Ninja Or Not?

Aten_scan58
detail of sculpture, steel chair,ceramic egg,earth
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This evening I saw a cloud I liked.

A young and ample brown boy was dressed as a ninja turtle and biting his family while making the strangest sounds…

Off-key musicians really loved their art

And I loved them for it.

I kept my money in my purse.

Sitting there watching my own private theater unfold I felt exceedingly ‘new’ I would say;

That cloud dressed in it’s evening wear was new.

So were the biting boy and the off-kilter players playing.

I watch.

It’s what I do.

Each moment my life-collage is new.

Often I want so much to glue down in place sensations, thoughts, feelings, abilities I think I could never live without;

Take out the GORILLA GLUE and get that thang pasted down for good!

It sounds so nice…

But it would be no fun at all.

A steady diet of comfort and security never get us to the thrill

Of recognizing when the table you’ve used for eons and full of doodle marks

Is all of a sudden set with the gleam and ping of forgotten best china and crystal.

Would I choose a re-do on any part of my life?

No, indeed.

I am here now and I find that biting boy so damn funny it brought me to tears.

I’d love to wear my vintage, torn up cowboy boots again and drive far and wide with no intention other than the thrill of it

But the pleasure I take in remembering how good it was

Wouldn’t be here for me

If I was IN that particular collage now would it?

I am feeling (mostly) smoothly settled in what just ‘is’.

Leaving the biting to the boy…

Thoughts On Autoimmunity

creation
“THIN LINE”, 11x11x4″,m/m
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It is a sure bet this post will meet with numerous nay sayers

However, I am an authority on my own body, mind and spirit

So I can speak freely about how I hold this health challenge of Multiple Sclerosis for myself.

Every moment of my life I’m not lazy I use for fodder to BECOME;

Become more than I was yesterday.

By ‘more’ I mean closer to God, I suppose.

I want more of that glowey thing I noticed behind the eyes of Christopher Reeve, actor and Roger Ebert, the film critic.

They both are mentioned here because I was pretty familiar with both of them before they faced the monumental health challenges they did.

Before their deaths the presence of light made itself known behind their eyes and in their being.

How did that happen?

I believe I know something about this phenomenon.

Three times as many women as men are diagnosed with autoimmune related illnesses.

Essentially, autoimmunity signifies our own body attacking its’ self; working without the ability to distinguish ‘safe’ from ‘enemy’.

In my case my body does not recognize the insulating covering of my nerves as ‘me’ and attacks it.

Self attacking self.

Genetic disposition aside I am very interested in this physical ‘self vs. self’ idea manifesting in me.

If you haven’t noticed..we women are pretty hard on ourselves in our culture. It is an ancestral wheel of being seen as ‘less than’, paid as ‘less than, spoken to as ‘less than for so long that we now are so sure of that fact that our bodies no longer recognize us as US. We aren’t a safety zone even for ourselves.

If I was God and wanted to give Cathy Aten some way of healing her propensity to beat up on herself, self-flagellate till blood drips down her back (metaphorically) live in shame most of her life because she had this fucking old mother tape running which said she was not quite good enough the way she was

I would visit MS on her!

If I were God, I’d give Cathy this gift because it would be such a big wallop she couldn’t NOT deal with it. (Or she could succumb but how interesting is that?)

And by dealing with it she would have the chance to see who she really is away from her mother’s ideas of her.

Cathy would know her courage under pressure, creativity against all odds, humility in the face of one ego death after the next.

She would watch her compassionate self replace a frustrated and armored soul.

She would see what’s left after having to give up most of what she thought made her HER….and like what was left.

Her leadership capacities and authentic voice could be heard, sacred connections to the natural world uncovered.

A new devotion to kindness and recognition of forgotten souls opened her.

Through her relationship with this ‘self attacking self’ Cathy would burn all the parts of her that kept her separate from people and instead take the chance when it felt safe to show her ‘real’ self which feels very vulnerable but is her best chance at LIFE with a capitol ‘L’.

I have lived with this ‘teaching challenge’ 16 years now.

I love myself.

I didn’t before.

I am grateful…

Really, really tired but grateful.

Lightning Bug

not neutral
PORTRAIT OF JAMES, 60×42,m/m
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LIGHTNING BUG

She felt like a large-ish lightning bug;
Making her way through the forest
Occasionally pulsing,
Her abdomen lit
From the inside out.
Irridescent butter colored.

Do lightening bugs
Know where they are going?
Maybe… maybe
They just like to dance
And carry their own
Illumination.
Just in case.

See..that’s me!
Dancing in the dark,
Shining light
For my own amusement
Also -so I don’t fall
Into man-made
And self -concocted crevices.

Yesterday, I danced
In the dark
To THE ROLLING STONES.
All akimbo
I was truly un-cool.
Donald Trump would mock.

Today, my light is dimmer
And I don’t feel like dancing.
Emma presses purposefully
Into my thigh.
Where’s the pill
For ennui?

The seasons are shifting.
Mornings cut with cheeky winds
Blowing me toward change.
All I know is change.
The stuff of life.
BAH! (just for today..)

My little night light
Rests under my wings.
It saves up energy
For the next dance.
I could really use
A shadowy waltz.

We all are in the dark.
Big or small
We each have our light; bright or dim.
The skill of reaching ‘round
To turn her on ourselves
Is a really good dance move
To know.

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-CA 2016

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Speaking Well

thenerve
monoprint,22×30″
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A slight and older woman heaved her frame by slow inches onto the park bench I was using to rest my magazine.

I thought her lovely in her obvious pride as anchor for her daughter and two grandsons.

After sitting with a hrrumph she informed everyone gathered she “has an energy problem.”

“I will sit here and you all go off in your directions but be sure to come back and tell me where you meander off to. You go. I’ll wait. Keep me in sight though…”

We are alone now and I am torn between pulling my invisibility cloak down tightly or engaging with her.

She says: “I hate aging. It is so shitty. My arthritis and lumbago act up at this altitude. I can’t breathe. My grandchildren tell me to chill. They’ll all get here soon enough. Mark my words. So shitty. A waste. I moved to London when Reagan was elected…..what do you have? (referencing wheelchair).”

“Oh God” I think…

My September issue of VOGUE is spread before me in the sacred, golden pre-sunset hour and now I am directed elsewhere.

“Well” I say…”I was diagnosed with MS.”

“What a shame..what a shame for you…oh dear…oh dear.”

“My back just hurts all the time” she continues.

Illness can provide an instant audience as every human knows the experience of their physical self in revolt; not behaving correctly with nuthin’ to do ’bout it.

This insta-attention we rope others into is seductive.

Oooooo….it feels so slimily good to be in the same club as another with an affliction.

I know it kindof pisses people off, my positivity.

We are reticent to speak well of ourselves, it seems.

Does God see us clearer all lit up neon-like when we exclaim from our brokeness?

Is it better manners not to draw attention to the shiny parts of ourselves in favor of all shades of gloom?

We NEED to exclaim our brokenness!

AND the gifts we take away from just that.

To be seen just as we are is our universal lust.

Shall I tell you how my voice has moved more fully into a far more satisfying (to me) resonant sound over time in my brokenness?

Or perhaps I’ll speak about the unfathomable fatigue I am in partnership with more often than not?

Is it more intriguing to hear me say I like myself better for this challenge? Better than pre-diagnosis?

Maybe we could discuss the horror of inaccessibility in our day and age? (Insta-bridge for able-bodied and not!)

I think it’s all good and has its time and place.

My days are lived at a higher elevation if I lift my chin up and even fake a smile if I have to.

They are catchy..those lips turned slightly upwards.

N.E.U. Abilities

scott2
detail: painted wool flannel, 1990
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Let’s come up with a new and cooler manner to reference “DISABILITY.”

N.E.U. ABILITIES……. NEW and ENVIABLE UNDERBELLY ABILITIES (ie…those things we can do only after we are forced to do them but knowing them kindof makes everyone else envious).

Yeah…I can’t walk, drive, use my right leg or hand, I use a wheelchair, need help shopping and keeping my home clean and dignified

But I CAN:

* Trust my intuition more than most-

* Know that in a good number of cases a crystal cave lies just inside the armored-up heart of the homeless person you just passed by while inadvertently securing your wallet-

* Pick myself up out of despair pretty darn quick-

* Have learned firsthand the importance of welcoming and educating myself to be INTER-DEPENDENT over INDEPENDENT which always seemed the sexiest but really isn’t.

* Edit my life like a lioness with class by only having those people, foods, objects, time expenditures in my life which I consider mutually beneficial.

* Know how to rest and do it.

* Live a very simple life that may seem small to some but is anything but.

* Have a low toleration threshold and respect it.

* Know the sacred act of what it means to “CHOOSE LIFE” and sometimes do it moment by moment.

* Feel amazed by how my values have re-arranged themselves throughout my journey of partnership with MS.

* Say I have healed most if not all my personal shadow places within my family and am deeply in love with each of my siblings.

* Forgive where it was called for thereby freeing my own precious self.

* Fall in love with myself. Friggin’ finally.

* Tell myself: “Don’t give up before the miracle” and really, REALLY wait it out.

* Consider space and depth of authentic connection with others and nature to be my highest and most cherished values.

* Be quite sure that staying in the present instead of future or past thinking is the alternative to plastic surgery.

* Know for sure Dogs ARE God..not just God spelled backwards.

Gymnastics

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detail of installation,ceramic,earth,grasses
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Watching the girls tumbling their way to notoriety (or not) in Rio

I can’t help thinking of my own history as a gymnast in my youth.

Uneven parallel bars, floor exercise, balance beam were my thing.

Arial walkovers, splits, handsprings.

There is a memory that muscles have from pushing the body to it’s limit

Which remains long after the event.

The heart is a muscle too, lest we forget.

Today, in my wheelchair wondering how Simone Biles’ leotard stays put on her excruciatingly hard won steely rear end

I appreciate the access I still have to

The knowledge of my own interior body.

I get a workout, I tell you;

Lifting my fatigued self up to transfer is a feat.

Similar to a push up on the exertion scale.

Accessing lengths of interior sinew and urging them to work together for a common purpose and

Keeping my heart present as opposed to defended and on guard is an olympic event in itself.

My medal, I suppose, is the peace bestowed on me for being content in the present moment; ever so full of gratitude for the ability to shift tiny muscles to open a can or forgive a past grudge because I must to save myself.

Finding Your Seat

lying down
ceramic, 22×4″
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I’ve been thinking about my 1973 Camaro.

It was yellow with a black interior; bumble bee-esque

But faster.

Taking my seat in the machine was a spiritual experience.

It hung low.

One was asked to sort of bow ones head and curl a bit to enter the space.

When you arrived in the seat you felt held, secure, loved even.

It was a seat that was just given as a gift and one needed to just show up, appreciate and go.

Riding a horse was never that way for me.

I never could find my seat.

Horses are different than cars.

They have a fleshy heart for one thing..alive..breathing moist air.

I bumped along and did exactly all the things I knew to be incorrect; tensing my body, trying to MAKE the horse do what I wanted instead of making a relationship.

This was all out of fear.

I had no fear in my Camaro.

After the last 2 weeks of having to use an unfamiliar loaner wheelchair (mine having motor repaired) and trying in vain to adjust to the lack of support I was used to in my own chair

Today, I took delivery of my newly-motored chair.

I sat down and it did not feel like my Camaro of old

But I decidedly had my seat in this machine familiar to me.

It was not a seat that came with the luxury of provision the Camaro had

But one I’ve had to find and create on my own by trial and error; sit up straight, tuck my tailbone a bit, raise my chest exuding entering life on a positive vibe, tuck in my skirt to avoid getting it tangled in the wheels, balance my tailbones (unequal in position), rest equal weight on both arms, lift chin to avoid victim mode, make sure I have enough back support.

I never had to do any of this shit in my yellow Camaro.

Slip in. Sigh. Smell the good smell. Go.

The level of work most of us have to do in life is the wheelchair mode of finding our seat. Or bumping along trying to be at one with our horse (marriage, kid, illness, job…).

The discovery process of getting to Camaro-esque ease

From a wooden, inflexible gallop

Is the stuff of life.

Adjust, compromise, decide how much you can tolerate, create solutions, never lose hope, ask for help, take the help, enjoy what you’ve got.

Learning Resilience

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monoprint,22×30
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Forgive my frequent postings but things are moving quickly through me and letting them steep feels rough. Take what’s good and leave the rest. I so appreciate your precious time.

My attention goes toward what skills we each need to stay ok in our too fast, overwhelming, annoying, speedy, painful and complex world.

I turn on the TV and come close to gagging literally.

Suffering, frailty, madness, terror, all the shadows of our own humanity multiplied many-fold.

I deal with all these things to varying degrees in my physical body.

You, I am sure do too.

Because I make no distinction in ‘hierarchy of pain’ (often people preface a complaint to me by saying their suffering doesn’t compare to mine);

For our purposes here pain is pain, suffering is suffering.

What can we do?

Sometimes, like in the moments of the twin towers of 9-11, the magnitude frays all our circuits and we shut down. Stop. Stop. Stop.

Life is too much and who we were is gone and who we will become is not yet.

This, on one end of the spectrum but I write about the in-between places:

My body frequently hosts an evolutionary tension; example: I can not wrangle the strength to lift my torso up to sitting to transfer to my chair from bed one day.

What do I do? This has never happened before.

I lie there at a 90′ angle for 15 minutes while I moan, cry, stop crying, think, get very quiet, realize I alone can not move forward and am stuck, remember there are people who I love and are nearby to call for help.

I get quieter still and call not one but two friends. (evolution for Cath! Ask for help!).

Excruciatingly humbled in my frailty I let myself be lifted; un-showered, unbrushed hair.

I haven’t the will to fight the support nor the energy to worry about my presentation.

But I did reach out.

I evolved in that experience.

I gave up my egoist reactions-by-rote and became more related to the world. I got very undefended. Super soft.

This, I think is the skill we must each foster in order not to become totally disconnected from our beloved world who is moving through Her own crises, humiliations and destructions of old systems. It’ part of the plan..for us..for Her. She is making corrections. We must as well.

We can either stay comfortable in blame and judgement or try our best to remain related to each other.

We must push through, refine ourselves, and keep trying to find out how our own personal experiences relate to our relationship with the complexities of the world.

This is my experience of how to stay related; to ourselves and each other.

Try new stuff..new reactions to old problems, pains, pleasures.

Fall on your face and get up and do it again.

Keep what’s right and leave he est.

See how light it feel to lay down your armor.

Someone else will pick it up to be sure.

Pity the extra weight they choose.

Just Breathe

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detail,painting
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PUTTING IT DOWN

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She had her own mind
But it bored her finally.

She loved her own company
A little too much.

She knew there is a reason for everything.
Spent her time decrypting life.

She learned what love is
From her dog not a man.

She came close to violent
When hungry.

A whole life got used up
Finding her true voice.

Perpetual ‘original self’ student
Describes her well.

For too long she looked to be saved.
Then saved herself after all.

Red lipstick
Is her favorite.

It lays top drawer
In her weaponry cache.

Dressing to entertain herself
Pleases her.

So easily distracted in life was she;
Endless shiny threads to follow.

Her concocted story
Was entertaining. But done.

Giving it up
Took lacking the energy to tell it.

Precious family and friends
Always listened well.

When that day came
Everything was oddly empty.

Threads still shine
In a lovely tangle at her feet.

Now, lusty living
Is dialed down to low.

Finally learning to live with fewer I’m sorrys
She is free to be.

Her closet is home
To some very fetching hats.

She costumes herself
With a white dog to match.

She rides her wheelchair
With a bright orange safety flag.

But she was saved
That day she laid her story down.

This is not to say
Chanel #5 holds no elan!

Stand in her wake
And breathe.

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-CA 2016

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Ruffle and Roll

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Emma and I like to just look around at stuff.

For example- tonight on the plaza I counted 23 people looking at screens at one time.

I felt lonely.

Emma didn’t care ’cause her olfactory prowess was on high intensity overload; pigeons, old pizza, some lady wearing formidable perfume, dope, dogs, pre-rain, children’s bath soap.

I like to think about nothing.

Just look. Feel. Sense.

It seems like enough.

Plenty, in fact.

I become porous as we sit there and let things just ruffle and roll through me;

Still doing all the stuff I do like get judgey, appreciative, grateful, repulsed, inspired….

All my things are there but so much smaller than the emptiness holding them.

Everything is so INTERESTING from this vantage point.

Em and I were lookin’ ’round and this lovely woman came over to tell us she thought we looked great and asked to take our picture (above).

I liked her.

Her energy was grounded, clean, curious but contained.

Someone I didn’t feel the need to put up energy shields around.

When I allow emptiness inside I can feel all sorts of stuff I wouldn’t otherwise.

Ruffling and rolling through me………………