Friday, January 29, 2010

Uh oh

I belong to a chronic pain support group on the Web. I had forgotten about it until a few days ago, and left a few messages. Since I've been writing so much recently about pain, I figured (with hesitation) that I'd post a link to this blog. This morning, someone left a public message for me. It said, "I read your blog and it's depressing. You are a depressing bitch." I think there was another disparaging word in there, but now I can't remember, and that causes me to realize I was more shocked than I thought at seeing those words.

At first I thought it was somewhat funny that I was being name-called. I thought (name calling myself) "What an asshole!" I didn't say this, though I started to write something about how there were at least 300 non-depressing entries on here (and that's a low estimate). Then I decided that someone who would call me a bitch wasn't deserving of response, so I left it at that. And later in the day, the administrator chastised this person, and removed their comment from the board. But, I had already pulled my link.

I had wondered if I should stop blogging in the midst of so much emotional and physical crisis. With only a few people telling me to continue writing, I not only didn't stop, I started to write more. Writing is therapeutic, and there's something about not writing for myself alone that causes me to feel better (so much for the way J.D. Salinger felt). Obviously, we're all quite different in how we relate to the world.

That comment has been like a toxic worm that's worked it's way into my system. I can't seem to expel it and it's causing ripples of self-doubt. No, a person shouldn't call me names. But, I don't want to cause others to feel badly.

I do know at least two people who are distressed by what I write, and I've advised them to stop reading. I know their distress is prompted by caring about me, but at the same time, I feel it's liberating to be able to write freely, and that which is liberating is surely healthy. Isn't it?

I'm often not sure.

I'm not writing this for reassurance. There are good questions that I need to wrestle with. How does one express "negative" feelings and ideas without causing others to suffer? Is that even a legitimate question? After all, the suffering is there. Pretending it is not is lying. It would be like saying not to report the news because it's too painful. People who don't want to be stressed by the news do not have to listen, read, or watch.

But with the personal, it does seem different, though I must admit I am not sure why. We are all too used to hearing personal interest stories of hope and triumph over adversity that folks seems downright offended by anything else. There's a part of me that rails against that. I have no intent on presenting hopelessness for the sake of it. I am not dabbling in the transgressive or trying to be in your face. As I've written, if anything, I can be really too sincere for this age. It is rare that I allow myself to write out of anger (though I'm trying to allow myself to express this emotion with honesty). See? There's that sincerity again.

When I wrote I was bitter, I believe I was not correct. I only wish others the best, even the fellow who called me a bitch. My reaction, besides shock, is that he's got to be hurting to lash out at this stranger in such a way. He also told me (and others) to take a bunch of painkillers and shut the hell up.

That is the attitude of someone who is scared. It's interesting that anger is the response to being taken to a dark place, even though almost all the entertainment that is consumed in this society is violent in some way. I feel there is a bigger point to be made here, and I am not analytical enough to pursue it further. Someone else can pick up where I'm trailing off.

No, I'm not an intellectual. Still, I try to think on these things. Now, I'm going to go spin some wool.

Image note: Variations on this sign are seen at schools and on school websites across the country. Cyber-bullying has become a real problem. "Regular" bullying is no longer tolerated at many (if not most) schools. I notice in myself, a person who has been bullied and also was a bully (yes, I admit it), and was brought up in such a different social milieu than today's in this regard, that I tend to think that children are naturally mean. The minute that thought arises, my "educated" self kicks in and counters that thought. No, I do not agree with myself! I think children are given such mixed messages. While we are now saying that bullying is not tolerated, there's still a belief that it is natural; yes, "Children Are Mean." Children can be mean, but this is learned. I have no doubt at it, even as I have a knee-jerk reaction that bullying can't be outlawed. I find it most interesting to see my socialization arguing with my higher self.

Addendum: I wanted to pull the lousy graphics and insert something dark and medieval. But I can't. I want the bullying piece to stay, and it needs the graphic. I haven't posted much truly interesting artwork in a while. If you want to see some, go to BitterGrace Notes, where you'll always find it (and interesting posts as well!

Winter blues

The above is not that.

Today is a sunny but cold day. Unfortunately, it's still rather gray inside. I have realized that these long Maine winters do indeed get me down. It's not just the lack of light, and the cold, but the urge to hibernate. Activities that sound good in theory, especially when they are at night, are hard for me to go to. A twenty minute drive in the dark on a snowy road seems like a very long drive indeed.

Winter is six months long here. That is just too long. It is not just me who feels this way - a hefty bulk of the population becomes clinically depressed during this season. The crisis beds and psychiatric units fill to capacity, and they triage carefully (or not) because there is simply not enough room for all those needing help. The state should distribute sun lights to everyone. I wrote that in jest, but I bet that it would ease many a person's winter blues, or cabin fever as they call it here. Maybe our crazy high level of domestic violence would go down (and the high rate of alcoholism, substance abuse, smoking. . .my, this state isn't the wonderland that visitors see, is it?)

Maybe everyone should take up spinning wool. Just taking photos of my latest skein made me feel good. That one was labor intensive. Those strips of fabric hanging off it are hand-tied. Unfortunately, this lovely silk doesn't photograph well because of exactly the thing that makes it so lovely. It's colors appear to change, depending on the way light hits it. I'm sleepy, and there's a word for this phenomonem, but I'm so sleepy that I can't even think of how to google it, nor do I remember what the name of this Indian silk is. Sigh.

A plain shirt, transformed

For those of you who followed my old blog, "The Craft Yogini", this long post (made from many old entries) will be familiar. I've been wearing this shirt a lot lately. I rather overdid it when making it. If I were to make it again, I'd eliminate the big circle on the back, and the patches on the shoulders. There was already "too much" in a good way, what with three gigantic (and very useful) pockets on the front, and the little half circles on sleeves and back. I love this shirt, though I never get any compliments on it (sigh). Maybe it's too artsy-hippie for most people's taste, though I don't see it as that, or maybe it's not flattering (no, it's not flattering, nor was it meant to be), or. . .well, who knows. I'm not fishing for compliments, but only wonder why I love it so, when others seem to be left cold.

Why am I re-posting it now? Hmm. Maybe it's an antidote to all the posts about pain and depression. Maybe it's only because I've been wearing it so much of late. I love the way it looks with rolled up jeans, scruffy brown shoes and belt, and a high turtleneck underneath. And besides that, I couldn't sleep, was lying in bed, woken up with pain once again, and found myself thinking furiously about all the crafts projects that I'm in the midst of or dreaming about. I'm feeling like sewing again, but I've got oh so much other things to finish first!

First, I put pockets on the front. I just had to cover up the little logo.

Then, I cut off the cuffs.

I put a new collar right over the old one.

Lastly, I put on strip of fabric over the button placket and put a big circle on the back.

I sewed on one cuff. I was undecided about it. It seemed too heavy. I went and slit the sides of the shirt and put binding on them, creating more of the smock look I was aiming for. Meanwhile, the one cuff stayed on. . .

. . .but today I cut it right off. I found a few scraps of another handspun blue plaid and I got all excited!

I put the half circles over the remainder of the original shirt's sleeve button placket. Then I put binding over the raw edge.

A few more finishing touches and the shirt is done. I might put a big button at the neckline but I'm not sure yet. If I do, it'll be a button made from the blue and white checked fabric. Here's the shirt:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More things to be grateful for

In this age of snark, I'm just too sincere. Oh well. Hipster writing is nothing I'll ever master the art of, and I never intend to.

That being said, here is today's bit of gratitude:

I've been sleeping poorly and discovered that long naps seem to be more restful. Still, I'm overtired. But, I've been waking up in less pain after sleeping in three to four hour stretches. This late morning, after my second round of sleep, I felt simply awful, so I'm not sure that strategy is working all that well. Hey, I will try anything.

That bit of trivial information about my life isn't the point of this post. It was only the set-up (which, for all I know, wasn't needed, but hey, that's the way I write).

I felt broken by pain. I watched my thoughts, wrote them down in my newly started pain diary, and then did some yoga. An hour later, I felt about as good as it gets.

Some years ago, I thought I'd parlay my working as a tattooist into working as a massage therapist. I must have been crazy (and when am I not?) 'cause I was already having chronic pain issues and my hands were shot, but I had this grand idea that I could do it anyway, and that I'd heal myself through healing others. Well, another grand idea down the drain. I've been kicking myself around thinking I wasted time and money on training. But today, I realized that all that training, at the Kripalu Center, was worth every bit of time and money. I learned far more about yoga than I did about massage. That was the point of learning at Kripalu.

Later, even though I wasn't a yoga teacher (another thing I kick myself around for, but for not doing), I took a week-long class with Don Stapleton, who founded the teacher training at Kripalu. This deepened my relationship with the kind of yoga I had already been practicing, a yoga that has little to do with named poses and precise forms, and everything to do with listening to the wisdom of one's body. He calls it "Self Awakening Yoga." When I was in that class, I wasn't in the best of shape, but I found myself doing things with my body I had no clue I could do. It was exhilarating. I was in such a state of bliss, I called everyone I knew and told them that I loved them. This was a bit of shock to a few people, who had no idea how to respond!

Flash forward to this morning. I'm stiff. I'm stressed. My head is pounding. My back is screaming at me with every step I take. My stomach is in knots. As usual, I wonder "what the hell is going on in my sleep?" (which is a good question, actually).

Slowly, I unwind myself. I do pranayama: yogic breathing. Four breaths in, hold for seven breaths, breath out on a count of eight. This really causes the body to unwind itself. I start that on the cushion. Then, I let myself, ever so slowly, move in the direction of pain and release, breathing to this count, eyes closed, focusing my attention on the places where it hurts, moving my breath into them, letting them release, not pushing it, just letting it be, breathing in, holding, out, in, holding, and out again.

I move so slowly that if one was watching, if they didn't stay a while, they might not think I'm moving at all. This type of movement really focuses one's attention. It's impossible to move that slowly and not be focused. I have no agenda. I am only following where my body wants to move, and at some point the urge to move stops, and I'm done. That's all.

So simple and so incredibly wonderful. I have much gratitude for having learned this. It's a subtle practice of yoga, and not one that's taught much or practiced much. Most are way too impatient to do it. It feels incredible for me.

That's why I'm amazed this I was so easily talked into believing that I shouldn't practice it. Two years ago, when I developed problems with my foot, and had subsequent nerve damage, I was told to stop doing yoga, that it had damaged my foot. Y'know what? I don't believe it. I did then. I was scared by what happened, and when one is scared, it's easy to get them to believe anything (and oh, how that can be applied to everything, can't it?)

Well, another layer of bullshit has been thrown off. (Yes, I do curse.) I think I know bullshit when I encounter it, but words like "nerve damage" can be blinding.

Image note: Don Stapleton. Thank you, Don. His book, here. His someday-I-hope-to-be-able-to-go-there-yoga-center-in-costa rica is here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Clean pain, dirty pain

This book is blowing my mind (an expression I am loathe to use). I'm reading concepts that I've sensed, but have had no words for, ideas that I just know are true, feel absolutely right, dead on, and liberating. If that isn't mind blowing, I don't know what is.

I would have preferred a more elegant term, but here's a concept: "dirty pain." Dirty pain is not simple pain. It's pain muddied up with ideas about how we should feel, what we should feel, why we are feeling what we're feeling, rules we've imposed on ourselves, all sorts of nonsense. I suppose dirty is as good a word for it as anything else. Pain muddied by other issues is surely dirty.

I've often wondered about this. I've had ample evidence that I have a high tolerance for pain. This contradicts my relationship to chronic pain. I've explained this away by saying it's because it's worn me out. Well, sure it has, but still, I know in my heart that I haven't learned to cope with chronic pain, even after a lifetime of it. And why does it just get worse? I know I'm not alone in this by a long shot. I've heard this from every chronic pain sufferer I've known. It only gets worse with time. The reason for that seems mysterious. Even the people I've thought most wise about their health problems admitted to this one; we would all scratch our heads and even laugh at how counterintuitive it seemed to be that it only got worse with time. One thing we'd agree on is that exhaustion had to play a part. But still. It didn't seem enough of an explanation.

I've sat for six hour long tattoo sessions. I do not mind pain. I'll go further and say that I can enjoy it. That's clean pain. It's pain that I know has an time limit, or pain that I've asked for. If I injure myself, I might even laugh about it. Getting my blood drawn, the pain of a test, these kinds of things, they don't bother me at all. It's absurd - I spent 15 years tattooing people and helping them understand that pain is only a sensation! This same person can't handle chronic pain. How can that be so?

Underneath the pain are messages that cause suffering, that's why. Yesterday was a good example. I woke up in a startling amount of pain. My first thought was "What did I do wrong?" That was the first bit of dirt. That one thought muddied the waters. I caused myself to suffer by trying to figure out why I felt the way I did, and I had to find blame. I thought through the day before. I ate pork. Maybe it was the pork. That was dirty pain thought #2. I broke a "rule" and now I'm being punished for it. When I got up and realized just how weak I felt, I could have gone back to bed and gotten more rest. But no, I forced myself up, and set about making breakfast, in spite of feeling exhausted. Dirty thought #3: I must get up. If I don't get up, I'm succumbing to depression. No, I needed more rest. If I had broken my leg, I'd keep the cast on, keep my leg elevated, take care of it. Simple. But this is not simple; it's dirty. Later, I started to cry, and that's when dirty thought #4 and #5 came in: "I shouldn't be crying." Dick was home, so I thought "It feels bad to cry alone when there's someone here." That produced an avalanche of dirty pain thoughts "My parents ignored me when I was sick." "I've lost so many people because of my health problems." "People shouldn't have to suffer alone." "I need some tenderness." "I am helpless." "I am hopeless." "I am an idiot for continuing to fight for life living like this." As you can see quite plainly, waking up in pain caused me to suffer way more than physical pain could possibly merit. If it was only physical pain, I could handle it well. It is not.

Of course, I knew this, but I did not know it in a simple way. Calling it "dirty pain" makes sense. Trying to finally tease out what avalanches of suffering are caused by these fleeting thoughts is my task at hand. I may be able to see that these thoughts are fleeting and are "not me." I may be able to detach, but there's truth behind these thoughts, or emotional hurts that need to be finally (at long last) addressed. I am not living by my values on account of my pain, and that needs to end. It must end. I do not like who I have become. I do not like how my life has become so small, how I've stopped making plans, having hopes and dreams, stopped giving to others fully (or at all). .

Though I'm sorry others suffer, iit does feel good to know that I'm so very much not alone in this. It's all very typical behavior, a common problem. Right now, I feel physical pain and I am "just" experiencing it. I am not suffering. It just is. I can live with that. It's like the pain of doing too much exercise. Well, not entirely. That feels good.

Painting note: Ferdinand Hodler 1853 – 1918 Date and title of painting unknown (by me).


I know that in the real world, fighting physical battles only perpetuates the cycle of violence. It never occurred to me that the same holds true with one's interior world.

So, in this spirit, I'm calling a truce with my battle with depression and pain. The more I fight, the more tired I become. The more tired I become, the more pain I'm in. An endless cycle indeed.

We are taught that we must fight. We must rid ourselves of pain. There must be something that will alleviate it - we must find that thing, that key, that drug, that diet regimen, whatever it may be. If not, we're complacent.

Today my GP told me, with tears in her eyes, that I'm more depressed than I realize. She asked me to seek more help. She said that my pronouncements that I'm coping were inaccurate. She could see right through them. She brought up my chart on the computer screen and asked me to look at it and ask myself if this was a picture of a person who was doing fine. I know I'm in poor shape, but what I saw was disturbing.

I've said I'm all over the map, but seeing it in black and white was a shock. Seeing a doctor visibly upset with frustration when I'm such a "good patient", an intelligent person, and someone who doesn't expect others to fix me, well, it was eye-opening. Tears streamed down my face. I tried not to feel ashamed.

The lady doth protest too much that she is not depressed. Maybe my depression doesn't present itself in the "normal fashion." Yes, I'm able to enjoy myself. But, I'm also half out of my mind on some days and have suicidal thoughts. Just so you are not scared by my saying this, I want to be clear: I will not act on these thoughts. They pass like clouds. On some days the clouds hang around for a while, and on others, they pass quickly. I wait.

I had some books waiting for me at the library, one called "Living Beyond Your Pain - Using acceptance and commitment therapy to ease chronic pain." I had forgotten I'd ordered it. I've read a few pages and already I feel a lessening of the tension in my body. The book states that it is not another strategy for reducing pain. It's premise that seeking pain reduction is a trap - the harder we fight, the more we suffer.

I'm slowing waking up to what I already know. Why am I telling you this? Because I know that others suffer, too. I plan on overcoming my suffering. My pain? It's never gone away, so why should expect it ever will? I have still not learned to live with it well. I hope that by sharing my journey with you, with brutal honesty, that I can help one person. If that is all, that is enough.

I've laid down every weapon in my arsenal today. I give in. I give up. I surrender. I'm waving the white flag. See it? Okay, body, I'm listening to what you're trying to tell me. It's time we had some peace talks.

Painting note: Cy Twombly "Leda and the Swan" 1963
The myth has nothing to do with why I posted this. Cy Twombly's work speaks to me deeply, in ways I can't explain. I have often wondered what his intent is, but I don't want to know.

It's official

I'm bitter.

I suppose everyone else could see it long before me.

If I'm not, I have every reason to be. This list of bitter-making pills is long. Oddly, the largest one is the least personal. What can it be?

It's seeing things coming so far ahead of time that I've put my ideas aside. Case in point: I've been knitting and sewing forever. Back in the 80's, I was working at a historical society. I taught crafts classes there in the evenings. They were wonderful. I had a strong sense, even in the midst of the go-go 80's, in that era of women in power suits, that people (women, mostly) were craving making things by hand. I sensed there would be an explosion of interest. I didn't think large enough. Instead, I saw a struggling historical society with fantastic resources that were going to waste. I wrote up a 22 page proposal to create a crafts department, with a gallery, a larger selection of classes, and a summer program. I analyzed every bit of information that went into that proposal. Cut to the end of the story: they thought it laughable.

I am also angry at myself. Having the ability to see things coming is a gift that I've squandered. It was always a running joke with me. There were always these silly things, like wearing horribly ugly shoes that would become wildly popular years later. Being the "weird Martha Stewart." Why didn't I run with my ideas? Why didn't I cherish them?

I should be bitter. The reason I didn't run with my ideas, or honor them, is because I was brought up, programmed if you will, for failure. I should be enraged at my parents. I'm not. They did the best that they could. They were totally screwed up. I had always thought if I worked hard enough, I'd get over what my childhood did to me. I have, in that I'm not angry, but I haven't, in that I've come to see that I was too deeply scarred to be ever be truly whole. A part of me was broken, and some injuries just can't be fixed.

I can live with that. I can even see the good in it, if I use it. If I can somehow use the lessons I've learned for something, I'll be able to live with myself. I've had a lot of failure, disappointments, losses. So have many people. Some are more resilient than others. I think I'm not, but I'm still here, so I must have a modicum of resilience.

I suspect my body does not, however.

In an earlier post, I said I was depressed. I believe this is not true. Depression is defined as having lost interest in life. I have not. If I eat, I eat with gusto. Food tastes fantastic. If I'm spinning wool, or knitting, or reading a good book, or watching a film, I enjoy myself, and I suspect I do so with more enthusiasm than the average person. When I'm working at a yarn shop, and I show someone some new luscious yarn, my enthusiasm is spilling over. Depression robs people of the ability to feel that good. So, I can't be depressed.

Let's call it what it is: sadness, fear, loneliness (and maybe bitterness has crept in - but what a word!). These are three feelings that people do not want to admit to. Depression? It's an illness. It's almost okay.

Painting note: Nicolaes Maes "An Old Woman at Prayer" 1655

Monday, January 25, 2010

The big mistake

Here's the deal: I was following someone's thread on Facebook and it lead me to a page called "Bad Brains:The Movie." It is a documentary of the band from 1979 to the present. I watched the clip, saw Henry Rollins (does the guy make a living being in rock documentaries?), thought "hey, no one called me", and then felt foolish. Of course no one called me. I'm a nobody! But, in 1979, the Bad Brains were a huge part of my life. My band, the Mad, and the Bad Brains did double bills nearly every week, or if not them it was the Misfits. We were often double-billed with one of these bands, and they were what I considered friends at the time. It was long ago, no doubt, but both bands have gone on to become legends, even if one of them is more a legend of the perfect band logo than anything else. I often wonder how many guys with Misfits t-shirts or tattoos have even listened to them.

When I look back on my life, I think what I did once upon a time really screwed me up good. I bet you think I'm talking about the drugs or the bad company. I'm not. I'm talking about the idea that trying to live "a normal life" was preferable to not doing so. Biggest mistake I've ever made. Incredibly stupid. I bought into so many myths that's impossible to count them all on two hands.

One day I'm on the road, living a life most people would kill for, touring with a successful band, making money making noise and acting badly, and I'm thinking "this is bad for me." What kind of idiot thinks that? I wanted "a normal life." I wanted "someone to love me for who I really am." I wanted to have kids and "raise them right."

None of that happened. All of it hinged on mistaken ideas about life. Some of it hinged on the fact that I've always been sick. Someone once wrote a song about me when I was 18 or 19 years old called "Dead Cupcake."

The truth is, if I had continued in that life I once had, I would probably have been much better off. I had no clue. I could have continued to be dysfunctional, sick, or totally nonfunctional. Look at all the "sick" celebrities! Oh well, better luck next time.

Photo note: Back in them days, I used to hide my knitting in the closet! Did I post this pic already?

The battle rages on

I wonder if I should quit this blog. This battle I'm in with depression is raging hard, and it's not pretty. I can try to post only when I'm feeling fine, but that would be dishonest. I seem to care more about honesty than readership. That's a pretty lousy strategy when one wants dialogue.

Therein lies one of the nastiest things about depression. One needs support, but isolation is what one usually gets. Who wants to hear more depressing things? I don't. I know I crave that which soothes my soul, not that which brings me down.

So, I think "I should post only good things, yes. . .I will. . .I must. . .I shall. . .I promise I won't write when down. . ." That fails, for the urge to communicate when lonely and in pain is strong. How many people feel this way? After a while, they shut up. Of course they do. Who wants to hear it, yet again? Not I!

I was in a good mood yesterday, but I could feel the precariousness of it. It was dependent on being in the company of others, being surrounded by nice yarn, decent weather, not being in too much physical pain. I woke up this morning hurting something bad. It took me by surprise. I've been doing so much to help myself; why did I feel so lousy?

When I discovered I had about as much energy as it takes to make it from one room to another and not much more, I wept. I also wept for living here, quite frankly. If I lived in a city, I would have forced myself to get dressed and go for a stroll. There's no place to stroll here. Besides that, the countryside is not for the unwell. One needs good health and energy for the country (except, perhaps, during the summer). In the city, one doesn't need to know how to fix things, or to be able to drive, or to know anything at all. You don't even have to cook. In New York City, at least, one can get perfectly healthy take-out food for less than the price of groceries. And if it's company one needs, it's always at hand. The country, at least in winter, is not healthy for me, yet here I am, quite frankly, homesick as a person can be. Maybe that's what is at the root of the depression. I've lost people in this life, and have learned to live with it, but the homesickness for where I'm from only gets worse with time. It's come as a huge surprise. I always did think one could home again, but one can not. Someone famous wrote those words - you can't go home again. Silly me, I thought it was a platitude.

Photo note: New York in the 70's

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Inner voices (the good kind)

As I was putting on some perfume the other day, I wondered why I hadn't written about scent in a long time. The most obvious answer is that I haven't been keeping up with any new releases. The less obvious answer is that I've turned out to be a serial monogamist when it comes to perfume. I will wear one fragrance for weeks (or even months), get tired out it, and move on.

I'd been wearing Armani Prive Eau de Jade for nearly a month when one day, out of the blue, I suddenly felt nauseated by it. For a week, many of the scents I love smelled terrible to me. Still, I craved scent. I always do. The smells I was enjoying were simple: Burt's Bees baby powder with it's hint of honey, Weleda birch body oil, and an ayurvedic soap I use whose name I've forgotten. I wanted to put on perfume, but I was nearly scared to. I had been scrubbing everything off within five minutes of applying.

During that time, I rediscovered a nice little bargain scent, Crazylibellule and the Poppies Encens Mystic, which is a little stick of perfume in a cute package for sixteen bucks. On Basenotes, it gets only two reviews; one thumbs up and one thumbs down. If you like incense scents, at this price, one can make a blind buy (as I did) and feel okay about it. It's not a scent I'd jump up and down about, but it's quite nice, stays close to the skin, and can't offend someone.

That's not much of a review, is it?

I'm also a serial monogamist when it comes to food. I like to eat the same thing every day. People do this for breakfast without a thought, but for some reason, if one does this for any other meal, it's considered odd.

I've discovered the joy of eating apples and pears mixed with savory food. The other night I had a most wonderful salad - cold chicken I had simmered in a broth with thyme, basil, marjoram, and roasted garlic, pears, toasted pumpkin seeds, avocado, and salad greens. I had been eating mixed greens with apples, chopped celery, and sunflower seeds for days. Okay, so I wanted a bit of variety, finally.

I find eating raw and simple foods to be very satisfying. Simple tastes seem to explode on my taste buds. I savor each bite, sometimes murmuring little snippets of appreciation in between swallows. There is nothing better than a good chunk of pear or a perfectly ripe avocado (yes, I know I sang the avocado's praises just recently). I used to love very rich foods like lasagna or stews with a zillion things in them. Now, when I eat something like that, it doesn't seem to do much for me except give me a stomach ache. Bad consequences aside, I can't seem to taste complex foods as well as the simple ones.

Once, at the end of a week-long mediation, I ate two potatoes, one white and the other sweet. It was pure heaven. I thought it was a consequence of the intensive meditation. It may have been, but now I'm beginning to think it's the pure food itself. Each meal I have of late feels like that one long-ago meal. I relish every bite. I can't eat quickly, nor do I want to sully my food experience with doing anything besides eating. I believe I have discovered what my body has been craving, and not only am I enjoying eating, I do feel better in general.

Ayurvedic principles tell me I shouldn't be eating cold foods in winter, but I know what my body wants, so to heck with principles. If I was saying I wanted death by chocolate, maybe I'd question the wisdom of my body, but if I am feeling good from eating raw celery, apples, and nuts, I'm not too worried.

There's a thread running between these two things, scent and food. It's listening to my body. I approach wearing scent in the same way; I ask myself "What do I need right now?" What does the picture of my latest handspun yarn have to do with all this? Not much. Or maybe it has to do with doing exactly what I need. I, like many people (I think) have spent too much of my life doing what I think is right when there's an inner voice telling me it's wrong. Now, I'm listening to that inner voice. It isn't stupid, and dismissing it has only done me no good.

Addendum: Here's what I eat for breakfast every morning (and have done for over a year): 1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill 8 Grain Wheat-Free Cereal (hot) with 2 chopped figs , some minced dried bing cherries, dates, and raisins, a small pat of butter, about a teaspoon of chia seeds, and chopped walnuts. Yummy! I'm looking forward to breakfast tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tattoos (yes, you heard correctly)

My legs were up on the coffee table (well, to be more precise, the wooden box), and I noticed my tattooed legs. I've had these nutcase tats for long time and honestly, the only time I actually notice that I have any tattoos is when I want to wear something that clashes and it's not cold. So, at least six months of the year my blindness to what I've had permanently etched into my skin is pretty much assured.

I don't know why tonight was different. I looked down and really saw the funny guys with the smirks sitting under my kneecap. On the back of my right leg is a huge Tibetan skull with a knife for a tongue and some crazy dice. I thought "who gets this stuff?" Well, I did.

I got a whole bunch of silly tattoos to combat my depression. I figured that having the word "love" on my ankle forever would remind me to love myself. I thought the clown headed snakes would make me laugh. I have no idea why I believed any of that, since I would have told any client that one stops seeing their own tattoos after a short while and fighting depression with tattoos (which, by the way, is quite common) does not work all that well.

I started hiding my tats at least two years ago, so no one says anything to me about them. People didn't, for the most part, even when I displayed them (without "pride"), mostly because I am not young, and partly because they are certainly odder than the usual. The most typical comment I would get was "Didn't that hurt?" To this, I would always get briefly anxious and touch my face, thinking there was blood dripping from some place that I couldn't feel. Otherwise, why would anyone ask me this question?

But no, I wasn't injured. I only have a (nearly) full sleeve on my left arm. With a t-shirt on, the only skin showing is the tip of my elbow.

When I was in the ER last week, a nurse asked me a lot of questions about my tattoos. This was unusual, but she was quite interested in knowing "what they meant." They mostly mean nothing to me, and they mean even less than they once did. The idea of that perplexed her, and she was right in being perplexed. Most people who are heavily tattooed are equally heavily invested in their symbolism. Yes, I got funny tattoos to combat my normal seriousness, but that's about as deep as things get.

My first tattoo was (and still is) of a snake ripping out of my skin. The symbolism there was "I am not normal and I no longer care" with a big serving of "I reject your notion of gender." I have no particular love for snakes nor care to have any rip out of my skin. Now, that tattoo is so old it pretty much looks like a big green X on my upper arm, which is what I should have probably had tattooed there in the first place.

I've got some truly awful garbage on above my left knee. This is the area I once used as a "scratch pad." The meaning of this is essentially "I hate my thighs and knees and don't care if I put really ugly crap on them." The other thing is that I needed a place to do my worst practicing, and that's the best spot. However, I've met lots of women tattooists who did not use their thighs (or any other part of their body) as practice 'cause they didn't devalue their skin as much as I do. But, truthfully, as I write this I'm thinking "oh puh-leeze. You're just internalizing some bs idea about what's beautiful and acceptable." Well, yes and no.

I suddenly became quite tired and thought I'd save this post and call it a night. Saving a blog entry has always meant that it never gets published. I'd prefer to cut things short and be the lazy thinker and writer I've always been. I do get tired trying to think too hard about anything. I'm not kidding you.

The truth is, I miss tattooing a little bit. I am somewhat surprised. It may be that I only miss having a livelihood (and life) that involves a good amount of intensity. I still have little interest in the actual tattoos, which really makes me a lousy tattoo shop owner. Someone recently asked me if I might be interested in working the front room of a tat shop (one that doesn't exist yet). I can only imagine my talking many people out of whatever they were planning on doing. I am very good at coming up with sound reasons not to do just about anything.

That nurse in the ER asked me if I regretted being tattooed. The answer is no. One would think I would answer in the affirmative. I was going to write that I accept whatever I've done to myself, but realize that isn't altogether honest. I don't accept that I was desperate enough to allow myself to be talked into a hysterectomy. That's something I've "done to myself." That, in comparison to the tats, is nothing. The tattoos? The funny thing is the one other question that I heard repeatedly, "How will you feel about them when you get old?!" - is turning out to be just as silly as I thought it might be. Who the heck cares? My skin is dry and becoming wrinkly. I'd rather it have silly pictures on it than see it bare and aged, or not. As I get older, it matters less, just like everything else.

I am reminded of a young man who complained to me about how much flak he got for having so many tattoos (and I realize someone else, I hope, is finishing all his unfinished ones). He said people grabbed his arms without permission, offered their opinions, made all sorts of comments. It pissed him off something terrible. He went through a phase where he covered up, and then one day he had his neck and knuckles tattooed by someone other than me. I wouldn't have done it. This guy was in turmoil over his identity. That's another reason I quit - an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

I needn't have worried as much as I did about my clients' feelings about their tats. I knew they grew invisible with time, at least to the wearer. Maybe not for everyone. I've never thought of that. Hmmm.

A post without any analysis?


Just my handspun.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Indoor plants, both real and not

In between doing other things, I've been downloading some truly stunning macro photographs from Mike Swanson's website all day. One of these graces the top of this post. I want to publicly thank Mike for his generosity. My computer won't download his entire library of images, which he gives away absolutely free, but I am not complaining, not in the least. In fact, I'm rather glad I can't just press a button and get it all - I'm "forced" to spend more time with each photograph.

There's a small snowstorm today. My house is generally somewhat dark in winter, and the room I'm sitting in has been decorated primarily in dark slate gray. These photographs are a wonderful remedy for these short dark days and an environment that feels robbed of highly saturated color. I am nearly starved for the lush greens of summer, in spite of the beautiful plants that are behind my right shoulder. I should turn around more often.

I used to hate houseplants. Is this not an odd thing to dislike? For one thing, I was convinced that I had a black thumb. Someone once gave me a jade plant, which is supposedly indestructible, and it died quite quickly in my care. But honestly, I do think some of my distaste for indoor plants was due to overexposure to a certain kind of late 1970's aesthetic. Everywhere I looked, (in my surely hyperbolic memory) I saw half-dead houseplants, brown ferns and scrawny vines in ugly handmade pottery held up by even uglier clunky macrame. I love rope, knots, pottery, and plants. Yet, it took me a long time to get over my prejudice against anything that even threatened to remind me of this wretched time period.

As I was writing the last paragraph, I was thinking still of Mike Swanson's photography. I had much of it on one of my old computers, and didn't realize how much I missed it. I am light and color deprived during the long Maine winter. It amazes me how something as simple as a small selection of photographs can help with that.

There was something I wanted to write about, but I've forgotten. I am quite overtired. I've taking to falling asleep on the sofa in the evenings. I could go to bed, but I've discovered a certain comfort in dozing while half-watching streaming video. It reminds me of the nights when I was a young child. I lay in bed straining to listen to the "grown-up" stuff that my parents watched on television.

Hold on - Earlier today I installed Skype on my computer. I just got a call from a young man in Algeria. What's this guy doing - calling folks at random? I wanted to immediately hang up. For all I know, he was hacking into my computer, trying to steal my identity. Hmm. If that was so, maybe I should have let him take it. I do have a lousy credit rating. But I did not hang up right away. He asked me if I spoke French and I answered that my French was tres mal. He agreed, and laughed, saying more that I did not understand. I hurriedly bid him adieu before I got sucked into the intrigue that lay in speaking to a stranger with a seductive accent on the other side of the world. I wonder how many calls such as these I'll get (and why).

Well, that knocked whatever was in my head right out of it. Algeria looked hot and sunny. Outside my window, a few cars pass in the slush on the road. Everything is white, dull green, and various shades of gray. I used to find it beautiful, the starkness of a Maine winter. I still do, at times. Maybe I ought to get out into the woods or visit the pond I kayak on in warmer months. I dream of being in an ice-cutting kayak. The idea is stupendous. I'd love to be able to paddle through the snow covered waterways.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Avocadoes in January

One may have gotten the impression that I have railed against the idea of counting one's blessings. No, I only think that reminding someone to do so is not a good idea.

I just finished eating an avocado with a spoon. It tasted decadent. An entire avocado, just for me, served with nothing but a bit of sea salt. It was perfectly ripe. It was perfect.

As I was scraping up the last of the smooth green creaminess, I thought "I am most fortunate to be eating a ripe avocado in Northern New England in the middle of winter." And so I am. 'Tis one of the miracles of this modern age that I can eat something completely foreign to where I live in the wrong season. The macrobiotic folks would say it isn't good for my health. Others might have a problem with it on political grounds. And some people might be wondering why I'm not crowing about some exotic chocolate concoction. Is was only an avocado.

I did write that it was perfect and it surely was.

The blessings that I count shower me in unexpected moments. That avocado reminded me that I have not lost my capacity for appreciation, and may, in fact, be experiencing an enhancement of it. Little things have meant so much recently. The fact that I have a choice between three kinds of crystallized ginger and can discern the difference. The feel of yarn between my fingers (oh, that again?) And, yes, I'm enjoying the balmy weather, which is surely a sign of global warming, though we've always had January thaws here in Maine (or rumors of them).

Am I reminding you to count your blessings by writing this? It's a fair question. This is the way I would remind someone, for it is a concept worth understanding. Not as a way to induce guilt, or to minimize hurt, but as a reminder of reality. In the midst of all suffering, there is something, even if it is small, that can be appreciated. I hear reports from Haiti such as this. The human spirit is an amazing thing. I like to remind myself of that from time to time.

Photo note: I wonder if I'd lose my appreciation for the avocado if they were abundant and I could just go out and pluck one off the vine. I am reminded of the blue jay, a most magnificent bird (though with an annoying array of vocalizations). Once, when birding with a group of people, a person from England, who had never seen this bird, was overcome by its beauty. I had forgotten just how beautiful the blue jay is. But since then (and this was a long time ago), I am sometimes able to re-see them with a new eye.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Leaving that much negativity laying around seems like a bad idea

That about sums it up.

But, seriously, I do wish I wasn't writing such negative posts. I say to myself "Wait until it passes. Just shut up."

I do know that there are good days, good moments, even perfect moments, and yeah, I could just write about those. Is that honest? Nope.

Why do I care so much about honesty? I can't help myself. I've kept too many secrets for too long in this lifetime and I won't be quiet any longer.

I won't disavow my negative emotions. I am edging towards apology, and I am resisting it.

So, I'll just change the subject. This morning I (thankfully) had enough energy to teach an introduction to lace knitting workshop. I believe a good time was had by all. I was exhausted and everyone had a good laugh when I could not remember how to do a stitch I had written the instructions for. I was sure I had written them incorrectly. I couldn't even understand them! I've done that stitch hundreds of times! I apologized and said we'd have to move on 'cause I was having a brain cramp. We never came back to it. A woman said it made her feel better to know that "the expert" sometimes couldn't figure stuff out.

I tried to pack too much info information into too short a time. When it was over, I realized I had forgotten to teach everyone one very basic (and important) thing! Hopefully, everyone will figure it out. I certainly gave everyone enough after class material to last a good long time. That alone was worth the price of admission. I'm glad to see I'm past the days when I would have been beating myself over the head over this one omission (even if it was a biggie).

In spite of another night of interrupted sleep, I had fun teaching the class. I was a bit more serious than I usually am, but I saw plenty of smiles, so it was good.

Life has it's bright moments, even in the midst of the worst times. Of course it does. I knew that yesterday, too.

I vow not to become embittered. I should give voice to that sentence every fifteen minutes from here on out. I am afraid that even if I do, I may still become bitter, or already am. Regardless, I can pretty much assure you there will be more miserable posts to come, and also some nice ones. This evening's supper was a mixture of sweet and bitter (bitter herbs, celery, apples, rice, and tamari-roasted sunflower seeds), just like life.

There was certainly a lot of cliche in this post. Ah well.

Painting note: Gustave Courbet's self-portrait "The Desperate Man." 1844-45. I mostly think "Johnny Depp" when I see this painting (well, since Johnny Depp arrived on the scene). Before that, I didn't like Courbet. I've wanted to use this portrait to grace some post for ages. It would have fit the last one. On the other hand, I don't find it honest, as much as I enjoy it. This face of desperation feels campy to me. Maybe that's the other reason I think "Johnny Depp." Still. It holds some fascination, and I do feel rather hyperbolic these days (oh, can't you tell?)

Coming soon (hopefully): A post that isn't about me, me, pain, me, and more me, me, and pain. Ah, it feels good to joke about it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yes, I've been more than half-crazed

I am feeling better. I spent the last two days in my pajamas, not because I am depressed (I'm not), but to remind myself that "I'm resting." I've been reading books by Dr. Andrew Weil, spinning wool, getting good quality sleep, meditating, eating good food, taking new supplements, and doing yoga. It feels good to feel better, but it feels equally good to feel empowered, and to be less scared.

Why my pain scares me so much after a lifetime of chronic pain is something I do not entirely understand.

I do understand this: underlying my physical pain is deep emotional pain. They are inextricably bound together. There is no doubt in my mind that upticks in emotional stress cause flare-ups of illness. Flare-ups of pain cause more emotional distress. It's a vicious circle.

But the thing is, it's a vicious circle/cycle that can be broken. I've not been taking care of myself properly, even though I think I have been. I've been pissed off at the world and sick and tired of taking care of myself. I wanted western medicine to fix me. I wanted someone else to take care of things. I wanted to give up. I tried to give up.

And, I actually did give up, but in a way that I didn't expect, and it turned out to be a healing moment. I was in the hospital ER for almost an entire day on Thursday. They didn't know what to do with me. At first, they thought I was a medical admit, but it wasn't an emergency, so they called the crisis team. It took seven hours for a crisis worker to see me. During the hours I laid in a bare cell, even though I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. I had a book, but I didn't feel like reading. So, I meditated. I got up and stretched. I lay back down, did yogic breathing, and I started to feel better.

When the crisis worker got to me, after nearly eight hours, I talked quietly for a while. He thought perhaps I'd feel better in a "crisis bed", away from home, where I'd get more support in my environment. I waited another two hours, during which time I started to weep. I don't remember the last time I wept like that. It felt good. I wasn't afraid to cry. The crisis worker came back and asked me if I was okay. I thought this was the stupidest question I'd ever heard, but I didn't get angry at him. What's the guy supposed to say? I looked up at him and said, "Yes. I'm okay. I need to cry." He sat down next to me. I started to yell, and I was cursing. He told me that I could get arrested if I acted out. Really? I told him that I need to be angry, that I needed to let it out. He closed the door, and sat back down. I ranted for twenty minutes. I wept, cursed, yelled, and he just sat there. When I was done, he said, "You are not crazy."

Whoever this man was, I thank him. Having a calm and silent witness who allowed me to rage without repercussions was a gift.

It also opened my eyes to all the suppressed rage I had inside of me. I knew it was there. I said that my resolution for 2010 was not to repress myself, so I had some intuition of what was really ailing me. This is not to say I'm not sick. I am. But, I'm making myself sicker but not allowing myself to feel the full range of feelings. Suppressing my "negative" emotions is becoming life-threatening. I must stop.

No, this doesn't mean I'm going to yell at people. I must work this out in a healthy way. I'm not sure what to do. I will find out.

Yes, I've been crazy. I've been "acting out" all over this blog. I've been all over the map. I've been screaming into this weird world of virtual reality for help. I've been screaming for help from doctors, who are not trained in treating the full body. I've forgotten my own body's wisdom, and the fact that I have much knowledge of wellness through yoga and meditation. I've been a baby - I didn't want to do it for myself any more. I wanted someone else to make everything okay.

It's okay to want help. It's okay to seek help. But to seek help from those that can't help, well, that's nuts.

So, I'm nursing myself back to some semblance of health. In only two days, I feel a lot better. Empowerment helps. So does everything I know - good diet, meditation, yoga, seeking knowledge, seeking change, not giving up.

I thank you all for bearing with me. As always, I hope my insanity and my mistakes can help others, not by my lecturing, but by speaking my truth. That's another thing, in my personal life, I haven't been speaking the truth fully.

Y'know, many years ago I wondered why I have a father who is perfectly healthy and in no pain at such an old age. He fits the models of many long-lived healthy people. What did he do right? He always blamed others for everything. He never internalized his pain. I don't want to be like him, oh no, but it does say a lot. For one thing, everyone around him has always been sick. Some people are toxic to others, and some people are toxic to themselves. I dearly hope that I'm not the former, but I hope to stop being the latter.

May you all feel good!

Photo note: I was going to post a "good photograph" of some recent handspun, but this pic is a great glimpse into my last few days. Note the water bottle at the bottom of the pic - it's filled with four kinds of detox tea. That stuff rocks!

I'm not so sure about the yarn, though. I don't particularly like the super thick and thin beehive thang, but it's construction fascinates me.

Here's another skein, made with the same "ingredients", which I prefer:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spinning pain into happiness

Where's my camera? Did you take it? Wish you had, 'cause then you could tell me where it is. Alas. No pics of the wool I've spun this evening. It's pretty. And the thing is, in spite of all the pain and drama and nonsense (and seriousness, let's not diminish it) of the last few days, weeks, months (okay, all of life), whilst spinning yarn this evening I felt perfectly content. No, not just content, but happy. Blissful even.

The act of spinning is one of paying attention, hardly more than that. The feel of the wool between my fingers, treadling the wheel evenly, remembering not to hold anything too tightly lest I hurt my hands or overtwist the yarn, nor let it get away from me; it's so simple and that is it's beauty. Meditation, spinning, they are pretty similar. One has instant results. The other may or may not. Doesn't matter. Each is the practice of mindfulness, of being fully present to what is happening right now, not what happened this morning, not what will happen tomorrow, and just being.

And in this present moment, (oh, yes, it's a cliche), everything is perfectly fine. The aching back, the fears about my health, sadness about so much, my throbbing hands that can spin wool and so I'm grateful for that, yes, everything is perfect in this present moment.

Happiness is right here, right now. So is peace with whatever is ailing me, and so, for all of us. This human brain is quite the miracle isn't it? What a beautiful, horrible mess - "the great catastrophe."

I had spoken in the last post about pain being an opportunity. It is. So, really, I do have much gratitude.

Image note: Coming soon, the transformation of simple white wool (when I find my camera). Thank you to the anonymous sheep who gave of your fleece.

More outpouring, less drama

Three hours sleep isn't a good set-up to see a new doc, especially when he turns out to be exactly the kind of Western medicine practitioner that I feel like giving a good thumping to (not that I'd do that kind of thing). Anyway, in spite of his being a get 'em in and out quick, patriarchal ass who needs a course in listening, I actually don't feel much hostility. My words may give lie to that notion, but really, I'm feeling pretty light hearted.

Y'know what? His being my nightmare scenario kind of doc woke me up to something: Why did I have so much faith that this guy could or would help me? It's not like I want to be on the drugs that rheumatology offers. I would politely decline. I suppose I just wanted a definitive answer to my life's health problems. So, I may not get one after all. He was verging on argumentative about reality that was staring him in the face. Psoriasis? Where? "Who told you that was psoriasis?" said he. Pul-leeze, I know psoriasis when I see it. He just didn't like that I came in armed with information, pen and paper. He really didn't like it when I asked him why he wasn't ordering some specific blood tests. Ah, the egos on some people with degrees. You'd think they wouldn't be so fragile, but they're just like the rest of us, and some people need to be in control all the time.

I had some remorse about involving strangers and loved ones alike in my personal drama. I know I scared some, and for that I'm sorry. But I'm not sorry that I spoke my mind in the public arena. I needed the support. If that was the way I could get it, well, it's too bad that I let it come to that (to say the least), but I sincerely hope I learned something.

I had a few other thoughts. I had really laid into myself for the stupidity of re-enacting childhood traumas in the present. But, as I had written, it's not uncommon. In this regard, I am not alone in the least. According to David Schnarch, whose theories about marriage and relationships fly in the face of most therapeutic models, most of us seek out others who will re-injure us in exactly the same places our family did, and if not that, unconsciously find those who can see our weakest places, and either push us or simply (simply?!) just push our buttons. But, he doesn't think this is a problem. He thinks it is the biggest opportunity of our lifetimes. He writes that relationships are the "greatest people growing mechanism there is." That's the ideal. Unfortunately, when others push our buttons, most of us just leave, whether it's for good or for an evening. But, instead of doing that, Schnarch recommends sticking around. Not for abuse, but for growth. He says we're just going to do the same ol' thing with someone else (and don't you know that's the truth), so why bother seeking out a new person to do the dance with?

Of course, if abuse is going on, one must leave. If we remove that, sticking around affords us the opportunity to embrace the opportunity of facing our hardest truths. I really like Schnarch's ideas. He doesn't recommend touchy-feeling make-nice quick fixes. He thinks doing things like sitting down and writing lists like "10 reaons I respect you" and then exchanging them is a crock. He advocates learning to tolerate fighting, and that everyone "man up" (both women and men alike, but he couches this in more professional language). His book, "Passionate Marriage" (which really needs a better name), advocates that we work hard at growing up, owning up, and learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I love that he has a chapter called "normal marital sadism." It seems so honest to use those words. Who else knows how to torture us better than those who love us? C'mon folks, unless you're from the perfect family (and now have the perfect family of your own), you just know that no one can twist the knife as hard and as well as the people whom we trust the most. Hey, that's normal?! Yep.

Well, I'm very tired. I need to go do some yoga, and then maybe a nap is in order. I'd like to write more, but my ability to organize my thoughts was already impaired, and now it's pretty much gone. Okay, maybe the nap comes before the yoga.

Image note: I'm too tired to figure this one out. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm turning into my father

I was just watching a documentary called "Beautiful Losers" about artists from the 90's. Honestly, I'm not really sure what it was about, because I was so aggravated after only one minute or so of viewing that I couldn't really pay attention. I had become my father, thinking thoughts like "what a bunch of crap", "idiots", "complete idiots", "does this person really think they have any talent?", "people are so full of shit", "what a bunch of imbecilic stereotypical artistes these jerks are". . .you get the idea. The level of animosity I felt towards these complete strangers was startling, to say the least. I figured I should stop watching. My inner dialog was causing me distress, shame, remorse, and, I must admit, I also found it a wee bit humorous. I am turning into my father, and I don't like it. But, there's got to be some humor in that. Years and years of trying to be a decent see-the-good-in-everyone type of person, and I'm still an asshole at heart. Well, at least I've been trying.

As I once pointed out before, I love knitters unconditionally, even if they're cranky and obnoxious, or have bad taste. However, if they claim to be artists, then all bets are off. I am beginning to see that I've got a dislike of artists that is so deeply ingrained in me that I rather doubt I'll have enough time in this lifetime to get over it. Mind you, it's not all artists. There are artists for whom I have the utmost respect, some of which I know. What do these folks have in common? Well, they're good, for one thing. But, if I examine it further, I'd say that they all have another thing in common: they all make art, don't talk about it endlessly, they aren't obsessed with concepts and theories, and they aren't full of themselves. In fact, unfortunately, none of the artists I like even realize quite how good they are. It's not good for them, of course, but I like that about them. People who are full of themselves really irk me. I'm guessing they irk most everyone, but I find it particularly irritating. The other thing about the artists I admire is that they aren't all wrapped up in a false identity of "being an artist(e)"; they're not hipsters, and (I think) they could not care less about it. Good for them.

But back to me (of course). I am an asshole. It's the only correct word for it, even as I wrack my brain for a polite term. I've got a kneejerk feeling of what can only be called hatred for hipsters, conceptual artists, or anyone who might once have been called a poseur. Those who experiment with art forms without first mastering the basics have a particularly bad place in my interior circles of hell.

You'd think I'd love anyone who is outside the mainstream. Nope. And in this way, I am so like my father that it's absurd. My bad attitude isolates me, just like it isolates him. Intellectuals? Throw 'em off a cliff! But, do I want to hang around with rednecks? Nope. I have no love for four-wheelers, nascar, and their Jesus.

Oh, what sweeping generalizations I am spouting! That's irrational thought for ya.

Maybe I really hate everyone. If I take even a passing peek at the core of my being, it's not a pretty sight. Distaste for everyone is lurking. Only the most sincere people earn my respect. There are, wonderfully, more truly sincere and decent people out there than one would imagine.

At the heart of all this is a hurt child, of course. As I was passing judgment on the folks in that movie, I was also engaging in an inner dialog consisting of anger over all the hurts in my life, and a refrain of "I never planned on living past 21." I didn't. Listening to people talk about what they would do when they grow up always causes me pain. I didn't plan on anything. Here I was, a very talented child, and I planned on nothing. I was sure that I'd die by the age of 21, by my own hand or by overdose, and making plans was simply a waste of brain time. When I think of that, I also think how sad it was that not a single adult came to my aid in any way. And, oh, how I longed for it! My entire childhood was laced with a wish to be rescued or noticed by somebody, anybody. Couldn't anyone see how I needed some help? Yes, I'm sure someone could, but now that I'm an adult, I know that there are just some kids that people stay clear of. They have huge walls around them, they're a bit scary, or they just seem hopeless. Better to find those who seem worth saving. I suppose I wasn't.

And here I am, in middle-age, still feeling the pain of that. It amazes me when I realize that it is still true, and it's also more than a bit embarassing. But, since I suspect that many people still carry their childhood hurts around with them for a lifetime, I feel an obligation to speak my truth out loud. Maybe it'll make someone else feel better.

Okay, so maybe I'm not a total asshole.

On Christmas, I witnessed a heart-to-heart talk between a teenage boy and his father. It nearly broke my heart, even as it warmed it. I could not believe that a father would be so patient and so interested in the opinions of his son, especially as they did not agree on many things. The disagreement did not lead to an argument; it was the source of great conversation. How lucky they both are, and how rare.

As for myself, I believe I've never allowed myself to feel truly sad. My anger and sadness have only come out when it's triggered by things. I think if I could allow myself to finally grieve, for once, things would be better. But grieving is not something I know how to do. No, I really haven't a clue, even as I've had much to grieve over. I've been under the misconception that I can just move forward, day by day, and year by year, simply by sheer force, and by focusing on the good at all times. As wonderful as it is to be able find the beauty in the smallest things in life, there's that pit of unaddressed hurt, resentment, pain, remorse, and unadulterated rage, hatred, and hostility that has never been addressed honestly, or looked squarely in its ugly eyes. At the risk of sounding like a new-age airhead, I wonder if all that stuff just wants this: acceptance and love. It's what I never got as a kid, so maybe my continued rejection of this part of myself does me no good. Y'know? I think I've found the key. Now, what the hell am I going to do about it?

Image note: Botticelli pen and ink drawing of the Circles of Hell c.1480–1495

Friday, January 1, 2010


Preface: I still haven't decided what warning signal or sign to use for potentially offended readers. I want to retain those readers (if they'd like to hang around), even though I intend on writing posts with curse-words and somewhat (or very) offensive language or ideas. I will not stifle myself in 2010 (and you will find out why). So, what mark shall I use? I disavow the "X" of obscenity. How about this (a wall of crosses?):


I'm done. I've stuffed enough feelings into this sick body of mine for too long. Gee, the non-western view of psoriatic arthritis is that one of it's root causes is the holding and and witholding of natural functions. Yeah, I've not pooped, peed, or farted when I've needed to, just like anyone else in our so-called civilized nation. Neither have I freely expressed my sexuality or my feelings. How many people actually do? Are we all suffering from auto-immune disorders? No, but they sure are on the rise.

I'll be blunt: I'm angry as hell. Compared to the average person (whoever that may be), I eat a far healthier diet. I rarely drink, and if I do it's usually a natural beer. I haven't had a soda in over 10 years. Junk food? A rarity. Sweets? I hardly ever have any, and when I do it's something pretty pure like Haagen Daz vanilla iced cream or a butter cookie. I quit smoking (finally) at least six years ago (though yes, I do chew nicotine gum still). So, what's the deal? I've more than annoyed about being overweight what with the mostly vegetarian, two-meal a day diet I live on, but now I'm almost downright furious to learn that my body "believes" that I am being poisoned. Okay, I take some prescription medications, but so does everyone else in America, don't they? And they're not all swelling up, itching to the point of insanity, and in terrible pain. Oh, they actually might be pretty sick, judging from all the ads for medications on TV and in magazines. And if one is drinking, one is less likely to notice how one feels. Damn. Why can't I get on the moderate drinking band wagon? I really don't like to drink unless I'm hanging out with others, chatting and whatnot; otherwise, the stuff makes me feel sleepy and uncreative. Oh well.

One more thing: maybe more people don't feel well than are telling (in public). Just look around you in a grocery store. Most everyone looks exhausted and pissed off. At work, people are acting out their miseries with passive-aggressive behavior. Sure, there are good people out there, and happy people, too, but I'm just thinking aloud. Maybe I can't accept that I'm so sick when I've done so much to remedy myself. But then, I've also done my body a lot of damage when I was young. And, though I have been diagnosed with PTSD, I've never really believed it. But the evidence is there. Damage in childhood shows up later. I'm really pissed off. It was so much easier being angry when I was in my late teens and early 20's. Now, I haven't the slightest idea how to express myself appropriately. Become a performance artist? Actually, I could go for that. . .

That last paragraph was inserted later, quite haphazardly, so back to my original rant:

I'm sick of being nice. I am really, truly sick of being good. I'm not gonna change much, but anger is something that is also pretty natural. Just because I'm something of a pacifist doesn't mean I can't engage in some healthy anger. Same with crying; just 'cause others don't like it, don't mean I shouldn't cry. Thing is, I really hate crying alone. It makes me feel sad. Kind of a conundrum, eh? I'm wary of crying 'cause it's going to make me sad? If I'm crying, I must be sad! I've never quite gotten the cathartic effect of a good cry. And, I've gotta admit, when I've been in communities where crying was accepted, a part of me saw all the weepers and thought, "what a bunch of pussies."* Yep, that's my inner teenaged boy, who's quite a bit of an asshole. He'd kick me in the ribs when I'm down. He's pretty pissed off at me right now for being such a wimp and not listening to enough head banging music. Now, that stuff is cathartic. Whatdya think driving is for? Hey, maybe I forgot how screaming along to Godflesh or other aggro music feels just soooo fucking good. Yep, I've internalized society's call to become a normal middle-aged woman and become a sick and tired middle-aged woman. This is just not working for me.

Wait a minute. I've been here before. Assimilating has always made me ill. Why can't I get that through my head?

It looks like those Buddhist vows are gonna go flying out the window. It's cold out. The window is shut, and I'm not gonna open it, so watch out for the glass. I really do not want any innocents to get hurt (even though my inner boy is saying "let's do some ass kicking!"). Oh, I do wish he'd shut up, but he's taken care of me well for too long. Really. Sorry, boy, I've not been listening to you much lately.

And no, I do not have multiple personality disorder. Saying I have an "inner boy" is the same as having an "inner child", and it's perfectly okay, only less new-agey sounding. At least that's what I like to tell myself.

Rant's over. Now I wish I could go take a long walk in a loud neighborhood. Ha! You should see where I live. That ain't gonna happen.

*I once told a few young men that calling wimps pussies was rather stupid 'cause "pussy is strong." Asked to explain myself, I did, saying: "Pussy gives birth. And, more importantly, you guys'll do anything for pussy, won't you?" They loved that, and they never used the word without great deference in front of me again. I have nothing against the word pussy, used correctly. Nor cunt. Unfortunately, only a very few people use either term the way they should be used, with power.

Y'know, not having the job of tattoo artist has deprived me of the one place I could talk freely and without judgment. No wonder I'm overloaded with toxins. Repression is very bad for my health. Yours, too, most likely.

Image note: Diamanda Galas, a woman who will be heard. Listen to "Cunt" here, if you dare.

Addendum: The last few times I've ranted here, I think about my having told someone that "I am more conservative than you probably realize." And that's true, too. None of this is much of a conundrum, in my mind. But this is the stuff for a more serious post, and I'm done for the night. It's been (mostly) all about me, me, and more me (and my inner boy child). But, whenever I talk about me, I'm also talking about all of us. I hope that by my speaking my truth, even if it's seemingly whiny resentments and bottled up crap (yes, that's what's ailing me), I give you all license to do the same. It's not just about me spilling my spoiled beans.Next post: why pearls and diamonds are nice. Or something like that.

Trying to divert our fears, perhaps

Two days before Christmas, as Dick and I were driving, we kept hearing about the airplane crash in Jamaica. Four people were injured. One person who was on that plane said "if I could drive home, I would." For two days, every news break had a report about this airplane accident. I couldn't understand it. I'm not minimizing anyone's pain, don't think that, but I just kept wondering, especially as we saw four (or was it five?) car accidents on our way to upstate New York, just how many people will die this Christmas holiday on the road? I haven't found a answer to that question, and have been surprised to discover that it's fairly hard to get daily statistics about car injuries.

Tonight, on the CBS evening news, on this first day of the new year, we are being told to be afraid of staying at hotels. There have been 60 hotel bombings since 2001, "twice the amount as before 9/11!" Be very afraid.

Cars? This is something that people should be afraid of. Over 40,000 people die in or from car accidents in the United States every year. Over 100 people die every single day. For more information, go here.

People are phobic about airplanes and we think it's reasonable. Once, when I mentioned I was traveling abroad, someone asked me if I got anxious when boarding a plane. When I said "no", she was a bit taken aback, "Aren't you afraid of crashing?" Well, sure, I wouldn't want to be in an airplane crash, but the likelihood of it happening is rather small (and no, I haven't got statistics). The likelihood of my being in a car crash is fairly high, considering that there are over 6 million car accidents a year. But, we get into our cars without nary a thought about it. We talk on the phone (dangerous), flip stations (dangerous), reach for stuff behind us (dangerous), turn our heads to talk to our passengers (dangerous), argue (very dangerous), drive when tired, in bad weather, in bad moods, when we're sick, when we're distracted, (dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, dangerous). . .

Yet, I can't find the answer to "how many people died in car accidents in 2009?" or how many people died on Christmas day. I'm not given to conspiracy theories, but I'm starting to wonder if "they" don't want us to know. I'm not sure who they are, but our fears are influenced by all sorts of media. People are afraid of nonsense like the Mayan 2012 end-of-world prediction than they are of driving drunk ("sure, it's bad, but I know how to do it").

Well, that's my first post for the new year. Happy New Year. Please folks, put on your safety belts. I'm serious.

Image note: We rubberneck when we pass car accidents, but I believe we've become numb to what we're seeing. We rather have to be, don't we?