Grey days of November and December are always a different kind of beautiful, dressed mainly in greys and browns. All the vibrancy of the other seasons disappears and the landscape reveals a palette of neutrals. So, a poem is working itself out, not finished reworking it, but I like the concept.
Creation at rest, restoring,
never out of step with itself,
not frantic to grow just 10 more things
bloom 10 more times
set 10 fruit again, out of season,
keeps pace only with itself
keeps Divine Time.
Creation knows without planning
what a grey November day is for
and how it perfectly fits in
the grand scheme.
I took this picture in October. Three days later every leaf had fallen. Kind of a metaphor.
The past month has seen a renewal of the Panic Attack. They have hit my family hard so I am having what I take to be sympathy panic attacks. I had them years ago for no special reason. I would wake each morning in full blown panic. It was a distressing way to start every day. Medications took them away, I thought for good. Now they are back this time with kind of a reason or maybe I am just more aware of the part fear plays in my life. I am learning it is a pretty big part.
I already know the thing about disliking stuff on my hands. What I fear about that I don’t know but I know it is an irrational fear of something. Facing a blank page can fall in that category but that happens less often as I usually know what I want to do with the page now. But there are moments in making art that I learned are also fear taking the reins. Art is a “go big or go home” pastime. You are not pushing yourself artistically if you don’t feel a little anxious about the next step ruining your work. You learn to identify it as a fear and then do the next step anyway. If you made it once you can make it again. Learning to push through it takes time, successes overtaking the failures, recognizing fear for what it is.
Panic attacks are not like that, they have an out of the blue feeling that I can’t get enough air and my thoughts are awful-izing on a variety of topics. Or the specific topic that is contributing to the return of the problem. Ruminating on what is happening to someone else, over which I have no control but I want to “fix” anyway, is the biggest contributor. I am afraid for them, I am powerless to do anything to change it so I have a sympathy panic attack. Now dig into the toolbox for all the steps I tell others to take: deep breathing with a lot of focus on the quality of depth is actually helpful because you cannot think of two things at once. As I work on breathing in my belly, not up in my shoulders and chest, I do begin to settle down a bit. Do something to distract my mind. This is harder these days because my mind scatters very well. Watch the scattering. See how it doesn’t want more than a few minutes of anything, except the thing I am obsessing on which can bring me back to the panic.
The dog chasing its own tail. If all else fails I can and will take a pill, actually 1/4 of a pill, and that tiny amount of medication slays the giant. This is why I fill my days with art making because it too slays the giant or, even better, keeps the giant away to begin with. Fear has a survival value, it has a purpose. But it lacks discrimination. It will freak you out appropriately when you need to run for your life from a bear, or less appropriately but just as much, when all you are doing is adding splatters of paint for the first time in a color you aren’t quite keen on. It doesn’t know you don’t need all that adrenaline to stop you from splattering paint and you splatter the paint anyway.
You love it or hate it and get on with breathing normally again. Until the next time. Practice does not make perfect but it does make better. Art saves me, sometimes daily, and the art gets better, too.
A week of craziness, taxing and heavy. Back in the sewing room the machine refuses to power on. Pack it up to go get fixed. Get the Featherweight out, decipher instructions for the quilt started 5 years ago, cut fabric strips and a moment or two of panic that I have been doing it wrong the whole time. This must be a day not meant for sewing.
Sometimes it is like that. Lessons in letting go: of perfectionism, of grown children and growing grandchildren, of constant meditation on insoluble problems not my own, expectations for the day. So much heartache of late, reaching out and having my hand slapped back. I am not in control here, let go, let go, let go.
Watercolors are a welcome balm. I will always come away with some satisfaction, if only in learning what doesn’t work well, it is still soothing to my heart. They always power on and if I run into a problem I can always start over, plenty more paper available, and water, and paints.
I mowed the leaves off the yard yesterday and screamed and cried and let the bouncing ride beat me back to a semblance of calmed down. “Calm down, girls!” Junelle’s voice in my head is a wonderful soother. Calm down and keep going forward. Sew, paint, return to joy and gratitude, moment by moment, each moment one at a time.
So much has happened since May 2014!
Two more art retreats at DDS, both with the fabulous Junelle Jacobsen, one only a week past, loads and loads of painting, sketching, classes and more classes, some sewing (but not enough), and real hard core life. Lymes disease, twice, the first time with BL Bell’s Palsy and I sincerely wish not to do that again, the second time with the bullseye rash I still sport on my inner thigh. Dear friends dying. Family problems. Keeping painting. Watercolor saves lives every day.
And that is the crux, not of the problem, but of the solution. Art for me has come to mean joy on a daily basis. It is leading me back to childhood art habits of making the same thing over and over, faces over and over, same sketches over and over, because that is how you learned as a child and it is no different now. Skills are built in the repetition. The sketches get better, the faces get better, the work is less laborious, more joyful. The inner critic stays away more and more because it gets ignored. Opinions are noted, “thank you for sharing, you may leave now.” More joy.
Fear presents itself more clearly now as the anxiety I still get about acrylics and painting with my bare hands. Just not there. I plan to try gloving and see if that works for me. Anxiety does not get to win any more than the critic, it’s just a bit harder to send on its way.
I sell small amounts of jewelry and for now that just has to do. I keep making, my brain is filled with ideas and the joy keeps flowing. Nice way to spend my golden years.
This past weekend I went to my first major art experience at Donna Downey Studios in North Carolina. The featured visiting artist was Jane Davenport, the workshop Mermalicious and it was amaze balls!! I have taken almost all of Jane’s online classes, I’m smitten with her, her work, all that she has done for my art, etc., and when the opportunity came I jumped on it!! It was a bit pricey but it would be four days of fabulous Jane and that is priceless!!
I had no idea just how fantastic those four days would be!!! If you have a favorite art guru and they will be at Donna Downey Studios jump on the chance to go there!! Sell a child if you have to but GO!! I simply could not have fantasized anything close to what the experience was! I am still in the glow days afterward!
And again, the generosity of the art community we are building through online classes and in person events boggles the mind. I do not discount the fact that there are very few men involved in the courses I take and all the instructors are women. The ground rules are simple: dismiss the inner critic, offer positive feedback to others, be kind and helpful whenever you can. Comparison and competition will only injure the creative process because the point is to make my own authentic art. Making anything is always better than not because engaging in creativity, no matter what it is, changes the brain, forges new nerve pathways and releases endorphins. I always feel so much better in my heart and soul even if all I could catch was 10 minutes to sketch something.
What I found this past weekend was a room full of people from whom I could learn so many new things, I foresee my art growing by leaps and bounds and I like that! Many happy hours lie ahead in my studio, much fun to be had playing in the art supplies!
I am noticing my mind has layers to it. There is the immediate present layer that can focus on the task at hand, that can follow the breath or repetition, and there is the layer below that, the one that distracts from the breath or repetition, the one that wanders everywhere and chatters incessantly. The one who never shuts up.
But beneath that is another layer, a very odd layer, that makes things up. It may be the layer between fully awake and asleep. When I find that layer there are fleeting stories, less than a second long but some of them are fully told in that brief moment. I often cannot recall them afterward but here is one example. I was working on arranging flowers and I held a long stemmed rose in my hand that I needed to shorten. I was explaining to someone that everywhere I could cut it would shorten the mantra. What an amazing observation! I have thought on this many times since and it always brings back to me that all things in existence are their own mantra, the mantra the creator used to bring it into existence. Frequently this mind layer gives up a nugget like this, how to hold on to those choice bits becomes the game. Other layers? To be continued…
I am working toward a daily meditation practice and weekly blog practice. Part of where I am right now involves non-attachment: to self, to thoughts, to things, to identity, and so forth. It requires being very present to right now, what [I] am doing, thinking, planning, reviewing and releasing. Releasing is a big agenda item, letting go of old thought patterns, habits of thought and how [I] believe them, shape them into a self who acts and lives a certain way, rehashes the same thinking over and over and is resistant to change. Change is essential and releasing opens the way for new, better practices to unfold and blossom.