Saturday, August 28, 2010

What To Let Go Of, What To Take Back In, Learning To Balance & The Most Astonishing Thing Of All... Oh, And Would Anyone Like A Cup Of Tea?

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
~ Albert Einstein ~

 I think I've been trying to learn how to balance all of my life. Forget the bicycle. Forget the training wheels. I think I have to go back to my tricycle again and just learn how to pedal!

Just over a week ago I wrote the last post about leaving the internet for the most part. It was basically the right decision but I kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater. Here's what I mean by this. I cut out/closed down/deactivated every single thing on the net except this blog which has been here since 2007 and will remain here. I am working on two books and not getting anything done because I allowed myself to be sucked into the void and my real life was slipping away from me in an alarming way. I of course allowed this to happen. Part of being an artist-living-in-solitude is the grace and inspiration that living in silence, for the most part, brings, and it is as necessary as the air I breathe. I feel panicked if it seems that I am losing my footing and it is hurting my work which is not just a thing I do but my life's blood, my earthly work, my reason for being, and as an interfaith minister the life I create and the writing and art that come from it are the foundation for my ministry in myriad ways. 

Here's part of what happened. A little over a week ago I knew something was wrong with Sam. Sampson. My velcro pug that you see lying on my shoulder in the picture above. My beloved vet, who had come to my home to put my sweet little pug Babs to sleep in my arms on June 22 came for a visit to check all four dogs, the 3 remaining pugs and Big Dog Moe. I had a list of issues for each dog, but Sampson turned out to have more problems than I could have imagined. In short, by the end of the 2 1/2 hour housecall for all of the dogs, with lots of meds for all of my little seniors -- ears, eyes, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medicine for the arthritic ones and a new diet from the vet because we tend to be a little "fluffy" around here. Ahem. Read: Fluffy=Chubby. This is not good for pugs or people but Dr. B wouldn't give me any of the Hills Science diet that she prescribed for the dogs. I'm thinking about having a bowl in the morning anyway with my coffee. It sounds as though it supersedes anything else I have in my kitchen. As toenails were being clipped and (Pardon me, I hope you're not eating your breakfast!) anal glands tended to among various and sundry other things, Mark, Dr. B's husband and assistant extraordinaire was holding Sam while Dr. B was examining him with a very concerned look on her face. Several masses needing to be removed, and worse, enlarged lymph nodes. It was possible Sam had cancer. A lot of blood was drawn and had to be sent out of the area for the results. I clung to him as if for dear life, kissing and hugging him and crying for days in a row. In the middle of all of this I had that "Nothing in the world is going right, I can't get my work done, I've allowed myself to be nearly swallowed WHOLE by the internet, AND IT'S ALL GOT TO STOP. Hence the last blog entry and closing nearly everything in town DOWN. A week went by...

Several things have happened over the past week. Sampson, thank the Good Lord God! does NOT have cancer (sweating bullets doesn't even begin to describe what I was going through as all of you who have beloved animal companions will understand...), but he will be having surgery next Thursday to remove a number of unwanted, unusual, dreadful things from his poor little puggerly body. I have been walking around numb for days and the best part is that there is no cancer showing but I hate to have this little dog operated on. There is no choice of course but he had been so badly abused he really IS my velcro pug and thank God I can bring him home at the end of the day after the anesthesia wears off. He would not do well without me.

In the middle of all of this I started to notice a new kind of silence. The clamor of the internet with e-mail box always overflowing, twittering away, keeping up with Facebook, 2 blogs, an etsy store and more had all closed except this one blog. In the morning my mailbox was sadly empty-ish and it felt, well, lonely. I cannot have more than one blog and I must keep my time here to a minimum. It is not right for me to have an etsy shop or extra blogs or be involved in several social networking sites, all of which were cancelled, but I knew I had gone too far. That is sort of my Bi-Polarish All-or-Nothing way of doing things. If I become very afraid that something is going dreadfully wrong my only solution is to toss it all in the ocean, all except this one blog. And here it sat. And the rooms were echoing back at me... Is this quiet enough for you?

When the tests came back and it wasn't cancer my whole body relaxed into a big puddle on the floor. I lie there looking up through glassy eyes and realized that I really had done the right thing to eliminate most of what I was doing, maybe I had to chuck it all to see what it felt like and then re-evaluate where I was, how I felt, and if any of the things I'd gotten rid of might have a small space in my life as of yet. I could only deactivate Facebook. I reactivated it just a couple of days ago. I have a lot of friends there. I want to know what they are up to, how their work is going, how they are, and I wanted to re-instate Twitter. When I deleted that account it vanished into thin air. There were a lot of friends there but perhaps this is a new chapter and it is time to start fresh. I have 4 friends now in the last 2 days. I'd love for you to join if you'd be moved to do so and like this blog what with writing, art, puggerly tales and a rather odd woman at the center of it all. 

Even the title of the new Twitter account better suits where I am right now, even if subtle. It was Maitri's Heart. Now it's Maitri's Moments. As I return to a book that needs very little rewriting to complete, a Zen Tea book very nearly finished 3 years ago and set on the shelf because life was too bumpy and uneven to allow for much processing and finishing of a book, I am moving deeply into mindful tea-moments and this book which is such a calming, soothing experience. I shall brew a pot of tea from loose leaves ordered fresh and write for 2 hours over tea time every afternoon on that one book. 

I just ordered four teas from the two companies that are my mainstays, but I write about and order from very many more. Three from Stash Tea Company -- "Ginger Peach Green Tea," "Formosa Oolong Fancy," and "Lapsang Souchong." The one other tea I ordered is one that I fell in love with while doing two years of research on teas, receiving fresh, loose-leaf teas from around the world. The company is Scent By Spirit (SBS Teas), and still exists but under different management when I was working with them but still a wonderful company. They were my mainstay and I got a box of free teas to sample each month so a lot of what I reviewed and wrote about were theirs. The one tea,, out of very many glorious teas that I sampled, some few I bought for myself to have again and again after the sampling phase, and my favorite was Earl Grey de la Créme Tea. This tea is pure, unadulterated bliss. I had tried Earl Grey's before and wanted to like them but, well, something was always lacking. But Earl Grey de la Créme Tea was different. In addition to the bergamot always found in Earl Grey, this SBS variety has vanilla and cream added into the loose leaves and I'm here to tell you this tea could bring a body to their knees!

 And so yes, I have left the internet for the most part and this shall remain so. This blog will remain and be a little more active and by active I mean that I plan to update it twice a week. I have reactivated my Facebook account and started a new Twitter account, BUT, the big difference is that I will only visit those two place in the morning over coffee while doing e-mail so that I can stay in touch but still have my life. I will not be on either of those sites off and on all day. A brief interlude each morning will suffice. 

The Mose Astonishing Thing Of All? Well, it's that feeling that we can get when we feel like Life, just as in riding a wild horse bareback, has run away from us full-stop. "I've GOT to leave Facebook!!! Look what it's doing to me!!!" Pish-Tosh! Nonsense! Not Facebook, nor Twitter, nor any other blog, social networking site, or anything else on the net can take over our lives. We let them. We allow it, we even invite it, and when one day we feel that we are being swallowed up whole, let us remember that it is not "they" who are doing it, but "we" who are allowing it. So yes, most things are still gone and shall remain so. I have no qualms or regrets about these things leaving my life. And the things present or brought back will be used far more judiciously. These things have much to offer as long as we manage them in a way that suits our lives. I wasn't. I'm learning and continually re-evaluating. 

Finally I bought webspace for 3 years and the url I will use awhile back. I got a really good deal on the three years so I have been letting it coast until I was ready. Soon I shall perhaps dip a toe in but I will tell you it will be a long slow pace I will keep to while developing it. I started it to have a space to promote my art and self-published books as well as those published by publishing houses, and to offer other things that I like and believe in with many other wonderful little elements along the way. It will get done, when I'm ready. Soon I shall saddle up my snail and start moseying along into that website, take a look around, mosey back out and do it when it feels right, which might be next month or next year for that matter. 

My snail's name is Dudley Do-Right and he's gonna do right by me. No other mode of transportation can keep me in check. So I leave you as I unmount Dudley, head into the kitchen to make a pot of tea, and come back to my cozy chair with my boy Sam who is snuggled in and sleeping beside me. He's going to be alright, for now, and so am I. Dudley and a good pot of tea will keep us straight. Can I pour you a cup?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pulling Mostly Out Of The Internet And Back Into Life. This Will Be My One Blog...

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you. 
~ Maori Proverb ~

I have been trying to figure out, for some time, what happened to me. All my life, since I was a child, I have been an avid reader. My entire house is stuffed to the gills with books and many are books that I have read and reread and clung to like old friends that have pulled me out of dark difficult times more often in my life that I can count. I went from reading sometimes several books at once to falling out of time and space and being sucked -- willingly -- into what might be considered in this day and age, a Bermuda Triangle of sorts. People enter the world of the net and eventually, over time, all but disappear from the real world. And as I live alone it has been all too easy to do just that. Sucked into the void I have spent more and more time on the net so that I have receded less and less from the real world, from my real writing, from reading, from my art. It was almost like the internet was the real world and the rest of life was just killing time until I got back to the net.

Please Note: I speak only for myself and my own experience. Whatever anyone else does and how they do it and how they balance it with their own lives is up to them and may suit them very well. I do make not judgements. I simply came to the point in my own life when I knew something was seriously wrong and had to change. 

Also, I have come to the realization that if I spend too much time blogging it sucks the life out of my real writing, like letting helium out of a balloon. I need to fill my balloon back up. I need to write more and blog less. I need to sell my artwork locally with perhaps a few internet sales here and there but only from my blog. And I desperately need to make more money to live on and I cannot do that blogging and try to maintain a shop in which I have not sold one item in 3 months despite my best efforts. I am walking away from the internet to a great extent and back into my life. Imagine that. Real people. Time to write, to read. Time to be.

Now, I am certainly not leaving the net entirely. This will be my one blog and I will at least update it weekly and bi-weekly when I am able. I will actually get a lot more work done with my art because I am not glued to the computer in a way that leaves me not enough time to truly do my work. I feel as if I am walking out of a long dark tunnel back into the light.

Now, mind, as I said above, I love the net, it's a really wonderful resource, I have made some very dear friends through the net and I will keep in touch with them. I'm not falling off of the face of the earth, but there have been all too many times when I had very dear, personal e-mails in my box and didn't get around to them sometimes for weeks because I ran right to Facebook, Twitter, my etsy shop, updated blogs, running like a chicken without a head. This had to stop.

 This has been coming for some time. I have thought about it very often. I have simply not known what to do. Yesterday I got some chilling news and was so terrified all day long that I was not even functional. I cried. I couldn't breathe. I curled up in my big chair as if in the fetal position with a pug in my arms, clinging to him for dear life and burying my face in his warm soft Teddy Bear like coat. And then I caught my breath. I cancelled things. I returned things. I said NO to things, I quit Facebook, Twitter, etsy, one blog, and more. I had several toolbars for bookmarks and I emptied 3 of them completely. I fell back into my chair exhausted, shaking, and crying. And then...

After a brief time which might be considered terrifying withdrawal, I began to feel relief creeping back in around the edges. I know that the ramifications will not be felt for some time, but already last night and today I have gotten so much fiber work done I am almost shocked. I have deleted tons of mail and answered the important mail. I set up a private e-mail account just to write "real letters" via e-mail to my nearest and dearest. I felt joy.

Beethoven once wrote, "I write you letters by the thousands in my mind." I always thought that that was beautiful, but the thing is that you can write a thousand in your mind but if nobody receives them how do you sustain a friendship or other relationship? Now instead of getting on Facebook or worrying about Twittering, I can actually have a long, slow, peaceful time to write to my nearest and dearest. I can use the internet as the great resource that it is for my writing and art, I can do this one blog, and I can write my book. And that's just exactly what I am going to do. 

I am, in large part, leaving the internet. Life is the main goal, and the internet is a wonderful, joyful thing to be a part of my life but only a slender piece of the pie, not the whole thing. 

Balance. I seek balance. I am afraid, this is a big leap, life is scary right now in more ways than I will share here, and I am taking care of myself as best I can.

So I wanted to share this with all of you and let you know that I will be here. Please know that I read and treasure every single comment people leave here. The comments mean more to me than I can say. I receive them like a beautiful gift but seldom have time to respond. It's not that I don't want to, it is because life won't allow it. I am guarding my life and my time zealously as I make these changes and get  back on track. 

I am waving at you and sending you much love and warm hugs from the other side of the screen here. I hope to hear from some of you who are true friends via e-mail and there is a link here near the top on the right to e-mail me. I may not be quick to answer but I will treasure each of your mails and do what I can to answer. I bow in deep gratitude to each and every one of you. 

I am afraid. I am confused. I am uncertain, but I just keep walking through the darkness toward the light. It's time. And now I know I can make it. 

Warm Regards & Deepest Blessings to All,

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Knitting My Life Together...

Beginning A Knitted Tapestry...

Dear Ones...

This year has been a very contemplative year and a year when, for the first time in my life, I have made decisions about my life strictly on my own. It has been exhilarating, frightening, a teetering one way and then the other kind of time. And I sit everyday knitting for a portion of the day, each stitch knitting pieces of me back together. 

I arrange pieces of myself, like loose puzzle pieces, on the table before me. What have I got? Woman, mother, grandmother, writer, interfaith minister, fiber artist, knitter, crocheter, weaver, spinner (of yarn and yarns -- with words -- and dreams...), animal advocate, companion to a bevy of pugs and parrots and Big Dog Moe, a gardener, nurturer of plants galore indoors, and a collector, from mermaids to flamingos to vintage buttons and beads and more. And that is just the beginning, and you could toss all of those pieces up in the air and each day they would land in different places and aspects to one another.

I was thinking this morning how completely I live as an intuitive, much like my work as a fiber artist. I follow no patterns, am self-taught in everything that I do, and never start a project with a goal in mind. When I knitted the piece at the top that I call a "knitted tapestry" I had no idea with each stitch where I was going. It was a difficult time in my life and knitting always puts me to rights somehow. I just started and let the needles and yarn lead the way. In everything I create, no matter what it comes out like in the end, I have a feeling of creating a patchwork quilt of sorts. I think that's because I always have a sense of knitting, crocheting, or weaving lots of pieces and stitching them all together (...which is rather metaphorical since most "pieces" are, like the knitted tapestry above, a continuous piece and not separate pieces put together, although I have made lots of small pieces and putting them together was a great adventure and a deep meditation.). This knitted tapestry was a Shamanic Journey of sorts for me...

As long as I kept knitting, the pieces of myself held together. With each completed stitch it was as if a little glue was spread between the pieces of myself holding them a little more firmly together. I could relax and feel safe in this space. I could breathe easier.

We all need a practice in our lives to keep us going as whole human beings so that we might move through our day, intact, and tread through the minutes and hours all of a piece. When bits of ourselves feel as if they are jangling around, our practice brings the myriad pieces of our self back together. For some people their practice is prayer, or meditation, or tending the garden, or washing the dishes. I do all of these, they are part of my life, but it is only when I am doing fiber work am I held together in such as way as to move forward without falling apart. Knitting is the most powerful tool of all for me, the rhythmic motions, the clicking of the needles, the piece growing in your hands, deep comfort indeed.

I haven't been knitting in quite awhile. I have been spinning and crocheting quite a lot but somehow knitting slipped out of my daily repertoire, the rounds of my days somehow pulling the pieces of me further and further apart until they sagged between the spaces. The sagging interstices leave room for depression, a feeling of being lost, tethered to nothing at all, and finally about to come apart completely. Quite alarmed at the state of affairs, seeing the direction I was heading, that kind of place where all of the puzzle pieces are dumped out of the box and scattered hither and yon I did the only thing I could do. I picked up my needles and started knitting again, and it was an unconscious act, like taking a drink of water when you're thirsty, you don't think about it, you just do it because your body is crying out for water.

And so I am knitting again, aligning all the pieces of myself and knitting them back together. This time I hope I don't forget, but if I don't find knitting, it will find me. Somehow or another, even when coming very close to the sagging places tearing apart completely, I will find knitting needles in my hands, and I will feel myself coming together again, all of a piece. Now, like Miss Marple who knits her way through all of her stories, I will carry my knitting with me wherever I go. You can only stretch the seams so far before they tear apart completely. I cannot afford that, and now I am the only one who can prevent it. Even in the years when I thought other people were holding me together it was me all along. I'm stronger than I ever knew, and knowing this lifts my heart and helps me move more steadily through each and every day. "Keep knitting Maitri," I tell myself, "Keep knitting."

Clickety-clackety, clickety-clackety... sweet relief...