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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! 


What to say tonight? Life can turn on a dime. All can be lost in a moment. Can all be gained in a moment? Or RE-gained? I don't know. The future is not ours to see, Doris Day Doris Day...

 

I am beginning to see transitions whitle time down to the present moment better than any other human experience. Mostly this happens because during transition times, the past is most clearly dead and gone, no turning back; and the future is SO freakily uncharted, unknowable and frightening. So, where is the best place to be? The present moment. YET. It is also the present moment that is flaying the skin right off one and turning them inside out. That painful. So, the past is death. The future is invisible. The present is torture. Transitions suck.

 

Yet...

 

Science and experience tell me we only truly have the present moment. Ever. And, in the midst of a gianormous transition, I fall back on what is KNOWN in all the tumultuous unknowns. Therefore I fall back on the comforting Truth, which is the present moment. This is beautiful. This is stable. This is a KNOWN in the center of the UNKNOWING and UNKNOWABLE. It is comforting. And it feels a bit like wisdom might be in this place.

 

Yet...

 

That flayed, inside-out thing. Yeah. It hurts like nothing ever hurt before. Sometimes. Some transitions. But every transition creates new hurt that one has never felt before. Because- it - is - a - transition. A tansition by definition is moving from a place that is known to a place that is unknown. Therefore, the pain of moving in this manner is totally a new experience. And, every time it happens, - though it's happened before, it's never happened THIS way - it sucks anew. 

 

Yet...

 

We have the choice of living in a dead past fantasy or an invisible future fantasy or in the very real, very uncomfortably painful present. I've actually had a couple people admit to me recently that they were unwilling to do the work of living in this painful present precisely because it is uncomfortable. I didn't respond with much grace, I must admit. Kind of a "WTF, who gets to say things like that when someone's life is in the balance!" rant I'm not particularly proud of. But I AM grateful that life has taught me to realize the most beautiful lessons are often buried in the messiest places and the most worthwhile journeys are often riddled with pain.

 

So...

 

I leave you with a story. It is a joke I remember the parish priest telling my mother when he visited our home when I was in kindergarten. He started by asking how old I'd be at my next birthday....

 

"There was a mother of two twin boys who were complete opposites. Opposites to such degree that they were driving her insane. One boy was a total optimist, all the world was sunshine and sugar and happy happy times; and one was a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist who couldn't find a thing to say that didn't involve a put-down or a complaint. So she went to the parish priest to ask for assistance before she tore her hair out in frustration.

 

'The boys' 6th birthday is coming up isn't it?' queried the priest. ' I have an idea. Fill a room in your house with everything wonderful that a 6 year-old boy could possibly want and lead your pessimist into that room on his birthday. No boy can resist a room full of toys. Then fill another room with manure and close your optimist in there for a while. He'll come to center quickly.'

 

"The mother thought this sounded like good advice and she invited the priest to help her with the plan. So on the morning of the boys' birthday, the mother and the priest closed the pessimistic boy in the room full of toys and then led the optimist into his room full of manure. After closing the optimistic boy in, they heard bangs and shouting coming from the first room. The walked down the hall and opened the door to nearly be hit by flying toys as the boy knelt on the floor throwing anything within reach as hard as he could and shouted 'junk, this is all junk! Why can't you EVER get me anything good!' 

 

"The adults quickly closed the door before being hit by the flying objects. They both sighed and agreed it was better to have one boy cured than both being such extremes and they went to check on the optimistic boy. They opened the door and again were almost hit with flying debris but this time the boy was smiling and humming and the priest asked him, 'Johnny, why are you so happy digging in all of this mess?' and the boy looked up at the two and joyfully exclaimed, 'Where there's shit, there's got to be a pony!"

 

Living in thereality of the present moment during transition periods, it seems to me I can either through tantrums over the pain, missing out on the gifts; or I can hunker down and dig deep to find the treasure within. 

 

Breathing is a good place to start...


I sit here tonight in the presence of tremendous Fear. And I must with every breath practice detatchment. I am deeply grateful to know that I CAN detatch from the massive entity beside me. I DON'T have to carry it within. THIS is a great realization. Otherwise, I think I'd not sleep a wink at best and be a sobbing, shaking mess on the bed quite possibly, if I hadn't learned that Fear is simply a part of life but it doesn't HAVE to be a part of me. That I can exist with my Fear/s even though they may be fierce and monsterous. I don't have to #1 run away from them, or #2 pretend they don't exist, or even #3 wrestle with them. With effort, and I'm hoping this effort lessens with time and practice, I can simply BE with Fear/s.

 

A big part of my Fear tonight is actually based on Fear about  another person's Fear/s. So, from this experience, I am learning that I can also be with another's Fear/s and not carry them. 

 

I am reminded of an earlier metaphor, that of climbing a mountain. Carrying my backpack, my tools for survival. I am reminded that I learned I cannot carry another person OR another person's backpack up the mountain. If I attempt to carry another person's load, my life would suffer, I woud suffer. Besides, how can I know what another person might need in the way of tools for survival? Well, I can guess the survival tools, but not the tools for triving. Those are individual. AND, the other person is not strengthened by having someone else carry their tools.

 

This is hard. I am a caretaker. I LOVE to serve people. I LOVE to carry burdens far to big for my size (really as well as metaphorically, a friend calls me "the human ant"). It breaks my heart to think of the person I love who sits alone in Fear tonight for whom I have built my own Fear monster. Yet, I am learning that I cannot carry this burden up the mountain. I will sit with my Fear tonight. And I will breathe through it and be. Simply BE. And I will remember the beauty and creativity and creation of this journey. And I am clothed in the  joy, tranquility, peace, harmony, wisdom, courage, contentment, serenity, rebirth and love depicted in the prayer flags created in the last year. Then I will sleep. For tomorrow the mountain awaits.

 

 


So, I've alluded to this family crisis for a while now. But I need to fess-up and then do the thing I think I cannot do....

 

Last Sunday I received an email from a consultant who I am hoping to have help me with my social media presence. This week has been extremely difficult in the family crisis department; but I could   have   read   the   email. Yet I have not. Why? Because I am scared and I am tired and so I put it off, saying to myself, "I am just dealing with too much right now." Which IS very true. HOWEVER, working on my art and getting myself launched HELPS me feel stronger. SO I NEED TO DO IT. 

 

This is residual self-sabotage, I know it. After the effort and the joy at entering my first juried show, I somehow shut down for the week following. So, here I am on Friday, not quite a week later, owning up to my Fear-induced procrastination. And I have dubbed tomorrow morning, "Saturday, get up off my ass and take charge again day." The morning in the studio and part of that time will be spent looking at the email and doing the homework.

 

And it's here in print. So I HAVE to do it. Got it? Good......

 

I'll let you know.


I find myself asking quietly, in the secret spaces between thoughts, if Love truly IS the strongest force we humans know. I'm pretty sure I made some bold statements about this last fall during or shortly after carrying a Fear Chair around with me for 50 days. Coming off a challenge like that, I was feeling pretty badass. Confident I'd learned some powerful lessons about our powerful energy. But lately I am humbled by the circumstances of my life; and I find myself questioning everything I formerly believed and experienced in life. My lessons about Fear and Love last fall were foundational. Now I feel my foundations quaking in the turbulence of life around and within me.

 

This is how it happens though, isn't it? We falter, we drag ourselves through the bitter, stormy lessons. We learn. We gain strength. We grow. We Live life. Unforseen circumstances come at us and we feel confident and joyful in what we'd learned holding through the turbulence. But if the situation grows chronic or in any way accute, that foundation begins to feel weakened and threatened. Sometimes it can crumble. A bit or a lot or totally. That's the Fear each time. The Fear is that the foundation won't hold. It will erode.

 

So I am sitting in Fear tonight. Feeling my foundation cracking a bit. Tired. Wondering if Love IS truly the strongest energy we humans have going for us. I Love someone fiercely and deeply -- to my particles and to the energy between the particles that make me me. And tonight I feel as if that love will not make a shred of difference in the suffering of that individual and only seems to increase my own suffering. Yet I Love.

 

This is the muddy junction of Love and Fear. This is where they touch. Where the two forces mingle. THAT'S where I am.

 

THIS is where I need to be making my art from NOW. This yucky, slurry place where the solid meets the liquid and where nothing feels certain.