Lady and the Beast

Let’s make this a typical blog and apologize for not writing more often, and offering excuses.  The past month has been a nor’easter of emotions.  As the winds howl and push against our bodies to stay indoors, my emotions have left me weathered.  The rawness of the vulnerability combined with the generosity of strangers, family and friends have wetted my cheeks as the ice and snow and freezing rain affected the roads.  Slippery, sloppy, and insecure.  But necessary.  And of course, I will certainly write on that more when my fluidity of emotions become solid enough for me to not fall into them.

I recently purchased a copy of the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which if you are a creative type person, you’ve likely heard about ad nauseum for much of your life.  It’s 25 years old now, so for some, that’s very well possible.  It had been recommended to me repeatedly and I had looked through the book as early as 2002 when I worked in a bookstore in 2002.  Of course, being a staunch denier of any level of real skill, I would tell myself to lay it back on the shelf.  For me (also a staunch cheap-skate), it means a lot when I actually get to the check-out with a purchase. In other words, it was a huge step for ‘The Creative’ in me.

It’s laid out in a 12 Week program with a weekly reading task, and specific tasks, added to the general weekly expectation of an ‘Artist’s Date’ and the daily ‘Artist’s Pages’.  Three pages, in fact.  I’m used to writing a page a day through journaling, or attempts to write X-number of words a day on a novel (which sits untouched for months at a time these days).  Three pages of hand written script though.  That’s truly a task.

Well, firstly, I’m getting my writer’s callous back.

Callous’ aside, I think the intention is to put out a string of consciousness that is random, and jumpy and not at all skillful.  Today was Day Five, and let me just say, I’m actually putting out decent writing.  I know that perhaps this is the ‘wrong thing’ to say.  But could it be that when I allow the writer out, whom I’ve affectionately called ‘The Lady Beast’, she makes sense of my conscious and is able to put it together in a way that wouldn’t have normally made sense for me.   So my writing has improved.

I have tried for a number of years, and I would guess thousands of dollars, to become a skilled visual artists.  Oil paints, acrylic, water, coloured pencils, pastels, and all the accessories to go with it.  To say I was easily discouraged is an understatement.

Within an hour of writing my first pages, there was a visualization that seemed to be the only thing in my foresight.  When describing it to an artist friend of mine, I couldn’t explain it well enough so tried to rough sketch it so that she could sketch it.  In the meantime, I did a much better job of it than I could expect someone else to do that wasn’t staring at the image with me.

Anyway.  Miracles are not expected.  But I’m excited to be on the journey – no matter if I wind up at any specific destination.

 

(P.S.) If anyone has any idea how I can put paragraphs into my WordPress blog, please send me a message.

 

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Awash

I’m a classic ‘Facebooker’.  If you ask my ‘friends’ on Facebook what they know of me, it’s unlikely that you would get many repeated answers.  Part of the reason for this is because I am shy, I’m afraid of looking foolish and as a result shelter myself from people’s reactions.  For this reason, for most of my life, I’ve been alone – or at least felt it.
I’ve had hardships as has everyone.  I’ve mostly coped and handled on my own, with the occasional shoulder to cry on.  For the most part, during a great portion of my life I felt alone.
I found some financial troubles, as many people do who go away.  I came home to Newfoundland.  I was humiliated because of some inner sense of failure in my life to that current date.  No meaningful work, relationship, my hobbies were taboo, and I felt like I had never accomplished anything, let alone follow any sort of sense of inner purpose.
I started to care less about traditional success, and explored my own happiness.  A Bucket list style list developed and I actively chased those goals.
It was along this journey that I was pushed off of my life raft.  My diagnosis.
Serious.
Five years before liver failure.
Stop exercising.
The answer to your miscarriages.
No alcohol….EVER AGAIN
My mind, my life, my everything was silenced.  Waiting.  Shock didn’t wash over me – it forced the will out of me.  I was pushed deep into the body of fear until finally my foot found the rocks on the bottom and kicked off.  Suddenly, I didn’t care what reactions I might get.
And that’s when it started.  I found the things that I was avoiding and grabbed for them for leverage out.  I surfaced, less afraid of the diagnosis and more committed to scratching my marks along the rock walls of the rapids of life.
The past three years has been hard.  I don’t want to well-wash the hellishness that a fading memory and body has on a 30-something woman.  It is torture living in a malnourished, dying body.
That said, I’ve managed to find happiness during my illness like I’ve never found in my life before.  I’ve taken risks.  I’ve allowed myself the treasure of vulnerability.
And what it has gifted me with is a series of things which have humbled me.
Starting with people I didn’t know – family members specifically – that I wouldn’t have known if not for sequences set forth from my sense of mortality.  The whole McDonald clan firstly.  Secondly, a first cousin, once removed who provided a means to know my family (via a book), that I would never have been able to had she not taken the steps to be courageous in the very ways I’m struggling with.
Old friends and acquaintances came back around.  People started to reach out with support.  Others shared their own stories that I would have never known but for my own illness.
I’m humbled by the emotional support. And for the first time in my life, I feel….not alone.
Despite spending most of my holiday season in the hospital, I feel gifted like I’ve never felt before in my life.
So Facebook friends, thank you for allowing me the thrill of minimizing something as huge, and life threatening as organ failure while maximizing something that may seem everyday and trivial as a Facebook message, or a visit at the hospital, or a gift card in a mailbox.  Your own scratches on my rock wall give me the energy that this silly disease is trying to suck out of me.
I’m not strong because of how I’m handling all this.  I’m strong because I have every one of you supporting me through this.

Truth and Ignorance

This week was not an easy one.  Not all weeks can be, they say.  The flip side of that, of course, is some can be.  Part of me wonders if this is dogma, no better than religion for truth.  The rest of me knows that reality sometimes is too harsh if you take it at face value.  One of those, “best taken in teaspoon doses rather than by the cup” kind of medicines.

The opposite of truth isn’t always a lie.  Sometimes that exact opposite is ignorance.  Like a wife who doesn’t know that the romantic dinner he made her was take out, or the girlfriend who never did find out that her first love secretly cheated on her, or the old man who thought his wife died in a car accident instead of suicide by transport.  Ignorance can be bliss.

Sometimes I have to really consider which has more weight with me – knowing, or not knowing.  Serving a whole glass up straight versus watering it down amongst 50 doses? The truth is, that sometimes ignorance has a greater value.  And if I’m to be honest, I think that’s a whole lot more often than we’d like to admit.

Embrace your truth, but don’t forget to hold ignorance’s hand as you walk your journey.

Wind Storms and Castle Walls

Most people would say that I’m warranted a few fears.  Okay – we can agree on that fact.

This diagnosis, and what it causes, are things of nightmares.  But they are life and death.  They inspire you to fight – a battlecry, as it were.  These nightmares might be difficult for people to relate to, but they make for kind words at a eulogy, at least.  “She was able to stay positive,” They might say, or  “It was the medical systems fault”.

These fears are expected, accepted, and empathized with.  But these are not the fears that haunt my dreams, or my heart, or really my mind.

When I was diagnosed, my fear wasn’t death, or surgery, or loosing financial stability.  It was that I would vanish from the planet, with no children, and really no one that knew the thoughts that pace with me in my darkened halls at night.  No one would know the real me.  Hell, I debated if I would even know the real me.

Like a roof being lifted off of everything I have ever surrounded myself with for comfort, or excuse, the storm hit.  The sky darkened my eyes, thunder overpowered every thought, the lightening hit my spine, paralyzing me. Stiffening me to the stark nature of life, and death.  Every comfort now waterlogged and with it every habit or excuse ruined.

And there it sat – exposed to the harshness of the element of mortality.  My one true fear – my tornado.

That I am not good enough at the one thing that has ever been important, in the darkest cellar of my soul, for me to be good at.  Writing.

My battle is with the currents which blow subtle, self-doubt through my life.  Winds kicking up my dusty forgotten thoughts, howling:

“You have to be really good to make money as an author.”

“You weren’t particularly good in English class, what makes you think you have a chance in getting published?”

“You aren’t a writer until you have something published.”

The shards of self-doubt hover over me, just high enough to slice me open upon landing.  So I make a bargain with the storm…

“Leave me here amongst my rubble so I can create a bigger castle, with a real hero.  I will create a play space like you have never seen.  When you are tired of playing in the halls I build, you can have me.  But in the meantime, let’s have some fun.”

The Wind nodded the leaves of the tree nearby.  “Let’s,” the leaves whispered.

My former fears floating like snowflakes to the soggy dirt patch where my comfort once stood, and off the wind blew – rocking the clouds gently good-bye.

Late Resolutions

I recognize I’m late for this kind of “New Beginning, New Years, New Resolutions” post.  Sometimes, we’re too busy not finding the forest for the trees.

Generally, we look back at the year gone by.  So what happened in my life that stood out to me?  I went off of work, long-term, due to my worsening illness.  I slept, or tried to sleep, a  lot.  I answered “How are you?” more times than I ever have in my life, and when I wasn’t lying for simplicities sake, I was generally talking about this very factual, very scary, very long journey that my body has forced me into.  As a result of my illness, and my pain, I attended many courses, workshops, and even a conference on how to cope with it all.  Last year held enough fear for a good decade.

Some things weren’t bad.  I proved how strong I am, for example.

Part of coping is about trying to live a normal life.

While I don’t truly believe that the words I put out there vibrate through the universe attracting particles of my future and bringing them back to me, I do believe there is something to be said for attracting energy.  The last thing I want to attract is more illness, pain, and impatience.

So what do I want?

Positivity.  Forward motion.  A future worth all this effort.  For me, the only way to get that is the one thing about me that had once defined me – a writer.  I want to create.  And I want to share it.  And I want to celebrate this definition.  I don’t want to ask “what if…” but rather “let’s see!”  I want people to be excited for me, instead of afraid.

Will I stay with this resolution?   Well, we all know I’m strong enough to.

I don’t know….but, let’s see.

Tidying for the New Year

Nothing tells us just how much junk we clutter ourselves with like Christmas.  Of course there are things – trinkets, reminders, books, electronics – but more importantly are the things which gather cobwebs in our minds.  Our hearts have cracks, our goals too many loose ends, our dreams fading into the backs of the closets buried by others views and thoughts.

Little by little through the year, what we wanted for ourselves becomes dirty and much harder to reach for without getting obscured.  Seeking them out at their far reaches becomes coupled with fear.

Way too close to Christmas this year, I was asked what I wanted.  Believe it or not, in this day of materialism, there are those of us who don’t ‘want’ for anything (at least nothing that comes from a store).

“Hangers, bins, a dresser.”

“But those are things you need.  What do you WANT?”

“I really don’t know.” At a complete loss for something to pick that I wanted, I was stricken with desperation at the fact that I have only thought over the past year about the things I need.  The things I was waiting to get enough money for in order to make my life easier.

To continue my (now thoroughly over-explained) analogy, my drawers of desire were emptied to the ground, crumpled, and stomped on by years of being told it was impossible, difficult, inconvenient.  I would have to go through the process of sorting, washing, folding (or as the cool kids do it nowadays, rolling) all or it and decide what to put back into the drawers.  To take a new, clean, freshly laundered look at what it is I want.

I won’t even try to say that I’ve figured it out or that the same thing won’t happen in this year now upon us, but it’s nice to see my old hopes and dreams, fresh and ready to be worn.

My one want is that those ‘clothes’ become so comfortable that I choose them – even when they are dirty and need to be washed – as opposed to letting them sit at the back of my closet. I want to wear them out until there is only strings left and I have enjoyed them thoroughly to the last use.  I want to experience every dream I have for myself until it’s time to shop for a closet full of new dreams.

#12

Educated, hard-working, loyal,
Business-centered, skilled
Yet, not quite good enough

Intelligent, detail-oriented, curious
Creative, Personable
But, somehow not up to snuff

Strong, opinionated, capable
Resourceful, customer-focused
Looked past, because I don’t have the same stuff.