Oh, Cathy….


ceramic, 1994, 12″ x 5″ x 1/2″
_____________________________

Writing this blog is entirely self-referential.

I use my own experiences as fodder for understanding the changes occurring in me

As I make my way down this road accompanied by chronic illness.

In yesterday’s post I discussed consciousness and the lack of it.

The genesis of my writing came from a reaction I had to a friend who arrived to pick me up for dinner very stoned.

My history includes dealing with a childhood of uncertainty stemming from living with an alcoholic father.

I am on hyper-alert when it comes to fuzzy consciousness.

That said, I apologize to all of you who use substances to ease the discomfort and pain of illness.

I have no judgement in this regard, believe me..

I just have my own personal threshold of a safety zone

And it is VERY personal, I know.

So please forgive my own unconsciousness with regard to a wider view of the thing.

Thank you for making me aware of this oversight.

I’ll leave you with a bit of natural consciousness altering substance:

Anathema Of Anesthesia


“LANDSCAPE”, 20″x 20″, 2002, m/m
_________________________________

A friend had surgery yesterday.

We spoke briefly about our mutual fear around being ‘put under.’

I remember my youth spent skipping classes to dart outside and meet up with my cronies under a huge spruce tree where we proceeded to smoke so much pot that the very tree we sat beneath was gasping for oxygen.

Last evening, I was scheduled to have dinner with another friend.

He arrived very high and I said: “I can’t have dinner with you tonight because you’ve been smoking pot. We can pick another time.”

He said: “Come ON! I’m still me.”

“No.” I said. A definitive no.

I heard myself say these things with a friendly fierceness in my tone.

What do I know now about consciousness that I did not know long ago under that smokey spruce tree?

The reason the friend facing surgery and I shared fear about anesthesia

Is because we know what living in an unconscious way is like

And, now, following miles and years and eons of study, introspection, courage and grace

We are the beneficiaries of consciousness with some gravity to it;

And speaking for myself, this is my greatest gift and highest accomplishment.

To think of surrendering to medically warranted anesthesia is terrifying enough

But it makes me think of where in my life I purposefully blur my edges and render myself

A veritable wet washcloth version of Cathy.

Like my friend I chose not to spend an evening with because I experienced him as only half there,

I have my own numbing devices.

Witnessing my reluctance to spend my precious time with only a portion of the essence of a man available to me

Had me looking at how I gyp the world (people, practice, nature, critters, God)

By not bringing my full consciousness to the moment.

Something to think about, I tell you…

Sobering to say the least.

Pun intended.

That Pesky Impermanence


“WASH”, 2004, 20″ x 40″, m/m
____________________________
A week or so following the first really serious upheavals in my marriage

Which ended up being precursors to a divorce

I found a magazine on our dining table

Very purposefully opened to an article titled : IMPERMANENCE.

I just got angry and righteous

When I saw it

And was gleeful in my decision to not read the damned thing

And walk on…

“What does HE know about Buddhism, anyway?” I thought. (this particular article was about Buddhist beliefs).

Really, in hindsight, he was just trying to find a way through an experience just too horrible to conceive of: that there was an actual ending to something he imagined a ‘forever thing.’

Yeah.. this impermanence thing is really not fun. Really not.

But it HAS become interesting to me.

The fact that things can end and we don’t have to make any noise or drama about it.

Things just END sometimes.

That’s just the way of it.

We can add noise and good theater to it if we choose

But they are OUR additions to the play.

What got me thinking about this today is this.

So beautiful.

And it’s ephemerality (is that a word?)

Makes it so.

Unbearable Tenderness


“PUSH”, 2008, 14″ x 14″, 6″, ceramic,steel,wood
_______________________________________________

Yesterday: “RAGE”

Today: “UNBEARABLE TENDERNESS”

And so it goes….

On my daily roll around the neighborhood with Olivia in tow

I saw a leaf.

The first squeak of that almost unbearable tender and new green

Which reaches out to meet us

After a deep winter.

The return.

The count-on-able appearance

Of life

When there seemed only deep chill before.

Yesterday, my limbs were numb and unresponsive.

Today I literally feel the incremental return of lively blood

And my mood is not at the effect of anything or anyone;

It is mine alone

And fueled by possibility

When only yesterday there was none to be had.

I took the fuse that lit that tiny and tenderest of green leaf

And plugged it into my own heart.

See… here it is right there in my eyes

Should you care to look there.

I can share it with you.

Rage


untitled, 1985, drawing
_______________________

Yesterday, I hated my body.

Yeah, I know… be gentle. it will pass. count on change and all that….

Fortunately (for everyone), rage is not a frequent visitor to my house.

Yesterday, every symptom was scratching at my insides for air-time.

Even new ones were creeping in.

It was grey and cold outside. My home was in disarray. Dishes in the sink. Dog needed walking. Appointments needed made. Projects finished in a timely manner.

My body was not precious yesterday.

It was the enemy and I hated her, it, them.

I had no energy to do otherwise so I just let it rip.

Crying, out-loud conversations with God, yelling at my dog (which I am still apologizing for..), cleaning up after myself with hefty doses of resentment and self-pity, covers-over-the-head rest periods, watching myself in the mirror at certain times to get the full visual impact of the rawness of this thing..

I was ugly. And real. And surprised at the power of this sleeping thing in me.

When was the last time you witnessed someone wail?

Likely, in a film.

With all my professions of interest in my transforming self (which are honest)

And the gravitation towards peace, vitality, an inspired life of connection which all seem to come naturally to me;

For all this to have a place in me, it’s opposite must also have a seat at the table…

And there she was- all self-centered, ill-mallered, fierce and inconsolable, dark, and raw- fueled only by fear and fear.

And you all must hear about it because I promised transparency.

It is part of my healing to speak.

I know I am surely not the only one.

Surely, surely not……

How To Choose A Healer, Therapist, Bodyworker, Teacher


detail of painting on wool flannel
__________________________________

Since my diagnosis of MS in 2000 I have had the privilege of working with many, many healers of all types.

I say privilege because having access to so many various modalities in the healing arts by living in Santa Fe as I do

Is something I do not take for granted.

A diagnosis of PPMS has a peculiar freedom sewn into it: that of the reality there are no medications with a history of relief tagged for PPMS-challenged folks like me and so we must find our own way.

My body has most often chosen a more natural path toward healing anyway, which is serving me well in hindsight.

When I say ‘natural’ I mean that I have chosen to address psychological, energetic, physical, dietary and spiritual means to assist me in creating a thriving life.

Santa Fe is oozing with every kind of practitioner one could ever desire. I have spent too much money and time in my incessant search for hope.

Because I have such an archive of experience, I offer you these few things I have learned along the way regarding how to choose someone to work with where the likelihood of achieving positive results is high:

1. Listen to your body’s intelligence over your mind’s.

Depression may indeed be assuaged with a drug but you are doing yourself and everyone else a disservice if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to open the door and start making a relationship with your personal monsters. For me- shame has been a huge issue I still have to attend to. I see how my body goes into ‘lock-down’ because of it. (as an example)

2. Is this person a trustable space for you, personally?

Reputation is essential, surely, but not the entire equation. My first foray into the world of neurologists had me in the office of the most highly respected MS doctor in the state. I left my appointment feeling weak, confused and much sicker than when I arrived. I could not go back. Each neurologist I have seen has had one thing to offer: yet another MRI which has been expensive and told us very little.

Another experience which helped me learn to discriminate what a safe place to heal feels like (and doesn’t) occurred with an energy worker who was clearly an adept in his field. During my session my body began shaking uncontrollably which scared me. The fact he did not call me the day after such an unusually powerful and strange session told me all I needed to know about him.

Often, I have experienced people who have not done ‘their own work’ regarding sexual boundaries. To create a safe place for someone to heal demands rigorous boundaries to be in place in the sexual arena. If I feel any vestige of flirtiness my guard immediately goes up and I am unable to surrender to the possibilities present in the room.

A trustable human means, to me, that the person has attended to their own shadow, has cared enough to do the work it takes to become aware and thus be able to leave it outside the room.

3. Accept nothing less than results.

This seems odd to say..like: “Duh..” Except in the world of the chronically ill we can become blind in our quest for support and healing. We(I) tend to stay too long. Results can be subtle, happen over time but my trial period with new practitioners is very, very short these days. I can not afford it financially or on a soul level.

4. Is the person strong enough of character to deal with ALL of me?

Meaning: can I get angry, disagree, challenge them, be sad, emotional, unclear as well as ‘on my game’ in the largest sense not feel them retreat? Illness is a lonely business and if I am paying you for your expertise and support I have to know you’ll stick by me no matter what.

5. Do I leave feeling lighter?

This is a good litmus test for whether you are moving in a vital and health-full direction together. I don’t mean free of conflict,confusion, symptoms. I mean does your soul feel backed-up, recognized and not alone?

Do you have other things you’ve found helpful in making an informed choice?

My Sister


hand-painted silk, 1987
_______________________

My sister has style.

She didn’t always, mind you..

It happened when she and my brother-in-law moved to Dallas.

She knew that in order for her to be at all visible as a woman in that scary town she must up her grooming ante. And she did that. In spades.

She never went whole hog into the big hair-obsessive presentation thing.

But she took what was best and left the rest

Which revealed her own style in the classiest of ways.

Her birthday is today.

I wanted to give her something to tell her I love her.

Because we are ‘sans-mother’, we have both stepped in to make sure a high level of recognition is passed between us centered on the celebration of beauty and class and sass on birthdays and holidays.

She knows me well; meaning liking some parts and trying to lend a blind eye to the rest..

As we grow older the edgy parts of our sisterhood fade to grey and something surprisingly beautiful, comforting and real shows it’s face.

She nurtures.

I mean, REALLY nurtures.

She is a knock-em-dead (?) gourmet cook for starters. Beyond this it is her family and the core of goodness she has concocted by mothering her kids the way she has and tending her marriage with whatever it is that has the two of them still in love, respectful and having fun together which I admire.

We are different seeds from the same plant. She: watchful, reserved, action-oriented, adept in most realms I am not. It used to be an irritant but now has become an inspiration. Where she is measured, I often fly without my ruler. I learn from her. And she from me.

My sister has gifted me in this past year with the kind of support and love which takes a heart, wraps it in the finest gold and furs and ribbon and leaves it to rest in the sudden softness and security of what was before a very deep wintry chill.

And so.. on this, the anniversary of your birth, I give you, my sister this gift of love…

The recognition that for me, you are:

a woman of style and substance
courageous
fun
pretty good cook
brilliant
adventuresome
curious
risk-taker
wicked sense of humor
adaptable
amazing mother and partner
trustworthy
creative
reliable
generatrix (?)
sassy
capable
sensitive to nuance

I am so sorry for the times I have hurt you or disappointed you or caused you sadness or confusion.

I can not wish those experiences away for they were each a part of getting me here..

Here, as I stand leaning into my ‘good’ leg and feeling the miracle of your support which eases my willful and often weary stride,

I thank you.

With love,

Cathy

Darkness, Darkness


monoprint, 30″ x 22″, 1992
__________________________

Because my temperment gravitates toward optimism

I really seldom get snagged by depression, thankfully.

I lived a long lifetime in my younger days with that damp and smelly wet blanket covering me. So long, in fact that I celebrate it being a MEMORY and not my reality.

That said, when I catch a whiff of it in my present state of being I tend to hate it.

Really, depression walks alongside us all and carries a sharp pin in it’s gnarly hand.

Unbeknownst to us it can sidle up and ever so quietly start an incessant and barely noticeable irritant of pin-pricking.

When I am depressed I forget who I am when I am not.

Because I now feel my beingness as a very alive presence

I tend to hate the feeling of flatness that arrives with depression. I want it gone. Now.

In this way I am no different than the youth of today I see addicted to video stimulation and the constancy and influx of information, noise, communication and a jam-packed psyche.

Their aversion to silence and emptiness scares me, frankly.

My personal aversion is depression. I am unable to just sit in it. It does not interest me and I want her gone. Just as our youth cannot bear silence, I cannot bear depression.

The thing is: if I am a warrior in life, I should be more fascinated by my adversary. Perhaps stop all the self-hatred that comes with the flatness.

And just sit in the sun, let myself miss a beloved class without judgement, leave the dishes in the sink

And just look out the window at the mountains.

Suffering allows me to see what non-suffering really is. This is the greatest gift of illness.

My gift to myself is the courage to be honest in the face of it (with you and with myself).

All I know for sure is that I can always count on change.

” Called or not called, God will be there. ”
-Engraved in stone over the front door of Carl Jung