Steal Life

Just finished my September offering to the Art Journal Round Robin. Every finished spread has amazed and startled me, but this one comes from my bones.

Penny Positive Redux

Last Year’s Reveal

Art projects overfloweth.  One of them is making a new batch of Penny Positives for my former Nurse Practitioner, Sarah Beattie.  I made The Optimists’ Calendar last year for her birthday, and thought she might do with some fresh giggles.

I thought I’d share them here, like I did last year, since giggles can be downright medicinal these days.  Making them gives me a lift, and it’s all about me anyway, so. . .

The sample on the far right is mine. HeeHeeHee.

Another lift came in the mail—my complimentary copy of the fall issue of Art Journaling Magazine.  What a gas to flip to page 46 and find my words and art.  Here is the Table of Contents (which is the only part online that proves I’m in it).  The issue goes on sale October 1 at most Barnes & Nobles (Pardon the shameless self-promotion.  I’m excited).

Circling

My Art Journal Round Robin friends are about to make their third ring around the creative rosy.

The journal that came to me this past month held some pages folded over so that Cindy’s work was partially hidden.  Mysterious, compelling, it called me to continue the story.

I loved the challenge of blending with Cindy’s colors, approximating her type face, and figuring out what the half-exposed text might hint at for my work.

I’m pleased with the result.

Oh, okay, that’s WAY too blasé.

I love how scared I was to draw and did it anyway. I love the word stoccato. I love how the two spreads look together. I love the head-scratchiness of it.

I can’t wait for the next journal to arrive.

Cindy’s spread is shown first, then mine.

 

Marco…

It feels like I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I see that’s just not true (Hello, distorted thinking!).  Maybe the disconnect comes from playing Marco Polo with some of my friends back in Iowa and Minnesota.  If you’re not familiar, MP is a messaging app that creates little videos.  It was my friend, Cheryl’s, genius idea to use it, so that we could see and hear each other while giving updates.

I’ve taken my buddies to the Flea Market and introduced them to the baristas at my new coffee shop-home.  They’ve toured my duplex and The Peach Barn (Fried Pies!).  Most importantly, I’ve shared the ups and downs of my illness as my rheostats rebooted after the electrical surge of moving.  That’s something I’ve only done here in my blog, where words can be safely crafted and kept separate from a voice and face that feel too vulnerable to share.

In real-time, I try not to unload when my moods deep-cycle.  I might mention it in passing, or say “I’m having a hard day.”  Right or wrong, I believe too much truth will break the people I love.  And I can’t bear the uncomfortable silence or awkward attempts at sympathy that usually follow.

But, I needed support.  I needed to be real.  So, there were blubbery posts, and manic posts, and little videos where I looked and sounded like a zombie.  No one ran screaming into the night.  No one shamed me.  In fact, the love and support that flowed back to me helped more than I can say.  I thank my friends for that.  Thank you, guys.

It’s still weird, living here on the Moon, where huge fireworks displays light up every front yard on the Fourth of July, and fried bologna sandwiches are a restaurant menu item.  But, when I wake in the morning, and the first thought that floats up out of the dark is I’ve made a huge mistake, I can gather more and more evidence to the contrary and send that distorted thought packing.  It still has to shuffle off into 100 degree and 90-something percent humidity, but shuffle off it does.  All I need do is shut the door and whisper, …Polo.

Blessed Assurance

These are the things that keep me going:

1.  An Etsy customer sent me this photo.

She said, “As you can see, I’ve discovered a way to set up your artwork in my apartment; I couldn’t have your cards just sitting in a shoebox in the closet. When I’ve sent out cards to friends and family, I simply replace them with something else fabulous from your shop. It’s a wonderful system; It helps me foster relationships through writing. And you should know, they always love them.”

Another customer said, “You are a warrior woman who is in Amazon training. I join you in your training and I fight the good fight as a secondary teacher who has seen enough of school shootings and is ready for both kids and teachers to feel and to be safe again at schools. Love your positive cards that pack a pint-sized punch. Going to keep some and share some with those in need of a pick me up.”

2.  Choosing to be Grateful

3. Subsonic Purrs. 

4. The moments, however fleeting, when a crack opens in my anger, or paranoia, or hopelessness, or wanting and something wise creeps in—something gentle, something breathable—that reminds me of who I am.

5.  Daily Confirmation of the Power of Art to Heal.  I trust the process completely now.  I sit with no ideas and in a few hours something remarkable creates itself.  No mistakes, no judgment, no hesitation, no Time.  It is Magic.  It is Grace.

7 Years and Counting

For A Mind Divided’s seventh birthday, I thought I’d look up my very first post.  Hmm…somehow this seems so familiar…

Insanity, Creativity and Living in the Now


When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I thought my life had ended.  And in a very real sense, it did.  Parts of my life fell off like flesh off a zombie–my home, my job, my friends, my ability to support myself, my ability to live independently.  In the months and years that followed, the lessons of living in the NOW and letting go of attachments kept repeating.  Living with bipolar disorder (BP) was like living in a constant fire.  It burned away everything I thought I knew about myself and how the world works.  But with fire comes new growth that could never happen otherwise.  I’m finding that to be true in my life as well.

While I always considered myself a writer, I also became an artist because of BP.  I needed a way to express the chaos I felt and the wild shifts from despair to joy and back again.  My study of the world’s religions deepened.  I explored the science and metaphysics of the brain.  I also fell in love with “Criminal Minds” and “Fringe.”

I invite you to journey with me into the overlapping realms of mental illness, creativity and spirituality.  There will be fire and ice, but also miracles.

Of that I’m certain.

Goal Reached: Master Level

Today I’m sending a finished journal to Art Journaling Magazine.  This is a goal I set for myself last year—to create a journal to their specifications, send it in, and see if my work is publishable.

It’s taken seven months to complete, which is about twice as long as it usually takes me to fill a journal.  That’s because it pushed my envelope like silly putty.

The book itself was a beautifully crafted, handmade journal with pages of mulberry paper that I bought a long time ago and never used.  Mulberry paper is handmade, wispy with lots of long fibers.  Pretty, but hard to write on.  I had to Frankenstein it to make the pages semi-workable, and then I added scraps of watercolor paper with the noble intention of doing a lot of my own drawing and sketching.  Not only did that not happen, it just added to the bulk and weirdness of the pages.

As per publishing requirements, a submitted journal must not use copyrighted material in the artwork (which means no Pretend Boyfriends, evocative National Geographic images or current advertising—basically, everything in my arting arsenal).

Sorry, Boys

 

 

 

 

 

 

I struggled with this monster for months, and then the binding broke.  Suddenly I could breathe.

I started journaling differently, using my words as design instead of Great Thoughts that needed to be preserved.  I wrote over previous entries, then wrote over them again.  I wrote on napkins and tissue paper that made the words practically disappear when glued to a painted page.  When written over and over with different pens, different colors, the background takes on a lovely Serial Killer vibe.  Mixed with the right images and some cheesecloth scrap, I found a whole new way of evoking Crazy (my favorite topic).

I’d go to antique malls and use whatever I found.  Mixed with a few scraps of my own, I could still tickle myself and make pages with hats.  Putting hats on critters just makes my day.

I found these girls and a deck of Slap Jack when I visited my sister over Christmas.  I made this spread while I was there, and it’s still one of my favorites.

I sent along a query letter with several proposals for articles—about how hard this was, about art journaling as therapy, about shifting from Writer to Artist, and the thoughts and techniques that went into some of the spreads.  I covered all my bases.  And if the good folks at Stampington and Company send my journal back with a “Thanks, but no thanks” note, I’ll still be satisfied.  I met a Big Goal.  I stretched as an artist.  It’s ALL good.

 

Hypomania: The Eye of the Hurricane

After several weeks of mild to turbulent depression, my brain offered up one day of halcyon hypomania.  No slippage into rabbity anxiety or irritation, just a blue sky-mind with energy and focus.

Where the garbage used to be

New Spot for Garbage

I ran errands put off all summer, caught up on chores, oiled the squeaky lock in my door that’s bugged me for seven years, found the new space-saving solutions that had befuddled my depressed brain.

When this perfect combination of mood and drive pops into my life, I know to use it—partly to clean up any mess or stockpiling from the depression that came before, and partly to lay in supplies and prepare for the next storm.  There are the tasks that need to be completed—like grocery shopping, scrubbing the toilet, and scheduling health care appointments—and tasks that can be started so my depression has something to do with itself.

Spruced-up Studio Space

This time I started collaging new storage boxes and painting parts of my studio.  I put together a facilitator’s kit for my SoulMatters group (which meets for the first time this Sunday), and gathered all the materials for a piece of birthday art I’m making for my nurse practitioner.

It was a lovely day.  And as expected, I moved out of that calm center into more stormy weather.

It’s my nature, and I accept it.  Debris and water damage with a smattering of blue sky.

Illustration Friday: Mind

Oh! This topic was made for me!  So much of my art centers around my own puddle of gray matter (Puddle-centric?).  Here’s my latest art journal spread, so fresh it’s not even “journaled” yet.  The title, when I get around to lettering, will be Sometimes, They Get Out.

See more mind-boggling art here.

 

I Must Be Getting Better…

…because I have no more fucks to give.

Oddly, my bipolar and binge eating symptoms hibernated while I was sick with bronchitis, sinus and ear infections (Can my body not multi-task?  Is my brain too small to hold it all?), so the return of mixed-state depression/rage must mean the other stuff is on the way out.  Yaay (?)

While being physically sick is no fun, the vacation from mental shit-storms and out of control compulsion is heavenly.  It’s like being normal, only full of snot and really, really tired.

I’m still tired and semi-full of snot, but yesterday I rode sad anger back to bed and built a nest of portable projects around me to keep the yammering in my head at bay.

Henry and Emmett attended, but even they knew not to poke the bipolar bear who had no fucks left to give.

One of the hard things about coming back to my normal state of mental abnormality is that I’ve done so much cool art stuff these past two months.  When I could barely breathe, I read a bit in Susan Wooldridge’s Poemcrazy about collecting words, then made Word Cookies out of old art magazines.

I carry them in this little bag that fits nicely in my purse, and offer them like Fortune Cookies to whomever I’m with (which has mostly been people at the drug store, my therapist’s staff, and a few civilians willing to chance my germs).

I’ve been brave about drawing in my journal.

And I created a spread that fell together like a story.  Poor Tom Hiddleston, dumped by the harlot Taylor Swift, gave a heart-wrenching interview in February’s GQ that reminded me of Sting’s song Why Should I Cry For You?  A little research gave me details I’d missed just listening to the song, like “under the Dog Star sail,” which refers to Sirius, and “north, northwest, the Stones of Faroe,” which led me to the tiny cluster of Faroe Islands off the coast of Iceland.  I loved the metaphor of a broken-hearted sailor on the bleak, Arctic seas.  And I loved pulling together all the elements for the collage.

The wall quilt I started before I got sick is turning into a fabric collage—a place to try new skills like painting and stenciling on fabric.  Tearing apart my old art magazines for the Word Cookies, I found wonderful tips and examples.  When I gave a fuck, the possibilities thrilled me.

The materials to make three new art journals came out of my cupboard.  I finished two.  The third now languishes on my table, waiting for the fucks to come back.

The Buckaroo Banzai journal

My favorite quote from the movie by evil Emilio Lazardo.

Art by Andrea Matus DeMeng

I took a class with Andrea at ArtFest.

One week in therapy, Megan and I looked at commitment, not just making commitments to others, but also keeping promises to myself.  I realized that my longterm goal of writing a book to be published carried no joy for me anymore.  In fact, working on it was often painful.  Why was I doing this again?  So people at my funeral could get a party favor?  Morbid, bipolar-based reasoning.

I don’t have to prove myself a writer anymore, or leave something “of substance” behind.  I can spend my life pleasuring myself with weird art that practically falls out of me, instead of grunting over tortured prose.  So, I let that ancient goal go.  There are, my friend Sue tells me, only so many fucks a person can give.

Yesterday, in my Nest of Apathy and Rage, I emailed Megan, just to whine.  I knew, eventually, that the anger and depression would shift, but it was big and ugly yesterday.  Even if I had none, I wanted someone to give a fuck.

Have I mentioned that my therapist is awesome?  And funny?  She wrote back later:

I hope a fuck ton that you feel better soon. 

The Adventure Continues.

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