“I’d Call AAA…..”


detail of painting
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It is New Year’s Eve day and instead of a recap of my year, I feel like telling you about the most recent event that made me really happy..

Sort of a ‘talisman moment’ to guide my year as I see it.

Instead of making a list of resolutions, I will use the feeling of what I am about to tell you to move into a new year and know I want more of THIS:

My brother, sister-in-law and niece and nephew came to visit me. They drove from Denver in their motor home with the two dogs, jeep in tow and many tools to help me make my new and beloved home more accessible. The arrived and poured forth with wheelchair ramps! and gourmet food for my freezer! and a hand-held shower thing! and lightbulb replacements! Three-hour logs for the fireplace! and ICE MELT for my walkway!

They cleaned my kitchen, painted the ramps, helped me make a flower-covered back panel for my wheelchair, made me sit down, were conscious of my energy level, shoveled gravel, took me out for meals, were aware when I was getting tired, took Olivia on walks and tied up cardboard boxes into tidy packages.

One of the very best moments of this visit was this: We were pouring out of the car in downtown Santa Fe in the evening. It was cold and icy at the curb of our parking place. I opened the passenger door to get out, saw the ice below and hesitated. Would I be able to safely make the crossing between car and curb to grab my walker? After that little feat was successfully completed I said to my brother: “What would you do if I had slipped and slid under the car back there?”

“I’d call AAA” he said….

We all laughed that down-low belly laugh because…well, because it was SUCH GREAT DISABILITY HUMOR!!!!

Casual, easy, hysterical without the underpinnings of caution.

In 2012, my attention will be on feelings in my body rather than accomplishments or desires. I will be like a magnetic basket; going about my days gathering actual experiences of connection, fun, nurturance, worth, wonder, curiosity, communion, silliness, soft belly, unguarded heart, contentment………………
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Gifts I Give And Am Given


textile design on wool flannel
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This year found me having to re-think my gift giving over the holidays. I hadn’t the cash to go gallivanting across town hither and thither in search of the perfect THING for those I love.

I settled on writing a letter to a few friends, family, services I use and places I go regularly telling them they make a difference in my life; a BIG difference.

I told them my life is so much better because of them, that I recognize and celebrate their goodness and wanted them to know I am over here feeling rich because of their presence in my life.

The self worth issues which haunt me came from a never-ending question in my very being: ‘Do you see me?’ ‘Do I matter to you?’ ‘Are you glad I am here with you in your life?’

Because I essentially had to create my own foundation for lack of what seems a child’s birthright, I now know what it takes to feel whole and securely connected from the heart.

This has been a year of miracles for me. My amazing family and friends have stepped into my life with a kind of support and love which is quite overwhelming in it’s commitment to my well-being.

They are making sacrifices in their own lives to benefit mine. I hate it that I need their help. I feel too transparent and adrift in the ‘life-muscles’ department.

And yet- they SEE ME here…

Making my way the best I can with mistakes and confusion and successes; all of what it takes to create a new life when circumstance befalls us..

They are giving me love.

And that has been my gift to others this year as well.

I leave you on this Christmas eve with this:

Solstice


“DISTANCE” 2004, 24″ x 52″, m/m
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I wonder what kind of year this particular Solstice will open into?

So much tentativeness and fear and dire predictions.

The energy we are entering this coming year with seems to have one hand saying come hither and the other at full STOP!

My body feels this confusion and works overtime to get it’s sea legs.

I want to pick an attitude to use as a kind of mantra for the year..

RECEIVING is what has come forward for me.

Part of me just recoils the word.

Aren’t we supposed to (as upstanding citizens) be GIVING?

The RECEIVING I am talking about could be re-named ‘DE-ARMORING.’

For me, it is the action of releasing out-dated self worth issues and truly being aware of what is available for me in the PRESENT MOMENT.

The future really has lost it’s sheen to me

And the past is just that.

I want to see what the present moment has for me..

Stand there strong and soft with my heart unguarded and my face turned toward the sky and my eyes open so I don’t miss a thing, no matter what.

But that’s future thinking AGAIN!!

It will be my practice.

How To Be With A Disabled Person


untitled, 1993, 4″ x 1″, ceramic
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1. I HAVEN’T STOPPED LOVING YOU- I JUST HAVE TO LOVE MYSELF MORE

I know that people who care about me want so much to let me know they are here for me in whatever way I might need. The thing is: I often DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT IS because this is such uncharted territory; for both me and my compadres. I have had to pull into myself and rearrange my values, needs, desires, finances, spirituality, social life, closet, pet care, diet, exercise and living situation. IF I have any juice left over- you will get it, I promise. Believe me, this takes a big dose of “BE NICE TO YOURSELF, CATH…” I beat myself up because I am so much less available to you and I don’t really like it.

2. THINGS YOU COULD DO TO HELP ME

When you ask me “What can I do?” it puts an extra burden on me to come up with something to take care of YOUR desire to ease my way. Think about it: If your own life were to feel more narrow in physical ways; say you had little energy and couldn’t get out in the world as much, what things would bring life to your door and ease your way?

Things I love:
a. My sister sends me books she has liked.
b. Magazines make my world wider: spirituality, design, nature, science, smart women’s mags. DVDs from SAM’s (cheap!)
c. bring me soup or stew to last a couple days or food from a restaurant I love.
d. beauty (flowers, girly stuff I can no longer afford, great DVD on art, nature, ANYthing you think I’d like.. book on tape)
e. offer to fix stuff in my home
f. ask if you could do an errand for me- mail p/u, drugstore, office supply
g. tell me about a great website you think I’d like
h. offer to take me on a drive in nature
i. take my dog for a walk if it snows and I can’t get out
j. tell me you love me no matter what
k. one friend lets me know she is thrilled when I get really bitchy and really let it rip. we laugh and I feel released.

3. I CARE THAT YOU KNOW HOW MUCH WHAT YOU DO MEANS TO ME AND WORRY YOU DON’T FEEL ACKNOWLEDGED ENOUGH

It is human nature to want a good deed acknowledged and to feel better about yourself after an effort expended on someone else’s behalf. Know that I try my best but won’t always get it right.

4. DON’T STAY TOO LONG

My cut-off point for a visit from you is an hour- maybe an hour and a half on a good day. I love our time together and need it but I get tired quickly. Sometimes just dropping things at my door works better (always with a ‘heads-up’ call first) so I’m not forced to make myself presentable if I haven’t the energy. Email works great for me as opposed to phone conversations. I can choose when I can be most present and connect from there. Lacking in intimacy but a sacrifice I seem to need.

5. OPEN DOORS FOR ME (even bathrooms if you are near and see I could use the help)

Just say: “May I help you with this?” gives me the opportunity to decide. I always love the little (sometimes big) opportunity to connect with someone in this way. There aren’t really that many times to safely feel like we can offer assistance to someone in need in our culture. Sometimes homeless people look a little scary though we might want to ease their way. When someone offers to open my door, I look them straight in the eye and say: “Thank you so much. I appreciate that.” I feel good. They feel good.

6. I KNOW YOU WANT TO FIX ME

Don’t forget this is my journey with horrors as well as miracles along the way just like yours. You may be very sure you would know how to do my journey differently and better were it you in my shoes.
Perhaps so. I pray you’ll never know. I am doing the very best I can; making mistakes, having success… Please don’t feel sorry for me. My road has treasures strewn about every which way I look… Now if I could only bend down to get them!! Honestly- I love my life even with all this challenge. Really.

7. I COULDN’T DO THIS WITHOUT YOU

Just knowing you are there and care about me eases my way like you will never know.

The Gift Of Tears


detail of installation, 1990, porcelain, 5″ x 3″
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I wonder why I don’t cry more often

With these challenges on my plate.

A good ‘tear-washing’ feels so darn good

In the end.

I don’t seem to weep in pain

Or weakness.

Sometimes abject humility

Or frustration and anger can get me going.

But seldom fear.

I find this odd.

I had an occasion years ago

On a visit to my favorite

‘Gotta find God fast’ spot I know:

CHRIST IN THE DESERT MONASTERY.

I go there for the experience of beauty and peace.

Those monks surely knew how to pick some killer real estate, I tell you..

Anyway, they have a small gift shop there

Attended by one of the monks.

He seemed primed to be a witness.

I said: (in a courageous and transparent moment during a conversation we were having on music):

“I cry at the oddest moments.

My tears often surprise me

With their suddenness and velocity,

Their inopportune arrival most times.

I can’t hold them back.

They embarrass me.”

He replied: “Have you ever heard of THE GIFT OF TEARS

In the Bible?

Yes, it is a real thing- the heart becomes so filled with beauty or joy or love or appreciation or connection or revelation

That it can not hold it all

And must spill over.

Those are your tears.”

And so..

My embarrassment lifted

And my tears have seldom felt like the enemy

From that day forward.

Disability Perks


hand-painted wool flannel, 1987
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#1. ENFORCED SITTING

In my new and astoundingly satisfying home I have a chair.

A white egg chair to be exact.

It has always been my safe haven in a storm; safe as the downy underwing of a swan.

Post-relocation discombobulation recedes far into the shadows as I wake and ease into it’s fold.

I sit there as dawn dresses herself and I enjoy her costuming while entirely forgetting about my untended hair and other ablutions.

I sit there.

And I sit there some more.

I do things like look.

I look at the masterfully crafted rock wall.

I look at the satisfying placement of needles on the juniper tree outside my big picture window.

My dog is snoring at my side and she is impossibly yielded into sleep with a slight press into my thigh.

I want to get up and address my coffee hankering.

But I can’t.

I’m too tired and content.

And so I feel the want of it

And let it go

In favor of more sitting.

And my breath drops into my belly

With a sigh

For the wisdom that arrives so unexpectedly with weariness.
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#2. THAT VERY WISDOM

Disability is the doctorate course

In authentic reordering of values.

What used to be accolades and cash and luxurious filling in of each and every empty place

In the heart and home and mind

Has shifted to the love of the ordinary,

Gratitude for having the means to provide for my true needs,

And moving toward emptiness for the pure pleasure of it.

That was a big sentence

But it wanted to be written that way.

The perks of disability seem to begin

When we fall in love with vulnerability;

It’s porous and yielding quality

With the benefit of the age-defying qualities

Of true humility.

Get shattered- hurt bad…

Get humble- start living.