There is much good in Jung however and with the Chair being such a significant metaphor, I think a return to some archetype work would be good for me. It might provide some good stories for you to read here as well...Off to the library tomorrowl...

Post-carrying Day 16


Caught a stomach bug yesterday. Not fun. Finally starting to feel human again this evening.


Do others, when they are sick, just feel like you will never feel like yourself again? I don't know if it's really a Fear but, well, perhaps it is. I think it's a bit of a self-sabotage as well. Usually when I get sick it's because I've been doing too much, well, shouldn't be judgey, doing a lot. Doing more than is really healthy. So I feel strong and capable and productive but eventually, if I don't pay attention, something gives, usually my health. My body has always been a good canary in the mine so to speak. It lets me know when my intensity of activity, even "good" activity reaches dangerous levels. And, I am certain this is what happened yesterday. Though of course a bug IS going around, the timing is quite perfect to self-sabotage as well.


With the FCP, the two month house painting job ending, the 30:30 challenge (and my rheumatologist convincing me to try gluten-free for 3 months), not to mention family intense circumstances, I've been pushing my growth limits pretty intensely lately. I am also supposed to be contacting galleries to show my prayer flags AND getting paypal connected to my website so I can start selling. Yet those two things are not getting done. Hmmm. 


Yes, I am afraid. I am afraid of success. Just as much as I am afraid of failure. Shit. I really thought this was not going to be an issue. I've been working very hard to move forward, to think positive, to lean into my Fear, to stretch. But, as i sit here, feeling the waning nauseau as my body regains it's hold on my health, I realize, I am going to feel better soon. I am going to feel strong again. Physically. The flu was temporary. It is not reason enough to delay getting paypal set up or contacting galleries. 


Do I need to carry my Fear Chair around again? Sort of feels like it. Or at least threaten myself with it. Fear of success. Why?


It feels out of control.


Well, carrying the FC around had a lot of out-of-control factors. No control over how people would react. No control over the spaces I was going with it. No control over what issues would come up because of it. Yet I carried it. Why was that ok but not contacting galleries or selling paintings?


Ooooo, because nobody had ever done it before. The galleries and selling have been done by lots of people. I am comparing myself to others again. Measuring myself against what I see as other people's successes. And I know I won't be able to do it like they do it. So even if I do realize some success, my Fear is I will be a failure no matter what because I - am - not - doing - it - "right." It is that humilliation thing. That abandonment for being a loser, stupid, for not knowing how it "Should" be done.


I think what is needed here is some good centering again. Some time spent reaquainting myself with my intuition and self-knowledge. 


It amazes me how deeply buried are the tendrils of self-judgement. Deep. Insidious. Persistent. Perhaps "roots" is a better image. The roots of self-judgement are deep. I stopped in the middle of a painting some months ago I may go back to. It is the image of a woman with her eyes closed and trees have taken root all over her head. When I first started the painting, I thought it was a pleasant image. Like thoughts taking root but it began to feel anxious to me so I stopped. I couldn't figure out why there was negativity to it. Her face looks so peaceful. I think it perhaps is because she is unawakened to all that has taken root in her head. 

Her peaceful expression is ignorance perhaps. Hmmm. I wonder what the version with her eyes open would look like. 


I need some sleep so I can feel strong tomorrow. I have some work to do...


Post-carrying day 14


Had a breakthrough today after feeling like a breakdown was coming. I think sometimes the two go hand in hand. With the FCP and the 30:30 challenge and some other personal work I've been doing, it's been a very tumultuous and growthful time. Again, utter gratitude here. But last night I had some disturbing dreams that raised for me the question of whether I can handle this accelerated growth. By morning I was feeling like the sneaker wave was drawing everything up from unfathomed depths and was about to wash me out to sea.


After telling my very good therapist about the dreams, and how ultimately in the most unsettling one, I was able to say a protective prayer but eventually realized the task in the dream was not my job and was not safe for me, I woke myself up, we talked about vulnerability and boundaries. I realize that making myself vulnerable is a gift I have that draws people to me (sometimes) and it is something that I love about myself. It allows me too to get past differences that can divide so connections can happen. Connections are deeply important and passionately fun for me. Whether between opposing sides between people or issues, or 2 images that just don't seem to belong in the same painting. 


But this is only the first part of the breakthrough. The vital piece is the boundaries. I very naturally am comfortable with my vulnerability. This is a gift. Whether it's not natural or I wasn't taught, boundaries are the problem. Vulnerability is the strength. Lack of boundaries through my life has been the issue that got me hurt. Vulnerability is part of what makes me loveable. Not being clear about boundaries or not feeling worthy of having boundaries made me a victim. I realize I am not to blame for what others do with my vulnerability, but I all too often (and this was learned) went in boundariless to situations and with people that harmed me.


The third part of the breakthrough is that carrying the Fear Chair around, I right away had to set boundaries and I unquestionably felt I deserved as well as needed this. I set the rules, it was my project, and because no one else I knew had ever done this, I deserved to create the entire experience without question. THEN every day for 50 1/2 days, completely unconscious I was doing it, I practiced setting and maintaining clear boundaries around my vulnerability. The FCP was an exercise in vulnerability. I wrote about it at times in this blog. But what I didn't know is that it was also an exercise in setting and maintaining clear boundaries to keep me safe. And, because that has been a challenge to me, the FCP has also been an exercise in worthiness...


Wow... From Fear to Worthiness.... From Vulnerability to Boundaries... From just Doing my life like I always did to Loving so many newly seen parts of who I am... Again, gratitude for the FCP...