Life Is What You Make It, Baby…

detail of painting

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from Marlon Brando…who knew??

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“You remain convinced that art, whether you study it or love it or engage in it, will change your life, and it won’t. How do you change a life? We are predestined to live out the life chosen for us by birth and habit and chance. We can enhance and jiggle the life, but nothing changes it in the dramatic way we hope for. I am the ideal candidate to look toward in this severe disappointment. I looked for deliverance from all things, but there is no deliverance. There is only acceptance, a little denial, and a great deal of grace. That is the real recipe, but it’s not one that will have people storming down the doors of the schools and the academies.

The reward is within the performance of whatever it is you need to do. It is in the brushstroke. It is in the performance. It is in the act of sex or the act of eating. It is in the act and never in the moments beyond the act. I fell for that. Everyone falls for that. Life is a moment-by-moment experience, and you do have to love whatever you’re doing in that moment. And then it’s gone. And then the acceptance, the denial, and the grace start all over again.

Stop looking for the dramatic alteration to life. Look for the life in the moments you have.”

From Come Up A Man: The Hungers of Marlon Brando

Voyeur

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installation, ceramic,earth,grasses
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Years ago, as I drove around northern New Mexico by myself

Just looking around at stuff

I saw an abandoned house in a field of blonde grasses.

It was so small. One room

And lovely in how it rested there so composed in it’s abandonment.

Way in the distance were mountains but the land this house occupied was gentle and flat.

The driveway was long ago usurped by weeds and I was too weary to cut a path all the way over there

And so I paused to look from a ways away

And then I left.

That was probably 15 years ago and here I am remembering the exact temperature of that sunny day, the bare and scratchy whisper of the grasses

And the feeling I had in my heart and lower belly when I saw that house.

What was it that got me so?

And why remember it now?

There was a dream quality to it; some human lived there, loved, felt gratitude, aloneness inherent in the chosen landscape, needing the solace of Nature to thrive and conjure.

Comfortable in their skin they purposefully left their nest and entered the world to manage necessary life-stuff and take mental notes about all the fascinating things to be seen and felt

And then returned.

It could have been me.

And perhaps it was..

In quite another dream.

But I remember.

Giving Voice

my sister

I came across THIS recently.

Seeing this girl brought up so many feelings.

If she were a boy the sounds and moves she makes would never provoke the judges to widen their eyes in abject awe.

I feel my own inertia acutely after witnessing her;

Decades of whittling my voice into a pleasure tool rather than a leather n’ lace biker chick or tractor driver or country western singer or championship ballroom dancer or flower shop owner or marine biologist or long-distance trucker or riverboat captain or desert wanderer (each of these voices and many more, known and not, are in me somewhere).

How smart of me to have chosen to settle into an artist’s life.

There has been room for all my voices in the privacy of my studio..alone with all my “friends.”

The women in my life ARE warriors.

I AM a warrior.

We are so graceful in wielding our swords most of the time

Which is the very thing that gets us in trouble.

We make ourselves smaller in the service of “wave-smoothing”

And because of that we don’t get to go on the full ride.

I am going into my bedroom to make that sound this tiny girl makes at the end of the video.

I will make that face she makes too.

(buffering this, of course, into a pillow and behind closed doors).

Elegant Receipt

houseonrock
22x22x4,starfish,earth,ceramic,black-eyed peas,mica
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Most people I know are sorely challenged to receive a compliment without feeling they must bounce back some equally good thing to the original giver.

Of course, I am included in this clan as well.

Somehow, we just can’t seem to bear our own brightness.

It needs watering down to be palatable.

False humility is so often mistaken for actual humility.

Really- I think we are just chickens about resting in our light. Or we don’t believe it and we make the compliment giver into the fool and everyone loses.

I was in a line this morning at Starbucks and the man in front of me caught my eye.

I just drank him in like the cool glass of water he was;

Posture comfortably balanced, 50ish and tanned with Paul Newman blue eyes, cool but casual dresser in what used to be called “leisure wear” but I’m not cool enough to know the hipper name for it..athletic but not overly muscled, present, kind looking.

He sort of owned the ground he walked on in an effortless way managing to seem friendly instead of mobsterish.

I thought: “Wow- he is so handsome.”

Then I thought: “Well- he’d probably like to know that. Why don’t you tell him? What do you have to lose?”

“Excuse me…I just wanted to tell you I think you are an amazingly handsome man.”

He smiled down at me and said “Well- Thank you! I should buy your drink for you!”

“No” I said….”just go about your day and just rest in it.”

“Ok…I’ll do just that. Thank you.”

And we parted.

I felt so relieved my compliment wasn’t muddied up by something sent back my way.

He just elegantly received my observation without making any weird thing out of it.

Something I put out reached its mark and STAYED THERE without being vollied back.

SUCH A GOOD FEELING!

He was big enough to receive and didn’t assume I was coming on to him (which I wasn’t).

Elegant receipt.

Ahhhhhhh…..

Larger, Lighter, Wiser (and dance dresses)

get-attachment

I always get really nervous when I tell you the raw truth.

My last post revealing that I find myself sitting in such harsh judgement of my own being hurts me to even know this tendency is still in me.

This old, old tape is ragged from over use and I actually feel excited it is becoming SO BORING!!!

When the beautiful man above visited America and someone asked him how Tibetans deal with self-hatred he was silenced.

He actually had no idea what it was!

Seemingly this is a cultural phenomenon.

I have written before about boredom being the harbinger of thrilling shifts afoot.

My own habitual self-judgement is so old that it is hard-wired in.

Being committed to telling my unedited truth is my way of having an opportunity to step back and witness myself as if I’m you reading my words;

When I do that I am very aware that the me I show up here as, day after day, is in no stretch of the imagination worthy of this self violence I inflict on ole’ Cath..

If I gave myself no opportunity to witness myself from a different perspective

Like therapy or writing or talking it out. Just getting this false stuff witnessed SOMEHOW.

That friggin’ 8 track tape be playin’ in there for a long, loooooooonnnnng time.

So thanks for keeping me honest, for being there reading and helping me remember the larger, lighter, wiser me.

(Picture me putting all my weaponry down..). Whew..

If I had all my physical capabilities available I would now put on one of those great girly dresses that competition ballroom dancers wear and dance it out….

Intelligence

Aten_scan07
“BLACK MESA”, 40″x6′,m/m
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When the thought: “I hate myself” enters my consciousness

I know sumthin’ is askew.

Who is the “I” that hates my “Self”?

Clearly, somebody in here thinks we are two.

I suppose if you were to ask me the most potent thing I have learned inside this health challenge

It would be this:

The theater stage has room for it all; fuck ups, triumphs, illness, health, love, bitterness, betrayal, forgiveness, creativity, stasis, meetings and leavings all.

The constant is ME and THE STAGE (which is my perception).

I direct. I choose from which point of view I see. I shift as I can and do.

NOTHING is static. Everything is in motion. Changing.

Grit or Grace?

Depressed? Change your point of view.

Diseased? Find the treasure or at least a good take-away.

Got a kid addicted to pills? The communion taking him to treatment is a miracle.

Cold outside? How delicious it will feel with sun on your hungry skin.

Which is more entertaining, I ask you?

The choice, the choice is ours.

Love In the House

shadowrider
monoprint, 22×30″, 1993
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Just 10 minutes ago my sister walked out the door with Bob on a leash.

(Bob is a dog).

My sister traveled from Portland to visit for the weekend.

Bob is a tiny long-haired dachshund from LAP DOG RESCUE in Albuquerque who seemed a prime candidate for adoption.

Bob came to me named Max but he is a distemper survivor who sports a neurological take-away of a head which bobs up and down..thus: Bob.

Having both a dog and my sister here felt like swimming in a warm honey bath.

Miracle moments just kept happening like my sister solving a previously unsolvable computer problem, treating me to nourishing food, gifting me with a hand-made and gorgeous ceramic piece, caring little as to what we did but content just to BE WITH me.

We spoke of worries we both shared about my mounting disability, laughed good laughs, gossiped and tooled around town together with Bob on my lap.

He slept on my bed and as we bonded he’d wake and come over to rest his neck on my neck in solidarity then curl back into sleep.

We fell in love..fast and hard.

Yesterday, I took him on a walk and he charged and barked ferociously at two neighbors so excited to see me with a dog at last. Bob also barked at other dogs along our path and by the time we returned home I was a wreck from the stress of realizing I could not adopt him with these same reactive behaviors I dealt with in my last dog.

Finding a companion is much more of a challenge than I anticipated.

Just now I watched my sister leave with Bob on the leash as she got in her car return my little love dog then to drive to the airport and fly away herself.

My heart feels way too much space in it.

Just minutes ago it felt like the Amazon rainforest; all richly damp and fecund..green and impossibly alive.

Missing them is the sweetest sorrow.

It’s all about Big Love.

Walking Each Other Home

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by my girl Anne Lamott:

“I am going to be 61 years old in 48 hours. Wow. I thought i was only forty-seven, but looking over the paperwork, I see that I was born in 1954. My inside self does not have an age, although can’t help mentioning as an aside that it might have been useful had I not followed the Skin Care rules of the sixties, ie to get as much sun as possible, while slathered in baby oil. (My sober friend Paul O said, at eighty, that he felt like a young man who had something wrong with him.). Anyway, I thought I might take the opportunity to write down every single thing I know, as of today.

1. All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift; and it is impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. It has been a very bad match for those of us who were born extremely sensitive. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.

2. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

3. There is almost nothing outside of you that will help in any kind of last way, unless you are waiting for an organ. You can’t buy, achieve, or date it. This is the most horrible truth.

4. Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides. Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.

5. Chocolate with 70% cacao is not actually a food. It’s best use is as bait in snake traps.

6. Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born

7. Publication and temporary creative successes are something you have to recover from. They kill as many people as not. They will hurt, damage and change you in ways you cannot imagine. The most degraded and sometimes nearly-evil men I have known were all writers who’d had bestsellers. Yet, it is also a miracle to get your work published (see #1.). Just try to bust yourself gently of the fantasy that publication will heal you, will fill the Swiss cheesey holes. It won’t, it can’t. But writing can. So can singing.

8. Families; hard, hard, hard, no matter how cherished and astonishing they may also be. (See #1 again.) At family gatherings where you suddenly feel homicidal or suicidal, remember that in half of all cases, it’s a miracle that this annoying person even lived. Earth is Forgiveness School. You might as well start at the dinner table. That way, you can do this work in comfortable pants. When Blake said that we are here to learn to endure the beams of love, he knew that your family would be an intimate part of this, even as you want to run screaming for your cute little life. But that you are up to it. You can do it, Cinderellie. You will be amazed.

9. Food; try to do a little better.

10. Grace: Spiritual WD-40. Water wings. The mystery of grace is that God loves Dick Cheney and me exactly as much as He or She loves your grandchild. Go figure. The movement of grace is what changes us, heals us and our world. To summon grace, say, “Help!” And then buckle up. Grace won’t look like Casper the Friendly Ghost; but the phone will ring, or the mail will come, and then against all odds, you will get your sense of humor about yourself back. Laughter really is carbonated holiness, even if you are sick of me saying it.

11. God; Goodnesss, Love energy, the Divine, a loving animating intelligence, the Cosmic Muffin. You will worship and serve something, so like St. Bob said, you gotta choose. You can play on our side, or Bill Maher’s and Franklin Graham’s. Emerson said that the happiest person on earth is the one who learns from nature the lessons of worship. So go outside a lot, and look up. My pastor says you can trap bees on the floor of a Mason jar without a lid, because they don’t look up. If they did, they could fly to freedom.

11. Faith: Paul Tillich said the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. If I could say one thing to our little Tea Party friends, it would be this. Fundamentalism, in all its forms, is 90% of the reason the world is so terrifying. 3% is the existence of snakes. The love of our incredible dogs and cats is the closest most of us will come, on this side of eternity, to knowing the direct love of God; although cats can be so bitter, which is not the god part: the crazy Love is. Also, “Figure it out” is not a good slogan.

12. Jesus; Jesus would have even loved horrible, mealy-mouth self-obsessed you, as if you were the only person on earth. But He would hope that you would perhaps pull yourself together just the tiniest, tiniest bit–maybe have a little something to eat, and a nap.

13. Exercise: If you want to have a good life after you have grown a little less young, you must walk almost every day. There is no way around this. If you are in a wheelchair, you must do chair exercises. Every single doctor on earth will tell you this, so don’t go by what I say.

14. Death; wow. So f-ing hard to bear, when the few people you cannot live without die. You will never get over these losses, and are not supposed to. We Christians like to think death is a major change of address, but in any case, the person will live fully again in your heart, at some point, and make you smile at the MOST inappropriate times. But their absence will also be a lifelong nightmare of homesickness for you. All truth is a paradox. Grief, friends, time and tears will heal you. Tears will bathe and baptize and hydrate you and the ground on which you walk. The first thing God says to Moses is, “Take off your shoes.” We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know.

I think that’s it, everything I know. I wish I had shoe-horned in what E.L. Doctorow said about writing: “It’s like driving at night with the headlights on. You can only see a little aways ahead of you, but you can make the whole journey that way.” I love that, because it’s teue about everything we tey. I wish I had slipped in what Ram Das said, that when all is said and done, we’re just all walking each other home. Oh, well, another time. God bless you all good.”

Tailwinds

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tulips from a friend
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This past week I have been soaking in Grace.

For some reason this particular time is filled with friends showering me with recognition of the fact I matter to them.

Pockets of recognition seem to appear at exactly the right time as the shadow becomes heavy and begins to mold to my skin.

God doesn’t seem to ever quite let me go. Great effort, weakness and doubt morphs into unexpected nurturance, beauty and communion.

Courage takes the place of collapse.

All this support for my beingness is an antidote to inertia and allows me the strength to lean into Life with my own contribution.

I saw this great youtube video showing two bald eagles fussing over newly hatched chicks high up in a tree.

The nest they built was complicated and very sturdy looking.

This is the feeling I have being supported by the matrix of intimates in my life.

Because of their “SEEING” me I am able to relax into a sturdy energetic nest.

This seems to happen on its own time and unbidden.

These extensions of care humble me and tenderize my heart and I become less armored and more able to pass it forward.