I Love Being an Adult

"BLUE GIRL"  11 x 11"   m/m

“BLUE GIRL” 11 x 11″ m/m

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It is quietly white out there.

The snow rests so comfortably on cars, trees and grasses.

All sound is buffered. Hushed.

I woke and turned languidly in my sheets thinking how ecstatic it felt to not be young and waiting out there in the grey for the mustard yellow school bus.

Every time I see one of those my stomach tenses.

Now- I am free.

I choose my state of mind.

I must keep it interesting as often as possible.

When I remember Mrs. Spencer teaching me history as a young girl

The smell of the room invades my head and I think of her dry, wrinkly dryness

Devoid of passion for much of anything.

I hate history.

My heart turned toward the wetness of Biology and ceramics and paint and Nature;

The depth of anthropology and psychology;

The vast spaciousness of questions instead of fact.

Mrs. Spencer’s dryness lives in me as a leaden barrier to Life.

I feel the creep of urge to be generous and pour whatever Love I have learned

Into the hearts of the young ones all waiting out there in the chill for the bus to come.

Withdrawal

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“CATERPILLAR”, ceramic, 14″x4″
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WITHDRAWAL

“can be the very best way of stepping forward and done well, a beautiful freeing act of mercy and as an art form, underestimated in this time of constant action and engagement. So much of what we are involved with, in even the highest cause, becomes involvement at the busy periphery, where the central conversation has been lost to the outer edges of what was to begin with, a very simple central invitation. Withdrawal is often not what it looks like – a disappearance – no, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again.

Though life does seem determined to be a beautiful, and entrancing distraction – just as we ourselves are a distraction to others, testing them as we test ourselves and our mutual sincerity – our participation in this dance of distraction also makes more real, and more necessary, our ability to return to essential ground, to an essential person or an essential work.

We stick to the wrong thing quite often, not because it will come to fruition by further effort, but because we cannot let go of the way we have decided to tell the story and we become further enmeshed even by trying to make sense of what entraps us, when what is needed is a simple, clean breaking away.

To remove our selves entirely and absolutely, abruptly and at times un-compromisingly is often the real and radically courageous break for freedom. Unsticking ourselves from the mythical Tar Baby, seemingly set up, just for us, right in the middle of our path, we start the process of losing our false enemies, and even our false friends, and most especially the false sense of self we have manufactured to live with them: we make ourselves available for the simple purification of seeing our selves and our world more elementally and therefore more clearly again. We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way, a clear, rested, embodied voice, our life as a sudden, emphatic statement, one we can recognize as our own and one from which now, we have absolutely no wish to withdraw.”

‘WITHDRAWAL’ From CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015
Now Available http://davidwhyte.stores.yahoo.net/newbook.html

Humility

creation1
“FINE LINE”, 11x11x4″, m/m
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“HUMILITY IS THE HIGHEST REACH FOR BEAUTY AT THE MOST VULNERABLE HOUR”

~Zhenzan Dao

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Me, My Family and I

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untitled, 6×5′,painting on wool flannel
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I am getting weird. Or perhaps weirder might be closer to true.

I have a number of really good friends who have lived alone for long, long stretches of time.

Occasionally one of us will say: “I haven’t spoken to anyone in too long and I’m getting a little bazaar.”

Something strange can happen in ones’ brain if we go without having to make a normal amount of neural connections.

It feels like those little neural ‘reach’ fibers just give up the ghost and stare at some reality TV show with a BUD LITE in hand.

Case in point: I had some real stressors to deal with this morning and found myself irritable, teary and not coping well.

It had to do with my internet service and I called my sister to ask if she’d help me out.

Believe me- she’s received help calls from me before…..

My internet is a lifeline. Without it I see that I start to panic. Inside my monitor is a world where I create, converse, get inspired, muse, watch, work, laugh, tenderize my heart and generally do what others do maneuvering through a day in the workplace.

I know my situation in life taxes my family in big ways.

I hate that I need.

I hate it.

And it’s not just a one time deal either… my life circumstances are dependent on the generosity of my siblings.

I control my attitude but because of their merciful assistance I have to work far less hard to re-calibrate my well being to get back to ok.

Likely, I might not be here without the solace of their compassion and support.

We didn’t really like each other much growing up as there was too little time beyond just surviving our screwed up family.

I have grown into a depth of love for my sister and brothers no one could sever.

I wonder if we’d have this greatest of gifts if I did not need them so and they were not as tenderhearted and generous as they remain?

Would we all still be strangers?

Is there some other path that could have knit us together?

I hate my situation but I love them.

Life is so weird.

And wonderful.

And very weird.

The Narcissist Fisherman

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NARCISSIST FISHERMAN

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One time-on a date
I was taken flyfishing
For the first time
Ever.
He was a magnet.

There were the perfect shoes;
The pebble-gripping kind.
Anti-slip. One pair. For him.
He was cool.
And distant.

The river was small
With lots of twiggy trees.
He showed me how to cast.
Watched me do it.
Satisfied, he left.

I watched him walk.
So sure of himself
In those shoes.
He rounded the bend.
I saw him hours later.

There was a trout there
In his hand.
“Look at this beauty!”
“Come watch me gut it.”
I slip-slided over to the bank.

I was weary.
Being alone all day
With tangled lines
In gluttonous trees
I was in no mood.

I listened to myself
Dutifully exclaim:
“Wow! Great catch!”
Trout guts dribbled over the rock.
“I’ll have this for breakfast,” he said.

On the way home I thought:
“This is the worst fucking date ever.”
Why didn’t I just stand for myself
And have him take me home
Instead of getting so small and silent?

He needed to be front and center.
My mother was like that too.
Old and familiar energies
Act like heroin:
The rope of attraction
Has a noose at the end.

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– CATHY ATEN 2014

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A Little Cry

impermanence

An earlyish morning physical therapy appointment had me girding my loins as I braved the snow and grey and cold.

I didn’t want to go especially.

Winter white means HIBERNATE in my book.

But I went.

Strapped into the recumbent bike with too much hardware to keep my hand grip strong and my leg braced to center

I caved at minute 7.

Soft little tears came unbidden.

This is hard. I hate this. This is hard. I hate this.

Before I could go into “I hate myself” I ended my ride and sat with my PT and confessed:

“Sometimes I just get tired and this is what it looks like. I do such a good job of keeping it together but there are times I just have to weep. Never really lasts for long. Thanks for just being here with me for a minute. It will pass.”

She was great. Just sat there and was WITH me without needing to fix it. She looked worried but mostly tender.

The little cry lasted maybe 4 minutes.

Then I got right back to work with so much more gusto.

At some point I said: “You know- I am really proud of myself for having become friendly with my shadow instead of ignoring Her and shoving it down into some prettier, more convenient place.”

Let it be. Let Her be.

Harbinger

habit

At the grocery store today as I waited in line the woman behind me says:

“I really like your feathers. It takes the edge off…… It is so creative. My husband almost died this week from the flu. I had to lift him up and out of bed so many times. I had to really care for him and I am a lawyer and felt taking my medications while driving him around (which I don’t usually have to do) would be bad- you know- mixing drugs and driving. Anyway- the great thing is I went off those meds and I felt BETTER! My doctor couldn’t believe it.”

I inch toward the cashier.

“You know, you seem to have a great attitude. How do you do that? When my husband got sick I was grumpy and mad. I am so small and he is HEAVY! Even last month when my ankle hurt so bad I was miserable and…”

Creep another inch.

“….NOTHING I did made a difference. You look so stylish in that hat. I noticed you in the produce aisle…’

My neck hurts from trying to be gracious and look back at her as she speaks.

“I am relieved my husband is on the mend so I can get back to work and things seem more normal but……”

Finally get to pay and retreat. Rolling out the door I spot the first pansies being offered for sale. A HARBINGER OF SPRING AT LAST! Every darn thing feels perfect after meeting those pansies.

Everything changes. Life is good.

And not.

And then good again.

Dawn Wall

resiliance

Well…they did it! These two youngsters free climbed Yosemite’s previously unclimbable Dawn Wall.

No use of metal, hammered in foot/hand holds… just raw gut and heart and muscle and perseverance and faith and more heart.

Fingers reaching for life while eyes likely averted from images of a death drop.

Every cell on board…reaching.

Risk. Re-access. Risk. Re-access.

National Geographic would never think to cover my own Dawn Wall journey.

Seems so puny and inconsequential in comparison.

I’ll likely not get to pose at the summit of my scaled cliff with jubilant abandon with fists and face turned toward the heavens wearing cool, sponsor provided clothes to be envied.

There won’t be a place in the history books reading: “Cathy Aten, in partnership with Primary Progressive MS did what it took to craft a richly textured life with fine and supportive friends and family. She woke most mornings and tried to take the high road. She is in love with life and turned toward curiosity when turning away was so much easier. She risked love, forgave as best she could and finally…finally fell in love with her self. ”

There just aren’t any public awards given for all the private Dawn Walls we each scale. All the time. Ever so privately.

No accolades or cheers bursting from the gallery.

I’m happy to say I don’t need or want any medal hanging round my neck; I have the grand prize of a Self with a capitol “S”

And no one can ever take Her away from me.

She is very hard earned and won.

My highest accomplishment is ME.

Sacred Exhaustion

liv chair

SACRED EXHAUSTION

Your tiredness has dignity to it! Do not rush to pathologise it, or push it away, for it may contain great intelligence, even medicine.

You have been on a long journey from the stars, friend. Bow before your tiredness now; do not fight it any longer.

There is no shame in admitting that you cannot go on. Even the courageous need to rest.

For a great journey lies ahead. And you will need all of your resources.

Come, sit by the fire of Presence. Let the body unwind; drop into the silence here. Forget about tomorrow, let go of the journey to come, and sink into this evening’s warmth.

Every great adventure is fuelled by rest at its heart.

Your tiredness is noble, friend, and contains healing power… if you would only listen…

– Jeff Foster

Turning 60

_MG_1384
detail of installation, ceramic,earth,grasses
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I’m fairly sure I am going a little crazy.

My posts have been so self-deprecating and close to nonsensical on occasion.

I was watching the Golden Globe Awards on TV last night and a favorite celebrity was giving her acceptance speech in which she acknowledged her husband for loving “complicated women.”

I can relate. We’re a handful.

But the “handful” I speak of reminds me of a photograph of what beach sand looks like up close.

Every color, shape, texture, pattern is miraculously revealed upon closer observation.

In a couple weeks I will have my 60th birthday.

Little deaths; physical, emotional and spiritual have become almost daily companions in my landscape.

My consciousness seems to balk at the shift my attention prefers these days- that of my attraction not so much the FORMS Life displays but that underlying force or space between which connects us all.

It is mysterious, ineffable, numinous.

It calls me and I have very little language.

Approaching 60, what connection means to me is shifting. I know Love more intimately at this age and that seems like a fine, fine take-away from what has felt like a complicated life-landscape.

Mercy Me

fine line
detail of painting on wool flannel
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Years ago when I set out to do this blog my promise to myself was to tell the truth without editing.

Of course, some things I choose to keep private but for the most part I have allowed you to see me in some pretty vulnerable places.

This is a service to me to have a chance to witness myself outside the ornate costuming my brain cloaks “me” in.

What I share with you here is a gift to you as well; I am quite aware if something has got my attention I am likely not the only one on the planet interested or affected by such.

Letting my supposed “ugliness” see the light is having a profound effect on me.

The core of me is pure goodness. It is for each one of us.

And then the messiness comes to light and if you are like me a judgement comes that we are BAD.

Most of my life spent as a “nice girl” got me this: lots and lots of people who thought I was really great! It was divine! I belonged. I was sought after.

I AM a nice person.

But I am also flawed, broken, in-process, becoming.

These days I so love and appreciate those very qualities in me.

Yeah- I am embarrassed when I let you see them; when they are freed from their mighty cages.

But THIS IS ME! IN LIVING COLOR! THE WHOLE BOX OF CRAYONS!

Would the box be better without the muddy brown or grey or sickening green?

Walking

IMG_0309
This is a labyrinth from Chartres Cathedral. The brick path is wide enough for one foot only and then to walk around slowly one foot after another. Centuries old and worn down but never needed repair.

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BRAND NEW DAY

To all the heartbroken ones,
the misunderstood ones

To all you misfits, outcasts,
freaks and worldly failures

To the ones they jeer at, poke, ridicule and crucify

To all you lonely disillusioned poets and mad visionaries

To those whose worlds are falling apart

To those who have sought the Light for so long yet still feel far away

To those whose unshakeable absolutes have dissolved into the relative

To those whose hearts are burning up

To those whose dreams have crumbled to the ground

To those who have given everything for truth

To those who have taken the path of crucifixion over the path of worldly comfort

To all of you out there in the dark
I salute you
There is such dignity in what you are going through

Life has called you to the deepest kind of trust in your own experience
Do not turn away
This is your unique invitation

From the cosmic perspective nothing has gone wrong

Only the false can die

From the perspective of the heart
it is always a brand new day

Your beauty is your broken perfection

I walk with you,
my perfectly broken family.

– Jeff Foster

I Dream Of Dancin’

sass
“SASSY” 30×60 m/m
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I want the outfit..the hair..the man..the moves

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The Veils Are Thin

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ceramic
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I accused a good friend; “You treat me like a sick person!”

It was a low blow and untrue.

I was beyond angry at not feeling like I had any room to say what I needed to say. This is a hot button for me. Very old. Very, very old.

She felt unheard also.

It was ugly. Real but ugly.

My level of hurt descended into that pesky lizard brain beneath what we consider rational.

Actually, she has been a very good friend for a very long time but as my veils thin I feel I haven’t the time to mess around.

The fact of the matter is that my physical self DOES have all the markers of a sick person.

Whether people know it or not their behavior shifts as I change.

Underneath all my seeming-ok-ness I am angry; angry I don’t have my old and interesting artist’s life, angry I must depend on others, angry at the loss of so much and still losing.

I can no longer be a patient audience for those who need the comfort and communion that comes from shared complaints and woe-is-me.

It works if we are both curious about how and why things may have occurred and what is to be gained from the thing.

I am too much of an empath

(em·path
noun:
a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.)

to be neutral when asked to join in conversations requiring me to lower my vibration to join the other in solidarity.

People may experience me with a ‘flattened’ countenance and feel an emptiness in my reluctance to meet them in their story.

These days I haven’t the strength to play nice. Don’t quite know how to gracefully elevate the conversation sometimes either.

I will play real. But not nice.

Real interests me more than comfort or smooth.

After all is said and done I am more of a river-tumbled agate than a Tiffany diamond.

This Is Now

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That was then.

This is now.

The photo was taken many years ago on a solo hike I took. A moment came and I turned around to see this great tree seemingly grabbing nourishment from the rock; its weary roots exposed to the elements instead of comfortingly insulated by soil.

It felt like me.

This photo is the nearest to a self-portrait I have ever come to.

I knew it then when it was taken.

Now, it is far more poignant as I seem to have had a prescient moment in capturing an image that I grew into.

With MS my nerves are hyper-exposed with the loss of the insulation in places.

This makes me sort of a canary-in-the-mine.. Without that insulation I lack that crucial buffer which allows me to depend on social adaptability.

So sometimes I don’t. And can’t.

This is a brave new world.

It feels hyper-real.

I spend more time recovering from what feels like the assault of “out there”

But I feel the impossible blue of that sky more deeply and more often

Than I ever dreamed possible.