Holding Teesha

Last week I learned that Teesha Moore, the art journalist who organized ArtFest last spring, suffered a stroke while undergoing emergency surgery.

It was a thrill for me to meet her last year after using her rubber stamps and collage sheets for years, and to get life-changing advice from her artist-husband, Tracy, about how to embrace art journaling—Keep it Simple.

I knew I needed to spend time holding Teesha in my heart, sending positive and healing juju just like the thousands of other artists who love and respect her and Tracy.  To do that I needed a focus, so I pulled out every scrap of “Teesha Stuff” I had—stamps, collage sheets, ‘zines, postcards, sticky notes, pictures from Artfest—and started a spread in my journal.

Her work is so fanciful, full of life and color—image layered on image, altered figures, funky lettering. But Teesha is also a Seeker, her artistic path cuts through a spiritual landscape.  She inspires many beginning and veteran artists with words of encouragement and a directive to go deep.

It was a joyous five days of altering her altered images, recombining them in my own way, paying homage while holding her gently in love and gratitude.

I knew I would send a copy of the pages to Teesha once I was done.  I wanted her to see her own creations speaking back to her, encouraging her, reminding her of the deep, creative core that disaster and disability could never touch.

She is a remarkable woman.  I have no doubt that with the support and love of her husband and girls, she will rise and recreate her life.

Wonder Teesha.

Remembering

I felt like when I left home that I was on a journey, and I still am.—Heath Ledger

Dangerous Beads and Other Distractions

Bronchitis: Start of Week 4

Sometimes I wonder if the total of my existence is a practice in patience.  The Art of Waiting.  The Zen of Dealing in the Now.  I get so many opportunities.

Anyhoo, this is what I’m up to while I wait for my lungs to clear and my voice to come back.

I found a British detective series at the library starring the 5th Doctor Who (Peter Davison). “Dangerous” Davies is literally the Last Detective his boss would send on a case.  He’s a milquetoast, a butt of all jokes, a kind and gentle copper in a department full of cynical creeps.  I loved it.

I always need something to do at my craft table when I’m sick.  Luckily, the birthday present I made for my therapist took a wrong turn, and I had to rethink it. I’ve been sewing beads for six days now, which is a perfect, mindless activity for a head full of snot.  And I like where the piece is heading.

Before I got croupy, I’d cut squares for a quilted wall hanging.  A friend, who works at a paint/flooring shop, gave me all their upholstery sample books last summer, and I pulled out bits I thought might look nice in my bedroom.  I used a very old scarf of my grandma’s as a focus and built the progression of squares around that.  In my infirmary, I’ve sewn the top together, layered it with batting and a back, and am now ready to start quilting.  I think it will look lovely on my wall.

I’m not journaling much, but I did try something new.  I’ve shifted from paint to organic stuff that stains.  Organics like tea and spices are subtle and leave the paper soft.  Coffee is my favorite.  I make a pot, then take the filter full of wet grounds and scrub it over the paper.  The thin filter eventually ruptures and I leave the scattered grounds on the paper all day.  Sometimes I add a few drops of ink to the grounds for subtle color.

This time I sprinkled sea salt on top and spritzed the pages with water just to see what would happen.  I’m sorta loving the result.

Taking a shower may still zap all my energy, and trying to talk gives me a headache, but I’m doing stuff, which makes me feel less like a zombie.  And it makes waiting so much easier.

Fever Dreams & Cats in Motion

Bronchitis: End of Week 2

Things are getting weird.

But also, things are in motion.

 

Reset

It’s Week 2 of the latest Bronchitis Bout.  Like bipolar disorder, there’s really nothing new about getting month-long lung crud.  It happens.

Sorta amazing, really, this blasé acceptance of whatever the day brings.  I’m not always this cool, but it’s such a gift when I can be.  Seems to me I was raging right up to the point of chills and fever.

A physical shock often resets my bipolar rheostats.  Two weeks ago, I was text-wailing at my friend Lily, taking offense wherever I could find it, and wrestling paranoid thoughts to the mat.  Today, I did laundry and cleaned up cat barf with nary an emotion in sight.

Except a little glee.  I started a goofy spread in my art journal based on something I cut out of an old magazine years ago: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”  I worked on this one little piece while my laundry tumbled, and it just made me happy.

Sorta amazing, really.

Fury Road

I woke up this morning feeling like—as my friend, Lily, so delicately puts it—dog shit on the bottom of God’s shoe.  Also, furious.  But I pulled on my swimsuit, intending to take it out in the water.  Except I was 90 minutes early.

Fury boiled.

I raced to the nearest salon.  “Can someone cut my hair right now?”

“Yes!” the hapless pixie piped.  “And today all haircuts are $10!”

“Great.  Shave it all off.  I can’t stand it another second.  I’m tired of trying to look like something.”

She did.

And I left feeling like my outside finally matched my inside.  Furious.  And the closest I’ll ever come to looking like Charlize Theron.

Furious helps.  Furious brings the Bad-Ass, which is now in full display.

I roared off to misbehave and brought home two bags full of art supplies. Now we’ll see what fury can really do.

ψ

Muttering

mousy-ladiesI’ve stalled out in a mixed-state depression.  It’s nothing new, not even very noteworthy, but I’m always surprised by how it changes everything.  My perception becomes bleak and twisted, my body slow and creaky.  I miscommunicate and send mixed messages, because every part of my brain is mixed.  I’m confused and confusing.

Depression with rage is so uncomfortable, and so isolating.  I hate everyone.  Or am scared of them.  Ancient resentments and regrets rise up like specters out of unholy ground.  This is the part of my bipolarly existence that sees a life as a hermit as the only option.

I have a couple of mantras during these times:

Keep Your Mouth Shut

It Will Shift Soon

Just Wait

pretty-magazinesSo, I’m muttering mantras.  And looking at pretty magazines.

temp-poldark-poster2And watching Poldark.

 

 

 

And making art.

making-art

 

Lots of art.

Convergence

Events Conspire

Paths Converge

We may Choose to Ignore Them

But, What’s the Fun in That?

It all started with butt boils.

Take a part of the human body rich in adipose tissue, add pressure and heat (as in sitting for long periods of time), and that body part will revolt—or become revolting.  Enough on that matter.

diggingNext came a therapy session where we connected the dots between trauma and food as my drug of choice.  Since my diagnosis of Binge Eating Disorder, I’d set down my shame and guilt about being a Woman of Substance.  I’d become kinder, more accepting of my body.  But there we were, dredging up all that business, and I found myself disappearing.  My hands and feet went numb; a rushing sound filled my head; I seemed to leave my body and drift somewhere behind and above it.

Later, I learned what I’d always called this “shutting down” was technically dissociation—an altered state of consciousness that can include depersonalization, sensory and psychological numbing, disengagement, and amnesia.  Most people experience mild forms of detachment, like daydreaming while driving and losing a bit of time.  The more pathological end of the spectrum ends up Sybil-like with fragmentation of the personality.  It’s a coping mechanism—a way to keep the psyche safe when under attack, whether that attack is real or imagined.

Clearly, I had more work to do with this.  Or, as Megan reminded me, not.  I always have choices, and she is not the variety of therapist who requires excavation of Hurtful Things.

bed-rageSoon after, as I sorted my old blog posts into potential book categories, I marveled at how I once worked so very hard at controlling my eating, how I celebrated small victories and believed I made tiny changes in my behavior.  And then I always gave up, as my endgame of losing weight could never be reached.  I started to wonder if I could ever push gently against the binge eating, if I could find a way to work with it like I’d found ways to work with bipolar disorder—gently, with acceptance and kindness, while still holding the worst symptoms accountable.  I had no idea how that might look, but I opened to the possibility instead of shutting myself away from it.

On my way to Orly Avineri’s workshop in Taos, I started reading Foolsgold by Susan Wooldridge.  In her introduction she says:

I began writing these pages when I decided to make a small collage box each day for a year with what I found on my walks—often the most ordinary, seemingly worthless bits of nothing.  That’s when fool’s gold became foolsgold for me, a field around us, or state of being, where everything can be transformed by our seeing and creativity.  Merged into one word, “foolsgold” describes a paradox, the value in what may seem to be worthless.  Foolsgold reminds us to look beyond appearances, even in ourselves.  What seems to loom in us most darkly may finally be what brings the most light. Everything can be transmuted by attention, play, love.

walkabout-coverI used to walk a lot, then stopped as it wasn’t getting me to the destination I wanted.  If I had some different motivation to walk, like looking for art fodder along the way, I might be able to do it.  I let that idea sit in my hindbrain as I got my self to Taos.

One afternoon, Orly showed us a small art journal her nephew made.  An environmental crusader, all his art is made up of junk with space for sketches and ruminations.  Orly’s nephew had no concern for style, or balance, or making things look pretty.  His art was raw and powerful.  And very simple.

I can do that, I thought.  And as that realization settled in, my body demanded it.

It took a few weeks once I got home to jumpstart idea to action.  But now I have my WalkAbout journal, and every few days I set out with my big zip lock bag and find my material for the day.

hospice-walkChange, even good change, can be stressful.  My rapid cycling has been spinning like a hamster wheel.  Some days the amount of trash among the trees and berms disgusts and weakens me.  I tell myself I can’t go out among all that thoughtlessness again.  But the hamster wheel keeps spinning, and I tie on my purple trainers.  After a couple of weeks of this, I’m learning to wait for fodder to signal me—light on shiny foil, strange lumps, a flash of color in the dunny weeds.  It gets easier and easier.  As does the art that comes after.

tama-wingMy butt likes that I’m moving more.  I make my WalkAbout pages in the evening when my binge eating is most bothersome.

I’m still on an Adventure.

What to Remember When Waking

sculpture1In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

orlys-class

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

circle

 

 

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

moms-passport1

 

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

—David Whyte

Foolsgold

img_1298Travel rarely goes as expected. All the pre-planning, list-ticking, and worst-case-scenario pondering can’t foresee the unforeseeable.

Case in point:

Denver had a little weather yesterday. Just a little. Snow flurries and a bit of ice. Air traffic control asked our flight out of Des Moines to sit tight while they took care of that. Subsequently, I had 10 minutes to get from one end of the Denver airport to the other to catch my connection to Albuquerque.

In an understandably heightened state, I thought I heard the flight attendant say all checked baggage would be taken to their planes. I had to check my bag at the gate, so I thought I was safe to bolt and run as fast as my fat little legs could go without causing a heart attack.

I actually pushed people out of my way, and I think I trampled a small child. Think Rogue elephant in a pink sweatshirt.

image

But I got to the tiny commuter plane, squeezed my ass into a seat clearly built for anorexics, and tried to catch my breath.

Wait a minute. My bag doesn’t have my flight info on it. How will they know where to take it?

So I uncorked from the seat, asked the pimply flight attendant who sent me back to the gatekeeper.

Back over the icy, narrow gangplank, down an slippery ramp, I gaze into the face of “No Fucks Given Here.”

No, my bag won’t be transferred. No, I don’t have time to get it.  Get someone to give a fuck in Albuquerque.

Okay, I thought, squeezing across the rickety gangplank, I’ve managed worse.  I can do this. If all else fails, I show up at the workshop empty-handed and live in the same clothes for five days. No biggie.

To keep my mind from stewing, I started a wonderful book on creativity by Susan Wooldridge called Foolsgold. In it she talks about a time in her life when her father died and her marriage broke up.

foolsgold

By the creek just now, lost and stuck, I feel like dropping everything once again.  What’s the use?  I tell myself.  Why keep trying so hard?

Listening to the water, I watch the creek and drift with it.  I lie back in the grass with my feet in the water.    A seed-laden stem curves over my face…A bird lands above a grapevine…Floating, letting go, “out of my mind'” I begin to notice what’s around me…

Suddenly I can’t remember what’s wrong.  Clearly my life is blessed.

In Albuquerque I found someone who gave quite a few fucks. My bag arrived on the next plane.  At Budget Rental, A Scotsman named Gil drained my weariness by calling me “lassie” and singing the rental agreement with his tumbling “rrrr”s and fat, round vowels.

I drove north out of Albuquerque as dusk turned the mountains into indigo shadows.

“Hello, West,” I said, dipping my mental feet into its current.

Clearly my life is blessed.

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