This was a journal entry from earlier in the month, but there was a beautiful sunset as the night plunges back down to freezing weather. Winter isn’t my favorite season, though we have it easier here in Memphis than a lot of places. The jeweled sky reveals itself often enough, I shouldn’t forget that:
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It used to seem to me that processing change should take only a short time — as in a few months or a year. In fact, one of the things I require of myself when I have a major body change is that I wait a year before I decide whether or not I can live with it. If I can’t, if I haven’t experienced moments of delight, if my change hasn’t become my new normal, then I can re-examine the question of whether this life is worth living or not.
I’m talking about major health changes, more than economic or relationship disasters, but sometimes they feel unbearable, too. So much of life seems unbearable at times. But they are usually bearable, often they make us stronger, wiser, wanting to live fuller. Sometimes, of course, experiences, changes, hurts — they’re pointless and painful and have no lesson. But we get over them in time. In time, we process it, get our bearings right, and find a new way of feeling happiness and contentment.
We all carry sorrows with us. Sometimes sorrow so heavy we can hardly move under the weight. Sometimes, we dance while bearing that same weight, sometime with another who is also carrying unbearable sorrows.
Life lately has seemed to send me one challenge after another and I’m trying to process these and get on with it. I have paintings to paint, stories to write, a life to live. But I still feel confused and muddled about what to do next. I keep having complications, either from my neurological disorder, or the treatments for it, or the endless bureaucracy and screw ups with my medications.
I feel like I’m caught in a state of constant processing. And I feel bad that I’m still processing things that I should have already dealt with and moved on. (Oh, the sorrow spiral of feeling bad about feeling bad.)
I found myself last month watching a mystery series that dealt with the aftermath of a rape for the 8th time. I knew I was using it to process past trauma and to escape the present complications of my medical problems, but it seemed weird and maybe self-destructive to keep looping through this drama again and again.
I called the National Suicide Lifeline, not because I felt suicidal, but because I felt I might be self harming and I wanted to talk to someone who didn’t know me about it. I was reassured that people process trauma all kinds of ways and that there’s NO WRONG WAY, and NO DEADLINE. Watching a woman regain her sense of self after a terrifying event is probably a benign way of helping myself grieve things that happened in the past and that are happening now and will continue to happen possibly for the rest of my life. Not rape or sexual abuse necessarily, but things that make me feel utterly powerless. And worthless.
I’m dropping and breaking things. I’m running my wheelchair into door jambs and tearing up thresh holds.
I feel scattered. I feel like I’m not reading enough or keeping up with the news enough or enough in general. I’m not able to do a lot of the things I did before to make myself feel better. (I may be romanticizing the past, though. Because I have bi-polar disorder, I sometimes think I did things better before, but I can’t really tell you what those things are. Toni Bernhard wrote a great article about that in Psychology Today Online: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/turning-straw-gold/201308/good-old-days-syndrome
I’ve spent a lot of time planting things for my porch garden and now I’m spending a lot of time looking at dirt, waiting for those first few leaves to break through. Shouldn’t I be working on my something or something else? While I still can?
I’m not writing this to get sympathy or reassurance. I’m actually doing well. Remaining productive while dealing with what feels like a rapidly deteriorating health condition in a slow, slow, slow health system. I’ve experience such moments of bliss and joy in this past year that I could hardly keep from weeping — even in this past month. I feel loved and valued. I am so grateful to everyone who supports me, those I know well, and those I only know marginally through the internet.
Still, I’m processing things and I can’t quite get my mojo working the way I want. Does any one? Do you? How do you process change?
I talked to a friend, after talking to the kind person at the Suicide Prevention Hotline, and my friend said she did the same thing, watched things over and over. She didn’t feel like she had to justify it either. She just did it because it was what she felt like doing. Ah, how I complicate my own life and emotions and needs.
Well, I’ll keep processing things. And when I’m ready, I’ll do something else.
(The National Suicide Lifeline is a great place to find someone to talk to, even if you’re not necessarily suicidal but standing on shaky ground. Even if you have friends and counselors and doctors. They listen and hold up a life giving mirror to reflect life in. Hope is their specialty. They also have a chat line.)
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If I hurry a little bit, I get to be part of the Memphis Rozelle Artist’s Guild Sketchbook 2012 Project that opens on March 2:
I’ve already missed the deadline to get in the catalog but I’ve got til Thursday to get it in the mail. To help me along in finishing it, the universe sent me a lovely cold so that I feel like sludge. Should I draw a sludgy slug? I wanted to do a nice themed journal about Memphis memories but it wound up going all over the place. It did, however, give me a nice venue to process some feelings about my mom dealing with dementia. Here are some sample pages.
One thing I really like about keeping a sketchbook or art journal is how you can see how different moods and events impact your drawing style.
The Rozelle Artist Guild show is a non-juried one, very democratic that gives it an exuberant quality. My husband likes to say life is what happens when you’re making other plans. I plan to get this finished in the next two days. It’s only 16 pages, for goodness sakes. I’ll let you know what happens.
I’m sitting at my desk watching the intermittent snow and rain fall outside. I am warm and comfortable. My new apartment is very well insulated and has radiant heat — so much nicer than the drafty apartment I left. The new smaller space has a certain coziness to it — a small snug refuge from the cold world. I’ve been here a week and two days and feel right at home here at Bridge Meadows, a three generation community serving the needs of foster families.
My dear husband Jim made a scale layout of the apartment before we moved, and little post-it note cut outs of furniture and laid out everything before we moved. Then we set up my writing/drawing area in the old apartment exactly like it would be here so I could get used to it. He made sure it was set up and ready to use the first day we moved in. I barely went a day without my precious artsy clutter. And while it’s been a little disorienting to move from a big space to a smaller one, it’s been mostly good and a bit exciting.
The community here at Bridge Meadows is very friendly but very respectful of privacy. It’s odd to be in a neighborhood where people are excited that you moved in and want to know all about you. Since there are Wisdom Circles, Happy Hours (not the alcohol kind), classes and meetings, there are plenty of ways to get to know people, but when I come home, I’m home, in my own Bless This Mess sort of fashion.
The kids here at Bridge Meadows are pretty busy with school and after-school stuff, and it’s winter so I’m not seeing a lot of them hanging around, but they are a part of most of the meetings. There are6 families with a total of 17 kids in the neighborhood so far, all of them 13 and under. It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a meeting that’s interrupted by the joyful noise of a youngster — and I love it.
I’ve met many of the elders (there are about 29 of us) — a wonderful and diverse group of young-at-heart optimists who all feel pretty lucky to be in this intentional community built to support families adopting foster children.
I feel this sense among us that we can help patch up a small tear in society. Instead of just being “low-income” seniors, I feel we are now contributing members of society. It’s both a subtle and grand shift in self-perception. We are now teachers, friends, aunties, grandparents, musicians, neighbors, uncles, writers, counselors — all more than a statistic or a hard-luck story. There are so many creatives and support people, it’s hard to figure out what my contribution will be — but whatever it is, I know I’ll get plenty of support. I’m also pretty sure I’m going to learn more from the kids than they’ll learn from me. Plus it’s a work in progress, this community. It only opened in April of 2011, and is only one of 3 in the entire county. That gives it a fresh, shiny sheen of optimism.
I’m on the library committee already. The on-site library has hundreds of children’s books and a fair collection of young adult and adult books — about 2000 in all. Of course that isn’t enough! I now can channel my book-a-holism into that and make sure such classics as The Big Bad Pig and the Three Little Wolves gets in the collection. I ‘m going to start a regular story time at the on-site library and do storytelling and perhaps workshops/swaps if people are interested.
The library is also a wonderful quiet room to get away from it all — a place we all need, sometimes. One of the girls expressed that need at a library meeting last night and that resonated with me. In the midst of all these caring and concerned people, I’m sure it’ll will be an ongoing need for the kids to find a small quiet place of their own.
Here are some pictures of the grounds — a little barren here in the midst of January, but I’m seeing lots of places to sketch and hang out when it warms up. Jim’s got some gardening plans and already has installed a few plants.
My art time has been a bit limited but I”m getting back into the swing of things and messing up many a fine white piece of paper. Here’s a New Yorker cartoon by David Borchart that inspired me.
I used to draw myself into New Yorker cartoons every once in awhile to practice different styles — you think cartoons are simple until you try to copy them. This cartoon stuck a chord with me. I once had a young artist ask me if I made a good living at art. I said no. Most people don’t make a good living at it, but you can make a good life. I hope that if I had the health to go back to a day job, I’d bring my rejoicing heart with me. I think this new phase of my life here in Bridge Meadows will keep me from ever having a poor heart. So I just drew a cartoon of myself rejoycing. May your heart find it’s wealth, too.