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Posts tagged ‘mixed media collage’

I am Monica Lewinsky

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#IAmMonicaLewinsky by Betsy Lewis

“Humiliation is a more intensely felt emotion than either happiness or even anger”   Monica Lewinsky

I avoided watching Monica Lewinsky’s March TED2015 Video titled: The price of shame — like the plague. I don’t like shame. People who have made shameful mistakes, been found out and publicly humiliated, make me extremely uncomfortable. They remind me too much of my own mistakes and humiliations.

And, frankly, it is a lot easier to have someone else embody shame, (and  hate them for it), rather than face up to shame in myself. I like to think I don’t do that, that I am more conscious than that, but in the case of Monica Lewinsky — I think I did. Before watching her talk, she was merely the blue dress or the beret and all they symbolized. After watching her talk, I see a full human being, a woman who is courageous, articulate, and purposeful.

A few days ago, I started to put together a collage in my usual way, with no particular intention. I put down the face  . . .  and then the fish over that . . . and thought to myself, “Oh! . . . . . humiliation.” Monica Lewinsky’s story had been working some sort of magic in my subconscious — and apparently it was something I needed to express.

I also began to wish to do something in solidarity with her – the woman who has been taking the “hits” for all of us, for far too long.

I can say — “I am Monica Lewinsky.” All of us can say — “We are Monica Lewinsky” – but there are big differences. We may have fallen in love with our bosses or someone inappropriate — but that person was probably not the President of the United States.  And for those of us over 50, before the onset of the instant connectedness of the internet and social media, our youthful mistakes were usually only an embarrassing legend in our own minds or in the minds a handful of people or in our local community.

Back in 1998, when her story broke, and she was all of 24 years old, Monica Lewinski became the first of a new genre of scandalous internet sensations. The stories and sordid details about her spread like wildfire and could be viewed by anyone at any time — and forever. In short order, she made history. Her shame became a legend world-wide, and she — a target. No wonder her parents feared for her life.

Now, what she calls “technologically enhanced shame,” is commonplace. Countless individuals, often young people, are cyber-bullied every day — sometimes with tragic results. Public humiliation has become big business. And, as Monica points out, “The more shame, the more clicks. The more clicks, the more advertising dollars.”

The antidote for shame? The things she said saved her when her life became unbearable — compassion and empathy from other human beings. She quotes Brene Brown, a researcher and authority on vulnerability and shame, saying: “Shame can not survive empathy.”

In the online world, we can foster minority influence by becoming upstanders. To become an upstander means instead of bystander apathy, we can post a positive comment for someone or report a bullying situation.” Monica Lewinsky

I admire Monica Lewinsky. At age 41, after a decade of silence, she is using her horrific experience in a unique and productive way. She is doing what admirable people do who survive a great trauma – she is making meaning out of her story and using it to help others. As a living example of the power of compassion and empathy to heal, she is helping others cope and heal also.

The internet is a force that can be used for good or evil. There is power in your clicks, beyond the advertising dollars. Like Monica Lewinsky, we also have the power individually and collectively to become upstanders and spread compassion and empathy in place of shame.

And while you are doing that for others, give yourself a break. Shine some compassion on yourself, for  your own shame. You are only human  — just like Monica Lewinsky.

Watch the TED2015 video of Monica Lewinsky titled The Price of Shame.

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!

I Just Wanna Be Free

Queen Mother

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

Enough said.

What is calling you in 2013?

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“Hair Raising” ~ Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

Do you know what you are called to do or be? Have you always known? Have you had several different callings or just one? Do you have a calling on the “back burner”?

Some people seem to know their calling at birth. They make a beeline straight toward their destiny. I ran across an old friend like this on Facebook. I remember him from high school as being a super smart, likeable and devout young man from a military family. I see that he became a chaplain at West Point!

If you’d met me in high school, there would have been no way to divine my future path.

Japanese Garden and Imnaha collage 021Most of my life I have zigged and zagged this way and that, distracted by the many shiny things of the world. I have let my ego and other people’s visions for me lead the way. They say there is a consistent unifying thread that runs through each of our lives. If that is true, mine must be in a tangled mess by now.

Part of it is that I have an inability to “settle” on anything, which isn’t all bad. I am always open to new adventures and creative projects. On the downside, I have lacked boundaries. My tendency has been to merge with others and not stay in an awareness of  important parts of myself — parts which might have helped me discover my calling earlier in the game.

But always I have been asking, “What are you here for? What do you want to do with your life, Betsy? Who are you really? Why is this so hard??!!”

Although I am traveling light, I do have a few books with me all the time. One of them is by Gregg Levoy and is titled, “Callings: Living the Authentic Life.”  My copy is dog-eared and heavily underlined. He says, “You just need to figure out what decisions will assure that when your life flashes before your eyes, it will hold your interest.”

Chinese Gardens Portland Jan. 2013 037Now on my walkabout, with time and solitude to be with myself, I have discovered my calling. It happened just the other day, and it was if my vision cleared suddenly — less of an “Ah Ha”, and more of an “Oh yeah . . . that makes sense.”

So what is my calling?

In one way or another, I am called to help people find their “voice” and be “seen and heard”– by the whole wide world, or by their community, or by their family or maybe just by themselves for themselves.

By “voice” I mean the expression of a person’s true inner self, through speech, action, vocation, avocation or any of the art forms. By “seen and heard” I mean to be acknowledged, validated and valued. To use your voice and be seen and heard is deeply and powerfully healing, and the world needs more of this. Many women, children and 99% of the world’s people don’t have a voice and are not seen and heard.

My calling has been a shadowy shapeless force informing and shaping my life – the elusive “thread” that has led me from social work to (of all things) marketing — as the most expedient medium for carrying out my calling.

This is not pure selfless altruism. I am very aware that this calling is also a way of validating my own voice and meeting my own yearning to be seen and heard.

Answers come in their own sweet time – sometimes late in life. But thankfully they do come, and I have my walkabout to thank for this one.

Hoping for a miracle . . .

"Hoping For a Miracle", Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

“Hoping For a Miracle”, Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

My defense mechanisms of choice have always been denial and fantasy. If an important situation or person is not to my liking, I can usually spin it or them into line with my fantasy version. I have avoided a lot of misery through the years this way! The collage above captures this pretty well. There, for all to see is my magical child-like self banking on a miracle! (I don’t plan these things.)

In my last blog installment I shared that I am teetering on the edge of a “fiscal cliff” of my own– seeing the pension that was funding my dreams suddenly and mysteriously evaporating before my eyes.

It is only at night now that I sink into bag lady fear. For the most part, I am practicing what I preach and living in the moment. And I still have hope that this has all been a  dreadful mistake, or that there is some way to negotiate a better outcome. I also know that law is its own sort of madness, with rules and precedents that aren’t always based on what I think is fair or just. But sometimes life surprises me.

Yesterday this beautiful poem by Marlene Mish arrived by email:

Hope

Hope teeters upon the wings

Of your broken heart,

Balancing loneliness and despair.

Hope sits in the hollow stillness

Next to the raw places within you

And lights a small candle.

 

Hope believes that next time

The story will come out different

And gives you courage to stand

And take a step.

Hope is all there is

When all there was is

Gone.

 

Hope teeters upon the edges

Of your wary spirit

That has lost it way too many times

And grabs your collar before

The tears engulf you

And shouts, “You made it through !”

Hope is a distant voice whispering a lullaby

When all others

Scream, “Give up!”

 

Hope is the last word of God

You hear before you close your eyes,

The only proof that you are not alone.

“You are beautiful, my child.

Why have you forgotten again?”

 

Hope is the one gift that survived Eden,

The only language of love,

The last promise that won’t be broken,

And yet it teeters

On the edges of things

While you look for answers

Somewhere else.

Marlene Mish, August 24, 2003

Marlene shared a little bit about the inspiration for this poem:

Today is a good day.

Today I can see clearly that life is a series of ups and downs and that no matter how hopeless things can get, no matter how broken I may feel, I know that the sun will rise at dawn and I have a choice whether to greet it. But that wasn’t always so.

There have been times when I felt defeated by life, defeated by my own choices, defeated by the demons what swirl around in my soul, waiting to take root.

I wrote this poem in 2003 on such a day when sorrow had overtaken me, when defeat was all around me, when I had lost my way. I share it only because it is so hard to remember who we are on such days and I need to remind myself every once in a while that most isolation is self-imposed even though I have always sought out someone to blame.

I have made some progress on this journey, and so I can share a private part of it with others without losing.”

One reader expressed confidence that I would get through this pension thing with grace, and I think of that often. Now that is something to work toward . . . to  take on all of life with grace (after a kicking and screaming tantrum, of course.)

I am nothing if not resilient. And though I hate to admit it, I am already teasing out silver-linings.

Hope

Hope

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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