04 Jul 2016 12 Comments
I’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.
But, 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?
I 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.
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.
14 May 2016 8 Comments
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.
08 Apr 2016 11 Comments
in anxiety, bipolar disorder, blogging, developing consciousness, friends, mental health, mental illness, music, nature, relationships, spiritual practice, travel, video Tags: Bed and Breakfast, Bucket List, Durango, Van Morrison
Notables: Van Morrison’s Keep it Simple (thank you, Robert)
Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novel Small Favor (read by James Marsters, for all you Buffy fans)
Meeting my bloggy friend, Robert, was like coming home. None of the emotional crap I wrestled last night took that away. He was the thoughtful, mindful, funny, articulate man I knew from his blog and mine. His voice sounded exactly as I imagined, his clear gaze looked and saw.
We sat at Durango Coffee Company for about an hour, shedding the distance of friends who only know each other through letters. We asked big questions and dove deep for the answers. And we laughed.
Robert wanted me to have some Van Morrison for the rest of my trip (I love how music-people know when you need a piece of music). We strolled down to the music store, still talking, but we were too early. And I needed to be on my way. So, we took a detour to his truck where he pulled out Keep it Simple from his CD player and handed it over.
The rest of the day took me through the Colorado Rockies, through lots of little burgs, and into a scape that looked almost like home. Rock still juts out of Eastern Colorado’s skin, but the grass and trees are turning Prairie. Soon all that tectonic majesty will be behind me and the sea of fields will take over.
Tonight, I get to cook my Ramen noodles in a sweet, shabby-chic B&B. Lace curtains, antique furniture, quilt on the bed, and a retro bathroom all just for me. There’s a house cat on the porch. What Traveling Girl could ask for more?
07 Apr 2016 12 Comments
in anxiety, art, awareness, bipolar disorder, distorted thinking, mental health, mental illness, mixed-media art, music, nature, travel, triggers, video Tags: Arizona, Bed and Breakfast, expectations, fatigue, Observer, reactivity
Golden Valley, AZ (9:00 AM Pacific) to Durango, CO (6:30 PM Mountain). 469 miles.
Notables: (for singing loud) Wailin’ Jennys Live
Melanie, my host in Golden Valley, lassoed me as I was loading the car, and we ended up gabbing for an hour in a sort of open-air living room; old couch, recliner, and side table under a trellis in the front yard. Magnificent view and another magical connection.
I cut loose before she could give me a tour of the property, though. Like Mr. Frost, I had promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep.
So off I went across Arizona, through Hopi, Navajo and Ute land. There, buttes and mesas dominate; brick-red sedimentary formations. Sometimes ponies pastured on top of them, which made for an unbelievably cinematic silhouette against the cloudy sky.
I spent most of the day on a two-lane highway with no rest stops and long patches of nothing between gas stations. We women of a certain age don’t do well without regular “rest” stops. Luckily, I grew up on a farm and knew how to duck into a cow path off the road. Some skills never die.
I had texted my friend, Robert, and my Durango hosts about being late. Robert said not to worry. I never heard back from my hosts. So, when I got to their drive, and the gate was chained and locked, I fretted. Soon, Ginger drove down the lane toward me. They thought I was coming the next night. What worried me even more was that Robert said the same thing; he thought I was coming the next day and couldn’t have dinner with me tonight.
Did I get my dates mixed up? It would have been so easy to do with all these B&Bs to keep straight. I had a text exchange with my sister earlier in the day, and she noted that I didn’t give myself much down-time or slack in my schedule. True. And no place for fuck-ups.
All this really threw me. Even though Robert and I made plans to meet for coffee tomorrow morning, even though Ginger apologized and said they’d looked at their AirBNB calendar wrong, I had to sit in my car for a while and bawl.
I know I’m tired, which makes me more reactive. It also makes me more rigid (Go With The Flow went). I felt choked by disappointment and embarrassed by weeping in front of strangers. And really bipolar.
A teensy part of me watched all of it happen. That part cooked Ramen noodles. That part talked to Ginger and Phil about their old dog, Zeke. That part took a deep breath and held the exhaustion tenderly. That part of me is okay.
It’s getting bigger by the minute, that teensy part. Pretty soon, all of me will be okay.
07 Apr 2016 10 Comments
Mill Valley, CA (9:30AM) to Golden Valley, AZ (9:10 PM). 623 miles.
Tunes: The California Mix (Eagles, Linda Ronstadt & Jackson Browne)
Audiobook: The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
I forgot that today was going to be my longest day on the road, so I really kicked myself for getting a late start. I texted my host in Golden Valley along the way to update her on my ETA. Unlike other AirBNB hosts, she was totally cool with a late arrival. So, then, I just relaxed into the day.
John navigated us smoothly through the Bay area snarl (maybe it was a good thing to have missed rush hour) and got us headed in the direction of Stockton. This excited me to no end as visions of Jared, Nick, Heath and Audra danced like sugar plum fairies in my memory. The Big Valley (or The Pig Valley, as I called it, starring Miss Barbara Stan-pig) played a seminal role in developing my fan-girl. What is it about middle-school girls and horses?
However, we turned south towards L.A. before getting to Stockton. Sigh. I tipped my proverbial hat in the Barkleys’ direction.
Freeway signs warned that the ticket for texting while driving was $161. As I am now a reformed seatbelt-wearer, I kept my phone in my purse and hoped fiddling with my GPS didn’t count.
The highlight of yesterdays trek down most of California was entering the Mojave desert at dusk. The mountains there were a completely different kind of animal as compared to their cousins up north; bare, tumbled rock stacked like the spines of prehistoric lizards. At first the landscape seemed stark, but it owned every color of brown (slate, white sand, bloody rust). Sage, scrub and Joshua trees dotted the sear plains. I rolled down my window in the 93° heat to get a whiff of the parched, pure air. And as darkness crept out from the rocky shadows, the thrill of it–me in the desert with nothing but stars and a few trucks trundling beside me–snapped me awake with joy.
To get to Melanie and Mel’s place, I had to take a twisty, two-lane highway through a tip of Nevada (instant Casino-land) and into Arizona. We didn’t get lost once. Melanie ran out of the house with her arms wide in greeting. How lovely to have this funny, caring stranger waiting for me!I got a big basement room, complete with kitchenette and composting toilet, with a walk-out onto a fabulous garden. Very cool art on the walls, too.
And I shant be late.
05 Apr 2016 16 Comments
Roseburg, OR (9:30 AM) to Mill Valley, CA (7:00 PM). 462 miles
Notables: Fink’s Time and Distance.
I felt the depression move in like a thunderstorm this morning. It took forever to sort through my clean clothes, get everything repacked and rearranged. My body ached and the barometric pressure of my brain thickened like glue.
The night before, Doris and I talked a long time about chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and cannabis. In Oregon, she’s able to grow and process pot for her own use, which is a complicated affair. She makes “pot-butter,” an ingredient in therapeutic cookies. And just like any drug, it took trial and error to determine the right dosage.
I thought about my friend, Duane, who suffers constant, chronic pain as a side effect of his AIDS medications. He and his husband, Jim, supported the law to make medical marijuana legal in Minnesota. It’s legal there now, but the process of qualifying, registering, and then paying $300-$500 per month makes it unobtainable. I thought about Jim cooking up some “pot-butter” in their kitchen and how delicious his cookies would be.
I’ve never thought about trying marijuana for my own pain. There have been nights on this trip when I could hardly hobble across a room. I wasn’t thinking about pot before, but I’m thinking about it now.
As I hauled all my crap out to the car this morning, I asked Doris if I could buy some cookies from her. I didn’t know it was illegal for her to sell it. When Doris told me that, I felt like so un-street. And weirdly like an undercover cop.
Then, she went through instructions like my pharmacist. Only eat half of the cookie. Don’t eat cookies while driving. It could take two hours for the cookie to take effect. Plus a list of possible outcomes. And another list of cautions.
So, I had my half-cookie about two hours ago. Feels like I might sleep better tonight.
Oh, yeah. I also saw Mount Shasta today.