Art Nesting

I’ve left several art housekeeping projects hanging for months and months, projects that take time and attention, projects that get tedious after a while.  But there’s something in my bipolar wind that wanted to tidy up and get ready for what’s next.

The first goal was to update my card caption list.  After I glean a goodly amount of captions for my cards from old magazines and books, I add them to my Gleans List on the computer and file the cut-out snips in my homemade Glean Rolodex.

A few years ago, I started adding little legends to the list to note which captions might be appropriate for birthdays, sympathy, and especially my zodiac cards.  When I need to make a Pisces card, it’s so much handier to flip through the list and look for the little legend instead of pulling out all my notes about Pisces and finding something that will match.

Either way, it’s time-intensive, and I’d given up on making the legends.  So for the past several months, I’ve taken my astrology notes and marked up a page or two from my list.  I finally finished last week and printed out a new, 38-page list.  Oh, that felt good.

My other housekeeping task is still in progress, but I can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel.

Along with captions, I also keep a file of gleaned letters of the alphabet.  I love to use miss-matched lettering in my journal.  It would be simpler and faster to just hand-letter captions and titles, but I love the psycho-killer look.  Go figure.

I recently cut apart three books on art journaling and harvested a ton of funky lettering.  Like captions, this is an ongoing project, but with so much to “process,” I knew I needed to devote some serious time to getting my letters organized.

Letters, especially the teeny ones, jump like fleas.  I know I’ll find them under the bed, under Emmett, and in my coffee no matter how careful I am.  I need lots of light and my best glasses to snip the letters apart.  Then, I sort them into four different sizes (which gets pretty random sometimes, especially if I’ve been at it a while).  Eventually, I have a dedicated bag in my traveling art studio of letters I can pull out and use quickly.

My last act of preparedness is something new.  Whenever I make zodiac cards, I make just enough background paper for the task at hand.  It’s another time-intensive creative process that I love, and I like making each batch a little unique.  But since my zodiac cards continue to be popular in my Etsy shop, I thought I’d try making more than I need and have some extra on hand.  I’ve made the papers for the Air, Water and Earth signs.  I’ll finish up with Fire today.

I’m not sure what all this tidying is about.  With the holidays behind me and over a month since Henry passed, maybe there’s room in my emotional carpet bag for other things.  Winter feels spacious here.  Knots and clots seem to be loosening.  Whatever it is, I’m thankful for it.  A Good Spell in Bipolarland is always a treasure.  And a little nesting always welcomes the next Adventure.

Here’s hoping we can all get it off our backs in 2019 — whatever it is.

Happy New Year.

Walk-About

Last Sunday, I took my first neighborhood walk.  I’ve wanted to get out there ever since summer went away, but the excuses… oh the excuses.  Somehow, last Sunday, the bright sun and mild temperatures snuck past all the barriers.  I laced up my purple tennies, stuffed a collection bag in my pocket and went.

My creaky knee complained, but it always complains, so I kept a slow pace.  I sorta had to—my exercise regimen since moving to Muskogee boils down to Old Lady Yoga once a week and maybe a few pool laps once or twice a month.  My old rhythm is gone and a new one hasn’t presented itself, so I’m pushing when I can.  I want to enjoy this place, and getting outside this winter will move my pendulum in that direction.

Leaving Edmond Street, I took Kimberlea Drive.  Traveling east from my duplex toward the country club, the neighborhood perked up—larger homes, sturdier fences, dogs with holiday attire.  I wondered if I’d find enough refuse and biologicals to revive my Walk-About Journal. Is street trash in moderately upscale Muskogee different from a park in Des Moines or the woods near Toledo? This was my mission.

The neighborhood felt familiar—with a few exceptions.  I get this a lot—a sort of Twilight Zone slippage of the space-time continuum—Braums instead of Dairy Queen, Sooners instead of Hawkeyes.  I wonder what cultural cues I’m missing.  My cousin in Tulsa kindly informed me of the real meaning of “bless your heart” (which conveys nothing beatific).  The part of my brain that wrestled with Russian and Vietnamese keeps lighting up.  No wonder I’m so tired.

Once I made it to the golf course, I hobbled to a bench, stretched my grumbling back, and turned my face to the sun.  A whiff of breeze on the waterway, a rustle of fallen leaves. Oh, yeah.  This was the Reason for the Season—to be in a quiet place smelling of sky.  This would be worth the body moans to come.

On my way back, I reminded myself to be present, to notice more detail—the wheat color of the grass, the young couple walking toward me in shorts and tee-shirts, the beauty of a lost Christmas ornament.

And then home again, to be greeted by my Gateway Guardians—Fu Dog, who came with me from Minnesota, and Guillermo the Goat, a recent hire.  I love the entrance to my home, tucked in the back corner of the complex.  My Guardians and a glass bowl full of crystals and stones I’ve managed to keep over the years welcome me with color and meaning.

Inside, I unloaded my foraging finds into soapy water and dug out the appropriate journals.  Some of the biologicals would make nice additions to my little Zen of Mental Illness journal.  The other refuse waited until after Christmas.

As always, Christmas triggered my bipolarness.  It is one thing about this unpredictable condition that I can count on.

I cared for myself the best I could, then tried not to take the whole weepy/distorted thinking/exhaustion personally.  Distraction is key, so before I visited my therapist on Wednesday, I camped at my favorite coffee shop and made trash art gleaned from my walk.  It tickled me, and that’s always the first step back.  One foot after the other, continuing on The Adventure.

…And To All A Good-Night

Wishing You and Yours Very Merry.

 

The Top Sheet Rumble

I changed the sheets on my bed yesterday.  A mundane chore, but surreal without Henry.  He was the sheet-changing supervisor (he was the Everything Supervisor), laying on the yet-to-be stretched lumps, attacking the Bed Boogies that lurked beneath.  But his specialty was doing The Top Sheet Rumble.

As soon as the top sheet fell over him, his hind feet flew up, anticipating an attack.  A hand-like creature swooped in, targeting the exposed belly.  Claws and teeth ripped at the invader.  It retreated.  Henry scrambled under the sheet, waiting.  Fingers teased the hind-quarters, which were seized and shredded.  Another retreat (to suck on puncture wounds), then a deep drive to the belly that left the invader wide open to attack.

The Victor emerged quickly (he seemed to know when to stop by the wailing on the other side of the sheet), licked his lips and bounded off the bed to find other prey (usually Emmett).

I never minded the puncture wounds.  Hen lived by his wits in the wild until The Humane Society found him.  Stuck inside, he needed the exercise and the Hunt.  Poor Emmett was his usual target, but Em learned early on how to lay low and hide.  Henry loved to Rumble, and I learned how to keep my battle wounds to a minimum.

Changing the sheets will always bring Henry back to me.  It won’t ever be a chore.

Good-Bye, Henry

After suffering a stroke in the wee hours of Monday morning, Henry gave me the clear sign I’d asked for fourteen years ago when we first came home together. I promised him then that I’d pay attention and be brave when he gave that sign.

We spent our last night together on the bed so I could help him move and tell him stories about our life.

Now I’m sitting in the vet’s parking lot, our contract completed.

Thank you, Hen, for being my Person when I didn’t have a person.  Thank you (and Emmett) for giving me a reason to live when I didn’t want one. I am so grateful.

A Marker

I think I know something.  I think I feel something happening.  But, I can’t trust what I think or feel.  So I write it here to plant a marker.  Later, I can come back to this marker to learn the truth of it.  Maybe.

Maybe there is no truth, just the shifting sands of perception.  Maybe it’s best to let go of the idea of truth and simply breathe.

Yet, my mind wants to take note.  To point its finger.  To take a picture for its scrapbook.

So, I comply.

I think it takes more effort to leave my home.  Going outside, in the world, does not appeal to me.  I make plans—to join my sister’s family for Thanksgiving, to swim, to see a movie—and when the moment comes, I stay.  Being out in the world has always been hard work, a constant push against my neurodiversity.  Some days are easier than others.  Some days the barrier between in and out seems thin.  I can tell myself that I’ll be glad when I’m there, which has been accurate most of the time.  It is accurate less and less now.

When I am on my bed, with the cats sleeping between the piles of a project, with an episode of Friends or a Netflix movie running, I am content.  I laugh out loud and blink tears like any other human being.  I make beautiful and interesting things that create wonder in me.

When I am out, I am aware of how hard I am working.  I feel the effort of making conversation, the strain of blocking noise and triggers.  I’m not sure its worth the effort anymore.

Isolation is a symptom.  Every mental health caregiver in my life told me to fight against it.  What if I don’t?

What if I don’t?

Big Penny Positive #8

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.” — Mary Oliver

Big Penny Positives

A while ago, I started making my Penny Positives on a small deck of playing cards to put in my Etsy shop.  My friend/customer Melinda in Seattle bought every single one.  Mel is a public school teacher and gives my cards to her other school teacher-friends to bolster their spirits.  I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a teacher in this country right now.  And I’m so proud to be the source of Mel’s spirit-lifting endeavors.

Since I need a little spirit-lifting myself today, I thought I’d start sharing those cards here.  Maybe they can turn my course a little.  Maybe they can push me back to my table to make some more.  That would be good.

My Anti-Hate Campaign…

…Or Training Myself to Grow Where I’m Planted.

In the wilting swamp of summer, with depression and agitation kicking up a Pig Pen Black Cloud, I found myself hating Oklahoma.  What I gained by moving seemed minuscule compared to what I’d lost.

Thankfully, I’ve done this work long enough to know I was not seeing the whole picture. I needed clarity.  I needed objectivity.  I needed to turn the Bipolar Bus around.

So, I started my Anti-Hate Campaign.

I pulled out a blank journal and started making A Plan—to be specific, to separate my “hates” into piles, and to brainstorm ideas on how to make changes.  I approached this journal like any other, painting and collaging the pages with care, using colors I love, letting the art of the process lead me.  Loving the journal itself encouraged me to pick it up and tackle the next phase.

I found that most of the “hates” I labeled unmanageable carried some seed of change, either in my perception or in a sideways action.  The state’s poverty and poor education system overwhelmed me, so I noodled about becoming more informed about specific problems.  I subscribed to the Tulsa World and looked for speaker forums to attend.  As other ideas come, into the journal they go.

The cooler weather brought all kinds of physical and mental relief.  I came back to ideas I’d had in April about making my duplex into a place of sanctuary and inspiration.  I rearranged my sitting room, painted and hung a screen door to be used as an Idea/Celebration Board, and found the perfect, Feng Shui-enhancing poster of Wonder Woman.

Outside, I asked permission to create a rock garden between the edge of my cement patio and the privacy wall.  I spent a satisfying day leveling ground and hauling rock, then sitting in my sister’s borrowed patio chair to enjoy the breeze and my handiwork.  Artful doo-dads and whirligigs will be added in due time.

Because of my journal and texts with my friend, Cheryl, I realized that hating where I live is just another bipolar symptom.  Anger, agitation and loathing rise up and attach themselves to whatever is handy.  An unfamiliar, uncomfortable place is a perfect target.  As I continue to do this Work of shifting perception and turning toward joy, I will learn to recognize that symptom sooner and take steps to be gentle with it.

And I will feel my roots growing deeper into Oklahoma’s red earth.

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