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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! 


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.