So much for my National Poetry Month pledge. Ah well.
Creativity, writing or other artistic medium, has been distant this winter into spring. I'm also not really motivated to read much either. I was thinking this morning about the two kinds of shame that arise around this. First out of the gate comes the, "Why are you at your desk working on collage, polymer clay pieces, organizing, bead work, anything!?" That one is so obvious. I should be making an effort to spend time at my desk dedicated to my art. This is the way artists become selling artists.
The more subtle voice of criticism is softer and hints at some colossal, irredeemable flaw in not wanting to be creative. To be perfectly content in this slow, fugue state and not desire to break out and make art seems like the biggest betrayal, failure of them all.
Which means that some days, still many days, I work a little (3 classes a week, moving up to 5 come June), try to take care of some household errands and/or chores, and nap. I still feel kind of amazed at just how much I still nap and how an hour of therapy can throw me into a tailspin lasting for days. A particularly intense therapy session earlier this month has seen me back to nearly daily naps, many over 2-3 hours.
What finally occurred to me on the 11th was that I'm angry. I left that therapy session angry, which was a far healthier response than the shame and body disgust I went in with. That said, I'm really at a loss when it comes to anger. A childhood of being disallowed the expression of any "negative emotions", anger, disrespecting elders, "talking smart", anything perceived or labeled as "back talk", etc. As a young child this was enforced through physical action followed by banishing me to my bedroom where I was also not to cry and carry on, lest I be "given something to cry about". As I grew older I would mostly just be banished. Cut off from contact aside from school attendance. The rest of the time I was in my room with the door closed, shutting me away.
What I realized now is that when I'm angry I tend to get in a gray, exhausted, demotiavted funk really quickly. This leads me to just go to bed and nap. I go somewhere quiet and try to wait it out. Which really worked for me growing up, but as an adult.... well it still works because I'm teaching and not working some stressful, full-time+ job in IT. However, I also get that the anger I feel at the abuses I survived is a pretty reasonable response.
And yet... there are my vows, particularly the Ninth Grave Precept which directs us to, "Actualize harmony. Do not be angry."
So I'm trying to find ways that let me acknowledge and reconcile the anger I feel, particularly my "inner, younger selves" that were so utterly denied any way to express anger at what was happening in the present moment. Ways to express the anger that are safe, measured, and do not bring further harm to myself or others. I'm brainstorming some "intuitive art" sessions where I just pick colors, textures, words, and images from my collage materials that the inner anger resonates with and, on the advice of my therapist and CK, I occasionally try yelling and screaming in the car.
I've only been able to establish a restful sleeping pattern in the past year. Peeling back the years of trauma and job-related stress (those 17 odd years of being on call) that created my inability to sleep well, chronic insomnia (couldn't get to sleep, couldn't stay asleep), starting from age 4 or earlier, has been hard. Multiple professionals have helped to treat me and give me tools to help me learn to rest at last.
These days I don't sleep as often or as much as I was in early 2014, but the need is still there. After more than a year of practice I am finally able to listen to my body without fear or self-shaming and let myself nap, fully rest, whenever I need to. It is nothing short of miraculous.
After a lifetime
Nights of scattered,
Small hours of sleep
Caught between the
Night terrors and the
Waking anxiety that
To experience the
Gift of sleep, to
Learn the rhythm
Of the body and
Its need for rest,
True rest that heals,
Is sipping from
Kwan Yin's jug.
Drinking in the
Elixir of life.
As I am feeling my way into this new way of being in the world, emerging into the life of a yoga teacher, artist, and writer with equal measures of joy and trepidation, I am trying to return to some things that helped foster my creativity, like annual 30 Poems in 30 Days project for April, which just happens to be National Poetry Month.
In years past I've really loved showing my love for poetry by committing to challenge myself to write 30 poems in 30 days. I'm not sure here on April 1, 2015, if I've ever done them all. I'll have to look back and see. I'm not sure I'll get them all done this year, but I feel good about reviving this "tradition" on my blog. Trying to write poems each day challenges me in many positive ways.
The biggest challenge is to just compose a poem. Write it, one day, often at a single sitting (although a haiku may take me the whole day to compose). Don't fiddle with it, just write it, publish it on the blog. Don't judge it, just write it. That's a hard one to work with, but this annual exercises challenges me to work with my inner critic.
This uncharted territory
Had beckoned to me,
Yet always seeming
Far off, shimmering
On the horizon.
Yet now I find myself
Right at the edge,
Ready to step down
The road to a new way.
Now, now is the time.
I feel, all at the same time,
Joy, fear, uncertainty,
And, to my surprise,
Delight at moving into a life
I never dared hope to live.
In February I registered my business, Samatha Yoga, which I hope to begin growing this year as a mobile yoga teaching practice, bringing classes to offices, conferences, wedding showers, and more. I've been communicating with one local company already after having counter-pitched an inquiry from a technical recruiter; saying that I wasn't in the tech business anymore but wouldn't they love to improve the Health and Wellness options at the office by having me come teach yoga.
I've also been teaching two mornings a week at a gym in Happy Valley. It really is growing the ideas I come up with without any props aside from the yoga mats the students bring themselves. However, if my resolve to eventually only teach classes or private sessions were props are abundantly available wasn't already made, this experience only strengthens it!
I also spent part of a week attending workshops at Art and Soul last month, which was exhausting and exhilarating in equal measures. I took two workshops, which I'll be writing about soon on the ZenZada blog soon.
I've recently done some immersions where yoga, meditation, and/or energy work and journaling is used an approach to work with anxiety. These aren't teacher training, but as a teacher I'm finding them very valuable as I gather information to make the best decision for my training to become a certified yoga therapist.
At the beginning of March I sold my old house in North Portland. The sales cleared all the debt associated with the property as well as some remaining personal debt, including the very last of my student loans. As embark upon this exciting new experience of running my own business it is an enormous relief to have the liability of the house hanging over me now that I no longer receive a lucrative tech income.
So in many ways my new life seems to be taking off! Which is as exciting as it is tiring.
This month also sees my unemployment benefits expire. I am feeling anxious and guilty about this date sneaking up on me. I have been refining, tweaking, researching, refining, etc. on my application to the Self Employment Assistance Program that I'm afraid I may have missed the deadline to apply. There's another federal program I should still be able to apply for, I hope.
I'm feeling mad and frustrated with myself and the days where I feel like I've been zapped by a Cone of Demotivation (+4) that leaves it hard to even keep up with things around the house, make art, improve my business materials. I've been hit by another round of headaches; seems muscle tension is impeding the circulation of lymphatic fluid and blood in my head and neck.
In my meditation practice I've returned back to something my old Zen teacher used to say, "I am whole, complete, lacking nothing." It helps keep firm the reframing of seeing myself as wounded, not broken. I'm working on a bright book of affirmations for the year and am including this mantra, of sorts in it.
In February I also played around with using one of the heavy paper cranes I'd made for our first wedding as the basis for collage, becoming a kind of paper sculpture. One of these large cranes had been delivered to my Mother in the hospital on that day. When packing up her things for the last time I chose to keep it. However, seeing it was rather bittersweet for me. I added more layers of paint to it, a quote from Mary Oliver on one side, "Leave some room in your heart for the unimaginable." and that mantra on the other. In February it was sent, along with 60 beautiful cranes folded from chiyogami paper and two hats, knitted by my friend LG, with a paper crane pattern worked into it. It made it in time to Lansing, Michigan, to bring one of the last smiles smiled by my second college friend to lose their battle with cancer. Yesterday, very early, she peacefully passed onto the next journey.
Spring starts as rather a mixed bag. Sadness, excitement, joy, anxiety (always), hope.
I haven't written much this past year, a huge 12 posts in all of 2014. It was the kind of year I never expected to happen, really, I never expected to get the privilege of having time to stop, to honestly look at things, to heal.
I wrote in December 2013 that things had blown up spectacularly with my Mother. It still isn't something I want to talk about as publicly as my blog, but if you're someone who knows how to contact me directly, drop me a line or give me a call, invite me out for tea or lunch if you're in Portland, and I'll give you the high level of all my Mother put us through.
Back in April of 2012, when all the chaos of trying to get my Mother's financial assets returned to her by her husband, someone left this comment on my blog. Understandably, I choose not to publish it (exactly why I have a posted comment policy).
Take your mother home
Submitted on 2012/04/13 at 10:22 pm
It’s your duty to invite your mother to live with you in your home. Take care of her until
The day that she dies. Anything less from YOU is a disgrace.
Umm... yeah, I've been carrying that one around for a while. It has made me felt crushed by guilt. Ironically, when this compassion-impaired, ignorant, judging person posted this unpublished comment we were already discussing what would have to change in order to have my Mother move in with us.
We bought another house. I became a landlord and rented out the house I'd purchased. We moved all our stuff. A month later we moved my Mother and most of her stuff into the new house. A week later we had a house full of emergency responders in our chaotic house because my Mother took her lunchtime insulin and fell asleep, so her blood sugars dropped so low as to require a trip in an ambulance. So began our daily oversight of her medications, insulin, blood sugars, meals, etc.
The amazing thing was is that it actually helped. Her care providers were truly seeing improvement in her health overall, things that had worried them for years. The constant message from them was to keep doing what we were doing. The diet changes, the help with medication, the fall prevention (in part due to stopping her over medicating herself), and the regular oversight was really shifting her health dramatically in a positive way.
Except we were to find out she didn't want it. She really didn't want that improvement and even rejected me personally in one of our last conversations in October 2013.
Yes, all this while working in a position at a large high tech company that constantly demanded more and more of my time, and where I'd eventually experience sexual harassment from my boss.
The combination of all of those things just shut me right down last year. "Dangerously Exhausted" was a phrased used by both my new physician and new mental health nurse practitioner. Total emotional and physical exhaustion, nearly the the point of hospitalization. In the end, seriously harming my health as well as the health of my marriage, was all I got out of throwing myself fully into trying to care for my Mother while working to the point of tears over a project that just couldn't succeed.
In late November 2014 I commented to my therapist that it had been a while; that I was expecting to hear from my Mother any day now.
Yes, despite my letter asking her to direct all communication thorough CK, she has sent some cards and letters, which mostly focused on asking for things we've already tried to send. Less than a week later a social worker called CK and told her that my Mother had chosen to go to hospice care, with no further treatment of the thyroid cancer or anything else. CK then called to share the news with me.
So now there is the weight of waiting. Tom Petty said it best, "The Waiting" is the hardest part. This is the state I've been in since early December. Back when she had a "month" to live, possibly more if she responded to the palliative treatment.
Only he was singing about love and passionate encounters. However, the same adage applies to this limbo state I've been in since early December. Waiting for the call, the news that she's finally passed over.
Waiting for the news I've prepared my whole life for. It finally feels like I'm ready for that news and now I wait.
I sent her a letter that arrived early this week. It reassured her that I'm doing fine, that I know she (believes) she loves and cares for me, and that I hope she was finally moving toward peace at long last. Now I just feel the weight of waiting for that final phone call, waiting for the news that she is gone.
October is here, arriving with a burst of rain and then come days of warm, summery days and crisp evenings. Really, one of my favorite times of year in Portland. Leaves are just turning, apples are plentiful, all the moss that had gone brown in the summer heat turns to green again. I'll miss the last two weeks of the month because we'll be leaving the house, and all the beautiful creatures living in it, in the very capable hands of a dear friend while CK and I enjoy a trip.
Part of the trip for her will be work, but we have several days for just us. It has only taken two marriage ceremonies for us to have a honeymoon, but we're finally doing it. I'm getting really excited for the adventure of an entirely new place, one I've always wanted to visit. I'm also just happy for us, the last few trips CK and have taken together have been completely overshadowed by the Mama-Drama-Rama the claimed 2012 & 2013. We deserve a nice holiday with no emergencies to deal with at home.W
My talk to MozFest didn't get accepted, which is disappointing, but it is nice to not be worrying about my slides, etc. before giving a talk. I will be attending though, if anyone else is there and wants to look me up.
I've been applying for teaching positions at studios around town. Really, it feels like auditioning, particularly when I give a demo of my teaching. I never thought I'd come to prefer the grueling, multi-person, multi-hour interviews of the tech industry, but the audition thing is so nerve wracking that I'd take the old way back any day! What I've discovered is that there are a lot of teachers in the area and a lot of owners that have a very specific image they're trying to project.
No, I'm still not working in tech. The earliest review of that, a date given grudgingly, would be January 2015. However, the overwhelming opinion is in favor of me not going back to the tech industry at all. I've been noodling over this quite a bit the past few weeks after getting some unexpected news about my last company/team. I spent a good week in blue sky mode, fantasizing about going back so I could prove I could hack it, or make a difference, or finish something.
Then I had a good talk about all these feelings coming up with my therapist and after some discussion I saw that a large part of my desire to return to my last company is out of some hope it will "fix" my feelings about leaving college. It will somehow repair the past if I prove something that doesn't really matter in the present.
That brings me back to healing from the idea that you can spend 17 years building yourself into something and be told that you have to stop. I never thought that would ever happen. Maybe wouldn't have had I not had such a supportive wife and felt that I still had to keep everything moving along, regardless of my own health and the health of my relationships.
I am humbled by the abundance of support I now have in my life. Instead of trying to find a job that just gets me by, that doesn't let me take the time to really heal the hurt and trauma I've survived, I am instead thinking of ideas of how to market my private yoga sessions with people. I'm also on Week 6 of The Artist's Way, and that has been bringing me some profound insight on how I view my health and identifying the ways in which I'm mean to myself; writing things down so I can better work with them. I've also been working through a lot of anger about my Mother, huge amounts; my therapist and PMHNP both say that it is about time for me to feel angry, about a whole lot of things.
All that means I'm also still napping, which I'm trying to be less judgmental about having identified my impatience for my need to rest as a way I'm mean to myself! Some things, like having a 45 minute conversation about what it was like at my job this time last year as part of the process to review my eligibility for unemployment benefits, will leave me feeling worn out for a day or two. I am keeping in mind and trying to celebrate that it is an improvement over a week's fugue-state after challenging tasks like that.
The good news about sticking with the hard work is that it is helping things out; I am getting unemployment benefits now that I've been released to some kind of work and am actively searching. I'm going to be applying for a couple of programs that help you establish your own business, which I'm qualifying for since my physician has advised me not to return to my old career. Teaching classes here and there is going to be hectic and costly in regards to time spent commuting and fuel. CK has been brainstorming ideas for me to set up a solo teaching practice, with a class or workshop at a studio here and there.
I've also just started an Etsy shop. It isn't "open" yet because I need to face down my block over photographing artwork to post. In addition to pieces listed, I'll also be taking custom work. This winter I experienced a huge shift it what I was creating and am really excited by the direction I'm heading it, but I've avoiding photography for some fear of failure.
I'm planning to take an introduction to matting and framing artwork class at the Multnomah Arts Center next month. I plan to use at least one of my own pieces of artwork since I have so many questions on how to mat them. I know it will get me over the fear of using the mat cutter I bought a few months ago!
Since I've been doing so much with making art, I've started a new blog, ZenZada. We're also going to include stories about our life (mostly raccoon adventures thus far), reviews of places we stay when we travel, vegan/GF travel tips, and other lifestyle things like that. I started it in part to have a place to write about my co-creative art project with a Portland artist.
Vegan Nosh continues to move along, I've been doing a series of experiments with vegan burger recipes and posting about them. Since we found out CK cannot have gluten, I've been doing more experimenting and cooking at home, which is really better for us in so many ways.
A week ago was my 45th birthday.
The evening before we had dessert and went to a linoleum block carving class together. It is a technique that is also used to carve stamps for things like letterboxes, so now we can make our own stamps to plant. We had a lot of fun taking the short class together, each finally choosing a piece of Banksy's artwork to make carved blocks from. Here's my carving of one of my favorites:
We celebrated my actual birthday quietly by driving out to Arcadia Beach for a picnic and a walk on the beach with Dora. It was an unusually sunny day at the Oregon Coast, which was a real treat. We took our camp stove and I made tacos for our picnic. On the way back home we stopped at a farm stand and picked up corn, summer squash, chilies, and a big head of savoy cabbage. We just took it easy in the evening, eating leftovers and playing boardgames. The next night I grilled a bunch of the veggies for dinner.
CK took off the whole last week of August, two days of it comp time, since she'd worked the first three weeks, nearly continuously. We spent the time working on some house projects, resting, reading, and playing boardgames, mostly Twilight Struggle. CK had picked it out years ago, but we never seemed to find the time to figure out how to play it. We finally did last week and had a good time playing it, although I have lost all the games we played!
Recently a friend from college recommended The Artist's Way to me after I'd had a very upsetting experience demonstrating teaching at a yoga studio. Christie had noticed my interest in it and surprised me with The Artist's Way Starter Kit and The Artist's Way Workbook. She also picked out a couple of other books I'd wanted, one for fun, The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volume 1, and the other for inspiration, Living Your Yoga: Finding the Spiritual in Everyday Life. I'll be detailing my experience with The Artist's Way on our new blog, ZenZada.
I also got my proposal, Yoga; a Model for Open Knowledge, submitted to the Mozilla Festival being held in London this October (you have to search for the title, there isn't a direct link to it).
Last month I was feeling very down, so a quiet and restful birthday with CK was just what I needed. It was also nice for us to have some time to just rest and enjoy being home together. It felt like the first time we've had to actually be at rest in our home together after the trauma of the past 2+ years.
CK asked me a goal for this new year. After only a little consideration I said that I want to actually sell artwork! It seems a worthwhile goal and I certainly am set upon the path.
It has been kind of a tough week. Not anxious, more down, just another low of grief and anger to process. Between the session a week and a half ago and going through some photos of me as a child I've been stuck in a kind of anti-social funk all week. Once I just accepted that my week was going to include this processing, made space for it, I was able to find things I felt like I could accomplish and was also to take moments to really feel the happiness the exists concurrently, in the same space as the grief and anger.
Despite my hermit-y mood, I did make it out Friday to a neighborhood, small-business owner lunch. It was held at a place I was familiar with and knew food wouldn't be an issue. I got to practice saying things like, 'I'm a yoga teacher." and "I'm an artist" with strangers. Also practiced acknowledging I got really ill this past winter due to extreme stress and sleep disruption with both my old job and living with my Mother. I left with someone possibly interested in some private sessions to help her create a home practice she is comfortable with.
Today I got up and walked Dora then started puttering around the house most of the day. I may have over done it about, especially since there was a lot of moving stuff from upstairs to down and from down to up. However, I look around at the work done, much of it to improve my own studio space, and it feels good to make progress despite feeling a lot of aches.
After some dinner and watching a little MLS on television I went out to soak in out hot tub, listen to the frogs singing, and appreciate the "super moon" rising. We never really had any wish to have a hot tub when we were house hunting in 2012. That said, we're appreciative of the house having one that's so convenient to use (right off the kitchen on the deck). My doctor and other care-givers strongly urge me to soak every night before bed, and I do think it has been helping a lot with sleep and the level of nighttime-to-morning pain.
Tomorrow CK returns from London, briefly, before heading down to California. It will be so nice to have her company for a little while. Her laugh and made-up songs always lift my mood.
I couldn't resist a haiku in honor of tonight's moon:
Summer moon rises.
Golden and full in the sky.
Frogs sing gratitude.
This week CK is in London. My big goal is to try and do some good photography of the artwork I began working on this past winter. I feel like it has been a whole new expression for me. At times it is almost as if the lack of creative output during those last 18 months or so dealing with my Mother and my job just condensed into a more complete expression if that makes any sense.
Last month at the World Domination Summit (WDS) I ended up sharing my newer work with quite a few people. I was pretty blown away by the positive response and the interest to purchase pieces. I'm going to be exploring the wonders of setting up an Etsy shop in the next week or two and start selling artwork. I've also started to post about art projects, technique, etc. on our new blog, ZenZada; there's even a post up about a co-creative project I've started because of a workshop I took during WDS. I'll continue to explore what art means to me, and how it is part of my healing, here.
Last week had a tough therapy session. After nearly a month of nightmares with a pretty consistent thing, we looked into what was coming up around it. I was disappointed that it is one of those Big Trauma incidents from when I was 9, which was a year really filled with upset all around, but one thing in particular really haunts me. I always hope each time it comes up that I'll be done with it and moving on. Apparently not yet. My therapist says she thinks I need to work on forgiving my 9-year-old self.
All that and CK in London, plus my planned Saturday beach trip has been canceled due to illness. Just enough to make me sigh and feel a little blue. On the positive side, the creatures are happy to spend quiet time with me, I'm seeing a concert tomorrow evening, and this summer has had us listening to frogs singing, which suits our treehouse-feeling home perfectly.
Frog song in the night.
Wind whispering the bamboo.
Waxing moon arises.
tap. tap. tap. Hey, is this thing on?
I feel that at least a short summary on all the things that have been going on is long over due.
By October of last year work became intolerable to the point of triggering my PTSD and my Mother flat out told me that she didn't want to work with me/us to live together or even have a relationship with me. In early November 2013, as I was trying to put on Ignite Portland, Mother pulled the granddaddy of all tantrums in order to get her own way and strike out in one massively hostile, abusive, dangerous action. And I? Well, I just had to stop and was encouraged by HR to go on short-term disability.
I was granted the benefits for two months, but instead of personal recovery I had a couple of frantic months where I was still dealing with Mom's stuff and hostile behavior. I also frantically looked for another job. Then day came where I was supposed to go back to work and I really just kind of halted, the human equivalent of a core dump. My health care providers told me to stop all of it and sleep, take walks with the dog, make art, read and take lots of hot baths. There's new medications too, which have helped me to start sleeping again and keep my PTSD at a more manageable level. I have also officially left my position at my old company.
So I run errands during the weekdays and have been working on organizing more things around the house. Spending a couple of years constantly dealing with my Mother's stuff has had me taking quite a few trips to Goodwill to get rid of things I realize I no longer use, read, wear, etc. A friend of mine and I created two new flower beds in our yard last month, one in the back and the other right outside the front door. I love that whenever arriving home or leaving, the first thing we see now are flowers.
My health care providers remind me that I am doing the necessary work of healing after years of exhausting work from being on-call for so many years and the even harder work of healing the wounds from the abusive relationship with my Mother. Lately there's been more good days than bad, which helps me feel like there's "progress".
Still, there are days were I find it hard to get myself to leave the house. Seeing old co-workers causes panic attacks. News or contact by my Mother causes a week of nightmares and days-long anxiety. Finding yet another box of her hoarded, expired medication exhausts me. I'm told that the level of breakdown and extreme exhaustion I was at in December was pretty severe and recovery may take a long while. I have been strongly encouraged to "retire" early from high tech positions and instead teach yoga and start selling my artwork.
If I were to be hoping to return to tech, my doctor has said that she would consider releasing me to that kind of work until January at the earliest. However, my care providers have enthusiastically released me to start teaching occasional yoga classes. I'm going to be trying to get on the substitute teacher list at some of the community centers, athletic clubs, and yoga centers.
I also am now legally married to CK, which is amazing and wonderful. In early June Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage was overturned and we got our license within hours of the legal ruling. On June 14th we were legally wed in our backyard with a few close friends, CK's Mom & Step-dad, and sister were in attendance.
I've been adding a few new recipes to Vegan Nosh. I love that my food photography has improved so much from the class CK and I took together last year. I've found a linoleum block carving class the day before my birthday and have broadly hinted to CK that I'd love us to go together.
This weekend I will be attempting to spend some time at the World Domination Summit. Ticket was bought a year ago, when spending a crowded weekend with a few thousand people sounded fun. Giving myself permission to just go for the things I want to go to.