Great Wealth

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Some of you remember me speaking of how the Native Americans I have come in close contact with seem to drop their leaden wall around me.

Arriving here in Santa Fe some 28 years ago I was unprepared for the sleeping giant in me called: “LET’S MAKE UP ROMANTIC STORIES ABOUT THE INDIANS! SECRETS! I WANT THEM!”

They were right to shun me-the anglo newbie… too curious, too naively innocent, holding too many fantasy entitlement dreams of getting access to gold that wasn’t mine.

Getting energetically shut down after performing my natural attempts to connect felt/still feels bad.

But those feelings started me down the road of recognizing my lifelong attempts to go outside myself to acquire all the stuff I felt I was missing; appreciation, love, money, safety, recognition of worth, purpose, evidence of God, a soul mate….

I don’t do that so much anymore.

Interestingly, I feel richer today than ever before in my life.

Why?

I live on a very strict budget which allows few luxuries.

Sitting down in a wheelchair all day sucks.

My physical self diminishes daily.

My world may seem very thin.

And yet..

And yet, not needing to use up all that energy looking outside myself for answers

And all the emptiness and disappointments we each try hard to assuage with beloved numbing agents

Leaves me with a soothing inner light waiting to be used as Source

When I remember.

The peace of this knowledge and experience is my treasure.

Funny…All I want to do is give it away.

Tools To Live

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“BLUE SQUARE” 5×5′,m/m
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As I look back over my life I see clearly that what my hero JOSEPH CAMPBELL said at the end of his many years

That the chapters opened up just perfectly in hindsight but seemed pre-scripted as his will had very little to do with the journey

Fits my life as well.

A great gurgling power beneath my pink skin urged me beyond reason to choose art as a career.

I learned acute discrimination as I made a mark on canvas and listened to the wise angels scurrying behind my heart and eyes when their whisper told me to elongate it, change the density or color or even end it’s existence it all together.

Looking at the wider picture, trusting myself, holding painfully lean times with the faith they would eventually shift and most importantly recognizing that the quality of life I carried inside me (and that I could EFFECT that very quality) is ALWAYS transmitted to my work

Are the very skills I now use in dealing with MS.

I look at the wider picture today and recognize the frustration in transferring from wheelchair to bed is fleeting and will surely shift in about 5 minutes when I actually get in bed.

I trust myself when registering the sticky energy of a tourist who wants to pet my dog with an underlying agenda of absconding with some of my of my clean energy.

I count on my faith when sorrow is the main character in my daily play because I am very sure the curtain will open tomorrow and everything will look and feel different.

The quality of Life I carry ensures I am either alone or deeply appreciated and loved. All kinds of things go into cultivating a shining essence from the color and shape of what I wear to the TV and film I watch, food I eat, chosen family I keep close, how self-centered I am, how much I give to others, how my home is decorated, color of lipstick, mediums I use to express myself,whether I choose to express myself at all, even whether I enjoy the feel of my sheets or just tolerate them (current yuk).

I am a GEES’ BEND quilt as opposed to something like this.

MS is here as my greatest teacher because I do not have the luxury of skirting this stuff.

If I want to live it means doing the work and not just thinking about it as a byline. I hate this. But I love the results.

My pallet is as ruby red as my own blood.

Far richer to me than the paint and dye of my past masterpieces.

Antidote To The Mess

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I am pretty sure I am not alone in trying all kinds of ways to assuage the free fall, nausea producing discombobulation

Produced from having to breathe the stanky air

Of divisiveness

In toxic EVERYTHING; politics, environment, inequality in gender, race, economics….

The list goes on…and on.

Literally, my soul feels in danger.

So what can we do? How to pull away from the hypnotic spin splattering us with blood

Yet we continue to pull up armchairs to watch the show?

Everything is here to teach us.

I’ll tell you a very personal story.

A few years ago I visited a doctor with the scary complaint that I had lost control of my bowels twice.

Bowel and bladder function are extremely common symptoms of MS.

Her immediate reaction was to contort her face in horror and say: “Well, that would be a line I wouldn’t want to live beyond. We can talk about that if you’d like.”

I left in shock.

WAS this intolerable to the point of looking into ending it all as she was suggesting?

Well, NO- goddammit!

I shit my pants. Fact. Got in the shower, washed my clothes. Cried a lot. And then some more at the horror of not being in control.

Then…this is the good part:

Something like this happens and you think it is YOUR LINE YOU ARE QUITE SURE YOU CAN’T LIVE BEYOND.

I have reached what I thought was my line several times

But they never turn out to be my line!

And each time I go through this I come back into the world softer, more humble, innocent, with the sheen of resilience.

More room to love. More courage to be. To be really real. After shitting your panties the way is pretty much guaranteed to be great whatever.

My point is that when everything looks and feels so irreparably dire

We are given the chance, PRIVILEGE to re-up into life

More and better than we ever thought we could be,

Dark before the Dawn…don’t forget.

Guilt And Shame Are Different

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matches,earth,24×24
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I was in the company of a really good old friend recently whom I had not seen in years.

Our dinner conversation turned to bucket lists and I heard myself say:” My prayer is essentially to have the experience of living in this magnificent body for a time withOUT the experience of shame.”

Long pause at the table as we watch the leggy lines of a good wine creep down the insides of the glass.

She says: “Cathy.. have you ever done anything that would merit being ashamed of yourself?”

“A few times maybe. Youthful shoplifting and stuff like that.”

She looked at me with piercingly intelligent and loving eyes.

This, combined with the good Jew in her came back to me with a “Sooooooooo?”

We talked about Jews and guilt as their go-to weapon and safe-place.

I have shame.

Shame and guilt are different:

Guilt:

a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.

Shame:

the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.

My friend didn’t seem to understand why I carried shame if I had none nothing to invite it. She wasn’t that familiar with shame. Only guilt.

We sip our wine happily loving each other, our differences and easy banter always seemingly interesting to one another.

If someone begins to let a little girl know that who she intrinsically IS is inconvenient, wrong, decidedly too different, fits some unfamiliar mold making parenting hard or impossible, NOT PERFECT

Her little cells begin to tremble in the non-safety of it all.

I have that leftover cellular tremble which has my tired mind continually dissecting stuff to dismantle the fucked-up-ness.

Low level anxiety haunts me.

After a lifetime of therapy I consider myself an extremely healthy gal.

Yet my cells still shake a little.

I’d love a rest.

Grace Always Bats Last

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I am stung to silence these days but Anne Lamott has put on her big girl panties and spoken and for this I am extraordinarily grateful today:

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just a bit:

“There is no healing in pretending this bizarre violent stuff is not going on, and that there is some cute bumper sticker silver lining. (It is fine if you believe this, but for the love of God, PLEASE keep it to yourself. it will just tense us all up.) What is true is that the world has always been this way, people have always been this way, grace always bats last, it just does–and finally, when all is said and done, and the dust settles, which it does, Love is sovereign here.”

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the full monte here:


“Life has always been this scary here, and we have always been as vulnerable as kittens. Plagues and Visigoths, snakes and schizophrenia; Cain is still killing Abel and nature means that everyone dies. I hate this. It’s too horrible for words. When my son was seven and found out that he and I would not die at the exact same second, he said, crying, “If I had known this, I wouldn’t have agreed to be born.” Don’t you feel like that sometime?
My father’s mother lost a small child in the 1918 flu pandemic. Someone in the family is having a nervous breakdown. A yoga teacher was shot down the road last year by some druggies, while walking on a foot path. A yoga teacher! And then in recent weeks, Orlando, police shooting innocent people, and innocent police officers being shot, and now Nice.
How on Earth do we respond, when we are stunned and scared and overwhelmed, to the point of almost disbelieving?
I wish there was an 800 number we could call to find out, so I could pass this along to my worried Sunday School kids.But no. Yet in the meantime, I know that we MUST respond We must respond with a show of force equal to the violence and tragedies, with love force. Mercy force. Un-negotiated compassion force. Crazy care-giving to the poor and suffering, including ourselves. Patience with a deeply irritating provocative mother. Two dollar bills to the extremely annoying guy at the intersection who you think maybe could be working, or is going to spend your money on beer. Jesus didn’t ask the blind man what he was going to look at after He restored the man’s sight. He just gave hope and sight; He just healed.
To whom can you give hope and sight today. What about to me, and disappointing old you? Radical self-care: healthy food, patience and a friendly tone of voice, lotions on the jiggly things, forgiving pants, lots of sunscreen and snacks. Maybe the random magazine.
Do you have your last computer on the shelf, that you really don’t have time or effort to take to the after-school program in your town–but you are going to do today? Go flirt with the oldest people at the market–tell them you are glad to see them. Voila: Hope and sight.
Remember the guys in the Bible whose friend was paralyzed, but couldn’t get in close to see Jesus preach and heal, so they carried him on a cot, climbed the roof, and lowered him down for the healing? Can a few of you band together–just for today–and carry someone to the healing? To the zen-do? To a meeting? Help a neighbor who is going under, maybe band together to haul their junk to the dump? Shop for sales for a canned food drive at the local temple or mosque? How about three anonymous good deeds?
There is no healing in pretending this bizarre violent stuff is not going on, and that there is some cute bumper sticker silver lining. (It is fine if you believe this, but for the love of God, PLEASE keep it to yourself. it will just tense us all up.) What is true is that the world has always been this way, people have always been this way, grace always bats last, it just does–and finally, when all is said and done, and the dust settles, which it does, Love is sovereign here.”

– Anne Lamott

Crabby Cath

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“STORM, 30×30,m/m
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Not to dampen your ambulatory day boys n’ girls

But my main fucking wheelchair has given up the ghost..

Now- this could have been a calamity of the highest order but somehow I had the prescience to buy a used power chair in recent months in order to navigate my apartment.

The turning radius on my big outdoor chair is W-I-D-E and all cabinetry and door jambs sport scratches and gouges from me trying to negotiate turns.

Now- I know you think you likely won’t need all this information I share here about living a life you hadn’t planned for….

But…

Who the hell knows what’s in store?

Anyway- My attempt to purchase a used chair spoke poorly of my business acumen.

I needed a smaller turning radius, affordable and local enough to be able to wrangle a friend to go pick it up.

I found what I needed and it really was a crap shoot as I couldn’t just go over there to try it out but got dimensions emailed and paid the man.

This measly ride is child-size, older than the hills and unsafe for me to be honest.

It was just too much for me to negotiate returning it and I needed the good qualities it does have and with nothing any closer to what I need, I kept it.

SO! As my main chair bites the dust till the repair people decide to come pick it up ( this took 12 calls to repair places in NM to find ONE Medicare approved) and take it away for god knows how long

I am blessed w/ my mini-me chair.

If I did not have this I’d be spending my life in bed I guess as I’ve checked wheelchair rental places but no-go.

Once all of us baby boomers hit the too-many-physical- breakdowns-to-count days

We’ll be able to rent wheelchairs at the grocery store just like those steam carpet cleaners. But not just yet.

My access to the outdoors in this paltry chair is heavily curtailed as it scares me to go far from home.

Emma is so worried because I am extremely stressed which is killer for MS. She waits out of reach around corners just watching me; visiting cautiously at times.

I’ve squeaked out a few sing-songs to calm us both but they fell far from the authenticity mark.

These freedoms I count on so heavily for my sanity are being stripped away

And whats left is, today, unfit for primetime viewing.

What a weird life to be wailing: “I WANT MY REGULAR POWER-CHAIR BACK NOW!”

Cherish your freedoms my pretties….bow down and give thanks for every big and little thing your miraculous body does for you asking not much in return.

Freedom

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FREEDOM

This evening
A broken man
With a trembling hand
Approached my dog and me
With wet eyes.

He wore dirty camo
and drove a pretty Harley
To shield himself
From a world of noise
No longer sweet to him.

He gently petted Emma
With the tenderest of touch
Only looking to me
To show off his own beloved dog
On the phone.

I somehow knew
He loved that dog
So much
Because he’d lost
The ability to love all of us.

He went to war
But he broke.
This gentle man lost the choice
To love
When and whom he wanted.

I know a lot more
About freedom
Sitting in this wheelchair
Than I did
When I wasn’t.

Today Elie Wiesel died.
He survived Auschwitz
Because he kept choosing
Attitudes that fed him;
And others.

He knew
Our attitude
Is all
We can ever hope
To control.

I know
My attitude
Is all
I can ever hope
To control.

My friend, the vet
Broke
In too many places
To count on his consciousness
To save him.

He paid parts of his mind
For us
To have many
Of the choices we now enjoy.
I roll away with damp eyes.

We are only rich
If we remember
Those who got us here
By staring down
The bogeyman.

I am blessed
Because I know
I can change my mind.
There are those here among us
Without that ultimate privilege.
I bow.

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-CATHY ATEN 2016 July

What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It’s close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically. Elie Wiesel