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It's been an intense two months since I posted. Dealing with much Fear, Love and Art actually, while also moving through this period of recovery from the trauma of personal events of Winter-time. "The Winter of My Discontent," comes to mind but that would be trite. "The Winter of my near-undoing," feels more accurate. Now however, a few months forward in life, the near-undoing also looks like sort of a strengthening. 

 

For a long time, I'd been afraid of what happened happening, then it did. Sometimes that is life. And when it did happen, it felt like death. Yet I survived. One day, one moment at a time, millions of moments, I lived. I may not have been pretty or graceful about it, but I walked through my days.

 

I don't feel that i have tremenous wisdom to share at this point. I wish I would; but I can offer myself as an example that sometimes the deepest, most frightening Fear happens to come true; and it doesn't have to be your undoing. You may feel as if whatever it is is going to kill you, destroy everything, leave you destitute and utterly alone and without purpose. In the end, what happens AFTER the worse thing in the world happens, is your choice. Or, rather, your choices. Every moment, every day the choice to let an event run you through or for you to walk through IT is yours. When everything feels totally out of control, you still have one thing in your control, how you will face the situation.

 

Initial shock from trauma is natural. Pain, Anger, Bargaining, Denial, Fear, Rationalizing, Avoidance,... all completely part of the human experience. But trauma happens and then recovery either begins or it doesn't. Either I get mired in those initial responses and stages of grief or I move through them. Notice them, feel them, move on to what comes next. 

 

And always, ALWAYS, the choice is between Love and Fear. Perhaps it was that the worst already happened, or perhaps it was that the worst thing to happen would be me losing my life over what had occurred; but never did I doubt that Love had to be the undercurrent that connected my choices or I wouldn't recover. And foremost had to be learning better how to Love myself. 

 

And so I made art. Years ago I envied people who were able to create their art AS they struggled with personal issues and challenges. I didn't know how to do that. My art came only with great inspirations and wonderment. And so, life being what it is, hard, I often didn't make art because I was busy struggling to make it through the days, months, years even. Eventually I turned my envy into interest. I began watching people who could do this thing that I could not and I began looking at WHY I was blocked from that which I knew I needed to do -- to make art at ALL times in life, ESPECIALLY when life through me under the bus. It's been exciting and excruciating learning this lesson but as of this winter and upon this day and in this moment, I am to my core grateful I learned it. Making art has saved my life many times. This winter and now spring, it continues to draw (no pun intended) me forward even as it pulls me deeper. Deeper sometimes into the pain, sometimes into the profound, sometimes deeper into the Love that is all part of what I call a death experience. An experience where one's life, even one's self as she knew it dies. Art is what helps me create the new life that comes after the worst thing happening. Birth the NEW life, the new me.

 

I don't have a professional photo of the most difficult piece of art I've made in a long time. It took February and March to get myself through it. It was disturbing and challenging and profoundly TRUE, every step of the way. It is a prayer flage called "Up From the Broken Heart." It's not "pretty," but I love it perhaps for that reason. (And I find I don't even have a photo on my phone. I will take one tomorrow and post it.)

 

So, perhaps I now have two antidotes for Fear. The Fear Chair Project taught me that Love is the antidote. But I'm thinking actually Art may be one as well... will give this some thought...Or, is Art a form of Love? Hm


"There is something SO important about not wanting." Carlo Delumpa, Portland Photographer

 

Carlo said the above statement when he and I met at his shared studio, an old warehouse on the East bank of the Willamette River. We'd been talking and getting acquainted, something he valued as a precurser to photographing an artists works. He was going to photograph my prayer flags.

 

We'd been talking about carrying "stuff" through life as artists. Stuff we needed but also stuff we wanted. And we reflected upon how this forces us to long for larger spaces or convenient storage. I relayed the story of talking about just this subject last fall with my friend Carol when we were feeling nostalgic for times when we felt fully ALIVE. Last fall, and I told Carlo at this time, I'd mentioned that the times I felt most alive seem to have been the times when I could fit all I owned into my car and drive it across country to move where I would. Carol had talked about coming back from Nicaragua in the 70s with only a dime to her name (the basement where she'd stored her possessions while gone had flooded and everything had been destroyed). I related to Carlo that this had been the discussion last fall that led me to carrying a Fear Chair for 51 days. 

 

I felt VERY alive for those 51 days too.

 

Back to Carlo and I in the studio in Portland in January, ... we talked about that dichotomy of living light being the time when one might be most likely to live FULLY. To LIVE. And then we paused and he said, almost as an aside, "There is something SO important about not wanting." At the time this comment seemed in a way simply a small observation. Yet something in me knew I needed to store it away. Something in my middle knew it a was profound Truth for me. So I wrote it down. And I've kept it at the front of my daytimer ever since.

 

Today it haunts me.

 

I found out last night that I did not get in to the show I'd submitted to last month. It had seemed such a spectacularly perfect fit for my prayer flags. It felt synchronous from the moment I found the call to artists. This and life has been so challenging of late, the prayer flags getting out into the world seemed something so hopeful. It feels like this show was my only dime. 

 

So, now, am I simply left wanting? It seems so. The initial loss feels like a blow. Like my already broke open heart just got pushed aside. It's not a pretty picture if you think about it. And it doesn't feel very good either. But I've had to live with it for the day. Ever  since I read the rejection email last night.

 

What do I Fear? There are all sorts of superficial little fears, not being good enough, never being good enough, not ever showing, blah blah blah. But what do I REALLY Fear? I Fear that my work doesn't matter and ultimately that I don't matter. I think about it and, driving across country alone with all my worldly possessions packed in was easy. It was easy because I MATTERED. No one could do that but me: no one could do that for me or with me. I (ME, I) LIVED my life at those times. Unencumbered by expectations of others or even myself, to measure up. I drove my life and I listened to the directions that called me. I didn't WANT anything. I just lived. And without ME, there was nothing. No car full of MY stuff. No change of direction. No story. I certainly couldn't have articulated this at the time, but it is very clear now, I (ME, I) mattered greatly.

 

Now? Do I matter? I am at a transition time in life again, much like those times when I packed the car and drove to some new home. But I have a house. A studio. I have stuff that would fill trucks. I have a body of work that could fill a car. What story am I telling? What directions call to me? I WANT to matter to the world. I want my work to matter. Yet, there is something SO important about not wanting. 

 

It haunts me.

 

Am I, is my art,... enough?

 

 

 

 




Last time carrying the Fear Chair! My friend, Carol Woodford (first witness to the Project), came with me to drop the Chair off at The Community Warehouse in Portland. The CW has an annual fundraiser called "The Chair Affair." Funds are raised through auctioning off chairs and tables that local artists have transformed into art. I first found out about the event while carrying the chair to a coffeeshop last fall. Artists and patrons of the event saw me and asked, first why I was carrying the chair, then what I planned to do with it when I no longer needed to carry it. Their explanation of the Chair Affair and the work of the Community Warehouse to support families, created a perfect conclusion to The Fear Chair Project. The Chair is now in it's "green-room," with other wonderful works of art, awaiting the big show on April 18th (check out communitywarehouse.org for info. on tickets)!

 

I wrote a very brief explanation of the Project to be included with the chair for any potential buyers to see it's unusual backstory. In that explanation I mention that "The Fear Chair Project was one of the greatest gifts I've ever given myself." There is sadness in letting go of the companion I carried so many days, yet, it was about letting go that the FCP taught me. Not just detatchment from Fear but from anything that I am Afraid of losing. As it turns out this lesson began (we never fully learn anything) just in time for some enormous losses in my life. The FCP strengthened me and its lessons continue with me, even as I travel an unforseen road through the Forest of Unknowing for a time. 

 

Through losses, through Fear, through the unforseen and the unknowable, Love is always available. Love always travels with me, with us. We carry it as much as we carry Fear or loss or conflictedness. And we always have the choice of what we will focus on. I spent 51 days focusing on Fear. In my life, Fear had screamed long enough trying to maintain my attention. I gave it my attention. I took it to coffee, I took it to a play, I took it on jobs, shopping, to dinner, breakfast, on long walks. I made it beautiful. And in return, Fear gave me a deeper understanding of Love with lessions in compassion and patience and openness. Through carrying Fear as a chair, as a companion, I am strengthened, humbled and grateful. 

 

I am hopeful the Fear Chair will find a new place to call home where it can be a reminder that even Fear carries beauty, for under it there is always Love. And I am excited that the FC will help support a great program that serves families!


As the years changed from 2014 to 2015, I was heard talking to many people about how i felt grateful to have 2014 behind us for it had been a tumultuous year and I was looking forward to 2015 bringing prosperity and joy and most of all a sense of the strength gathered through enduring the previous year's tribulation. 

 

Among the people I talked to about this hopeful attitude was one woman. I don't recall who it was, only that she was a she. It's probably best that I don't remember specifically who whe was actually. For, the words "because 2014 was SO tumultuous," had hardly left my mouth and she interjected, "oh, just wait..." in an ominous tone. "What? No! What?" I exclaimed. 

 

"Oh, there's some stuff coming yet," she added.

 

"What? No!" at the risk of repeating myself.

 

"Oh, yeah, 2015 has some stuff to show us. There're BIG troubles coming in 2015." 

 

I started to ask what and how she knew this but was already overwelmed in my recovering from 2014's final episode and just didn't have it in me to hear the details of what was coming. Like a torture victim who had a chance to hear the final sentencing, I just would rather not know. It was enough that it was coming.

 

Well, we're six weeks into the new year and I've got to say, I wish I'd retained who it was that foreshadowed such troubles because I'd plant a big kiss on her cheek and invite her to have a cup of coffee (or glass of beer) and tell me what more she knows of this year. With great humility, I'd sit at her feet and learn. For this, so far has been not just for me, but for many friends and family an horrendously challenging year. 

 

As I type this, I reallize tonight there isn't even a question of Fear. There is only a question of Why (?) Not "Why is this happening, oh god, this is horrible, why, why why?" But "Why?" capital "W." Where will I find the Why of what is happening. The meaning. How can so many people be experiencing such massive loss (all unrelated) and where is the meaning? 

 

In a sense, Fear enters in because some people, myself sometimes counted among them, Fear there IS no reason, no lesson, no getting through this strengthened or wiser. Some days, there is only the raw pain and senselessness of suffering moment after moment, pain after pain. 

 

So, I struggle to keep myself focused on gratitude some days, some moments. But even harder is helping those around me who suffer their own tumult in 2015 to keep faithful to gratitude or even simply hope. When my own world feels like jello, how can I tell someone else who just felt their own life shift dramatically that there IS anything firm to stand on?

 

THIS is the question: When ones own world feels like jello beneath their feet, how can she offer hope of anything firm to stand on, or even consulation, to another person who's world just fell from beneath their feet? 

 

I don't know.

 

But with all my being, I know the path of hopelessness is the path of Fear. I know despair is the air one breathes walking that path.

 

And I know that as 2014 closed, the word given to me for the year 2015 was "Prosperity." At the time the word dropped into my head, I hadn't the slightest idea what the Universe could possibly mean, giving me such a word. I still haven't the slightest idea. These six weeks have tried me and have tried people close to me, people who are strong and good and wise. We have been tried to our very core, each in our own struggles. And I have no idea whatsoever as to the Universe's intension if there is such a thing. But, day by day, moment by moment, "prosperity" keeps me on the ride. 

 

When my daughter was a young child, I enlisted my schooling in child development and adapted it to gain the understanding that every age brings it's challenges, EVERY age. AND every age brings it's blessings. EVERY age brings it's blessings. That creedo made parenting the wildest, most wonderful ride I could ever hope for. 2015 is just another year, another age. It has brought some doozy challenges already, and it WILL bring it's blessings. This is life. The Universe clamours for balance ... doesn't it?


I awoke this morning feeling some doubt about whether I should have posted my crude analogy last night about creative constipation. I wrote about my doubts in my morning pages then moved on to bigger questions, like, what role does a broken heart play.

 

So, I am not going to apologize for the crude analogy. Creative constipation is crude perhaps, and some may take offense or say it is too negative or gross. But, I have a long history of living very consciously with the human condition and sometimes life is gutteral. To say "I have an artist's block," to me is too nebulous sometimes, too trite. What exactly does "artist's block," mean anyway? Sure, it means something is in the way and I am blocked from creating fully. But mention a "constipation" and people know right away, such an experience hits you in the middle of who you are and it's painful and it's solid and it's work getting it to clear up. And it feels so good to clear it away. A block just gets cleared away, a constipation experience gets cleansed.

 

And the role of the broken heart? Here is something I posted on the FB page of a closed artists group I belong to: "Woke this morning wanting to post a thank you to Jeanne and you all and saw this post. Perfect. I've been suffering a broken heart since late December and realized this morning that the heart is the toughest nut to crack. It is the most protected nut in us. Because, broke open, the heart feels initially like it will die. Like we will die. But also, broke open, is when our larger self can emerge from that most loving, most loved place in us. A broken heart is the place where we can best give birth to ourselves. This group has been a place of respite and refuge while I suffered and sobbed and listened and watched until

I could catch a glimpse of lessons emerging from the wreckage. You all have helped me keep focused on making art even when all about me and all within me felt as if it was crumbling. And now, I am beginning to emerge. Thank you!"

 

Perhaps I will write more on this later... must move on in the day...


Noticed this evening, with the help of a fabulous therapist, that, yes that sound I hear is the Universe screaming at me "It's time to learn how to take care of yourself!!" One of those "Aha! -- well duh" moments. I've been writing a lot in the last month and a half about going through a massive transition that has torn the earth from beneath my feet. All this time, I've had the question nestled in the back of my mind, "I KNOW every experience brings lessons, brings gifts, what is the gift, the LESSON for me in this experience of such great loss?"

 

Until tonight, I've not heard and answer; but have trusted. I should have known it would be obvious and would actually be something my support system, as well as the Universe/God has been trying to get through to me. The greatest life lessons seem to carry a bit of humor if not irony when we recognize them.

 

What this has to do with Art? Well, um, I call it "creative constipation," when some insight is stuck for some reason just beyond my ability to see it. It can be caused by fear or grief or anger or exhaustion but whatever the cause, the result is a very real sense of a stopped-up creativity. It usually happens for some period of time with every major transition in my life or with every major transformation. At some point, I'll be moving through the process and creating through the process when, slowly I begin to realize there is a siezing in my soul/mind that begins to grow. Eventually, the fear is always introduced, which only increases the discomfort. The fear that this time the blockage will be terminal to my creativity, to my art. 

 

It probably seems strange to others, but this is so much a part of my experiences of transiton and transformation processes that, by now, one would think I'd recognize the signs and be able to take measures to keep things moving and not be hindered by the problem anymore. I actually have learned quite a lot about how to deal with this through the years. Now, when it is clear that life is moving me into another time of change, I am vigilant about making art throughout the tumult of the transition period. I also make sure I do not isolate myself but actually (though my tendancy is to crawl into a cucoon to undergo the painful, scary changes) purposefully seek out others who can reflect myself to me as well as offer honest (if painfully) insights and feedback.

 

But I think I will always struggle some with the "creative constipation," possibilities to some degree because with every transition, every change, there is the unavoidable UNKNOWN element that is moving toward me, or I toward it. And by definition, I therefore simply cannot SEE what it is until perhaps it literally whacks me in the head or knocks me on the ass, or screams in my face as this realization tonight seemed to be doing.

 

So, a natural caregiver, lover of serving people, reformed do-gooder, again hears loud and clear now that NOW is the time to focus on self-care. Time to extend the same compassion I strive to offer others, to myself. Love and grace and allowing... oh, and patience...


Rappelling is something I, as a child or young adult would NEVER have imagined I'd do. Growing up in the center of Minnesota in the 70s, there weren't many opportunities. Besides, I was terrified of heights. When I was young, we lived in an old farmhouse that had a summer kitchen with rotting old stairs leading along the side of the building up to the attic. My brother and I were both afraid of heights but we were also a bit competitive. So we sometimes would challenge eachother to jump from a step. We'd start by showing that, though afraid, we would be able to jump. Then the other would have to jump fom the same step. It started out competitive but we both inevitably cheered eachother on, feeling empathy for eachother in our shared fear. Ultimately we began to work together to help eachother overcome that fear. At one point we discovered that if we pretended a bumble bee was flying up behind us ready to sting, we could jump from higher steps than we had thought. This trick we learned to play on ourselves didn't cure us from the fear but it DID get us to not be parylized by it. (incidentally, my brother and I are the only ones of 6 siblings who rock and alpine climb as adults).

 

So, it was with amazement and delight that in my mid-thirties I found that I LOVErappelling and am quite a natural. Backing up to a cliff-face and stepping off is one of the most liberating experiences for me. I don't think I've entirely overcome my fear of heights, but I find that my trust in my equipment and my trust in myself is stronger than my fear of heights. This has helped me rock and alpine climb in some tricky places.

 

I am in a tricky place right now in my life. Feeling ready to launch onto the art scene with my prayer flags, I however am feeling hesitant. And I KNOW hesitation can be deadly in tricky situations. This ready to launch feeling however comes simultaneous to an immense life change that was thrust upon me and I am feeling very isolated and distracted by grief. I remember attempting to jump from the attic stairs once or twice when my brother wasn't there. Even the bee trick didn't help. The aloneness somehow stymied my courage. It took quite a long time for me to muster the courage myself, un-cheered-on, to jump from my record height.

 

I can think of a handful of times in my life when I was totally on my own and life called me to courageously step out into the unknown. Usually someone has been there supporting -- or taunting, both are motivating-- me. But it's not often I've done the courageous thing just because I deserve it.

 

Yes, I do think it's a worthiness thing. If I don't feel worthy, why would I risk for my own sake? Having to prove myself to someone or wanting to IMprove myself for or to spite of someone, has always been my m.o. This is a humbling realization. I'd rather not be this way. It seems like a weakness. Yet, here I am.

 

Recently I've been reading a book written by a childhood friend. She's actually the age of my youngest sister, 6 years my junior. Even as children, when she would go horseback riding with my sister, I could easily see she was a much stronger, clearer, more capable person than I. And I harbored a secret jealousy. I ached to be a stronger, more courageous person and she, 6 years younger was already in a place in herself I couldn't even imagine existed inside me. I had to trick myself to jump off stairs when she at 5 had started racing my sister each on horeseback across the fields.

 

The book is very well written and accounts the synchronicity in my friends life and her journey to deeper and deeper trust of that synchronicity and trust of the connectedness of All. As I began reading the book, I felt shame that the old secret envy came and sat alongside me (this woman, by the way is gorgeous, vivacious and an old soul). But I read on. And I look at my envy, my jealousy as I read. And I learn about Lisa and I learn about me.

 

I am still that girl trembling upon the steps behind the summer kitchen. Sure I've tricked myself a time or two into taking risks and have moved further in life. But I find myself right now on the tallest platform of my life, looking down. And I tremble. I hesitate. I second guess. I make up excuses and I procrastinate. I find myself wondering if I have what it takes to do this thing that is infront of me, totally forgetting that I'd had what it takes to get me in front of IT! It is a matter of trust. Again, I must remember and trust the equipement, the tools, and the steps and hard work that got me here. AND I must remember, and here reading Lisa's book is a great help, to trust the synchronicity and trust the connectedness of the Universe. Then, I must step off the edge. 

 

Launch!...


Clear coated The Fear Chair today so it will be ready to deliver to Portland's Community Warehouse this week. It will then be auctioned off at CW's fundraiser "The Chair Affair," in April. It's an annual thing they do where the CW has NW artists come choose a chair in the Fall then make it into art to be autioned off. Very excited to have the Fear Chair be a part of this. I just saw some stats from the CW and they helped 178 families in January alone find housing and necessities! Very happy to be supporting them!