Sunday, April 28, 2013

Olivia, A Study In Black & Blue ~ The 100 Ladies Have Come Awake Inside Of Me Again To Tell Me Their Stories. I Have Missed Them...

She is frequently blue, very often black and blue, because she is always walking around with her head in the clouds. Early in her life, as a child, trauma caused her to disconnect from her physical body. She told her therapist that it was as if her spirit were floating ahead of her with her body bumping along on the ground behind her. This realization came to her in a dream and she was shocked. She had always had trouble with her weight, but it was her body that had the weight problem, not her. She saw them as separate entities, her body and herself. When her therapist said, not unkindly, "Olivia, what you are doing is a socially acceptable form of suicide," it shocked her to her core. She stood in front of the mirror that night, naked, and poked herself gently with her finger, surprised to feel the soft flesh of her stomach. She turned this way and that. She was nearly 50 years old and she was meeting her physical body for the very first time.

"Hello," she said shyly, and she looked in awe. Tears ran down her cheeks, this time not tears of sadness but tears of love, she felt a tenderness toward that which she had refused to recognize as her own. Her body had been subjected to so much abuse she did not believe that it was something that she could love. Socially acceptable form of suicide. Good Lord. She was not suicidal, she didn't want to die, she just wanted to rid herself of that which had caused her so much pain. She hid from it, she thought she had grown past the abuse, but it was there, lingering in her body still. The biggest shock of all was that the abuse was continuing, but this time it was self-inflicted, she was trying to kill it, and in doing so she was killing herself. The unrelenting pain was not the result of childhood abuse, it was a result of that which she held onto, however unconsciously. It was on that night that Olivia decided to take the first steps toward loving herself. She turned this way and that. She looked at her large dimpled thighs, her very large hips and bottom as she called it, only this time she looked at them as if they were a curiosity separate from herself. When she looked in the mirror she never saw herself as heavy because she had healed and grown enough to love herself and she was growing into the place where her spirit could no longer take the journey without the rest of her. Her body and soul needed to meet one another and make friends. 

She began the journey that night, but it would be a long one because it was less about what she ate than the integration of these two parts of herself. It was a bumpier journey than she would realize and often it frightened her, but as time went along she began to change color, slowly, ever so slowly, and she found herself wrapping her arms around her body, hugging it, her heart expanding to encompass it. Her tears dried and she knew that she would make it, some way, some day, somehow.

It was on that night that she truly understood that having compassion for others without having it for herself was not true compassion, not in its fullest sense, for she had to love herself in order to love others, to understand them, and if she was to be of service to others she had to start with herself. She fell on her knees and prayed. 

Olivia talked a lot about the present moment, but she could only be present if she let go of the past and tended to the now. She remembered the line from the Dr. Seuss book that she had read to her children, read so often she had memorized it. "The time has come, the time is now, Marvin K. Mooney will you please go now." It was Olivia's time to go, to leave the place of the land of disconnect and travel to the land of integration. What a strange and wonderful world she began to find as the two halves of herself began to come together. She was no longer black and blue, she was all the colors of the rainbow, and for the first time in her life she felt beautiful inside and out. It was when she began to walk in the world as a whole woman, heart, mind, body and soul woven together as one that she could do the work she was born to do. She looked at others, now, with true compassion, and she never looked back again. Divine acceptance of herself was the key to the door she had never been able to unlock. She opened the door and went inside. She was home.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Process of Grief... On Losing My Tiny Blind Pug Penny...

My darling baby girl, you are forever in my heart...

Early this morning I cried so long and so hard and so uncontrollably I didn't think I could stop. I grabbed the Penny who isn't here in my arms and kissed her and rocked and rocked and rocked nearly hysterical. And 
then there was a kind of peace and calm and I believe I felt her with me. And then I laid down with my 3 boys and hugged old Sam tight and held on for dear life. And in my mind I prayed and asked Penny to show me some sign that she was with me, and in the place she normally lay when I am on my side, up against my breast with his head pushed into tiny Penny's spot, was gentle. shy little Pugsley, and he gave me kisses and kisses and then snuggled up to me. I felt that Penny sent him along to say, "They boys will take care of you now..." And now, ever since I've been up Peaches is with me, attached to me, in her own way, like Penny used to be. 

My animals are healing me...

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

Emily Dickinson

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hannah was not "just an accountant." Few people knew this but at night she flew over the stars...

Never judge a book by her cover...

Hannah used to think it was sad that no one seemed to notice her, that they considered her "just an account," the mousy, quiet woman who sat in the corner, working hard, and while a nice sort of woman had little to say, though she was always pleasant. In school Hannah had been the straight "A" student who didn't fit in with the cool kids and was too shy to even join the after school clubs that she would have liked to, but she had a secret. Hannah had special powers and she felt this was something she should keep to herself.

Hannah went in to work every morning with her hair pulled back tight in a bun, her black glasses with the heavy frames dwarfing her pretty face, and she wore one of three suits, a black, navy, or grey, with sensible pumps. She wore hose which didn't seem to be the fashion anymore and was quite unsettled by the women who came in dressed casually wearing no stockings and the most peculiar looking shoes. They called them BirkerUppers or some such thing but they were certainly not suitable for a place of business, of that she was certain.

Hannah wasn't invited out by her co-workers who thought that she was probably so dull she'd fall asleep at the table and be an embarrassment to their friends. What in the world would Hannah have to say. They imagined her going home and eating saltine crackers with canned soup, having a cup of tea, reading Jane Austen and then going to bed, probably with a cat.

If they only knew.

Hannah gathered her things, shyly smiled, ever so slightly, at the few co-workers who were still there when she, almost always the last to leave, gathered her things and headed home. She took the subway, staring out the window, making up countless stories about the other passengers and smiling to herself, knowing that they would never know. When she finally reached the doorstep of her brownstone she picked up the paper, pulled the mail out of the box, squealing with delight as she walked through the door, tossed her briefcase over the back of the sofa, kicked off her pumps and screeched, "Gracious Me Mr. Toggles! Look what came in the mail!"

On these days, when special mail came, Hannah was beside herself, but still took time to carefully undress and hang her suit up, put her pumps in the closet, and grab one of her favorite things to wear around the house. It was one of her brightly colored tie-dye dresses that went down to her ankles. She didn't bother with shoes, she didn't see the point. She set her glasses on her dresser, took down her bun, and shook out her waist long curls. She then went careening through her untidy little home making airplane wings of her arms as she tilted this way and that "flying" around furniture over to Mr. Toggles tank -- she never did anything at home without Mr. Toggles -- and as she took off the lid of the tank, greeting him with "Who's Mama's little man?" she reached her hand slowly down into the tank and let him slither up her arm, curling around it and coming all the way up until they were nose to nose. Mr. Toggles was a corn snake, and large for his size, a little over four feet, and the love of her life. He was an albino corn snake with a beautiful coral pattern against cream white skin, and red eyes, and he only had eyes for Hannah. She had raised him from a baby and had no trouble at all with raising a steady supply of mice to feed him, watching him with glee as he polished off a live mouse. 

This night Mr. Toggles curled around Hannah's arm and shoulder and made himself comfortable while she sat at her big table in the middle of what probably should have been a dining room but was a studio of sorts filed with art supplies and fabric and books stuffed in any which way, and tonight as she opened the padded envelope and let a pile of new rubber stamps and brightly colored stamp pads cascade across the table her mind was running in a thousand directions. She reached for her big journal, a fistful of colored pens, glitter and glue, and a stack of old magazines to tear apart and she started in, writing and stamping and cutting and pasting and painting and dreaming, and writing more stories about her life, the life that she had created, that she lived in in her head and within the 4 walls of her little brownstone. Hours passed before she was finished and Mr. Toggles had been sleeping happily against the warmth of her body the whole time. He was a great comfort to her. 

At 11:00 she closed everything up and put Mr. Toggles away, stroking him for a few minutes and staring into his glowing red eyes with love. She put the lid on his tank and a dictionary with a couple of bricks on top -- he was an escape artist, the little rascal -- and ordered Thai food to be delivered. She ate it while watching a horror film -- she just loved those -- and then got ready for bed. This was her favorite time of the night. 

Hannah put on her long flowing pink satin nightgown, opened her skylight, and breathed in the cool fresh air. It was a perfect night. Once again she would slip out of the skylight and fly so high she would look down upon the stars, and as she did she would drop the tiny crystals made of stardust in a rainbow of colors over the houses below. It was the most important job that she had, sprinkling dream-dust as she called it. She sprinkled extra dust, the prettiest, sparkliest crystalline powder that she had, over the roofs over her co-workers. She loved to hear them talk about their dreams the next day, but she never looked up, never smiled, and kept her attention focused on the work at hand. 

When you are a magic maker it's best never to let on. It's best people never know. It's important to guard their dreams, as she had her own since she was a small child. It was the most important work that she did. She took this job very seriously.

Tonight she would go home and have an early dinner and explain to Mr. Toggles that she would be out longer than normal. It was to be a perfect night with so many stars the sky would be lit up like flashing neon, and what she had in store for the dreamers was something they would never forget...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Meet Janine... (Updated as the day drifted along...)

Janine has been blind since birth, but it has never kept her from loving life. She loves laying in the grass and feeling the sun on her face, and wearing nubby sweaters. She loves to touch and feel everything, and she will touch your heart...

Dear Ones,

I put the picture and little caption for Janine up when I awoke from a bad dream before dawn and needed to do something to shake my mind out of that place that sometimes won't let go of you so easily even when you are awake. I think I just needed to put Janine here because she is such a comforting presence, and I have learned something very interesting, and deep, and special about this process...

As you know by now if you have been watching this blog I start with an image I have drawn with pastels in an 8x8" sketchbook and then take that image into a photo manipulation program and play with it, coming up with lots of different colors and usually some pretty wild images will result. But with Janine, there were far fewer images than normal and they were all gentle and not wild or taken too far from the original.I realized, again, how real these women are to me as they appear, and that I felt especially protective of Janine, and not because she was blind -- she does very well thank you very much -- but there is something very tender and innocent about her and she doesn't belong in wildly manipulated, pop art images, for example. She is just a simple soul lying in the grass in the sunshine in her nubby sweater. I think the poems of Emily Dickinson are running through her mind. I think she knows Emily's poetry far better than any of us who are sighted ever will because she lives in the bottom of the words where each curve of a letter is like a hammock she can lie in and swing in the breeze for awhile. She digests Emily's poems and they become part of her in a way that is visible if only you really know Janine.

"Janine drinks tea, not coffee, but she has a vast array of very good loose teas in beautiful china that she has purchased in a second hand shop down the street from her. The proprietor of the shop, "A Place Your Grandmother Would Have Loved," is one of Janine's dearest friends, Maxine, who is 81, and very elegant in the vintage attire she always wears, will call Janine and say, almost breathless, "Oh, Janine! You simply MUST come to the shop THIS instant. I have to show you the new cups I just got in," and Janine will grab her straw hat, and cane, and her Golden Retriever, Lucy, and she will head out down the street practically skipping. Sometimes Lucy gets a little nippish with Janine because once she's had one of those cup conversations she would fairly sail into the middle of traffic if Lucy didn't have a firm grip of the situation.

Today Lucy and Janine arrive Maxine grabs her and hugs her so hard she knocks Janine's hat off, and she hands Lucy a biscuit and sits Janine down in an old rocking chair that is over-sized and comfortable. Janine holds her hands out in just the shape made for holding a cup and Maxine gently sets the cup in Janine's hands. She waits for a few moments for Janine to feel the cup, and Janine takes her time, sliding her finger around every curve and through the little handle, feeling the weight of the cup and the delicacy of the porcelain. She needs a little time to dream and think of all of the teacups she has read about in the Victorian novels that she loves so well, and when she sits back in the chair and relaxes, holding the cup to her heart, Maxine slowly describes the cup to her. This cup is covered with overblown old peach colored roses on a cream background. It is quite old and unusually made for it's time. And Maxine tells Janine as much as she knows of it's provenance -- she already knows that Janine will buy this one -- and Janine rocks and smiles, slightly, while Maxine embellishes the tale of all of the places the cup has been, all the tables it has sat upon with the teapot beside it. 

Maxine puts an old, scratchy record on the Victrola in the corner, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and after carefully wrapping the cup and putting it in a box tied with ribbon she pours Janine a cup of Elderberry tea and they talk until late afternoon until Lucy begins to nudge Janine insistently. It will be dark soon and Lucy wants to shepherd her mistress home. 

There will be another day, and another cup, and tonight will be a night for dreaming."

How can I not fall in love with these women? I know them so well...