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Posts tagged ‘consciousness’

Self-Portrait: Woman with a Key and Clocks

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What’s up for me in 2015?

Time. (And being in control of it.)

I’ll be turning 60 this year — and this fact is working powerful magic for me.

Up to now, I felt I had plenty of time — eternities of time. I didn’t ever think about how I used my time. I just went along, spending it haphazardly on things as they came up. This wasn’t all bad. My unconscious ruled, and it has been an interesting unfolding of a life. But now it is different.

I am aware of limitations in all areas of my life, and TIME is a big one.

That explains the clocks above my head. The big key is important too. I am taking charge. I will open and lock the doors for myself now. My hands are big, over-sized and strong. I want to make things. The E and L  are my initials. I use my given name, Elizabeth, when I mean business. (I love doing self-portraits. I never know exactly what will show up — but it is always revealing.)

I think the cowboy getup, (clipped from a Sundance catalog), is a little more shallow — a wish fulfillment. I dreamed of growing up to be a cowboy as a child, and as an adult would like to dress like a Sundance catalog model!

A woman in the apartment across from me just had her 2nd knee replacement surgery. After her first surgery, I drove her to a couple PT appointments, waited for her and drove her home. That’s the nice person I am, but I felt resentful — and that is key too. Ironically, I barely know this person, yet I felt obligated to BE THERE for her. This 2nd surgery I am refraining from offering. She has financial resources, there are cabs and she has friends and family who could help her. I don’t blame her – who wouldn’t want to save $ and get a ride from a neighbor. I was the one who OFFERED to drive her that first surgery! This second surgery, she seems to be getting along just fine without me. I don’t have to feel resentful and a true friendship between us has a chance of developing.

In many other ways, I am refraining: Not doing work that doesn’t inspire me, declining social invitations, limiting visitors, letting myself be the introvert that I am and the extrovert that I am — when it fits.

I find myself taking refuge in being almost 60. I am OLD for God’s sake – give me a break! But, I have never really needed an excuse.  I am well aware of how my past, my upbringing and my gender has led me to ignore myself — especially as a mother. As hard as it is, I am working on letting my children figure things out by themselves.

This doesn’t mean I won’t be there for others in the future. But, I will be discriminating and consider myself first (gasp . . . did I just write that?). I just have to see those clocks, me as the holder of the key and those big hands screaming, “Make something now!” — to remind myself. I think the kick-ass boots are a nice touch too.

There are things I want to do. I don’t want to die regretting not doing them. There is no guarantee that all those people, for whom I have sacrificed my own needs, will come to my funeral and say nice things. And who wants to spend their precious time securing glowing eulogies.

I am also thinking about buying those boots and taking myself off to a dude ranch for my 60th birthday!

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Skating on thin ice

skating on thin ice tree

Drawing by Betsy Lewis

The Walkabout Woman blog has been languishing. The truth is . . . I have been busy making a living.

The loss of my pension in February sent me off in a new direction, one with less time for writing or art. I am actually enjoying my foray back into the working world.  I find meaning and value in the work I am doing.

I am also grateful for the previous months of solitude I spent in deep communion with myself.

Everything seems to come in its right time and place, but I am aware that I am living more on the surface of life now.

It is as though I am skating on a frozen pond, with just a thin sheet of ice between my busy everyday life above and the shadowy depths of my inner life below.  I am relishing the frosty air on my cheeks and my strong graceful competent movements.  I feel joy and exhilaration with this new slippery speed that sends me careening into contact with other people.

My months of solitude taught me a lot about the magic of being present — and I have not lost the habit.

As they say, “It’s all good.”

I joined a writing group made up of  nine women – The Portland Nine.  I am # nine, the new one. Each Thursday night, from 6:00 pm to  8:30 pm, we gather, respond to 10 minute writing prompts and share what we have written.

There is a lot of freedom in this and I feel myself loosening up as the evening goes on. It is only with these women now that the sheet of ice cracks and I fall through to the depths below.

Sometimes when I am reading aloud, it touches a nerve and I cry.

And try as I might, I am unable to write a scrap of fiction or come up with the colorful adjectives or metaphors that the others do. I can only write plainly and starkly about myself or myself thinly veiled. In this group, however, I feel accepted and appreciated for my voice. I am only slightly embarrassed by my tears. The other women seem unperturbed, and the  hostess just brings out the Kleenex.

What is profound for me is this — day by day, art or not, work or not (or maybe because of it), I am witnessing the unraveling of the tangled threads of my life. Sometimes my tears are  from the relief of finally setting the burden down.

I bought a scroll for my wall which says:

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” Buddha

As I welcome in my own humanity and claim the wisdom of the crone that I am, the love I have received and given so far wells up inside me. I see that, in big and small ways, I am beginning to be able to love myself.

A calamity threatens the walkabout

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I spend a lot of time worrying about things that never happen, so when a real calamity strikes; it is unexpected and feels like a surprise attack.

My walkabout threatening calamity struck just before Christmas (and a day before the predicted end of the world.)

First I came down with the flu. Following that, I received a call about my pension. In a bullying way I was informed that the company had made an “administrative error”  10 years ago and I really wasn’t entitled to what I had been receiving — and I, in fact, owed them thousands of dollars. This was news to me!

Someone reminded me that compared to drastic health news; this was nothing — which is true.

But this pension was funding my dream!

I also panicked as I saw security in my old age slipping away.

And it was at this point that I hoped the world really would end the next day.

I hate it when someone suggests that I re-frame terrible things as “opportunities” or calls me “courageous” in these situations.  I started to tell myself these things too . . . and then I shut myself up pretty quick.

When calamities happen to me, I just want them to go away. This is childish I know, but I would really rather be the lucky girl who doesn’t get the chance to BE “courageous”, or the one who doesn’t GET “opportunities” over and over again.

Heaven help me … I want to be Paris Hilton!

Calamities like this knock me off my high horse and bring me down to earth pretty fast where I have to face all the dirty, grimy, frightening . . .  and real things in life.

I am sharing this because I want to be a real person in this blog, including all the good, bad and ugly parts of the journey. There are many beautiful spiritual aspects to taking a walkabout  . . .  until there aren’t. And if I am staying in integrity, I need to incorporate the calamities into my story.

After the phone call, I spent two sleepless nights and two full days in my pajamas — sick, panicky, sniveling and mourning the loss of my dream. Visions of sugar plums turned into visions of bag ladies in my head. Some dissociated part of me watched as I cycled through shock, grief, fear, anger and then back around again.

In a lucid moment I also contacted a good lawyer.

On day three I took a shower, got dressed and went for a walk. I felt clear-eyed, grounded, and determined. I decided that, at all costs, I had to hang on to my dream. So I will.

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I doubt I will ever validate this thing as an “opportunity”, but I will admit to arriving at a new plateau in awareness of the inner demons that were pouring out of me. This thing was a surprise attack, re-traumatizing me in my most vulnerable spot.

As a pre-schooler I experienced my first life changing surprise attack. I was molested and terrorized by a relative when my mother was out of the house. This was not a good start to life. I compare it to the sound of a gong. There is the strike of mallet to metal (the abuse) and then the impact radiating out like sound waves for the rest of one’s life. There is no turning back the clock to innocence or safety. Hopefully you heal, but meanwhile there is this subterranean force of trauma impacting your relationships, your health, and your happiness.

With this recent calamity that’s where I went – the place where terrible things can happen to me — where I will be hurt, abandoned, left alone, not heard, not seen; I will die. These are the places from my childhood of loss and abuse.

I let this wound “speak” for awhile and now I have to put distance between it and I. I am ready to move on and tackle this most injustice pension matter as an adult.

I am only one person (and her lawyer) against a large multinational corporation with retirement fund coffers in the billions.

As I have done my whole life, I will do what I can to bring about justice in an unjust world – both for the outer world and for the inner world of my wounded child.

“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion”
― C.G. Jung

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Where do you find creative inspiration? (Or a pile of dirt and a cow in the road)

Creative people are like magicians, conjuring things out of thin air. Where once there was nothing, there is something — a new story, tune, poem, painting, or invention.

My creative life is pretty lively right now. It hasn’t always been this way, but for now, creative block is out of the question. Every object, view, conversation, experience, no matter how small, is grist for the mill.

And with so much scenic grandeur for inspiration at Fish Trap’s Imnaha Writers Retreat, if I were to have creative block, it would be because I was overwhelmed with material.

As I took a walk, I thought about the intimidating cow blocking my way the other day. What could I make of a cow in the road? This led to me thinking about how I handle obstacles in my life and is now a blog post under construction.

The process of thinking of the cow, making it a symbol of a larger personal issue such as “obstacles”, sorting out the meaning of obstacles in my own life, writing about it, getting feedback from others – all this sets into motion a personal transformation.

I will never see obstacles again in quite the same way.

This is the power of writing and art to make meaning and be the catalyst for transformation in both the creator and the viewer.

I used to believe that some difficult people in my life will never change. I don’t believe that now. Even the ones who give me the most grief may change simply by being alive in the world.

This is a transformative moment of understanding for me. It opens my heart and my world.

It softens my  judgment of self and others.

I believe that ultimately it will change those difficult relationships.

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A dangerous looking cow blocking my way has a little bit of drama, especially for a city girl, but what about something less inspiring.

I glanced around for the least inspiring thing I could find and saw a pile of dirt.

What about a pile of dirt?

Piles of dirt are everywhere – a dime a dozen. What could a creative person do with this I wondered?

Impulsively, I asked poet Lynn Robertson, who is with me at the writer’s retreat, if she could write a poem about a pile of dirt. She answered brightly and without hesitation, “Of course!”, and that day she proceeded to do just that — not once, but twice!

So here you have it – two first drafts of poems about a pile of dirt.

UNRAVELING

By Lynn Robertson

She unraveled

becoming a mound of dirt

in a thunderstorm

beginning with a small titter

of plain brown pebbles

escaping the confines of tolerance

hiccupping down the slope.

 

When the first rain fell

in single, weighty, tear shaped patterings

the surface craters caused by their bounce

across her silken complexion

were smoothed by watery runoff.

But a driving wind arrived close behind

blew the seeds of youth

from her mounds of hair.

The hard rains came after

there were no roots to hold her together.

 

The flesh beneath her eyes

drooped in crescent shaped slings

to hold back the flood

The rise of her cheeks

slid into joweled pockets

and later

when she could absorb no more

she slumped

spreading low and smooth

across the landscape.

 

It took her three days

to realize she hadn’t washed away.

In the way that erosion changes mountains

she had experienced a redistribution

of her wealth.

 

PILE OF DIRT

By Lynn Robertson

Pile of dirt from the tractor

Put it here, push it there

Dirt from the backhoe

Leave it here, spread it where?

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the dirt poor farmer from Nebraska

Dirt in a pile by a highway in Alaska

Dirt for the man tilling up a veggie patch

Dirt for the bugs and the babies that they hatch

 

Dirt for the grader

Smooth it here, fill it there

Dirt for the roller

Pack it here, wet it there

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the fill in a solid earthen dam

Dirt by the tulips in the fields of Amsterdam

Dirt for the holes in the road or on the street

Dirt in a mud pie, mix it up, make it sweet

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the rocks holding up a mountain tall

Dirt for a cushion when a boulder starts to fall

Dirt for the students when they study every layer

Dirt leveled smooth for the pins of a surveyor

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

You can move it, You can use it

You can mash it, You can smash it

You can smell it, You can sell it

You can wet it, You can get it

For your garden for your yard

You can bake it til it’s hard

 

Move it here, push it there

You will take it everywhere

In a box, in your socks

On your face, any place

You can follow where it goes

But no one really knows

Where at last it slows

To rest

 

 

Finding my voice through art

The Original Walkabout Woman

During my walkabout I am submitting applications for artist residencies along the way. Below is the artist statement I included in my submission to the Millay Colony of Auusterlitz New York, which offers 1 month residencies to visual artists, composers and writers.

If you were born into my family you were — by default — an artist.

All my relatives were wildly creative people. My father was a designer and solar energy pioneer. One uncle was a photographer. His work is in the Smithsonian. The other uncle was a celebrated architect. My grandmother and  aunt  found  socially acceptable ways to be creative with textiles and music.

Dinner parties were interesting in my family. Some poor child would be recruited to hold still under pain of death. The guests would grab pens and paper napkins, and highly competitive portrait drawing contests would ensue.

So what do you do when you show early promise and everyone expects you to be an artist . . . ? Well, I rebelled. I didn’t want to be an artist. I had other priorities.

I wanted to save the world.

And back then I did not understand the sublime power of art to tell the truth and be a force for change.

So I worked for causes and learned how to recruit, organize, lead and tell everybody’s story but my own.

Fast forward to 2003. ART decided it had waited its turn long enough. And although I had been artistic in “unofficial” ways for most of my life, it wasn’t until then that I began to call myself an “artist.”

In the end I’ve turned out to be a rather well-rounded artist. I can create the art, hang it, organize events and shows and get the word out.  I can make a decent website, Facebook Page and blog.  I call myself the Jill-of-all trades, and I help other artists with all these things too.

So what is my artwork about?

It’s about finally having a voice as a woman and a human being. It is about the truth telling that I did not have the guts or wherewithal to do until now. Longings that I put on my back burner for too long are slated to be lived and shared through art — both my successes and abject failures, past and present.

I give a voice to my art through my blog, “The Walkabout Woman”, and I am hoping to build a web-based social network of women who will be doing the same.  Through “The Walkabout Woman Project,” women will be invited to live their longings and share – virtually– their own unique journeys through art, writing or other creative means.

So what kind of artwork do I do?

I create mixed media collages. My work is very intuitive. There seems to be a direct conduit from my insides out and sometimes I don’t even know where I stand on a particular issue until I do the art. My art is the worldly container for the color and drama of my inner world. It gives me information and in many cases it makes the unconscious conscious. (For more on consciousness visit the website of my friend Marla Estes!)

Making art has been life-saving.

And it is not just me who is watching and listening. Through my blog, other women see what I am creating and tell me they feel validated, comforted, and sometimes inspired to give “a voice” to their own experiences through art.

At the Millay Colony I would like to continue my walkabout by creating a body of work of mixed media collage portraits of the walkabout women of my life — both past and present —  women I have known and women I have admired. The first in my series of portraits is in the submitted work sample images and is called “The Original Walkabout Woman.” It is me at 7 years old — at my most brave, adventuresome and hopeful.

I draw strength and inspiration from her lively innocent spirit as I continue the next stages of my walkabout!

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