The occasional wallowing, or how I wish I could chat with Sophia Loren

19 10 2018

Approved-Sophia-Loren-Armando-Gallo-Photographer-I have a lot of friends who are dealing with chronic illness or the illness of loved ones or bereavement or even the loss of pets. So when I saw this article, it called to me: “The Other Side of Grief” by Whitney Akers. The article links to a group of stories about how people coped with their grief, from goat yoga on… One of the points made truly resonated with me:IMG_8129

“Even years later…a sense of deep loss comes in cycles, is hidden in the nooks of your house for you to unexpectedly stumble upon, and becomes a part of you forever…”

So true that. I fell across a sketchbook of my dad’s the other day (he’s been gone 32 years now, for context), and I had to stop and catch my breath, the feeling of loss was so acute. Every time I see an apricot poodle, I am overcome with memories of Pickles the wonder dog, my best friend through many years of my marriage. I talk to someone about a work issue and I can’t help my mind from skipping back to things I wished I’d done differently at work. I feel again the loss and embarrassment I felt when I was forced by my MS to leave employment.

People with chronic illnesses deal with incremental grief, too – every new challenge needs to be adapted to, self-image redefined. Inside we try to stay the same as we were (or better still, learn from our experiences), but our outer selves change and toss us aboutfunny-picture-dump-the-day-53-pics-funny-funny-misshapen-body a bit.

Sophia Loren says: “If you haven’t cried, your eyes cannot be beautiful.” I agree. It’s like parenting or running a marathon. Unless you’ve experienced significant loss, you really don’t understand. And the type of loss isn’t what is important. It’s what it does to you. You can grieve the loss of a pet as heavily as of a person. (I urge you to avoid grieving for plants or fish though as they die frequently and you’d just be a mess.)

I’m not saying it’s okay or good for anyone to grieve constantly. I think that just lays you waste. But in my experience, it’s good to be prepared for those little bits of grief that leap out at you from the corners. It’s extra special good if you can appreciate the feeling and then use it to enrich your world, by helping others or creating art or even just smiling at strangers who look like they might be having a terrible day.

Sophia Loren also says:
“I’ve never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don’t understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”
Mind you, perhaps sharing ALL of your past might be unwise (shameful details might lead to the wrong impression…;-) ) (ahem)

 

Of course, Sophia also said:

e4e93e94-73ea-4980-b49f-e124be457e98“Everything you see I owe to Spaghetti.” and “Spaghetti can be eaten most successfully if you inhale it like a vacuum cleaner.”

See why I love this woman?

So, while I’m not inhaling spaghetti (though now I am dreaming of it), I’ve decided to take the lumps the world has given me and sculpt them into something else. I know it helps.

make-art-and-write

 

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Hanging out in a liminal space

6 03 2018

liminal-space-definition-ofI have a feeling of being in transition, of being in between the not anymore and the not yet. I’ve been chewing on it ever since I saw my dear friend incarcerated in his body from a stroke, and struggling in a nursing home.

The push onto the threshold is also because this is my 60th year. My parents were wrapped in end-stage cancer by this age. I’d been married for a few years by that time, my children born before my mother left us. It is so hard to believe this was so long ago; also so hard to believe that I am this old. In my head, I am still a rollicking 45 – not as spry as a young ‘un, but no way am I as old as my parents were!

In a real life and space, I’d be planning for retirement, I’d be managing some poor employees, I’d be all serious and such. Maybe I’d even have learned to play golf. Instead, on my “freedom 50 get MS plan”, I’m looking down the wrong end of the telescope at a life that seems very far away.

Not that I don’t have one now – lucky me with friends and family and a view of the harbour and almost my health! I am definitely NOT complaining.

6c6a49f23bf8b7fb1bcff4f50f1a1971--love-birds-for-the-birdsI’m sensing a change coming, though, like a fresh wind. Maybe it’s the birds doing their still-chilly spring romantic dance. Maybe it’s the fact that sometimes, sometimes, I feel a bit like I can play the ukulele. Maybe it’s the repetitive strain injury from stabbing wool for hours…or the look of my still not right bedroom, covered in wool and still-waiting-to-be-unpacked necklaces and clothes.

I’m tempted to throw it all out. Sell it, give it up, start fresh. It seems to be on the backward side of the threshold. But what is on the other side? What can I do next?
When I was in first-year university, I didn’t have any money to buy my parents a160503_BOOKS_Allegory.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2 Christmas present. So I wrote them a story, about a unicorn and a girl making choices at a fork in the road. It was so dreadfully heavy with allegory I’m surprised my parents could lift it, let alone read it, but never mind, I can do a good preaching when I set my mind to it. They cried. My English teacher read it and told me it was trash.

images-8In the story, the Unicorn was there to help the girl along the rockier path she chose. It was meant to symbolize the coming of adulthood and the need to take on responsibilities, as it were. It had capital-B Bears in it who were my parents, who were ahead of me on this treacly road, who provided support from afar; it provided sympathy for what they’d lost by taking on adult responsibilities.

It was gruesome, I tell you. Whenever I am feeling too full of myself, I get it out and read it, and then go brush my teeth. Three times.

But I’m feeling that split in the road now. The need to figure out what this later bit of my life will come to mean. The tasks that will keep me sane. The things that will bring me joy. Housekeeping just ain’t it.

I know a few things will have to figure. Since my fall yesterday, I know I am going to have to throw myself back into physical fitness. My body is quitting on me, but that doesn’t mean I have to help it. It’s time to really allot time to exercise as I have done before. I’d say I should give up scotch, chocolate, and cheese, but let’s not get crazy here!

That means less crafting time, as all of that takes time and space.

I’m going to work on friendships, because I love them so much and often don’t get to meet up with my friends. (or family – that has to change, too) I don’t want to end up alone. I’ve seen how that can go, and it’s nasty.

This can also mean less crafting time, though most of my friends gather to do crafts, so maybe not…

Creativity is important to me, too – so I’ll have to work that in somewhere, somehow,00f5dde1205620d312e1ccceeabc3210 using words or needles and thread or wool or both.

So I’m standing on a doorstep. Time to step forward…just have to push myself through all of these piles of wool first…(but wait – I still want to try this, and make that, and there’s Alice and other stuff I could try and even little things …)

Maybe I’m not quite ready to step over that threshold … seems like I’ll be liminal for a while yet.

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Visions

28 04 2017

Every once and awhile a vision passes by me, on the computer or otherwise, that immediately starts my mind burbling. This is one, by drone photographer Gabriel Scanu, who is apparently all of 20 and blessed with an excellent eye.

This photo speaks to my wet-felting soul. I can see it evolving with tracings of silk for foam, with needle felted people and shadows after the base has dried. I love the contrast of the shadows on the sand and in the water, the view of a tiny kayak braving the waves. I know local artists who could paint this, beautifully.

There’s something about looking at the world from way way up that is consoling these days – being above the world on an impossibly sunny day, not even hearing the quibbles of the people below, the children whining for ice cream, the couples fighting… This photographer has given me a vision to think about, a respite from the worries around me.

It’s a pleasant thought to be above trouble and sorrow. It seems most everywhere I look in the past month, people are dealing with challenges, losses, changes that are unpleasant and require strength to manage.

Support-356x253I know artists and musicians who are dangling, unbought, while the world takes advantage of the Maude Lewis story and millions go into Hollywood coffers while the poor woman lived and died in pain and poverty. I was talking to a friend of mine who also finds this enraging. No one seems to feel the urge to donate to starving artists after the film, or to donate to the arthritis society, or to do anything other than buying reproduced Lewis art calendars (just the small ones, they aren’t too expensive), while our world, especially here in the Maritimes, is full of fresh new art, folk and other, that could use a loving touch, a new home.

I’ve been trying to buy a bit of art on my tight budget. I’ve been blessed with a few artist friends who started my collection, and I am meeting more all the time, thanks to the patient gallery owners that let me linger among the small pieces and put things on hold, or trade what I’ve made. I adore each and every one I’ve chosen, both for the beauty of the piece and for the fact that I know the artist.

Art brings visions to us, places and thoughts we have never seen, joy. I live in a smallish, somewhat dark apartment, but around every corner now I have a little spot of brightness, a view of an artist’s vision of life. They make me smile, every time I look at them.

I’d like to encourage everyone to spend a little on art, especially local art. It seems like an extravagance when bills speak loudly in the corner. But for a relatively small amount of money, you can bring beauty to the world, both your own space and in the artists’.

And couldn’t we all use a little bit of joy (and vision) these days?

how-to-buy-art-on-artspace-512x512-c

 

 





Writing resistance

6 06 2015

So, I’ve just realized a project I thought was nearly done is in fact, only halfway there.

It’s too short. It’s 24,000 words. It should be 35-40,000. I could weep.

I’m tempted to send it around as a novella and hope it gets published that way. But I’m also tempted to rewrite the entire thing and add bits to where it is thin and FIX it. It will take me a long time. But the story will have more depth, something that my wonderful writing mentor, Donna Morrissey, suggested when I was working with her thorough Humber’s School for Writers.

But I can’t help but wonder, is this a real need or is this resistance? I just finished reading the excellent The War of Art by Stuart Pressman. It’s filled with tales of how/why we procrastinate. The tune was familiar. I could probably play it on my ukulele. Let me just see…

But I digress.

I could also felt a scene to describe it. Let me try that…

The sad thing is that I set myself up for mocking as I procrastinate. Everyone is onto me now. Truth is, I find writing HARD. I enjoy it when I’m in the flow, but the flow is harder and harder to maintain. That’s why I can actually do the three day novel contest, but no way can make it through Nanowrimo.

I’m a 50 yard dasher. I always have been, even in school. I could run like the dickens for 50 yards, but my energy petered out for the long term. It wasn’t until I laboured for my daughter for 18 hours that I realized I had strength to endure, and it’s not like I had any choice in that.

So I fling myself into a writing jag and block out people but I can only maintain it for a while. Then I find my wandering eye sliding over to a neat art project or that pile of yarn or a book to read or a tune to play…and the flow is lost.

Resistance? ADD? Or am I just not suited to writing, after all?

Every time I start writing, I go through all of these doubts and then I realize how perfectly I’ve created a wall to doing it. I need to do what I’ve done before in all sorts of other areas and just shaddup and push on through.

From Writers Circle:

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Writing and photographing tears

10 05 2014

Writing sorrow. Picturing those little droplets slipping from eyes, causing embarrassment or joy or shame or release…

I hate crying. I’ve never learned to do it elegantly, with tissue carefully to nose, maybe some slight pinking of same.

Nope. I look like I’ve been dragged down a mountainside backwards and face down after I cry in sorrow. Face red, eyes puffy, headache for days afterwards. It’s not attractive.

fisher-tears_hope

Rose-Lynn Fisher: Tears of possibility and hope

But despite myself, I leak tears a lot. They come out when I laugh, whenever my kids do anything at all, pretty well (I still find it miraculous that they breathe, let alone think and argue with me), when I am feeling happy. These tears do have a bit more elegance to them. And now I know why.

They are different, made of different stuff. Check out this photo project by Rose-Lynn Fisher on the Topography of Tears. My favourite is “tears of elation at a liminal moment”, although “tears of possibility and hope” is pretty interesting, too, swirled with new pathways to explore.

Mirabilia.





Creativity and NaNoWriMo and letting yourself play

28 11 2012

20121128-230140.jpg

The creative impulse is a tricky one. These paintings were done by my dad while somewhat high on morphine for his cancer. They’re different than any of his other paintings and I’ve always loved them. Well, in truth, I finished the pregnant lady one for him – he’d drawn it but not painted it.
I have several of my dads paintings – one of his very first, and three of his very last. He became freer as he got older, most free when his brain was a little unhooked from its moorings with medications.
I’ve spent the day today listening to the Teaching Company’s excellent series of lectures on the brain and how everything links together and learning how if we lose our emotional cortex we can no longer make decisions, and I’m left with two questions.
1. Whose bright idea was it to arrange for everything to cross over in there?
And 2. Why?
Seriously, though, if you haven’t studied the mind, you should. It’s astonishingly marvelous and quite unbelievably wonderful. It makes me believe in God. Literally. There’s a god- belief spot…
And from somewhere in there we create paintings of blue ladies and stories of murder or romance or love or hate. Or poetry, buildings, craftwork or vaccines.
But it’s important to let ourselves be free – not suggesting we should all take morphine or anything, but we need to get to that wild don’t give a damn spot and let the ideas spring out.
For me, NaNoWriMo and such usually do that. This year, pain didn’t let me free as much as I’d like. But every once and awhile I could shimmy past the gate guardians and head out to play.
Still two more days to go!





“We don’t need more writers! We need more readers!”

30 05 2012

Somewhere back in Nanowrimo land, I read a commentary about the piles of dreck being produced through the month. The quote above comes from that commentary, but I can’t find the reference this morning, peering as I am through the slits of eyes produced by profound weeping as I realize another dream is lost, down the drain. That writing dream. You know. THAT one.

I’ve produced a lot of that dreck. I know. People have ever so sanctimoniously, kindly, gently, and viciously told me so. (Just GET all those -ly words in one sentence! That takes skill, that does!)

I’ve been “working on writing”, interspersed with sessions of intense parenting, higher education, day jobs that consume my soul, and fighting the urge to nap, for the past 20 years or so. Should I succeed now, I’d likely kill whoever called me an overnight success. Wait, that’s a good idea for a plot…

And therein lies the rub. Like many people, especially the insufferable woman who sat beside me the other day, plots are a dime a dozen. At least in the idea stage. The stories, the ones that grip your heart and make you sink into an alternate reality – well, those are harder. For me, anyway. I imagine insufferable woman could just whip them off in a second, or so she tells me.

There are hundreds of books produced every year. Many of them are simply awful. (see: 50 Shades of Grey) Some of the really bad ones get made into movies, even, and their authors lie about and eat bon bons forevermore. This leads many of us to think that we, too, could wield that magic.

But like the lion in the Wizard of Oz would say, “Whadda they got that I haven’t got? Courage!” I somehow can’t get myself to offer my dreck to the wider world. I feel I should do better. So I paralyze and refuse to write and don’t. And, quite frankly, my skills get rustier and rustier.

So, a few tips for those who want to do this crazy thing (and by the way, my assembly of writing books is going up for sale on Kijiji in a moment).

1. Write. Yah, you knew this.

2. Learn to touch type. My mother never let me take this class as she thought I’d end up as a secretary or something. She didn’t see the time of keyboards. I still type fast, but my error rate is huge, and my hands get weary using only four fingers total. It wastes time, and frustrates my flow of thoughts.

3. Read. Write reviews of the books you read. This will make you look for the things you read that worked, the things you didn’t like, and, more importantly, will stick those things in your mind for when you write your own stuff.

4. Avoid writing courses. I’ve taken dozens of these. They either tell me what I already know, or decimate my confidence. Free ones are okay. I’ve paid thousands and am genuinely no further ahead. Read instead.

5. If you must take courses, pay attention, participate, suck the pith out of them. Squeeze them dry. Pester the teacher for additional help, especially if they’re good. Find kindred spirits in the class and form a reading/writing group for afterwards. This will be the most useful thing of all.

6. Get a group together to share your writing with. Make sure you are on the same level. This is tougher than you think, and it is terribly irritating to have someone ask you the meaning of words or tell you they haven’t read anything much since the Twilight series when you write historical fiction. Plus it is really really hard to critique really bad writing without being mean-sounding.

7. Read some more. TV or movie renditions of writing do NOT count. It’s not the same. Read widely, outside “your” genre. Well, except romance. Don’t read that if you don’t like it. It will just lead you to think you can write it, and good romance isn’t easy, either. It’s easy to shower scorn on things you don’t understand. I know. Bad romance (writing) isn’t something you want your kids to remember you for.

8. Buy books. Go to readings. Talk to authors. For me, going to the Bloody Words Conference – I plan to kiss their feet. I’ve tried to do what they do, and I can’t. I bow before them, trying to let my envy go and to embrace them with all my heart for the pleasure their books have brought me.

9. If you can, give up. It’s tough out there. It’s lonely. And it can be soul-destroying. After trying for so many years, I feel like a Hollywood starlet, who went west to become a movie star, tried and tried and got some bit parts, a little taste of possible glories, but never a big break. Now she’s old, tired, and wherever she goes, she can hear the whispering, “Of course, she never really WAS anyone…

10. If you can’t give it up, make sure you have other things to fall back on in times of duress. Friends help, but no one can patch the gaping hole in a heart when you’ve very nearly almost made art and have just missed. You need something else that deals with internal trauma. Work out, make something out of clay or cloth or wood or anything tactile that does not involve words. Physicality is key when you’ve been working so hard with the verbal mind. Go punch someone. Maybe the insufferable woman. That would be fun.

Try not to look pathetic.








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