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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Smack in the middle of grieving a huge loss. Sitting deep in the middle of the Forest of Unknowing. Carrying this marvelous body of work, hoping to get it out into the world. I feel SO fracking messed up. And my FEAR is that I will never move from this place. That I will just molder here, growing grayer by the minute, slumping further down into a hunched mound of pathetic old lady.
I know this is very different than past posts but something happened Friday to deepen my loss and I am just struggling desperately to not be crushed by it. And so far I am feeling as if I am losing the fight. For the most part today I have just felt thoroughly exhausted.
I am dealing with grieving by degrees. In my case, the loss is not all at once but comes piecemeal, bit by bit each day, without a forseeable end. And of course my main Fear is that the losses WILL keep coming forever because of the circumstances. The other Fear is that I will just be endlessly sucked down by the continued loss. That I will never again feel strong, let alone healed or healthy.
How do I do this? How do I climb out of this quicksand?
There are friends in my support system. And my mom just came for a visit. People shouting from beside the quicksand for me to grab hold of something and pull myself out; but frankly, I just don't see the branches or ropes or whatever as viable options. They just get me out of one pool of quicksand only to walk along and fall into another. And I am tired. Tired and sad and angry and afraid.
So I spent the weekend NOT in my studio. This was perhaps NOT what I should have done. But it is what I did do, or didn't,... The piece I am working on is very much about loss and rising out of loss and I think, actually, perhaps, I needed to wallow in this loss for a couple of days. On Thursday and Friday I worked on the piece a bit and got to a place of depicting that from which one rises, the broken heart of loss. But I have not at all felt the strength to address the rising. So, perhaps this dark and scary time was needed for me to grasp what will come next in the piece. Who knows.
The wallowing is past however, I may choose to do more tomorrow, but I cannot beat myself up over the weekend in the quicksand. That won't get me out of it. I suppose I need to be kind and loving and patient with that self in the mudhole. She's/I'm in a really crappy place, my best hand out of it is going to have to come from me. And it needs to be a kind hand.
Nothing in Life is certain. Nothing. No thing. No situation. No circumstance. No. Nothing...
One month ago the world was torn from beneath my feet and I was sent tumbling down into the abyss. Yesterday was exactly one month. I thought it was today but then, well, I believe I am still stumbling for certainty. Bumping around, looking for some solid ground. Something that might look like somthing to count on. So I got the date wrong.
Falling from one's world, or perhaps better put, having one's world fall away is of course at first traumatic. And the ensuing grieving process rocks things a bit as well. But after time, say, a month, one starts to recognize that this once traumatically different reality than one oh-so-recently knew is becoming the norm. Is becoming the foundation upon which the new world will grow. And, being new at seeing the world from this perspective, things look extremely unpredictable and unknowable. Fear is here.
The other day I did a meditation about this and found that I was in the middle of the Forest of Unknowing in my meditation. So I went with that, because, hey, it's where I was/am. So, in this forest, there are pits and spiders who spin webs that cast spells upon me that keep me unclear. (I wrote about it last week.) I've been in that forest for over a week now. I managed in subsequent meditations to clothe myself using the one thing I found myself to be carrying, my prayer flags. ("Wisdom" is on my back, "Peace" on my chest, "Love" is on my right arm, "courage" on my left, "harmony" on my belly, the others all flow about my legs as I wander or cover my feet as I sit, being, in the middle of the Forest of Unknowing) I also managed to build a sacred garden alongside the Forest for times when I needed light and life and comfort during meditations. But always, I return to the center of the Forest of Unknowing.
This is perhaps the hardest part of trauma, waiting for the healing to take it's own course at it's own pace. BEING in the center of the BIG NEW UNKNOWN is the HARDEST thing. And the world cooperates with finding alternatives, distractions, old patterns, new addictions, dramatic tapes, so, sitting and BEING is the HARDEST and the loneliest thing.
Today, my mother flew in from the Midwest for a two week stay. I haven't been able to express to her what this means to me. Really, it allows me respite from the devastation of the new loneliness. It doesn't take away the loneliness. I am still utterly alone in my Forest of Unknowing. But there is less desparation in my breathing. As if the synchronis shared rhythm of two breaths in the house embrace and stroke the lonely woman in the Forest like a warm and comforting breeze,... while she waits.
We talked much about art tonight. I am very aware that what I am experiencing WILL change me. As a person and as an artist, my life is and will be very affected. There is the unknown. The Fear here is that somehow I will be damaged, stymied, or even paralyzed by what is going on in my life. It's possible. Trauma has had that effect on me before.
So, what are my tools for dealing with Fear? Do I carry them as I sit or wander in the Forest of Unknowing?I think perhaps some meditation upon the tools would be good. I am a Fierce Lover and a kickass painter and fiber artist. What would I carry?
A paint brush
A needle and thread
Water and food to sustain me
I used to literally climb mountains. The world dropping out from under me just increases the height of the mountain before me. One step at a time the path through the Forest of Unknowing leads upwards and eventually out of the darkness. A listening awareness and appreciation for the journey will bring gifts along the way. The from-time-to-time company of loved ones too will bring gifts and sustenance. But the work is mine to do and so is the BEING.
Talked with two people at two different times about "Loving Fiercely." In the past I used to envy people whom I could identify Love someone Fiercely. I wanted that for myself. I wanted to know that I was capable of Loving to the depth of vehemence, to the degree of fire, that I saw in those people. What I didn't know was that such Love comes only truly under the form of unconditionality. This year I learned too that such love that is vehement and firey burns. It burns in the full sense of the word. Fierce Love burns as in passion burning, but too it burns as in it hurts. Fierce Love is a beautiful, brilliant, painful Love that doesn't dim when conditions turn difficult, it actually sinks deeper.
How have I endured the lessons of Fierce Love this year? Art. I've created art. I've talked art. I've looked at art. And Gratitude. Art is the turning outward of the Fears of unconditional, Fierce Love. Gratitude is the salve to the pain. When I remember to apply Art and Gratitude, enduring the challenges of unconditional Fierce Love becomes a meditation. A prayer. A Namaste'.
I am a neophite Fierce Lover. Much to learn. Many challenges each day. One day at a time, to the studio and bow to the work at hand.