my . artist run website

Day 49

 

Tonight, after 4.5 hours of sleep and 9.5 hours of house painting, I am feeling depleted. So I won't write much since when so exhausted I tend to overshare.

 

However I WILL say, today I reallized I am treading in dangerous waters right now. The Fear Chair Project is getting very challenging in ways I couldn't have anticipated. I am a bit concerned but I think sleep is a number one priority right now. So I will do so and take a look at this after I've rested. I am hopeful I will have a better outlook and sense of my prospects.


Day 48 

 

As I sat to write this I thought, well I haven't really thought about Fear today. So I went back through the day and realized just how often I noticed concern if not Fear in myself about what others would think of me. Specifically, what they would think of me carrying the Chair. But I wonder if the Chair is just the focus and that I'd still be just as concerned, just as often, about what others think of me if I didn't carry the Chair. I mean, pretty much everywhere I went and including when I got ready to head out of the house, I was thinking about what others would think when they saw me. Wow. It's never occurred to me how much of my thinking energy goes toward thinking about what others think when they see or encounter me. I mean, it's not a tremendous proportion of my thought time, but it IS more than I would have guessed had I been asked to estimate how often other's perceptions enter my thoughts. It's embarrassingly more than I would like it to be that's for sure. 

 

Crap.

 

I didn't get my site linked to FB tor figure out how to allow comments this weekend. I ended up working both Saturday and Sunday and so have just been stretched too tight. I'd really like to challenge readers to pay attention to how many times in a day the thought even flashes through your mind, 'do/will others think of me.I'  mean, I have gray hair, don't wear makeup, wear ripped and paint-stained clothes to work and STILL I think about it even if only a flash of consideration, at least once for every place I go. Yikes. And, not that it even matters really to me, I mean, usually, I don't change anything because I've considered what others might think (though sometimes I must admit, I do) but I still THINK about it! And even if I DON'T change anything because of the thought of what others think, what a waste of thought energy! What a waste of energy, period!

 

I suppose the Chair IS making it a bit more of an issue but honestly I wonder if there would be a decrease if I didn't carry the Chair. 

 

Will work on the FB thing...

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Ok, just figured out the FB link! Yay! But haven't found if there's a way to enable comments to the blog. I sent a message to my website guru. Will keep you posted. (ttttthhhhhiiiiisss is a bit scary for me. I really was a massive dinosaur 48 days ago, and have therefore moved rather slowly forward. But I am moving. Sigh. Carrying Fear still)

 

 

 


Day 47

 

Today the chair went with to breakfast then a walk to the library, and after a nap, on a catering with me. Busy Saturday for the chair.

 

I learned today that someone I've considered a good friend for years has been trash-talking my chair. I heard this from a third party. I also didn't hear details just that it's been going on. My first response was complete anger that this friend would do this. Then I felt hurt that she wouldn't tell me her feelings herself. I have some pretty serious issues to face in life (some that I can't detail here because of confidentiality) that bring up all sorts of "what if"s and "if only"s that mask some big Fears. My friend knows about these issues. The put-down about my FCP cut pretty deep because of this. Then I wondered if she's afraid of the FCP for some reason, like maybe she thinks it's weird and any association with it will reflect poorly on her choice of friends. I can't know what's going on in her head but I did realize eventually that this response is a sign of what I've known about for sometime in this relationship. I can't deny it any longer that there already is a lack of connection in this relationship and the chair is just bringing it out. I've been afraid to admit it for a long time.

 

The Fear of letting go.

 

It reminds me of the challenge put before me a couple weeks ago to write a list (or create a series of paintings) of things that make me loveable. The person issuing the challenge added that until I resolve my own sense of my loveableness, I will continue to gather people around me who don't treat me with the love I deserve. 

 

Maybe I should get at that list.

 

Anyway, I explained the FCP to the person who delivered the news about my friend and this person was very compassionate and told me after a few minutes that this is actually a very courageous project; siting not only carrying the chair around but also simply admitting the Fear. Most people bury it or fly into rages over it, she noted. I agreed and noted I'd tried both and was tired of them both, so, the FCP is my hopeful alternative.

 

I don't want to mention this to my friend; but I probably will. It's scary. Being a grown-up sucks sometimes.

 

Tonight, as I was reflecting on all of this, I noticed that the FCP (and the 30 in 30 challenge as well) is foundational for me. It is forcing me to do some work that changes me on what feels like a cellular level. It's making me feel more solid. Of course this is metaphoric but it feels that elemental. So, perhaps I may not find all of life's answers (or become a famous painter) but I am becoming more solid, more present. And I certainly am learning a lot about what I am capable of doing and feeling as I go through day to day living. And my life is becoming far more my own. That's the surprising thing. I thought the FCP was all about changing what I DO because I learn about my Fear; but I am changing what I allow myself to FEEL as well. Bit by bit. One day at a time.


Deep breath... and good night.

 

 


Day 46

 

Tonight I am afraid I don't know what I'm doing. I think it's a chemical thing quite possibly, monthly cycle perhaps. Just struggling with my mood. Felt good carrying the chair everywhere. Did forget to carry it when I walked up to our neighbors though. There's a grass and by now likely forest fire a few miles from our house. With the drought, and having seen a massive forest fire in Central Oregon last year, I'm a bit preoccupied with concerns over that as well. 

 

Just have to note here that, while we are concerned about a forest fire in the wake of months without significant rain, tonight there were fireworks displayed at the stadium down in the valley on the way to Portland. Unbelievably idiotic if you ask me. People have been evacuated from their homes, and someone's got to shoot off fireworks? At the LEAST insensative, at MOST a serious firehazard.

 

Anyway, I'm just feeling off tonight. 

 

Caused by any Fear? hmmm....

 

Fear of forest fire reaching our house. Hearing a signal of some sort in the middle of the night that means we have to evacuate.

 

Fear that the 30 in 30 challenge isn't going to result in any insights for me. Fear that I am not really an artist, that I don't have what it takes to be successful. 

 

Fear that I will always block my own success because I am afraid of success. There, I said it. Shit.

 

Also, that woman's question the other day has been playing in my head today, what WILL this FCP look like when it is done? I haven't the foggiest. Earlier tonight, I thought, maybe I'm done carrying the chair. I've re-identified for myself the 4 steps to stepping into fearful situations. That's something. Then I started paying attention to this funk I am in. 

 

I think Fear of success is enormous for me. It feels out of countrol. Wait, no, it feels like I am driving on a narrow road with no guard rails and a several thousand foot drop into a wide open valley floor below is beside the car. I am focusing intensely on the road because if I look out at that gaping hole, across which is my destination (success) I will just drive off the edge of the cliff, sucked out into the abyss. Pulled out by the vast expanse of overwelming boundrilessness. Success feels like that, it feels like I won't be able to contain myself or manage all that needs to be managed. 

 

I realize I am projecting when what I really need to do is (look at last night's lessons) focus on what is infront of me, prepare (do what I can in the now),... ok, I'm thinking about those tools from last night and I see the block is in the strategy. Looking at what is infront of me and visualizing what comes next. I am stuck there. I can't strategize because I'm too freaking scared. So I sit. I sit out on life. Afraid of success and all it's out-of-controlness that from where I am at right now seems anhilating. How do I move beyond this Fear?

 

I think I need to link this blog to FB so whomever is reading this can give me some input. Perhaps that's my first step in a strategy. I'm catering tomorrow (Saturday) and working at our jobsite Sunday. I'll see if I can make myself make it happen this weekend.


Day 45

 

Only went two places today with the chair. The paint store (they all know me well by now) and the jobsite. Today I had to paint our client's front door and sidelights. Black. Oil paint. I am an acrylic and latex person. Oils just feel sticky to me and I don't like sticky. Also, the door  and sidelights have leaded glass windows in them. It's an expensive set-up. Probably at least $7000. And I was to cover it all with black sticky paint. I felt my Fear. But I also felt lessons I'd learned about Fear in life, not just from the past 45 days but certainly confirmed in that time. 

 

Lesson one: Notice the Fear. Don't run from it. Running from predators only draws their attention. Fear will pursue the runner. Recognize what it is. Today, it was the Fear of messing up the door, getting drips of paint in the leaded window nooks and crannies.

 

Lesson two: Don't let Fear be the driver. Notice it but don't focus on the Fear. Focus on the task at hand. Recognize the other feelings and especially remember gratitude. Gratitude trumps Fear so well.

 

Lesson three: Do ALL I can to prepare myself for what needs to be done. This means strategizing what is in front of me. Step by step in my head first. Then go use the restroom before starting so that's not on my mind.

 

Lesson four: focus focus focus. My mind can wander a bit when working on something this important but really, it needs to focus on how I should best hold the brush to get at this edge or how much paint is on the brush as I approach a corner, etc. 

 

So the majority of my mind wandering was best if it related to the task in front of me. So, mostly I thought about how the oil paint felt as I worked. This actually proved to be a good little foray into opening up. It wasn't long before I really didn't mind the feel of drawing the brush across the wood. It started me thinking perhaps I should try oils in my paintings. Perhaps I will.

 

So, the above lessons are hard-won from first, learning mountaineering and rock climbing a couple decades ago, then from getting out of an abusive relationship shortly thereafter (the latter just reinforced the lessons learned from the former). I mentioned in last night's blog that climbing helped with two phobias. It helped because I learned that things that feel overwelming like hanging 6000 feet up on a rock can be frightening but it can be dealt with, one   handhold   or    foothold    at    a      time. It taught me that my fear of heights and of spiders (I couldn't even touch a book with a spider drawing in it) was really about fear of loss of control. And Climbing taught me how to focus to in order to preserve and sometimes save my life. It gave me relative control over my Fears in specific situations and that carried over significantly into my life.

 

So, I've mentioned I still have a fear of spiders. It's not nearly what it was. Holy cow, it's not NEARLY what it was. And, I still don't feel entirely comfortable in some situations at great heights. Yet, knowing I've climbed 14000 foot peaks and free-climbed rock faces thousands of feet up, gives me a sense of strength that actually makes me feel ok having those fears to a certain degree. I also LOVE being high up on a mountain or a rock. I don't go keeping spiders in the house but sometimes I take them outside instead of stomping them on the spot.

 

Again, in my mind, it's not about getting rid of Fear. It's about getting to know it. It's about befriending Fear and learning how to steer it rather than let it drive me. Today, I could have become overwhelmed and paralized as I stood before the door; but thankfully, I remembered that I DO have tools for dealing with Fear. To be honest, I'd forgotten that until Day 44 when I was talking with my co-worker about climbing.

 

Huh..... So, how can I apply this to my Fear of visibility, or my Fear of being unloveable or unworthy, or my Fear of being "too much" or "too big" ? Or am I looking for new tools? These fearS are not about specific tasks but come up or are simply themes in my life. What tools apply? I will think about this....


Day 44

 

Brought my newly repainted chair to the paint store twice today. Sometimes it's the shear having to load and unload it that is daunting. I'd really rather not bother. Then I think about how I'd really rather not carry the burden of Fear either, yet I still do. So I load and unload and carry the chair.

 

While waiting for two gallons of house paint to get mixed, I walked around the corner and got a bagel for breakfast. The place was hopping. A good vibe buzzed in there. I saw people take notice of the chair. Of me as I walked in. I placed my order. Stood waiting. One woman looked long at the chair then smiled at me. Then I heard from the direction of the people still waiting to order, "I just have to ask you about the chair." 

 

I told her my story, which I realized later needs to change a bit. I am not carrying the chair until I no longer need to carry the burden of my Fear. I will carry the chair until my Fear is no longer a burden that keeps me sitting out on life. There is a difference. Again, my purpose is not to get rid of Fear or conquer it. I realized my error in expressing myself because she asked me if I've gotten a lot of advice on how to get rid of my Fear. But I didn't notice the relationship to my story until later. 

 

Anyway, I asked her if she had any advice. She directed me to some good authors and books. Some of which I've read, others, not. I told her though that I've read quite a bit about life and fear (some good ones: "Art and Fear," "The Gift of Fear," "Addicted to Danger" to name a few) but reading is one thing, creating a metaphor that I carry around is completely different. It takes me down into the Fear/s rather than just medicating. Like cleaning out an infected leg before bandaging it. I think I've bandaged myself in my Fearfulness quite a lot in my life. And it workded. I've continued to walk quite fine through life. But there has always been a niggling, deep pain that went with me and kept me from dancing as much as I believe I can in life. It's kept me sitting out. So, the I am digging and cleaning.

 

She asked me what I am finding I am afraid of. I laughed and told her, "Far more than I thought originally. I began this feeling I'd maybe carry it a couple weeks, maybe a month at most. I didn't think I had THAT much Fear." But here I am day 44 and still hauling it around. She said, "like what?" I said the big stuff, like taking up space on this planet. She's Buddhist, and I wonder if that's why that Fear didn't register. Her face went a little blank. I said, "visibility." I wish I had said "worthiness," for that is at the root of my Fear about visibility. and really, the Fear of being unloveable is the even deeper tap-root. But I didn't say that. She said, she was asked if she could have a super power, what would it be and she said hers would be "invisibility." I've heard a story on by John Hodges (I referred her to the backlog of "This American Life" to hear it) where he writes about asking people if they had a super-power, either invisibility or flight, what would they choose. It's a good story. I should listen to it again.

 

What this taught me is that I am still afraid to really engage with people. I am worried they don't feel heard so I am so busy listening to them that I don't play my part. Like an actor too focused on her cue, I forget to put myself into the role. This woman was the first person to really challenge me about the chair though. I have to say, I am surprised it has taken so long. But I am glad it is finally happening. I need to do more than just carry it. I need to be thinking and talking about it and answering tough questions. And, let's face it the toughest questions won't come from me. They're going to come from someone who believes they have some answers for me. They're going to come from someone who thinks this FCP is bullshit. They're going to come from someone who doesn't know or give a crap about me. Not that this woman was harsh, she was lovely, but it was clear she didn't know anything about me and so she felt very confident really pushing me. Also, it seemed she was very ready with her answers about what I should read regarding Fear. 

 

She was ready to grapple with me and my chair and I pulled out easy answers to her questions. She had a bit of an agenda and I willingly laid myself out for her to feel good about having something to give me. I was "nice." I have great disdain for people who are "nice." Yet here I am, playing it safe, trying to help someone feel good about herself when what she also seemed obviously very strongly capable of was wrestling with a complete stranger over something that really mattered. I wimped out. Shit. This is me. I back down. I play "nice." I make sure others feel good at the expense of being real with them. 

 

I must be clear I don't always play "nice." I can be quite headstrong and a bit overbearing sometimes. But when it is about something deeply meaningful and potentially tumultuous, I tend to put taking care of others before being true to myself. 

 

Anyway, later I had a conversation with a coworker about rock climbing. I need to write about how learning to and doing rock climbing got me over a significant phobia about spiders and and fear of heights. Not tonight though. I must sleep. 


Day 43

 

 "Struggling with fatigue. Struggling with Fears. Struggling with my Why. I thought I knew my Why; but between this challenge, the Fear Chair Project and managing a house painting job, I feel like I am walking in a fog looking for myself. This isn't a bad thing. It is uncomfortable as, well, not hell, I've been there; but it IS very uncomfortable. Right now is full of do-ing; but I am grateful for the thread of mindfulness." This is part of what I posted for the 30 in 30 challenge (Day 9). 


Today was a rough day. 9 hours of cutting in on the house. Tomorrow we begin painting the body of the house. Woohoo! I spent a few hours cutting in on a brick surface. Painting brick is highly irritating to me . First, I do not like painted brick, second, painting brick includes rough surfaces and lots of holes to be filled, all very much ruining a brush. Whine. It's been that kind of day. Today I also really felt  the pain of where I am right now in life (see above quote).


Then something came up from my past that had me living in the past while projecting to the future. I know better than to do this. It always results in negativity and pain. My daughter even told me this morning she had to tell someone yesterday she didn't want to reflect on the past because she was feeling anxiety, so she said, "I want to be distracted so I can get my mind off of my mind." I love this, and loved it when I heard it this morning. So why didn't I listen to it and keep my mind off my mind when the painful thoughts came up?


I think Fear is increased proportionate to my fatigue. Or, perhaps, rather, my ability to deal with my Fear decreases proportionate to the increase in exhaustion. Either way, right now, I'm wiped out; and Fears abound, looming large. I think this is the gift of the above mentioned "fog." I think it is a defense mechanism actually because life IS so overwhelming right now. I am embarked on numerous intense adventures simultaneously. Anxiety and Fears over outcomes would be natural. So, my psyche, noticing too that physically I am taxed beyond belief, has me covered in a fog of not-knowing. Sure, I can't see insights or answers, yet. But too, I don't see the monsters either which might otherwise discourage me or cause greater Fear. My present is in a fog. 


Perhaps this is why I was so in my mind of the past and future. The present is so unclear except the preoccupation with massive do-ing. Probably so. Crap. That is hard. I love being mindful and present. It, hmmm.... I will hold the image of myself in the safety, if uncomfortableness of the fog. I don't think I've ever done that for myself. I will comfort myself and allow myself to be here. Today. Now. And see what comes of it. 


Related, I wanted to note the comment I made last night about choosing to focus on living instead of focussing on fears around aging. That was a cool insight. To me it is a sign that I AM focusing on the present more. I do know growing older is very challenging, and I do from time to time fear the prosepect of if not the reality of aging. I'm 51. But  I cannot forget two things my mentor told me years ago when he was in his 70s, "any day I am upright is a good day." and "growing old sucks but it is better than the alternative." He was a man who died living. THAT is what I want to do. For much of my youth, I'd say I "lived dying," In recent years and for today, I choose to live fully this experience of my time on this planet. 


Fears? I have a few, and they do often weigh me down, but I am hopeful my sitting out on life because of it/them, is waning. I am tempted to say, "I just have to finish this damn house painting;" but that is all part of this time, this day, in my life as well. 

 

So, I sat with my chair tonight and repainted the seat. Then I doodled a bit on it as well. I am not a doodler, which i think is odd for an artist. I've had a real block about doodling. So, over the past 6 months I've been purposefully training myself to doodle. Still, it is difficult, so I will listen to the Fear as I doodle on the chair.

 

Here's the renewed seat BTW;



Day 42

 

So, I was standing in line waiting to get a cup of coffee and something I wouldn't have to refridgerate or heat up for lunch (been so busy living fully that grocery shopping has fallen sadly behind,...) when the gentleman infront of me completed his order and turned to ask about the chair I'd seen him glance at a few times. Funny, he needed to order his coffee before he asked about it. Anyway, I told him my quick story about the chair. He'd started as if he had a story written in his head already, "So, you make a lot of little things you carry around with you?" 

Hahaha, "Well, I AM and artist and I did paint this," answering but not buying into whatever story, "and I take it wherever I go."

Head-cocked to the side like my little dog when he hears a significant word, "Really...why is that." 

"Well, I discovered I carry a lot of Fear within me and so I created this chair as a symbol of that and I have to carry it everywhere until I no longer need to carry the Fear."

He was a rather handsome man in his late 30s I'd say. Very well dressed. Very professional-looking. He looked me in the eyes, "reached up and very gently but with a strength cupped my arm with his hand, "that is so beautiful." he said.

"Thank you." I said. And he turned to pick up his coffee and make room for me to order.

 

Later I was telling my husband the story and then I said, "you know, nobody touches eachother anymore in our culture. I think we're afraid to touch. It was so nice. Such a warm gestrure." Then it occurred to me to add, "but of course, he may have seen me as a gray-haired old grandma so I was safe!" My husband and I both roared with laughter at this. When we stopped, he said, "Well at least you can laugh about it." 

"Yeah, well, I think I have to."

 

Still, whatever the motivation or "story" for the man, the gesture was very sweet, and rare anymore in our world. I feel very gifted by the experiences the FCP is giving me. The encounters with people. The responses. The connections. It's good for me. My Fear of visibility used to make me so very shy and so very sad really. Lonely and feeling like I was a failure and would always fail at life. Sometimes I was aware of these feelings but sometimes they were buried deep beneath the masks or dramas I created to hide Fears. Sometimes I was only aware of the sadness. Sometimes my sadness became anger directed at whomever or whatever I wanted to be responsible other than me for my misery. This project, better than any therapy I've had, is drawing not only my Fear out of me; but is also drawing ME out of myself as a result.

 

I think it's partly because I have something in common with everyone. My chair is a difference. It sets me apart. I think we all feel we are different from others or we Fear we are different from others in some way. Sure everyone is at 7 billion different places in their self-acceptance, but even if one has experienced enlightenment, if they are human, they at sometime or another felt -- apart from. Different. And suffered a little or a lot because of it. The chair is perhaps my symbol of the human condition I find myself in. And don't we all encounter eachother in the same condition?

 

I just realized, I don't dye my hair and it is quite gray (started  graying at 18). The last time I was waiting for a plane, there were a couple hundred people at the gate and several dozen women in their 40's - 70's I'd say and out of all, only 3 women had visibly gray hair. It is so common to color now. The Fear of aging, or looking as if we are aging is a big one. Though I don't color, I know the Fear. I just choose to practice living as my first focus rather than avoiding aging. BTW, my gray hair also stands out as a difference I suppose. Something that makes me apart from. And I do feel the challenge of being different in this but it is all part of the big Fear I carry in the chair. Just having gray hair wouldn't be the metaphor the chair is though, who wants to turn to the woman in line and ask, "so, what's with the gray hair?"

 

It is good to be able to laugh.