Archives for the month of: August, 2013
Multi-tasking personal growth...

Multi-tasking personal growth…

It’s been many days since I had enough ‘bandwidth’ to write… the world is, as is so often the case, teetering on the brink… of something.  Again and again I find War on my mind, conflict, emotion…and growth. Because I am so prone to metaphors, even War reflects back onto my ‘right now’ experience.  Learning to stay ‘in the moment’ is not as simple to master as it is to take on as a practice. So I continue to practice.  “Taking care of me” is a more complicated puzzle of choices and observations than I’d like it to be, and there too, I get plenty of opportunities to give it another try.  I still make choices that don’t serve me well, more often than I’d like.  I still struggle to be fully who I am, and feel accepted and understood by people who matter to me…and by myself, too.  Change requires effort and, oddly, perspective.

...from another perspective.

…another perspective.

Today I am working on “Perspective” from another angle. Art.

I’ll talk about the inspiration, first.  My life felt like it was unraveling quickly at the start of the year.  The upheaval of moving mingled with my chaos and damage (that I’d managed to avoid dealing with in any notably successful way). I had spent decades allowing myself to be heavily medicated, out of desperation, but against any potential ‘better judgement’ – and went off them one by one, but without any real understanding of how that experience would go, after so many years.  I found out I’d had a pretty serious traumatic brain injury as a ‘tween’, that I’d never been told about, didn’t remember, but had always had evidence of… and it explained a lot of lifetime weirdness, and odd impairments and eccentricities.  My PTSD flared up, and news articles about the high rate of suicide among military veterans over 50 started looking like suggestions… and I was approaching 50, fast.  It was a very bleak bit of my life… (If I had had a different perspective, perhaps that would not have been the experience I had?)

I was at a place in my journey where my perception was that my life was entirely filled with pain, that the chaos and damage could not be overcome, that I ‘couldn’t do any better’ and that failure was inevitable, and a permanent state of being. I still had lucid moments, and I still existed alongside people who love me. In better moments it seemed obvious that things ‘couldn’t be that bad’.  I wanted more data. I wanted to change my perspective, to know something different, and to ‘see for myself’ without the complications of the wreckage in my head.  I was inspired to measure my experience in some way; “Perspective”- in acrylic, on canvas, with 3D mixed media, and of course – it would glow.

It became, over time, more than an art project – and it spoke to me.  Now it is time to finish it.

Every journey has a starting point.

Every journey has a starting point.

I had chosen the move to our new home, all of us together, as a not-entirely-random starting point – it was a big event that caused me a lot of stress and interrupted pretty much every routine imaginable, and it was in the context of struggling with that fairly every day sort of change that I found out about my TBI, and started to understand what a big deal that had actually been for me all along.  My basic concept was simple enough: I would use two glass canisters, and add items to each, representative of events and experiences, day by day from that point until I turned 50. I would watch my life unfold as data points in a visual display – positive events, happy moments, exciting and fun experienced, powerful epiphanies, and positive developments all in one canister – the other would hold the hard times, the angry moments, the pain, the tears, romantic spats, discord, confrontation, PTSD freak outs, stress, grief – and there too, epiphanies and growth, because those come sometimes from what hurts us.  I didn’t want to be bleak, but I figured, at best, the outcome would be a draw – pretty nearly balanced between the tough times and the good times.  It was already February when I started – so I carefully went over my journals, notes, and emails to friends, looking for documentation of the details, and ‘building the foundation’ of “Perspective”.  I was more confused than surprised to see that even from where I was standing in that moment, the wonders and joys, the good bits,  seemed the larger part of life, and it wasn’t a small matter – it was obvious.  That sat rather uncomfortably in my consciousness for many weeks as I added to one or the other canister… because, the good times were still a much bigger piece of my experience than it felt like.  I started questioning a lot of things about my understanding of the world around me, about my ability to understand my own experience, about what the hell was really holding the chaos and damage in place, after all this time… and I kept adding to each canister, day after day… and I kept observing… and I kept meditating.

My intention was to meditate on the progress of events in these canisters, until my 50th birthday, then use the elements on canvas to finish the project.  That’s where you find me now, considering my life, and my “Perspective”.

202 days of my life in "Perspective"

202 days of my life in “Perspective”

There’s certainly more to say about perspective, in general.  The pictures don’t lie – I may be in pain, my PTSD isn’t behind me, yet, and hormone hell is often just one misunderstanding away from seemingly unprovoked tears or anger – but I enjoy life, and life has a lot of joy and wonder to share with me.  My anger, the wreckage in my head, my struggles with chaos and damage are actually a pretty small part of my experience – so much so that it all has to be placed in a single canister to be visible at all.  I have the suspicion, untested as yet, that if I combined the contents of both canisters into one, it would be tough to pay much attention to the dark bits at all, because there is so much light.  Light is a powerful metaphor; illumination, gnosis, clarity…

Canvas is waiting.

Have a cookie…let’s talk.

coffee or milk?

coffee or milk?

Today I woke up to a world filled with haters and trolls, and people who think there are acceptable reasons for violence or that there are excuses that mitigate treating other people badly. I woke to a world where human beings employed in productive work for a business are treated as a commodity or a ‘necessary business expense’ to be minimized at any cost, and to a government that sees killing as a more worthy expense than feeding the hungry, healing the sick, and housing the homeless. I woke to a world that treats women and people of color as having less value than the rapidly dwindling pasty white ‘majority’. I woke to a world where rape victims are treated as having some blame in the crime committed against them, and people are taught to take with force what isn’t given freely. I woke to a world where objecting to what is objectionable and demanding change can get a person a prison sentence, and one where people in uniforms can lawfully commit murder. I woke to a world where the concept of a living wage is sneered at by a lot of people who don’t have to worry about covering their bills. I woke to a world where telling the truth is a criminal act, and kindness can get someone killed.

Funny, in a not-so-funny way, this is what we choose. Every day. It’s a big culture, a big world, and there are a lot of ideas about living life. Choices are made, and often more poor choices than great choices are made in the name of ideology, dogma, tradition, religion, precedent, futility, frustration…but they are choices, made by people, and in some cases made by people who actually have the potential to do more, better, and who choose not to.

I have sometimes been that person who could have done more, better, had I chosen differently.

We each have greatness within us, however humble our beginnings.

We each have greatness within us, however humble our beginnings.

The individual commitment to doing it differently changes a very small piece of our world – but it does change that very small piece. So…today I will change the world. A very small piece. Will you?

What will the world be like tomorrow, if we choose wisely today?

What will the world be like tomorrow, if we choose wisely today?

It is a quiet morning. The earliest rays of sunlight begin to fall on the garden. The house is quiet, everyone sleeping but me. Understandable – their late night out rates some sack time, and I crashed quite early after a busy day dealing with my PTSD, heavy traffic, and building some furniture after dinner for a diversion, which was very calming. (Thanks, Ikea!)

It seems I have reached a point in my journey that healing not only seems possible – even likely – it is happening, and in the happening of it, my heart and soul and broken brain are starting to torrent historical pain to the forefront of my consciousness – as though ‘now is the time’ and everything wants a shot at being dealt with.  (Maybe with some coaxing I can get my demons to take a number and queue up in an orderly fashion.) 😀

Pretty morning, sunny, mild, probably quite hot later (for Portland – my Fresno friends will be laughing their butts off, perhaps, because down there 85 isn’t ‘a hot day’)… and I am learning that whatever baggage I am dragging around through life, it is life itself that is what matters most. These precious few minutes and years…this is what I’ve got. The most tender brief life of a flower has more value to the me, now, than a single word of any ideology attempting to express its meaning. (The meaning of the life of the flower? The meaning of the ideology? You choose; works either way for me. )

I have spent too much time at war, again. I didn’t realize I would be, going into it, and having been taken by surprise I left myself undefended from old business and thoughts of war. PTSD is a funny thing.  An individual’s vulnerability to lingering PTSD varies (this is the current thinking, and it seems consistent with my own experience). A lot of people go to war, and come home apparently untouched. (I say apparently, because I’m highly doubtful that sane, aware, reasoning people are ever untouched by an honest look at war, however they may present themselves after those experiences.) For me, I went to war ‘righteous and justified’ – a young patriot, sure of myself and perhaps even eager to ‘defend the nation’, and more or less willing to buy into the propaganda and rhetoric, even knowing that much of it had no substance or truth. I felt we were ‘right’, and I did not challenge that feeling with rational thought. I had doubts. Even then, going to war in a foreign country, to kill human beings for the ‘crime’ of disagreeing with our ideology, didn’t sit well with me. I am old enough to have been a cultural participant during the Vietnam War years.  Still, I went. I soldiered in a professional way, when orders came I followed them, when it was time to go home, I went.

"The Edge of Iraq" oil on canvas 1992

“The Edge of Iraq” oil on canvas 1992

When I got home to the world, people who knew me said I had changed. I said I had not. I couldn’t see it or feel it from within, I only knew that so much of what had mattered before, didn’t matter anymore. The values of many things were clear – and very different. I didn’t understand the change was within me. I knew I would not go to war again willingly. I knew I was capable of killing. I knew I was no longer willing to take a human life unless it was clearly and obviously to save my own.  I knew things. Unspeakable elements of war that the civilian world never sees, doesn’t want to see, and sure doesn’t want brought to their attention. I quietly went about the business of packing it all away. I carried my military footlocker from place to place for years. It had a pair of my Desert Storm BDUs in it, some of my well-thumbed field manuals, a small cassette player that had gone there and back, and actually still worked in spite of the fine pink-ish sand clogging the works, and it had the smell of the desert and the smell of war clinging to it, and contained within. If I chanced to open my footlocker, which was rare, the smell would bring it all back – and I would focus on the nostalgia, the first package from home, perhaps, or the sheaf of letters from my Granny. I didn’t think about War. For many years I have comforted myself that this piece of who I am did not contribute to the fucked up state of affairs inside myself, that the wreckage was other things, other pain, and war was no lingering part of my experience. I had myself pretty well convinced, too…

It was a lovely bit of self-deception while it lasted.

I’ll be saying more about War, I guess. Once the words start to flow… you know? The thing is, I know in advance that the words are wasted. People think they know what there is to know about War, when they haven’t been. They grasp firmly to some notion, some ideology, some bullshit fed to them by the media, or a respected friend or teacher, and they hold on for dear life. They do not want to know. Not really.  I found myself looking across the great emotional and intellectual divide, Thursday night, between experience and ignorance, and found myself quickly becoming enraged and wounded – because I could not effectively share what I know.  Writers write – see, I’m doing it now – and beautiful turns of phrase attempt to build the bridge from the knowing across the chasm to the ignorant (“the horrors of war”, “the war machine” “band of brothers”…) but how easy is that when the greater hope is that no one need ever know??  I, myself, usually respond to inquiries about my war experiences by minimizing and making a vague reference to M*A*S*H.   Worse still, I am often overlooked as having any relevant insight – because I’m female – in spite of the truth that I went to war, too. Frustrating to be dismissed by a civilian on the basis of what they ‘know’ about war, in the face of actual knowledge. I suck at frustration.

That conversation mattered more than I realized and I spent that night awake, thinking about War, the realities of war, the lies about war, the rhetoric used to justify war, the outcome of war… and when dawn came, it was clear that I am not finished with War. Good thing it was a Friday, a day off, and a therapy day. I spent a lot of time talking honestly about war, for the very first time. No amusing anecdotes. No vague references. No excuses.  No withholding. No minimizing. No running away.  I have apologies to make – to friends and comrades who also know the face of War, in one capacity or another.  More than one of them has urged me to open up, to say something, to do something.  One of them makes his every day experience about protesting ongoing warfare.  I actually do understand.  He has experiences he doesn’t want to share, too, and shares them with the world to make the world see.  He also knows it isn’t possible to force awareness or understanding… he does it because it is the right thing to do. I get it.

Anyway, there will be more words about War.  I have a voice, and a tale to tell.  For now, it will have to suffice to say that i am unimpressed with the purported effectiveness of warfare, in general.  Historically, war seems to have very little lasting benefit to anyone at all.  It is an insulting wasteful endeavor whereby the very privileged few can send the children of those without the power to refuse to go, off to foreign lands to kill human beings they do not know in support of a cause that is most likely a thinly veiled grab for power that will never benefit them personally, and will most certainly stain their souls with the changes that come of killing other human beings.  What right does a government have to murder by proxy? To destroy human beings by using them as weapons to kill other human beings – and how is it not murder? We know innocent lives are taken, and instead of being horrified we justify it – ‘collateral damage’. When we err and kill our own, we still justify it with more words to make it acceptable (“friendly fire”).  At what point do we recognize that murder is not a tool for success? That War never ever ends – and never ever works?  Some part of me never came home from the war – and for a lot of us, never does.  We don’t just kill ‘the enemy’ when we go to war, we kill our own people, we destroy their hearts, and souls, and bodies – and lie about being able to rebuild them, support them or heal them.

Do you ‘support our troops’? Then don’t send them away to kill and die, because the effort is wasted, and meaningless to those who do not know War.  Honor the broken hearts, and broken bodies and broken brains of all of history’s soldiers – bring them home.  End the war. Every war. All the war. Just fucking stop killing people you don’t know for things they didn’t do themselves at the request of legislators who are such pussies they can’t do their own fighting for themselves. They don’t deserve to benefit from those sacrificed to the Gods of War.

"Kuwait: Oil Fires" oil on silk, 1992

“Kuwait: Oil Fires” oil on silk, 1992

I feel rather like I am approaching a mostly-closed door, and ought to open it with care, in case someone unseen is unaware, and vulnerable, on the other side. I would avoid sneaking up on you so early in the morning. 🙂



Things are ‘new’ and ‘different’… house guests gone, dawn coming a very different time, a new laptop in front of me, and a number of other small changes each gently altering each other’s relevance to me. Life is rich, busy, complex – often more stressful than necessary, sometimes so much so that more bigger change seems imminent or needful. I breath, and relax, and observe, and hope not to overreact.

The world seems just filled with mean people… I think some people may have found me among them at other points in time, although more accurately a loving friend suggested that rather than ‘mean’ i was ‘callous’, and that maybe that’s worse. I think the difference between ‘callous’ and ‘mean’ is critical… it seems to be a matter of will, and intent. Meanness is, from my perspective, a willful attack that is deliberate, and not necessarily ‘righteous’ – mean people often know they are being mean, and the aim is to hurt, or inflict pain at the expense of that person, sometimes for the amusement of others. Callousness often seems associated with a certain ‘sense of righteousness’ in that a callous person generally doesn’t understand that their approach is hurting another – or may not understand that the hurt is relevant at all. 😦  I suspect that both meanness and callousness are incredibly difficult to dissuade someone from taking on, for different reasons. Both are quite ugly characteristics, and neither leave room for compassion.

Mean, though… well, how is it even justified? Mean people don’t actually care that they are hurting someone – they are making a point, having some fun, entertaining someone else, or ‘seeing what happens if’. Ugly. I don’t like it, and I don’t choose to foster it in myself or accept it in my lovers.  I don’t like callous, but I understand it more, and I am willing to educate, discuss, coach, share, build rapport, learn, grow together…because it seems worthwhile. So…for me, they are different.

Meaning is what we make it – literally.  Our thoughts are our own, and language functions by agreement – but that means learning to collaborate in conversation and sharing definitions of terms, and both listening and hearing – they are not the same. We are not only having our own experience… we are communicating with each other in language that is only partially shared. Complicated.

It’s a lovely morning… and somehow I am feeling quite calm and extraordinarily balanced.

A good morning for "Sheer Bliss"

A good morning for “Sheer Bliss”


It’s a quiet Saturday morning, following on the heels of many busy days, rich with family and conversation and planning, doing, and being. Busy. I am delighted, amused, and inspired, hanging out with my 20-year-old stepson and his love.  Yesterday we three explored a small piece of the world together.

One small piece of our amazing world: The International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

One small piece of our amazing world: The International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon.

It was a lovely good time and we headed for home quite exhausted from the day’s adventures. I ended the day satisfied and happy, and slept deeply through the night.  (Maybe a good night’s sleep is about really exerting myself during the preceding day? lol)

I woke unexpectedly, just after 5 am,  from realistic dreaming about very surreal things (a neon green talking coffee can arguing gender politics with a painted porcelain thimble can’t be a real thing, right?). I woke feeling okay, I think, but as I attempted to return to sleep, I found myself becoming progressively more discontent, even angry.  It began to build. I tossed and turned frustratedly. I wept a handful of pointless tears.  Around six I gave up on sleep and got up for coffee. A good latte, a beautiful sunrise, and some quiet time with my thoughts really made a difference, too, for a change.  I find myself, now, in a pretty good place. The core notion that was driving my anger is based on a real need – and I am still learning about dealing with my needs well, and simply.  My challenges in that area sometimes result in a tiny window of opportunity to understand myself being missed in the storm of developing emotions. It’s a nice change for me that this morning went differently – that I made different choices, and am experiencing a more satisfactory outcome. (Yay me!)

Interestingly, having identified the need, I am also having to face the inconvenient present-day reality that for now, there isn’t much in the way of a solution.  Time is what it is. Schedules are what they are. There simply are not enough hours in the day, or good opportunities, for me to enjoy predictable regular whole days one on one with either of my partners. Ever. It’s painful for me, and saddens me, because I also don’t have predictable regular whole days of time to myself, either. I want and need both. This isn’t really a type of need where compromise proves wholly satisfying, for me – I mean, I say ‘whole days’, for instance, and I’d likely find even 4-6 hours enough to meet most needs… and there just aren’t many opportunities for such, and when they come up, they are often last minute, unplanned, and in no way regular or predictable. lol. Sometimes being a grown up sucks. Having a tantrum over time doesn’t actually meet real needs or provide long-term satisfaction, nor does it increase the amount of available time in a day – quite the contrary.  So…there are still 24 hours in a day (and I still try to sleep for about 8 of those when I can), I still spend 45 of them (or a more) away from home, and when the weekend comes around, we all want to be chilling at home, together. It is what it is.  I am 50 though, and life has put a lot of curriculum in front of me for contemplation – and one thing I have learned is that circumstances change, and what feels like ‘always’, ‘never’, or ‘forever’ right now, may be as rare and ephemeral as a soap bubble a few days, weeks or months down the road. So… I think I’ll have another excellent latte, and consider the painting-in-progress – next steps to plan – and the sweet inspiration to spend the rest of the summer painting roses, and simply enjoy the loveliness of a beautiful day. 😀

I do love a quiet morning. 😀

So much little time.

So much beauty…so little time.