Unravel 

Unravel Self Portraits - For my online Portray Yourself Group (feel free to join in - Link Here) 

Unravel Self Portraits - For my online Portray Yourself Group (feel free to join in - Link Here) 

unravel | ˌənˈravəl |verb (unravels, unraveling, unraveledunravels, unravelling, unravelled)1 undo (twisted, knitted, or woven threads).2 investigate and solve or explain
Undo and investigate and/or explain. 

I have been unraveling for quite some time.  I certainly have been undoing a lot of things I have done and I feel like I am constantly investigating everything. I love that part of life.  The investigation part, the questioning of why and how, where and who, and what!  I’ve been an extremely curious person since I was a child. That childlike curiosity has stayed with me my entire life, keeping me deeply engaged in everything I do. Thankfully, this curious nature has coincided nicely with my unescapable desire to be an artist, even if a lot of times being an artist means undoing what you’ve done, mostly because you went too far and screwed things up. Sometimes undoing isn’t possible and you just have to start over, especially when it comes to art, and especially when it comes to life.

Lately it’s the life part more than the art part where I feel like I’m starting over.  Not completely starting over, more like starting again, from where I am now. Not able to go back and not able to go forward until I stand where I am and unravel a few things that have tied me up into this uncomfortable feeling of not being able to completely solve or explain why I am feeling how I am.  Sometimes it takes a lot more than just investigating to unravel. It takes time, it takes surrendering, and it takes courage… lots and lots of courage.  That’s where I am at.  Waiting, surrendering, and trying my best to be courageous, when really, I just want to find a quick fix and be on my way.  

If only it were that simple.  How much of the world is looking for that quick fix?  That pretty bowl of something sweet, a magic pill, or a vacation from everything, even though upon returning you know it will all be there, eagerly waiting to engulf you.  With life, one thing I have learned over the past 41 years is… that there is no quick fix!  At least when it comes to life’s real problems.  Most know that sugar is a once and awhile treat we should try to avoid, and that those magic pills often lead to more pills to counteract the side effects of the first pill and before you know it you have a whole pharmacy in your bathroom and you don’t even know what the real problem is anymore, and as for vacation, everyone needs to indulge in taking time for themselves, but it won’t be a quick fix unless things change for the long term. 

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We live in a complicated, toxic, emotionally draining world, where we are often dealt more than we ask for.  All this can lead us to a place of real discomfort.  A place that we often fear, especially when we can think back to a time before we knew that place. When we are stuck in that place all we want to do is get out of it.  I know.  Where’s the get out of jail free card?   Where’s the fearlessness I once thought I had?  Fearlessness?!  hahahahahah.   To be honest, I have never ever been fearless.  I’ve pretended to be “fearless”, but deep inside I know I have never ever been fearless.  When I got on that plane by myself to Australia I wasn’t feeling fearless, I was scared out of my mind, but I got on it anyway.  When I drove through the city of Pittsburgh for the first time I wasn’t feeling fearless, I was terrified, but I drove anyway.  Each and every single time I say goodbye to someone I love I don’t feel fearless, I feel a deep sense of terror, what if it’s the last time I see them?   What does it mean to be fearless?  I think it means to be full of bullshit, that’s what I think!  I fear everything and I am not ashamed of it. I am alive and I know I am not in control, as much as I present that I am, I am not.  Everything could, and will be taken from me eventually.  Unless, maybe you are one of the few “enlightened” beings here on earth, how can anyone be alive and be fearless?  Sure you can have moments of fearlessness or honorable bravery, but to live fearlessly?  Fear itself is what keeps us alive, it protects us, when we aren’t sure about something our bodies let us know by the flight or fight reaction. Of course there are two types of fear; rational and irrational.  The fear that keeps us alive is the rational fear, the kind where if you see a frothy brown bear charging at you, you run fear, not the oh my god, what if I get on this airplane and have to use the bathroom and get sucked into the toilet and fall out of the sky, fear.  The hard part of this is that it’s the irrational fear that I want to have less of, I am completely okay with knowing my rational fear strategies are strong. I am not completely okay with the irrational fears that creep into my body at unexpected times, leaving my heart pounding while I hold my breath and then gasp for air.  Lately, of all places, for me, this place has been on the yoga mat, during Savasana, otherwise know as ‘relaxation pose’.   How ironic.  It’s rather amusing that I have developed Savasana anxiety.  It happened after a bout of dizziness during a hot yoga class, due to, what one doctor said is “dysfunctional eustachian tubes”.  Which honestly, I feel is the result of my digestion issues, which I feel is a result of stress, a round of antibiotics, and high gluten/grain based diet. (more unraveling a.k.a. investigating)   After I had this dizziness my body made sure to take notes in order to “protect” me if it ever happened again.  So next time, there is was, that overwhelming sense of anxiety that I might feel dizzy again. Not the dizziness, but the fear of it.  I didn’t like feeling like this, so I took a break from yoga.  I took a couple months off.  Thinking time would resolve the problem.  It didn’t.  Feeling resentful toward the anxiety I decided to “show it” and go back to yoga, irrational fear of savasana and all.  There is was again, right where I knew it would be.  Pounding heart, shallow breathing.  I rolled to my side, and let it ride itself out and it did, and it was uncomfortable,   very uncomfortable.  I showed up again, and there it was again.  This time I decided I was going to just let it happen, knowing the uncomfortableness would eventually have to pass, unless it killed me, either way I wanted to work through this.  During savasana this time I was “prepared” to greet it differently, this time instead of fearing it I flung open the door and invited it in.  my heart pounded as I envisioned myself. I decided to give the anxiety a shape, the shape of a person, it was dark and afraid, I could actually see it, I pictured me with the anxiety, sitting side by side on my favorite hill, where I sometimes like to sit in the summer months, I put my arm around the anxiety and tried to comfort it best I could.  As I did this I actually started to feel relief, my heart slowed down and I didn’t feel the deep desire to flee, but to sit and comfort the uncomfortable.  I felt a sense of empathy for the anxiety.   The next time I decided I was going to approach the whole savasana differently, and do a mental body scan, where I would go from head to toe and give a mental note of appreciation and love to each part of my body, thanking and loving it for what it does.  I love you little toes, for helping me stay in balance. I love you legs for moving me through this world. I love you stomach, for doing your best and healing each day a little more. I love you heart, for loving so deeply…and so on.  This too helped, even though I felt my mind wanting and trying to surface that irrational fear.  But I told it, it’s okay mind, you don’t need to protect me, I am okay right now.  The next savasana I was ready, knowing I could approach the fear in two different ways or even try counting my breath, another of many options I had in my pocket if needed.  But this time I felt calm, I felt like I used to, before the dizzy spell.  I felt like crying.  Now I am in the middle of a 14 day yoga challenge, going everyday to the studio where I take yoga, putting myself in the place of possible discomfort, but working it out, best I know how.  So, I say stop trying to be fearless, there’s no such thing.  There are moments of bravery and courageousness when you show up to the fear and let it move through you, but fearlessness, it’s not human to be fearlessness.   

If you suffer from anxiety try this next time you feel anxious, let it move through you and think of it as something/someone that needs comforting. See if you can comfort it and therefore comfort yourself.

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Recently we adopted two feral kittens, one more feral than the other.  For the first three weeks she would run when we came near her, fearful from whatever she had already experienced in her first 3 months of life.  With time and a good atmosphere she has started to stay where she is when we come near her instead of run.  Last week she even fell asleep sitting beside me.  The past few days, when I feel anxious I think of her and her little scared pounding heart, and how I want so badly to comfort her and make her feel at ease.  That’s what I want to do to the anxiety, too.  Comfort it and let it know everything is okay.  

Another thing that I feel has been helping me?  Magnesium and changing my diet.  After more investigating and two + years of digestive issues I have finally decided to try (reluctantly) giving up gluten and grains.  I tested negative for Celiac Disease, thankfully, but the more and more I read and learn the more I feel that it is the gluten that’s causing a lot of my problems.  Most humans, especially as they age, do not have the necessary enzymes to digest the wheat, and our bodies create antibodies to defend itself when we do eat it.  It’s not necessarily the wheat itself, but how it’s being grown now that’s wreaking havoc on the human digestive system.  The soil has been depleted, the seeds have been modified, and the plants have been heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals, overall it’s just not a good choice for many people.  This gets tricky when on a vegetarian diet, but not impossible, it’s just learning a new way of eating…which is worth it, if it means you feel better, which I do.  

She placed her hands on the ground
and prayed directly into the earth,
her love carried the message of gratitude,
apology, and a new willingness
to defend the only home
she has ever known.
 - yung pueblo

The start of something...

 
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I've heard many times that with all good artists it's ultimately a self-portrait even if it's an abstraction. I feel my work is very much who I am. I didn't try to make it that way; it just is. It reflects who I am and also my interests.   - Joyce Tenneson

I've started a self portrait group here.   #portrayyourself 

 

untying the knots

 I decided back in the early summer that I was going to take at least one photo, if not many photos a day and post them on my blog.  It was all a ploy to get me to show up to my blog more, to get back to a routine of sorts, a feeble attempt to reach out more, like I used to back in the good ol' days when blogging was the coolest thing yet, circa 2003, before FB monopolized the lives and minds of the majority. It worked for a few months and then... nothing.  Nothing at all.  I have zero photos on my camera card right now and not one ounce of desire to even pick my camera up in order to stock up.  Where did the drive/desire go?  It was so strong all the way up until the drought.  I don't know where it went, but for now it's gone.  But I still have this feeling of wanting to show up, without images,  I am left with words.  It's a whole lot easier to hide behind photos than it is words, I will tell you that.  I can take a photo and it can sort of let you in on how I am feeling, but there's that vague sense of translation that I love about a photo, what it feels like to me might not be what it feels like to you.  Words though, they're not always so vague. As the knots in my stomach tighten, I am going to try my best to carry on.  One word at a time.  

I honestly cannot remember that last time I wrote a blog post from my heart.  I know I have done a few here and there since I switched from typepad (a site designed pretty much for blogging) to a website (something that's suppose to be all fancy and professional).  Perhaps that was what put a halt to my blogging, at least it's an excuse I can drag along with me.  Another excuse is that I constantly relied on my other half to edit my posts, in case, God forbid, I put a comma where it shouldn't be, used hear instead of here, and all other grammatical errors that may spontaneously occur when my fingers start moving around the keyboard.  However, relying on anyone to do something that don't really want to do can be a real pain in the ass.  So. I am letting that excuse go, and saying screw it, hello grammatical errors!   You aren't really welcome here, but hey, that's what I get for not paying attention in english class.  Doodling and daydreaming was so much more interesting than prepositions, possessive pronouns, and dangling modifiers. Who really cares about this kind of stuff anyhow and what the hell is a dangling modifier?   I have no idea, but I feel it might make a great drawing.  Seriously though, in 7+ billion years from now, when the earth is no longer in orbit, NONE of this is going to mean a thing.  Think about that.  Heck in a 100 + years  will any of this mean anything. Where will all my stuff be?  In 100 + years all of our possessions will be someone else's possessions.  I like to think about that kind of stuff.  Who will posses all my books, cameras, knick-knacks?  (oh, those words.  knick-knacks gives me the Heebiejeebies)  I love to think about the items I have that were once someone else's.  The lives they witnessed.  What kind of pictures did my 450 Automatic Land Polaroid camera take before it ended up in my hands?  

So, anyhow.  long intro. no photos. no in house editor.  no excuses.  Here I am. 

Where to begin.  So what should I write about? I had all these ideas earlier... now.... silence.  Some mornings while I am in the woods, walking my dog, I have the best ideas.  I've written best selling children's books,  Oscar winning screenplays, and really interesting blog posts... all on my walk, but as soon as I get home the ideas vanish.  poof. gone. 

I feel like I just got all my scrabble pieces and they are all blank. All seven of them.  Nothing to go on here, just little blank squares of wood, having to come up with my own letters to form words that form sentences that come from somewhere in my mind.  Meanwhile, I try to abstain from chewing off all my fingernails while I think about that.  

I feel like as soon as I start writing it's going to be a flood of words, all pouring out of me like the levee broke.  All the words, thoughts, feelings from the past however many years it's been since I've been blogging are going to spill out all at once, creating a big mess that needs cleaned up.  Oh well.  Word flood or bust.  In all honesty, I feel like I need to write in order to purge my thoughts.  I have been holding them captive for so long now that I feel like they are becoming toxic to my mind and body.  I will talk more about that as I purge.  

If you know me you know that it's been over two years now since my family and I moved back to Virginia.  We had to move out of Virginia a year before because my husband's job moved to Connecticut, where he was offered the same job.  At the same time he was also offered a from Apple in Cupertino, as well as another job from some shitty company in Pittsburgh.  Although we didn't want to move from our idyllic country home that we had just moved in to the year before, we didn't see any other option. While the idea of moving to California sounded amazing and life changing we were cowards.  Feeling a bit like two small town kids, terrified of being forced to grow up in a big city,  not to mention schlepping all our stuff and knick-knacks across the continent with our children and pets.  With our tails between our legs we took the easiest route to our future and moved to Pittsburgh, closer to where we grew up and where our families live.   For a whole year we made the best of it, we really did, even if it felt like everything was flipped upside down for that time.   Fast forward, we finally found a way to move back to our house in Virginia and we did.  This is where I tell you "you can't go back home again".  Everything changes, with or without you.  Sometimes, I like to think about my grandma coming back to life, wondering what she would think about how things have changed so much since she was alive, and yet some things are still the same.  I think she would be happy to know wheel of fortune is still on... it is, right?    

Moving back here was a lot harder than I thought it would be.  A lot!  I thought all our friends here would have missed us more than they did (expectations suck the life from everything), I thought I would be happier somehow, I thought life would be easier, I thought wrong.  It's not that it's horrible, it's not that our friends are great, it's not that we aren't trying to make life wonderful, it's just that it's not the same as it was.  I am not the same, my children aren't the same, the whole experience, along with time changed us.  My children are older and getting older by the second, approaching college, growing into adults. We got a dog. We didn't have health insurance. Our cat died.  My son's hedgehog died. My closest friend dumped me. I started having strange health issues.  My parent's wanted a divorce. My Father -in -law died.  Everything felt less than. I don't know how else to explain it. 

It's funny how you find yourself missing the things you used to hate, or at least you thought you hated. 

My dad used to be afraid to drive across bridges.  He started having panic attacks when he was about my age.  I remember thinking "what's the big deal, just calm down".   Ha!  Yeah, now I know differently.  You can't "just calm down" from anxiety, it's not that easy.  Obviously, there are millions of videos, books, pills to try and help you to calm down, but reality is... it's not that easy.  Ever since I was a child I worried a lot about everything, but mostly I worried daily about our house burning down, and about my parents dying.  Those two things, in addition to many other minor worries, scared me into praying every single night, even though my family wasn't religious.  Sometimes when I wake in the middle of the night and have irrational fears I say the same prayer I made up as a child to clam myself down.  But I never thought I would have anxiety, despite my worries I always felt like my life was calm and under control and that I could handle things as they came.  Then I choked.  Literally, I choked on my own spit while chewing on a ginger chew.   Just writing that out made my whole body go cold.  If you've ever choked on anything or almost drowned, you know how scary and awful it feels.   I "recovered" and no big deal...wasn't how I felt.  From there I started having Laryngospasms, where you feel like you are choking on air.  I also had and still have pain under my right rib cage.  I went to many doctors, had all the allergy tests, had a $500+ pulmonary function test, had a camera shoved up my nose by an arrogant ENT that acted like I was wasting his time, and had a panic attack in the Dr. office with no concern from the Dr. at all.  I felt like I was dying and kind of wanted to at that moment.  Then another Doctor finally diagnosed me with GERD and told me to take some toxic purple antacid pill for 4 months to reduce the acid in my stomach.  Um.  NO!  I am not taking that.  I eat a vegan diet.  I exercise daily. I quit drinking coffee. I quit eating nightshades. I stopped drinking wine. I quit eating garlic and spicy foods.   I quit everything that potentially could make me feel like I might have another tickle in my throat that would cause a laryngospasms.  I don't know if any of those things helped, but  while I still have other symptoms, I haven't had a spasm in a while.  knock on wood.  But I still can't stop thinking about it.  Every night at dinner I worry I might choke.  I feel the anxiety seeping in as I set the table.  I can even feel the anxiety wrapping around my family at times, as they look at me, trying to carefully swallow every bite.  Sometimes it's with me the whole day.  What if.  What if.  What if.  I just want to roll into a ball and cry myself to sleep until it goes away.  Not that easy.   Maybe I should just start smoking and eating microwave food and cussing all the time... this life of eating farro and kale, drinking green tea, and minding my manners isn't doing wonders for me. :) 

To keep things even more interesting, my daughter has a pilonidal cyst that developed when she did crew, two weeks ago it flared up into an infection.  Last week she passed out in our kitchen.  THANK GOD I was home.  I had just gotten home from walking our dog, she had just woken up and come downstairs.  What if. What if. What if.   As I was making her tea and toast she said she felt a lot of pain and felt weird.  I hugged her and she passed out in my arms.  I called 911 and tried to call my husband (over and over and over again with no avail) but he was in a meeting and didn't have his phone. Typical. My daughter and I then took a first class ride in the ambulance to the ER, where they lanced it and we were sent home with more anxiety.  Meanwhile life carries on.  We meet again with the pediatric surgeon, for the third time, in two weeks to talk again about surgery.  

My art life seems to have taken a back seat or all of this.  I don't really even know what I want to do.  Pottery?  Paint?  Teach?  I tried to ask my son's magic 8 ball, but the letters have worn off and I couldn't make out what it said...no matter how violently I shook it.  I now have a pretty nice pottery studio to make pots in, and there are even boxes of clay patiently waiting for me, but I don't feel inspired.  I have new paints to try out, I have a commission to work on, and I need to make an income to help pay our bills and keep us from going back into debt.   I know it could be so much worse.  I know that.  I know that very well.  I have been in darker places in my life.  But I feel so frustrated with myself, with everything.  So. In efforts to make things feel better, because really, I know that's all it all is... feelings.   Good/Bad feelings.   How we feel effects so much, if not everything... so I am working on my feelings. Mostly trying to neutralize them if anything else.  I know for me happiness is just keeping busy doing things I love, but right now I don't know what those things are.   I have started a meditation practice.  I have meditated in the past, but only during yoga.  I  am using the Insight Timer app, which is so amazing.  If you have read all of this and take away just one thing with you today...let it be this app.  First of all, it's free.  FREE, like "hey, I want to help you out... no strings attached" FREE!  Kind of like how I feel the medical world should be...instead of take this drug, and this drug, and this drug and this test and this test, it might not help you...actually it will make you feel worse, but GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY!  I digress.  The app is such a gift.  Thank you Insight Timer!  Every day I have been trying to do at least one meditation if not more.  I am on day 20.  It's helping little by little.  It calms me more than CALM.  I also have my little vial of Rescue Remedy nearby when I feel more out of control... I don't know if it really helps or it's placebo, but it helps, as well as these vitamin B pills.  I also love essential oils in my diffuser to chill me out a bit.  Other than that... I get outside for a long walk each morning with my Moni Bear, I try to make some art everyday, even if not inspired, and I hug my children for as long as they'll let me. 

Now that I got all that out of the way... I'll be back with more words and maybe even some photos and who knows what.   Until then here are some soothing mixes.   

...and what's a blog post with a Mary Oliver poem or quote?  Particularly my favorite Mary Oliver poem,

Wild Geese.  

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.