Purging

Haven

In the continuing effort to make my apartment a spiritual and creative Haven, I’m concentrating on my bedroom this summer.  I fixed up and painted an old dresser when I first moved in.  Now that I have my Dad’s nice chest of drawers, that pretty piece of crap got carted to Goodwill.  I also pruned a ton of esoteric reading from my Past Life, so another falling-apart bookcase will soon go as well.  And the old magazine rack/end tables I used as night stands are also on their way out.

Journals Purged

Five Years of Journals

I tossed my spiral notebook journals yesterday.  I had thought I would use some of the pages as art background, but I realized there was too much pain, misery and confusion captured there.  Why would I use something so disheartening in an activity that brings me such joy?

Journaling is a process for me, a way to See the lies my brain tells me and to release the emotional steam in my physical pressure cooker.  I don’t need to keep the details of my day—I won’t remember them.  Electroshock created a tidy black hole where my memory used to be.  Eventually, everything slides over the Event Horizon.  I was given the gift of living in the moment.

So when I read about my past, I can’t connect to the words.  At best, a fuzzy snippet, a dream-like shadow, might dislodge from the Void.  It’s enough to remind me of what I’ve lost.  And, again, why would I do that to myself?

So, into the dumpster they went.

I’m pulling everything off my bedroom walls, cleaning and patching holes.  Soon, I’ll paint, then shampoo the carpet.  I found a sweet cabinet and a set of night stands at Ikea that will boost the feminine, dreamy quality I’m creating.

Crucible posterOf course, my Romance Wall will be reconfigured as will all my Pretend Boyfriends.

I knew I needed a peaceful, calming image across from the bed, and found the perfect piece when my friend, Robert, posted some of his new photographs.  A large print of Blue Astor is forthcoming.

http://pin.it/2xJbINW

I’m looking forward to making my bedroom as clean, efficient and lovely as the rest of my apartment.  In the meantime, I have all these books to get rid of.  Below is the list.  If you’re interested in any of them, leave your address in a comment (it won’t go public), and I’ll send the books you want.

Oops! Too Late!  Taken to the Library on 7/21.  But you can still see what you missed.

  1. A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (no editor listed. Avenel Books, a division of Crown)
  2. Almaas, A.H., Diamond Heart, Book One
  3. Armstrong, Karen, A History of God
  4. Bennett, J.G., Deeper Man
  5. Broch, Janice & Veronica MacLer, Seasonal Dance: How to Celebrate the Pagan Year
  6. Cameron, Julia, The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart
  7. Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity
  8. Cooper, J.C., The Aquarian Dictionary of Festivals
  9. Dacyczyn, Amy, The Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle
  10. Dahlke, Rudiger, Mandalas of the World: A Meditating and Painting Guide
  11. Damasio, Antonio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness
  12. Dickinson, Emily, Final Harvest
  13. Estes, Clarissa Pinkola, Women Who Run With the Wolves
  14. Farrar, Janet and Stewart, A Witches Bible Complete
  15. Ferguson, Diana, The Magickal Year: A Pagan Perspective on the Natural World
  16. Ganim, Barbara, Art and Healing: Using Expressive Art to Heal your Body, Mind, and Spirit
  17. Gearhart, Sally and Susan Rennie, A Feminist Tarot
  18. George, David L., Ed., The Family Book of Best Loved Poems
  19. Knight, Gareth, The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend
  20. Kramer, Gregory, Insight Dialogue
  21. Linden, Eugene, The Parrot’s Lament: And Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence and Ingenuity
  22. Moore, Thomas, Soul Mates: Honoring the Mysteries of Love and Relationship
  23. Murdock, Maureen, The Heroine’s Journey
  24. Pearsall, Paul, The Heart’s Code
  25. Pearson, Carol, Awakening the Heroes Within
  26. Phelps, Kimberly Lilith, McMillian, Teresa and With, Barbara Lee, Diaries of a Psychic Sorority: Talking with the Angels
  27. Rilke, Rainer Maria, Selected Poems
  28. Rinpoche, Sogyal, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
  29. Robbins, Rossell Hope, Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demons
  30. Ruiz, Don Miguel, The Mastery of Love
  31. —The Voice of Knowledge
  32. Silverstein, Shel, The Giving Tree
  33. Stewart, R.J., Celtic Myths, Celtic Legends
  34. Tart, Charles, Waking Up
  35. —Living the Mindful Life
  36. Thich Nhat Hanh, Teachings on Love
  37. —Present Moment Wonderful Moment
  38. —Peace is Every Step
  39. Vaughn, Frances, The Inward Arc

Soothing The Troubles

Haven2I’m finishing up a Haven marathon.  If you’re not familiar with this SyFy Channel show that got cancelled last year, think Stephen King (it’s based on one of his stories) when he’s not at his best.  Hokey, repetitive and, at times, incomprehensible, but with enough great characters and moments of genius dialog to keep my attention.  Gloria, the smart-ass coroner, is worth it all by herself.  And Dwight, the Chief of Police, isn’t hard to look at either (This GIF is from an episode where they switched bodies—one of my faves).

Dwight & Gloria

The folks in Haven, Maine have Troubles—like attracting bullets, or talking to the dead, or blowing up anything they touch.  I always liked that understated description for the load of misery the townsfolk suffer.  Troubles.  I’ve unofficially adopted it this summer.  As in “my Trouble is flaring up.”

Which it did today.  I got a naggy, creepy-crawly feeling that something bad was about to happen, sort of a Stephen King version of anxiety.  Everyone looked suspicious and a little dangerous.  And I was worried about screwing up my art projects.

However, I finished a couple of things without unfixable mishaps.  I put together my first art journal in over a decade.  Even though the memory of making those first ones got lost in the ECT void, I kept the written instructions and assembled all the ingredients over the past couple of weeks.  I watched the Dark Fret try to stop me from finishing today, but pushed on.  Somehow, it helped to have this new journal done.  I did it.  While Troubled.

IMG_0771

Front Cover

IMG_0774

Back Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also finished a new piece for my front door.  The text comes from Stephen Dunn’s poem, Reversal, which I loved so much I posted it a few days back.

IMG_0780

I worked on this for weeks, waiting after each coat of paint or bit of grunge to see what would arise.  Working with matte medium and fabric for the first time, I panicked over the result, then took sand paper to it and loved the effect. Yesterday I tore apart an old alarm clock for the gears.  Today, I finished it with gloss medium and hated it.  My Trouble screamed, “Ruination!”

The negativity and fear my Trouble conjures up slips into my body like an old, familiar song.  But, practice helps me turn down the volume and remember there are no mistakes—just unexpected detours.  Art work, fiction, life may not turn out the way I envision them, but they turn out.  Most of the time, those detours are the best part of my day.  Troubled or not.

Bruiser of Shins

Asleep in the Sun16

Bruiser of Shins asleep in the sun.

Second Helpings of Joy

Joy DietI’ve been reading Martha Beck’s The Joy Diet, a self-help/Life Coachy recipe for uncovering and going after your Heart’s Desire.  If you haven’t been in therapy for decades, and feel like there’s something missing or off in your life, this would be a decent place to start.

I started therapy when Ronald Reagan was President, so none of the material is new to me.  Still, I like hearing things presented in a new way, especially when the author has heart and a sense of humor.

Take her chapter on Treats.  These are the things/experiences we’re to reward ourselves for taking a risk toward that Heart’s Desire.  Very Pavlovian.  But Beck also wants her readers to give themselves at least two other Treats a day, just because folks generally don’t do that enough.  I liked that.

And Beck’s definition of “Treat?”  Anything that makes you feel like smiling.  Since most of us are programmed to grimace automatically in public, she gives homework to help the chronically repressed find what actually warms their cockles.  I like how she takes her readers by the hand, breaks each step to Nirvana into tiny, measurable actions instead of leaving them stranded in nebulous Woo-Woo Land.  And I like how she compares us to pigs.

So some of these ideas percolated in my hind-brain as I played with my art journal this weekend.  I worked on a cross-over spread, taking characters from a short story I’m writing and doing cool things with letters they’re writing to each other.  I adapted a Dixie Chicks song that I love and made it my character’s.  I treated pages from an antique, hand-written journal to use as their stationary.  It thrilled me to come at these characters and their story from a different angle, and to make something so gorgeous.

Claire&Richard BeforeBut, when I tried to write my new lyrics on this scrumptious paper, no marker or pen I owned made a consistent mark.  I worked for hours, going over the blotchy, ragged letters again and again.  It still ended up looking like a serial killer’s tease for the FBI.

I stopped when my hand cramped too much to hold a pen, and I was willing to let it go.  Some experiments don’t work.  That’s why they’re called experiments.

But as Henry walked across my shins in bed this morning, I got one of those lightbulb ideas.  The problem wasn’t with my pens, it was the paper.  I’d made it too slick.  How could I give it a little bite?

Clarie&Richard RedoI jumped out of bed and went to work, mixing matte medium with a few drops of gesso, adding paint, then taking fresh pages out of the hand-written journal and applying this concoction with a roller and paper towels.  I tested one corner with a gel pen before spraying the pages with fixative.  It took the pen beautifully.

The whole process filled me with joy.  Setting a problem aside, receiving the answer as I passed through the Creative Gold Mine between sleep and wakefulness, using media I didn’t own two months ago, and actually creating a thing the way I imagined it in my head.

Claire & Richard

When I finished the spread, I couldn’t stop grinning.  Here was everything I loved—my writing, my art, my music, Richard Armitage. . .  Layers of meaning overlapped like the layers of paper (I love a metaphor you can actually touch), and color fed some hungry animal inside me.

Probably a pig.

My Brain Hurts!

“What ‘real artists’ have is courage.  Not enormous gobs of it.  Just enough for today.  Creativity, like breathing, always comes down to the question, “Are you doing it now?”  The awful truth is that there is always one small creative act for which we can find the courage.  As with housework, there is always something, and all the little somethings add up, over time, to a flow.  Courage, after all is a matter of heart, and hearts do their work one beat at a time.” — Julia Cameron in The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart

Blogging is so incestuous.  I read David Kanigan’s post from Monday, and knew I had something to say about courage, comfort zones and whacking the scales off our sclerotic dendrites.  At least I thought I did.  Or I wanted to think about those things.  Or my ego wanted to jump up and down screaming about them.  In public.

Monster

I feel pretty brave.  Except when I don’t.  Driving out to Artfest in Washington this spring didn’t feel particularly brave.  Except when I got home and spent the next two months rapid cycling and ducking from my brain’s suicidal dodge balls.  Latching onto art journaling to keep from getting hammered by red rubber didn’t seem brave, just a case of self defense.  It never occurred to me that drawing and painting when I used to be too scared to do either might be stripping some of the plaque off my craft.

What really felt brave was buying The Hollow Crown and sitting down to over eight hours of Shakespeare.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so dumb.  I listened to the pretty words, knew they were an old form of English, but couldn’t translate them.  I could feel my brain straining, flabby gray-matter-muscles forced to climb a junior high fitness test rope.

Oh, but, the music of the language!  That was the liniment for my bruised brain.  Plus, Great Performances emptied out The Royal Shakespearian Theater to cast these four plays, so all the British actors I adore speak this unintelligible music.

Whose Superpower is Britishness

I take comfort that I’ve never read Richard II, Henry IV (either Part One or Part Two) or Henry V.  I have no bits of them embedded in my hind brain next to the passages of Romeo and Juliet Mrs. Christensen made us memorize in ninth grade.

And, yet, it feels brave to be dumb, to be a Monty Python Gumby shouting, “My brain hurts!”

Sometimes, being brave means finding the right anesthesia.  Sometimes it’s embracing my full-out Gumby-ness.  Either way, my art benefits.

And now for something completely different.

How Do We Not

Death

°

The reverse side also has a reverse side – Japanese proverb

It’s why when we speak a truth
some of us instantly feel foolish
as if a deck inside us has been shuffled
and there it is – the opposite
of what we said.

And perhaps why as we fall in love
we’re already falling out of it.

It’s why the terrified and the simple
latch onto one story,
just one version of the great mystery.

Image & afterimage, oh even
the open-minded yearn for a fiction
to reign things in –
the snapshot, the lie of the frame.

How do we not go crazy,
we who have found ourselves compelled
to live with the circle, the ellipsis, the word
not yet written.

°

“The Reverse Side” by Stephen Dunn
What Goes On: New & Selected Poems

Welcome Home, Old Friend

Rage

Rage seems to be intrinsic to my flavor of bipolar disorder.  In a mixed state, where symptoms of both depression and mania manifest, my “manic” is some form of agitation—anxiety, compulsive behavior, or rage.

I made the journal spread above in the midst of anger so black and sharp I could barely breathe.  I painted over the picture on the right—mini-me with my dog, Rebel—then slashed at it with a steak knife.  The violence stunned me, violence aimed at myself, at the innocent and vulnerable part of me.  I painted in the gouges, then echoed the savagery on the opposite page.

I left it that way for several days, coming back to take in the images and process the layers of Truth I’d uncovered.

I used to believe there must be a reason I got so mad.  I used to sort through all the old betrayals, snubs, and layers of unfairness in my cheesecloth memory.  But, there’s no reason for my rage other than funky brain chemistry.  Trying to justify it only throws napalm on the fire.

Rage is just another part of me, like the creeping hopelessness that sits on the other end of the spectrum, like my blue eyes, like the way I put words or colors together.  And like everything else, the only thing to do with it is welcome it home.  That’s when I pulled Thich Nhat Hahn’s Anger off my bookshelf and found the words my Rage needed.

Today, this moment, contains no rage.  This morning I wrote in my journal next to The Dalai Lama:

Dalai Lama

“When the symptoms are big, there’s always this base undercurrent of failure, a deep Mariana Trench of wrongness, that awful and vague sense that I should be doing something else/more, that I should be something else/more.  It negates all that I do and all that I am.  It robs me of any satisfaction or sufficiency.  Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to these journals now.  They are so immediate.  The rush of rightness washes over me without any censor.  Pictures together tell an immediate story.  Color bypasses thought.  The soft texture of the Pan Pastels signals instant comfort, and I feel masterful… I feel incredibly lucky and grateful for this tool.”

Yes, I do.

The Adventure Continues.

Primatives

So Very Odd

100 Blessings

It just feels odd to be so creative and crazy at the same time. And yet… And yet, this is exactly who I am.  Somehow, I’ve come home to myself through the backdoor.  And it’s all okay.  More than okay, I’m at peace with the pain.  I can breathe through the hopelessness.  I find comfort during the hysteria.  I am living in a place of sufficiency even while the brain demons scream that I’m not.  And sorta loving that all this contradiction and friction seems to be making art.

My Blue Eyes

The Journey Continues

Breathing with my Fingers

As my current bipolar season continues, I’m ever so grateful for this new tool of Art Journaling.  Since there are several stages to creating a spread, I can always find some piece that will fit my state of mind.  Whether it’s pulling images out of my stash for the collage bits:

Civil War Spread

 

Or finding new ways to use text:

Air Spread

 

Or slipping into a Zen state while making boarders and lines:

Into the Storm Spread

 

Or trying out a new tool, like this very fine tipped Pilot marker:

Eyeballs

 

I can camp out at my coffee shop with my journal and let my illness be.

Megan, my therapist, said I’m not fighting it anymore, and that feels true.  It seems to be getting easier to accept whatever my illness brings—the quicksilver changes in mood, the sudden shifts in functionality.  Those things aren’t good or bad anymore.  They’re just me.

I still try to stuff myself into a “normal” sausage casing sometimes, expecting to move around in the world the way other people do.  But, as I sit with my journal, with all the space it creates in my head, I’ve started to unhook from those expectations and get curious about how I might move differently in the world.

Today, for example, I looked at how I keep trying to make commitments (like being on a committee or taking a class) when my illness makes that nearly impossible.  At some point, when my symptoms become severe, I’m forced to drop everything.  So, instead of continuing to bash myself over the head for being “unreliable,” perhaps there’s another way.  Maybe it’s a matter of showing up when I’m able.  I know the world doesn’t work this way, but I do, and I would like to honor that more.

More acceptance.  More integration.  That seems to be a by-product of all this artsy-fartsy stuff.  I’m breathing more with my fingers, slipping into meditation with color and line.  It’s a new kind of Practice.

I’ve come to a place with my art that I found a while ago with my writing—loving the mistakes and crap as much as anything that “turns out.”  The Shitty First Drafts and the Muddled Attempts are my best teachers.  They point me to the next piece of Practice.  They’re the ones who taught me to accept it all—my writing, my art and, of course, my bipolar disorder.

Funny how that all comes together.

I’m on a Funny Adventure.

Plato Says

Music is a moral law.  It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, gaiety and life to everything.  It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, and just, and beautiful. — Plato

Just obeying the Law and creating a modicum of order today with these two.

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