Archives for posts with tag: Art

Busy morning getting ready for a busy weekend. If I look ahead too far, I’m already tired. lol I guess I’m ready, though. Art selected for the show. Bag packed for the weekend, in case I decide to head south directly from the gallery… at 2:00 am… (It doesn’t sound like me, so… maybe not, but I’d be mad as hell with myself to be unprepared if I wanted to.)


…There’s still time to water the garden…

My coffee is tasty. My chat windows are rather busy. The day has already begun; I see sunshine beginning to highlight the highest leaves of the trees beyond my window. Summer mornings start early.

I take a deep breath, and relax as I exhale. It’s already time to begin again.

Yesterday feels very far away from this morning. For me personally, it was eventful and busy. For the world, filled with turmoil, conflict, confusion, suffering…and not much more if you rely on the news for your information. Babies were born, though, and are loved. People find each other, connect, experience passion, romance, and love each other. The vast quantity of human knowledge grew a little more, although it’s hardly going to make a dent in the even more vast quantity of knowledge we don’t yet  have. There was sunshine, and storms, rain and breezes; there was weather. Some people shared what they have. Others guarded their assets closely. Sick people were cared for, and the dead were mourned. The living thrived in various degrees, struggled, faced challenges, grew as individuals, made choices great and small. It was a day, and it is behind me now, in the past.

We exist in the context of our experience.

We exist in the context of our experience.

Funny how our choices and experiences build our future out of that past bit we’ve already had. We’ve got right now, if we need to make still  more choices, tweak things a bit, or reach for some desirable moment or object on the horizon. My yesterday has a ripple effect well into the days ahead, that much I can see and is very real to me. What about days further out? Or years? Those, too, may be affected by yesterday, but when I get there will I have any awareness of the moment of yesterday that I’m standing on?

My traveling partner is heading to a festival next weekend. My at home partner is taking advantage of an exciting opportunity to join him there, and have an experience. I am excited for her; it will be a very new experience. I’m happy for him to enjoy the companionship of a loved one at the event. I am not suffering, because the ripple effect washes over my own experience most pleasantly; I will have an uninterrupted weekend to paint. It’s a rare treat, and already a stack of new canvas waits for me, and I am immersed in inspiration, and eager to begin work. It’s still days away. Days of delightful anticipation, and planning, and considering the moment to come with great joy. (I hope my partners have even half as much joy and wonder in their weekend experience as I get from painting.)

The artist within is already hard at work.

The artist within is already hard at work.

These days of planning are important for me. Taking care of me, and being self-sufficient as an artist with a brain injury, means taking steps to ensure I do stop painting to eat, care for myself, and handle daily chores (like feeding the pets and attending to their needs).  Without some structure, I lose myself in inspiration and put my health, sometimes my safety, at risk. (I once filled my apartment with smoke and almost asphyxiated myself while doing sketches and watercolors of… smoke; a neighbor broke in on my reverie, and possibly saved my life.) So, the next day or two is about supportive infrastructure – alarms, reminders, notes to myself stuck here and there, little attention-getters to ensure I eat, sleep, and take care of what must be done, so I can be free to paint. For days. I’m very excited.

I can be amusingly impractical. My at home partner is eager for my needs to be met by this change of plans, herself, and excitedly pointed out that I’d have the car all weekend. I felt puzzled about the relevance of that, and it was not until this morning, in the shower, that I realized that although I know I am not likely to go anywhere while I’m painting, that may not be obvious to anyone else. lol Perspective isn’t just helpful, some things are not understood without it.

Balancing the practical and the emotional is part of the ongoing experience of studying perspective, of being mindful, and of understanding sufficiency.

Each moment, each experience, utterly unique, and entirely our own making.  Choose wisely.

Each moment, each experience, utterly unique, and entirely our own making. Perspective matters. 

Today is a good day to be a student. Today is a good day to consider choices, and choose wisely. Today is a good day to treat myself well, and kindly, and show the world similar care and good treatment. Today is a good day to move softly through shared space. Today is a good day to consider how I can help ease someone else’s burden, even if for only a moment. Today is a good day to change the world.

It is a pretty morning, and Dave Matthews sings songs of love and life while I sip my morning coffee. My loved ones are home from their weekend getaway, and returning with them, the tension and stress of everyday life, notably absent while they were away. I am considering that, and perspective, this morning.

Much of my PTSD is related to family and romantic relationships, and associated with trauma over time, and small ‘inconsequential’ things that somehow destroy my sense of balance and calm very suddenly.  Fears that overcome me are often based on some historical detail that results in my utter uncertainty about whether or not I am still ‘rational’, whether my here-and-now experience is ‘real’.  The rapid swings between paralyzing panic and trapped-animal rage result in wildly unpredictable behavior – most of it  unpleasant.  One of my highest priorities right now is really getting that under control.  Strangely…’getting it under control’ is turning out to mean ‘accepting myself’, and my feelings, and not exerting so much control; giving up on forcing myself to comply with some arbitrary standard of performance in the face of my own suffering.  In the past, the ferocity applied to ‘forcing myself to be okay’ resulted in splitting headaches, problems with my blood pressure, anxiety and panic attacks, and fits of uncontrollable crying that would sweep up out of nowhere, leaving me feeling like I had, on top of everything else, failed to ‘control myself’.

“Myself”. My self. My self. My self.  Damn. Who am I? Where does my experience begin, where does it end? What is the boundary between what is me, and what is someone else? You’d think an adult would have this one mastered by 50.  Well, sometimes the answers to my questions, the understanding I seek, the resolution to a challenging problem, are inconveniently buried in the basics.   So, this weekend, in addition to being about ‘perspective’, is about applying an understanding of perspective, an experience of perspective, to the question ‘who am I?’

Sorting out the difference between what stresses me, and me stressing over other people’s stress, turns out to be more complicated than I expect.  I’m learning to ‘make room’ for my feelings, and learning to accept myself.  I’m also having to learn to take those new tools, and accept my loved ones, and ‘make room’ for them to have their experience, without that urgent need to intervene, ‘make it right’, ‘force it to work’, or ‘fix things’ sweeping aside the very things that make us individuals sharing a relationship – our unique and individual experiences that we are having, and choosing.

Sometimes words by themselves are not enough for me to gain real clarity.  Maybe I don’t have the right words, or enough words, or maybe I don’t choose them well, or define them with sufficient clarity.  I have painted a number of self-portraits over the years, and studies of my state of being in the abstract.  This morning it occurred to me to take a look at them all, as a body of work with a story to tell – a story to tell me.

"Portrait of the Artist's Tears" 1984?

“Portrait of the Artist’s Tears” 1984?

My shoddy bookkeeping tends to indicate this is my oldest surviving self-portrait.  A small work on watercolor, my recollection is that I was hesitant to make my unhappiness with life too obvious, for fear of making it a great deal worse.  The cries for help just kept coming…

"All I Am" 1985

“All I Am” 1985

Slipped between sheets of rice paper, stored in a box, shoved into the back of a closet for many years, “All I Am” stayed quietly hidden, along with my truths.  i struggled with myself, with my experience, with my PTSD – although I didn’t know then, what I struggled with.  I knew I wanted something else, and I knew my relationships were a core concern…

unfinished "Brownie" 1986

unfinished “Brownie” 1986

I clung fiercely to the illusions I loved most, hoping that somehow wishing hard enough would be enough…

"Waiting for Morning" 1986

“Waiting for Morning” 1986

It wasn’t enough, and I didn’t yet have the tools I needed to find peace, or clarity, and my cynicism and ancient pain overwhelmed me.  Futility became an everyday experience, and romantic love did not exist in my experience in any recognizable form…

"Marriage" 1987

“Marriage” 1987

Grim, bleak landscapes figured prominently in much of my work by 1987, and expansive vistas of far away places. I wanted to get away, but I lacked certainty about what I was running from, or to.  It wasn’t all tears and trauma, and even our worst trials may be interrupted by some wonderful moments.  Marriage didn’t treat me well, and love was pure fiction as far as I could tell, then, but…

"Lovers" 1991

“Lovers” 1991

I found love for the first time, later on. It, too, was a momentary interruption on a very scary ride through life, then.  It was something to hold onto for later, and that would mean so much…

"Joy" 1995

“Joy” 1995

“Joy” is still my singular favorite self-portrait, because it speaks to me of that moment of wondrous realization that love exists.  It was a mundane enough moment, at the dining table, watercolors out, painting simple sketches of moments and feelings, and suddenly… joy, desire, love, passion, and a feeling of being filled with something powerful, something beyond me, and something that was – and is – profoundly positive and transcendent of pain, and chaos and damage.  If I had any thought I could ‘take it with me’, this is a painting I’d want buried with me – it is the best of all that I have within me.

Life is complicated stuff, and I have rarely been able to ‘hang on to’ the best bits.  I struggled for years, and did what I could to ‘keep it to myself’, even suppressing as much pain as I could through Rx psych meds. The next self-portrait I painted was from within an altered state so profound that I got lost, all the pieces of me separating as mists and fogs, dissipating and leaving me alone, and naked with who I had become…

"Separated from Self"

“Separated from Self” 2010

I began making profound changes to, well, almost everything, shortly after that point. Life as it was couldn’t be borne much longer, and it was obvious, even to me.  I can’t take credit for being a willful adult being making reasoned changes… I’ve got to be as honest as I can on that one. I began grabbing any foothold and laying waste to my moment, to my status quo, hanging on to what felt like a change for the better with real ferocity, and discarding anything that hurt… and of course, circumstances, life, and the free will of others in my life threw assorted changes into the mix, too.

"Communion" 2010

“Communion” 2010

I experienced profound love – that magical, amazing, wondrous sort of love often promised, rarely found.   Of course, life rarely limits our unexpected circumstances to the ‘magical, wondrous’ variety…

"A Ratio of 13 to 1" 2011

“A Ratio of 13 to 1” 2011

A sudden, unexpected, unsought career change resulted in anger, insecurity, and… freedom. I was suddenly free to make radical new choices about that pesky ‘who am I?’ question, free to redefine myself, willfully, as I came off the psych meds and regained my soul, and my intellect, and began to develop a sense of self that didn’t rely on any evaluation but my own.  Damn, that sounds awesome when I read it.  Actually, it sucked.  It sucked a lot, and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve undertaken, and more than 2 years later I am still working on it – although it is now as much a joy and delight, as a challenge.  There will never be enough ‘thank you’s’ to give to the dear ones who have been there for me throughout this incredible period of growth.

"Taking Another Look at Me" 2011

“Taking Another Look at Me” 2011

I have re-examined myself from a number of angles since then…

"His Bitch II" 2012

“His Bitch II” 2012

Who am I as a lover? As a partner? What is sex to me, now? Can I  put my demons to rest?

"Agent of Chaos" 2012

“Agent of Chaos” 2012

Can I ‘get it under control’? Can I ‘figure it all out’? What’s wrong with me? I continued to struggle, and somehow the things I expected would help me… data… analysis… writing in my journal… seemed to be making it all so much worse.  I was ‘spinning my wheels’ and not getting anywhere… I stopped writing. I stopped painting. My soul seemed to be stalled. Hormones. Relationship challenges.  Choices and actions that didn’t align to values I thought I had.  The chaos and damage were taking over, the wreckage in my head was becoming the experience in my life… I felt utterly lost.

"Broken" 2012

“Broken” 2012

At the end of 2012 I painted “Broken”. I was trying to say… something. Trying to explain what it felt like on the inside, to communicate something I couldn’t quite seem to put my finger on… and as 2012 became 2013, I found out about the brain injury I had received as a tween.  (I still don’t remember it in any concrete ‘this is my experience’ sort of way… but the crack in my forehead refutes any desire to wish it away now.)  The new information, and beginning therapy more appropriate to my experiences and needs, kick started 2013 as a year of growth – and real healing.

These are who I have been.  I am somewhere new, now, getting to know this amazing being that i am… facing my world, my life, my experience with real hope, and real healing… I look at these self-portraits now, and it is tempting to be frustrated that I wasn’t listening to me, but I am done punishing myself for what has been, and waltzing endlessly with my demons.

I painted “Perspective” this weekend.  It isn’t as much a self-portrait as a meditation, a reflection on a bigger picture, a useful skill, a necessary step in the process of ‘knowing’ – or unknowing – what is, and what is not, and what may be.  I am 50 this year, and there is a lot to celebrate, to observe, to experience.  Soon… a new self-portrait.

I am learning that ‘who I am?’ is not a question to be answered with words.  🙂

Before I take another step, I’ll just say “Wow, what a good week”. Credit where credit is due; mindfulness practices, careful choices, and a will to avoid misunderstandings and assumptions are all making a huge difference, or so it seems so far this week, and the vibe at home is very supportive and inclusive much of the time, which fosters growth and change.

This morning I woke anxious after a good night’s sleep. It wasn’t the sort of major panic that brings me to my feet in alarm and puts me in motion before I can think things over, but it was there and my attention was on it when I woke. A glance at the clock and I was relieved that it was definitely to early to bother get up – it’s a Saturday – so attempt 1 to deal with it was somewhat dismissive and irritated, and of the ‘roll over and go back to sleep’ variety.  ( If you have an anxiety issue, yourself, you likely know how that went – the derisive hoots of laughter can be halted any time. lol.) Yeah, so I dozed a few minutes, woke up again – still anxious. ‘F*ck it’, I thought, I am so not getting up early today. Attempt 2 was a trip down the hall for an old school fix ‘get a drink of water and go back to bed’. Right, right. Sometimes it takes me a while to learn new things.  After another few minutes of napping, I was awake again, and this time the clock was pretty near to meeting my morning’s internal ‘suggested waking time’ for the day… damn it.  That‘s when I re-engaged my actual brain, and went through some basic breathing and mindfulness exercises I’ve been practicing all week… and my heart rate started to slow down, my breathing became deeper and more relaxed, my jaw unclenched…and the feeling of anxiety subsided. I was just about to get up when…I realized I’d fallen back to sleep! After my unexpected nap, I woke in a much better place, feeling gently aligned inside myself and pretty calm and centered.  I’m not sure what else to say about this morning…somewhere there’s a hippie thinking ‘I told you so’? lol. Damn it. Nothing to do now but have a quad latte and do some yoga. 😀

So, here it is, Saturday at the tail end of a good week. I think I’ll leave the ‘why am I anxious’ questions off my To Do list completely – because I don’t think ‘why’ actually matters right now. I think I will also refrain from making any assumptions about the feeling itself, as it comes and goes unexpectedly, today. I’m not going looking for answers about anxiety this morning – it’s a lovely easy Saturday, and I will enjoy that about my experience and continue to practice letting small things go, and not taking other people’s experience personally. So, maybe a walk later, and an opportunity to snap some close ups of small things, and a couple errands, and later some plotting and scheming…er… ‘planning’… Sunday dinner. (One of my most fun things every week is cooking Sunday dinner for all of us, and this week I don’t yet have even a notion what I might like to do.)

I hope the Saturday ahead of you is wide open with possibilities and that your choices bring you only the best outcomes. If it gets weird or scary for you, hang on for the ride, and take a minute to just chill and breathe.  It’s been working for me, pretty well.  🙂

A second post; it seems less rare these days to find myself writing more words…a second thought, second look… wait a second…(now I’m just having some fun). The thing is, I just feel good today – even playful. Free. As if Life took a deep breath and relaxed. I suspect that it was actually me. 🙂

So, that TED talk on vulnerability really dovetails with other things I am reading, practicing, thinking, doing – and sharing it is just the only decent thing.   Seriously, I’m probably solo for a couple of hours this evening and if so, I am watching it again – with my whole being.

I had a pretty spectacularly ordinary very good day – it has been pleasantly orderly, and interestingly spontaneous, and all without being overwhelming.  I got some shopping done and found my way to some good places: a market, an art supply store, and an art community.  Painting is very much on my mind, and I took the opportunity to round out my watercolor supplies today, and enjoyed a few moments of fun playing with those and getting organized.  It’s actually a little strange to find myself so excited about painting in watercolor again – when I easily could have been doing so at any point I cared to, all along.  How did I miss that I wanted this?

Now day begins to turn to evening under a cottony gray sky with only a threat of rain, and I have satisfied my initial urgent need to see new work with an unimpressive but pleasing sketch of a crumpled receipt in India ink and graphite.  It was a short night, and as my excitement begins to wane I recognize fatigue, and the calm of utter contentment.  (49 years old and I’ll probably be asleep by 9pm! I certainly didn’t envision this when I stared hungrily at the horizon of impending adulthood as a ‘tween. lol) …But…this feels good…really good.  Have I misunderstood what ‘happy’ actually is, all this time?  A thought for another day, another post, another moment to consider what’s going well, and what is working in some other time and space – for now, this right here is enough.