A Clean Compassion

hand-painted silk robes

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The human condition is not all about comfort.

Blessed are we who get some.

I used to think being a compassionate person meant doing the best I could to attempt re-creating all the feelings, drama, grief, loss or whatever a person was experiencing

INSIDE MYSELF IN SOLIDARITY.

I finally realized that no…this “taking on of the other’s experience” just leaves me exhausted

And unable to be of any kind of help to my friend.

It seems that being a clear witness for another is the best way to serve those we love.

Initially, I found this uncomfortable

Thinking I was not feeling enough or strangely numb to the situation.

It took a long time to segue into a clean compassion.

When friends give me the gift of attentive clear witness

I am so grateful.

The power of this is I feel utterly safe to express myself fully understanding they have the security to just “hold” for me

And not take on my shit, insist on fixing or doing whatever to maneuver away from the smelly bits.

That scenario often ends up with me having to take care of THEM in some way and I am further exhausted..

It was a great day when I realized there is no hierarchy to pain or suffering.

It is what it is. Mine is not greater or less than your own. Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering.

We all have it yet we are champion gymnasts trying to get away from it.

We NEED all those conditions we consider BAD

In order to recognize the good, grand, sacred and Divine

Or to push up against to maybe evolve into a shinier version of ourselves.

A person with a patina is far more intriguing to me than someone living with a vinyl plastic covering like those used on a couch to repel soiling.

Solidarity surfaces from the recognition of our shared human experience.

When I am quiet with you in your confusion

All our ancestors sit there with us;

Heads bowed..

Holding for us both

That which is beyond the strength of mere mortals.

After that they help us rise

With a quick fanny swat

Urging us further down a road

We never need to walk alone.

Saved

“LIGHT”, 6’x4′,m/m

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Reflecting on what I wrote in my last post about Freedom

This sentence just kind of stopped me: “The health challenge of MS saved me.”

Now- What the hell does that mean?

I had to go back and really think about it myself because this tidbit of wisdom just sort of snuck out unbeknownst to my consciousness at the time. (often I write stream-of-consciousness which is how I learn
where I need to put my attention).

“Saved from what?” I asked myself.

Change, challenges and particularly crises are bitter pills.

There are many reasons freedom is my top value (theme of last post); first and foremost in my youth I lived with the mother-message: “Cathy-do NOT bypass me with your energy! ANY of it..sexuality, creativity, gregariousness” ..et al.

I have forgiven her for this psychic compression of me because I now am strong enough to call up compassion for the lure she sucombed to, needing to punish SOMEone for her unhealed shit.

Being a stubborn human as I am I guess I needed a giant wallop of a gritty scenario to push up against to realize my Self (capital “S”);

To release all the armor, protective measures and survival strategies I created to ensure I allowed myself the experience of my essential self.

THIS is how the challenges of MS have saved me…my perseverance has shown my innate knowledge of and loyalty to doing what it takes to RETURN TO MY ORIGINAL SELF.

What I offer you here is the privilege of coming along on my ride in all of its unvarnished WABI-SABI wonderfulness.

Often not very pretty

But very, very real.

This level of vulnerability seems in short supply.

I try to remember if it is true for me then it may be so for others.

I call it a privilege because whether you judge or champion you are privy to the mechanics of a woman BECOMING.

My observations and exposure here are of huge value to me as I have the benefit of a computer screen between us as a buffer allowing intimacies perhaps too timid to appear face-to-face.

Thank you for wading in these rippling waters with me.

Profoundly less lonely.

And way more fun.

xxxx…

A Free Woman

“RAIN” installation, clay objects on nails sunk into wall

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JUST RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME:

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I am comfortable not being married.

My decision not to have children was a good one for me.

Even though I ride out the day in a wheelchair I am comfortable with my STATE.

Knowing I know very, very little helps me.

I adore red lipstick.

My guard has truly been let down with just 3 people.

If you can make me laugh you got me.

The love I have for my dog, Emma, likely verges on quite unreasonable.

I feel safer in Nature than with people.

The health challenge of MS saved me.

Freedom is my top value.

I seem nice but can be very fierce.

When I go out to a restaurant and dine by myself I find my own company very entertaining. She never bores me.

It is really fun to be a woman who loves lowrider cars, old trucks, INDIAN motorcycles, the smell of Mercedes and the lines of a Porsche.

My family is made up of remarkable people I love. I am proud of us.

When I periodically lose my connection to Spirit I feel worse than MS could ever make me feel. Only then do I think about dying.

My need for “depth of living” and self-examination annoys some people and I am still learning how not to care.

My best medicine is silence. I need an extraordinary amount.

I don’t know how to live with another person because I give my power away.

Even at 63 and a lifetime of therapy to get me healthy (which I am) I still don’t have a very clear picture of my own power and strength.

Santa Fe is my beloved. I put my feet down here and my soul sprouted.

I think I likely will be forced not to have any work done on my aging face because how can I start erasing if I haven’t got the whole “me” yet?

I always thought not needing anybody and being very independent were the holy grail. Now I know it is INTERDEPENDENCE.

Respect for another person is a major litmus test for me.

I watch how you treat those who serve us.

Honestly, I do not know what I have done to deserve the aid and assistance I have had in my life to become who I am. I could never, never, never , never have done it myself.

A good cup of coffee is sacramental.

It Was Us

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I saw a man on the street yesterday.

It was early evening.

I was feeling very fine.

He surfaces regularly behind his blue metallic walker

Pushing. Gripping.

He is old but a warrior I could tell

Because of the fierce determination he always wore.

Yesterday evening he was sitting down on the seat his walker provided.

It was a downtown street corner with a 4-way stop.

His head bent down to his chest he just sat there silently on that corner.

My heart strings began thrumming and I actually turned around and headed for him.

I was called to go.

No wasn’t an option.

I pulled my chair up close to his on that busy intersection.

He was drunk. He did not look up.

I had no adverse reaction to his state and

Slipped some bills in his loosely clasped hands.

He registered the sensation in his hand and grasped the cash gently, lifting his weary head up a few inches to try to catch my eye

But couldn’t quite do it.

He slowly stretched out his free hand and I took it.

A purely purposeful micro-movement like a dancer.

It was so full, warm and soft. Human.

So THERE for me in his gratitude.

I dropped my head like his and held his hand for quite awhile right there in that intersection.

We were two broken ones.

For two minutes we had communion on the street.

Two times in my life I have experienced a holy touch with someone.

He called me “Goddess” as I wheeled away.

His only word spoken.

I don’t know the mystery of what happened there on that corner

But God was surely near.

And it was us.

One Life As Art

hand-painted terry cloth robe, 1987

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I was recently invited by an old friend who is the owner of the primo art supply store- ARTISAN’S in Santa Fe, to write something for the monthly newsletter. This goes out to 7000 people so it is no small thing. It felt good to do because so many of my peers haven’t seen me in years so this was a chance to let them know I am ok.

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ONE LIFE AS ART-
Using the skills I learned as an artist to thrive in illness

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I lost the whole damn thing. The “who” of me just wasn’t after a diagnosis of Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis in 2000. My right leg went first and over time disability has visited me in a hemispheric way affecting my beloved right side, generously allowing some use of my left.

My power wheelchair is fast. Growing up in Detroit I demand a cool ride with some sass. Surrendering my driver’s license turned my stomach. Seventeen years into this landscape of chronic illness has changed me for the better. It really all comes down to choice; in the moment do I go for the somewhat intoxicating (due to familiarity) downward spiral or do what it takes to elevate my self into “art” or something resembling beauty?

These are exactly the same decisions I faced over my long career as a textile designer, painter and sculptor. Life as an artist or musician or any uber-sensitive creative is precarious at best. We know the un-known intimately. Whether blank canvas, slab of clay or hungry piano keys…some THING has got to get done to make art. This tolerance of the unknown is the key to my curious “ok-ness” within the health challenges I live with. The big void is not the enemy for me as it, understandably, manifests for most. I know the thing, despise it, am frustrated by it, haunted by it, in love with it, addicted to it, nauseated by it yet have chosen it as my life-long partner. Why? Because in that very void is where all the magic lives.

To bring this closer to home here is a recent example: transferring from my wheelchair to my bed is a precarious move for me. I must park my chair facing the bed and exhaustingly use what little strength I have in my quads and push up to stand, pause, pirouette to place my behind on the bed. Very occasionally there comes a perilous moment when I understand the safe completion of this dance move is not going to happen and I slip with a groan to dead weight prone on the floor; a slow, yet uneventful humbling. This has happened twice before and I have a medical alert button around my neck I use to call the fire department to come get me up. Eight men in uniform enter my bedroom within minutes. I never have the right make-up on or even many clothes of course and the flush of embarrassment pours red for all to see.

The other day it happened once more and I realized I was bored by my historical hysteria and changed the story; like erasing a naïve charcoal line and replacing it lovingly and with elegant assuredness onto the paper to create something new. I pressed my safety button, adjusted my hair and clothing as best I could and lay there on the floor petting my dog in the lovely surety a host of gorgeous men were on their way to my bedroom. I was calm. They came in and I lay there smiling, looking up at a circle of hunkiness; thrilled as they exerted their herculean mastery and lifted me compassionately into bed. It was over in 10 minutes and the bright flashing lights of the EMT and fire trucks left my neighbors to the stories they would tell.
I, on the other hand, was easy in my body and oozing with gratitude for their help but mostly for the fact I had changed my own story from one fraught with angst to an (almost) fun encounter.

Don’t like the shade of red you chose for that paint stroke? Change the damn thing and move on.

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Tidbits for the road:

1. Stay curious.

2. Asking for help does not mean anything other than you need some help. Let people be heroes.

3. By all means live with a dog.

4. Connect in small ways with those you don’t think need it or want it even. There are worlds there.

5. Try so hard you fail often enough not to fear it.

6. Your purpose is just to exist. Anything else is extra.

7. Judge profusely for 5 minutes max then soften back into yourself- nothing/no one can reach you if you are hardened into defense-mode.

10. Falling is just a new perspective. Look around. Find the gold. Bring it back.

END