"Learning To Birth Myself"
It took them three days to pry me out of my mother. She said it was because the amniotic sac had calloused after she had this big fall a few weeks earlier. I think I just didn’t want to leave that warm watery comfort. The doctors and nurses didn’t notice that I had been born a little bit different. They didn’t see that thin layer of outer skin that was added on backwards and inside out so that all my nerve endings and tiny blood vessels were exposed and violated with that first smack and rush of air.
I grew into a thin reed, all limbs on my shiny new swing set in the backyard. God and I would just shoot the breeze, back and forth, laughing and singing together. He knew me beyond my inside out skin and the heart that was too big for my body. He and mother Mary knew me from before and no, they didn’t ask me to eat the thick and slimy mud pies I made like that little neighbor girl who came over and didn’t understand it was all only pretend. I was horrified when she smiled back at me with her brown teeth and that little piece of grass sticking out of her bottom lip. Or that other mud-eating girl who became a saint, that Bernadette, from the fiery film they showed us in 4th grade.
And even though my parents didn’t understand why, they instinctively went about protecting me as I grew up, holding my cotton candy for me so I could eat its stickiness with just the tiniest touch of my fingertips. When I demanded a paintbrush while all the other children finger painted in kindergarten, my mother didn’t understand my tenderness. She just thought I was precocious! And when the teacher asked us to draw a person, all the other children in my small Catholic school classroom drew a big smiley face with round eyes and stick limbs. But I drew a whole woman, anatomically correct with good detail for a five- year old the nuns didn’t appreciate when they called my mother to meet them in the principal’s office.
I learned to wear a cloak of invisibility so I could remain an observer, a spy around the grown ups in order to try and understand how others experienced the world. I was an outsider amongst the other children and a clever, straight” A” investigator around the adults. I allowed myself to be defined by my grades and good behavior and I kept myself tucked in tight, too quiet for some, too intense for most. I listened over and over to the whale song on a tiny 45 my parents got from the National Geographic, and I could close my eyes and swim alongside, feeling the protective warm depth of the water around us.
At St. John’s, I was a member of the class sprinkled by colder holy water in the 4th grade by a nun who wanted to drive the devil out of us, and taught Algebra in 6th grade by another who threw her chalkboard eraser at anyone who dared ask a “stupid” question. I learned to be small, to always be kind but meek, for it was said that the meek that shall inherit the earth. I unwittingly sought opportunities to make myself fit in that small box, to be who I was told I was; like the light coming in from the stained- glass windows in church, exposed, vulnerable, and fragile.
By the time I was in high school my parents, moved us to Sarasota, Florida and away from that tiny NJ suburb and my snowman, cool Joe with the big sunglasses and twigs for limbs. I walked the halls as the quiet one, but Oh, she can draw! I carried my journals with me like newly found armor, my pencils as shiny swords. And I wrote down all the “too muchness” I felt so as not to be seen as so intense from the outside.
My parents sheltered me as much as they possibly could and I obeyed my 11 O’clock curfew right up until the day of my wedding when I was almost nineteen. My new husband was 6ft 4, enveloping me easily, and I gladly shrunk inside his arms. We raised each other, and then our children, and I was safe and comfortable not having my own identity. I loved being his wife, their mother, her daughter, Mr. so and so’s employee, and so on and so forth. I didn’t miss an independence I never had and I wore my many roles as new layers of the armor I had learned I needed as a child.
I worked hard to never disappoint anyone and I lived quietly behind my mini van steering wheel and my subdivision white picket fence. And it was just fine, and the system worked fine, until it didn’t.
When I woke up at 35 and remembered my songs with God on my backyard swing set, the layers and layers of protection that I had clothed myself in began to drop away. I suddenly felt like I had grown too big and nothing fit anymore. I began making changes in my life, no longer just panicking from disappointing one person, but my whole family and small circle of friends all at once. I became a tornado, with every new realization and decision tearing apart an old belief system, another door key to finding my authentic self.
I painted my truths to myself like clues in secret coded language, even I was only beginning to understand and the realizations circled into spirals of heavy, watery depths. Much of my art work now still refers to my breathy God songs, and those stained-glass stations of the cross, with their vibrant colors, light, and lyrical line. My expression is my way of cutting myself out of the box, tearing through the layers of heavy clothes of protection, and marking my existence. I often paint as prayer, as intentions initially set in charcoal, hoping that energy is perceived through the layers of added color.
I am learning that I am my own goddess of protection and my fragility and vulnerability is part of my secret power. I am so much more than I was taught to believe. Now I know that my capability to love with my skin inside out and a paintbrush in my hand are tools that helps me unlock my truth. It may have taken me four decades, but I am finally learning to birth myself.
1/26/18 Shifting Priorities and Learning to Be IN My Body
Don't you love it when the Universe conspires to teach you the same lesson from many different sources with a similar message?
I watched a documentary the other night on Highly Sensitive People, or "HSP's" for short. Apparently, approximately 10% of the population has this personality trait, which is characterized in part by thinking deeply, feeling deeply, having strong intuition and empathic abilities and being sensitive to the environment. One of the first characteristics discovered through the research and which is talked about in the documentary is crying easily. Duh! Does it count that I was sitting on my couch crying softly just watching the movie? I think I cried because I did not understand this was actually a thing and I wasn't alone or could be diagnosed as crazy for the way I felt, but I also found myself crying just seeing other people crying out of empathy. Yup, I cry during various commercials too..I can't help it!
I'm the chick who always wants to be informed but ends up needing to avoid most newscasts because it is too much. I am so easily overwhelmed by the suffering in the world. Sometimes I think I want to just travel the world and hug people to comfort them like Amma, "the hugging saint." I heard recently that Amma is going to retire from touring soon and pass her gifts of compassion to someone else, someone younger. So, wait...even SHE takes care of herself??
Interestingly, I am also listening to an audio series on "Becoming An Intuitive Healer" by Judith Orloff. I downloaded it because I am interested in honing my skills as an intuitive of sorts and I also am just beginning to learn myofascial release techniques to practice on patients for my day job. One of the things that Judith says that literally stopped me in my tracks was about NOT holding onto other people's stuff. She said that if you somehow believe in even a tiny part of yourself the myth that taking others' pain away and carrying it for them makes you a better healer, then you are dooming yourself to martyrdom. I knew on some level that not only have I had that belief system for as long as I can remember, but also, that yes, I understood there was an almost contractual agreement that I was, energetically at least, killing myself in the process, and I accepted that as part of my lot.
In other news, the instructor in my myofascial course last weekend spoke about the importance of being present IN your body in order to more effectively do this work. I hadn't given much thought to how much I actually am not genuinely present in my body and how that can be detrimental to my own health. I have been focusing on spiritual development, on my love and need for deep connections to others, but I neglected to see the importance of being energetically connected to the vessel I've been given. Hmmm.....
All of this information found its way to me within a two week span. And there actually were others which felt less jaw- dropping so in the interest of not making this blog entry a novel, I'll leave it out. In the end, my takeaway is this: I am NOT crazy. There are lots of people like me out there and it is totally ok to set boundaries and take care of myself. But here is the best part. Are you ready? The image and title for my newest painting, "Releasing What No Longer Serves, " had already "popped in" and was already on the canvas before learning any of the above!
Alright Universe, thanks, point taken. I hear you and I will do my best.
I have some new ideas waiting to get onto the canvas. Plan to start birthing them tonight!
2/18/18 One Heartbeat
It's been a tough few days for me. My last post was all about not taking things so seriously and just being joyful for the sake of being alive. I had started a new abstract after that last post and was really feeling the unity of all of us here on the planet right now. It's working title was "One Heartbeat" as I imagined us all walking around as one connected heartbeat, carrying on within our own individual lives, but pulsing together. And then the shooting at the high school is Parkland Florida happened on Valentine's Day and I am fractured one again. I'm sliced open not just by the obvious horrific actions and loss at the school, but by being reminded again and again how divided we think we are, how we let political ideologies get in the way of our unified humanity. And the sorrow sets in deep and then the anger and I am at a loss of what to do with all of the emotion that I am walking around saturated in. And so I went out to the studio and kept going back to this painting. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and consciously slowed down my thoughts and my breath. I started a small poem on the importance of prayer and meditation. And I kept painting, letting the journey pull me in and push me out, like the dilation and contraction of a heart, pulsing in prayer.
This is the beginning of the poem I think I'll get back to eventually:
"On Meditation and Prayer"
The sticky thoughts lick my cheeks like a playful puppy hopping around on hind legs, hungry for attention.
But I turn away. My eyelids burning like hot coals when they close.
I can't tune out the crying and screaming of the bloodied and suffering.
We are a mass of cruelty and sickened with the illusion of separateness.
Where can I turn and who do I listen to now as I twist and curl inward at this crossroad?
Thy voice rises from the fires and directs my gaze upwards. My body unravels, turns to dust and floats away.
Suddenly, my soul is alight with your flame. My breath cools to a wispy smoke, a soft gray and blackened ember.
I repeat this over and over, especially for those that no longer can.
I am choosing to remember to breathe.
I finished my painting today too. I like my little Kandinsky references in it. I felt him counseling me a bit while I painted. There is so much contained within and so much that can happen in the time it takes for one heartbeat to occur. I pray we can all give that a bit more thought today.
I realize I haven't bloggedin a while. Its been a crazy busy 3 months! I've been traveling back and forth to the Asheville area when I can. I love it there! There is such a beautiful, flowing, artsy, eclectic vibe. And the mountains!!! It is my goal to move to the mountains in the next 6 years. They call to me.
I also have completed 2 new paintings, was accepted into two more local exhibitions, started a new therapy job (which I LOVE) and got married!
Soo yah, its been a busy time. I think it was Ferris Bueller who said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."
But here's the thing. I'm not trying to stop and look around once in a while. I'm trying to notice everything all the time. I want to soak it all in and be present for every moment. That's a tall order for a creative, just so you know. My learning to meditate and be mindful of my every action every day is akin to expecting a child with a severe hyperactivity disorder to sit quietly for several hours, concentrating on only one thing. My mind has always been a smorgasbord of thoughts, ideas, images, and inspirations. I am easily excited by the next new thing, and wholly passionate about a lot of things.
That being said, I have made it a goal over the last few years to harness that runaway horse and tame it some; get control of the carriage and pay singular attention to each moment. AND even with all the newness in my life these last few weeks, I am actually increasingly successful! And I'm telling you this. If it's possible for ME, then surely anyone can do it.
This is a big deal for me because my main passion in life for at these last 12 years has been about connection. Connection to Spirit, to others, and to myself...its all the same thing anyway. I think EVERYTHING we think, feel, see and hear are facets of One Divine Spirit. And the better I get at quieting myself and paying attention to each moment, the more connected I feel to all of it. Now, not only do I feel that my painting is a meditative process, but I think I'm up to maybe at least 50% of my day is being spent in mindfulness. And I'm so incredibly GRATEFUL! Paying attention to each moment has given me a deeper insight into all the love and beauty surrounding me all the time and I am here, fully loving it right back in return.
Take my hand and come with me along this journey of mindfulness. Life is so much less overwhelming when you take it moment by moment and TRUST without feeling the need to try and control everything. That's ego's game anyway...to think we can control the day to day's happenings and freak out about the stuff we can't control. Trusting Spirit enough to walk hand in hand has been increasingly freeing.
I am breathing with my whole body :)
I dropped off a new painting for the FemArt FemArt Gallery's The Color Purple exhibit. The work for this show was supposed to be centered around the theme from the book/play/movie, The Color Purple. It was also supposed to be centered around female empowerment and growth. Over the last couple of years, and especially since the height of the Me Too movement, I've felt this slow rising of women beginning to stand together, arm in arm and brave against the status quo of the patriarchy. And as I dropped off my painting today, I can't help but think too of the current state of affairs being played out on tv and in newspapers over the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings and the sexual allegations being made. I know way too many women who have lived through sexual assault. I read that the prevalence is actually 1 in 5 women. 1 in 5 have been sexually assaulted in some way. That's OUTRAGEOUS! And far too many times, we have felt shamed blamed and helpless. We have historically accepted our victim hood. But the tide is changing. I feel it in my bones. I hear it in the way women are stepping forward and speaking out. And I see the fire in the eyes of my sisters. Personally, professionally, and collectively, we are claiming our rightful place. We are remembering who we are. We are claiming our power. I feel my own healer, warrior goddess rising from my belly. She feels new to me and yet carries an ancient wisdom, an inner knowing and confidence. I am almost done with a large painting and she is the center of it all. I am so very grateful for these lessons and this journey. I am paying attention and ready to take my position when it is time.
Epiphany today: While taking in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Parkway over the weekend, I realized that the most beautiful thing I could see was the way the light streamed through the leaves of the trees. It reminded me of my love of the stained glass, which had me question again what my fascination with that is. Then I realized it had nothing at all to do with the materials..not the glass or the iron boundaries and not even the leaves of the trees or water in glass bowls. No, it is the refracted light itself that has me awestruck. It is the translucent beauty of being able to see the light pass through a solid mass. Yes, I suddenly realized that my fascination with the lights comes as a reminder of my intense connection to the Divine. It is my renewed appreciation that the light ALWAYS gets in.
Today is the first of June. The newscasters are excited because it is the start of hurricane season, but the tornadoes have been ravaging the Midwest for weeks and wildfires have destroyed lives for longer than that. I am reminded again of the cyclical nature of our being, in that we are born, live and die within a multitude of moments. Experience in, expression out. It is like the unwanted leftovers from last night’s dinner being shat and the refreshing cold of the milk in my morning granola. As I chew, I mull over and over the musings of a million tiny deaths and each rebirth through every eye twinkle, a shared smile. Today is going to be a good day, because I just decided and declared it so.
I went back through these blog posts today to reconnect with my thoughts, my artistic journey, my constant quest for improved understanding and wholeness. I understand that while I travel my own inner journey and do my best to make sense of the outer world, that our perceived solitary confinement of existence will indeed be our undoing. Until we remember that we belong to each other and that we are all equal in the eyes of God, no one will be free. Not me, despite my obvious white privilege and not you despite your ability to go through the motions and ride the wave from one outrage to the next.
I have started a new series that I didn't realize was going to be a series until now. I am going to call in all the Divine Mothers. I'm going to do my best to bring them to life on canvas from every color, creed and nation. We need them, every single one because of course, like us, they are all reflections of the same being after all. It started with my Amma painting. She is the hugging saint from India, and I believe is also the embodiment of Christ Consciousness. She is Hindu, but does not preach in any one religion, knowing there is no such thing. She preaches love, and kindness and equality for all humanity. She is a Divine teacher and healer and I love her.
The next one is of Oshun, who is like the African version of Aphrodite, a goddess of love, fertility and water. She, too, was known as a healer of the sick. I feel connected to her too and she called to me to paint her. Her gaze is so intense that I found it intimidating at first, and I was actually a little afraid of her intensity. But after a week or so of spending time with her and getting to know her a little better, she feels friendlier, like a comrade in arms. I have now started a portrait of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. She, too, has an intense gaze already, but she is less commanding and more comforting. She is calling us in, reaching out with her left hand to take our hand and lead us to love. I have struggled with her features SO much the last few days. I don't know why I think I am suddenly a portrait artist! But I am sort of compelled to capture her the best that I can. Thus, the struggle. Her nose is giving me fits and I have painted over and over it in so many layers that it all just started blending together and I needed to take a break from it. In too deep, I step back for a better perspective.
I suppose thats a good plan to re-evaluate life from time to time.
CNN is turning up the volume on the Mueller testimony scheduled to take place tomorrow and there is just SO MUCH NOISE from all sides of every issue and so much newly discovered injustices around the world, that I find myself craving the silence and solitude once more. Maybe I was indeed a cave dweller in a past life :) Maybe I'm just finally learning how to better balance outer input and my own self care. Finding meaningful balance seems to be a life long pursuit. I think its one of the only ways to find peace regardless of the minute by minute crises that stream from media outlets, work and even my own home on occasion as I do my best to navigate the stormy waters of raising my last teenager.
I understand this blog is all over the map today so to speak. Totally stream of consciousness writing today, every thought being typed in sequence of its discovery. It is because of this very act of flailing that I am drawn to call in the mothers. We need them to remind us of what it means to unconditionally give and receive love. We need them all to come in and comfort and heal and quiet us. We NEED them to remind of us of who we are.
I am praying and painting. Back to the basics. Its all I sometimes know to do.