Musings on Art

Wednesday I’m going to meet a healer, and I have no idea what to expect. Will we dance naked in the backyard amidst a cloud of incense smoke? Will it be like a therapy session? I don’t know. She did make it clear that she’s not a medium and won’t be conjuring any spirits, but she communicates with the spirit world though it will not communicate with me. This is for my healing process, to say whatever I need to say to my mom, for closure.

The thing I’m mildly anxious about is that this healer asked me to make something for her as payment; she does not accept money. And it can’t be just anything, it has to be created in a meditative state, without thought of the outcome or how it looks.

nefertitiWhen I was about eight years old, I drew a picture of a horse based on these horse figurines that belonged to my oldest sister. The drawing looked just like the horse, which impressed my grandmother immensely. I too was surprised and flattered; I didn’t realize I could do that. It’s not something I’d ever thought about, that I recall. In high school I thought I’d become an artist, after being a writer; writer was first on my list. I was my art teacher’s favorite. Creating sculpture was my favorite. I’d made a papier mache sculpture of Queen Nefertiti, of whom I had a papyrus drawing brought back from my uncle’s travels to Nairobi. Her beauty and power drew me in. I had read about her, and wish that I still had the drawing and sculpture. But my dad had called it garbage, and I threw it out in college—not because he called it garbage, although that hurt my feelings—but because I felt that it took up too much space, and I didn’t want too many things. I have been doing this all my life–even discarding sentimental items–and I believe it has its advantages. Anyway, when I got to college I stopped creating art, and rarely created anything since, except for the occasional dabbling in painting or beading. That’s how I veered from my path, the path that was intended for me, the path of who I really am. Of course, my mom had always been encouraging and supportive of my writing and my art; she was big on being true to yourself.

In recent years my oldest sister has taken up painting, and described to me the process of painting:  it takes over you, you don’t know what you’ll end up painting. You don’t start with an idea of what it will be, and then it becomes that. But that’s not how I’ve ever done painting or drawing or any kind of art. Well, maybe my writing sometimes. But usually I have an idea beforehand of what I want to create. I think about how it looks, and I want it to be beautiful. I never start as a blank slate. Now, it may not ever end up the way I had in mind of how it would look, but that’s not because I wanted it that way.

When I was in high school I dated an artist. We kept in touch over the years, until the past few years anyway, and I remember him telling me that he’d made a painting that sold in his girlfriend’s hair salon, and that the buyer asked him what it meant. If I remember correctly, it was a painting of a fetus that looked like an alien. The question pissed him off. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he’d replied. He hated being asked that question.

But I knew it meant something. Everything means something. Whether we’re aware of it or not, it means something. And as an aside, my interpretation of an alien fetus is that you’re pregnant with something that you don’t recognize; you’ll be giving birth to, or creating, something new and otherworldly. An appropriate theme for this blog.

It’s hard to do something without thinking about it, or attaching a meaning to it. Even the color I choose have a meaning associated with it, and for me to try not to do it imposes… I can’t think of the appropriate word, but maybe anxiety, or struggle, that defeats the purpose of the exercise.

On the other hand, maybe that’s the problem with my art. Maybe I need to start over with a clean slate and do it without thinking so much. That’s what I’m about to attempt to do, right now. We’ll see what happens.

Here’s a beautiful song by Valerie June–she reminds me Queen Nefertiti on her album cover.

More Things I’d Say to a Younger Me

Last night I dreamed I was riding my bicycle in a parking garage trying to get through a locked gate to the floor below where I could ride my bike up and down hills. There seemed to be a lot of obstacles getting through this gate. Then I looked behind me and saw another bike rider already in the cycling part of the garage, easily riding through some other gate he’d found, which he seemingly already knew about, and I wondered why I didn’t just try that gate, but I think I knew that, for me, I had to choose this other gate.

The cyclist was a young guy in my 12-step group. He was a troubled teen who got sober a few years ago, and now he’s 20 years old, getting his bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy. A very smart kid who has his shit together at such a young age. Thinking of him now, his story reminds me a bit of my boyfriend’s story:  he too had not done well in high school, but then figured it out in college, and chose a meaningful career path of which he’s enjoyed ever since. Never did he set out to make a lot of money or have a powerful position; instead he did what he loved to do, and those things just happened.

My path was different. I did well in high school, but did not do well in college. I didn’t find myself there. I lost myself, mostly through alcohol and drugs. On the surface my life looked fine, but inside I felt like I was dying, and I was. I became increasingly out of touch with my soul and who I really was, and that’s why I didn’t find the right career for me. That’s why I was unhappy.

At the time I would not have told you that. I would’ve told you that I didn’t know what to do, that drinking had nothing to do with it, and that I was just doing what was in front of me, which is true. Drinking was something I was going to do anyway, because everyone drinks, right? And how could I possibly live my life without drinking? As far as a career went, I did what I thought I had to do, based on what the rest of the world thought I should do, and that was my best at that time. I didn’t believe it was possible to follow my dream of becoming a writer, but that I needed a back-up plan, which quickly became my primary plan, and that was just to take whatever job was out there, unrelated to writing, and to write at night after work. But the only writing I did was some drunken self-pitying scrawls about how miserable I was, and that became my reality. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The following quote is a magnet on my fridge that I often ignore because I see it every day:

your-journey-2

I can’t beat myself up for my journey. What good would it do? I’m still here, now. While it would’ve been great to have figured it all out at the age of 20, it would not have brought me to where I am today. We grow through pain, and some of us have a high threshold for pain until we’re not, until we realize that the self-inflicted kind of pain is not worth it. Life will give us enough pain.

It occurred to me last night as I was reading Wayne Dyer’s I Can See Clearly Now that I don’t have to be the kind of writer that I think would be the most respectable, prestigious kind I once aspired to, who gets published in all the hoity-toity literary publications. Because that’s not me. I don’t like exclusivity so why would I want to be a part of that elitist bullshit?

It’s difficult for me to write about writing and becoming a writer. I feel vulnerable. I don’t even want to put my name on this blog. But isn’t vulnerability what it’s all about? I didn’t like feeling vulnerable. That’s one reason why I drank. I could not be social without alcohol. That means I could not be me. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me for who I was. The irony is that people like you only for who you are; no one likes an imitator. I suppose you could say I’m still afraid that people won’t like me for who I am, because I still won’t put my name on this blog. Ah well. It’s progress not perfection, my friends. One day at a time.

Here’s a song by LCD Soundsystem that’s been in my head since last night. I love the lines, “You’re afraid of what you need / If you weren’t, I don’t know what we’d talk about / You’re afraid of what you need / Look around you, you’re surrounded. It don’t get any better.” This video is so perfect:  Don’t close the door on yourself. Stop trying to be perfect, and stop trying to be someone else. Just be you.

 

Things I’d Say to a Younger Me

Work is a waste of time. It’s not so much work, because I believe in contributing to the world, but jobs. Jobs are a meaningless vortex of stagnation, a spiral of nothingness, a never-ending Groundhog Day in which, after about a year or so for me, the mundane, repetitive tasks become excruciatingly difficult to continue. It’s largely due to my mother’s death and the fact that I’m grieving, but I’ve noticed this with every major life event I’ve ever had. After each of my two divorces my jobs became unbearable to the point where I left a well-paying job in the marketing industry after my second divorce and I never looked back.

It would be a temporary fix (the real fix is within me–more on that later), but it occurred to me today that maybe I need to change departments at the organic grocery store job where I currently work in the wellness department. Customers ask for medical advice as though I’m a practitioner which I find increasingly stressful. At first I liked it, because I thought I’d become a nutritionist and this would be great practice. But then my mom died and that changed everything. I realized it was just not me. Nutrition is interesting… but it’s just not me.

Years ago I went to see David Sedaris at a reading, and someone (me?) asked him how he came to be a writer, and he replied, “I was just really lousy at everything else.” And I thought to myself, I’m terrible at everything else too! Maybe I too can make it. Maybe there is hope for me. That was nearly 20 years ago.

I spent the next 15 or so years getting drunk every night after work, to unwind after the stress of the day’s work. I’d told myself I’d work whatever job was available, and I’d write at night after work. And while it’s not impossible, it’s pretty hard to chase your dream when you’re blackout drunk. Many addicts aren’t as lucky as I have been. They end up committing suicide, overdosing, or worse, living a long, slow painful empty and meaningless, soulless life without a real connection to God.

In Wayne Dyer’s memoir, I Can See Clearly Now, he writes about how he always chased his dream no matter what. He knew in his heart that he was a writer and a teacher, and he never let anything stand in the way of that. It’s so easy to let life get in the way, especially as you get older; it’s not impossible to follow your dream then, but it’s MUCH more difficult. Even for those who didn’t waste their youth on alcohol and drugs, most people accumulate debt, have children, and take on responsibilities that take time, money, and effort to maintain, leaving little room for dream-chasing.

Here’s my advice to anyone out there who’s in their late teens or early 20’s:  Follow your heart no matter what it takes. Never listen to naysayers, do not let fear get in the way, don’t get so wasted you lose yourself, and follow your passion. Do not worry about student loan debt, do not take whatever job is out there just to have job security, do not have back-up plans unless they completely encompass who YOU are (in which case they should be your Plan A anyway). Do not be who your parents think you should be. Do not be the person that you think society wants you to be. Be true to YOUR heart.

I want to say I have no regrets, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. While I know intellectually that it took all that I went through to get to where I am now, I don’t yet feel in my heart the conviction that comes with having arrived at some better place with gratitude that it was all worth it. I do have tremendous gratitude for the life I live today, but I am not there 100%. Of course I would rather have learned these lessons at the age of 20 and have moved on to do great things, whatever that means. I am still in the process of healing, and that just doesn’t happen overnight. I do believe it’s possible for anyone, any age, including myself (I’m not that old, and no one is too old anyway!), to start living a more meaningful life at any time. You can start right now, regardless of what’s happened in your life, regardless of what a mess you may or may not have made. I am living proof.

Here’s a beautiful song called “Somebody to Love” by Valerie June. I like it because her words “I’ll be somebody” carry a different meaning (for me) in this version than the original (though I love the original/recorded way she sings it, too).

Knowing

owl-and-babyRemember how the other day I wrote that Dyer’s memoir I Can See Clearly Now was not inspiring to me? Well, I’ve changed my mind. He writes about how the seeds of who he is were planted when he was a little boy, but how he had no idea of that at the time. At the same time writes about how he has this knowing that I find hard to describe in my own words, but the way I interpret it is his knowing of who he really is at his core. The part that really caught my attention is on page 39:

“My writing is like having a friend with me at all times. I love my space where I escaped each day to bring my characters to life, though the story is becoming less important—it’s just the opportunity to sit in a sacred space with a blank piece of paper staring back at me that I so enjoy. When I take the time to write on my novel, I think to myself, Writing is not something that I do. It is what I am. I like the feel of it and saying and remembering, I am writing. What brings me the greatest sense of accomplishment is feeling aligned with what I am on the planet for in the first place. That’s what writing is to me.”

I get this. I really, really get this.

The way he talks about this knowing, the way I understand it, is that it’s a deep knowing, more than a knowing in your bones. It’s a knowing in your essence, at your core, in your center, in your soul. It’s something you know from early childhood. I can’t name it or describe it in any other words. It’s not a knowing in the sense of knowing what will happen or how it will play out, or what it will even be, just that it will, somehow. Just that there is something there, something big, something powerful, something meaningful. A connection to God.

Today would have been my mother’s 67th birthday, and she passed just two months ago. During this time of loss, it’s important to remember and feel that connection to God. Rest in peace, Mom.

Mom loved owls, so I’ll end with this beautiful painting of an owl:

owl-art

No Apologies

I’d started to write a blog on positive thinking and how I find comfort in looking at pictures of animals and how you can write a happiness journal to cheer up and how you can re-wire your brain for more positive thinking, blah blah blah, etc., because I didn’t want to be a downer all the time. But at the same time, when grieving the loss of a parent I believe you have to honor your feelings and allow yourself to grieve. It doesn’t mean wallowing in the pain all the time but if I feel sad or irritable then I will allow myself those feelings. This blog is my online journal and if I want to vent I will do so and make no apology for it. Sometimes that’s just needed.

The thing that bothers me the most right now is that yesterday my stepfather suggested finding another wife. While I want him to be happy and feel that it’s only fair he should find another partner eventually, I didn’t find it appropriate on many levels. For one, Mom’s only been dead for two months. How he could even be thinking about another woman already is beyond me. I get that he’s lonely. I get that he hasn’t been single in over 20 years. I get that he’s older now and most of us don’t want to be alone, especially as we’re growing older. But my mother is irreplaceable. And we need to allow ourselves time to grieve before jumping into another relationship. That’s a mistake I made when I jumped from my first marriage into my second, and I still don’t know that I ever grieved the first one. I’m still grieving the second one in some ways—not in any way that suggests I want to be with the second one at all, because my current life partner is just that, and I can’t imagine, for example if he died, that I’d get into another relationship at all. Not for a very long time. If my boyfriend died, I would probably just travel the world, assuming I could somehow afford it. I might become a Buddhist nun, or I’d get an RV and drive around the country in it. I don’t know what I would do, but the one thing I would not do is jump into another relationship. Who would he find that could be as perfect for him as my mother? They had a relationship that was just right for him. My mom was unique. She was smart, sharp-witted, feisty, self-educated, magnanimous, and she gave him the kind of tough love he thrives on. And she was funny. I have never met another woman like her.

Another thing is that it’s not my business that my stepfather is thinking about meeting another woman. I don’t need to hear about it, and I don’t want to hear about it. He mentioned a new neighbor who’s only 55 (to his nearly 70), a tall blonde who sounds as creative as a Barbie doll to me. My mom on the other hand was beautiful. She had thick, wavy salt-and-pepper hair. Her brunette hair was almost black, and she had cat-eye, golden-green, olive eyes that were a color I’ve never seen in any other person I have ever met. She had olive skin, and looked like she could’ve come from Spain, Italy, or Greece. Or she could’ve been Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, or had ancestors from northern Africa. In other words, she looked interesting, unique.

More importantly, Mom had a unique personality. She was her own person. She would tell it like it is, and she didn’t care what you thought about that. That’s not an easy thing for a woman to do. It’s not easy for me to do, in spite of her being my mom. We are not brought up that way in this culture. Also, I think we are born with certain personalities and that’s just how we are. The larger culture can shape us to a certain extent, but we also just come into this world with unique personalities. This is mine, and I will not apologize for it or try to force something different even when I admire someone for being the opposite of me.

Each of us grieves in our own way, and I want to honor my stepfather’s way of mourning my mother’s loss. I know she’d want him to move on and re-marry and be happy. I know it doesn’t mean he loves her any less. I know he’d choose to have stayed with her until he died, believing he was going to die first. But it’s not easy for me to hear that he’s already thinking of re-marrying. I’m not ready yet to let go. When he re-marries, it’s unlikely I’ll see him again. My relationship to him is a tie to my mom that I don’t want to break right now. And that’s just how I feel right now.

The title of this post reminds me of “All Apologies” from Nirvana, so I’ll post that. My favorite line is this:  “In the sun I feel as one.”

It Will Be Okay

My sweet and thoughtful boyfriend/life partner bought Wayne Dyer’s memoir, I Can See Clearly Now, which I started reading last night. I’d heard that Dyer had been homeless at some point in his life, which inspired me and gave me hope for my own life. I don’t know if it’s an American thing or a human thing, but many of us like a good underdog story. We like to hear about someone who’d been so down on his luck that he’d been homeless at one point, and was able to not only come out of it but get his PhD and publish dozens of books and inspire thousands or even millions of people.

But what about the rest of us average Joes and Janes who never became homeless but also probably won’t get our PhD’s and most likely will not inspire millions of people through beautifully-written books? Are our lives any less significant or meaningful? I don’t think so. When I think of the people who’ve made an impact on my life, even in small ways—sometimes especially in small ways—I can see that I made changes for the better in my life, causing a ripple effect that has flowed out to others. How many times has a stranger’s encouraging smile or a friend’s kind words brightened my day? Even the sadness and shame I’ve experienced, like the last time I talked to Pedro, taught me a lesson in patience. Pedro, who I didn’t know that well, showed by example how to live a more joyous life. He cheered people up. When customers came into the store, he danced along the aisles, made jokes, and did whatever he could to help people find the products they needed. I’m the kind of person who’d think, No, we don’t sell that, and you’re just going to have to get over it. If you want to go to the non-organic grocery store, or buy it on Amazon, then that’s fine with me. But not Pedro. He would spend time with people, show them he really cared. Their wants mattered. And it’s not just Pedro. I have learned more about patience, tolerance, and compassion from my current co-workers than any other company I’ve worked. I could go on, but I want to focus on something else I’ve noticed so far in Dyer’s memoir.

So far I’m only in the beginning of the book, but Dyer knew as a child that he was different, that he had a gift for inspiring others. Even as a 12-year-old he understood that he chose his feelings, and didn’t allow others to manipulate or guilt-trip him. His father was an alcoholic who left his mother, and she couldn’t afford to take care of him and his brothers, so they grew up in various foster homes until she remarried and got her children back–however, the stepfather was abusive and alcoholic. Yet Dyer remained optimistic. It takes a special kind of person to remain optimistic in the face of such adversity, but he shows that it’s possible.

This should inspire me, but it doesn’t. Instead, I keep wondering: What about those of us who didn’t feel optimistic as children, who didn’t know we had any special gifts, who couldn’t wait to grow up so we could be in control of our lives, only to grow up and learn that we are never in control of our lives, that sometimes shit happens, and it doesn’t always make sense? What about those of us who can’t wait to grow up, thinking, I’m getting the hell out of this town and I’m going to make it big. I’m going to do something with my life. What about those of us who have no clue what lesson in life we’re supposed to learn here on earth, in this lifetime, even if the answers are staring us right in the face, and we think, It can’t be that.

Yesterday, on the drive from Maryland to my mother’s house in North Carolina I got upset about something and started crying, and at that moment, a car turned into my lane, with a bumper sticker that read, “It will be okay.”

It sounded like something Mom would say, that she has said before. How many people have a bumper sticker that reads, “It will be okay”? I read the bumper sticker and stopped crying, and I thought, “Mom?”

feather

About five different white feathers at different times floated into my windshield on my way from my house to Mom’s. Did I ever see so many feathers before? Floating onto my windshield?

Mom’s birthday is Monday, and I drove to North Carolina to spend time with my stepfather and sister for the weekend. My sister cleaned the sheets in Mom’s room for me to stay there, as my sister has many times since Mom passed, and as Mom had done when I visited her. Usually I stayed in the guest room, but sometimes Mom would have me stay in her room while she slept in the guest room. It was weird staying in Mom’s room last night. Waking up in the middle of the night while listening to the sound of the wind blowing the leaves outside… it was eerie.

My sister suggested I look through Mom’s things and take mementos I want to keep, as she has found comfort in looking at Mom’s things since Mom passed two months ago. I wasn’t really prepared for it, and didn’t think I’d want to look through her things. Deciding what to keep feels overwhelming. I want several of her things to remember her by, but don’t want a lot of extra stuff. I live in a small room that’s already overcrowded, and plan to live in always small spaces without too many things. Things are just that, and I don’t want to get too attached to them. At the same time, I want a few meaningful items. But I’m afraid I’ll take things that get broken or lost in my many moves, in the groundless, nomadic lifestyle I live.

I keep waiting for signs, hoping for signs, asking for signs:  Tell me you’re there. Offer some guidance. Am I on the right path? What should I do? Is this really it?

It will be okay.

Wayne Dyer had his path, Pedro had his, my mom had hers, and I have mine. You have yours. They’re all different, but none less significant than the other.

It will be okay.

My other sister had a dream a few weeks after Mom died, and in the dream my sister asked her, “Mom, why did you have to leave?” And Mom just smiled and she said, “It will be okay.”

This Is My Plan

no-plans

This is what showed up on my Pinterest feed this morning. It’s a Hallmark card, designed to heighten the sense of failure that people who are stuck feel, as far as I can tell. My interpretation is this: You have no plans? You’re a big loser, you’re just a dreamer, you’ll never get anything accomplished in life. It sounds like something a (well-meaning, but misguided) parent would tell their teenage kid in order to try to motivate them to do something with their lives. Well, I guess I have a lot of wishes. Because, guess what? I ain’t got no plans! Hahahaha! Eff you, Hallmark. The cards at my store are more inspirational cards, such as this one from Borealis:

mountain

Speaking of work, it stresses me out lately for no good reason. A man was mean to me a couple of days ago, and I had to go to the back room and cry. For an hour after that I wanted to cry—and to be honest, my boss would’ve probably allowed me to do that—but I felt that I had to hold it together. The customer had to repeat himself three times before I could understand him, and that pissed him off. “I don’t speak English,” he hissed at me, and slammed his fist down on the counter as he stormed off. I felt like a child. I wanted to cry after him, “But I’m one of the good ones! I’m on your side,” that I think Spanish should be mandatory in elementary school classrooms, etc., and it wasn’t even that I couldn’t understand his English as the fact that I could not hear him… though I doubt that he cares or would believe any of that anyway. It hurts even more when I feel like I’m kind to everyone who walks in the door. Some people are just rude, and it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do or say, and ultimately it’s their problem, not mine. It helps to remember that rude people act that way because they’re miserable, which is sad for them. It’s not that I celebrate their sadness or misery, but understanding that it’s not my problem helps.

I think Wayne Dyer would say to focus on doing what you enjoy and not to worry about the outcome. Whatever is meant to happen will happen in due time. The important thing is to enjoy what you do. When I’m at work I can focus on practicing love, compassion, kindness, and tolerance of people, regardless of their actions or words. It doesn’t mean I have to let someone walk all over me, but I can be patient with that person and recognize that whatever they do is a reflection of them, not me. When I’m not at work and I just want to write, then enjoy that to the fullest. Maybe I’ll never be a Shakespeare. Maybe I’ll continue to be a blogger with three readers on any given day—but does it matter? If one of my posts made one person smile, laugh, or even cry or feel inspired in some way, then it would have made a difference. Besides, sometimes the thing we think we want is not what we want at all.

whatever-you-do

I think if I could find a tiny house in the valley of the mountains and write in this blog every day while drinking my morning coffee outdoors and watching birds and the sun rise, I would be so happy. I suppose a house in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. will do for now instead. Because this girl right here ain’t got no plans. These are my plans. This is my plan, this life right here, this space here, this moment. This is it.