Lo, way back when I was young-ish, I had a lover of the ‘show up at 3 in the morning’ kind. He worked in the service industry, so he’d end his shift, have a few drinks, and then cab over, half drunk, to knock gently on my door. We’d stand there, he and I, for a moment or two upon his arrival, not embracing, really, but more leaning on one another. I’d rest my head on his shoulder, swaying slightly. He’d put one hand on my hip and breathe me in. Eventually, he’d say “Hey, you.”, and I’d take him by the hand and take him to bed.
He was, during a very bleak time, my only source of delight.
We parted ways after about a year because he was never going to be any kind of main course, but what I learned from loving him, and letting him love me *despite* knowing he was never going to truly arrive in my life, was that its okay to eat the breadsticks while you’re waiting for the main course.
“Breadsticks” feels minimizing, like a bit of a throwaway – just a thing to tide you over – and that doesn’t do justice to the impact that relationship had on me. Through his eyes, I saw myself as beautiful, desirable, intelligent, worthy…
He was a stop on my way to other things, and I was a stop on his way to other things, but still. It’s 17 or so years later, and he wrote to me a couple of days ago to say “Whenever 9/11 comes around, I think of you. I think of getting up that morning and kissing you goodbye and heading home to get ready for work.”
I remember, too.
I was pretty much full of angst back then. I was waiting for someone to arrive, to sweep me off my feet, to claim me and make me their family. This guy was definitely not cut out for that, so I’m grateful he cut me loose, but still…the tears I shed! The unrequited love and longing! It’s the stuff poetry is made of.
He has in his possession a little book I filled with poems for him before I finally got fed up with his shenanigans (and oh, there were shenanigans). It was one of those relationships you let go of with laughter and tears co-mingling. It wasn’t a traumatic ending, not a thing that ended with a bang. It ended with our two heads together, him breathing me in, saying good bye with love and love and love, and then an exchange of gifts to remember one another by. The little volume of poems was hand written, dedicated to him, and entitled “Coveting Memory”.
Once in a while, to this day, he takes it out, reads it, caresses the cover, and puts it away again. He told me, so I know.
I’m something he can think about when he is old. He’s something I can think about when I am old. We get to have that.
That’s not tragic.
I completely underestimated my impact on him at the time. I thought I was just a plaything, his version of ‘breadsticks’. A thing to tide him over. But I wasn’t. I was a love of his. Not the last love, but a love – a love he still remembers with that soft look that so rarely passes over his face.
I matter a great deal to him. I occupy his thoughts. I am a memory, nailed to the wall of his mind.
That’s not tragic.
There is a moment
when I birth,
when all the forces
of heaven and earth
move to move
the life in me,
when all the pressure
it takes to make diamonds
all the pain it takes
on this one body
and something new slips free.
Love is on the tip of
the tongue that takes you,
on the tip.
I slip it between my teeth
and try to bite it back
but oh, god
Fear is the silent womb
fear of what birthing
these words will mean
but like birthing
it’s gone too far now
and I must, I must, oh god
I must move with
heaven and earth,
must move to move
from my mouth
to your ears,
Before I dive in, I wanted to tell you that Life Book 2018 is open for registration, but just in case you hadn’t, here’s a coupon code! LOVEBOMB2018 will get you 20% off if you use it before the end of December, and a portion of the proceeds of sales in the first month will go to a disaster relief fund. I hope to see you there!
In Other News
I had a lovely weekend off from Social Media. It was a needful thing, since I was inundated with information I could do *exactly nothing about*, and it was stressing me out to the max. I didn’t check out of life. I just quieted down the noise, trusting that if there was something I really needed to know, it would come to my attention.
Instead of clicking obsessively on news about the hurricane(s), I sat on my couch until three in the morning, listening to music and playing Yahtzee. I wandered out of the house for cake and a pint with friends (some old, some new). I went to Ribfest with my bestie and stuffed my face with BBQ. I blogged, but other than that, I didn’t check news, alerts, or notifications.
It was glorious.
The thing I trust about life is that it’s going to go on with or without me. I don’t have to show up for all of it. I can take a break. Another thing I trust about life is that it will wear me down like a well-traveled road if I don’t take these breaks, and if I’m worn down, I’m completely useless. I prefer to be useful. I prefer to be of service where I am able, and that takes some judicious sorting of what I can and can’t do, of what’s useful and what’s not.
Something I struggled with early in the year was marketing while all of *waves at all of that* was going on.
I felt horribly guilty about flinging glitter about my classes when the world seemed to be going to hell in a hand basket. I wasn’t the only one, either. There were a bunch of us who were experiencing deep empathy-induced squick about promoting our stuff.
Well, this hurt me. It hurt my bottom line. It hurt my ability to be of service. It meant I wasn’t able to give as many scholarships as I’d have liked. It meant I was often stressed and even panicked about finances. It rendered me useless.
Kelly Diels has been integral during this time of re-framing what I’m doing and how I’m marketing. She has helped me to reclaim my voice in this arena, to question *why* I feel uncomfortable about doing everything I can to support myself during these difficult times. She has busted the shame, named the problems, dug out the root of it (hint: it’s the patriarchy!) and waved it around so I can *really see it*.
We label ourselves deserving or undeserving according to what we are told about ourselves, and then we act accordingly, and that costs us all.
It costs us personally, and it costs us collectively. It costs us our ability to stand together against what will inevitably bring us down.
I’m a lot more useful when I’m fed, clothed, housed, and can get my teeth fixed. I’m a lot more powerful and empowering when I can show up to do my work rested and ready. I’m a lot more of a force for good when I am not dependent on anyone else to get my basic needs met.
So, this thing I had about marketing while the world was going to hell in a handbasket? I did away with it, in part due to Kelly Diels and her amazing work in the arena of culture making, social justice, and exposing insidious nature of the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand.
Back in 2010, I taught a class called The Elements of Art Journaling, and in it, I featured the composition notebook as an alternative art journal. Over time, this practice of decorating and filling a composition noteboook became integral to my emotional well-being.
Today, I bring you an entire workshop in the art and science of Sweet Trash Journals for FREE. Yup. You heard me right. It’s FREE.
As an added bonus, when you join this class, you are automatically considered one of my beloveds, and that means alumni pricing, coupon codes, advance notice on things, and my love letters, in your inbox, on the regular.
I used to write a lot of poetry, used to dream I’d be a poet some day.
Me, in 2001, when I lived, ate, slept and dreamed poetry.
In all my visions of my future life, there were always these slim little volumes of poetry by yours truly on a shelf somewhere that I’d written and had published. There was always this piece in among the rest of the pieces of my future dreaming. I’d have a home that I felt at home in, a love that was true & lasting, a garden I’d tend religiously, friendships that would stand the test of time, and poems. Many, many poems.
I worked hard at this dream. I was a member of several poetry communities. I produced e-zines that featured poets from all over the world – two of which were actually listed in Poetry Market. I was good at creating spaces for other poets, and I wrote reams and reams of poetry, but I never quite broke into that *as a poet*.
One of my head shots back in 2000.
This is one of those dreams that died on the vine. Not because I didn’t try hard enough. Not because I wasn’t a good poet. But because, I believe, life had other plans for me. Something about knowing that, about sitting here in the midst of that other plan, that new dream, takes the sting out of the failure to become what I dreamed I’d become.
I think I get to reach way more people this way, through mixed media art and art journaling, than I ever could as a poet. And besides, teaching pays better. Way better. And poetry would always have been a side gig whereas this has become my main thing.
Still. There are days when I miss the routine of making poems.
Much like what I do now with art journaling, poetry was a practice. I had a system. I would sit down and write out the contents of my head and heart, looking for the vein of gold in all the blather. Once I found it, I’d pluck it out of muck and mire of everyday life, and I’d sit with it, taking the long look at it to find out where it might lead me.
And it always led me somewhere.
I kinda looked like a poet, didn’t I? :D
The years I spent with poetry practice didn’t go to waste. I learned so much about beginning with an initial spark of interest, desire, or inspiration and following it through. I learned about letting go of some things to make room for others. I learned about trusting the process, knowing when to stop. All of those skills have become a part of my art journaling practice.
And if I’m being honest, I’m still a poet. I’m a *visual* poet. I use colour, symbol, and image in combination with words, so nothing was lost in letting that dream die. Its loss made room for other dreams – dreams I’m currently living.
But, still. I miss poetry. I wish it would find its way back to me again.
And maybe now that I’ve said it out loud, it will.
9 Willow St.
Walking through Mount Hope, I notice
graves so old the ground has sunk
a body’s curve down, and as bowls of earth,
fill up with water or fallen leaves.
The rows are named like street signs
after Maple, oak, yew,
and each plot is numbered like a house,
though only on a map kept
in the caretaker’s desk,
ready for gentle rapping on door
and the question:
Where is my mother, father, child, lover?
I have lost my way
in all this row upon row of
sun-dappled, weathered stone.
I decide that when I’m dead,
I want to live on 9 Willow St.
Nine has always been my number.
I like the way it looks fetal,
that it is the last single digit number
before things get complicated
by the addition of ones
and twos and so on.
Nine reaches for the completion of ten.
It feels unfinished, anticipatory.
It feels like something on the brink,
like I have always been.
Then there is the matter of willows.
I spent my childhood up one.
It taught me bending without breaking.
It was cut down, and I learned
how we all break in the end.
I’ll need no stone or epitaph.
‘Nine’ and ‘Willow’ will tell my life.
The bowl of earth I make in time
will be a grassy doorway
into my next incarnation
as maggot food or shade tree
or restless shade or ash.
I filmed this for Mixed Tape I back in 2014 or 15 (I can’t remember which). It was an exploration of the Gayatri Mantra as recorded by Deva Premal – one of my go to songs to listen to when I need to feel soothed & calmed & grounded & centered.
We’ve all got mud.
In this context, our mud is the muck and mire of our ordinary lives. The issues. The baggage. The traumas. The mind numbing repetitiveness of some aspects of being alive. The coffee grounds in the spoon drawer. The missing socks. The larger sorrows that all encounter – losing loved ones, failing at something, making a mistake, wounding and being wounded.
I have a lot of mud.
A childhood abuse story. An early adulthood filled with all of the consequences of that. Children born into all of that who are now dealing with all the consequences of that. And the things that are happening on a global scale that touch me deeply and leave me reeling. I have some #firstworldproblems type mud, and I have some deep, deep, stinking, filthy, omg what’s down there type mud. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
“No Mud, No Lotus” is a phrase I first heard uttered during a talk given by Joan Halifax. She was in a conference with other notable Buddhist minds (like Ram Dass and Krishna Das), and she was speaking about these hard places, these mucky, mired places, and how *useful* they are. That really resonated with me. Hearing it was like remembering a thing I’d always known.
My mud made me. I am a sister of clay. I come from the muck and mire of real life.
And I’m a lotus. And so are you.
Some of my most potent art has come out of my mud. This past week, for example, I created a painting that was full of the desire to feel like I had a soft place to land. I was in a muddy place, flailing with anxiety, feeling a little abandoned in the midst of it all, so I took to page.
She popped out.* She’s a lotus, born of the muck and mire of every day life, of great and small disappointments. She’s also magic, because once I painted her, she whispered “Hey, did you ask for what you needed? Or did you just expect it would be forthcoming?”
Heh. When your paintings take you to task like that, you know you’ve painted something real.
The Realm Of The Real Is Muddy
But this is where I live. I get *moments* of transcendence, but mostly, I’m embodied. Mostly, I’m in the trenches. Mostly, I’ve got something to overcome. You, too, right? I mean, unless you’re very, very lucky, you are mostly likely tackling a monster of a thing *right now as I type*.
So, hey. I just wanted to tell you that I see you there, mud wrestling. I see you grappling with your slippery things. I see you taking that deep breath and wondering where your strength is going to come from today. I do. I’m right there with you.
Some of us are more resilient than others, and I’m not entirely sure why that is in a general sense, but I do know that a great deal of my resilience comes from my ability to fling glitter in the trenches.
Flinging glitter, for me, is a metaphor for the things we do to beautify our lives and the lives of those around us. When shit gets real, when the world is going to hell in a hand basket, when my life feels overwhelmingly difficult, I go looking for what’s *right*, or I create something that’s *right*. I look for the places where I can get myself in gear, get some kind of forward motion going. I like to think of this as ‘moving in the direction of my prayers’, though from the outside looking in it may look more like ‘faking it ’till I make it.’ And sometimes, it looks like sitting on the couch with my hand in a bag of cheesies and my finger on the remote while I watch crap on Netflix.
Either way. I don’t deny the overwhelming sorrow, or the fear, or the frustration. I nod at it, give it a ‘yup, I see you there….’ and then I go do whatever I can do.
Do the dishes.
Light the candles. Pray the prayers. Cook the meals.
These are small acts of rebellion against whatever feels daunting, and I believe that this is how shit gets done. Life sucks? Feel that. Be with that. And then do something to make it better. Something’s broken that can’t be fixed? Find something that can be fixed and go fix that. Chop wood. Carry water. Whatever else is going on, *life* goes on, and I have learned how to roll with it instead of getting rolled over.
This is not always easy, and I’m not suggesting that we just spiritually bypass everything away with a ‘love and light’ attitude. I’m saying that it is true what they say: when the going gets tough, the tough fling glitter!
I’m paraphrasing, but I’m pretty sure you know what I mean.
I’ve seen my share of trauma, both personal and global, and the one thing that it always seems to stir up in me is a kind of joy warrior-ship. I think of Klinger, in MASH, and how his shenanigans seemed to make things just a bit more bearable. There was no denying how horrific their situation was, but still. There was Klinger, in the trenches, adjusting his silk stockings and matching his hat to his shoes. Something about that resonates with me, and even though he was a kind of accidental joy warrior (he did the dressing up thing in an attempt to get ‘sectioned out’ of the war), he still sprinkled that shit everywhere, and so do I.
It can be so hard to enjoy your life while all of *waves at all of this* is going on. The politics, the social justice break downs, the hurricanes, the fires…people are in pain, people are dying…and yet, the only thing I know how to do in the face of all this is to rage against despair with my joy. I know it doesn’t serve anyone to let things that are completely outside of my control dictate how I’m going to feel at any given moment. I know that my wandering around holding my guts in all day doesn’t get shit done.
Here’s what I believe:
You can hold space within yourself for all the things. You are enormous. You contain multitudes. You can be confounded and frustrated and angry and dance in the kitchen while you’re doing the dishes. You can feel *with* a world in pain, and also feel *with* yourself & others in joy. I think that’s magicks. I think, when we acknowledge what’s wrong, and we do what we can to fix it, we have to, for the sake of our own sanity, turn to the thing that’s right, or create a right thing. Add our joy to the collective. Add our shenanigans to the gloom and doom. Add our laughter. Add our love.
When in doubt, fling glitter.
Today’s Nudge: What do you do to foster joy? What’s your version of ‘flinging glitter in the trenches?”
There’s a bunch of us blogging along in September. Find out more here, or pop your email address in the box below, and I’ll send you a nudge to blog every day along with a link to my daily writings.