Giving What I Did Not Get

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I think I am not the only human who stresses out about whether I am using my life well.

There is this hamster wheel rolling in my pesky brain

With me as generator

Endlessly on the quest

For the “rightest”

Of right action.

Gotta write my book, exercise, clean my desk, do all the “to-do” stuff.

Yesterday evening Santa Fe had the clearest blue violet umbrella of a sky.

I took myself to my favorite outdoor patio for a light dinner.

My server was Ian.

He introduced himself with a flat affect; pleasant but dis-engaged somehow.

A large table of folks were seated near me and we were the only patrons.

It was easy to hear Ian interact as he took food and drink orders.

He extended himself far beyond the call of duty

Kindly answering questions like: “What is the size of the tortilla?” and “Is your tap water safe to drink?”

I was dehydrated and he kept his eye on the disappearing act of my Arnold Palmer glass.

When the bill came I said: “Ian..you are really good at your job. I’ve listened to you all evening and you are kind, capable and unobtrusive. You are elegant in your serving style and I just wanted to tell you.”

His demeanor moved from the flat affect to the hidden blooming man waiting just underneath his “work-mode” skin.

Ian seemed quite overcome by my comments and thanked me profusely as he now moved around the restaurant with the nobility of a king.

I rolled away so taken by how affected he was by my simple acknowledgement.

After all is said and done my sense is that

ALL WE REALLY WANT AND NEED TO THRIVE IS REGULAR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF OUR INNATE WORTH.

The hamster wheel is pretty much beside the point.

Next time you find yourself thinking a good thing about someone

SAY WHAT IS SO

Out loud so you both can hear it.

We are all so hungry.

And easy to feed.

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photo credit- Gay Block

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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.

My Dad

monoprint,30×22

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I am not really sure my father really wanted to be one.

He excelled in his job as a top gun at General Motors Styling;

Winning “BOSS OF THE YEAR” as I remember.

His iconic signage developed way-back-when for all the GM dealerships is still used today.

Having kids in the 50’s was just what people did.

I doubt many couples asked themselves individually or together whether having children was something they consciously wanted to do.

My dad was fairly awkward in the role of father.

He brought home a new car every few months to try out as an executive perk

And had a workshop to retreat to where he made amazing things like plaster castings of the huge Northern Pike we caught in the river nearby or hammered brass weather vane or our astoundingly lovely dining table.

He was quiet.

Private.

Lonely, I think.

My mother hated anything corporate so he tucked that part of his life under his hat when he pulled into the garage every night.

Then he drank.

A lot.

So we four kids got a half-Dad at best.

He was not a soft place to fall.

When he died at a young 51 I felt relieved.

When he was alive, as the eldest I slipped into the role of “psychic umbrella” in order to ensure my siblings and myself a future

Because living in our family was some scary shit.

But Dad left a profound and positive legacy to me.

He taught me to trust myself with tools. He supported my art talent. We silently worked together making stuff and that quiet camaraderie is the fathering I remember best.

My two brothers, without much modeling, are magnificent fathers and I am in awe of this miracle.

Willing and Conscious fathering and mothering are unequalled in importance.

A deep bow to Dads doing their best.

To all of us doing our best for that matter.

Mettle

ceramic,7x4x1/2″


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It took me longer to forgive my mother than the guy that raped me.

They both took things from me; stuff I needed to thrive.

The rapist rendered my physical self insecure which has lasted a long time and I am defended where I wasn’t before.

My mother disallowed my essence and spirit to recognize themselves as innately good and worthy.

She could only give what she knew.

I have forgiven them both

And directed my life toward re-mothering my own self; my way.

It will be a lifetimes’ work.

I surround myself with beauty and know I love it because I feel my own beauty through it.

Flowers, antique linens, light, space, silence, treats like a daily visit to the coffee shop where I am known and appreciated, living with an animal that teaches me every day what love actually is, sharing my talents and creativity with others, acknowledging beauty and goodness in people when I experience it instead of staying quiet, dressing well, cultivating good manners, keeping gratitude very, very close.

I never wanted kids.

Don’t remember ever having even one “biological clock ping”

And I am so glad because somehow God knew I needed this lifetime to be about me and my own healing.

I had so many unmet needs myself that I was spared eventual resentment toward children.

Today, I would be a great mom I think

But I am 63.

It seems a bit weird that dealing with the constricting challenges I do

My heart has more love in it than ever.

I did/am doing the work and am so very glad.

It could have been a bitter pill of a life

But feels more like a swim in an infinity pool;

98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

EMMA and CATHY

Dear all,

Please click HERE.

xxxxxx

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Sovereign

When I married late in life I changed my name to his.

This unconscious soul-death move (for me)

Was just one in a lifetime of gripping the arm of the culture hard enough

To prevent my ignorant, fledgling identity jello-legs

From collapsing beneath me.

In my defense-

It was just part of the deal then and sometimes still; marry, surrender, serve.

Same thing in other arenas too:

Get hired, work too hard, shut up, be soft and supportive, let your boss’ hand rest on your butt and smile and smile and smile..

Have a child, don’t tell anyone how hard it is, try to find something exciting about diapers, have dinner ready when he comes home and smile and smile…on your way to the bedroom.

Go to church in a pretty flowerey dress when a button-down and khakis are your thing, listen to the fancy- robed man rail on about God and homosexuals and smile.. smile as your Dad in the pew next to you nods emphatically to himself…

Lately, when I speak my truth instead of remaining silent to avoid conflict

My voice arrives somehow fierce.

It can startle me and others

But if I take a minute to pause and acclimate myself to the authentic me I find that I love my true voice; a very different substance and gravitas mixed with dignity and self- appreciation.

The woman pictured in the photos above is a very good friend; Barbara.

We did not communicate regularly during the past few years.

She came to visit recently and drove up in this steely RV with impossibly elegant lines.

Her laundry list of shitty life-happenings included (she told me) divorce, breast cancer, career ennui, identity questioning.

When we lose ourselves how to we get Her back?

If we were performing in the costume of “GOOD WOMAN” too often in our life

Did we ever REALLY know ourselves at all?

My beloved friend Barbara, took her savings and invested heavily in her precious self;

Bought the van, carved out a month, taught herself all the stuff she needed to know about generators and driving a big rig

And she hit the road to feel who she is

Without any one else around to be accountable to.

When we sat together at a bar in Santa Fe she was strong! and funny! and smart! and vulnerable! and gorgeous! and curious! and very, very, VERY alive.

When I take myself out for dinner..just me and Emma,

The experiences I have build on themselves.

Over time I now understand myself as authentically Cathy.

Now I can choose more accurately who and what I am willing to give my life energy to.

This is my highest accomplishment.

Mere Mortals

Emma and me at The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

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A good bit of family joined me here in Santa Fe over the holidays.

Sister, brother-in-law and nephew plus his fiance.

There were extended family as well.

For a girl pretty used to solitude this particular conglomeration of humans felt so good.

Entering the age in which one is acutely aware of aging brings with it a surprisingly potent form of super-glue regarding blood family where once there was none.

When I am near family my tired defensiveness about life in general seeps away as I know I have a soft place to fall no matter what.

I imagine I feel this more acutely as I don’t have kids so my family and friends are the ones holding the trampoline at street level should I teeter too far from some high rise in search of who knows what.

My family settled into a very fine AIRB&B.

One of us had been stricken with a virus en-route to Santa Fe.

As each day dawned another of us fell into various levels of stupor.

It didn’t hit me until their final day for which I am glad.

Recuperating in bed I watched mind movies of my family being their lovely selves; easy, fun, entertaining, nurturing, inspiring, authentic.

I feel proud to share their bloodline.

Think of all the effort it took for each of these people to get on planes and travel to Santa Fe!

Never, never would I take this for granted.

They are the best medicine.

I love them so.

The Sacred and the Profane

detail, monoprint

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I may be the last person on earth to have seen the film BAD SANTA

But last night was my night to actually laugh A LOT in that rare, ugly and involuntary way;

The kind that hurts so good.

Now, this film, with Billy Bob Thornton is pretty much in the profane lane

Until you get to the end

Which is worth it.

I love to swear.

I find it extremely therapeutic

And a medicine I rely on

In these times of woe.

During the holidays in Santa Fe it is a challenge to meander down the sidewalk without getting slimed by someones’ family drama having escaped.

Emma looks askance at me when I swear

But I experience an immediate cleanse, physically and emptionally

And then can come back in to enjoy the holiday festivities.

My coarse exclamations are as bad a girl as I get

And so I enjoy them thoroughly when they appear unannounced.

My God.. I could be a heroin addict or thief

But I have settled in on unapologetic cursing.

I feel these exclamations must be brought forward with commitment.

No question mark at the end, boys and girls.

Say it and be done!

After such a clearing the nativity is fully populated and all the candles are there in the life-sized menorah on the plaza;

The lights are blessedly lit and my heart returns once again to an un-contracted state; open and primed to receive the gifts of the season.

Here we go—moving from darkness once again into the light.

The Wave

I dropped my head this morning with a sigh

As I read that TIME MAGAZINE has voted the women

Who have bravely thrown open the shutters

And told their truth regarding past sexual abuse; THE SILENCE BREAKERS people of the year.

Is it any wonder 90% of autoimmune disorders (MS, Chrone’s,RA, ALS) are experienced by women?

Autoimmunity is the action of the body attacking its’ self.

What do we all imagine happens inside us as we continually shrink to fit

As I have done most of my life.

My storyline began at birth changing myself around to wrangle some love from a depressed mother.

From there I went on to do things like stay silent while Les McCANN, a jazz musician of note, fondled my crotch in a pressing crowd while I asked him for an autograph for my boyfriend.

It was an expensive gift.

I stayed silent.

My boyfriend was overjoyed.

In my 30’s I was raped in Boston.

A young black man stole into my apartment.

My eternal hero, Detective Joe Lally, pieced together obscure clues and caught the guy.

As I testified in court I understood my voice was very important; I would make it through this horrifying experience-keep it together..speak through my walking-deadness

Because I knew that my voice that day represented all the legions of women who could not, would not speak.

The rapist was sentenced to 27 years in prison and died there a few years ago.

My hero, Joe, called to tell me of his death.

The backround fear I carried in the bottom of my stomach left.

I remember years ago when the wave of feminism was gaining and bras were burned in a potent but fairly messy swing of the pendulum.

Change happens this way.

A critical mass is reached.

The pendulum swings waaaaayyy over to one side and then, in time, we integrate that very change achieving balance.

Courage is contagious.

I am going to let this sacred wave of change wash away all the self-judgement, shame, silence, containment, stasis and the lost and weary undernourished dragon in me I left out in the cold so long ago.

I think I shall invite her in and tell her I am sorry for shutting her up so many times that her fire almost disappeared.

I will listen. Wipe her tears and polish her scales that I never let her use to protect me.

I will tell her it was too dangerous to allow her presence to be known.

We can share some tequila, maybe.

She will be my teacher.

My blood has cooled to a dangerous degree and I will let her gently warm me with her fire.

Once Upon a Time…..

….in a dank and dingy Boston South End loft

I had a painted clothing business with my friend Richard.

He designed the shape of our offerings and I produced the fabrics.

I have always cared much more about beauty rather than being cool and edgy

But from our photo above you can likely see that Richard, being the young genius he was,

Ate, slept, thought about, costumed himself in and projected the image of:

Cool.

Arctic cool.

And I wasn’t and never will be. Glad of it, too.

In the end he chose a speedy little London cool girl who loved only black and they swept me out the door.

I never worked so hard in my life as I did in that business.

We made amazing things I think:

silk neckties, handpainted, 1980

All those years ago most of my insecure energy was tuned toward changing myself around to jive with circumstances that provided a sense, any smidgeon of a sense of belonging.

Over time, the fathoms-deep richness I have made my own has come from the practice of recognition where and with whom I belong.

I do this by tuning into my body; do I feel energized, safe, inspired, SEEN by this person?

Or- does my physical self feel nervous, bored, used, invisible, weak, foggy?

This is the simple litmus test I have used to make the long journey from the Cathy above who performed so often and well

To this more authentic version.

The road here has been my hero’s journey; long and sometimes very gritty. I am eternally grateful I have chosen to do the work.

Totter

 

 

Some of my very best memories were made during the many weekends I spent growing up at my grandparents’ home.

Summer evenings found me washing good dirt from fattened, sun-warmed tomatoes

Making Caprese salad for our picnic on the porch.

My grandfather had a tiny hibachi grill and tended the charcoal like a lunatic with tunnel vision.

We all waited for his: “READY!”

And sprung into action delivering the steak to him, dressing the table, orchestrating the symphony of a picnic on a mosquito-laden, Michigan Saturday evening.

Five minutes into the cook a low-down dog named Totter appeared;

An ancient Basset hound weighing in at 60 lbs with ears wagglingly dropped to the porch brick.

He maneuvered over to the steak on the grill and sat down.

After a nice long chat with my grandfather he received the first cuttings of meat on his own plate and promptly disappeared as the humans dug in.

Totter loved what he loved.

He loved it so much that it was almost embarrassing to watch his pleasure.

Lately, I love what I love fiercely too.

I let myself be overwhelmed by simple pleasures like an early morning breeze becoming blistering heat in the following hours.  Fleeting, impermanent. Can’t buy it or catch it or collect it to enjoy later.

So much in our world is not a problem!

I am choosing to live there; not with a blind eye to the rest but a conscious choice to love what I love as best I can as much as I can while I can.

Going after a doctorate in loving what I love;

The seven pound press of Emma on my lap, my adjustable bed with clean sheets dusted with Chanel #5 powder, pink hollyhocks under an ancient apricot tree, shared table with good friends, summer flush of my skin, coffee as medicine, a radically pared down life.

God only knows how many years of hours and minutes I used up acquiring..

Knowing that was me not too long ago and noticing who I am now is something to love as well.

The list is inexhaustible of things and people and animals and rocks and potions and praying mantises to love!  

(Just now I loved that I called up the energy to rise up off the toilet when , on first and second try I could not..)

Dr. Cathy Phillips Aten knows what she loves and does so fiercely.

How a Heart Gets Plumped

 

Sometimes twice a year

My blonde sister visits me.

I say that

As all in my family

Are blonde

But me.

Dreary Oregon days

Wetted her down

The past 100 days

Or so…

I prayed for sun;

Making a deal

With God:

If He/She delivered

I’d start meditating

In the mornings

Beginning my day

With my own 

Fervent prayer

For goodness

To glitter-bomb

All who could use a shine.

As it happened

THERE WAS SUN!

We ate and drank

And just looked around

At stuff;

Told stories

Of bad husbandsX

And other curious choices.

I saw her bloom

In the sunshine.

I was,

Like a plant,

Ever drawn 

Toward the essence 

Of her.

My recently

Chipped front tooth

Really saw 

The light;

Laughing

As we did.

Now she is gone.

My blonde sister

Has left.

I feel hungry

In my heart.

.

 

 

 

 

Ministry of Mommy

GIRL, 22x5x5″,ceramic

 

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I collect mothers.  And mothering.

Our very first relationship is with our mother and in my case she was was ill-equipped with her first born which has left me trying to fill in the gaps.

What is it that we get from an adept mother?

I think of a big tangle of newborn puppies and see the mothers’ attention to feeding, licking them clean, nipping a neck tenderly to guide one back to the fold;  allowing a certain amount of exploration on their own before she sets a boundary, pressing close and warm.

We learn about yes and no.  Containment, patience,   impulse adjustment.

Most importantly we steep inside the relationship of nurture and learn to trust we are loved and loveable.

I had to teach myself these things and I did it and still do it by collecting mothers and mothering.

My sister filled in for moms’ shortcomings and kept my brothers and me fed and comforted by the presence of a soft, strong, non-depressed, extraordinarily capable caretaker we counted on.  She was brilliant and yet I know it cost her big time.

In my teens I recognized my general dislike and trust of women  and did the work to fall in love with them instead of nixing 50% of the population.

Suddenly, I had female friendships!

My friend Jann is the one who sat beside me for 5 days at the trial of the man/boy who raped me many years ago  (he got 27 years in prison) . My birth mother remained in unnerved and stoic silence.  I didn’t ask Jann to be there with me and frankly barely noticed she was there but the girl just knew it was important and sat her butt down next to me.  She always tells me the truth, showers me with the very best presents sometimes for no reason at all. She supplies accolades for creative risks I take, guides me in the vital realm of lipstick color and crucial style decisions and continually lets me know she is there for me no matter what.  

I have extraordinary people of substance around me who continually reflect me back to myself which keeps me from entering the too familiar downward spiral of doubt planted at birth.

Nature has mothered me all these years with her secret places and pushing up so miraculously into Spring with a bit of light and moisture.

Good men have mothered me extending the safety of their protective arms and efforts.

Emma, my dog just has to look at me and some ancient crack in me is healed.

The sun feels like mother.

After all the collecting I’ve done over a lifetime I have assumed the role of mother-to-self.  All the colors I need are in my paintbox now.

I know exactly how to pick myself up by the scruff of the neck and return to my chosen family fold when I stray.

Licking my wounds is second nature and because of all the extraordinary mothering I’ve created and allowed.

There is enough, no- PLENTY here to extend to others as need be.

I bow to all of you mothers out there doing the most vital job of them all.

 

Bad Ass Branding

 

 

ceramic, approx. 6″h.

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The Georgia O’Keeffe museum here in Santa Fe is our most visited tourist attraction.

Now, why is that?

I often see women with salt and pepper hair standing still on the sidewalk with neck crooked to their smartypants phone searching out the museum.

Often, they are on a pilgrimage to visit an homage to my generation’s heroine in the “got my own life happenin’ and there will be no apologies to nobody” department.

Currently, at the Brooklyn Museum in NY there is an exhibition of Georgia’s clothes (watch short film) juxtaposed against photographs of her wearing the garments.

This woman lived alone in the deep, high desert landscape of New Mexico; no husband, kids, family, even neighbor within sight.

She painted with high attention and knowledge of eroticism-as-a-daily-way-of-being

Yet spent her life denying this was her.

Self-care for her looked like protecting her privacy with the fierceness of a wet-mouthed lioness giving fang.

The lecture I attended yesterday at our museum was a slide presentation of her clothing.  We saw garments hand-sewn (by HAND and not machine) by Georgia herself.

Black was her color and in photographs  she struck poses with full knowledge of what the negative space was doing as well as each perfectly positioned limb, cheekbone and hand.

Underneath the ever-present black dress, suit or trousers were fantastically delicate little off-white blouses with feminine ties, bows and buttons, ruffles.

The woman she wanted you and me to see was quite severe

And yet there, underneath, in the privacy of a lining or slip or underwear

Were rips that had been lovingly mended in the tenderest of ways.

Beloved dresses torn on some desert branch

Were patched like a prayer. (this little blouse became worn at the back closure and you can see Georgia’s delicate reinforcement of two tint rectangles as she extended the life of the  blouse)

I understand now that she lived her life as art; controlled how she was perceived, tending to her deep femininity by secretly keeping finely crafted intimates next to her skin.

As I continue to learn about her I realize no corner of her life existed without the benefit of attention and intention.

She was conscious enough to understand the appeal of the shroud of mystery she concocted. 

Pretty much the polar opposite of a Kardashian.

The thing is that each of these women created extremely effective “stories” about themselves through acute attention to exactly what information and how much the public were privileged to see and kept the rest for themselves.

Through curatorial consistency they both give us interesting stories to walk around inside.

We get just enough to judge, wonder, be inspired or repulsed.

I think their genius has been to leave our interest always  somehow piqued.

 

 

When No One Is Looking

 

 

I feel as though I have a permanent clench in my jaw.

It is unbearably fatiguing to protect myself from the  collective wave of adrenaline and escalating heartbeats

As military might and might not

Crowds out the birdsong of Spring.

A good number of years ago a girlfriend I taught workshops with 

Was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Her wish nearing death was for her caretaker to tie a scarf around her head and under her jaw

In order that (in her glorious vanity) after her demise she not be viewed with a gaping mouth when her jaw muscles had finally relaxed.

I smile at this attempt of hers to have a lovely visage even after death.

The point here is that we all hold A LOT in our jaws.

The other morning I sat in my favorite chair, closed my eyes

And allowed my lower jaw to drop down away from my upper.

An immediate space of about 1/2 an inch was created.  My lips were still touching.

Was that the end?  Could I drop more?

Yes!  Lips still touching I got another 1/2 inch.

My tongue pressed lightly behind my front teeth and my eyes softened too.

Any more?

This time my jaw moved down a whole inch and my tongue inadvertently pooled in my lower mouth.

Bones shifted into unfamiliar patterns

And I understood why my friend wished for the scarf at the end.

How very much we all carry without realizing how hard we are working to do it.

It felt soooo good to abandon all trying and surrender while still very much alive. 

Investment

detail of painting

___________

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Fairly soon following my diagnosis of MS a very good friend divorced me.

She said my burgeoning needs were “..pulling on her” (this after I asked if she might go to the hardware store for me).

The break-up email said she still wanted all my fun stories we shared but not the other “stuff”.

I really was devastated by this and responded that I felt she was way more invested in my health situation than I was.

She agreed.

Our friendship was irreparable.

Sometimes we don’t even realize what we are invested in.

We are invested in where we put our attention most.

I used to be heavily invested in a poor sense of self esteem.

Deeply confusing anger and disappointment were my bedfellows.

I was too fucked up to know how to love and care for animals or even be with young children then.  They always knew.

My art career, freedom, being nice, attractive, connected to Spirit,  fairly ‘normal’, safe(having a back door at all times), avoiding conflict are some places I put an inordinate amount  of energy in the past.

I now give energy quite differently.

My attention goes toward Emma, creativity, fostering peace, keeping my body running best I can, curiosity about human nature, space, stellar friends, remaining authentic, gratitude and remaining in the present.

We are invested in where we put our attention most.

When I remember how many years I have put into knowing my own neuroses well enough to have the power to let them be more in the back round (never do they go away altogether) and not the drivers of my life

I heave a weary sigh.

I have put so damn much of myself in the bank account called “get healthy”.

But I did.

And I am.

Truly a life’s achievement.

A very fine investment.

Investing in worry over my state of being;  things I can’t do anymore, all the ways my life has changed in soul-searing ways is not a good investment.

What’t the return on that?

Black moods and being a magnet for dark energies of  all sorts.

Emma is snoring here on my lap.

I put my attention further on her and feel her warmth on my thigh, the mini tail wag of  a dream, her trust in me to choose my company to digest her dinner, her sleek white softness. 

Feeling my attention she wakes to lift her head and check to see if I am still here.

Some dividend.

Pink

aten_scan21

drawing,22×36

_________

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I saw a pink river

Yesterday.

It wound it’s way from Moscow

To Alabama

And Antarctica too.

That river was wet

With nastiness;

Yet

To sink teeth

Into the neck

Of it’s prey.

But yesterday..

I sweated pink.

I cried pink.

A new voice

Arose in me;

Sounding primal and pale pink

From disuse.

My thread of pink

Was woven together

With wrinkled and weary elders

Having given so much

And now

Urged to do it

Again.

If the god of pink

Asked what yesterday was about

I’d say: “Everyone matters.”

Trying to pray

For divisive dictators

And coming up short

I turn once again to 

The pink river

Running a brand new marathon

With no end

In sight

And my sister beside me

Shoots me a nasty glance

And I laugh

And dip my head

Into the oncoming storm;

Grinning still.

Giving

moon

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The very act of giving acknowledges we, as individuals are not and never will be the center of the universe.

We exist as a result of union.

All my siblings were here for a visit this week sans spouses.

We had not been in the same room as a family for too many years and through efforts on all our parts

It happened.

The greatest gift we gave one another was our individual beingness well dressed in authenticity.

As adults a great reverse tsunami carrying pretense, regret, shame, guilt, awkwardness, timidity, defense and fear

Rolled away from each one leaving the four of us standing together in Love.

It felt fun, fascinating, tender, curious, non-judgemental, easy, wide, accepting and inspiring.

I was easily able to keep my stamina intact for 6-7 hours two days in a row during their visit as opposed to my normal hour and a half!

It has been a long, long road to this picnic.

Yet we all walked that pathway; the one that turns this way and that yet got us all back together, in Love.

What greater gift?

What greater gift than dropping all armor and weaponry

In order to stand undefended with one another in Love?

I am giving thanks for each and every one of our efforts toward an undefended heart…all of us.

There is always something we have left to lay down in service of communion with “other”.

I promise to continue to hone my awareness and keep revealing more of my patina

As my gift to myself and each of you; extended family all….

Because of course, it has to begin with me.

Blessed Thanksgiving ….

A Name

chair1
hand-painted wool flannel upholstery fabric
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Today I have been thinking a lot about how challenging it is to sit all day long. I miss my old body so much sometimes.
The following is a chapter from the book I am working on:

A NAME

I never really could get behind my given name, Cathy. The vibe doesn’t fit; too suburban, innocent, not enough gravity. Don’t like the sound or shape of it. My parents told me the choice was between Cathy and Sandy. We’re talkin’ pretty white bread here. I am not white bread. More a complicated mix of unusual but healthy flours mixed with dates and pecans..dark and weighty in that yummy way and satisfying in the mix of ingredients unafraid to have their say is how I’d describe myself if I were a bread.

I host a vague but persistent recognition that my preference was to have been born black. My positive associations with black – skinned people began in early childhood as I was enveloped lovingly in the safety zone of pendulous folds of fat and bosom belonging to the housekeepers who tended my grandmother. The tall and dignified gardener, Tom treated me as real. We talked dirt, bugs, compost and birds sometimes.

I knew I was loved. We laughed so often and sang and got down low and really talked and listened. I was given time. I felt precious. They made me greasy hamburgers in the back kitchen; so good that all the world’s problems seemed fixed and life was very fine.

Later in life I noticed the blacks’ center of gravity was lower than most white folk. They seemed closer to the ground. We white folks are too often firmly ensconced in our heads. They strut or saunter. We stalk.

I suppose I also relate to their lives of “performance.” Give the white folk what they want, how they want, when they want and only then get paid. Get up at 5 and feed the kids then get thyself to the bus, travel over an hour, serve the white man/woman and do it all again the next day. With a smile.

During our days together it was these kind and emotionally adept people who did the connecting, the relating I desperately craved. I owe them so much. I really did feel my life depended on my performances within the family. Be good or be gone.

My dancing skills are very wooden except for my hips. On a vacation to the island of St. Lucia in college my girlfriend and I rented a jeep and adventured to a restaurant high in the damp, jungle-y hills outside of town. The patio looked out over the sparkling sea.

Following dinner a reggae band appeared. They were sort of scary with outrageously long dreads and a dour countenance as they went about setting up. We girls crossed our legs and pressed down chastely on our cotton summer dresses. The evening sky turned very black.

Dinner ended. The two of us sat nursing a drink as the music began. Many of the staff began to dance. All the white patrons sat very still and uncomfortable in their exposed frozen physicality meted unto each through eons of repression.

Two native islander waitresses I recognized from the evening came over to us, suddenly grabbed our hands and pulled two acutely reluctant white girls onto the dance floor.

What else could we do but move? After awhile I noticed other staff coming out from the kitchen to watch. I had dipped so deeply into the reggae-zone that it took me awhile to see their attention was directed towards me and how my white hips instinctively knew the down-low language of their native music. We all danced long and hard. After the fact this was thrilling to me; movement as bridge to “other”. But it wasn’t really so “other” as it was in ME. It’s surfacing surprised me..shocked me even.. I held myself as a very bad dancer up until this point.

Many folks choose to change their name at some point if their given one proves unsatisfactory. A wise person or guru sometimes does the choosing and surrendering into that name is part of the spiritual journey… “Durga” (unattainable), “Chandra” (moon) “Ravi” (sun) are some Santa Fe names I’ve heard.

I’ve always respected the Native American naming way. It is a very complicated process so I’ve read but I am drawn to the thought only one person within the tribe may use a name at one time and as life goes on two or three name changes often occur; “Starblanket”, “He Who Combs”, “Panther Passing Across”; all real and enchanting Native American names.

I would like my name to be: “Fly Girl”.

Not like the act of flying around with wings or motor.

“She be fly.”

More like that.

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