Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leaping faithfully

I am sitting in the wonderful gallery known as 2nd April helping out while Todd is caring for Brennis (who is now home- yay!) and I have already learned something new. Bring material to work on. Now for the artists here with me, that means of course ART. I am not a visual artist. I would love to be but never studied it enough to grab a hold of it. I can however, always find something to write about. So I hopped online for some inspiration and (of course) surfed FB a bit. I came across a blog post by the author of Falling Apart in One Piece - a birthday present from my sister the month my soon to be exhusband moved out. It was just what I needed to read right then, about author Stacy Morrison's journey through an unanticipated and unwanted divorce, which in some ways was very similar to mine and in others completely different- like all marriages and divorces tend to be. But the sentiment of a unilaterally terminated marriage seems highly universal.

I remember thinking that I could have handled things better if I had some of the things in place that Stacy did- a dream job as chief editor at Redbook, and a nanny for my child for example. I now know that it doesn't matter how much you think you have going for you- a huge transition and grief over the loss of your dreams for your family is still a very difficult road to tow. I also know that her job was brand new and full of heavy loads of responsibilities that I cannot comprehend being able to navigate my early months of separation and loss.

I sent Stacy a note about how much her book helped me. She graciously wrote back and we have cheered each other on through cyber space. I have followed her journey through losing both her parents, and now we once again find ourselves in the similar predicament of trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up.

In her latest blog about tranisition, she talks in depth about all the possible choices for her and in many ways they are similar to mine- practical and safe bets for earning a living, vs freelance creative ventures that never can guarantee income or security.

This is and has always been my quandry- how to combine my need to earn my living creatively with my drive to feel secure financially. In the past it meant a day job and volunteering in the arts. That worked when I was young and full of energy as well as had less responsibilities -including 3 kids who need to eat, go to the Dr, and pursue their own creative or otherwise ventures in order to

In the next few weeks I have to pack up my whole home, go to court and agree to the divorce I never wanted, and move into a new townhome. So yes...that all needs to be checked off my list first. I very "impractically" volunteered to help at the Gallery these couple of days, and then again on First Friday (the day I get my keys but I need to promote my workshop I'm teaching in July anyway.) I wanted to help, to give to the guys and fellow artist community who give of themselves often. And once the big things are off my list I can volunteer a few more times until the guys are both back on their feet and back here full time.

I am also taking these couple of days to taste what it feels like to come to a place like this to work every day.

And I'm liking it.

I am sitting in this gallery today...and dreaming. Of my own office here for the Howland Fry Theatre Project. I had written and heard from the guys about the possibility of that the week before Brennis became ill. Once I heard about his surgery, I shelved it and focused again on getting through the divorce and move these next few weeks and then will figure out my finances. It would take a leap of faith and commitment financially. But once Todd and Brennis are back in business in person we'll get together and talk about what's available and cost to see if I can swing it or not. If not that's ok too. It will come when it's supposed to.

This past year has been about letting go of so many things. But now I realize it's kind of freeing really to lose all you thought you had lined up. Because nothing is ever a given...nothing is ever truly secure. And if you don't let go of all those worries and practicalities you won't create the empty space for something magical to waltz right into your world.

Thanks again...for "listening."

Sunday, June 19, 2011


I have been longing to do a vision board for over 2 years, but wanted to wait til I could actually envision moving forward. It's always interesting to see what images and words jump out at you and I found out I am further ahead than I thought in many ways while the things I thought were on my mind most were reflected in teeny tiny words/images. The biggest surprise was apparently dating and romance are on my mind more than I would have ever imagined for myself a few years ago. Therapy and healing are still peeking through but no longer my primary focus. Creativity and security are an unlikely pair, but I am completely determined to make it my life's work. Thanks to Lara- my sole (soul) student for my vision board class (save Anna who made a Father's Day card which was already delivered today-

this card for Brennis-

And of course, this one for Matthew of the dreamy pic-

Friday, June 17, 2011

For the Love of Todd (and BRENNIS!)

Artists of all kinds have the collective reputation for being a bit self absorbed by the rest of the world. We sacrifice money, time, stability, and most of all according to the non-artists in my life at times- our relationships for our art.

The past two years of my life I have come to know firsthand that isn’t true in the grandest of possible ways.

In the Fall of 2009, I passed a colonoscopy and mammogram with flying colors. My yearly thyroid check was the same- somewhere on the brink of hyper but I could put off treating it again. Those are the test results I always dread and having another year or two of being free and clear had me walking into my yearly GYN appointment with complete confidence I could check some of the most unpleasant maintenance appointments off my list.

Looking back I now realize why we should really stop worrying about most of the things we do. Unlike what the people whispering secrets in the faux guru world would have us believe, it’s never the things you fear that come to you and knock you down.

It’s those you never even see coming.

“How long has this lesion been here?” is not a question you want your GYN to ask you. Nor is it one you could even adequately answer unless you practice yoga in the shower.

With a mirror.

Or several.

I had no idea when the growth had started other than she hadn’t noticed anything the fall before. It could have been weeks and terribly fast growing, or have been there since last October. I wasn’t sure which was preferred at that point. And like most patients who are hit with news there’s a toxic and potential threat on their body I asked her no questions, set up the excision and biopsy and went home to do my own research.

I have to say knowledge may be power, but in many cases with such diagnoses, God damn the internet. I had about a month to research, to worry, to realize that even with her having told me something was there that all the yoga and mirrors in the world wouldn’t have made a difference if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

I didn’t share this with many people pre-surgery. Why worry them? Why let them know I was worried? I took the approach I have on many a health crisis from the past- pretend it’s nothing and it will be so. It usually doesn’t work by the way. It didn’t this time either.

Somewhere in the midst of painful procedures, path reports, and adding a new specialist to my roster I became closer to (or further from depending on the comfort level of those reading) my Facebook friends-a lot of whom I only knew peripherally through the budding Arts District in Canton. And if the internet be damned for too much (mis) information at times, God bless it for its ability to connect those sitting on a couch in their living room in too much pain to leave the house and scared out of their wits about their health.

There’s another reason I was reaching out online, though I wasn’t aware of it due to the distractions of my health. As things progressed from Fall to Winter, I could feel that I was in fact dealing with this crisis alone despite being surrounded by a household of people. My kids were too young to be burdened with it, though they were old enough to share a little of what was happening and why I wasn’t able to do much for them for a few weeks. But my husband wasn’t there- at least figuratively. I made and received lots of valid sounding reasons for this, such as it was a scary thing and some people deal with that by withdrawing from it. That sounded good and I went with that. However over the next few months it became apparent that something else was wrong. I wouldn’t fully grasp how alone I was for another month or more, nor how alone I would come to feel in so many ways for the next few years.

On December 28th, 2009 I typed a status update to reflect being made privy that what I was feeling was in fact a unilateral decision to end my marriage. Oh- and it wasn’t mine.

That evening my Facebook status simply read…


I won’t tell you what my sister or niece had to say about it on someone else’s wall, but my nuclear family rocks. Just sayin’.

What I hadn’t considered was that those who had been following along so closely with my health concerns would interpret this as something far scarier than it was-for them I mean. Because for me it was far scarier than anything my health could muster up to distract me.

I refrained from posting details of course. I was still hopeful this was simply a case of temporary insanity. It was not.

Temporary at least.

The next Friday was First Friday. The theme was Fire and Ice (hmmm...) I wanted to go. I wanted to stay home and pull a blanket over my head too. But I had been doing that for months already and needed to breathe.

I didn’t know the artists at the Galleries of 2nd April that well, just the owners, Todd and Brennis. I always collected hugs from them on First Fridays. I like to think I’m the only one, but I’m not. It’s ok though. In this case I don’t mind sharing them. I couldn't keep them to myself even if I tried. These two guys are truly the heart of the Arts District here. But more on them later.

As I walked into the gallery I saw an attorney friend I know through theatre and was met with such a simple yet loaded question when one's life has been flipped to black and white...before and after.

"How are you!"

I filled him in. He hugged me and tried to reassure me the way so many people do when they know that words cannot contain enough love and support. I asked him if he knew the attorney I had called and made an appointment with the day before and was entirely reassured.

“I think you’re in good hands. I know the prosecutors don’t like to see him walk in with a client. He’s that thorough.”

Now that’s my favorite kind of reference- who’s the guy people don’t want to see walking to the other table in court? That's my guy.

Then he pointed and said, “Well-hey! There he is now!”

And so I turned and was introduced to one of two professionals who would champion me for the next few years. All I recall was that he was extremely tall and politely said hi as though he had any clue I had talked to him the day before on the phone. He then he walked off to catch up with his family. This was one of the first tiny suggestions that I could ever come back to the feeling that my life made some sort of sense over all- that I could start to believe that coincidences were not just that in other-wise hostile Universe. It seemed less intimidating to sit down with him the next week having at least seen him and met him in person already. And this 1.5 years later I find it highly apropos that it occurred in the Gallery that has in many ways become my second home and second life post ...well...haste I suppose.

What I remember most about that night was it was the first time I laughed-at myself, at my situation, and at my friend Todd.

I walked up to the counter for my hug, and was met by Todd whose expression turned from joyful to very serious when he saw me.

He leaned across the counter, lowered his voice and asked “What’s going on? I saw your status on Facebook…is it your health?”

I whispered six words, as though not saying them very loud would make them not true- the way people whisper the word “cancer.”

Then the hug came.

And the tears.

And with the most serious expression of sincerity the following question.

“You want me to break his knee caps?”

Now you have to know Todd perhaps to get why this is insanely funny. And let’s just say that the personality of he whose knee caps were in question makes it more so. I informed him of a past history of Military Academy meets Armor division and like any respectable artistic person he had to withdraw the offer with, “Oh well…shit. Guess not then. But I would have you know.” And then he smiled and winked and grabbed Brennis who was mid-transaction and not at all paying attention to our conversation.

“Take Brennis!" He joyfully exclaimed.

"You can have him! He doesn’t cook or anything and is kind of a pain sometimes, but well…he’s yours if it helps!”

And Brennis looked at him like he was crazy for just a second, then shrugged, then said, “Ok” while smiling that huge Brennis smile. Then he hugged me too.

And I laughed (a little.) And fell in love with both of them (a lot.)

I have spent the past 1.5 years rebuilding my life piece by peace. I still follow up with that specialist along with several others and have been more than blessed with the professionals that have come my way to champion my cause.

But the most profound healing that has taken place, is in and around the community which inhabits that gallery on a daily basis. My family shrank in some highly painful ways, but has multiplied in others too lovely to even comprehend.

This week I was reminded of just how incredible this family of Artists is. And why I am one of them. Really. They actually let me in. And seem to want to keep me. ;)

A few weeks ago Brennis had his own health crisis- half of the duo which is in fact the heart of the Arts District needs to heal his own heart. And Todd needs to be carried as he cares for Brennis.

This extended family has stepped up in the most amazing way- everything from hospital care packages to covering time at the Gallery so it can stay open, to planning benefits to help financially. One big heart of a family beating together to help one of its own (who just happens to have the biggest heart of anyone I have ever had the privilege to meet.)

So if you’re reading…

Stop into the Gallery called 2nd April in person or online. I’ll be there several times working the register myself. Drop them a kind word or make a purchase to support them.

And most of all...thanks for reading, for watching, for listening to and supporting your local artists. We are all so very blessed to be among them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Single Man

Time is ticking down on a strange inbetween place for me- finalizing one part of my life, and beginning the next. I have mixed feelings about it. None of it was my doing, or choosing. For the first time in my adult life I have fully realized I truly don't have control of the future. And for the first time in nearly 2 years, I am starting to understand that's ok, that no one really does, and that having the rug totally pulled out on you can be a cathartic and -freeing from attachment to outcome- experience. I mean if we could control our future at all, surely we would miss some horrible experiences, but would we have had some of the most amazing events of our lives that we never could have imagined into being? If I had a magic mirror I can assure you there's one little girl in the world who may not have come to be. And for that I think not knowing what's coming can turn from anxiety ridden to anticipation in one...tiny...heartbeat of a moment.

Early in this difficult journey- last February I believe-my sister asked me to see A Single Man at the Palace Theatre.

I looked up the content of the movie, and was concerned about how potentially weighted with triggers it would be. Two things overrode that worry.

One, I absolutely adore the Canton Palace Theatre and far prefer it's splendor to stadium seating, overpriced gourmet butter popcorn, rocking seats and drink cup holders. As with many things downtown in or around the Arts District, I wanted to reclaim it as my own as soon as possible and create new memories for myself that had nothing to do with anything of my life the prior 6 years.

And secondly (blush) I have had a huge crush on Mr. Colin Firth since he was Mr. Mark Darcy in Bridget Jone's Diary. And now that I'll be free to date I also like to believe his gorgeous Italian wife will walk out on him leaving him heartbroken with (of course) only me to console him. Hey- it could happen. Surely I'd be his first choice, right?

If I had any doubts whether I was ready to see such a film so early in my own traumatic grief process, the opening scene confirmed them for me. Mr. Firth's character, George Falconer, is having a nightmare he is drowning, then that he is at the scene of his partner's death. By the time his states via voice over, "for the last eight months, waking up has actually hurt," I realized that I was no where near ready for this material and thought about walking back out of the theatre. Instead I found myself transfixed with how accurate every line, every image, displayed the same exact experience I was having. I also was concerned about the fact this character, fictional as he may be, was already 8 months out and still so distraught. I was only about 2 months in, and couldn't for the life of me picture myself surviving that intensity for 6 more months. Looking back, I'm so glad I happened upon it. Rather than flee a sobbing mess I sat there nodding and feeling validated (and a sobbing mess) through every scene, and though I could have done without the tragic irony ending, I did get the point of the film-that life would perhaps someday start to feel normal again.

George's testimony to grief put my experience into tangible images and words for me. Lines like-

It takes time in the morning for me to become George, time to adjust to what is expected of George and how he is to behave. By the time I have dressed and put the final layer of polish on the now slightly stiff but quite perfect George I know fully what part I'm suppose to play.

Looking in the mirror staring back at me isn't so much a face as the expression of a predicament.

Just get through the goddam day.

For the first time in my life I can't see my future. Everyday goes by in a haze, but today I have decided will be different.

Sometimes awful things have their own kind of beauty.

If one is not enjoying one's present, there isn't a great deal to suggest that the future should be any better.

One of the most profoundly helpful things the movie provided for me, was something I was struggling to explain to other people- a physical aspect of my grief that was leaving me feeling like I was losing my mind. But thanks to A Single Man I had an artistic interpretation of this symptom to help others understand it.

The movie is shot in a way that it looks like an older 70's film- Zapruder –esq quality- all grainy and washed out in color. But when George connects with another human being, his grief subsides briefly and everything comes into focus and the colors become exaggeratedly brilliant. As his grief grabs hold of him again everything fades back into the dim world of someone struggling to heal. It didn't take long into the film before I realized this was totally intentional but only understood it because in fact my world was grainy/brilliant/too dim/too bright on a daily basis at that point. I would drive into my neighborhood where I have lived for 7 years, and felt like I was in a strange place- somewhere akin to another state entirely both literal and metaphysical. As cliche as it sounds, I was in a dream from which I could hope to pinch myself awake. Time held no meaning anymore as well, and I had to start taking a new path into my allotment as every time I pulled onto Diamond from Market I would recall the very first time, the very first invitation to dinner, the very first meeting of the child who I would come to parent for 6 years. My memory was playing tricks on me to the degree I felt like I had walked into my own non-linear adaptation of my world with sensory memory transporting me back- the smell of someone cooking on the grill, a fire pit going, sunscreen, lawn mower humming, the sun spilling into the kitchen at 5pm while I was trying to cook dinner for my now shrunken family. Bittersweet nostalgia enveloped me as well as living in a home that was no longer considered my own. I was a temporary and unwanted guest of the owner, being viewed like a pesty parasite, tolerated because the kind of exterminator required took a lot of money and effort. Better to just make the environment inhospitable enough that the unwanted occupant leaves of their own accord.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t. I had another year of healing and a hell of a lot of legalities to get through.

After seeing the movie, I started reading a book on grief (would say which but honestly I read/skimmed about 5 of them throughout those early months) which explains these physical symptoms. However in true artistic interpretation, Mr. Tom Ford's film channeled the experience for those who may be blessed to the degree that they have yet to experience them.

The book references a term most of us are familiar with already- "Fight or flight response." Traumatic grief actually is interpreted by your body as an enemy attacking. The hyper stimulated state can last for months (mine did and still occasionally pops back up.) I found that until I made it through the first year I was nearly constantly in that state-even during sleep like George was. I am relieved to report that at 8 months I was a lot further ahead than George in many ways, though not quite ready to be jumping back into the water as he does in the movie.

The film finishes the way any Oscar worthy Indie films does. No spoiler from me, but I will simply leave you with the words from the film that best describe where I am today- ready soon to jump into the water again.

A few times in my life I've had moments of absolute clarity, when for a few brief seconds the silence drowns out the noise and I can feel rather than think, and things seem so sharp and the world seems so fresh. I can never make these moments last. I cling to them, but like everything, they fade. I have lived my life on these moments. They pull me back to the present, and I realize that everything is exactly the way it was meant to be.

One integral part of my spiritual side which I lost was I stopped believing in "meant to be" December 28th, 2009. I struggled to hold onto it, because it justified so many things for me up until that moment that everything flipped from gray to black and white around me.

And though I actually still don't believe in "meant to be," I now see this as something that I needed to let go of anyway. "Meant to be" validates a lot of dysfunctional behavior and toxic situations for people-myself included. But I’m starting to find a little faith again. The Universe is mysterious, beautiful and hostile all at the same time. But the only direction I can go from here is back up into it.

Thanks…for “listening.”

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saw him tonight at the Canton Blues Fest -phenomenal. Can't wait for more Blues tomorrow night!