Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Early Fall Travail

What is that feeling called in your gut? 

The one you can't get rid of, that makes you okay with eating nothing but trail mix and  drinking too much coffee, or with fitful nights not sleeping and being unable to clear your head space? The one that you spend hours trying to figure out what's caused it? 

The one that has you simultaneously loathing going in to work (because you'd rather remain pantsless and drink the aforementioned coffee all day), and then loathing to leave work (because you'd just go home to yourself and that feeling in your gut)? 

The one that has you going to WalMart for small items you may or may not need- like a new toothbrush or some shampoo- and you hope for a self-esteem boost from looking at the indolent troglodytes and twenty-something meth addicts that seem to breed there among the $3 t-shirts and smiley faces signs, but you end up exacerbating that feeling in your gut as you walk around and notice in every aisle that those very people have each other to smile at, and all you have is a new toothbrush?

The one that has you finding reasons to drive, or to just sit in the car in the driveway of your little rental dollhouse, engine not turned on, and you sit there and breathe deeply the solitude the space offers, trying to exhale away the feeling in your gut?

The one that has your iTunes "shuffle songs" setting finding only the most melancholy songs, because it seems they were written to accompany that feeling in your gut?

The one that has you wishing you were stupid and maybe not so introspective? 

The one that has you wishing your memory wasn't so photogenically inclined, that the imagery from any day past would maybe go away for awhile, or at least fade and take that feeling in your gut with it?

The one that has you unconsciously driving to the lake instead of home each morning after you take your child to school so you can watch the sun rise as you walk along the shore and out onto the sand bars? The one that has you praying for one of the blessings of the New Day to be that the feeling in your gut is less of a distraction today?

If you know what this feeling is called, please- please tell me its name- so I can ask it to do one of two things: 1) transform into something less confusing, or 2) fuck off and leave, already.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It Ain't Easy Bein' Green

"...a mass of tiny green things that looked like little stones or crystals, 
each one about the size of a grain of rice.
They were extraordinarily beautiful, and there was a strange brightness about them, 
a sort of luminous quality that made them 
glow and sparkle in a most wonderful way."
-Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach

Do you know this quote? This part of the story? It is one of my favorite parts of the book, when things are just about to start happening to James. The green creature seeds- so pretty, so fascinating- just looking at them offers the promise of having what your heart desires most. The caveat? The magic is worked on whatever or whomever they first meet. Poor James. And even us, when we see things like this, reflections of our desires, we can't help but be myopic. 

My life is full of friends. They are all glow and sparkle. I use them to fill my days with joy, I use them as sounding boards, I use them as a repository of giving- of my knowledge or time or listening ears and heart and mind. I think they use me for the same things. Also, I'm a pretty decent cook. So, having these people around me, not judging me, keeping me safe, has been deeply humbling. How do you sufficiently thank the people who sustain you? One day at a time. And yet-

I had an experience recently that involved an impromptu counseling session, a massage, and a renewed focus on meditation. Last month I was feeling run down and totally out of sorts. My mind was still adjusting to my new knowledge (or re-discovery) of Self from my retreat, and my body was beginning to show signs of the stress manifesting in my life. What stress, exactly? I mean, I had just come off a three-week hiatus, no? Yes, and I still had too much going on in my head. What to do? Arrange for a massage with my favorite Buddhist Hippie Sage? YES. 

It was a Sunday morning, early, and I met him at his work space. It was one of the last best days of summer, and so I was already feeling wistful (Summer! Do! Not! Go!), but the sun was still warm, and I could wear a skirt and flip flops and thought I'd go to the beach after my session. Little did I know where the day would take me.

Me and the BHS started talking, me relaxing a bit from the long drive, both of us feeling each other out, trying to gauge mindset, making small talk in between these silent assessments. The BHS sat in the corner, cross legged in a recliner; I sat cross legged on top of the massage table. Both of us had our hands rested on our knees. I must have looked a state. The BHS says to me as our conversation moves from one topic to the next, "Honey, do you have any love in your life?" 

Now, my modus operandi is to analyze and be intellectual rather than emotional. Oh, the walls we build in the name of Avoidance! My hands instinctively went up to cover my face and catch tears. 

Yes. No. I don't understand.

We talked about my life and the people I held on to and marveled at- those people who are my tiny green crystals, all luminous and willing to share their magic with me. Three hours spent talking (okay, me crying and listening, really) followed by a massage passed. Deep questions, strong hands. Catharsis. My body needed this. My mind was only partially ready, but I felt calmed if not spent. I went home that night with a quiet determination to pay attention to my Core Friends, my Luminous Seeds.

" 'Something is about to happen,' he told himself. 'Something peculiar is about to happen at any moment.' He hadn't the faintest idea what it might be, but he could feel it in his bones that something was going to happen soon. He could feel it in the air around him...in the sudden stillness that had fallen upon the garden."

My daily life outwardly returned to routine, to work and single parenting, to physical body care, to establishing a regular meditation practice and creativity practice, to time spent with my surrogate families. But I wasn't settled. I was still feeling peculiar, like James. Like I told one friend, "There is a disturbance in the Force." I was only half-joking. It got so bad one day at work, the overwhelming sense of discomfort, that I literally pitched a fit, collapsing onto the floor of my office, half laughing, half crying about how I didn't want to be there. And all my co-worker could do was stand there and say "Oh, please get up." We laughed, but I was being totally truthful, and he knew this, he sensed it. I wasn't alone.

I had to do something. I started taking walks at night to the lake shore. I'll sit and stare at the water or the sky, breathe the coming of Winter in the Autumn Damp. Recently, I decided to try a walking meditation on the stars; the swarms and night-star-clouds have helped clear my head, if only for an hour or so. My daily meditations since meeting with the BHS started out as being focused on thankfulness and gratitude for the love in my life, especially centered on my Core Friends, the women I use in one way or another- and their partners! Those men I know and use as supplements! After several sessions, though, I couldn't understand why I was still in a funk. Busy hands, wonderful friends, gratitude for all they bring to my life...why no movement? Why no progression from this spot on the road? What had I not yet learned?

And then it struck me one morning while I was starting my day: I picked up a pillow from my bed, the one that lays vertical next to me, the one on the side of the bed I do not sleep on. I grabbed it and tried to set it on the floor so I could adjust the sheets and comforter, and I couldn't let it go. I was overcome with such sadness over the fact that my bed- bought brand new after my divorce- was only mine. I am the only one to have slept there, to stay there. Loneliness, jealousy. One masks the other. I had been, under the guise of gratitude, coveting the lives of the very people I was thankful for. Talk about misdirected! I had allowed my emotions to creep into my thoughts and influence me in an unhealthy way. I had to sit with that, with the realization that I was incredibly jealous of what I saw around me, of the different kinds of joy others had and that I didn't at this point of my journey. I went back to my conversation with the BHS: did I have love in my life? Of course I did. Of course I do. But-

Friends traveling here and there and to the other side of the globe. Friends arranging date nights to reconnect. Friends making detailed shopping lists, complete with notations regarding coupons. Friends texting please pick up the Sunday paper. Friends taking dancing lessons. Borrowing houses. Borrowing pets. Borrowing partners. Borrowing from others' lives the bits I don't have, piecing them together, drinking the third cup of tea set out on the tray.

I look at these people and am happy for them, really. The joy they have is what I thought I had for such a long time, and is what I yearn for now in earnest. If I figured out one thing about myself in my work on identity, it is that I am a Giver. I thrive when I have the opportunity to share and give of myself. I am happier. I am more balanced. I am calm yet energetic. I function best when I have not just all of these friends and the resources they offer to me (and I, them), but when I have a Touchstone. The pull of the comfort of that kind of intimacy- the intellectual, emotional, and physical- is not only something I crave out of jealousy, but out of necessity. Personal Truth, right? I'm a Giver. I know the importance of taking time for myself (I need to do this more often, I know), but I also recognize and accept that part of my Core Self is to Give, to make life easier for those I love. 

And so what's making this section of my Life Path so rocky, what is partly responsible for the unsettled-ness, the restlessness, the disturbance in the Force, the peculiar feeling, is not what I have, but rather what I'm lacking: there is no Touchstone. That is difficult to admit, and it is difficult to know this and still be committed to finding the Good in my days, to be outwardly grateful and gracious, to still Give. I think back to the conversation with the BHS that day and how he knew- he knew- so much.

" 'My dear...' the Old-Green Grasshopper said gently, 'there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven't started wondering about yet.' "

Where does this leave me? It leaves me to tell myself: stop over-thinking. Look at the Good. The glowing green seeds will work their strange brightness and magic. The wonderment will sustain. 

Until next time, friends.

Friday, October 12, 2012

30 Days, Days Nine Through Sixteen

So it is now almost the third week of October, and I'm still at it for the Creativity Challenge. I did take a break and let the cohorts catch up (read: I got a bit lazy), but as of this writing, I'm really unsure who is still playing along. No matter. If even one person made one thing that sparked their brain into action, that's enough for me; and as the creative process is endlessly fascinating to me, I can't wait to gather some of those people together and share what we did, even if what we did was only one thing we're willing to share. And so, here are a few more entries for you to peruse. 

Monday, September 17, 2012- Day #9= Cityscape.

I took this photo of the Chicago skyline while driving (I know, right?! SO naughty!). The approach is from I-55 and from the south. It is my all-time favorite view. Sure, you can get a nice panoramic view from the Sears Tower (I'll never be able to call it the Willis Tower. That just sounds so...WRONG, and also reminds me of "Diff'rent Strokes.") or the Hancock Building or even an airplane, but this reminds me of driving back to the city after visiting my parents. There was always a real sense of anticipation and/or anxiety for me, always wanting so badly to get away from where I was from, always wanting to get to where I thought I needed to be. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012- Day #10= Abstract.

This is not a medium I'm adept at using- gouache. It is also not a genre I feel comfortable with, speaking from a creation stand point; my usual subject matter falls toward people and landscapes (oh, the predisposition of the Midwestern artist!). This was so much fun, however, that I modified this and led a similar project with the kids at work, where I quickly learned about the power of childhood creativity- so primal! Check it:

Abstract watercolor paintings using a masking technique from Paige W., Larrissa T., and Trevor W.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012- Day #11= A Turning Point.

A true story is the subject of this writing piece. I want to work on it more, refine it a bit, but for now, I'm satisfied with getting it out, you know?

A Turning Point

It was January, and the prettiness of the city in winter had changed from Holiday Pretty to Dirty Pretty:  it was still snow covered and the cold made the streetlights and traffic signals and neon store signs still glow softly, intensely, but a salty gray pall splattered everything. So pretty, in a way.

We sat on the #81 Lawrence bus, out on the west end, just coming from the latest meeting with the agency we were working with, which was somewhere near where Lincoln and Western merge, that intersection just north of Montrose.

You were quiet, I was quiet. We never said much to each other after these meetings. We sat next to each other towards the back of the bus, me always by the window so I could stare out and think. I would think about what had just transpired and then what next was going to look like, and how or if you’d be a part of my every day. I think now that I knew then we’d be probably always be connected and in touch. Even then I knew you were an obligation.

The bus was overly warm. I pressed my head against the cold window and breathed with my mouth open, blurring the view, then wiping the condensation away with my cheap glove, then breathing again, wiping again.

CTA buses in the winter are always a gamble. Those giant polluting engines are too big to stay cozy while idling, and so the fact that the light had turned green, red again, and now green again while we sat at the corner didn’t seem unusual. We had nowhere to be. Some passengers grumbled about sitting for so long, though, and that’s when we noticed the crowd outside changing: businessmen and –women filtering into the crowd with the mothers and children. Toddlers walking at an angle, arm stretched up to a hand, snow boots barely touching the pavements. You asked if I was going to my apartment or yours, and if I wanted to stay. I shrugged, my eyes wide, I didn’t know.

The driver started to say something over the bus’ PA system, but it was garbled and mumbly. The drone of the engine mixed with the horns and car tires outside. Traffic noise, more cars and people making their way around the bus, moving on with the day. This was before cell phones and before I wore a watch, so we had no idea how much time had passed before the driver finally switched on the emergency lights and had us all exit the bus, paper transfers in hand. They don’t use paper transfers anymore. Or tokens, either.

I was very cold, and I was tired. I just wanted to go to bed, to curl up in a ball like a baby and sleep. When I think about how you were back then (and not just on that one day), it is clear that you were removed and not really all that interested in going back to the agency again. You were clear, in the only way you knew how to be, that you wanted me to make a goddamned decision, already. You were fine with not being in charge, or with not having your opinion matter. And all I wanted right then besides a bed was for you to be in charge, and to make your opinion known.

As we exited the broken down bus and climbed aboard the replacement bus, you asked me again what I wanted to do. I’ll go with you, I said, but I don’t think I’ll stay.

Thursday, September 20, 2012- Day #12= A (Recent) Best Moment/Memory.
Another writing piece that I really, really like and want to develop more, play with the POV. (You don't get to read this one.)

Friday, September 21, 2012- Day #13= Comic/Animation.
A drawing, quickly done. Maybe I'll post later? Nah.

Saturday, September 22, 2012- Day #14= Words/Quote Integrated Into Image.
I pulled a quote from a Raymond Carver story, "Intimacy." It's not a sex story- it is a testament to the complexities of relationships. Raymond Carver is a master. Read his work and weep at how you'll never be that good.

Sunday, September 23, 2012- Day #15= Group Picture.
This one I'm kinda excited about. It's really just a simple drawing I'm translating into thread, but to people who don't know any better, it could seem complex (hence, the sharing and talking about the process, see?). I'll have a pic once I'm a bit further on the piece and can break away from working on it. The image and the moment it captures also got me into some deep thinking about my wants and needs and (of course) circled back to identity and  the things people expect from you, from the you they know. 

Monday, September 24, 2012- Day #16= A Source of Irritation.
Lately, this is EVERYTHING. Just fucking look around. HA!

One thing I'm really appreciating about this challenge is that I'm really thinking about things during the creating portion, I'm forced to find a new way to see things in order to meet the challenge of the day- OH, FUCK! IF THAT ISN'T LIFE EVERYDAY!!!

(That was an Oprah "light bulb" moment, right there.)

(Also, I've fallen off the wagon on my "I'm going to try and curb my sailor mouth" thing. Me and swearing: "I wish I knew how to quit you!")

Until next time, friends.