Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday Scribbings: "Now and Then" {an Epilogue}

Today is December 31st, 2007. It is still morning and I have just now finished writing my thesis. I don't even know if it is any good, but right now that doesn't matter. What matters is that I got my story down on paper as best I could. What's important is that I print this thing out and send copies to my adviser, then my committee members. After that I will do any necessary editing and formatting. I won't be truly done until the day I pass my defense (assuming I pass it). Still, the hard part is done. I feel like crying...because I feel so wonderfully quiet inside my heart.

Snow falls gently outside my window. It is the first day of something new.

* * * * * * * * * *

Roots and wings--they are such mysterious things.

When I was nineteen, I loaded up my little red pick-up truck and my old dog Japhy and, together, we hit the road. We traveled south through the Ozarks all the way down to to New Orleans, then west through vast amounts of nothingness. We made our "home" down old logging roads, on the tops of mountains, on the edges of lakes and river and, eventually, the ocean. For nearly a year we traveled this way, with no destination in mind. But, every night, upon arriving at a comfortable place to sleep, whatever strange or wonderful place it might be, I would announce to Japhy: "We're home!" And with those words, both of our bodies would relax into our new environment, wherever it was.

Before buying land and building a house, I lived the life of a traveler--and I loved every second of it. Sometimes I traveled alone and sometimes I had companions. I got good at traveling with the contents of my universe strapped to my back. I never felt lonely. And I never felt out of place. How could I know that one day I would buy a piece of land made up of field, woods and swamp? How could I know that I would plant roots so deeply that, upon leaving, I would feel more lost than I ever before? I've been a traveler much of my adult life, but losing my sense of home--my place, my center--was something new to me. Writing this collection of essays is an act of moving forward. It is an act of letting go. And what has become most apparent to me is that it is a process.

A dear friend recently shared these words of Mother Teresa with me: "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, only more love." Writing these essays has helped me to realize the importance of this time in my life. I have never hurt so deeply. And I have never loved so much. All of this--the pain, the struggle, the loss of direction--has brought me to here. I don't know where, exactly, my future will lead me. But I do know that I am grateful for ever single step that has led me from then to Now.

Starlings in Winter

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star,
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

~Mary Oliver (from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays).

Friday, December 28, 2007

nevr-dull and other inspirations...

I will be amazed if I survive the month of January. I am fairly self entertaining, but today boredom got the best of me. Garden shop life in these deep winter months is proving to be slower than ever and, by mid-afternoon I was surprised to find myself still standing and not laying across the counter in a puddle of drool.

Seriously. At one point it got so bad that I considered rubbing myself down with a can of NEVR-DULL that I found under the counter next to a pile of dirty rags and goo-gone. Instead, I finished two more essays for my thesis, wrote a letter, dusted, did inventory, called my husband, then my brother, and then my husband again. I read part of a book, shoveled, made lists, took out the garbage, sang bad honky-tonk, and ate way more than I should. I have a feeling that the month of January might prove to be very, very long.

I know, I know...I should be more thankful to have a job that allows me to write letters and read books. But I've found that these things are only good in moderation. Since my boss is hitting the road for the month of January, I've committed myself to holding down the fort until she gets back. My only question: can I survive a whole month of talking to myself?

Yes, too much quiet can be a bad thing. I'm sure there are some mom's out there who might disagree with me, but uh....yeah. I suppose I could treat the time alone as though it were a spiritual retreat of some sort and, if possible, I might just try that. But in the meantime I took my Christmas booty of gift cards and went on a little Barnes and Noble shopping spree tonight. It took nearly an hour to snap out of my flat-line funk, but OH! A few good books finally pulled me back into the world.
{side note:}
*I got this beautiful little Fabriano Artist's Journal from my husband for Christmas
*I signed up for Leah's Creative Every Day 2008
*I decided that journal energy is better than drooling
Before hitting the bookstore, I stopped at the art supply store to pick up some stretcher bars that I had ordered for prints. Yes, my friends,
PRINTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE
on my Etsy! :) While I was there I picked up some fantabulously super pigmented pastels to play with. mmmm, yum--they make my eyes light up every time I look at them!

And at the bookstore I found 2 wonderfully inspiring books:


* * *
The Creative License
by Danny Gregory

This one looks like a lot of fun. I looked at it more closely while waiting for our Chinese take-out. I sat there drinking tea and smiling as I flipped through the pages. I love this guy's sense of humor. It totally makes me want to play, be messy, and get inspired.

* * *






* * *
Visual Journaling: Going Deeper than Words by Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox.

This one seems a bit more serious, but I'm really into the idea of working intuitively lately.

* * *




On a bit of a whim, I also picked up Excuse Me, Your LIFE is Waiting:The Astonishing Power of Feelings by Lynn Grabhorn. I don't usually dive this deeply into the Self-Help section, but the title grabbed my attention (yes, this is how I'm feeling these days). I've been slowly reading Ask and It is Given over the past several months and am really getting a lot out of it. Since this book has a similar philosophy, I thought it might be good to give it a chance. I'll let you know if it's any good. ;)

In other news, it seems as though doing horse and dog portraits has found its way into my future. Hopefully it will be more lucrative than the NYT interview--but, hey, I just find it incredibly interesting the way my life keeps presenting me with options and opportunities. Although it requires ample amounts of patience, I'm finding the whole process (well, certain parts of it anyway--ie, the truest parts) to feel very organic and natural.

Despite boredom, I'm looking forward to whatever it is that I seem to be waiting for. When I visualize what it would be like to follow my heart, it feels a lot like this:


*lotus image from here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

persist, dear sister.


Remember the wish box? Well, the last wish I added to it was to finish my thesis by December 31st. Last time I checked that only gives me 4 days left to work on it. I've been fluctuating somewhere between absolute glee and despair. I realize that most of you are probably wondering what the hell is taking me so long to reach the finish line. I often wonder the same thing myself. These past couple of weeks I have entirely let myself off the thesis-hook. I mean, for god's sake, I had enough going on without trying to slog my way through the last anxiety-ridden pages of my thesis. I let myself off the hook for the sake of mental health and, I admit: I am glad that I did.

I should mention that I am taking my wish box seriously. Very seriously. I've dragged this thesis along with me into eternity, but I am sooooooooo NOT willing to carry it with me into the next year. Granted, I'll still have to do some minor editing, formatting, and then DEFEND it...but for some reason, the biggest hurdle seems to be just getting it OUT of my hands and INTO my adviser's hands.

These days I feel a little bit like I did the night before my senior show in art. I was putting the final touches on my last painting when my brain completely melted. It turned out to be one of my best paintings, but my god, at the moment I couldn't tell what it was! It was late at night, I was the only one left in the studio, and there was almost no one left in the department. By some stroke of luck I found the art history professor holed up in his office and made him come down to the studio to do an impromptu critique with me. I honestly could no longer see my work for what it was. Yes, folks, total brain melt. Ok, I haven't quite reached that stage with my thesis, but I feel the brain melt starting to sneak up on me, especially during particular desperate moments like last night (after having worked on my thesis for most of the day). I'm scared that it's all shit. But here's the deal: I WILL NOT GIVE UP!!!

Holy crap, I can't wait to finish this thing. Because when I do, you know what's gonna happen?

EVERYTHING!!!!

Well, that's my firm belief anyway. Blah, blah, blah...but for now I am barely surviving. Funny how barely surviving can feel so heavy and full and...wow. I can't even explain it.

In other news...I did not make the news. Damn. After a second interview I was told that I would be quoted saying: "Jessie (last name goes here), a writer, dreams of training dogs." Or something to that effect. Lame? Yes. But, hell, it's the New York Times!!! I was willing to take what I could get!

It seems I got edited out. And instead of mentioning my fantabulous quote the article instead said something like: "Finding a dog owner nursing daydreams of becoming a trainer has become about as difficult as finding a waiter with a headshot."

Ouch.

And so today I have been licking my NYT wounds and plugging away at my everlasting thesis. But there's one thing you should know about me:

I never give up.

And, yes, you can quote me on that.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Metamorphosis.

I feel like I'm undergoing a serious process of metamorphosis these days. I went to get my hair done yesterday and, for the hell of it, decided to do something different (not to mention, dark hair wasn't really complimenting my lily white skin). Also, I've gone down almost 2 sizes in my clothes. From hauling Christmas trees? I don't know, but this new muscle gain feels good. Today, posting this photo of myself, I'm a little bit shocked by the amount of change that has happened, not only on the outside, but the inside too. Looking at myself right now I am feeling like these changes in my looks are a subconscious reflection the the serious changes within. I can't really explain it, but I am curious as to what sort of butterfly (or moth) might eventually emerge.

Something very exciting has happened this week and it's weird how one little event can cause a whole lot of other thoughts to come tumbling into focus. As you all can probably gather, I've been becoming progressively more unhappy with my work. I am so very ready to move on to the next stage in my life, but instead I keep running into frustrating dead-ends. The other day at work I felt myself spiraling into a horrible bout of negativity (which seems to be happening all too often lately), but rather than go down that road I decided I would sit down with my journal (it was slow at the time) and write down my top 5 dream jobs. For #1 I wrote: "Work with dogs; help them to live better lives." I wrote that first because it is what came to mind first and most strongly--and even though I was looking for something more "serious," I decided to try working intuitively rather than rationally. One thing I know about myself is that dogs make me happiest--so I wrote it down. The next night I dreamed that I got kicked out of class because I couldn't quit laughing. I went to sit outside of the school and, upon doing so, ended up watching a bunch of dog trainers with their dogs. That's when I realized that I didn't have to go back to anything if it didn't make me happy. This huge sense of FREEDOM opened up inside of me and it was like this incredible "ah-ha!" moment. Ok, that was a good dream (I wrote a better version of it here.)...but do you wanna know the kicker??

The very next morning (Wednesday) I got up to check my email and there was a message from a journalist for the New York Times with an interview request for a story on dog trainers. Yes, that's right...the NEW YORK TIMES!!! Ok, I nearly pissed my pants with excitement, but then my wariness over the internet kicked in and so I thought I better check her out and make sure she was legitimate before I called her. OY-YA!! Yes, she was legitimate...and so I called and was interviewed. I was nervous, but overlooked it because, really, how many chances does one get to be interviewed for the NYT?!

Here's the deal, I may or may not make it into her story (and if I do, I want a t-shirt that says "I was quoted in the NYT!!!"), but the important thing is that it set the ball in motion for something that has been tapping on my shoulder for a long time now. The universe has been, as a friend put it, banging me on the head with signs all along while I've been floundering around trying to make sense of my life. Needless to say, I've started checking into the notion of dog training. I've already even inquired into one job and certification. All of a sudden, everything seems so much easier! It's like: DUH!!

I kept seeing myself working in an office somewhere, wearing nice clothes, and perhaps planning/working on creative pursuits. Or maybe I saw myself working in an office doing something to help others figure out/navigate through their life. Maybe these things will actualize themselves in my life also, but I think that the real reason I kept imagining myself in a clean office setting wearing nice clothes is that, somehow, it represented something more respectable that the poor garden shop schlep that I feel like now. This, I see, is definitely the wrong reason to take a certain kind a job--especially if it doesn't really reflect my true self. Taking a job just to satiate my ego feels really, really misguided and, although I want to feel good about myself, I know the ego-road is not the one I want to walk.

One thing that an office job leaves out is my deep need for physical, outdoor activity. Sure, I could do it for awhile, but I'm afraid that it wouldn't be long before it started taking it's toll on me and my creative spirit.

Anyway, there are so many details that I'm leaving out about all the little things that have been leading up to this thought of pursuing a dog training career--but I'll have to save it for another day. All I know is that I feel good. I feel more hopeful. I even feel more beautiful, from the inside. You know, since Wednesday, my heart has had this weird "singing" feeling. Yes, it's weird and I'm sure it sounds cheesy. But I feel exactly like I did in my dream. My heart feels a little bit cracked open.

I don't know what's gonna happen, but whatever it is, it's really starting to shift more quickly now. I can feel it. In the meantime, keep an eye out for me in the New York Times!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

meditative time, revisited.

I've come to the conclusion that it's absolutely necessary that I treat myself with a little bit of love and kindness these days. I don't mean to sound self-centered, but I get the feeling that, if I don't, I will veer dangerously close to having a melt-down. These days, I suppose it's a common syndrome for many. I'm tempted to whine about how incredibly complicated my familial life has become, but for right now I think it's best if I just set it aside.

Actually, I've come to the conclusion that it would be best for me to set several things aside--at least for the time being. See that photo to the left? That is the cup of tea that I have decided to drink before I have to go to work. Notice that it is not caffeinated. I am taking my cue from the tea's name and have chosen to appreciate a moment of meditative time for myself rather than trying to crash my way through the to-do list that sits to the left of my elbow. The tea tastes good--and it tastes even better because I'm drinking it out of the double-walled Bodum cup that I so frivolously spent some of my birthday money on. I love these cups for their simplicity. They are so clean, uncluttered, and beautiful--I thought I might incorporate some of that into my life, if nothing else, in the form of a cup.

Yesterday I had an early a.m. car appointment for an oil change and maintenance. I'll tell you, I was actually looking foward to it. I was sitting in the lobby with a cup of coffee, totally lost in the pages of my journal and, an hour later, when they came to tell me that my car was ready, I was actually disappointed they had finished so quickly. I said to the woman: "Already?! But this is the most peace I've had in weeks!" We laughed, but honestly, I wish I could have stayed there all day.

One of the things I wrote about was the little piece of paper that I recently stumbled upon. I had written a random thought that read:

The snake taught

me to hold my
chin up and to stand
strong despite extreme
discomfort, fear,
and pain.

I was referring to the snake dream I had at the very beginning of the Be Brave Project and, you know, I had no idea that these words would remain so important to me, even now. Speaking of dreams, I have been having many meaningful dreams lately. By meaningful I mean that they speak directly to the thoughts I've been carrying around inside of me, but have not been able to truly focus on, cope with, or make sense of in my waking life.

Last night I had a dream that I was in school. In the dream I couldn't stop laughing and even though I knew it was rude, I just couldn't stop myself. The teacher asked me, politely, to please leave. I apologized to her on my way out, but was happy to go. In my dream I was at the Catholic school that I went to as a child. I left the cafeteria and found myself in the hallway and then went up the stone steps and outside. I sat around outside for awhile watching some dog trainers with their dogs which is when I realized that I could quit school if I wanted to and not go back. I liked my teacher and I liked school. But I much preferred the feeling of laughter. I felt so much freer the moment I made the decision that I was done and that, by doing so, I was making room for the next step in my life.

There is an easy interpretation to this dream in that, I spent a large chunk of my morning journaling about the idea that "when you allow your connection, you thrive. When you do not allow your connection, you do not thrive" (Ask and It is Given 104). I've been asking myself how I might allow my connection to thrive and the first thought that came to my mind was to quit my job so that I might better work from a place of pure and positive intention rather than unhappiness. Unfortunately, it is time for work and my bills will not allow for a clean slate to manifest itself in exactly that way.

Ok...but I'll have to save the rest of my thoughts for another day. In the meantime, thank you everyone for your comments in my last post. Gah. Some days just suck. But your words definitely had a soothing effect. ;)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

blue.

I can't seem to get my act together these days. Or, rather, no matter how together my act is, I can't seem to catch up with myself. I suppose this is true for a lot of us these days. The holidays are busy for everyone.

One thing that I've neglected to write about here on my blog is that my dad is getting remarried next weekend. Next weekend? Wow. I haven't written about it here because I'm quite certain that the internet isn't exactly the space in which to untangle my thoughts on the topic. Needless to say, I haven't really given myself the time that I should to think about it at all. I'm not one to evade my emotions, but when it comes to my relationship with my dad, I'm not even really sure where to start...but, like I said, I just don't feel up to trying to figure it out in front of an audience. You know what I mean?

Anyway, there's this huge event looming ahead and all I know is that I feel like an alien visiting a foreign country--a stranger in a strange land.

I've been absent from my blog these days because I can't seem to write because of this vast and frustrating inability to make sense of anything. I get home from work and running errands and doing the zillion things that need to get done and there's just nothing left of me. Half the things running around in my head aren't exactly blog-friendly (work and family). I try to write in my journal and I think I'd be better off, not writing, but scribbling...which is what I sometimes end up doing.

This is all starting to sound horribly depressing, isn't it. Well, it's not all bad. I mean, my relationship with my dad is mending. I love my dogs. And the sky, lately, has contained a lot of blue. But I'll tell you: I miss long walks. I miss sitting down to correspond with my friends. I miss my paints and words and time to think. I miss those little moments that used to exist in so much abundance--because, these days, I've been barely swimming from one day to the next. Existing, but only on the surface.

Things will get easier, I know they will; but the question is: when?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

margin notes

Yesterday was one of those crystalline days when the sky is all sunshine and blue, a day when snow glitters and floats through the air as if from nowhere. I'm sure that there is a scientific explanation for these atmospheric delights, but since I'm unable to explain it (and even if I could) I am quite content with the notion that, once in awhile, it is simply magic that graces my world, sometimes in the form of a perfectly frosted landscape.

Monday, December 10, 2007

wish boxes, new beginnings, and a full heart.

A few weeks ago, Jamie wrote a post about the wish box that she made. Shortly after, Fiona made one too. The idea has been haunting me ever since and so, for my birthday yesterday, I promised to give myself unadulterated time to work on a wish box of my own.

I started my project the night before with a trip to the paper store where I stocked up on enough paper for a few other projects as well (including a new "33 journal"...which I will post photos of once I make it). Oh, delicious PAPER!! I am in love with Paper Gami. I tell you: in LOVE!

I am now 33 years old and, for some reason, this seems like a good, solid number to me. 33 is a balanced number. The edges of a 3 are round and open to possibility. 33 is more alive and spontaneous than 32 (at least, for me). 32 is a nice number. It was a year of healing. 32 included some pretty profound and sometimes painful internal shifting. But 33 has elbows to protect itself. 33 has an element of rebellion built into it. 33 is not too young and not too old. 33 is confident and willing to take chances. 33 has more fun.

Yes, so for my birthday this year I indulged myself heavily in a day of self-care (much to my husband's dismay). 32 was wonderful in many ways, but it sucked in just as many. Let me just say: I'm happy to move on. 32 was a major transition between my old life and the one I am living now. 33, I believe, is going to be the year that I make things happen. And you know what? I am oddly excited about this year. I can't really explain it, but I feel like some really wonderful things are going to start to happen for me.

I felt most alive when I was in my early twenties. I lived my life to the farthest reaches and back again. And, for some reason, I feel like my mid-thirties are going to be a whole new era of aliveness and unexpected adventures.

While working on my wish box I was thinking about what it is that I want it to represent and attract. There were several words that kept repeating through my head.

ROOTED. ABUNDANCE. CALM.

I spent a long time yesterday writing in my journal about where I've been and where I want to go. I'm beginning to see how even the painful bits of the past few years have led me to the precipice of where I am right now. I think the painful parts have, in their own way, made me a better person. It's taught me who I am. And at 33 I feel more solid within myself than I ever have in my entire life. 33 is strong. It's independent, but it's also open-hearted. 33 is a good year to be exactly the type of woman that I want to be.

And thank you for all of your awesome birthday wishes. You, my friends, make my heart feel FULL!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

the gift of nothing.

Because tomorrow is my birthday, I've decided to give myself the best gift possible: the gift of nothing (no, not the book--although it is good). That is, the gift of DO nothing. I have a full day planned of:
  • staying in my pajamas until at least noon
  • enjoying my first cup of coffee buried under a warm pile of blankets and cats and a dog
  • lighting a fire in the fire place
  • eating lots of fruit or nachos or whatever I want
  • lounging around on the couch for hours on end
  • reading books and magazines and watching really stupid tv
  • going out for either a late brunch or maybe dinner with my husband
  • spending as much time as I'd like in the aisles of a book store
  • a nice long bout of journal writing
  • and a whole lot of n o t h i n g ...oh, wondrous NOTHING!
This, I'm finding, is a very difficult thing for me to do. But in order to evade the temptation of productivity (the doom of any and all relaxation), there are rules to my do-nothing day. They are:
  • I may NOT feel guilty about doing nothing
  • I may NOT feel like I should do something because it needs to get done
  • I may NOT cook, clean, or run errands
  • I may NOT use my time wisely in any way
  • I may NOT do anything work, thesis, work, or other work related
  • I may NOT worry about what time it is
  • And, once again (because I'm a slow learner), I may NOT feel guilty about doing nothing.
...but I suppose that I should clarify that by "nothing," what I really mean is ANYTHING! Tomorrow I get to do anything I want, but the thing I really want to do the most is enjoy a nice sized dose of nothin' at all.

Want to join me? I cordially invite you to lavish yourself with complete laziness and absolute comfort. Oh, sweet Sunday birthdays! Lazy, lazy, wonderful Sunday.... ;)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

selected quotations (and other musings) from Life.

"When you travel towards your objective,
be sure to pay attention to the path.
The path teaches us the best way to arrive
and enriches us while we are traveling along."
~ Paulo Coelho

Having just finished eating an orange, its citrus fragrance reminds me, for some reason, of old school desks or of the crooked little house I briefly rented in my early twenties. In that house I had a turquoise kitchen table, read books on zen, grew an enormous spider plant, and was fond of burning orange scented incense. I worked in a coffee shop, wrote a lot, and liked listening to Elizabeth Cotton sing about freight trains.

I wish I could write everything in color, but maybe I'm saying that because I spent the evening painting in my studio. It's been roughly a month since I last picked up my paint brushes, but a few recent Etsy sales have inspired me to create some new pieces. I lost my momentum with painting when I immersed myself more deeply in writing. Then today, after eating lunch at a wonderful art-filled cafe with M., I found myself overcome with a craving for color.

So I went home and started painting. This time I chose a little bit bigger canvas because last night I rearranged the house to make room for our Christmas tree and now have a big blank spot in the dining room where I used to have a stack of over-sized paintings stacked up against the wall. They have been temporarily banished to basement, but that's ok because now I'm looking forward to hanging something new. I've decided to paint several random sized pieces, hang them in a grouping, and then put them up for sale on my Etsy. Each time one sells I'll make a new one and, in this way, gain a fresh perspective on my art. This process of creation and release makes me think of the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas. I want to create a flow of art in my life.

Flow.

That is a word that I would like to incorporate more fully into my life. To be flowing, one must be willing to accept the transitory nature of all things.

Since signing up for Jamie's Circe's Circle a few days ago, I've noticed my energy shift once again towards art-making. I started my Etsy with high ambitions, got distracted and busy with other things and, in the end, became discouraged. However, I've become much more aware of how the energy I put out into the world is met by equal energy. My Etsy sales slowed down, because my energy shifted away from it.

On a creative level, there are three things that are most important for me right now. They are:
  1. Writing (finishing my thesis).
  2. Painting (for my Etsy).
  3. Web Design (freelance).
I also find it important to achieve some financial stability. This doesn't necessarily need to be through creative endeavors, but it does need to be fulfilling and satisfying in a way that allows me enough energy and inspiration at the end of the day in order to pursue my other interests.

Eventually, V. and I want to leave the city. We want forests and stars and room to roam. I can't help but notice how all of my current endeavors and desires are part of the process of working towards that goal (and beyond). The details are a still a mystery to me and there are days when I feel stretched much too thin, but I must admit that the path is quite interesting when I take the time to appreciate it. Maybe someday I'll look back at the way my life was when I was in my early thirties with the same rich sort of pleasure that I get in looking back at my twenties. Note to self: Enjoy... because "the path teaches us the best way to arrive and enriches us while we are traveling along."

*quotation from LIFE, by Paulo Coelho.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

wednesday morning thoughts...

I got up early this morning so that I could get ready and be out of the way for the painter who is returning to finish our bathroom. Just as the coffee finished brewing he called to say he can't make it until tomorrow because of an emergency. He's a nice Italian man (like my husband, but twice as old) who has a daughter the same age and with the same name as me. These little details seem to give us an instant comfortability with each other and it makes me miss having a strong father-figure in my life. Maybe it's not fair to put it like that because, after all, I do have a father and our relationship seems to slowly be returning to some level of normal after a very sad and distant couple of years.

But where did that come from? My god, I sat down to tell you how happy I am that the painter can't make it today because that means I can use this extra time to enjoy a strong cup of Costa Rican coffee at a leisurely pace and finally update my blog. I've been missing my blog lately. Funny how that happens, ey? Sometimes I yearn to write like I used to. What I mean by that is that I have this perpetual assumption that I used to be a better writer, that I used to be better at capturing the moment, and that these days my blogging has become too much feeling and too little description. It gives me this floaty sort of feeling (yep, there's another feeling) and I find myself really hungry for the grounding factors of details and description. After all, my favorite thing in the world are the details.

Details: There is a stack of 14 books to the left of my elbow, all of which I am reading. And there are another 5 books in my bag out in the living room that I checked out from the library last night. I've been wondering what it will be like to no longer have a destination for my writing (school) and found myself in a state of elation as I sat with a stack of writing books in an odd shaped chair facing a window whose darkness reflected every ounce of excitement held within my body. The elation, which I still feel even now, stems from the notion that there is really no end to this writing life. And, even though I've known this all along, the re-realization of it never ceases to amaze me.

Oh yeah, but there I go talking about feelings again. Really, what I love most about writing is the way it causes me to associate every single little concrete thing with a memory, an experience, an emotion. Writing is endless like that. I've missed my blog because I miss being immersed in that way of thinking. Painting, on the other hand, is the moment before language, when language isn't enough. Painting is the breath you take before speaking. I only include these thoughts about painting because I have a hard time separating my writing and painting selves. It seems that, over time, I have become one, but never without the other.

On my desk I also have a bronze Dog-Buddha statue. It is a perfect combination of shininess and texture. It is unassuming and quiet, and all of the animals are attracted to it. Louis sniffs it and the cats rub up against it. I bought it a couple weeks ago to remind me to live from my center and listen to my heart. It has also become an internal logo for my web design endeavors. I look at it often and it has a strange, centering affect on me. The body sits cross-legged in meditation, but it has the head of a dog who looks much like Louis when he is at his calmest. Perhaps what I am most attracted to in this statue is the way it radiates love. Can a bronze statue radiate love? Well, if not, then it somehow manages to pull love from the center of my chest--love connected by threads made of filaments of the universe. They are the sort of threads that defy description. I could try, but words never seem to get it right. Words get it wrong, no matter which ones I use. The most profound experience I've ever had with these threads was when my great-grandmother died. I was holding her hand when it happened. The air opened up, just a sliver, and those threads slipped through. She was 105.

Anyway, the painter didn't come today and I have time to write...and this is the inside of my mind. Which leads me to wonder not only why I write, but what causes the desire to share it in this way. In one of the books I'm reading, The Business of Memory: The Art of Remembering in an Age of Forgetting, Lydia Davis asks:
“Why do I want the past (the material contained in my memory) to live on in the present? Why do I want evidence of it now? And why do I want someone else to know, too? Why am I not content to leave it where it is and remember it in solitude”
I am fascinated by these questions and, despite my best attempts, my own explanations fall short every time. I want to have a conversation with you. So tell me, what do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Quarterlife Blog Drama

I read about Quarterlife in the newspaper today under a headline reading "Web-only shows now ready for prime time."

The main character, Dylan, says things like "we blog to exist" and "I often find myself crying for no reason and find out later there was a huge reason I was unaware of." She uses her online diary as a writerly venue to muse over the deep, dark secrets of her closest friends. Apparently, these 8-minute episodes just might debut on NBC as hour long versions sometime in 2008--and it's not hard to imagine the explosion of personal blogs if it happens.

My heart sort of skipped a beat when I read the article. I was at work, on an island without internet, when I read it. I mean, a show about a bloggers?! *eeeeh!* Aren't we all, in our own way, looking for whatever it is that reflects the deep-certain-something that we are continuously trying to make meaning of? Needless to say, I watched all 5 episodes in one go.

Never mind that it's mostly about skinny girls, boys, fucked up self-worth, skinny girls, and boys. I think it's about other profundities as well, but it kept getting lost in boy-drama. Even so, there's a few insightful little statements peppered throughout. I admit that I like it--even if it is just blogger junk food.

Watch it for yourself here. I highly suggest starting at the beginning. Then again--does it really matter? Since we're talking blogs, does it really matter where you pick up the story line?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

who me? nothing to say??

Is it possible that I actually don't have anything to blog about?? Wow. This never happens. I think this means something...like maybe I should get some things done and out of the way so that I can think more clearly. Or maybe I should do interesting things on a more regular basis. Or maybe I need to read a really good book. Or......

?

You know that feeling of: "I want something to eat, but I don't know what it is"? Well, I sort of feel like: "I have something I want to say, but I don't know what it is." Hmmm...

I think I need some mental nutrition.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

love to my rockstar friends :)

Due to a really wonderful email, this morning I was reminded to be thankful for my my friends. There are so many things to be thankful for and it never even dawned on me to think of Thanksgiving as a day to actually think about the things I'm grateful for. Mostly, I was thinking about what time we should leave for my grandparents' house and what the traffic might be like and how many rawhides I should bring for Louis to keep him out of trouble while we're there.

Today I am grateful to still have active, healthy grandparents whom I love and am loved by. It is snowing--pretty, soft falling snowflakes. The ground has a light covering for the first time this year. I am grateful for winter and snuggling dogs and a smiling husband and this very divine extra dark French roast coffee that I am drinking from one of my favorite cups.

Want to know what else I'm thankful for?? I am thankful for YOU, my blogging friends. Thank you for inspiring me, motivating me, supporting me, growing with me, believing in me, thinking with me...thank you for sharing your friendship. You are all a seriously positive force in my life! :)

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

refill.

Tomorrow, I am happy to say, I am going to take some time off to spend the day with my husband visiting the Walker and the Minneapolis Institute of Art with a lunch date sandwiched in between. Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe on the same day?! OMG. Perhaps I'll write more if it's even possible to describe the ecstasy I'm sure to experience. This is just the sort of break I need. Thank you, Universe. And thank you everyone else for the kind of comments that you left on the last post.

I also treated myself to the latest copy of Art Forum (because there are such incredible images of artwork and studios within its many pages) and a wonderfully RED shirt since I've been wanting something red to wear ever since starting the "Be Brave" project. It is reserved for days when I want or need to feel especially brave. I have a feeling that I will probably wear it often in the coming weeks.

In other news , I finally finished writing a cover letter that I had been avoiding for several days. Avoidance really takes a toll on me and is part of the reason I have been feeling so drained. In the end, I decided to do the only thing possible and simply write from the heart. Why did I spend so much time making my life difficult? I mean, I think it might just be my best cover letter yet.

Tomorrow I'll get a much needed dose of strong woman energy--but, for now, it is off too bed. My dreams, these days, have been vivid. I've been doing my best to pay attention because, even in their strangeness, my dream-time insights have been somewhat startling in their accuracy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

tapped out.

Tonight I am feeling unbelievably tapped out. Actually, I've been feeling that way for the last couple days, but tonight I seem to have hit the bottom of the barrel. For the life of me, I cannot seem to just give myself an utterly guilt-free break. After all, I have things to do. But I always have things to do. When did I learn to think that the only time I am worth anything is when I'm accomplishing something? Well, I suppose that's a dumb question, isn't it. Like most of us, I learned it while growing up and watching the people around me. I remember, at one point in my life, feeling pleased with myself for having escaped the many disfunctions of my family. Turns out, I was just late to blossom.

The other day I worked outside bundling white pine, cedar, and juniper boughs while the sky snowed, snowed, snowed and blew cold wind. The stone Buddha sat quietly, serene--his eyes closed yet somehow watching me as my heart was bursting into a thousand snowflakes. Underneath all of these conflicting emotions (rage, hope, despair, gratitude), there is a sense of peace. Right now, however, it feels ever-so-frustratingly just out of reach.

Maybe it's only hormonal, but I feel like I'm about ready to crumble.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

a sense of satisfaction.













I find the need to romanticize my job today in order to keep myself sane. Things have been a bit quiet here at the ol’ garden shop, but today I woke up at the crack of dawn to unload half a semi-truck worth of Christmas trees. I would have been crankier about it except for the fact that I find an odd sense of enjoyment in these outdoorsy sorts of physical activities. Not to mention, the smell of pine is intoxicating. Autumn leaves drifted and swirled upward in strong wind currents. Everyone walking to and from the coffee shop next door was exceptionally friendly. It seems that, in general, the smell of pine trees has this effect on people. Ok…so never mind that it was dark when I woke up. Never mind that my back is now stiffening. Never mind that I had to coordinate something I shouldn’t have had anything to do with. I admit it: I enjoyed myself. And I feel more connected to things than I have in several days.

Maybe that’s all I needed…a little extra exercise to loosen up and release all those emotional toxins that have been knocked loose during the course of the past couple weeks. Such a simple solution—I forget—is exercise. It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to throw around Christmas trees. Trees are good medicine. Even if they have (unfortunately) been cut down and transported from another state. True, I prefer the deep forests, but in this urban landscape I’ll take what I can get.

These days, I’ve been feeling a persistent urge to keep working on my thesis. Actually, I don’t want to do it, but there is not a second of the day that I’m not thinking about it (except while hauling trees, that is!). I completed another 4 (rough) pages yesterday in between a yard work, a visit to the dog park, sending a few emails, and dinner—a straggling paragraph here, another there. Finally, I had to tell myself: STOP! Other than the four pages I pieced together yesterday, progress has been slow. I beg myself to keep moving forward while reminding myself that, eventually, I will reach the very end. When I get really stuck, I do 15 minute freewrites (alla Peter Elbow), then move on to a new thought. It turns out that those freewrites have become the bulk of my most recent pages.

Last night, to keep myself from total and absolute burnout, I did the wise thing and took a break by going on a little shopping excursion with V (paints for me, pants for him). Once back home, I shifted focus to my other current obsession: web design. I’m presently working on several projects at once and, oh my, I would be so happy to just spend entire days CREATING!!

One thing that I am learning about myself is that I enjoy work that allows me to move around and mix things up. When things get monotonous, I tend to turn off. But multi-tasking on compatible projects? Yes, I love that idea—but compatibility between projects, I’m noticing, is key. And, uh… time management (which is something I would love to get better at). I thrive off of feeling a sense of personal investment in what I do. However, I also need to learn when to call it quits and just relax. It’s a continual process though, isn’t it? To live a seamless life—is that even possible? Maybe not, but what I’m striving towards are things that turn me on, not shut me off.

And so I have two questions for myself: What brings me satisfaction? And how might I create a life based on those things?

* * *

Friday, November 09, 2007

a sense of place

I would like to report that I finished the last 10 pages of my thesis with gusto and then broke open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the accomplishment. This, however, is not the case. Luckily, I’ve spent the past month and a half practicing bravery, and so I am using my newly discovered courage to carry me through this last little expanse of thesis writing—the part that stretches out before me in all its unruly disarray. In 4 days I’ve written 3 pages that are worth acknowledging along with several more pages that will be used for kindling if I should ever make the effort time to actually print them out.

I’ve come to realize over the course of the last several days that this is not the sort of writing that I can simply pump out and send off. Perhaps I set myself up for failure by expecting to finish the remaining 10 pages in 3 short days. This last bit of writing that I am currently working on will act as the "introduction" to the creative portion of my project. In short, I am attempting to summarize my topic, explain its importance, and offer a brief discussion about the genre to which it belongs.

It turns out that trying to bundle up some of the most difficult years of my life into a polished little package is extremely, well…hard. And emotional. There are numerous layers of separation and letting go is possibly the hardest one of all. Letting go is, after all, the final farewell.

This entire project is centered on the notion of a sense of place. It is made up of a collection of personal essays, all of which are inspired by the thoughts and experiences that have come about within the past 3 years—spanning from the time I put my place out in the country up for sale, until now. The topic of my thesis is about leaving a place I once loved, a place of magic, a place that spoke directly to my soul. But, more than that, my thesis is about my attempt to once again find my place in the world.

Writing a simple summary—how could I know that it would open up such a flood gate of tears and old emotions? I’ve been trying to meet a page count, untangle the messiest years of my life, and lay it to rest all at once. I now realize that expecting myself to finish the last 10 pages in a certain number of days was asking too much of myself. I had no idea that all this other stuff would push itself so forcefully to the surface. In my tarot reading, Jamie said that I would cry for my old self and for the way things were (and, whoa, was she right!)--but I didn’t know that it would happen now and be about this particular part of myself. I wasn’t expecting this.

There is a quote that I recently stumbled upon by Scott Russell Sanders who writes: “There’s no need to go looking for a home, of course, unless you’re lost. I have been lost, in ways no map could remedy.”

There have been two places in the span of my life, so far, where I truly felt at home. And they are also the only two places that caused such a deep surge of tears, upon leaving. One of those places was India. The other was a wild plot of land in the middle of nowhere, northern Minnesota. Two years ago I sold that plot of land along with the house that I built with my own hands and moved to a small rented house in town and then to the middle of a big city. These past several years, it turns out, have been a profoundly transitional time.

This week I cried over the place in the country that I once loved. I miss it there intensely. I cried for my dog, Abe, who died one early gray morning just before the move. That was the day my heart truly broke. I cried because, the week following, my grandpa also died. I miss his smile in a way that words don't understand. These things, along with a horribly stressful grad school experience and the divorce of my parents after 33 years, happened in one fell swoop. I experienced a tremendous amount of loss all at once. In the process, I lost my sense of direction—the result of too much stress and conflict and upheaval all at once? I lost my footing and, in little bits and pieces, the world dropped out from under me. Even so, I've done my best to buck up and move on.

And so here I am, writing about it in order to let go of it. I’ve come to this little cafĂ© in the middle of the city with its small table pushed up close to these over-sized warehouse windows so that I might better hear the words that are doing their best to push their way to the surface. Only glass separates me from a busy sidewalk filled with the chattery vibrations of school children and, beyond them, an occasional siren that conflicts with the deeper, more constant, rumblings of downtown traffic. In a place so completely opposite from the one I left behind, I’ve come here to say goodbye.

There is an Albert Camus quote that I have tacked up on the wall next to my desk at home that says: “Live to the point of tears.” And so I have. I have loved so very deeply and I recognize that this surely is a blessing.

*image:
"Release"
48"x60"x1"
original oil on canvas
(sold)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

my day in 2 parts and 3 videos...

The Distraction:





The Solution:
(sorry...i'm rambling. and that head-bobble-thing I'm doing? can i blame it on a quirk of the camera?) :)-

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

in search of the muse

words. words. where are you? lost under a pile of papers? buried in a book i have yet to discover? silenced by a chattering monkey mind? distracted by emergency water work and an exploding toilet? playing hide and seek among endless aisles of library book shelves?

come out, come out, where ever you are. even just a whisper, dear words. i miss you.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Acts of Bravery...and then some!

"Courage is not the absence of fear but the judgment that something else is more important than fear. . . . For now you are traveling the road between who you think you are and who you can be." ~Meg Cabot

A couple of days ago I invited all of you to send me a list of the brave things that you have accomplished so that I could compile our list together. These are some seriously wonderful acts of bravery, my friends!!

If you still want to add something to the list, it's not too late. Everyone is invited to add their acts of bravery--big or small. Once again, just send me an email or leave a comment. I'll keep adding to this list over the next few days.

What staggers me the most is the feeling of STRENGTH IN NUMBERS!!! :) You people amaze me!!
  1. I had a job interview-me and six people and It was very hard and I did not do a great job but I am owning that and there you have it:)
  2. sent a 30 poem manuscript to a small pubisher
  3. responded to their kind rejection letter by calling the editor and asking for feedback
  4. followed his recommendation and applied to the colrain poetry manuscript conference
  5. got accepted!
  6. started a short story about a great love affair
  7. brought my mom to my house to live for awhile
  8. let go of an uneven friendship
  9. made cards from my photos
  10. let myself love
  11. reviving my counseling business.
  12. Wrote my first Amazon Vine review.
  13. Discovered in my heart that I deserve nice things, ordered a designer key fob.
  14. Stood up for myself.
  15. Made first video ever.
  16. Conquered my fear of groups. Really!
  17. Took a yoga class.
  18. Grounded my health by giving up sugar & refined carbs & alcohol.
  19. Started a low carb diet.
  20. Decided to stay sober, sugar-free, and refined carb-free for a good while.
  21. Decided to do NaNoWriMo, a writing challenge.
  22. Became more authentic on my blog.
  23. Attempted to get more sleep (still have work here).
  24. Eventually stopped putting myself down for my hair.
  25. Made first video Amazon review.
  26. Did first guest blog spot on a blog.
  27. Opened up to a new friend.
  28. Figured out how to use my new word processor.
  29. Took on procrastination and broke through it many times.
  30. Said no to good things that weren't right for me.
  31. Learned how to give myself permission to take a break.
  32. Became more comfortable with receiving good things from the Universe.
  33. Began to lose weight.
  34. Began to feel my feelings.
  35. Experimented with being present.
  36. Decided to adopt being present as a spiritual practice.
  37. Started and continued to due yoga every day.
  38. Shook up my patterns by doing things differently.
  39. Discovered that I could be brave with the flu.
  40. Learned to face difficult intimate conversations better.
  41. Discovered the ease that comes with perseverance.
  42. Eliminated clutter on To Do List.
  43. Cleaned my pantry.
  44. Did things imperfectly with comfort.
  45. Dealt with my most feared person ever.
  46. Learned to trust that the Universe will come through for me.
  47. Practiced keeping myself safe.
  48. Had video featured for the first time on another blog.
  49. Stopped out-of-control late night eating.
  50. Decided to help create a Complaint-Free World.
  51. Found out that things could be easy instead of hard, if I wanted them to.
  52. Discovered that being afraid is something I can move through.
  53. Surprised myself with what I could do.
  54. Fell in love with this community.
  55. Committed with all my heart to move back to Spain and build my coaching career.
  56. Gave notice on my flat.
  57. Canceled some subscriptions on my bank account.
  58. Arranged an interview with a company I used to work for in Madrid.
  59. Booked my flights for the interview.
  60. Made contact with contacts in Spain telling then about my plans and asking for help me on my journey.
  61. Asked a client who doesn't pay me to pay me.
  62. Started copying all of my late father's CDs onto my laptop so that I can let go of their physical bodies!
  63. I have been nurturing my wounded, scared little heart with tender words and brave commitments to its desires.
  64. It has started to beat louder and thumping, red and juicy and full of joy, so that I always know its there.
  65. My heart full of joy has kept me laughing and free from blame and judgement through a big restructure at work.
  66. The braver my heart is, the more joy it creates in this body that's my home while I'm here and the more I am able to let go of attachment and I chose to take conscious action from this place every day.
  67. I ask myself "Are you awake?" just so that I am 100% sure that I am present and at choice no matter how much difficulty is going on around me.
  68. I bought some clothes that are the real, authentic me and they keep me brave.
  69. One of the outfits is leggings, boots and a lovely aubergine top that gets me a lot of attention. I would never have worn this at 20 even though I was 10 pounds thinner and 18 years younger. Too scared, I was hiding. Being brave lets me light up a room sometimes without feeling embarassed about my body.
  70. I posted a proper picture of myself on my blog for all to see!
  71. I've been making a huge effort to connect with more people. I've always been shy and so chatting and joking with people I dont really know is a new and thrilling pleasure. And the good thing is that nowadays, people seem to naturally want to chat with me. I like it.
  72. I started working with two clients who asked me to work with them about two months ago and I never acted on it.
  73. I have asked all of my clients if they will still work with me when I move and so far they have all said yes!
  74. I leave comments more regularly on blogs that I like and connect with even more people.
  75. Composing an email about coaching asking friends and family to spread the word for me.
    22. Confronting my fear of rejection by asking for what I want. If I want to spend time with someone I tell them.
  76. In line with that fear, going through embarassment and just to name and say what's really going on for me is truly liberating.
  77. I was inspired by the Be Brave project to attend a job fair, shake hands
    over and over and pass out my resume multiple times.
  78. Applied for a job as curator of education at the Crocker Art Museum
  79. Applied for a job as education program coordinator at Museum of the African Diaspora
  80. Submitted work into an international show. If my work is accepted it will be shown in a highly reputable gallery in London
  81. Was nominated take a trip to Europe as part of the International Scholar Laureate Program. While this scares the crap out of me I am gathering information to go.
  82. Changed my hairstyle after wearing it in a way that was easy and comfortable for 2 years
  83. Inquired about studio space at the place I had my art show a week ago
  84. Inquired about a gallery that I have submitted work at before without response but have being encouraged to try again several times by about four artists this museum represents
  85. Signed up for Nanowrimo - National Novel Writing Month. While the book I want to write isn't a novel, I figured this activity would be just the push to get it all down on paper
  86. Agreed to speak in front of a group of women about starting an art collection
  87. Making hearts, stars, and joy ornaments with the hope that they will sell throughout the holiday season
  88. Filing away old bills and clearing clutter (a brave act simply because I do not want to deal with it)
  89. Applied for a portrait artist job.
  90. Applied for a retail manager position. I was offered a job, but turned it down because it didn't pay well enough to justify it. Upon reflection I was glad that it worked out the way it did because, if I were to be honest with myself, it is not the kind of work I want to do anyway.
  91. Worked on my thesis (and I'm almost done!).
  92. Encountered wild animals up close, including two bears and an entire pack of wolves in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Now that was (wonderfully) scary!
  93. Went on a solo writing retreat.
  94. Got my bangs cut extra short.
  95. Went shopping for a nice outfit that made me feel good, wore high heels, and went out to a restaurant that sported more silverware than I knew what to do with!
  96. Walked out into the deep, black, night through mist and crashing waves. Such darkness. I was terrified!
  97. Started eating smaller portions for meals and traded crackers and chips for apples--and have, since then, lost a few pounds.
  98. Posted a video of myself on my blog. Yow! Did I really do that?!
  99. Built a website banner for someone inspired by a dream image. I was intimidated by it at first, but ended up having so much fun creating it!
  100. Learned how to use my new pen tablet that I had been avoiding for weeks.
  101. Made great strides in learning new Photoshop techniques. This has already been so incredibly helpful in terms of my web design projects and fun, too!
  102. Started pulling together the inklings of a new book.
  103. Looked into getting fine art prints of my paintings.
  104. Applied for a advising/counseling position. It is the kind of job that I would love!
  105. Shared my blog address with my mom.
  106. Had my tarot read. Wonderful, amazing, life-changing.
  107. Learned how to solve computer challenges without asking for help.
  108. Went shopping for jeans even though I was afraid that they would all look horrible on me and that I would go home feeling bad about my body. However, I surprised myself by finding a pair that fit perfect and that I feel great in!
  109. Lined up an art show for spring.
  110. Cleaned, organized, and cleared out the negative energy in my office. It feels great and is so much more conducive to getting things done and feeling comforted.
  111. Made lasagna from scratch for the first time ever.
  112. Started really and truly believing in myself and my dreams.
  113. Inquired about 2 more web design projects--and got them both!
  114. Bought a new domain for our web design business that better reflects me. We're in the process of revamping the whole site in a way that better reflects my work.
  115. Started wearing jewelery and clothes that feel more like me and noticed how much brighter my energy shines when I am simply me.
  116. Was honest with myself and stuck to my guns when confronted with an "opportunity" that would undermine my personal goals.
  117. Made a list of priorities...then got real with myself. I have a tendency to stretch myself always too thin and always too far. So I shifted things around so that there are only two ranked under "#1 Priority."
  118. Did a "letting go" ritual
  119. A stay at home mother of two years applied for a position that would allow her to get back into her profession, but still be able to pour ample amounts of energy into her favorite job: being a mom.
  120. A professional photographer did something that she always wanted to do and started taking photos of strangers--with great success!
  121. Got courageous and signed up and went to a weekend long weaving workshop.
  122. Got even more courageous and, even though it was hard, got honest with someone important.
  123. I have taken time off blogging in order to look deeper, all alone.
  124. I have taken medical tests I have been putting off, in order to be proactive in my own health.
  125. I went off my anti depressant (ok'd by doctor!)
  126. I shared some very personal information with someone that needed to hear it.
  127. I worked out a big problem (dog related) with a neighbor on our street.
Is there an act of bravery that you would like to add? ;)

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you." ~Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

Ok, I feel like I've been running at break-neck speeds towards something all evening...but it's time to try and slow down. I've made myself a cup of wonderfully spicy Ruby Chai with cream and and a little bit of sugar. Ooooh, yummmm....

But what I'm really doing is attempting to give myself a break before I head off on one last writing retreat. This time, however, I don't get to go anywhere (unless, perhaps, I go across town). My hours, this week, were cut once again for no particular reason except that, I'm convinced, the universe is conspiring in my favor to help me actually finish my thesis. I'll have three days off in a row and, in that time, I hope to buckle down and write the bulk of the critical portion of this project and, although it is something that I feel a fair amount of anxiety over, it is also something that makes me feel a great deal of excitement because it means that I am on the last stretch to the finish line. To have a finished draft that I can actually, tangibly hand over to my adviser...HOLY YES!!!!

And so the next three days I only partially exist in this world. Mostly I will exist only in books and in my head and in anonymous coffee shops and in the library. I've been a bit jealous of all you folks who are participating in such things as NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo...but, alas, the next three days are mine to blissfully immerse myself in writing. I feel very blessed to have this little chunk of time and so I am going to do my best to enjoy it. My arsenal: coffee, rose petal tea, candles, walks through leaves and along lakes, coffee shops, healthy food, my trusty laptop, a relatively clean desk, a very large stack of books, and good music. I mean, does that not sound blissful?? ;)

I recently read in Ask and It Is Given: "It is not your job to make something happen--Universal Forces are in place for all of that. Your work is to simply determine what you want." Well, I want to finish my thesis so that I can move on. Plain and simple. I think it's interesting that my hours should be cut at this particular time (they'll go back to normal next week). A good friend recently said to me: "Jessie--this is it--in every way the universe is speaking to you--nudging you forward--trying to toss you out of your nest so to speak..." Those words speak very truthfully to me and I've been thinking about that a lot lately.

Things have a way of working out and I think that if I just keep going with the flow, things are going to work out well. Mind you, going with the flow is not exactly easy. But it feels right and so, in that sense, even the hard work feels good. I'm ready to do whatever it is that I have to do. More than ready, actually.

ps.
Last night I had a dream that I was committing random acts of art by leaving paintings and drawings in odd places for other people to find. I left them taped to sidewalks and tucked in the crooks of trees and any other odd place that I felt inspired to leave them. It wasn't long before The Administration got together to talk about it. No one knew who was leaving the artwork scattered about, but The Administration wasn't happy about it at all. It became widespread campus news and eventually it was all over the local news (oh my!). haha! I was having so much fun leaving random artwork for others to find because it always made the people that found it so unexpectedly happy! Towards the end of my dream, even my Dad (who had previously abandoned me) came to stand up for me and The Administration lost their battle against my random acts of art. It was the weirdest dream. But, well...all things considered, it makes perfect sense. I keep dreaming about art and making art. Geez...do you think my dreams are trying to tell me something??

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Letting go...

"I saw the angel in the marble,
and carved until
I set him free."
~Michelangelo


I received this photo as a gift from my very beautiful friend, Maddie, with a quote and a few loving words about how this Be Brave project has helped to set her free. I gazed at the image in silence for a long, long time...and its beauty, its optimism, its sense of freedom, its boundlessness brought tears to my eyes. I imagined the bird, the moment it found release from its cage and the thought takes my breath away. What that moment must have felt like! Her photo speaks to me on such a deep level. She has captured a moment that is so raw and beautiful and innately powerful!

These days, I feel exceedingly tender and capable all at the same time. It is a strange combination and leaves me feeling very thin-skinned and emotional. I also feel very receptive. This is hard to explain, but I feel as though the universe has brought me to a very unusual space of receiving. It makes me feel a little bit topsy-turvy. It also makes my heart feel incredibly full.

On Halloween night, after V. went to bed and the world was quiet, I acted on Jamie's suggestion and did a "letting go" ritual. I took out a stack of index cards and a black permanent marker and, on each card, I wrote something that I needed to let go of. Through Jamie's tarot reading, I have come to realize just how much emotional weight I have been carrying around with me these past couple of years and how important it was that I let it go in order to move on. I wrote down the biggest things first and with those thoughts came tears from somewhere very deep down. But then I kept writing...and writing...and writing. I wrote down every single thing that I needed to let go of. One thought sparked the next, sparked the next, sparked the next. And before I knew it I had filled up an awful lot of little index cards.

Still, there were four things that caused the most pain. They felt like an illness that is hard to get rid of...and so, for those, I took out 4 bigger index cards and I wrote them down again, this time in big, fat letters--one word, no explanation.

Then I went outside with a lighter, set up the little weber grill, and started lighting them on fire. One card at a time. I read the index card out loud and then turned it to flame. And as it burned, I told myself: "It's time to let it go." As the flame crept its way across the paper, I felt each and every thing that had been weighing me down grow wings and release itself from my heart. One thing after another after another after another. I got to the end of the stack and was left with the last four large cards. The grand finale of release! Oddly enough, the most emotionally difficult card was also the slowest to take the flame. I had to relight it several times. But finally...oh, FIRE! It is such a beautiful thing!

I'll admit, I half expected to be sitting in a dark back yard in the middle of the night sobbing like an idiot...but as I burned those cards I felt only a sense of lightness. I felt myself breathing more deeply. I felt forgiveness--for both myself and for those who had been a part of my pain. I felt the strangest and most liberating feeling: release. In simplest terms, I felt good, happy, uncluttered!

That night, I again dreamed of the snake.

The next day I found myself involved in several wonderful moments of connecting with strangers. One of these people was an old woman who had ridden a bus all night from Chicago. I met her walking down a sidewalk. I said good morning and the next thing I knew we were talking about coffee and sleep habits and bus schedules and laughed good belly laughs. She seemed lonely at first and so I was just trying to be nice, but before we parted ways, she thanked me for the good conversation--her gratitude was so sincere that, in the end, I was the one that was thankful! The whole day went like this. Throughout the afternoon I met several artists who, for unknown reasons, totally opened up to me and showed me their art. It was fabulous and I felt so energized by our conversations! Later in the day, a customer overheard me talking about the web design projects I've been working on and asked if I would be able create a site for him!

Last night I dreamed that my friend and I saw Diego Rivera in the grocery store. Diego was leaning on his shopping cart, puttering around and turning down an aisle when my friend yelled: "Hey Diego! What day is it?" Diego took a few moments to get his bearings and yelled back: "Uh...um...Friday!" It was a wonderful everyday sort of moment that oddly fueled my inspiration to get back to my studio (where ever that was) to get some work done. My dreams continued on in several other directions. In some I was really scared. In others I was completely in love. I woke up feeling incredibly entertained.

~ ~ ~
I feel like I'm in a dream and that, every day, I just keep remembering the details.
~ ~ ~

ps.
Want to see more of Maddie's beautiful photography? Visit her Etsy here: "courage my love"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween! Merry Samhain! And Happy "Be Brave"!

It is Halloween tonight and I can feel the energy in the air. Being what I thought would be the end of the Be Brave Project, this feels like a very important night for me. Samhain, in the Gaelic tradition, is the night that we celebrate the harvest. For me, it is the night that I celebrate all of the hard work that myself and all of you have accomplished through each and every act of bravery that's been committed in the past month. Tonight I celebrate the ability to move past fear. I celebrate courage. I celebrate Eleanor Roosevelt. I celebrate community. I celebrate darkness. And I celebrate moving past it.

I celebrate you.
I celebrate us.

I celebrate the belief that anything is possible
when we simply get out of our own way!

Tonight I celebrate the fact that
this is not the end of this project,
but only the very baby beginning.


On Thursday, September 27th I started the Be Brave Project and dared myself to do one thing every day that scares me. I don't know what I expected from it. All I know is that I was starting to feel a very deep need for change in my life. For thirty-five days I've been watching myself transform into someone that I can love. Does that sound cheesy? Well, yes, I'm cheesy then. This challenge has taken more time, energy, and concentration than anything I've ever done before. Yes, even more concentration and energy than hiking the Himalayas!! It has required me to be focused. It has required me to be confident. It has required me to stand up for myself and to push myself further than I would have otherwise.

It has taught me to listen to my heart. It has also taught me that I have a lot to let go of before I can truly move on. It has taught me that I have it in me to be anything and anyone that I want to be. It has taught me to believe in myself and in my dreams. I have come to the conclusion that, what I want more than anything, is to be myself--fully and completely me. And what I've come to understand is that is what the universe also wants most from me. The closer I move towards my heart's desires, the more everything else seems to start falling into place. It is truly, for lack of a better word, weird.

In the past 35 days I have (in no particular order):
  1. Applied for a portrait artist job. I never heard back from them--doesn't matter though, because it got the ball rolling.
  2. Applied for a retail manager position. I was offered a job, but turned it down because it didn't pay well enough to justify it. Upon reflection I was glad that it worked out the way it did because, if I were to be honest with myself, it is not the kind of work I want to do anyway.
  3. Worked on my thesis.
  4. Worked on my thesis.
  5. Worked on my thesis.
  6. Worked on my thesis.
  7. Worked on my thesis.
  8. Worked on my thesis.
  9. Worked on my thesis. (Yes, this is important to me! Can you tell?)
  10. Worked on my thesis. (I'm almost done!) :) :) :)
  11. Encountered wild animals up close, including two bears and an entire pack of wolves in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. Now that was (wonderfully) scary!
  12. Went on a solo writing retreat (see #3-6, and #11).
  13. Got my bangs cut extra short.
  14. Went shopping for a nice outfit that made me feel good, wore high heels, and went out to a restaurant that sported more silverware than I knew what to do with!
  15. Walked out into the deep, black, night through mist and crashing waves. Such darkness. I was terrified!
  16. Started eating smaller portions for meals and traded crackers and chips for apples--and have, since then, lost a few pounds.
  17. Posted a video of myself on my blog. Yow! Did I really do that?!
  18. Built a website banner for someone inspired by a dream image. I was intimidated by it at first, but ended up having so much fun creating it!
  19. Learned how to use my new pen tablet that I had been avoiding for weeks.
  20. Made great strides in learning new Photoshop techniques. This has already been so incredibly helpful in terms of my web design projects and fun, too!
  21. Started pulling together the inklings of a new book.
  22. Looked into getting fine art prints of my paintings. I realized that my search for lower prices will need to continue. :)-
  23. Applied for a advising/counseling position. It is the kind of job that I would love!
  24. Shared my blog address with my mom.
  25. Had my tarot read by the ever fabulous Jamie. Serious stuff. Wonderful, amazing, life-changing.
  26. Learned how to solve computer challenges without asking for help.
  27. Went shopping for jeans even though I was afraid that they would all look horrible on me and that I would go home feeling bad about my body. However, I surprised myself by finding a pair that fit perfect and that I feel great in! Now that's amazing.
  28. Lined up an art show for spring.
  29. Cleaned, organized, and cleared out the negative energy in my office. It feels great and is so much more conducive to getting things done and feeling comforted.
  30. Made lasagna from scratch for the first time ever.
  31. Started really and truly believing in myself and my dreams.
  32. Inquired about 2 more web design projects--and got them both!
  33. Bought a new domain for our web design business that better reflects me. We're in the process of revamping the whole site in a way that better reflects both of us. This felt very important to me. I'm so excited about it!
  34. Started wearing jewelery and clothes that feel more like me and noticed how much brighter my energy shines when I am simply me.
  35. Was honest with myself and stuck to my guns when confronted with an "opportunity" that would undermine my personal goals.
  36. Made a list of priorities...then got real with myself. I have a tendency to stretch myself always too thin and always too far. So I shifted things around so that there are only two ranked under "#1 Priority." They are: finish thesis and find a new job. The rest will happen soon enough.
  37. As soon as I am done writing this post I have promised myself time to do a "letting go" ritual. I hope to tell you more about it tomorrow.
I was thinking that it would be really, really cool to compile a list of ALL our "Be Brave" actions. Even if the "Be Brave" project has inspired you to do just one thing, I would love to hear about it. I actually got this idea after reading Kristine's list (is she amazing, or what?!). Whether you did things that were tiny, small, big, or huge, just imagine how incredible our list would be TOGETHER! Whew! Now that would be a lot of bravery. There is powerful energy in our actions and so here's my idea...

Send me your list in an email OR leave your list in the comment section of my blog by Sunday, November 4th. On Monday, November 5th, I will create a new post with ALL of our "Be Brave" actions combined. For the sake of readability, please try to keep any explanations relatively short (at least for the purpose of the compiled list). You all have been doing some AMAZING stuff! And I would really like to take a moment to celebrate it.

As for the "Be Brave" project...this is only the beginning!