Regret Is A Gift

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I've written about my fascination and brief connection to Patti Smith before, but the one sentence summarization is that I was once accidentally very close to her with my camera, tasked with photographing her while getting pelted by a rain of her saliva. Was this her process? Ritual? Did she just have a bad cold that day? Unanswered questions still, and while I loved Horses like any other proper fan of female-vocalized rock and roll, my unforeseen love for her blew wide open with her book, Just Kids. I've read that book twice, and I never read books twice. I'm not the only one who has loved this book, so I won't be so arrogant as to assume I can properly critique it here, but just know that I've treasured it. So when she released M Train, I was hesitant to actually take the steps in owning it in my attempt to continue to savor Just Kids, that is until a few days ago when I stumbled upon a hard copy at my favorite thrift store. It was time. Just as I suspected, pen in hand I'm underlining at least a phrase a page. 

As of this writing, I'm only about half way through the book. She claims in the beginning that it is a book about nothing but it's all the nothings I marvel at, specifically how she allows herself to travel down any wormhole that her curiosity will take her. And not just trips to the library either, she'll go places that require planes and passports. At one point, I had to put the book down, overcome with a sadness that can only be spurred by regret. Most of the scenes in this book take place in a cafe or bar and she always describes her order: black coffee. I couldn't help but cycle back through my entire 20s and 30s, regretting my choices, wondering about that path not taken, the one where I'm drinking black coffee over booze. What if I'd traversed through life with only a camera and pen in hand, documenting details to later recount in the most eloquent prose and poetry instead of drinking until I fell off barstools, feeling so carefree and witty, determined to go home and transcribe the profundity of my experience only to either pass out before it happened or manage to jot something down that later proved illegible or meaningless and feeling so miserable, carved out and vacant the next day as not to even care? That times 365 days times 25 years. That's a whole lot of regret.

Immediately after my morning reading (and regret) time, I did the thing I always do and went to my tarot deck to pull a card. The first card I pulled was The Hermit, illustrated as a turtle with a candle on his back in The Wild Unknown deck. Lately when my intuition has guided me to, I've pulled a second card as a companion to the first and this day, the second was what may as well now be my default card, the card I always seem to pull when I'm stewing, the card that prompted me to start the Name It Journal as it begs of you to consider what you might be taking for granted in your life, finishing off with the question, What are you longing for? Name it. Good grief. It never doesn't feel like big dose of tough love, bittersweet because sometimes I like to hang out in that pity party for a bit longer. Sometimes I want to wallow in the muck, feel sorry for myself even when there is zero productivity there, I want to validate my own yuck with a You're right, you are definitely a piece of shit self-inflicted kick while I'm down. But there was that little rat resting on those Four Cups saying, You know what, Miss Sad? How about we think for a second that some people leave this Mortal Coil before they've even had the opportunity to experience regret? Some people never get to turn their ship around, right their wrongs, make up for lost time, do better because they know better? This is the moment to seize, not because it's the dregs or the slim seconds or an afterthought, but because it's the moment I have. So like a dog that just rolled in poop, I felt a slight pull of dignity, at least some resolution.

All doors are open to the believer.--Patti Smith, M Train

I was listening to an older podcast interview with Lidia Yuknavitch, another author I admire. She was talking about her experience as a teacher at a community college and that satisfaction she receives from helping students choose self-expression over self-destruction. I wonder if I'd had someone to guide, nurture and nudge me, would that have changed my trajectory? Would I have been open? I don't know the answers to those questions either. I only know that I'm open now. 

Folie À Deux

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folie à deux :: a shared psychosis, the madness of two

And perhaps that is bit of hyperbole as I'm not claiming any diagnosable psychosis, however, it is the best phrase I can use to describe the kinds of relationships I'm attracted to, romantic or otherwise, despite their inability to maintain any real longevity. It's true and in those that have lasted, there is always one more stable in the pair and spoiler alert: it's usually not me.

When the separated folies do attempt another à deux, because like flies to turds they just can't help themselves, one of them is inevitably working on their shit. "I renewed my driver's license! Granted, it took me a year after it expired but I did it and didn't get a ticket!" or "I just opened my first bank account in five years!" and it becomes a competition until one of two things happen: the one really striving towards stability is reminded again just what an epic fuck-up she still truly is and just how far she has to go before she'll be able to walk amongst the people who do things like renew driver's licenses on time or she owns how far she's come and can no longer be associated with people who remind her of where she came. Either way, it doesn't last.

I really hoped sobriety would fix this--all of it, but especially this attraction. I really thought I would suddenly be someone who drove around in a clean car, who used a bluetooth instead of illegally talking on the phone and who met other friends-with-their-shit-together for lunch. But it turns out, I still want the misfits in my life, the people that still don't quite have it together. Those people that only manage their lives well, still not very interesting to me. 

With most things, there is a middle place but some qualities are consistent. There is always some grit in my people, there is definitely resilience, but these people also seem to be the ones that are most open to change, to spontaneity, to excitement and I'm drawn (to use another bug simile) like a moth to a flame. This is the flame I want to watch, as it burns from a bright light to a flicker and then back to flaming, it is beautiful to me. 

Summer Excavation: 49 and 4 Years

 Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Maman by Louise Bourgeois at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

I'm experiencing much nostalgia right now. Not for my own past, per se, although my current excavation my have sparked it. I'm back in my writing class, back to writing on the daily. A few months ago during an exceptional meditation, one where your brain lights up, I was visited by an old boyfriend, which is such a casual descriptor for what this person was to me for a period of time in my 20s. Excavating this time in my life, reacquainting myself with the person I was in the early 90s by digging through old journals and photos and fuzzy memories has definitely ignited this feeling of nostalgia, but I'm not pining for that time nor that version of me. However, I am pining for a time before technology, a time when we gathered our ideas, information, inspiration from books and words and photographs and art. Before I could write this soliloquy and hit, Publish. I'm laughing at myself as I just typed that and sure, I'm grateful for this digital diary. Why don't I just burn it down and get my Walden on in the woods? Well, because ego. Because this is evolution. Because either option is available to me anytime and really, no one cares. Except me, I do. 

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This is the last Summer of my 40s and it feels very significant to me. I made a list of my goals and then priorities and decided that there is no end to the chores of life (and I'm going to throw in any social media commitments/non-commitments/pleasure here), I must do my most meaningful work first. I have to get very quiet to be able to write, and I have. I've spent some time in the forest, in books, in words, in museums. I'm reinvesting in film photography. I'm even looking for a job right now, where I have to put on an outfit and be amongst the people. Stop it with balance already but if I think of it more like a seesaw, I'm up, I'm down, I'm in, I'm out, that settles my mind. My internet quasi-connections, as quasi as they may be, are invaluable to me and that includes the podcast and all of the community and conversations that have built up around that, invaluable too. It's like a safe house for me. 

So I'm keeping my foot lodged right here in this space on the web. I've been churning this site around in my head the past few months, the cosmetics as well as the intention. I want this web presence of mine to be like you stepped into my safe house, my studio, my beloved space and I'm not sure if it reflects that right now. Since I put down stakes and opened The Unruffled, this was about a woman in mid-life, getting sober and rediscovering all of her creative facets, like polishing a gem. This Friday, I will celebrate 4 years of sobriety and as I'm reflecting on this person, me, 4 years sober from alcohol, I am so much more than just that. 

If you've been coming to this space since the beginning or you're just finding me, thank you for giving me even a minute of your time. My words will stay here, they are part of me, and I'm recommitting to adding more and staying diligent. The rest of this space will be going through some changes (once I get over my fear of Squarespace design) and I'm not yet sure what that will look like yet, but it is unfolding, like me. I'm also going to keep excavating, keep creating sentences, pen to paper, weaving together stories and garments of silk and lace and thread, snapshotting the story I want to tell that stitches together ALL the facets of me, in this space on the world wide web that I hope will reflect my truest truth.

And one more thing, sobriety. I can't tell anyone how to get sober. I can tell you how I did it and I can tell you why I did it and I can tell you why everything, and I mean everything, in my life today is more important to me than drinking alcohol again will ever be. So I'm going to keep doing that.

And Then She Just Up And Flew Away

Another Recovery Gals Art Exchange has landed. When Tammi and I started this exchange a little over a year ago, we didn't have any expectations, we only knew the power of making, of giving and receiving, the power of connection. We had over fifty women participate in this past exchange. It is a beautiful gift to witness the connections made through this exchange and for that, I'm so grateful. 

The theme for the Spring Equinox exchange was Metamorphosis. Such a good word. 

My partner for this exchange is my now new friend, Nicole. We just happened to be about the same age, but after many days of furious texting, that commonality only scratched the surface. She made for me the most amazing collage that the photo almost does it a disservice. I will be staring at it for hours before I've examined all of the tiny but meaningful elements, down the Scrabble logo and cats. She also sent me some vintage bits and bobs and it was like she'd been peeking into my studio. I'm pretty sure I've made a friend for life, she's my person.

I played with ideas for months. I've been so driven this year in all of my affairs that it wasn't until Spring Break, when I was forced to slow down and get quiet, did one idea start to come into focus. I knew I wanted to try a technique that I hadn't tried before, so I let that take the lead, and my intuition filled in the rest. 

I photocopied a photo of a dead relative. I honestly don't know where she falls on my family tree, but we're obviously related, just look at her dress and flower corsage.

I used Liquitex Gloss Heavy Gel and glued it face down to a piece of fabric. After it dried over night, I sprayed it with water and slowly (it took several tries) peeled the paper off until the image remained affixed to the fabric.

After that was completely dry, I put another coat of Liquitex over the image. Then I just collaged a sort of butterfly headdress over her head. I used some sequins and beads, all things either given to me or treasures I've rescued from thrift stores. Some I thread I used was given to me by Tammi. All of the elements have passed through many women's hands, I'm sure.

After the headdress, I made a vintage lace frame and stitched some words on the bottom, some I heard her say:

And then she just up and flew away.

She wasn't flying away to escape, no. She is our ancestor. She is in the Earth, in the air we breathe, she's the light from the stars. So no, she's flying out of her pain, her despair, her circumstances and into the realm of mystery, of creativity, of miracles.

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If you are interested in participating in the next art exchange, drop me a line.

 

This Feeling Will Follow Me Wherever I Go

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When I was a kid, I had a few places that made me feel safe. I coveted them like they were as precious as a newborn kitten. Deep under the blankets of my queen-sized bed was one of those places. I got the queen size bed because my room became the guest room when we had guests, but we rarely had guests. I would turn the radio on to the Easy Listening station, the one that played Air Supply and Hall and Oates or the slow Foreigner songs. I would climb into my blanket fort and could happily stay there for hours. I craved it. It was my calm place. It was my alternate reality. It was a dreamland. I was meditating. 

My other physical spots induced the same feeling. The woods, and we had some 20-odd acres surrounding my childhood home, invited me daily. I was a latch-key kid and had a good four hours to myself after school, so I was either exploring previously unexplored areas by foot (and oftentimes barefoot) or climbing a tree. I knew all of the climbable trees. I knew the nooks best for sitting, I knew the trees with the highest vantage point, I knew the limbs that you could hang your fanny from when you needed to pee. Just like my blanket fort in my big bed, I was safe in a tree.  

My Grandparent's house in Alabama evoked that feeling of safety like no other. There is so much freedom in safety. Going through my Granny's creams and perfumes in her vanity drawers, exploring her Harlequin novels, carefully picking through her jewelry box, examining every little piece multiple times, under her tutelage at the standing mixer, sewing machine, in the crook of her crocheting arm, nestled on the couch, Bible shoved into the cushions, Lawrence Welk on as background. I can't explain that feeling of utter safety, but you know it when you've felt it. 

For the last three and half years, I've come to learn that everything I've ever wanted in my adult life was on the other side of sobriety. Some of that I've realized in accomplishments. But you look beyond the tangible rewards, life is just less chaotic, it is more manageable, less baffling. So it must be the feeling I was after. I longed for that feeling of safety. I didn't have to be in a blanket fort or my Granny's arm nook, but the feeling I desperately wanted, I have now.

As the calendar year flipped to 2018, I found myself entering a phase of something I can only refer to as Sobriety 2.0. It seems like that while everything I wanted was indeed on the other side of sobriety, MORE of everything is on the other side of this next version. I have a new quest to go deeper and I intuitively know it's through meditation that I'll get there, just like a knew as a kid, before life got really noisy and distracting. I don't know what is there exactly, but I have a hunch that there is an even deeper reservoir of creativity that I may have barely tapped. I believe there is more compassion there, less judgement. I'm fairly certain there is more love. 

Not much will look different around here. There may just be a little less talking and a lot more listening.

Le Noche Oscura

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Thanksgiving week began better than fine. Sure, I had a list, but it was more about how I wanted to feel that week than what I wanted to accomplish. Less doing, more being, and even in 'doing', my expectations were low. Thanksgiving Day festivities came and went. It was not particularly exciting but there was no drama either. It was nice and even. There was one element missing though and that element was my son. He spent the day with his father and grandparents and I honestly felt that I lovingly gave my consent, again, no drama. He hadn't seen his grandparents in a while. Intellectually I was fine, however, I didn't check in with my heart too much. That night as I was waiting for his return, it started. I began to compulsively text his phone, his Dad's, his grandparent's and when they wouldn't return fast enough, the catastrophic thinking was triggered and it wouldn't stop. Even when he eventually arrived at home safely, it didn't stop and wouldn't for days. 

I don't know if you've ever had episodes of catastrophic thinking, but it's maddening. There are only two certainties in life: one is change, the other death. So yeah, we're all going to die. When you are stuck in a catastrophic loop, unfortunately often the natural progression is all out depression because if we are all going to die, then what's the point? What is the point of taking this next breath, much less take a shower or eat something? Except when you are depressed, you can't even think in options. Your brain doesn't even lay it out like that, "Sondra, you could take a shower today or not, your choice." No, it sees nothing, a vast void of nothing and the only response is uncontrollable waterworks. 

I think I've had a propensity to depression my entire life but I self-diagnosed and wrote my own prescription: alcohol. Alcohol worked enough to anesthetize myself to the feelings of it in the moment but as alcohol is a depressant, it would get right back to work, doing its job every morning  to convince me that not only was I still depressed, but I was also a piece of shit. Now that the alcohol has been removed, yep I feel the feels but at least I'm not piling on a distorted sense of worth. Remarkably now, because I know what feeling good feels like, I can become an observer, at least for a minute, a second, I can stroke that part of me that says IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS FOREVER, and say, "Nope, it isn't. Even though you can't remember what to do right now, you can't remember the things that make you feel better, you will. In the meantime, it's okay to bury your head into your teenage son's shoulder and sob through Lady Bird because everything is impermanent. He will leave someday and your daughter will probably hate you for a minute and you will say that wrong thing or not say the right thing but it will be okay." 

I'm pretty sure I got sober right when I was about to launch into perimenopause and I don't know if that was divine intervention or an ancient intuition guiding me (perhaps they are the same), so it is hard for me to separate regular depression from alcohol induced depression from hormonal depression. I don't know if it is hitting me so hard this year because I'm sober or because perimenopausal hormones are like CRAZY. When I woke up after a few days of it and, after crowdsourcing and asking for help, I remembered that acupuncture made me feel better so I showered and went. My acupuncturist was sitting in for the receptionist, so she was right there when I walked in. The words barely came out of my mouth, when she said, "Me too", and our words just spilled from our mouths almost simultaneously, each confirming the other's story. Funny how that works out. When I was kicked back in the comfy chair cooking, needles protruding from heads, hands and feet, I remembered that I had come to her years ago, maybe five, and cried as I told her that I needed to cut back on drinking and asked her for help. I had completely forgotten about that too. I then drifted into a meditation and I was an owl flying very low through a dark wooded forest. There was just enough moonlight to make the ferns and rocks glisten, it was still very dark but very beautiful and I was not afraid.  

Since I've shared a little of my experience this week, I'm gathering some resources. (Thank you if you have reached out, I really appreciate it!) Coming out of it, I have so much more than what I had going in, more connection, more resolution, stronger solutions. If you can believe it,  I am grateful for the valleys because without them, I don't think I would really appreciate the mountaintops. It's just a different view, and sometimes down there in the dark, you can really see your own layers, your depth, your fears and your resilience.  And then Sister Moon comes to shine a little light so you can fly your way out.

 

Holding Space

 Selfie taken at 3am while 'working', re: polishing off a box of wine, sometime in a life, my life, not too far away.

Selfie taken at 3am while 'working', re: polishing off a box of wine, sometime in a life, my life, not too far away.

Not just another term on the self-improvement landscape in which you are clueless of the meaning.

Most of the homes in my neighborhood were built in the fifties and many have either been removed, remodeled or modernized somehow. What has remained is a shopping center in the middle, where our very lively neighborhood grocery store still resides. I'd never noticed this elderly couple before I got sober, before I started taking daily walks or runs and started noticing things. Everyday around noon, the couple would trek to and from the store, the gentleman navigating, she along for the ride in her chair. If I caught them on their return home, there was usually their bag of sundries dangling from the back handle. I must admit, I didn't notice if or when I stopped seeing them take their daily walk, but several months must have passed when I began to see the same activity, only there was just the sweet, elderly man, pushing an empty wheelchair. His bride's human form was no longer there, at least as visible to my eyes. I now see him every day that I happen to be out at the same time, doing his diligent pilgrimage, pushing that empty wheelchair to the store. 

The first few times I heard the term 'holding space', I'm sure I rolled my eyes. I'm an eye-roller. What does that even mean? I didn't fully understand what it meant until I saw that elderly man pushing his wife's empty wheelchair to the store. Now I get it and now I can see where I hold space. I hold space for the old Me. I hold space for the one that still has a dark sense of humor and thinks inappropriate jokes are the funniest. I hold space for the one who used to shoot for a zine about drinking. I hold space for the one who used to love a good random hook-up. I hold space for the one who used to work as a photo assistant in the sex industry. I hold space for the one who saw Nirvana in '91 and only remembers a few scenes that flicker in and out like an old home movie.  I hold space for the paradox. I've changed some thoughts and behaviors but I'm still the same girl. There's no identity crisis, I don't need to scrub my hard drive. The Me I am today is pushing the chair, but the old Me is still riding along. She has a forever pass to ride along. She's not going anywhere. 

Maybe instead of being the one pushing the chair, you are the person in the chair. You are still your old thoughts, your old stories, but you are holding space for the person you are meant to become. I feel a calling to help women define that space, women that are like me, have gone through a major transition, afraid to change some of their old stories and afraid that if they do, they may have to let the old ones go entirely.  More of my thoughts on this soon.

My struggle this week has to do with an old story, one left over from the old Me that I'm working on integrating instead of sending to sail down the hill. These last few weeks, I've had many balls in the air, but 'self-care' has not been one of them. That word still feels very precious and indulgent to me and maybe that is where it should stay for now. Whatever I eventually do for self-care (and still trying to even define what that means for me, right now, it means going to bed at 8pm), I want it to feel like a precious act. I don't want to take it for granted that I even have space and ability to think about these things, to hold myself in that regard, that I am worthy. It may be my forever work, and that is okay. In the meantime, that girl that does not fully get self-care can still ride along.

The Mid-Life Solution

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It is not a mid-life crisis, it's a mid-life solution.

Those are the words I wrote on Day 7 of my journal. My sobriety journey started as a one year experiment. "You can do anything for a year," is what I told myself in those early, earnest words scribbled in a journal, a journal whose previous pages contained scribbles of a different kind. Those earlier scribbles were mostly illegible late-night drunken epiphanies that were chocked-full of resentments, pity-parties and vitriol by a woman who was completely cemented to any given day, which looked like any other day, and couldn't figure out why. 

"Probably the thing that got me to quit was the feeling of inertia. I didn't think, if I don't quit, I'm going to die (even though that was a real threat) but, if I don't quit, I'm never going to change."---Sarah Hepola

In our latest episode of The Unruffled Podcast (which has been my favorite episode to record so far, just to say), I described the way I felt the last 5-10 years of my drinking. Acute hangovers were not my daily experience (not to say that they didn't happen as well) but it was more like this constant and overwhelming sense of exhaustion and it was all I could do to slog through the day. I could be productive, but it was all busy work and menial tasks. What I didn't have was explosive creative energy to problem-solve, connect the dots, build something that required lots of intense thought and configuration. 

That feeling of stuckness was my baseline. It was a baseline that didn't creep in until my late 30's, early 40's. In my 20's and early 30's, I could rally. I could pop out of bed, squirt some Visine in my eyes, and I was ready to rock and roll. I could still get shit done. It wasn't until I eased into my 40's that the tired feeling from drinking everyday (and as a result, not getting enough good, quality sleep) became my baseline. It was the place I began everyday. There was no dramatic, sudden event. No one warned me, Hey you, you may need to slow down that drinking thing when you hit 40. No switch flipped. Instead, it was more like the dimmer lowered a little everyday until before I knew it, I was operating in the dark. After several days, weeks, years pass and you've been operating in the dark for so long, it's your normal. It's been too long since you've operated with the light on, you've forgotten what it's like. That's what I mean when I say that fuzzy, crappy, tired feeling being a baseline, my baseline.

It wasn't until I put some real time between my last drink and the present that the light started to come back on. It happened pretty quickly for me and maybe that is why I called this my Mid-Life Solution. Maybe I got some momentum from a combination of things, a big one being journaling. Also on Day 7, I started keeping a daily list of things that made me happy, something I would now call a gratitude list but I didn't have those words then. And perhaps that was a way to keep me mindful in the day, noticing things, staying in the present, but I didn't have that terminology then either. Perhaps it was all of these things, like brick stacked upon brick, that set me up for success, but I don't really know. I know that finally, for the first time, I knew it was something I wanted to do, not something I had to. Removing alcohol didn't solve everything right away (not by a long shot) but it did give me the clarity and energy for the rest of it. 

I've alluded to some new things I'm working on, and while I'm not trying to be cheeky, they aren't quite ready to launch. One of them is a program that I will be offering called The Mid-Life Solution. I did it. Through sobriety and pursuing that light, I found my creative voice again and I want to help you too. With the help of my She's Like A Rainbow photography offering (that I am also still fleshing out), we're about to get this party started. Stay tuned, big things to come.

PS. If you want to get my new weekly newsletter, click on the teal bar on the homepage and sign up, won't ya?

 

Ch Ch Ch Changes.

I have always been change averse, reluctant at best, downright unwilling at my worst. I've stayed in relationships long past their expiration dates. I don't rearrange my furniture or home decor much. I hang onto collections of things (it's not hoarding, it's collecting) long into indeterminate usage territory. Unsurprisingly, I had the death grip on my glass of wine, and I say that with zero irony. Yes, motherhood was a very blunt change of circumstances, one day you are not a mother and the next day, you are. Quitting alcohol felt this abrupt, at least it did that day that led me to this one, three years and some coin later. Did I have stops and starts and I'll NEVER drink again? Of course and I couldn't tally them up if you asked me. But there was something about that day, I'd come to end of the line and the end of myself. I changed.

Change begets more change. It really does. Motherhood was one of the hardest changes I've ever made, but sobriety was harder. I know it was harder because nothing has empowered me as much. I'm pretty sure there are few things I can't do now, seriously, bring it on! Okay, well maybe I will never play Angelica in Hamilton on Broadway, unless I can sell them on a slightly older version with a slightly inferior vocal range but, bring it on!

All of this to say, things are going to change around here in The Unruffled websitelandia. I sent out my first newsletter last week and if you haven't signed up, click on the teal bar on the homepage and do it. I hinted there last week at a new offering I'm working on and still working, so it will be rolling out soon. The offering is called She's Like a Rainbow and I can't wait to tell you all about it, just need to gather a few more ducks.

 My beautiful friend, Jenn James.

My beautiful friend, Jenn James.

I'll be making some cosmetic changes as well. I may be in over my head a bit with some of the design and technological changes I want to make, but again, sobriety is my superpower. Tweaking a website? Please. 

Kill your darlings, said Stephen King said William Faulkner. The darling that will be killed soon here on the site is the Meet The Unruffled section, so if you haven't read some of the stories over there, do it soon. They have served this site since its inception, and I hope they have served you, dear reader. There are so many other sites that are collecting stories and interviews really well, I think, like of course my girl Tammi's Ray of Light series. But you know that. And perhaps I'll just hide it for now until I figure out how I'll make it all work with the new sections I want to highlight, but that is still undetermined. Spotlighting creativity in recovery is still my jam, but the edges of my particular agency and influence sharpened, more defined. 

It's been a while since I've been excited about big changes, and I'm super excited about this one. Thank you, my Unruffled tribe, for following along.

 

Connection

The Fall #artexchange, officially scheduled for the Autumnal Equinox, has come and gone but I want to share what I made, what I received. The theme was Connection, so sharing this time around feels very relevant. It's what the impetus and execution for the whole #artexchange project was about for me, connection. When I first began to meditate on the theme, I immediately went back to adolescence.  I thought back to a time when friendships seemed easier, when I could while away an afternoon on my bed, gabbing on the phone about boys, listening to records, playing Scrabble until midnight on a Saturday. It was all so effortless. 

 I wanted this piece to feel like a young girl's room. Feminine. Sweet. Effortless.

I wanted this piece to feel like a young girl's room. Feminine. Sweet. Effortless.

Now, initiating connection, maintaining connection, nurturing connection, all feels so hard sometimes. But making this piece forced me to think about that. It made me ask questions, like, is it? Is it hard? Does it have to be hard? I don't want it to be. I want it to be as effortless as it was then. This entire Recovery Gals Art Exchange project that Tammi and I initiated has definitely nudged connection along in this past year, and they have all felt real, organic and meaningful. Do you have to launch an art exchange to make connections? Perhaps not, but it was the thing I needed for my recovery at the time, so I'm so glad we did.

My partner in this exchange is named Heather, and she gets me. She sent me a beautiful stack of twenty (20!) collaged meditation cards that cover four connection landscapes: self, duo, spirit and community. She said she could see me using them as I sat in my favorite spot by the window. They are unbelievably gorgeous, complex, multi-layered. I am such a visual person, I like things all laid out in front of me, so I will use these a lot. 

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I love the #artexchange for a myriad of reasons, but connection is at the top of the list. Maybe connection will become easier as I continue to recover, grow and evolve but if launching a project means I get to reflect, make and collect art while connecting, then let it be so.

Shame Ate My #artexchange

It started in the the middle of my third grade year. I don't know why I decided to stop doing my homework, or if it was a decision at all. It's not like I declared some internal manifesto, I Will Not Do Anymore 3rd Grade Homework From Here On Out, no. It just started with one homework sheet. One sheet that I decided that instead of doing right away, I would stash neatly under my bed and use those parentless few hours to make myself and my little brother a pb&j and watch Sanford and Son. Perhaps it crossed my mind a second time, right before I slipped out the backdoor, hopped on my banana seat and biked down to meet my neighbor to continue our business of exploring every inch of our combined twenty acres of wooded property. 

I'll do it later.

I'm pretty sure I didn't meant to LIE lie to my Mom, who would come home that evening and ask me if I'd done my homework. I was a good, Christian kid who made straight As in academics and conduct. I was only taking out a loan on the truth because I knew that I'd have plenty of time to pay it back. I'll just double up tomorrow. When the next day's homework was again stacked neatly on the first, still tucked under my bed, I borrowed a little more. I'll do it over the weekend.

Third grade was the first time I experienced denial, avoidance, overwhelm. The memory is still so acute. The ever growing stack under my bed, I knew it was there but I couldn't look at it. I couldn't internalize the dread. Instead, I would eat another bowl of cereal, polish off a stack of Oreos and back out I would go to climb another tree or I'd hide inside a blanket fort in the living room  and listen to Crystal Gayle, but I would not think about it because thinking about it made it real. When the thoughts forced their way in, the only image I could conjure was one of completion. I wasn't the kid who hadn't done her homework since Christmas break. I wanted to be the kid who had already done it but I didn't even know how to start.

I remember at some point my Mom forcing a confession out of me. I remember, through resistance and tears, I revealed that stack of homework under my bed. I remember my Mom bringing it out and setting it on the fireplace and it was ten feet tall. Mom must have been alerted by my teacher, Ms. Noske, because it wasn't long after that we were both called to a conference. I sat off to the side of the room and stared out a window while they talked. I had no idea. This is very unlike her. I vacillated between needing to throw up and being so detached from the situation that in my mind, I had already snuck out the back door and was back home in my blanket fort, safe and sound. When Ms. Noske finally called me over to her desk and I took that first long look into her face, that was the first time in months that I'd felt some relief. She knew, my Mom knew, no more hiding. At that point, I didn't care what the solution was, nor the consequence. The gig was up.

 It appears that Ms. Noske was so exasperated with me that she couldn't fill in my third trimester's grades and that maybe '4th grade' end of year placement was an afterthought. But perhaps I'm projecting.

It appears that Ms. Noske was so exasperated with me that she couldn't fill in my third trimester's grades and that maybe '4th grade' end of year placement was an afterthought. But perhaps I'm projecting.

In the end, the adults did come up with a solution. They decided that I was most likely bored with the third grade, that it would be punitive for me to have to repeat the third grade, so Ms. Noske pulled around twenty worksheets from the stack and would pass me through upon completion. 

What does any of this have to do with this Summer's art exchange? There are consistent demons I battle, some rooms would call them defects. I don't know if either of those words are helpful to describe characteristics that don't necessarily need a value placed on them. Sometimes they just are. They consistently show up, I consistently have to work with them, around them, through them and sometimes I question if anyone can inherently change.  The topic for this exchange was Abundance, and because I know what that means intellectually, I had an idea for where I wanted my piece to go. What I didn't have was a plan for execution nor time management nor a good handle on expectations, which to me means that I don't inherently get abundance. Will I ever, remains to be seen. 

Because my proportions felt off, I almost scrapped it a number of times but instead, I kept adding to it (another ironic nod to abundance) and I don't really know if that served it in the end. I also grapple with the existential of abundance versus enough. Perhaps they are one in the same, two faces of the same coin. Third grade Sondra would say that in a sea of homework abundance, twenty pages were enough.

I do want to share the happier side of this exchange on abundance. Here is my piece from my exchange partner, Susan. I'm in LOVE love with it.

It was covered in dried Iris petals that she used to hand-dye the fabric. It's tattered and torn, decaying and ephemeral, delicate but sturdy. According to her letter, I think Susan also struggled with abundance and enough and how they tug two sides of a beautiful, tender thread. I love Susan so much, as an artist and as the friend that she has become. If the quality of creative, sober friends were riding that tender thread, I think I would lean toward enough over abundance, any day.

Flying By The Seat Of My Pants

This title is the best description I can think of for Summer, 2017. That description could also include a head that was down, focused and determined. It was a hard summer but it was also an exciting summer, both, and. And it was fun, but it wasn't capital F Fun, like riding the unicorn on a merry-go-round while eating a cupcake. It wasn't that kind of fun. But it was the kind of exhilaration you experience when you do challenging things and you get to the other side, accomplished and grateful for the journey, bruised knees and all. 

The Summer Of Hard Things included (but not limited to): getting to THREE YEARS of sobriety, hiking eighteen miles in a week up some very steep mountains, making a podcast happen while managing a family and work, not turning down a single summer job so I could buy Hamilton, The Musical tickets for myself and kids, driving my kids to Chicago to see said musical. 

I was so looking forward to transitioning into the new school year and Fall, Tammi and I even recorded a whole podcast about it. But at only two days in, I felt like I was at a stalemate. That vision I thought I had cultivated acutely, blocked. Then the apathy started to settle in like a thick fog, and I suddenly felt like I was lodged in mud. Funny how I always find the thing I need to read at the right time, and this NYT essay explained it all. Being ALL IN for something, eyes on the prize, puts you in a flow and actually elevates your mood. Even though I felt I could barely look up this summer, I was happy. Happiness is never my goal but alas, there it was. Now that I'm in transition and all options seem open, I feel untethered and in slow motion. My job is not to put a value on this because this too is life. 

My city is currently getting hit by the periphery of Hurricane Harvey, so now I'm forced to sit with this. Instead of busying, I have no distractions to take me out of the discomfort of transition. It is the nature of the modern human to get ON with it already, to be there already, in the thick of it instead of being on the way. On the way is boring. I was always on the way to something when I was still drinking, which inspired more drinking and there I was, eating my own tail. If you keep following the signs, eventually you will get to the precipice of the thing that requires your next leap. 

 

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Why do you write like your running out of time?
I'm not falling behind or running late.
--Aaron Burr, Hamilton

What You Resist, Do That (Seven Weeks)

I mentioned in my last blog post that I'm pulling a notecard where I categorized my first sobriety journal, in anticipation of three years of sobriety, I'm reflecting on a bit of what I wrote. Yes, I know, breaking the ODAAT rules, but I like how this exercise is forcing me to look back. My past is not where I live nor where I want to put my valuable energy, the shame that brings up throws me right back in fear jail and once again, I am stuck. But I do need to remember how fragile and precious those first days and weeks were, and how I was like a sponge, sopping up every bit of wisdom I could lay my eyes on. The one I pulled today is about resistance.

It says, "Instead of looking what you are willing to do, look at what you are unwilling to do. Look at the resistance. Because if what ever you are doing isn't working, it's time to try something different." When I reached three months of sobriety, I remember very distinctly the extent of my willingness. I felt so different after that short time, I was much more afraid of going back than I was to try something new. That started with reaching out to people I knew that were sober, telling my friends, No, it's not just for tonight, I'm NOT drinking. This was when I started thinking about a 12-step program, and I didn't dive in just yet, but I began to think it could be a possibility. I started asking myself questions like, Well, why not? Is that true? Maybe, perhaps, I could? I took out that very long list of things I'd been adding to for decades, things that I didn't do, couldn't do, wasn't willing to try, Oh-that's-just-not-me and I took a long look at it. I examined every item. I had an inch of willingness and that was all that was needed.

Will it be uncomfortable? 100% of the time. And there is a 100% chance of failure. If you are willing to jump into that ring, only everything on the other side. Don't compare your first attempts at something to someone else's that is way down the road. Instead, let that be something to aspire to. If someone has what you want, set your intention on the path to get there. Name that thing you want and if you feel contempt come up (sounds like: I could never have that, that is just not me, I've never been able to do that before why do I think I could do that now...THAT voice), that is your resistance. And that is your next bread crumb, grab it.


So those words above me there, yeah, written a month ago and sat here unpublished. The same lessons keep showing up, don't they? I could give a million excuses why I couldn't commit to this series, even though the resistance is the obvious one. I've mentioned that working in seasons really flows for me, since I do have several passions that vie for my time. Lately, I have yearned to work with my hands. Writing is such a cerebral activity and when I neglect my hands for too long, I can feel their ache. My biggest lesson (and by virtue, gift) in recovery has been living in the moment. Whatever program you choose, rigid or loose, meetings or mats, I hope it is a program for living because that is all of it, wrapped up in a pretty bow. 

Living, showing up and say Yes has afforded me friends and opportunities that I just didn't have before. Sure, I had friends and opportunities but I always had an agenda, expectations. Now my checklist is much shorter, my first question true to my intention, Will this bring my joy? If there is a check by that question, the rest seems to fall into place.

This brings me joy.

If you live in the Austin area and haven't been to one of my meetups yet, please come! This was a succulent planting party that my friend Jenn was kind enough to host at her beautiful home. My one item list was definitely checked this day. Friends, this is what living in recovery means to me.

If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it. --Hamilton, the Musical

 

 

Eight Weeks

Hi.

I am eight weeks from three years of sobriety, and yes, I know this is breaking the one-day-at-a-time rule, but let's just go with it (*cough*rulebreaker*). Because I am fast approaching the date, I've been thinking a lot about what it was like. In the first six months of my sobriety, I journaled almost every day, pen to paper, not because I was told to but because I felt compelled to. I didn't know what else to do and my brain felt like it may explode on the daily, so I got it down. I'm so glad I did. About a year ago, I went through that journal and made color-coded note cards, like a good nerd, and separated my journal into categories. I thought for the next eight weeks I would expound on a card I pulled from the deck. I was one lucky and determined chick from Day One and was immediately blessed with the Feel Goods, so the thoughts from this deck are more about epiphanies than a daily, internal struggle. I hope they will help someone reading this, while helping me remember.

Many of these thoughts or epiphanies had to do with old stories, things I had always thought and because I had always thought them, they must be true. So here is one. I always thought that if you didn't have some damage, like some sort of dysfunction, subversion or demon, if you were not flawed or fragmented, that you were just boring. Some of this story still stays with me and reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the Lutheran minister and theologian Nadia Bolz Weber, "If you don't have any demons, I don't really want to have coffee with you." That resonates. The thing is, I only associated this subversion with drinking, like you had to be drunk to be any of those things. 

The association made sense. It was the only time I had those cut-to-the-chase deep conversations, where you told your deepest secrets, rehashed that shameful event, exposed your soft underbelly. It was the only time spontaneity happened, the middle-of-the-night-three-hour roadtrips, the Jackassery antics, the naked full moon raft trips. Subversion and raw, guttural vulnerability only happened in the middle of the night, surrounded by empties. I had no idea there was any other way to connect, like really connect.

Where did this story originate? I always surrounded myself with people that were smarter than me, funnier than me, more talented than me, or at least that is what I projected. Perhaps it was my own feelings of unworthiness as I trodded through young adulthood. Perhaps it was aspirational of me, hoping some of them would rub off? I know that alcohol was the only thing that seemed to make me funnier and less self-conscious. With the magic of hindsight, reality would argue that alcohol made everyone funnier and me only the more self-critical. And we know how this story ends, the introspection later would turn to guilt, shame and self-deprecation that eventually ended with the most miserable girl on the planet. Now that sounds like a party.

"Below the anger is fear."--Robin Williams

I think you could substitute the word anger for sadness, shame or self-sabotage, and it all comes back to fear. It took a very long time for me to see that the scale was tipping, to see that my coping strategies were backfiring and I could no longer deny the noise. And when you become more afraid of life, of exposing your insecurities, vulnerabilities, struggles, demons, than you are afraid of death, that is the ultimate in self-destruction. 

So I've come full circle. People that are striving to glue the pieces back together are way more interesting to me now, charging a way more subversive act. Exposing demons, unguarded is way more punk to me now. Do you have to get sober to do this? No, maybe not, but I think you have to be willing to change something drastically in your life that isn't working anymore and in doing so, you have to be willing to take a good, hard look at your ancient stories.

Emerge

I'm late. I'm late. I'm late.

These are the only words I can say these days. I am in a constant state of lateness, not-on-timeness, not emerging. So it's funny, writing about the past #artexchange that was supposed to have been exchanged on the Spring Equinox and the topic was Emerge that I have done the opposite. Not that I haven't been social on media or started a podcast or left my house, because I have done all of those things but I have gone far and deep inside. I have cried and cried until I'm not sure if I have anymore tears. I have listened to the Hamilton soundtrack so many times, the ending is written in history books and yet, I'm still devastated by Act II. I know to trust the plan even if the route doesn't make sense to me right now, but the route is taking me through some dense fog. The plan says to just keep walking, so I am.

This piece that I made for my exchange partner meant one thing when I first arrived at the idea, but it is continuing to unfurl like a flower, a flower emerging in Spring. I'll attempt to put words to my thoughts but they may fail.

The last few years of my drinking felt like I had fallen down a well, I could see the light above me, people walking by and carrying on with their day, but I did not know how to climb out. The background of this piece has the layers of wallpaper that may have appeared fine to anyone else observing it, but if you looked closely, you could see that it was patched and barely holding itself together.

Occasionally, small leaks of light would come in until there were enough promising beams that I knew if I just started grabbing these little bits and scraps and tied them together, I may build a ladder to climb my way out. 

Sometimes I tumble back into that well. It's not as dank now, the walls aren't discolored, I'm not trying to patch them and pretend there are spots that don't need a little tending to. But I do have all of the scraps I need to build another ladder, to emerge once again.

I Figured It Out

Last week, I got to spend some time with my first college friend, friend for 30 years this year, friend for life. I'm also simultaneously working on a personal essay for my writing workshop about a boy I was in madly, deeply with, also from that college-era-early-20s time. Yesterday, I went for a run and tried and tried to keep my head where my feet were, first day of Spring, an equinox. I could feel my freckles popping with every bright bloom, but my thoughts kept saying, Let's go back, back, go back to that time, 20, 25, 30. Let's go back and dissect and examine, let's cut and splay it open and see what went wrong, what went right. 

I have a mix of love and hate with time travel, I'm certain we all do. I hate that it doesn't make me angry, or maybe that is what I love. I love that I am okay with what happened, or maybe that is what I hate. It was before I understood the gravity of the situation and maybe it was more ignorance and less denial then, but even though I always blacked out, even though I had woken up on city pavement, I still did not know that alcohol had already enveloped me, stunting my growth as it swallowed me whole. I still thought there was some magic formula yet to figure out or it was just some moral failing that I could rewind somehow, but when I did, and I was so determined, then I would reap all of the benefits from drinking again. I would be less stupid, less careless, less sloppy, less vomit, less piss. I would be all fun, all promiscuity and precociousness, all dancing on tables.

Hell, if I could have ever successfully pulled off dancing on a table, I may still be drinking.

And that's the thing.

I wanted it to make me into a table-dancer, and it never did.

I wanted it to make me irresistible, and it never did.

I wanted it to make me into a funny girl, the funniest girl in the room, surrounded by adoration and when she snarked that line, everyone would crack their heads back in a roar. And it never did.

It never happened.

I went to a George Saunders book signing event a few weeks ago. I went alone and it was standing room only and I wedged myself into a spot in front of a book shelf, next to a plant. I was fully there, I was feeling so embodied, so joyful, unforced laughter and nods spilled out of me, I felt uninhibited and free. After the presentation, I waited in line for my book to be signed with about 150 other Austinites. I approached a little shakily as I would approaching anyone for whom I have much respect and because my body shakes now, it shakes when scared, excited, anxious and he told me, Hey. You. You are a terrific audience member. I noticed you.

If you had told me then that that person I was looking for was right here, I would have never believed you. I would have shook my head and cried and smited you even. Come on, fish swim, birds fly and I drink, of course I drink. Just hang on while I figure it out.

Hang on.

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I finally figured it out.


I published a new tiny vignette on Medium in my series about relationships and alcohol, if you get the boreds and feel like indulging me!

If Not Now, When?

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The weight of impermanence. When you say it, it's like it wants to be light like, Hey, Nothing Lasts Forever. And then you remember that yeah, it's not just that shitty mood or that gallon of ice cream that doesn't last forever but also joy and grief and time on this planet. That is the paradox. The only things permanent are the most subjective: relationships and experiences, because even when they've passed or ended, they stay with you. They live inside smells and music and photos and laughter, thank you Impermanence for laughter. 

Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?

We can cheat impermanence by paying attention and then paying more attention. Lately, I've had to go inside and regroup, take some time to refluff my nest. And with my nest organized and comfortable, I've slowly been able to return my attention outward. A gratitude journaling meetup and workshop with Tammi Salas a couple of Sundays ago was just the reset I needed.

Cultivating relationships and experiences, making connections don't exactly cheat impermanence, it's still there, but they do establish relevance.

I was here.
And so are you.
We did this thing.

I've written about impermanence before and I'm no Buddhist, but it seems like the older I get, the more the lessons keep showing themselves. Now I contemplate the future, and not in a future-trippy way, I don't do that to myself anymore, but I do like to write out what I want my life to look like.

And funny, that looks a lot like it actually looks right now.

 

 

 

 

 

A Change Is Gonna Come

The biggest lesson I've learned in getting sober is that change doesn't just light on your shoulder like a bluebird in a Disney movie. Change is an action and sometimes it is brought forth by many tiny actions that accumulate over time. Sometimes change is the final tip that happens as a result of many small tips, one bumping up against the next like dominoes, until the last one topples over. Sometimes it's just the act of saying, Nope, this isn't working for me anymore, and that becomes the thing that knocks the first domino over. Some days, you may have more to give towards this change than other days, but the only way that last domino will tip is if you are actively moving towards it.

This could be a blog post about why I marched with 1000s of other like-minded people across this planet on January 21, 2017. Or this is simply a post about change. While I don't think that change begins or ends with one march, it did tip a domino that is bound to hit the next one. There is a giant mess to clean up right now, or many messes if you want break it down into smaller, less overwhelming heaps. And you can't toss a sponge without hitting one. There was a chaotic mess that had been growing for a long time in my head and soul and it had spilled out of me and into my life, family and home.  I finally got to cleaning that up in 2014. Now that my eyes are clear, I can better see the work that needs to be tackled outside of myself. Showing up for that march made me feel like I wasn't showing up with my bucket all alone, but that there are so many to lock arms with, showing up with their buckets too. If you are in recovery, you know the importance of the tribe, the weight of the community that will hold your mop when you need to take a break. That is what the march showed me.

Shaming anyone on either side is not helpful. Arming yourself with compassion is. Making signs and tshirts for the march, I got to express my passion creatively and carry my compassion around, literally, for everyone to see. Love is an action too.

This wasn't my first protest march but it was my kids' first protest march and hopefully it won't be their last. When I marched against apartheid in college, I wasn't thinking about the oppressor's feelings, but this time I did. I guess this is growth and what do you know? Change.

Daily Practices

Don't you love a good creative daily practice? I find that they really keep me grounded in the day, whatever they are at the moment, because I can get distracted like a MFr. To be clear, I'm not talking about prayer and meditation, yoga or brushing your teeth, although all of those obviously have value (and these are arguably creative too). I'm referring to a daily, creative activity that because you do it every day, it sort of forces your creativity to come out and play. Some have come and stayed, some have died for the moment. Morning Pages and a happy jar are the first that come to mind that seemed to have fizzled for the moment, but they can come back anytime. Some I adopted about a year ago I'm still successfully sticking with, like drawing a tarot card a day from The Wild Unknown deck or listing daily gratitudes in a gratitude circle comprised of some dear friends, both of which juice my brain and soul equally.

I always seem to come busting out the gate at the first of the year with some kind of new daily practice I've schemed. Right now, I'm posting one #dailygratitude on IG and I'm numbering them in hopes that that will keep me accountable for the year. I'm a photo-taker, so that one doesn't feel like too much effort. 

And speaking of tarot, there is a card that I often draw, more than I'd like actually. It is the Four of Cups and it's about being discontent (keep working on the gratitudes, Lady) but at the end it asks this question: What are you longing for? Name it. Well, my husband came back from the art store shortly after the New Year with a handful of journals that were in the sale bin. I grabbed one, not sure what I was going to do with it and then it hit me. Okay 4 of Cups, you win. I will name it. 

 

So I'm naming it and holding nothing back. 

I don't know about you, but I have high-level problems with expectations. I'm almost always left disappointed and sometimes resentful. This practice gets these 'wants' out of my head and onto the page. Done. Gone. It sort of deflates the expectation like a sad little balloon left in a hot car. If they happen, neutral. If they don't happen, neutral. It is just about the practice. And then it sort of magically frees my mind up to think about ways I can GIVE than GET. *Magic*

You know what else I get to include in my list of wants? Things I already have, because things I already have are things I want. And this is NEVER not the case.

What are your creative daily practices? I'd love to hear in the comments!

A Lesson in Surrender

The Recovery Gal's latest art exchange for the Winter Solstice has come and gone. If you want to catch up on what I'm referring to, you can here. The theme for this exchange was SURRENDER. Ah, I thought, and smugly I may add: I got this. I had the perfect, most Pinterest-worthy interactive piece of art all dreamed and schemed in my head, but there was only one problem. I couldn't start it. I was having so much resistance to making the thing and I couldn't figure out why. I knew I wanted it to be about a metamorphosis, the evolution that comes when one surrenders. The problem is that it's not the whole story, it's not my whole story. The bathroom floor, down on my knees moment had to be a part of it too. Most of my ideas come either in the shower or in a dream and this one floated through me in my sleep. I surrendered.

With this idea, I needed a box, a perfectly imperfect box that I made (without woodworking tools, mind you, and I wouldn't recommend) with my hands.

The two elements I kept from my first idea were a chrysalis and a butterfly, the metamorphosis, which I made with embroidery and applique. (I'm exchanging with two ladies as why there are two.)

I wanted to cover the box with words from an old journal. These particular words are significant because they were written in the middle of the night in one of the last years of my drinking. It was right around a birthday and I am attempting to describe, in barely legible handwriting, how my creativity only lies in the moments between sober and passed out. (If you want to see the journal entry in its entirety, it is here.) I thought that was the only magical creative moment for me and I chased it for decades. I cried as I made several copies of that journal entry to glue to my boxes. It's so hard to relive those moments, those lifetimes, so stuck, so miserable, so far from a solution. 

I used a decoupage-type glue and added many layers, so many layers of journal paper. I also added the words AND YET, NOT YET, which describes that continuous, incoherent state I was in, like purgatory. When the glue dried, I used an old grease marker to distress it more.

I glued the chrysalis and the butterfly wing to the front and back to finish it. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, exactly like my dream actually. It was very hard to make as it brought up so much emotion and the whole experience was one long exercise in surrender, the final piece, the metamorphosis.


I have to share the two stunning pieces I received from this #artexhange.

This is from Sarelle and please visit her blog to see her description of her process. It is so good. 

I can use it when I surrender to the day to get cozy under it with a book and a cup of tea. It reminds me of water, which is incorporated in the one and only tattoo I got when I was 19. One of my favorite things to do since I was a kid is to float in water and listen to my breath...surrender. I love this, the details are gorgeous.

My second piece came from Rachel. I'm going to paraphrase her description.

The idea is that when we stop trying to make the world go away and put down the umbrella and just experience the cold, wet rain, the pain, the discomfort, it isn't so bad. Just as the tree surrenders its leaves in the winter for new ones to grow, so should we. And the umbrella is actually a sketch collaged on to the piece, which is a metaphor for what we think is protecting us is sometimes just a mirage, or a story in our head. This piece is utterly beautiful, the woman looks so at peace, just putting her umbrella down and feeling the rain. It is going to hang in my studio for every moment I need to remember this.

If you want to follow along on Instagram to see the full collection of art exchanged this Winter Solstice, search the hashtag #artexchange and #recoverygalsartexchange . The pieces are still trickling in as the holidays threw some of us behind. If you are interested in joining in the next one planned for the Spring Equinox, contact me or Tammi Salas. We'll be coming up with the next theme in the next few weeks. This is seriously one of the most meaningful things I'm doing right now. I love all of the art we are making...pinch me.