I had coffee last night after 8 p.m. despite knowing that I am way too middle aged for that. It kept me up way past my bed time last night, and so, I lost about three hours of day today. I usually get up at around seven or eight. I didn't manage to crawl out of the nest until ten.
Despite knowing how exhausted I would be today, and how pressed for time I'd feel, and how stressed, I let myself just stay up, since that's what my body was going to do anyway. I connected with friends on social media. I watched a few episodes of a really compelling series on Netflix (The Jinx. It's bingeworthy if you like true crime.). I talked out loud to my dog, who is the best listener ever.
I knew I'd be exhausted today (and I am), but after a few weeks of holding my breath, being very careful every where I live (about what I say, about who I say it to, about how I say it), the pure, unadulterated freedom to just *be* with myself for a few hours was well worth it.
I was going to push through today. I was going to film and edit and do all the things that I'd deemed needful. And then I realized that I could switch some things around so that everyone gets more in the end, but I get room to breathe.
I admit I'm congratulating myself for that right now as I face a good six hours of NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO in TOTAL SOLITUDE for the first time in what feels like forever.
Self-care. It's a thing, and sometimes, it requires us to go dark, even if only for a few hours.
I know there's a lot of division on line around the #artistsforlove movement, and I know you'll probably look at me side-eyed if I don't mention it, so I will. I'm listening, but not today. Today, I need to be with myself in contentment. Today I need to be in solidarity with myself, and with my need for some time and space that doesn't include difficult conversations. I've been having difficult conversations for months leading up to this election, and I am pretty burnt out.
I hear some of you whisper "White tears. White privilege." Okay. I accept that. I know that there are people who have been having these difficult conversations their whole life. I know that my privilege makes it possible for me to *choose* to have these conversations or not. I'm not looking for a medal because I'm choosing to have them, either. I know I have a platform (I built it myself), and I know I can use it for good or ill (and indifference, in my opinion, is evil in times like these). I wish I knew how to do the things I'm doing 'right' or 'better'. I listen, but I hear many opposing views. The safety pin. The #artistsforlove movement. What to say. How to say it. Who to say it to. When to shut up and listen. When to speak up.
I'm trying, and I'm going to fail at least as much as I succeed. My definition of success isn't even well-defined enough at this point to know what the hell success even looks like, so I mostly see the ways I'm failing. I know this much, though - if even one person feels a little bit seen, heard, loved, acknowledged, or witnessed by these eyes and this heart, that's enough. That's enough of a reason to keep on entering the fray, telling my stories, standing up for what I believe in.
I don't know the answers. I don't. I only know that it feels important to say I SEE YOU, I STAND WITH YOU. That is what I'm convicted to do. I'm not doing it for the sake of self-promotion. Believe me, it would be a lot better for my business if I kept my mouth shut. I'm doing it because I feel *convicted to do it*.
I know I have no right to ask anyone to come at me with kindness. You must come at me as you are convicted to come at me. If you must come at me, come. I will hold it as best I can.
I will endeavour to remain kind, and I will probably fail at that at times, too, but I promise to try.
But for today, I will be over here in my hard won little sanctuary, going a bit dark, but only for a little while, refilling the well from which I wish to pour & pour & pour.
I have these moments of unease when I enter the fray that social media has become wherein I genuinely don't know how to 'be' in the world. I show up, because I am very convicted to show up, and I show up as authentically as I can (with the story about the thing I was looking for for sixty seconds before realizing it was in my hand, and the meme that made me laugh, and the request for hugs from my pod, and the quip about fine ground coffee being an inappropriate choice for my coffee maker no matter how 'on sale' it was, because COFFEE EXPLOSIONS every damned time). I show up with links to things people are doing that give me hope. Heartwarming stories, funny stories.
I show up with my 'good mornings' and my nectar of the gods and my sweet moments (like introducing one of my loves to Anthony Bourdain, with whom she is now smitten), or HOLLANDAISE SAUCE with pictures, because hollandaise sauce, or stories about my dog, who is my zen master, best friend, and sweet, sweet fur baby all rolled into one.). I show up.
But I want you to know that I show up a little bit wary these days. I show up wondering *how* to show up.
A part of it is wanting to protect myself. A part of it is wanting to show up in the most helpful ways. A part of it is wanting to show up without *offending* anybody. There is fear & love in equal measure in my wariness.
And if I'm being honest, I'm not always confident in my ability to meet everyone with love.
Still, I am showing up in the hopes that you will meet me where I am with grace, empathy, and understanding.
Today, it occurred to me to ask the world what it needed from me. I asked it, knowing how tired I am. I asked it, knowing that in the interests of self-care (and full disclosure), I may not be able to show up the way I'm needed in this moment. I asked it knowing I may fail to show up in needful ways despite knowing what those ways might be. I decided to be okay with that. I decided to hear the ways I can show up, weigh the need against my own limitations, do what I can, and be content with that.
Today, I'm showing up with something I filmed for Facing Forward II. I am posting it here with no need for you to opt in or sign up or do anything except enjoy it. It is not a transaction. It's a gift.
I'm sharing it because, as one of my students put it, "sometimes a pretty face just will not do." So, I offer this because I have it to offer.
I hope you find it useful.
There is something very delicious and subversive for me about creating faces that don't conform with societal expectations around beauty. I like fierce faces, sad faces, angry faces, and most especially WONKY faces. This method of creating a face allows me to do all of this with total ease.
In the original class (Facing Forward II) we worked each week with an affirmation. In this lesson, I am opting to work with a DECLARATION instead. This is my fierce answer to misogyny. I do *not* have to be good.
Begin with your PDF
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You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
If you have questions, please email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for listening,
I spent the better part of last night sitting in my studio staring at a spread I'd started that I couldn't finish. I wanted to paint something uplifting and inspirational, something to lift me out of the funk I was in. I just didn't have it in me, and I realized that I was trying to bypass what I was feeling (as one does) by taking some kind of action.
Once I accepted that there was no way I was going to put another mark on the page, I turned to YouTube interviews with Leonard Cohen for the latter half of the night, and let myself wallow in my grief over his passing.
I say 'let myself' because sometimes, I have to forcibly sit myself down and *make* myself be with what I'm feeling. Otherwise, I will sweep it all under a rug labeled 'too busy for that', only to be bitten by it at some later date when I'm least expecting it. This is a very human thing to do, and sometimes its a necessary thing to do - like, when things are terribly urgent and you really can't take a moment - but I've learned that I'm far better served by taking the moments when I am able. My privilege provides me with plenty of those quiet, safe moments in which I can just be with myself. I own that.
It was good. I laughed some. I cried some. I've loved Leonard longer than I've loved anyone. I came to his poems first, and then his novels, and then his songs. We were born and raised in the same city, walked the same streets, ate the same smoked meat sandwiches, saw the same city lights from the same lookout point on the same mountain. My dad knew him from his days in radio, and used to run into him in Parc du Portugal on the regular, years after I'd moved away. Once, for my 35th birthday, Leonard scribbled a letter for me on a piece of lined notebook paper at my father's request. My dad, being who he was, forgot the note in his pocked & washed it into shredded oblivion, so when he saw Leonard again, he explained himself, and Leonard, being who he was, scribbled another letter. He signed it
"Thanks for listening,
It's one of my most treasured possessions.
I used to keep a diary entitled "Dear Leonard" in which I wrote about my life as though I was writing to him. I was pretty sure he'd get me, and it was very comforting to me to think so. I still think so, and maybe he's listening when I say "Oh, Leonard...".
A girl can dream.
So, it's Monday. I'm sitting here in my pajamas (tank top, yoga shorts) drinking from my favourite mug, wondering (with a little trepidation) what this week will bring. I have things to open for registration for 2017 (so I can serve my communities & pay my rent). I have lessons to film this week, plans with family and friends and lovers, dishes to do, laundry to do, a body to feed and care for, a furbabe to love on and talk baby talk to (as one does). I live in Canada, so that's a thing I have going for me, a thing to be grateful for.
Everything feels a little bit unreal at the moment, though, and I feel pretty numbed out. I'm tempted to withdraw from the world, now that it feels so unkind, and Leonard isn't in it, but instead of going dark like I tend to do, instead of hiding out in my little apartment with the coffee, and the dog, and the studio full of art supplies, I'm here, waving. I'm reaching for your hand. I'm numbed out. This is my present reality. Leonard died, and the election has me terrified, and I have no idea what the fuck is going on, but I'm here.
Coffee is on. We're in this together. I love you.
Thanks for listening,
I found this meme floating around on Facebook, and it perfectly summed up what this past week has felt like for me.
I won't take you through what all happened or what I felt line by line. Let the meme stand for it, since any attempt on my part to type it out will leave me shaking, exhausted, and tear-stained.
What I do want to say, though, is that I came to a place of peace on Saturday.
I realized, thanks to a few shining lights in my universe, that all I could do in the face of this was *what I already do* but more fiercely. With more love. More compassion. More emphasis on mutual understanding. And better boundaries (and, yes, that includes disconnecting from people who are racist, misogynistic, engaged in rape culture, or who use shame in their attempts to get others to do what they think should be done vs. doing their own work and letting the rest of us do ours).
There are a few things I can't tolerate right now. Slut shaming Melania. Shaming women (or anyone, really) for the ways they are handling their grief. Shaming people about focusing on what they are feeling convicted to focus on in the face of this. Shame is the dark underbelly of the shadow, and it is, in my opinion, exactly what got us into this mess. Misogyny & racism are now front and center in our awareness. We can shrink in the face of it, or we can rise. We can go low, or we can go high.
But before I, personally, could do anything, I had to give myself space to feel what I felt. Rage. Mistrust. Deep, feminine wounding. Fear. All of it had to rise up, and all of it needed expressing.
And once I'd done that, I knew that the right answer for me was to do more of the same, but more fiercely. The right answer for me is to choose to continue to create and maintain safe spaces for LGBTQ folks, PoC, women who have experienced sexual assault & abuse, the "Othered" in all their glorious forms. I knew that the right answer, for me, was to treat everyone like they are God In Drag (thank you, Ram Dass), and to remember, above all else, that We Are All Just Walking Each Other Home (more Ram Dass).
So, I will pick up where I left off before that fall down the rabbit's hole on Tuesday. I'll keep teaching what I teach (how to meet yourself on the page, how to love yourself in all your parts). I will keep doing what I do (making art, love, safe space, delicious meals, and cup after cup of good, strong coffee). I will keep taking exquisite care of myself so that I can serve from a full cup. I will do more of the same, but more fiercely.
Here are some lovely things that have happened this weekend. Because #joywarrior. Because #humansarebeautiful.
This beauty is on her way to me. She's a gift from my delicious friend, Sarah Trumpp (aka Wonderstrumpet), and she will be my touch stone in the days and weeks and months ahead.
I'm deriving an enormous amount of comfort and strength from my teacher's Facebook timeline. Her name is Karina. You can find her here.
Ivy Newport just released a curated collection of royalty free images that we can all use in our art. So generous, and such a beautiful light in the world of mixed media art.
Tamara Laporte reposted a blog post she wrote about how she struggles, too. It is a gentle nudge in the direction of trusting that practice will lead to progress.
I'm going to do less social media, and more time in my studio, because boundaries, and also because art heals.
I just wanted to check in with you. Thanks for reading.
P.S. Life Book 2017 is open for registration here.
AND THE WINNER IS!!!!
Congratulations, Ursula! I have sent your details to Kara! xo
I am so excited to announce that I am going to be a guest teacher in LET’S FACE IT 2017! In case you are unfamiliar with this course, it is a year-long, online, art class created and hosted by Kara Bullock, devoted to creating portraits! It is for any level: beginning, intermediate, and advanced.
The 2017 Let’s Face It class has a BRAND NEW line up of amazing teachers, and FIVE new areas of focus, with some other exciting EXTRAS, too! This year, Kara is joined by 19, AMAZING, guest teachers! You will not believe this line up! Together, we will be giving you 50 weeks of lessons that will continue to encourage and support you along your creative journey that you are
on! Come and join us! Together we will connect, collaborate and create!
To find out more about LET’S FACE IT click on this link! Registration opens on October 10th, and If you register by December 1st, you will get an "EARLY BIRD" discount!
AND GUESS WHAT! I'm giving away a free spot!
To enter this give-away:
I will announce the winner TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2016.
There is this absolutely amazing series on the History channel (also available through iTunes) that has completely shattered any shame I might have had about my feelings about human connection. I no longer feel any shame - like zero - about loving, wanting, desiring, or longing for human connection. I feel no shame for missing the people that matter to me, despite decades long conditioning to believe that doing so was somehow unhealthy or overdramatic.
Loving people is the common thread that unites MOST of us, and this show proved that to me.
Let me explain.
Some of the people that I've come into contact with (read: love) seem to have very poor esteem/lack of understanding for those of us who need other people. They appear to view this need as pitiful, laughable, or as a weakness. And I have had first hand experience with certain people who I've witnessed responding to other people's dependency on others with something that looked to my admittedly biased, untrained eye like derision. There appeared to be some pity, some disbelief, and some shaking of the head, bafflement & even confusion. If I'm being honest, there appeared to be a bit of a sneer for the pathetic human who was crying from feeling the ache of loneliness we all feel when we've been alone for a time.
I'm not naming any names, but this is a true story.
I was sitting on the couch in my apartment with someone I love very, very deeply, who has professed to love me deeply, but who doesn't desire my lifestyle of connectedness, relationship, and commitment. Don't ask me why I was hanging out with him. I just was, because stupid, and also hopelessly in love, and also competely oblivious to our irreconcilable differences *up until that point*.
We were hanging out, as humans do, watching the show. I'd suggested it as something said person would really love, and of course, I was right, but there was this thing - this earthshatteringly horrible thing, to which I'd been previously oblivious - that became evident over our shared enjoyment of the show.
During Season One, Episode Nine, a cast member expressed deep longing for his person.
My person-who-is-not-willing-to-be-my-person turned to me with a look of such disbelief on his face that I felt it as though I'd been slapped in the face.
This person, this beloved of mine, seemed to be unable to relate to the cast member's longing for their person *at all*. They wore a look that bordered on scorn on their face as the cast member spoke openly, beautifully, vulnerably about the way he had to *force himself* not to think about his love because doing so was too painful for him to bear.
Being who I am, and feeling the tension rise between us, I turned to my beloved and said "Look, you attach differently from other people. I get it, but this is how the rest of us attach. We miss each other. We long for each other. When we love someone, we ache to be with them."
He nodded, thoughtfully, and then said:
"It would be different if I knew for certain that I would never see that person again, but otherwise..." and he kind of shook his head and trailed off.
Meanwhile, I kind of scuttled off into the corner of the other end of the couch because I felt a little bit like I was in the presence of another species - one that could not possibly begin to understand the depth of my feelings about loss, love, longing, desire, and attachment.
I didn't want this moment of clarity. It was completely unwelcome. But it came on, and it came on like most true things do. Like a sledge hammer. Without mercy. And with no way back from knowing.
Here's the thing.
I don't get people that don't miss people. I don't. I don't get people that could go off into the wilderness for more than a few days without starting to feel longing like a motherfucking razor blade in the guts. Some of my children live in other cities from me, and some live in other provinces. Some live right here in the city I occupy. I miss them. I feel it daily. I cope with it, because one must cope if one is to live with the reality that one's loved ones can't always be present, but I *feel* it all the same.
I miss the people I love. I miss *my* people.
I *hope* I'll see them again (if the fates are kind), but that isn't promised, and I know that. Having lost people I loved (my sister, my first husband, my father, friends I loved, friends I didn't know well at all, but grew to love from a distance) to suicide, illness, and the mysterious randomness of the universe, I have learned not take their presence in my life for granted.
I may never see you again. The last words I utter in your general direction may very well be the very last words you ever hear me utter. I may die with everything unspoken. You may die before I have my chance to speak what needs to be spoken.
I live with this every day of my life.
You know? If you've lost someone, you know.
This is the unbearable lightness of our being. It is brief. It is not guaranteed. It comes with no promises or contracts, and while I am taking a two hour bath with my phone off, something catastrophic could *absolutely* happen that would mean that I will spend the rest of my life missing someone who had *no idea* I would miss them except that I did my very level best to ensure that they knew that I would completely fucking miss them.
If you know who I'm talking about, you'll know the absolute stunning, awful swiftness of that dear love's departure from our lives. One day, she was administrating my groups beautifully, and the next, she was dead. Gone forever.
It is a teensy, tiny consolation to me that the last thing I ever said to her was "You matter to me."
Because she did.
And I wanted her to know.
That kind of consciousness - the fully, deeply experienced awareness that we are here and then erased as though we never existed - has the power to make you really fucking crazy, or really fucking awake, and in my case, I think it's made me awake. It's made me awake, and it's made me very particular about how I treat the people I love.
I want them to know they matter. I want to be certain of that. I want them to never question for a second that I thought about them all the time, that when they weren't around, I missed them, and that they were wanted, loved, valued...
That guy on Alone, Day 9, missing his wife with an unbearable visceral longing that was only eased by the thought of bringing home a lifetime's worth of abundance *to her*, *for her* is my fucking hero. I get him.
The guy that wanted his dad to be proud of him, who took the adventure on with a full-throated, unabashed devotion to making his dad proud; he's my hero, too.
The guy that said, with tears in his eyes, "It makes you wonder if the people that you love really know how much you love them..." before he shut his camera off because the moment had become too big for him, too vulnerable to share - he's my hero.
The woman in season 2 who went home because she felt her children tugging at her sleeve from across a continent. The man who asked "What good is all of this if there is no one to share it with?". The one who said out loud that he had everything except his wife...and then went home because fuck it. He wanted, loved, missed HIS WIFE.
And the guy who quit second to last because he realized that nothing meant anything without his partner, and the one who hung in there long after his body screamed for relief because he wanted to become the YES MAN to his beloved children at whom he'd always had to chant the words "Sorry" and "NO".
Purveyors of hope.
Shining beacons of light in my dark, dark night of the soul.
There is a lot of social shaming around needing and/or wanting to be coupled up/connected, but I think that's fear talking. You hear me? I think the way we talk about being too awesome to be bothered about whether we are loved or not, accepted or not, alone or not, is unadulterated bullshit the majority of the time.
This show really proved that to me.
We are nothing without the ones we love. Nothing. Without our attachment to those we love, our lives go un-witnessed. There is no meaning in them. We exist merely to eat, sleep, shit, and die. We give nothing. We receive nothing. Maybe we do good work that pays our bills (if we're lucky) but unless we're curing cancer or discovering something completely, stratospherically, mindblowingly brand new, our names will be forgotten within months, if not days, of our inevitable death. The name on the product is completely, utterly forgettable. There is a huge difference between the time and energy you invested in accomplishing accolades for shit that will never really matter to anyone but you and maybe someone else's bottom line vs. the gentle, soft gratitude of a loved one who saw what you did there, and loved you for it. Huge.
And that is my bottom line.
Love the ones you love in the verb sense of the word. Do it. Make sure they know, and if they aren't certain, figure out how to make them certain.
Because there will be nothing you will regret more than their dying without knowing how much you loved them. There will be nothing that weighs as heavily on them as your lightweight, half-assed, lick and a promise. There will be nothing you will wish to take back as much as your unresponsiveness to those who loved you best.
But then, I guess you'd have to really care for any of that to matter.
Anyway, Alone. Seasons 1 & 2. Listen to what these people are really saying about what matters, and you might find yourself broken wide open.