Archives for category: art and the artist

It’s a new year, eh? New cup of coffee here on my desk, too. New morning, new day – a Saturday. The season has turned, and Winter is truly upon us. Here that mostly means cold, wet, and rainy, with occasional flooding, and the sounds of trees cracking when the wind blows on a freezing day. Other places, other weather.

Out on a nearby trail, taking note of the recent winter storm damage; fallen trees open up new views of the sky.

It’s been a few days since I sat down to put words to a blank page. The holidays passed, as holidays do, and this is a time when best intentions set boldly of a New Year’s Eve begin to fall to the mundane, the routine, and the unexceptional – change is quite a bit of work. Did you commit yourself to some specific change or improvement in life for this new year? Are you already frustrated? I try to avoid “resolutions” – it just hasn’t been a successful approach for me, personally. Still, this year I do want to “do more, better” – and be more that person I most want to be. It wants a new beginning, though, because I am deeply flawed, fundamentally very human, and entirely capable of bad decision-making, errors, and falling short of expectations and commitments. I’ve disappointed myself a number of times this year, once in a serious, significant, and painful way. So, as is so common, I set myself to putting things right as the new year approached, and tried to sort out what really crap-tacular shit is holding me back, and what baggage I can maybe put down , and what things I can do better, generally. I’m back in therapy, working on difficult specifics.

What sorts of changes am I looking for, this year, myself? It’s an assortment. Last year I got in 1 mile per day (average) over the second half of the year (started in July, finished on 12/31/21). This year I’m going for 2 miles per day, all year. 730 miles. On foot. I mean… it’s not “all that”. People do through hikes that are far longer, and conquer those in shorter time. 🙂 For me, working from home full time, during a pandemic, 2 miles a day on foot still manages to feel like a (healthy) stretch, particularly if I am making a legitimate attempt to do some portion of that every single day. So. I’m doing it. I’ve at least started. I sip my coffee and wonder if I’ll give up, or feel inclined to “cheat”. (There is no “cheating” on such things; either I succeed or I fail. Miles on foot are miles on foot. Doesn’t mean there won’t be something within me inclined to wonder if I could “find an easier way”. I’m very human.) Various other small things; get more done with less bitching (housekeeping shit, I mostly mean), really embracing the direct personal value to my quality of life that those efforts have, and maybe stop fucking resenting the necessity. That gets super tedious for me, even from within. “Do more, bitch less” seems a good place to begin. So far this year, I’ve been hitting the mark there pretty well, just making a bit more effort, with a bit less resistance to the effort required. It does seem to make things actually easier.

I’ve got bigger changes in mind, too. This partnership means the world to me. My Traveling Partner is special in my heart. Surely I could be a better partner? Better friend? Better human being to make a life with? I mean… there may be some things about me that may not improve much, however I fuss and practice, but that can’t be what stops me from growing and improving in all the ways I can improve, right? PTSD and brain trauma are for sure ass-kickers, as life challenges go, but I’m not without potential, and I’m pretty wonderful in so many other ways – there’s no legitimate reason to allow my issues to define me, or hold me back from making more progress, and walking my path with future successes in mind.

I wrote a bunch more words, deleted those when I noticed that my mind was wandering, and my words had become… unfocused? Purposeless? Too… something. My Traveling Partner stops by to invite me to share an experience with him later – doesn’t matter what sort, really, it’s the invitation to enjoy each other that matters most. Sounds like fun. I enjoy his company, and sharing time and activities. I smile after he walks away; we’re both pretty grumpy first thing in the morning, and don’t always want to “deal with people” – including each other. It’s a wonderful morning when we’re already exchanging smiles by 8:00 am on a Saturday, and making suggestions for shared experiences to enjoy.

Other than one errand I plan to run this morning, I’m hoping to spend most of the day here in the studio (painting, instead of writing). It’s a good day for it, I think, rainy, cold, dreary… the bright lights in the studio are probably good for my emotional wellness in winter months. 🙂 I’ll make cocoa… and begin again.

Yesterday I read that Mike Nesmith died. I broke down in tears and just cried for what seemed an uncomfortably long time. I suppose he was most famous to the world as one of The Monkees. He was “most famous” to me as my first rock-star crush. I had every album. The edges of every one of them was worn and frayed from being held and gazed upon for many hours, song after song after song, daydreaming of the love and life that might one day be mine…

…I don’t live a life anything at all like those adolescent daydreams so long ago, and I don’t think I would enjoy it if I did! I’m not that little girl anymore, and much time has passed. 🙂 Still, to this day, the songs resonate with me. I’m listening to them now, on a long haphazard playlist yanked from YouTube, honoring the loss of a human being so dear to me… though we never met.

Listening to The Monkees, I hear where some important details of “who I am” may come from. Reluctant heartfelt departures? Check! Be sure to say gentle good-byes to the ones you love. Striving for perspective and balanced discourse? Saying I’m sorry? Being willing to change? Check! The Monkees shared an approach I didn’t see modeled at home. (I sure wouldn’t mind being able to do the song-and-dance thing, too… might lighten a tense mood? lol) Frustration with my origins in a wordless way that my adolescent mind did not understand how to express? Even that – The Monkees understood what I was trying to say. They “got me”. It was 1967. I was not even adolescent when The Monkees were on t.v. – the first time. Their music and sketches from their show settled into my consciousness pretty early on. I sometimes wonder if those of us on the tail end of the “baby boomer” generation – not quite a proper “boomer”, not quite Gen X, are more properly The Monkees generation, born to a world with television, and eager consumer minds right at that time when our formative malleable young consciousness ripe for “product placement” was feasting on … The Monkees. 🙂

Hell, for all I know, the earliest seeds of my utter lack of monogamy, and my long-time comfort with polyamory, may also source with those early years, clutching my record albums, seething with hormones, unwilling to really “choose” from among the “pre-fab four” – life with The Monkees looked like a proper romp! Surely there was room for me, with them…? LOL I wasn’t really thinking about sex in any explicit way, just thinking it would be rude to bust up a tight friendship when I really dug them all equally well. lol

Anyway. I’m okay, you know? It’s just a moment. A wee bit of a sorrowful celebration, saying good-bye to “old friends” who meant so much more to me than I had ever really reflected upon so deeply. I listen to Last Train to Clarksville again… the number of times I have happily sung this song at the top of my lungs on a long drive, to stay awake… this time it just sounds like “good bye”, and I cry a bit more. It’s okay though; nothing to be ashamed of in honest heartfelt tears. My Traveling Partner comes into the studio on a practical matter. He’s kind about my moment. I hear Mickey Dolenz remind me to begin again, to move on, to take that next step… they got that before I did, too, but the mere presence of this music in my mind for so long may have made it a bit easier to get my head around new practices, and new beginnings, when I needed to most.

What music moves you? Where do you come from, creatively? What are the songs that fill your heart, and provide a soundtrack to your dreams? The music you first danced to – as a toddler, perhaps. As a tween, certainly. It’s part of your “core programming”, probably. Have you looked it in the face and asked yourself if it became part of your path in a positive way – or if it may be something holding you back? Maybe it’s a good day to listen to the band?

Papa Gene’s Blues begins to play. I think of my life now. I think about my good fortune in life and love. I think about my Traveling Partner on life’s journey. I think about a second coffee, and I think about beginning again. Thanks, Mike.

Bonus track – one of the most fun tracks ever recorded masquerading as a song. 😀

This morning is weird. I woke early, no idea why. Maybe I just had to pee? I feel generally okay as the morning begins. The usual amount of pain, in the usual amount of places, and I feel decently well-rested in spite of the short night. The weekend was strange. Strained in some moments, infused with a too-fragile joy in others. I struggled to find balance. From my own limited point of view, it seemed my Traveling Partner did, too.

…Very human…

I wanted to spend the weekend painting; I’ve got some good ideas and feel inspired, but that intent went awry, skewered by other moments. It’s a routine Monday, today, and my to-do list is a mix of errands, phone calls, and shit left from the weekend that didn’t get done – and work. I’m not bitching, just saying that is where things stand today, on a chilly damp autumn Monday.

I pull my attention back to me. My focus back on this moment, here. I lift myself more erect, correcting my posture to preserve my comfort. I take a deep breath, listening to the sound of it mix with the sounds of the house. I feel where my pain is. I make a point to also feel where it isn’t. I take a minute to reflect on the things I would like to get done today. I’m hoping that by doing so, I’ll be more likely to remember them all and get them done.

I’ve “lost some progress” emotional-health-wise over the course of the pandemic. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m back in therapy. I’m not saying that with any particular sense of failure (although I sometimes feel a certain pervasive sense of “catastrophic futility” when I’m taken by surprise in some bleak moment); it’s a complicated journey, and realistically, there’s a high probability that I’ll sometimes struggle with some trauma-relevant detail of my experience or another, now and then, all my life. If I set the emotional wellness goal at “just as perfectly whole and well and balanced as if I’d never experienced any moment of trauma ever at all”, I’m guaranteed a lifetime of struggle, failure, and futility. It’s not a realistic goal. That’s why I focus on contentment – which I can build – rather than chasing “happiness”, which is not only fleeting, but also damned difficult to define clearly. I have at least learned to avoid setting myself up for failure. Mostly.

I finished the book my Traveling Partner recently gifted me, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?“, by Alan Alda. First rate work on communication, and I plan to read it again, immediately, and maybe also buy the e-book so I can easily highlight passages I’d like to study further, savor, or share. It’ll go on my Reading List shortly (yep, it’s that good).

I take time with my coffee to properly reflect on my recent business trip. I think over what I learned (about various things, including some travel practices that could improve my experience if I am to do this sort of thing regularly). I think over even details like “what I packed that I did not need” – there’s an art to traveling light, and still having “everything I need”. I’m rusty. The last job I had that required regular travel was… the Army. Trust me when I say that it was a very different style of travel! I’m surprised to find that I genuinely enjoyed being in the office for a couple of days – and I got a lot done. I also enjoy working from home very much, and find that day-to-day my “baseline” productivity is generally much higher working from home. It’s the “living life” part of work-travel I haven’t figured out; I finish those work days wrung out, in physical pain, and cognitively exhausted, just as I often do at home, and lacking any reserves with which to do anything much recreational. I got my walking in. For now, that’ll have to do, and I guess I’m okay with it.

I sip my coffee and consider what value my Traveling Partner may get out of my occasional business travels. We miss each other so much when we’re apart, but it seems to have a healthy positive value to get that “bit of space from each other”. How to do that in a way that does not create moments of insecurity and doubt would be helpful as a skill. I think more about what he may want and need out of life, generally, and ask myself some hard questions about whether I provide those things, and how I could do a better job of that? Then I turn a mirror on that question, which is super hard for me, and I ask myself what I want and need out of life generally – and whether I am providing myself with those things (or communicating them skillfully to my partner), and how can I do a better job of that, too? It’s a profoundly different question – and deeply relevant to my emotional wellness. In a very real way, I can only treat people around me as well as I treat myself. I’ve been letting myself down rather a lot, sacrificing pieces of myself to the job, to the world around me, to the household, to my partner, and to those vacant slack-jawed moments of cognitive ease that end up being my inadequate substitute for legitimate self-care, too often, lately. (I could “blame the pandemic”, but I recognize it is more complicated than that.)

…Damn, I’m glad I got back into therapy…

Here it is, the edge of a new day. The beginnings of a beginning. There are so many other things to reflect on, to consider, to handle differently, to work at… it seems like a lot, taken as one colossal single monolithic unsatisfying uncompleted “project”… I sigh, sip the last swallow of my first coffee of the day. One step at a time. One task at a time. One reminder at a time. Eventually, things get done, and incremental change over time becomes part of the here and now. “Could be” becomes “is”. It still takes so much practice. So many new beginnings. I stare into my empty coffee cup. It’s time to begin again. 🙂

Early morning. Still dark. Nothing surprising about that; autumn is approaching. There are hints of all among the leaves and along forested paths. The mornings are chilly now. The nights have cooled off. The rains are returning. November isn’t far off, and the end of daylight savings time will switch things up a bit, but for now, that’s not relevant. What is relevant is that early morning is dark now. I sip my coffee looking past the window into the pre-dawn darkness.

“Hints of Autumn” 10″ x14″ acrylic on canvas w/glow, 2021

My own heart, in this moment, is filled with light. 🙂 Nice place to start the day.

Impermanence is a real thing. Darkness comes and goes. For some folks, there often seems more “darkness” than light. I think on that as I watch the first faint hints of dawn revealing the gray cloudy morning sky. The light does return. I think about that homily “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, and while I wonder whether it is literally true, I sip my coffee and observe the sky as it continues to lighten, on the way to daybreak.

The wheel continues to turn. The pendulum swings, the clock ticks. Change is. We may be mired in darkness in one moment; the sun will rise on another.

The pale gray sky beyond the window hints at rain. The clock reminds me that the work day is ahead. My coffee is mostly gone. I think about garden chores. I think about a walk later. I think about my Traveling Partner in the other room, and fill my thoughts will love and well-wishes for his day.

Another moment slips by. It’s already time to begin again. 🙂

The waves hit the beach in a regular cadence, still managing to be quite varied and individual. The sound of it is thunderous through the open balcony door. The sky is azure, broad, vast, and seemingly infinite-of-horizon. The mild beiges and tans of the sandy beach separate land and sea quite conveniently. The numerous rocky outcroppings of various sizes just “offshore” become a fun festival of tidepools when the tide is at its lowest. The weather is “perfect” (for me), neither chilly enough to require a fleece or sweater, nor hot enough to make bare feet on sand uncomfortable. I walked miles yesterday, and again this morning. It feels good to feel so solitary, so conveniently. I’m not far from home (about an hour’s drive), and the beach is certainly not deserted, but in every practical way, I am far from the routines of every day life, and wrapped in solitude in spite of the nearness of other stray human primates scattered along the beach, walking with their thoughts, their dogs, or their families.

…I even went walking among the tidepools before I had my coffee this morning! I did not want to miss the revelations that low tide has to offer. 🙂

Tidepools to explore

I returned to the room after coffee and a bite of breakfast – a bit of a luxury. [Side note: I love “brunch”. My Traveling Partner is less enthusiastic about being up and dressed and out the door dealing with other human beings first thing, just for a meal as easily made (and often better quality) at home. I enjoy the variety and lack of effort (no cooking, no clean up). So, when I take time away, I definitely look for a choice opportunity to get breakfast or brunch. 😀 I’d even plan an entire weekend away around a really noteworthy brunch… I’ve got one or two of those on my “do this someday” list. LOL ]

Today, I’ll spend more time writing, reflecting, and letting my brain “get caught up” – clear that overloaded buffer – and then return to the beach for more miles and minutes.

I’ll be quite content if this little getaway is no more productive than a series of walks and naps, honestly. This is one way I recharge. 🙂 Making a point to take this time to recharge is one way I ensure I am most able to be my best self, and fully participate in a wholesome healthy way in my relationships. When the relationship I have with myself is not sufficiently nurturing or self-supporting and emotionally self-sufficient, I lose traction on being able to skillfully provide loving support and nurturing to my partner. 🙂 That was a hard won lesson to learn, and I sometimes feel I must be quite a bit stupider than I feel day-to-day that it took me so long to understand that.

…I do miss my partner, though… funny how these emotions exist side by side, mixed up together.

The coffee in the hotel room is quite horrible. I have no idea why otherwise nice hotels persist in providing these absolutely shit little drip coffee machines, with ancient packaged ground coffee of similarly terrible quality in these rooms. It would not be notably more costly to do just a little better than that. Hell, an electric kettle and a good quality instant would be an improvement. LOL I knew what to expect, so I made a point to bring along a better quality of coffee, so… it’s at least drinkable, more or less.

The beach, easy to see through the open balcony door, begins to fill with people. It’s after 10:00 am now. Time to begin again. 🙂