"I think our notions of what counts as radical have changed over time. Self-care and healing and attention to the body and the spiritual dimension—all of this is now a part of radical social justice struggles. That wasn’t the case before. And I think that now we’re thinking deeply about the connection between interior life and what happens in the social world."
Thursday, May 5, 2016
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
1. (of an illness) persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. "chronic bronchitis"
3. (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate. "the school suffers from chronic overcrowding"
Sometimes it seems like we use words so often that we have forgotten what they mean. Notice the definition of chronic here and how it talks about long-lasting or recurring. No where does it say "fixed, made better, gotten over, let go" after a long time. It simply says long-lasting or recurring. While some of the synonyms in there lean toward an awful tinge on that with "ceaseless, unabating, unending," those are just synonyms. Chronic itself does not indicate that consistent battering, but rather just leans toward more of an oscillation with recurring being used to describe the nature of it.
Chronic illness and grief experiences (though I absolutely do not think grief is illness at all!!) are both things that, in my experience, are truly chronic even though the dominant paradigms in our modern Western world want there to be cure, feeling better, getting over, being well again, etc. It is still a very counter culture thing, it seems, to say to someone, yes, of course this is the 17th mothers day you are living without your child who died, and yes, it still sucks, and yes, that's normal. Not relentless. But chronic. Because guess what? Mothers days keep coming, and our kids keep being dead.
Being human and real is messy.
Look, I'm not dumb. Yes, there is a whole, mostly American, very capitalist, way of life out there that is about business, the bottom line, positivity, success and "forming your brand" and all that. But let me just be honest with you from the get-go: There is no way in hell I'll ever be your positivity, let-me-guide-you-because-I'm-so-experienced, guru with a branded message that can be blurbed in a few minutes on mass media making us all feel better. It is understandable that you are looking for that. It is understandable that you are disillusioned to not find that.
But I like to curse. The word fuck is lovely to me. I am messy and deal with chronic health stuff. Not relentless, but chronic. Metaphors in the health issues abound that mirror some of the experiences I've had with grief. There are days when it does not matter how "nice" I want to be, there just is not one single ounce of patience in me, and my blanket house becomes my best friend. I write because I have to, not because I'm trying to sell stuff. It is as if the words gather at the ends of my finger tips and make them swell until I tap the keys so they can all escape. That's why I do it. Not to be your guru. I make a lousy guru.
These cursed blank screens and pages. OMG I hate them. I sit down to them over and over again because my chronic -- actually relentless in this case -- experience of being human has taught me that I need to use these blank space in order to keep my sanity. So I come back here again and again. But man, I fucking hate that wretched blinking cursor. That pen laying flat taunting me. I don't know what those spaces are like for you, but here is a sample of what runs thru my head as I sit to host them:
- You are thinking about writing what?!? WTF do you know about xyandz? You cannot write about that!
- You must be kidding. You are going to offer your opinion about what? You are the most clueless dink on this planet, but by all means, go ahead and offer your "opinion"!?!
- Why do you bother to do anything with these spaces, woman? No one gives a shit. Even you don't give a shit. So why are you torturing all of us here. Wasn't it much better when you drank and did drugs so that we just didn't have to think about any of this?! (yes, being sober is a chronic experience also!)
Sitting in my tree swing yesterday, with a big swath of time to myself, uninterrupted, and I noticed that the wind was blowing and moving the clouds from south to north. Hmmmmm, I said in my head, look at that. The wind is coming out of the south. The clouds are moving north.
And then I pondered this. What? Who cares? Why do I even know that is south and this is north? How the hell did I end up living a life where I know the cardinal directions no matter where I am in our house or on our property? What is it in me that was so excited to assert: The wind is coming out of the south. ???? Really?
Man, being human is a weird experience. Weeeeeeeeeeeiiiiiirrrrd.
Yesterday morning I woke after a good 9 hours of sleep and rolled over onto my right side and pain shot through my whole bod. Something on my right side, below the rib cage, above the hip, to the right of the belly button, felt like someone had been inside there using that space as a punching bag all night. Nothing showing on the outside at all. But the bod felt bruised from the inside. No idea. No clue. I don't remember pulling anything, doing anything in particular. I went to sleep and rolled over.
Cobbled my way through the day yesterday and wound up curled on the couch and taking my tummy meds several times before just sleeping sleeping sleeping. I have a love hate relationship with those meds. I can take them up to 4 times a day, but they are blurry and all I want to do is sleep. Usually I take them only at bedtime. Most of the day, I just hum along. But at night the pain can spike. Since they make me blurry anyway, bedtime was the compromise I could live with for them. So I HATE it when there are days where I have to take those bastards during daylight because I know I'll be out of it.
And, okay, yes, given that the pain comes, I'm grateful to have those bastards when stuff happens. Random stuff. Not relentless. Chronic. Fuck.
Slept like I was in a coma for some ungawdly amount of hours. Awake now. No meds yet. Can still feel it, but not so bad as yesterday. See the doc tomorrow. Okay then. One day at a time. One freaking minute at a time.
Want to hear something funny. Re-reading this post to correct errors, and suddenly self-consciousness rises with a flush to the face. "Dear gawd, Kara, do you see how many times you have typed the word I?" Part of my studies back in the day were with Mister Rogers Neighborhood, looking at how Fred used language across mass media to create a different way of using technology to support child development. He was very, very conscious about using the word I as little as possible. In scripts. In songs. In answering fan mail. In books.
Can you spot the amount of shame-driven crap that surrounds my experiences with meeting these blank posts or pages each day?? The bulleted list of stuff that runs thru my head shared up above? The "do not use the word I" rule. The defensiveness about what chronic really means? Rules. Big books of rules that really are shame triggers. There definitely are reasons that I so fervently threw my hat in the ring when Cath approached me about starting the Studio to do continuing ed stuff about "Shameless Grief"!!!!!!!!
Note to self: Loving the chive flowers as you do, eating three of them at a time in the smallest cup of soup or salad, please do remember that they make your breath STINK! :) Break out the summer mints.
Well, okay, hope you all are having pain-free and minty days. More later.
Monday, May 2, 2016
That is all shared from a chronic illness perspective, but even as I type it, I can hear friends and loves in my head saying, "Hell, that's my everyday, health stuff or not, that's humanity." Cycles. Processes. All our glorious messiness. For me, the question continues to be, "How to just be present with whatever IS rather than judge it, hate it, try desperately to change it?"
This time of year in the garden is really exciting. Look at the deep rich colors and beautiful shape of those rose buds in the pic with this post! I adore this plant. It is showing up for Spring in a thriving manner. New legs of it bushing out at the bottom. The top of it brimming with new flowers like this. I get all attached to it and tend and weed around the bottom, make sure it has water, fall in love with it. Inevitably though, somewhere along the line, the deer fall in love with it, too, and will show up, ghosts in the night without a sound, and leave me with munched limbs and flailing leaves. This often leaves me so frustrated. Even though the bigger picture is that we put a garden right in the middle of one of their paths, and they are foragers who have just discovered good food. :)
Glorious messiness. I find it hard to love it. I find it easy to hate it. I find it difficult to practice just allowing it all to be *IS*...is-ness.
Have you ever noticed that, very often, coffee tastes better if someone else makes it?
This morning is just a mass of sleepy eyes and hurting stomachs and trying to convince myself to just go my own pace. Go slowly if need be. Let the lists hold the things your brain is too swollen to hold. There is no race.
Have you ever kept morning pages? I laugh every single time I stumble across one of my morning pages notebooks or files on my computers. They are just filled with fuck-this' and nooooooo's and oh-my-gawd-i-hate-this' and whyyyyyyyyy's. With sometimes a spark or two at the end where the fog lifts and there will land an "ooooooooh. okay." :) Are your morning pages like that, too? Or is it just me?
Spectrum art journal course starts today and registration stays open thru November. Looking forward to the heART sparks and so grateful for the self-paced nature of it. Today I'm looking at the first FANTABULOUSNESSES of it and that's about all I can manage. We'll see what colors and textures unfold as the week unfolds though.
Reader sent me an email asking about garden journal entries for this year. Yes, doing them and you'll find those over on my Insta acct. Not sure if I'll do longer posts here this year or not. Insta just makes it very easy to do in the moment, on the fly, capture the notes while I'm still in the garden even. And the layout of the feed archive makes it super easy for me to find previous years entries to do comparisons and remember things quickly. So anyway, if you are looking for those type pic and info, they'll be over on Insta this season. Even managed to capture a neon spider on chive bloom the other day!
Okay, that's enough babbling for today. Off to get some things set up for our upcoming June session at the Studio. Gonna chat with Tamara in a bit to look at this week's to-do, and Cath and I will be considering scholarship applications this week. Man. That is a hard task to do for recent sessions. Everyone is soooooo amazing, which makes it really difficult to pick just a couple! But we're workin' on it and will have more for you on it at the end of this week/beginning of next week.
Oh, also had a comment on my blog biz page asking about creative prompts. There are a slew of archive posts of those here on this blog - and you'll find more if you look thru the "labels" of the posts here, too. And we do posts using creative prompt quotes and narrative type questions in a series over at the Studio, too, now. You'll find those posted bi-weekly over here.
Well, okay, Loves, enjoy your week. Hope you can go your own pace and tend as needed. Sending Reiki to one and all!
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Friday, April 29, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Bey's Lemonade looks unflinchingly at grief. Of all kinds. Not a day goes by that I don't think of my dead kids. And though you may not believe me, not a day goes by that I don't think of Tamir's mother, Trayvon's mother, Sandra's mother. Though you may say Bey's work is not for a white woman like me, she still has my whole entire heart for giving grief and love visible space.
When Charles Blow wrote about meeting with each bereaved mother, he gave visibility to the complexities of grief they were experiencing. When your child is not only killed, but then criminalized publicly, what does that add to the weight of grief? Is there a support group in this white supremacist imperialist capitalist patriarchy where these bereaved parents can find actual support?
Even as a monetary settlement of six million is made to Tamir's family, the police make statements about how his family should spend the money to educate children in their neighborhood about gun safety. Really?! Fuck you. You should educate your policemen to not kill children 2.5 seconds after arriving at a playground. And by the way, six mill is no where near anything, it is a mere spec in the universe of grief and social injustice.
And if you think that buys you away from the lifelong grief you've caused, you can kiss my white woman privileged ass mofo. And Bey will always have my heart because she is seeing to it that you cannot look away. That people will have to meet the eyes of these parents. That their loved ones will not be forgotten. You will not get to erase them with your lousy six million.
There are times when I become slightly obsessed with film. Particularly with the visual sumptuousness of the body of work of someone like, say, Fellini. Since yesterday, I have become slightly obsessed with Lemonade. Every single genre of music: covered. Every single genre of filmmaking: covered. Every move, every word, every invocation of love, pain, anger, joy, sorrow, grief, life, death, re-birth, all of it. Bey is creating the panels that were missing down at Ohiopyle. She saw the 1000 year petroglyphs and then how you tried to jump straight to the white man's war in the American Revolution as if there were nothing to see in between those two. She said fuck you for trying to erase the multiple panels that are the history and story and voice of all those between 1000 years ago and white man's war. She will show you. All the heARTists and people who were part of Lemonade, they will all show you. You cannot unsee. Deal. Wake.
The bones of my body have been silkscreened.
The tag at the seam of my head says, "Highly irregular."
My nails are painted with soil from trying to dig up the truth.
Objectivity is bullshit. So is closure. If you are human, you are in relationship. Individualism is always partner to a kinship system. Even a monk in the most far away cave, meditating for years, will have someone who comes looking for her.
I want to build caves out of blankets. String hammocks from the bones of the structure. Sway to the rhythm of the wind and tides. Let the chimes sing me to an awake-ness so expansive that sleep is unnecessary.
Strongest memories have water involved somehow. Full moon pulling the tide out of the ocean and spilling onto the highway in front of the hotel on the day they got married.
Jenny and I aiming to have prune skin for an entire week, never leaving the pool, not caring if we ate or not, just months before she would leave her body and exit life.
When Kris was little, maybe a year or two, I adored spending the day with her in the swimming pool. We grew fins and mermaid tails together.
Aunt Esther taught me how to swim. Later love would find its way to meet up under her Christmas table.
When we would drive South for vacation, Mimi and Unkie always picked hotels or motels that had swimming pools. It was a good summer if my bathing suit was never fully dry ever.
On land I loved watering the garden cucumbers because they would be so yummy to eat. I tried to love being in the garden with my grandfather until the day I told him of the bullying and racism my friend was enduring and how I wanted to stand with her, make sure she was heard, and his response was to yell that it was none of my business. If I had not been grade school age, I would have yelled back, "Then whose fucking business is it?!" I never visit his grave, I feel no connection to him at all, except when I feel myself hesitate wondering if it is my business, and then I yell inside my own head, "It is your fucking business! Speak up!"
In one of my high school AP journals, there is a handwritten note, in red ink, from Mr. El Cid that says, "Slow down." He was always trying to get me stop, don't knee jerk, consider, question, take my time, work up to the deep waters. After he died last year, his daughter wrote to tell me he still had a letter and poetry from me in his desk when he died, in a folder titled, "Important." How can he be gone now? He is right here. Work up to the deep waters.
It is a practice to remind yourself to savor when this life goes so incredibly fast. It is a practice to actually savor when you do remind yourself.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Process process process, Loves. Please don't forget that being alive is all about process. Really pause and question what is happening when you hear in your own head or when others ask, "What do you do?" or "Should I be doing more?" or "better?" or "different?" Etc. Just consider these spaces long enough to discover if they are being asked violently or non-violently. It is one thing to feel moved toward meaning making and begin experimenting and asking and playing. It is another thing entirely when these questions come with a heaping lump of shame that is insidiously saying:
what you are currently doing isn't enough
that you don't fit and need to be different
or that you are "better" than whatever is currently in place
etc etc etc
And the line is soooooooooooooooo fine between where these things are asked lovingly and where they are inflicting harm. So this circles around to process, process, process. Being alive, for me, is to realize that I am always in process, no perfection space where it all ends, staying aware of how to tend self and others non-violently. Practice.
Have you ever watched the sun glint off the surface of a large body of water and see all that sparkly dancing? I think in my last life, I was one of those Sparklies. I miss it so much when I see them dancing on the water. It is a longing I cannot explain.
Slept 9 hours last night and woke feeling like I have not slept at all. These moments remind me what "chronic" in chronic health issues means. Tend, tend, tending, tender, tend. Slow. Snail pace. Banana slug is a my kindred for a reason.
I love all those spaces of beauty like waterfront tourist spots and winery lands -- BUT I love them in the off season. Those times when people cram in to enjoy the "in season" and all, you will find me curled up in my swing avoiding it all. But man, wow, the off season is incredibly willowy and beautiful. Up at Beamis Point and Chautauqua and all yesterday, most stuff was closed, very few cars parked along the way, a few local folks sitting at cafe or pizzeria. Wind off the waters was cooooold and strong. But omgosh, I could dance in the middle of the streets. Our little island is much the same now. I love the willowy emptyish sun streaks on a late Tuesday afternoon, lets say. But height of summer sunny Saturday morn when every space is filled to the gills. My brain absolutely overloads.
Just a notice about how my physical-ness and internal-weirdo respond to stuff.
Hm. Sacred space. Everyday. Find myself pondering this morn if I can be slow enough all the rest of this week, even when traveling back on Wednesday, to notice - really SEE - sacred space in the everyday, the just being human, just being alive stuff of the days.
Photo challenge: can I use my phone cam to capture sacred space when I notice it?
Hm. We'll see. :)
Sending Reiki to all the eyeballs coming across this. Hope you are able to tend tenderly tend, too.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
You know those long summer days where you had so much fun that you didn't notice til the next day that you are sorta water-logged and crispy at the edges of your eyes from too much sun -- but it was worth it coz the day was incredible? Yeah, that's me today. The Creative Grief Studio reTREAT group held huge transformative space all day yesterday for each other, and the creativity of heART shared was love, love, lovely. I cannot thank you all enough for making the commitment to your own self-care, for showing up in a community way, and for allowing some really progressive ideas to surface and swim about with us yesterday.
Pretty sure I'll be processing for like the next month!
Just fyi: not all banana cream pies are made the same. When Toby needs pie, he needs the goooooood banana cream pie like the one Kristin had for us last weekend and not the one with the weird plastic foamy like meringue on top that Eat N Park serves. Ew.
It's a weird thing to walk through parking lots on a beautiful day. The concrete tends to take the eye. The lines, painted to make faux borders. The honking that only PA can serve up. But if you stop and look, there are green spaces and if you look up, there is incredible sky and sun. But everything about the concrete park is set to herd you, rather commercially, from one area to another.
Not that I ever really woke up and thought, "Hm, you know, Prince is alive today," but the last few days, the thought has crossed my mind throughout the day, "Hm, you know, Prince is dead." Same as when any loved one dies, really. But sort of amplified through this cultural bullhorn that is echoing it across multitudes in a way that doesn't happen when your intimate loved ones die. It isn't something we humans like to admit. But it is real to feel jealous that everyone is so worked up over his death, but barely notice when it is your father or kid who died. I see many reasserting the reality of death they live with/have lived with in the surge of shares remembering their loves, too, amid the purple scenes.
Connection, though humans need it as much as water I think, is a difficult thing. Hard to initiate. Hard to maintain. Hard to tend. Being visible is scary. Sometimes we shake when we speak even if it is a conversation with a love we've known since we were very young. Let alone if we are trying to speak in front of newly met folks or strangers. Sometimes the connections through social media work well because we can speak and know that others are not seeing or hearing the shake. It is all vulnerable though. In opposite ways almost, but still, vulnerable if we are actually reaching for connection vs. performance. But then again, it is all a kind of performance. I even perform for myself when I wake up, realize the loves I miss are still dead, and find some script or character description for/about self that makes me get out of bed again today. When I'm lucky, the performances break through to real connections.
Being human isn't simple. We are complex beings who hold many intersecting ideas and experiences as we navigate this being alive thing. Thanks to those of you who continue to navigate with me.
We really do need Star Trek tech to be able to transport in a flash. Not so much because I want to see the world or anything. But because I want to see Cath who is in Cape Town. I want to see Hawk on Vashon. I want to see Peter in Michigan. I want to see Em & Bray in the Burgh.
Going slow today. Will do my best to make it a slow week actually. Looking forward to seeing you, Hawk, on Wednesday! Can't wait to sit in the swing with some iced tea and conversation.
Love...to all the yinzes. :)
Saturday, April 23, 2016
Today's the day a group of us are meeting here in the Burgh to explore ideas about tending self and heARTwork as a process of personal and professional development. As usual, I'm kind of a weird one and really dislike sitting in a conference room chair all day. So the space is set in a circle for all of us to have chair if we like, but also I'll be taking a few pillows from my hotel room down to the meeting room with me to sit upon the floor!! Some weird confluence of being Burgh side and all the contemplations this week, and as I set the pillows on the table by the door, I heard Nonna (or what I imagine she would sound like) saying, "Don't steal the pillows!!" :) I assured her I'll be returning them this eve when I myself return to the room, too.
At dinner last night, I did indeed watch two streams of conversation flowing as friends I've known decades and friends I met in person for the first time yesterday all shared space to eat and talk and meet. As I sort of sat mid-way between the two worlds, the one thing that struck me was a sense of happiness at how all these folks around me were having *real* conversations. Whatever the topic, the depth and heart were present in every way. Though we marvelled at the rainbow that appeared part way through dinner, we really didn't ever talk about the weather. We talked politics, local schools, artmaking, history, spirituality. Book titles where shared and noted. Ideas were bouncing around us all.
I know it is a pain in the butt, with all our busy lives, to make a priority of meeting an old friend or getting out of your state to come to a one day event, but all the folks who did that last night, did it with a sense of being present that makes me tear up. It was a reminder to me (and that pesky ego of mine that gets in the way either inflating or deflating) that really, my best skill is probably just creating crucible of space. Invitations to space offered. People come or don't. And those who do come, do whatever they need in the moment to make magic happen. But they are doing that. Not me. I'm not "leading" anything. It is about the space being there for those who wish to be present. Whatever happens in the space, then happens.
Amid the stuff of these invitations and leading up to what will unfold today, I can tell you that a 45 minute nap mid-day yesterday did me a world of good. And turning out the lights last night was heaven. Sleep is meditation. And sustenance. And energy. And have I mentioned I love being able to sleep? I don't take it for granted either because the struggle for some around sleep is real.
As I head into a full day today of creative exploration, I find myself chanting in my head: metta metta metta. Wishing happiness and freedom for all beings. And hoping the hotel manager won't think it is totally bonkers that I'm bringing couch pillows from my room down to the meeting room today :)
Again, lots of Random Notes from the Day, but I don't feel like typing them. Going to take a meandering pace down for coffee and setting up space for all those who choose to come to it this morn.
Friday, April 22, 2016
It all happens so fast, doesn't it? Life. That fun thing you were looking forward to doing. Even the stuff you dreaded doing or dreading while doing it. It all just keeps on moving.
It was very difficult to understand, the week after our Kota died, that the world just goes on regardless. Watching as my feeds turn purple today, thoughtful posts shared, meaning making everywhere, and even amid it all, things pop up saying, "oh but it isn't over because there is a vault full of unreleased tracks." People are in the streets trying to shake the realization of death into their bodies, shake the shock out, and already the world is moving on to mine for the unreleased tracks so we can return to productivity as soon as possible. Not saying that is a conscious thing. Just saying that as this unfolds, there is a feeling, a hit, a something that expresses a capitalist undertone pointing mourning people toward "more product" and returning to a level of productivity.
I wonder a lot about the people whose children will die today with no notice on any social media feed but maybe their own. I wonder about the people trying to get themselves thru today, which is an anniversary of a death day of a loved one, and no one remembers unless they themselves put it on the radar for others. I wonder about all the loves, those I knew personally and those I didn't, who have come and gone already.
Around last year this time, when I was back east then, Mr. El Cid died. The roots of my love for words and creativity sink into soil where the physical bodies decompose. My mind flies to when a celebrity lost his name to capitalism and so turned it into a symbol no one could pronounce. I remember people making fun. Or just dismissing it because it made no sense to them. It was too much to ask people to look beyond the album cover symbol and to do some constructive thinking about what systemically, oppressive capitalism and white supremacy was doing to a black man. It was too much to ask us to understand the profound depth of what he was doing through that symbol.
El Cid had thankfully challenged me to go deeper. Soften my thoughts. Widen your understanding, Kara. SEE what he is modeling by the use of that symbol. There is so much meaning making to be discovered, if only the world did not rush us so quickly back to productivity.
"Closure: the rush to end grief and what it really costs us" <---a book by Nancy Berns. Go read it.
Getting ready this morn to meet up this weekend with childhood friends I've known over 40 years, and with more recent friends who I've worked with online for years, but have not met in person til this eve. Fred Rogers wrote about bringing the whole of ourselves to the table. Interestingly, I feel like the meal times I'll share tonight and tomorrow are an intersection of the various lives I'm living. Past and present pulling up chairs to share the nourishment of food and verbs. As Patti Digh tells us: Creativity is a verb.
Random notes from the day:
Too many today. Need rest and slow pace of getting ready for this weekend's events more than I want to type up the random notes today.
See you next post.