Vulnerability

ceramic vessel, 24×18

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When I began writing this blog over 4 years ago

The promise I made to myself was to avoid editing myself out of truly authentic territory.

That meant telling my truth as truly as I could and not spiriting away the messy bits, the unflattering occurances, the embarrassing shit.

I, as an expert people pleaser was in search of the woman under the mask

And telling my truth is my road to HER.

There have been 3 times I have chosen to go back and delete a post because I just felt too raw after writing..too exposed.

The thing about vulnerability is that it is a universal condition and no one escapes.

Knowing this I recognize that if I have had a feeling or experience there is likely a slew of others in the boat with me, maybe cowering in the corners.

After revealing to a good friend recently that I took down a post she reminded me that my readership come here in part to get the TRUTH as opposed to a prettified scenario.

” People, your friends, WANT to hear the vulnerable stuff you deal with. Puts the beautiful parts in perspective. And makes US realize we have nothing to whine about. Put it back up. “

Arriving at a place in which one has little to lose is a freedom gift extraordinaire.

I am here.

And somewhat broken.

But strangely grateful for the lovely, lovely scars

Each with a story of resolve and resilience

Adding to the creation

Of today’s Cathy

Who ties (sometimes with help) a Parisian silk scarf around her sagging neck

And re-enters Life

In partnership with the scars

Which are quiet

Having been given the air-time

They each demanded and deserved.

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Easter Redux

detail of “RENAISSANCE”, naturally pigmented earth, wood, 10’x3’x3′

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I wrote this 2 Easters past but liked it enough to offer it again:

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I just returned from a midnight roll with Emma; full moon.. me dressed in gratitude to the dark (meaning: just socks but no shoes, hair all sticky-outy, shawl range-ily wrapped round my dubious outfit).

Emma doesn’t care.

I obviously don’t care either. It was the adventure of the thing.

This past Sunday all the Catholics were out on the Santa Fe plaza in high church regalia in a Palm Sunday processional.

The head man swung incense to and fro followed by the ecumenically outfitted ..followed by the general public waving palms..

Emma and I watched.

I had to go home and google Palm Sunday.

I’m really keyed into this time of year because I know something about what feels subjectively like crucifixion and the journey of return.

My urge to be free finds me looking to all religions for keys.

It seems to help me very much to bring the Jesus stories in very close as metaphors and relate intimately to his teachings.

Surely my way is only that: my way. All I ask is for you to read here with a modicum of curiosity and forgo showing me the highway too soon.

By way of Easter time, Jesus is nailed to the cross and has to just hang out there with what is.

He has lost the luxury of his own will and by default must look inward for salvation.

His suffering goes on and on and on and on.

The agony is witnessed by those at his feet.

As his consciousness dims he pretty much gives up all “Woe is me” and “Why me, GOD?”

In favor of final forgiveness and surrender into Death.

But then…

after a little rest and recuperation

He RISES!

Not just good as before but better.

You may think me sacrilege but variations of these same transitions play out in my own life and I’m pretty sure a good number of you experience them too.

MS has shattered me, crucified me, wrested my trusty will from me.

It seems foolish to lend a hierarchy to suffering; (yours isn’t nearly as gritty as mine).

Divorce annihilates who we were..loss of job or spouse or child or fortune; addiction, depression, jail time, surgery, disappointment or betrayal.

Hell..even a bad break-up leaves us bloody and wrecked.

All our cells are called to re-assemble into some alien pattern and no friggin’ instruction booklet is included.

We’ve all just gotta hang there on the cross till every damn one of our precious numbing agents, blame-games, uber scavenger hunts for relief and distractions from what IS

Are used up.

Man, this can take a loooooonnnnng time.

And we die.

Metaphorically speaking.

We die to who we thought we were even though we thought we were pretty damn great and it looked like we had all the tools we needed to cut through the pain and discomfort..

HA!

Not.

After all that foll-de-rol we go through writhing in our suffering we need a big time Siesta with a capital “S”..

Three days is really not long enough (says me..).

I really do hope Jesus had a few margaritas to chew on in that dark cave..

Of course there were the intimates there to help him do his re-entry by moving the rock because not a one of us can do this ourselves.

I repeat: NOT A ONE OF US.

Released–he rose again.

And I have too..lighter, happier, less dense, more curious.

My neck is saggier but hey..the costs of war and time…

I am pretty raw as well. Naked to the wind.

Sometimes haphazardly dressed. Sometimes Chanel.

The Shattering. The Reconciliation. The Return.

Happy Easter to every darn one of us magnificent, brave, beautiful, beautifully human, humans.

We are the miracle.

We rise.

The Salve of Other

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Down on the plaza today

Feeling sooooo good.

I seem to have made it through another winter.

Back to my full time job of professional voyuer

I sat with Emma on my lap and a latte within reach.

It was mid-morning but few humans were around save the Native Americans setting up their wares for the day;

Dignified, constant, quietly contained.

A low and grumbly noise got my attention.

It came from a “camo-man” (my word for the plethora of discombobulated vets carrying the weight of war for us all).

He was quiet in his delivery of some language known only to him.

His body moved strangely.

Not dangerously.

I wheeled over and handed him a five dollar bill.

Not looking at me he took the cash and reached to barely brush my hand with his own

And walked off.

I truly felt steeped in Grace; his slight touch so full of intent and a host of other things that silenced me with their power.

One of the most challenging aspects of my health situation is the necessity to be so body-centric, so dense in paying attention to my physical body.

I must be so CARE-full

Im each micro-movement

In order not to fall on the floor or into the vacuum of a death spiral.

I must take pills, struggle with dressing, bathing, stay functioning in my home and work and community with dignity and balance.

All of this I used to do without a cloying effort but now must micro-manage energy; both psychological and physical, to show up in the world the way I wish to.

The call to action I had with the “camo-man”

Took me out of my self-centrism.

For a moment

It was WE…outside of time.

I forgot about “me”

And “he” also vanished

And there was just the numinous “We”.

How easy it is to forget who we are outside our personal pains, frustrations and concocted stories.

These things are not “us” at all.

We must reach beyond our bubble.

Or be very aware when a fellow reached forward toward us.

It seems God lives inside the extension outside our (little “s”) selves.

Farmer

installation in private garden,naturally pigmented earth,ceramic

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If one is a farmer of life
Times of drought tiptoe in.
Rough, old earth workers
Expect such chilly emptiness.
They wait.
Patiently by the fire
With a scrappy mutt
And darned socks
They wait.
Inside illness
As I am
Time is stained by fear;
Will I slide smoothly
Into a new season
Of fecundity?
Will summer sweat be mine again?
Or will I wither
From lack?
The oddest questions
Seek me out.
Really…ANYTHING
With expectation
Is suffering.
I should know by now
That emptiness
Is only
Rest
And possibility
We humans
Dress up
in
Anxiety.
Today, Riley
(my shaman barista)
Decorated my latte
With an artfully drawn frond
Of some sort.
That tiny action
Rose up to grab me
By the heart.
Can we make anything beautiful?
That little flower he drew
Affected me as such
Because it came
Suddenly
Into my anxiety-tinged emptiness
I feared
Might never end.
If the emptiness disappeared
There’d be nowhere
For the Love
To land.

I Sing

“BIRD”, 2001, 5″ x 4″ x 4″, ceramic

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I SING
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Big.
Black.
Eyes.
Watching
Me.

Ever-present oceans
Of adoration
And also
Fairly gracious
Demands:
“Get a move on, wheelchair girl!!”

Does each
And every
Tree trunk
Play
It’s own personal
Dog symphony?

In her complete silence
Emma is
A potent diplomat.
She instantly shifts all
Discontent;
Granting us a few untainted moments.

If she likes someone
She may
Grant the fortunate
A tiny tail wag
Or even a lick.
Maybe.

Never needy
Or unappreciative
Except
When I move
Away from her
In bed at night.

It is then
I hear a rustle of blanket
And slight adjustment
Until the press
Of her warm back
Meets mine again.

Emma is communion.
A wafer and wine at mass
Don’t hold a candle to her.
Everyday
I open my personally writ hymn book
And sing.
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– CA.

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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.

How I Keep Getting Up

“RENAISSANCE” naturally pigmented , 10’x3’earth, wood

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I’m talkin’ ’bout getting up in the morning and rising above the aches, weariness, thoughts of “not-good-for-much today”, undercurrent of hating the world and peeing my pants…

(Gotcha’ with that last one, eh?)

You may be aware MS is often accompanied by this symptom).

My greatest medicine is a way of looking….perceiving.

Our current outer world is uncivil, ill-mannered, divided.

It affects me so much.

I want to shrink away from it all;… MY pain.. THE pain just living our daily lives demands of each of us.

I find myself getting smaller energetically and less available to the barrage of bullets.

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SOME THINGS THAT HELP ME BE HEALTHY:

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1. Mental health is just as important as physical health and we can’t survive without it. My definition of mental health means we can easily access a reserve of energy to think new things, live moderately well in the unknown in the company of the natural anxieties arriving moment by moment. KEY word: A RESERVE of life juice. A savings account of self-love. HOW?

2. I put myself next to, behind or near people/beings of character through personal contact, video online, film, books, friends, animals.

3. I create beauty to keep myself entertained; decorating myself and my home and noticing it in others and telling them.

4. Remembering we only really have this moment after all is said and done, I cry, wipe the tears with 2-ply tissue, patch the hole in my skirt, apply lipstick and scent and roll on.

5. Depression finds my chest feeling collapsed. I remember my posture and get comfortably straight then breath into my belly. This creates instant pride in a good way.

6. Too much time alone and I get so bored with myself. Out we go- Emma and me into the wilderness of life. I go fast in my chair and sing stupid ditties into the wind.

7. Eating plants and green stuff is good but a slice of carrot cake with too much frosting is grand medicine.

8. Give something to someone. SOMETHING YOU VALUE to a stranger; a smile, even “Hello” will lift someone else but mostly you.

9. Down time with head under the covers is part of remaining healthy. Just get up before you forget the sound of youtr own voice.

10. Buy flowers. For your own precious self.

11. Remember the strongest truth there is: EVERYTHING DAMN THING CHANGES. ( NATURE points to this reality and the comfort/alarm in it). Comfort is not the goal.

12. Finding the good in the bad starts out being kindof exhausting but this is the most effective way to a thriving life I know.

I would say what keeps me on top of my game the most is subscribing to the philosophy of WABI SABI- the perfection of imperfection. Cultivating a way of looking.. .click here:

“Can You Help Me?”

“WANTON” ceramic,steel, 7x4x4

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This evening in Santa Fe is perfection in the cloud department.

I was rollin’ feeling very fine and then-

Emma adventured into a tangle of chairs and such.

Her leash got stuck in a number of places.

I carry scissors in case this too familiar scene is un-get-out-able

But I didn’t want to spend heftily for a new retractable leash

So….

ME to a benign-seeming stranger: “Can you help me?”

Now- I should know better than this because it has happened so often.

The energetic reaction I got from this person went from: “Oh my god…this wheelchair person needs something from me” and “I am late for the theater and tired of shelling out cash to the needy” as well as “WAAAYYYY too much need in the world! I can’t help EVERYONE!”

She displayed frustration, fear, impatience and displeasure.

Of course these are the stories I told myself from reading the energy evident in those nano seconds before I remembered to

TELL HER WHY I NEEDED HER HELP!!!

At which she relaxed and became my evening hero.

I wanted a cocktail when I got home..

Exhausted from the chaotic mess of an evening.

I am in my chair so things are not physically demanding but the psychological navigating that needs to take place sometimes leaves me breathless. My job is really to educate people about how best to be with me; attempting to foster a positive and fairly natural connection with a marginalized part of the population.

I like doing this but today I needed a good kvetch. It is often challenging to take care of myself AND those around me too.

Be Quiet

detail of sculpture,ceramic,wire,wood

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I have been somehow drawn to a Native American woman selling jewelry on the plaza.

She is perhaps in her 80’s, sits alone on a store’s stoop a full block away from the Palace of the Governors portal

Under which sit close to 100 Indians who have driven from far-away teensy-tiny towns 

To participate in the daily lottery which decides who can stay to sell work.  All others turn around and make the long trip home and try again another day.

It is an extremely lucrative affair as there are many regulations ensuring buyers are purchasing authentic Native American work

Not produced in China.

The old woman sitting alone captivates me for a number of reasons;  her fortitude-showing up EVERY day no matter the weather.

I began waving to her a few months ago as I passed across the street.

Sometimes she’d acknowledge me..sometimes not.

One day I saw her in Starbucks at the table next to me.

Cathy: “Hello.  There is something about you that feels special and I always enjoy seeing you as I pass by. My name is Cathy”

Lady:  “I’m Rose.  I started the whole program for Indians to sell their work under the portal but it got too political and so I left.”

Cathy:  Incredulous, I wait for her next words..

Lady:  “You know…you don’t have to wave at me every time I see you.  You can just notice I am here and OK and I can do the same.  You don’t have to wave.”

My experience with Native Americans is that their tolerance for my anglo TRYING TO CONNECT feels like wasted energy and fairly base.  Turns them off.

Following this exchange the lady and I barely connect at all; barely looking at one another and definitely no off-putting gesticulating.

To me, it feels lonely and not satisfying.

And yet…with time I am settling into the quiet recognition she is trying to teach me.

I am learning to contain my white-girl overtness and feel the sacred beneath.

I am letting myself be taught.

Georgia and Me

inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s “BLACK DOOR” series, ceramic,earth,bone, 30x30x4″

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I attended a lecture this morning hosted by THE GEORGIA O’KEEFFE MUSEUM by a woman who served Miss O’keeffe as librarian, housekeeper, companion and eventually caregiver as she became blind.

To hear her tell it, O’Keeffe was quite the toughie; prone to acerbic delivery in conversation and the non-mincing of words.  She was a challenging broad, shall we say.

We most often hear of Georgia in her prime , modeling unfettered independence sans family and expected norms of behavior

As she gifted the world with her way of seeing; lifting and shoving us all off the comfort of our familiar.

During the lecture I became self-reflective listening to this woman’s stories of Georgia aging often without grace;   frustration, bitterness uncontained, not so friendly or even less welcoming than her healthier days.

Access to grace is very hard won in the company of pain, fatigue, dissolution of body, mess and overload of general living stuff.

These things I am beginning to know.

Used to be that even when I was overly tired or weak I could always pull up grace enough to ensure my intimates worry about me was eased and a conversation could be had without the back round screech on the blackboard I could hear in their minds, concerned for my welfare.

Sometimes I sit here and Grace is cruising around town in her cherry red restored convertible Thunderbird with the top down miles from me.

I know not when she’ll return.

She never follows my orders.

This is when things get a bit lonely as I have very few I trust to visit myself upon when overtaken by our inevitable corporal dissolution.

I pull the covers over my head.

You think you’ll not be touched, I know.

It is a surprise how primal and naturally gritty and inconvenient just below the surface of normal we are.

The greatest gift those who love me can offer is   S…P…A….C…E…

With no judgement.

And the knowing that all we each can count on is change.

I might be nicer tomorrow.

Or not.

Or I might be.

And that would be nice.

For everybody.

My comportment is now quite unreliable.

It is what it is.

If you see me without a painted lip you’ll know to perhaps steer clear.

If I hadn’t the juju to pause and apply…I likely don’t have it for you.

Tears of a Bouncer

ceramic,5×3″

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Richey Rich sits on his old swivel barstool outside the only biker bar in Santa Fe.

It is smack in the middle of downtown having been at the same location for eons.

It it a little scary as the front plays host to the heavy metal of restored Harley Davidsons parked impeccably at measured distance from one another.

Such a show of intent mixed with low-hung choppers and such can serve to accelerate ones “roll by.”

But yesterday, as I was readying myself to hold my breath attempting to avoid the damp beer smell mixed with old sick

Richey Rich asked to pet my dog.

He wore many big silver skull rings and chains and a leather vest with vet insignias and various flags.

Eyes clear, he reached tenderly for Emma.

“My mother passed away not long ago and she left me a yellow legal paper with (pause to wipe his tears)

Forty two things she wanted me to do for her after her death (METALLICA playing in the bar).”

“What were some of them?” I ask.

He pulls out his phone to show me his two tiny dogs.

“This one (more tears) has dementia and the other passed two months ago.”

“Sorry I’m taking your time like this. ”

A giant of a man walks out of the bar, guns his bike and roars away with a wave from Richey.

“No..I really want to hear your story” I say.

“She asked me to take care of her dogs.”

“She told me to be sure to cut and care for her roses.  ALL of them and they go all the way around the house!”

“My uncles, all 4 of them and my Granddad are war heros.  I’m her only child so I got the list.” (tears)

“You have a good heart” I say.

“Mom said if you have a good heart you collect others who do.”

I reached with my good hand for his big paw.

“Bye, Richey…see you soon and thank you. You made my day better.”

“Bye Bye sister.”

This is my kind of church.

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.

 

 

Easter Redux

TREE OF LIFE, ceramic, 26x4x4″

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I wrote this 2 Easters past but liked it enough to offer it again:

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I just returned from a midnight roll with Emma; full moon.. me dressed in gratitude to the dark (meaning: just socks but no shoes, hair all sticky-outy, shawl range-ily wrapped round my dubious outfit).

Emma doesn’t care.

I obviously don’t care either. It was the adventure of the thing.

This past Sunday all the Catholics were out on the Santa Fe plaza in high church regalia in a Palm Sunday processional.

The head man swung incense to and fro followed by the ecumenically outfitted ..followed by the general public waving palms..

Emma and I watched.

I had to go home and google Palm Sunday.

I’m really keyed into this time of year because I know something about what feels subjectively like crucifixion and the journey of return.

My urge to be free finds me looking to all religions for keys.

It seems to help me very much to bring the Jesus stories in very close as metaphors and relate intimately to his teachings.

Surely my way is only that: my way. All I ask is for you to read here with a modicum of curiosity and forgo showing me the highway too soon.

By way of Easter time, Jesus is nailed to the cross and has to just hang out there with what is.

He has lost the luxury of his own will and by default must look inward for salvation.

His suffering goes on and on and on and on.

The agony is witnessed by those at his feet.

As his consciousness dims he pretty much gives up all “Woe is me” and “Why me, GOD?”

In favor of final forgiveness and surrender into Death.

But then…

after a little rest and recuperation

He RISES!

Not just good as before but better.

You may think me sacrilege but variations of these same transitions play out in my own life and I’m pretty sure a good number of you experience them too.

MS has shattered me, crucified me, wrested my trusty will from me.

It seems foolish to lend a hierarchy to suffering; (yours isn’t nearly as gritty as mine).

Divorce annihilates who we were..loss of job or spouse or child or fortune; addiction, depression, jail time, surgery, disappointment or betrayal.

Hell..even a bad break-up leaves us bloody and wrecked.

All our cells are called to re-assemble into some alien pattern and no friggin’ instruction booklet is included.

We’ve all just gotta hang there on the cross till every damn one of our precious numbing agents, blame-games, uber scavenger hunts for relief and distractions from what IS

Are used up.

Man, this can take a loooooonnnnng time.

And we die.

Metaphorically speaking.

We die to who we thought we were even though we thought we were pretty damn great and it looked like we had all the tools we needed to cut through the pain and discomfort..

HA!

Not.

After all that foll-de-rol we go through writhing in our suffering we need a big time Siesta with a capital “S”..

Three days is really not long enough (says me..).

I really do hope Jesus had a few margaritas to chew on in that dark cave..

Of course there were the intimates there to help him do his re-entry by moving the rock because not a one of us can do this ourselves.

I repeat: NOT A ONE OF US.

Released–he rose again.

And I have too..lighter, happier, less dense, more curious.

My neck is saggier but hey..the costs of war and time…

I am pretty raw as well. Naked to the wind.

Sometimes haphazardly dressed. Sometimes Chanel.

The Shattering. The Reconciliation. The Return.

Happy Easter to every darn one of us magnificent, brave, beautiful, beautifully human, humans.

We are the miracle.

We rise.

Dirt

“PORTRAIT OF PLACE”, earth, bird wing,ceramic,thread, rock,corn husk, 22×22″

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.

 

I really like dirt.

I like the word.  It has grit as opposed to “earth” which is good too though it sounds cleaner.

Dirt is dirty.

It smells not like saccharine perfume but  the deep amber oily  droppings of birds and trees and dogs and flowers and rain and snow and sun and fog.

It lay there on the ground all winter with nary a bath; coddling grape hyacinth bulbs and crocus.

Somehow, each year as the sun stretches higher and she lets her hair down in relief

Micro temperature rises tickle the tubers

Of eager daffodils.

They climb out of the dirty dirt

In the hope of catching glinting rainbow light 

Bouncing off the sun’s clean hair.

SPRING!

Everything and everyone gets washed

New.

Our lungs relax and expand into the unarmored ease

Vaguely remembered from a year ago.

Shoulders drop into the sigh of melting stress 

We took on from lack of faith

The Sun would ever warm us again.

The dirt can be seen to move with awakening worms and insects and white roots.

Emma digs her toenails in and with noble effort

Hurls great clods of dirt

Willy nilly.

I wish I could do that.

Maybe roll like  ecstatic porcine  pinkness

In the dirtiest of dirt.

Perhaps tomorrow I will relate to it as “earth”

But today my preference is dirt.

Selling Sickness

ceramic detail

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.

If you watch any television at all you have been privy to extra lovely words describing the newest drugs on the market.

It used to be that I could not pronounce many of the drug names I saw but these days I am aware that BIG PHARMA is spending seemingly infinite bucketloads of cash dressing up drugs in psychologically addicting costuming for the masses….yes, you.

Just by altering the sound and meaning of the name of a drug they hook into our need to assuage suffering no matter what.  Sometimes we don’t even need to be suffering but we want the thing cloaked in that magical sounding promise of health.

These are the top 10 drugs advertised on TV:

  • Chantix.
  • Lyrica.
  • Eliquis.
  • Viagra.
  • Humira.
  • Latuda.
  • Xeljanz.
  • Celebrex.

According to Kantar Media, pharma industry spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising totaled $5.4 billion in 2015 compared to $4.3 billion in 2014 – a 19% increase.

So let’s take some of these new names and look at why they may have been chosen for us consumers:

LYRICA – sounds melodic..lyrical..sing a simple song and you’ll be healed!

CELEBREX!  – come join the celebration!  good times had by all!  party down all ye sick ones.

VIAGRA –  genius word hearkening to things like viable, vital, grow, green,  channel, way (root words of “via”)

ELIQUIS-  sounds pretty elegant, yes?  I feel the word “equal” in there somewhere.  Also sort of sounds like “equus-(horse..wild, untamed, vitality)”

CHANTIX-  chanting is a spiritual and/or religious activity to lift our beingness to higher heights and often elicits a pleasant trance-like state.  Yummy.  AND they put a “tix” (ticket) on the end to boot!  Gimmee, gimmee… I want that.  I will tell my doctor this drug is the one I want!

Ok..You get the picture.

My mother died of bladder cancer as well as emphysema in her mid- 70s.  She was a lonely woman in my experience and I believe she used her illness and many doctor visits as  a comforting social life.  Old age does this to us.  Too hard to make new friends, little energy to care for  the relationships we have but DAMN!  Going to the doctor we get to have one-on-one attentive conversations that feel intimate.  We are half-dressed and vulnerable.  We get to be touched physically, feel heard and seen and sent home with possibility of more goodness if we are fortunate.  Attention arrives with illness; whether wanted or not-attention is attention after all.  

Sickness itself has become medicine. 

A mini-antidote for this seems to be choosing to give a little bit of yourself to someone else from a truly authentic place;  to a stranger: “Wow, you look great!”   Someone I’d never met said to me yesterday: “I always see you with your dog.  She looks happy.  Thanks for taking such good care of her” (this from an Hispanic grounds keeper downtown).

“I love seeing a man in a suit” (me to handsome sartorialist).

or really…just a fairly robust “Good Morning” lets a person know in their bones they are NOT invisible.

This is very good medicine in my book.

Down Low

 

ceramic,5x4x1/2″

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.

I recently celebrated my birthday at a favorite restaurant with two girlfriends.

We were able to go pretty hog wild for a Sunday brunch (meaning the three of us each ordered the petit filet + wine+ apps!).

Now, please understand that the extravagance we three enjoyed was made possible by a dear friend who pretty much represents the new paradigm-of-man; having gifted me generously enough to cover such a meal X three.

He gave me the cash and said my gift was to invite my friends to dine with me and not worry about ordering things that were too expensive as would be our usual “I want that but I’m not going to get it because it’s just TOO MUCH) .

He gave this gift without the desire to be there himself but because he knew how very much pleasure we girls would get.

I mean really….who does that sort of thing???

I was so thrilled to be at that table eating steak and laughing..soaking in the pleasure of “no worry”.

At the end of our meal I needed to use the restroom and said: “If I’m not back in 15 minutes please come check on me” .  I was unsure the handicap restroom was equipped with a toilet high enough that I could comfortably lift myself to transfer out of and back into to my chair.

The seat was just too low and I sat there on the toilet girding my loins anticipating my girlfriend needing to come in to help me.

“Cath?  Are you ok? ” she says outside the purposefully unlocked restroom door.

“I need your help” I say.

This needing help off the toilet is a new piece of the disability landscape I am unfamiliar with.

My inner circle has not experienced me in this awkwardness until this point so we’re all in unknown territory.

I weigh about 135 and it became evident that my beautiful and quite slight friend was not going to be able to lift me.

I took a breath and asked her to go find the owner (who I know and love).

He came into the restroom and I showed him how to put his hands under my armpit and lift.

Up I came as my long coat dropped into the toilet behind me.

All three of us in the restroom were pretty cool and contained.  No drama. No one freaked.  We all just played our unrehearsed parts in this new play.

Alone again back in my chair I washed up and gathered myself a bit before rolling back to my birthday celebration.

I cried feeling this new level of vulnerability.

My friends let me weep a bit without trying to fix me.

I picked up my wineglass and we toasted to the gritty adventure of Life made so sweet cushioned in Love.

Bobby (owner) brought our table a giant dessert of flan, cake, ice cream and cookies.  Standing behind me with his hands on my shoulders I blew out the candle with a wish.

I wished on that candle for God to shower everything good down on all those I love for supporting me in ways that help a girl in quite vulnerable states to go through them only to re-enter the world with a heart so blasted open in gratitude that she feels the great gift of communion in not suffering alone.

I am not alone.

And neither are you.

Suffer.

Ask for help.

Receive help.

Let out the seams of your heart.

Shared vulnerability is the great seam-ripper of the heart.

It is a very good thing.

Questions

detail of “MATCHES”- wooden matches,earth

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The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire.  This list of questions appears on the last page of Vanity Fair magazine.  Most people they interview answer with sarcasm because sometimes it is hard to know and actually say the Truth as we know it.   Very informative to do this, I found…try it?

__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The moments I have disengaged from the density and suffering of body-centric awareness into a sense of oneness.. with Emma warm on my lap.

__2.__What is your greatest fear?

Being a burden to those I love.

__3.__What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

Laziness in using my God given gifts.

__4.__What is the trait you most deplore in others?

Disrespect for those in service industries.

__5.__Which living person do you most admire?

My sister, Jennifer at the moment.

__6.__What is your greatest extravagance?

Coffee

__7.__What is your current state of mind?

Humbled and curious with a bit of fear

__8.__What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

False modesty

__9.__On what occasion do you lie?

Most often when I say I’m fine and I’m not.

__10.__What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I like how I look these days except my neck has become wobbly.

__11.__Which living person do you most despise?

DT but I try to remember all of this ugliness is for a purpose.

__12.__What is the quality you most like in a man?

The sense he owns the piece of ground he walks on

__13.__What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Irreverence combined with a healthy, self-examined and solid sense of Self.

__14.__Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Isn’t it interesting that….?”

__15.__What or who is the greatest love of your life?

Emma and Livvy.  Dogs.

__16.__When and where were you happiest?

Curiously..I would have to say now.

__17.__Which talent would you most like to have?

Comfort trying to speak other languages.

__18.__If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d like to walk.  To have a carefree sense again of my physical existence would be good.

__19.__What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Negotiating the landscape of chronic illness with some Grace and resilience.  

__20.__If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Competitive ballroom dancer.

__21.__Where would you most like to live?

Thankfully, I live in the most perfect place for me.  Santa Fe is one of my greatest blessings.

__22.__What is your most treasured possession?

Emma is not a possession yet I value her company and what she teaches me highly.

__23.__What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Forgetting that everything changes.  Losing my thread to God.

__24.__What is your favorite occupation?

Watching my awareness.

__25.__What is your most marked characteristic?

I really like to smile and connect with people.

__26.__What do you most value in your friends?

The gift they give me of space when I need it.  They seem to do this without judging me.  Even if they do they refrain from telling me.

__27.__Who are your favorite writers?

Mary Oliver, Joseph Campbell, Mary Farr, Anne Lamott

__29.__Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Buddha

__30.__Who are your heroes in real life?

Maya Angelou, all of us who fall down and keep getting up, dusting off and re-applying lipstick.

__31.__What are your favorite names?

I have always disliked my name as it says nothing about me.  I pay attention to people who have a seamless match between the sound and meaning of their name.

__32.__What is it that you most dislike?

Narcissism 

__33.__What is your greatest regret?

I really have just one regret.  I worked with a young woman years ago at a group home for teens recovering from abusive situations.  We connected so deeply and after the months of teaching were over I did not stay connected to her.

__34.__How would you like to die?

With consciousness enough not to miss it.

 

 

I Feel Good

possibility

 

 

It feels so good to feel so good!

There’s so damn much to feel bad about.

So very much that it almost feels a little odd to say how good I feel.

The religion of complaint is fat and overfed.

Things are so bad that the idea the theater of life is on track elicits steely, sideways glances.

But I feel good.

Yesterday, I sat with three other women-of-substance and our conversation was fun, fascinating, inspiring.  Three of us were dealing with MS.  Sort of a no-brainer to think the vibe could have fallen pretty low.

I made the most amazing Paleo granola and ate too much.

My body feels thriving this morning because I needed the fat it seems.

I feel good when I could have felt very bad.

I danced in my wheelchair to a CD a friend made.

Emma slowly blinks her shiny  black eyes as we love one another.

My needs are met.

The snow has melted.

There are indeed conscious people afoot in places that matter and I am one and you are one

And we matter.

The act of disallowing the the easy drop to the familiar negativity swirling ’round us all each and every day

For a million different reasons, often making perfect sense

Is a revolutionary act.

Life lived on the razors’ edge is a warriors life;  sensing when to fight the fight or to surrender to what is takes Olympian hyper-vigilance which makes one weary at best.

Courting the almost unbearable presence it demands to ride that edge with courage, style, humor, intelligence and fortitude is the work of Samurai;

Never recognizable by a nametag but by our nameless acts of resistance to the lure of riding with the common denominator of the dark.

Tides

visitation

detail of installation,ceramic,earth

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I visited with a good friend this morning I hadn’t seen in many months.

She was severely kicked in the knee by a horse and has been recuperating.

The two of us are deeply connected spiritually and with that knowledge allow one another scads of ‘room’ to withdraw, pull the invisible cloak and return as we always do in our own time that often does not match the cultural expectation of what passes for ‘normal.’

Today we sat.

Sharing the vulnerabilities common to those of us ‘gifted’ with the challenges of broken bodies

And the excruciating exhaustion needed to re-calibrate into a new normal.

Neither of us spoke of the weariness as a fixed condition;

More a room at a school we’d rather not attend but knowing that in order to be ok we’d have to make new friends, bear the isolation of beginners mind, figure out what’s safe and not, who’s safe..and not

Learn to use the tools unknown to us, ask the questions we didn’t know we had…

And keep asking.

I said: “I feel strange as I have one foot in this world and one in another in which my personality and identity are not the grail I thought they were.”

She said: “Cathy..your purpose now is to just BE..Roll around town and write and let others experience you just as you are; vulnerable and not…putting one foot in front of the other as best you can.  It is enough.”

After she left, bravely hobbling with her crutch, I dropped my head and closed my eyes in gratitude for the room my friend gives me because she knows about and trusts the wisdom of the tidal qualities of every darn thing; health, politics, happiness, pain, friendship, memory, curiosity, belief etc…

Emma shared her warmth on my belly as I stroked her newly groomed whiteness.

She sighed a deep sigh.

This is enough.

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