Watching

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In the heat of the day I rolled to the plaza.

My ice collar was concealed beneath a gauzy white scarf and my wide-brim panama hat gave me portable shade.

I parked beneath a venerable tree with the distinct voice of nonchalance

And surreptitiously watched lovers take selfies.

Peppered amidst the masses were other watchers; heads barely swiveling, secret smiles, seemingly static.

A dirty man played his guitar with all his attention on the playing and none directed toward his open case before him.

I dropped change there to acknowledge his focus.

He never looked up.

I loved that..

Smooth-skinned children chased pigeons flashing for a mate.

The man who dresses up like a real mountain man in leather, furs, beard and raggedy hat

Was still in his regular seat even with this heat

Waiting to have his photo taken

For a price.

All the watchers were smiling secretly still

When I felt my ice collar had melted to my own body heat

And I knew I must go home hurriedly

So as not to succumb

To the savage heat of the day.

I rolled

Rather out of control

Past grumpy fathers

Imagining a different Father’s Day.

Smiling still, I enjoyed the movie.

Giving Voice

my sister

I came across THIS recently.

Seeing this girl brought up so many feelings.

If she were a boy the sounds and moves she makes would never provoke the judges to widen their eyes in abject awe.

I feel my own inertia acutely after witnessing her;

Decades of whittling my voice into a pleasure tool rather than a leather n’ lace biker chick or tractor driver or country western singer or championship ballroom dancer or flower shop owner or marine biologist or long-distance trucker or riverboat captain or desert wanderer (each of these voices and many more, known and not, are in me somewhere).

How smart of me to have chosen to settle into an artist’s life.

There has been room for all my voices in the privacy of my studio..alone with all my “friends.”

The women in my life ARE warriors.

I AM a warrior.

We are so graceful in wielding our swords most of the time

Which is the very thing that gets us in trouble.

We make ourselves smaller in the service of “wave-smoothing”

And because of that we don’t get to go on the full ride.

I am going into my bedroom to make that sound this tiny girl makes at the end of the video.

I will make that face she makes too.

(buffering this, of course, into a pillow and behind closed doors).

The Art of Giving

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I saw a young woman on the street.

She sat there on the ground outside Starbucks with a sign: HOMELESS. ANYTHING HELPS.

There are so many scammers around these days that my first instinct was to dismiss her.

I at least said hello, reached around her to buy a paper from the box and asked if she was warm enough.

We actually had a great conversation.

She told me about these cool hand warmers she had that were hidden in her pockets. “Yes.” she said. She was ok.

I went in, ordered my drink and thought I’d get her one too but then thought better of it.

I cruised over to my table and looked at people, read the paper and settled into musing.

There she was.. out there beyond the window. I could still see her. I watched for a disingenuous look of fakery. But it wasn’t there.

She looked cold but resigned. Almost at peace but with the stain of humiliation.

Is she an impostor?

Does she REALLY need?

I stopped my mind for a moment and felt into my heart.

My initial urge was to help her.

I decided to go with that.

I rolled out and stopped in front of her saying: “I was going to get you something to eat but decided you’d probably like cash instead.”

She smiled and bestowed a blessing and I left.

I felt light.

Genuine.

Right in myself.

I realized it didn’t matter if she was an impostor because I had followed my true inner prompting which came from compassion and not from guilt.

The gift was for me.

Not so much for her.

I rolled on….

Resilience

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I’m quite sure posts such as my last one cause concern for those that love and care for me.

The point of sharing such tender stories with you all is twofold; I get to get it out of my head and therefore become more the witness of the thing which often takes a good deal of sting out of it.

I also am well aware that if I am experiencing something I am likely not the only one and seeing a topic like futility written about as I did can perhaps help others recognize the rightness of IT ALL.

Even when it feels all wrong.

I am fascinated by resilience; THE GREAT URGE to see, note and carry on.

How does this happen for some and not others?

What keeps me curious about life?

The theater of it all…

How could it be possible that 24 hours ago my bright spirit was dulled, weary and bereft of comfort

And today I sat with a great friend and shared a gorgeous and civilized lunch with inspired and acutely present conversation, honesty, humor and true fulfillment of my hedonistic self?

I left the restaurant and felt buoyed by our mutual recognition of one another. There were places made for sharing our fuck-ups but the space we always hold for one another is for our best and brightest selves lest we forget which we often do.

The thing is as I see it: futility creeps in…then leaves…then some other feeling happens and we can label it good or bad but the deal is that EVERYTHING CHANGES !

The scary thing is that when we are in it..it seems WE ARE IT!… and it feels permanent.

The realest thing to me these days is my very life force which seems to be the stage where all this sometimes ugly, sometimes glorious stuff happens.

I’m falling in love with sweeping the old, old wooden planks of that stage and appreciating the depth of patina.

Beyond Comfort

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Waking this morning I looked at my basket of supplements neatly concealed by a white linen cover laid atop the too many bottles in a Shabby Chic kind of way.

OMG.

Can I actually open my mouth one more time and throw down my gullet all these supportive measures supposedly keeping me functional?

Then there’s the insidious creeping of neurological dysfunction into my left side which has been my “good” side

And this scares me.

My butt has met my wheelchair seat too long now and has lost that lovely fleshy insulation I used to hate.

How times change; I want my butt back, Goddammit!

What is left of me after all the “I don’t want to’s” and questions like: “Where is the old, lighter, funner, muscular, spontaneous adventurer, bigger-bottomed Cath?”

With the going there is a coming…

The thing arriving I might describe as more of a transparent presence.

There is a girl in here far beyond the tears shed from not making it to the bathroom in time.

She’s the one who is curious about how her shadow-side has informed her life. The woman who rises to clear her tears and change her pants and re-apply lipstick before re-entering the world a bit more humble and lighter for having laid down some of the pretense of being so together so much of the time.

I rise.

Antidote

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I watched the Academy Awards last night.

It is for me what they call a “hate watch” these days.

I hate that I want to watch it but I do it anyway.

FASHION! VACUITY! UNCIVILIZED BEHAVIOR!

I think I watch it from the artist’s standpoint

But really.. I am just your average voyeur.

Judging mercilessly is condoned on this eve and who would say no to that opportunity?

Certainly not moi.

In the midst of witnessing rabid and open-mouthed gum chewing by nominees

There were moments in which intelligence and heart pierced through the fog of our selfie-driven culture rave.

I wake the next morning with a hangover from partaking in this event.

The stillness I felt seeing the glorious beading on that green sheath she wore so elegantly

Wasn’t enough to buffer all the heat-seeking energy of my fellow humans (and let’s not forget my own….).

I found this as an antidote.

Making My Bed

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I took myself out for lunch the other day.

Rolled to a fave place with my notebook in hand.

Needed to be IN humanity but not OF it.

Ordered a glass of wine mid-day. Never really do this but I needed to get fuzzy.

The world felt too taut.

My lunch arrived and I had a question on my mind: WHAT IS MISSING IN MY LIFE?

In my artist days I’d sit in cafes and somehow, the atmosphere of being surrounded by people helped me float down into less of a “thinking” mode and interesting directions would make themselves available.

On this day I made a list of things I felt were missing in my life. There were 8.

They came fast and urgently. Unbidden really. Just right there.

The last one made me hold my breath:

#8- Forgive my ex-husband.

Now..I have been working hard on forgiveness in the past few years but I didn’t even look in this direction.

He pissed me off for so many reasons..

Evidence of his horribleness was everywhere when I looked.

Gathering evidence and making a case FEELS SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OMG…It feels so damn good.

How can I forgive a manipulation like pulling out a pre-nup the night before we wed??? I mean, RIGHT?.

Oh yes, my friends…I was very, very right.

The thing is that I married him with my eyes closed. Now, I’m no dummy. I closed them because he represented security, cache in how my family saw me and how I saw myself as he was president of a publishing company, had all the “stuff” of a pretty life, handsome, we traveled (as much as we could in the 6 months we were together before he asked me to marry him).

I remember the numbing mind-fuck I did to myself as he asked for my hand.

Pathetic unconsciousness stemming from a lifetime of self doubt about my own worthiness;

“You want to marry me? WELL- SURE!!! Someone WANTS ME THIS MUCH!!! Nice ring, BTW..”

And there I was- entering into 4 years of “serve- your- man”…

Not one thing about the failure of our marriage was about HIM. NOT ONE THING.

He was actually a good and generous man.

I must forgive myself for needing what looked like love so desperately.

And I do.

A very, very different kind of “I DO.”

Mercy Me

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Years ago when I set out to do this blog my promise to myself was to tell the truth without editing.

Of course, some things I choose to keep private but for the most part I have allowed you to see me in some pretty vulnerable places.

This is a service to me to have a chance to witness myself outside the ornate costuming my brain cloaks “me” in.

What I share with you here is a gift to you as well; I am quite aware if something has got my attention I am likely not the only one on the planet interested or affected by such.

Letting my supposed “ugliness” see the light is having a profound effect on me.

The core of me is pure goodness. It is for each one of us.

And then the messiness comes to light and if you are like me a judgement comes that we are BAD.

Most of my life spent as a “nice girl” got me this: lots and lots of people who thought I was really great! It was divine! I belonged. I was sought after.

I AM a nice person.

But I am also flawed, broken, in-process, becoming.

These days I so love and appreciate those very qualities in me.

Yeah- I am embarrassed when I let you see them; when they are freed from their mighty cages.

But THIS IS ME! IN LIVING COLOR! THE WHOLE BOX OF CRAYONS!

Would the box be better without the muddy brown or grey or sickening green?

Three Guys

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The following story is a testament to one of the very best things that happened to me all year:

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THREE GUYS

My formative years were spent sliding kamikaze-style back and forth between a happy little stoner gaze out beyond the utter comfort of the company I kept within my male dominated clique and the utter despair of trying to be ok in a fledgling teenage body. There was some very serious weaponry I carried which protected me from harm. I carry it still. I had three guys traveling with me down those winding and gritty roads called youth.

I will turn 60 years old this year. I feel really good, actually. Though my musculature continues to wither under the hungry reign of MS, I’ve got the luxury of all the time in the world to do the hard work of letting go of what no longer serves me and tending that which does. Sometimes it seems I live a narrow life but really, inside me is a swarm of very busy revelations, inspirations and realizations. Enter: THE THREE GUYS.

One was my first love to whom I gifted my virginity and would do it again given the chance. He was deserving on every level. Then there was my second love who saw and shared my fledgling artistic soul; we “got” each other so deeply and skipped around light in the feet for years as I recall. The third was a man who was so fond of the shadows that I could have missed him entirely. But I didn’t. I saw him and longed to love him but I don’t think I was cool enough back then.

This year, 40 years post high school graduation with close to zero communication taking place between us in the interim, something of a miracle took place that proved our connection still very much alive. These guys came up with the idea of a visit, scheduled the time off from their busy doctoring lives, bought a ticket, packed, got on the plane, rented a car and drove to my home, knocked on my door and I opened it to find I was and still am in love with those guys.

I knew it in a second. They walked in with gifts of fine wine and each of us (I could tell) were functioning pretty well like civilized friends greeting one another but under the pseudo-decorum was: “WHAT THE FUCK! THIS FEELS LIKE NO TIME HAS PASSED! WHAT PLANET AM I ON THAT THIS COULD BE POSSIBLE?”

They walked beside my wheelchair with nary any weirdness as we took on the town. We put on our old easiness like a favorite sweater and laughed over photos of nascent teenagers displaying the pain and pleasure of growing up. They wined and dined me, were watchful should my energy lag and happy to continue their evenings adventuring without me. I felt utterly safe, loved, supported, seen and suspended in the intoxicating cocktail that is us.

When the time came for them to leave me we parted on a Santa Fe street corner. I switched direction and wheeled away from them. After a couple seconds I turned back unable to look away. I sat there in my wheelchair as folks made their way past the obstacle that was me. Those guys of mine…

In Praise of Soft Skin

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In my lifetime as a painter, sculptor and textile designer I learned how to trust what I call “the gathering time.”

For so many years I freaked out if I was not feeling the urge to create.

We creatives are often counseled to “JUST PAINT!” “WRITE EVERY DAY!!”

And I know this is probably such a great idea.

But I never did my life that way.

I gather. I muse. I watch. I listen. I touch. I converse with myself out loud

And when I find myself interesting enough…I act.

This leaves swaths of emptiness and I worry about that; I’m disappointing my readers..I am a dry desert bed and I FREAKIN’ HAVE NOTHING TO SAY!

One of the great take-aways of a non-out-in-the-world-work-life

Is keeping my skin soft.

By that I mean the antithesis of “TOUGHENING UP” or “Cath..you gotta get a thicker skin on ya.”

A soft skin allows me to be moved.

If I keep my skin porous I can feel life, myself, others and have a chance at responding authentically whatever that might be; pretty or ugly.

When I gather (if I’m not worrying about whether I’m performing well enough to be considered a valuable citizen of the world)

Something intriguing slips in and starts laying down bread crumbs for me to follow.

And I got the time to do just that

So I follow those crumbs and eat some along the way and there comes a time when I’m full

And then I WRITE!

So won’t you forgive my dry spells?

Most times there is no need for worry.

I think this part of me is irritating and perhaps irresponsible.

I have the supreme luxury of responding to those bread crumbs when they appear and sometimes they just don’t

And we all go hungry.

Fabric

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Following my recent visit with two old friends from high school I had not seen in 40 years

And being left rather breathless in their wake

Because we just literally picked up where we left off..

It all has had me thinking…as I am wont to do.

I received my B.F.A in textile design in 1980. I wove, printed and dyed my way through late nights of toxic fumes and inky messes rendered unnoticeable because I was IN LOVE with the process.

Really, I am no different today as I insist on delving deep into whatever depth calls me.

I just know how to take better care of myself within the fervor.

Back to my buddies..

What was it, I asked my self, that allowed us to be absent from one another for so long only to pick it up where we left off?

Was it the neural connections made; strong and true, that when re-visited woke up, time be damned with just the merest tickle?

During our time apart I wove and dyed and printed myriad yards of my own fabric with unique threads, original technique and nameless colors, proceeding to weave them into my own tapestry.

Mine.

Original.

Then these guys arrived back into my life and attached themselves to the thread dropped 40 years ago, injected Life back in and the thread gets a chance to live in my tapestry..not just live… but LIVE!

Why do these relationships have the ‘A’ to my ‘B’?

And others don’t?

It makes me think about healing and the propensity for those in our lives who care for us to offer up solutions to our illness and possibilities of cure.

All so seductive as in the newly electric chance meeting of two humans.

Substance…. no- SUBSTANCE..gravitas..inter-cellular re-arrangement toward our original Self

Is Grace visiting us.

The opposite of an engineered life.

I just love that I have the consciousness now to recognize it for what it is.

The Turn

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“TURN SOFT AND LOVELY ANYTIME YOU HAVE THE CHANCE,”

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– Jenny Holzer, artist

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Out of the Mouth of a Babe

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Some things that are broken need fixing.

Some things don’t.

I think we are all attuned to the antiquated cultural systems we live within; political, economic, religious, the ways we eat and educate etc.

That need to fall, morph.

Stuff’s not workin’ and it makes one numb because really- how much can just one person do?

I came across this article in the NYT by a youngster named Peter Thiel.

Here’s a snippet:

Even for a self-made billionaire, Peter Thiel has strong opinions.

Having founded a conservative/libertarian newspaper while a Stanford undergraduate, he earned a law degree from that school, and then quit his career to co-found PayPal, a payments company that set out to undermine government-issued currency. When that didn’t pan out, he sold PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

He also co-founded Palantir, a data analysis company that struggled for years and is now valued at more than $9 billion. He was one of the earliest outside investors in Facebook, and now manages a global hedge fund and a venture capital fund.

Mr. Thiel spends much of his time agitating to change how we educate people and create economic and technological growth. In his book “Zero to One,” written with Blake Masters, Mr. Thiel argues that society has become too rule-oriented, and people need to devise ways to think differently, and find like-minded individuals to realize goals. That, he says, is how you move things to novel discoveries and markets. This recent conversation has been condensed and edited.
Q.

What is one idea you’d like people to get from your book?
A.

We’ve built a country in which people are tracked, from kindergarten to graduate school, and everyone who is “successful” acts the same way. That is overrated. It distorts things and hurts growth.
Q.

What’s wrong with it?
A.

There is a strange phenomenon in Silicon Valley: Many founders seem to have some kind of Asperger’s, are bad at understanding social cues. What does it say about our society when they are the innovators, and normal people basically learn to conform?

If you are a banker or a lawyer, someone in one of the elite, high-paying professions, creativity and growth are typically something that happens someplace else. That was supposed to be enough. It completely blew up in 2008.

I, myself am an incurable optimist and proud of it.

My experience has been that absolutely nothing seems to change until we feel what isn’t working so personally and searingly hot and close that we lust for a shift toward Life.

This happened and is happening with my health challenges; The person I was now wasn’t

And I had to make myself anew.

Thank God because this version of me is far superior to the past girl.

I feel excited that the world is a fucking mess. Anything less would have us living in the same fetid milk-toast atmosphere for eons.

I hear and feel people finding their passions, myself included.

I am lifting my glass to the shattering! The ugly mess of it all.

Because I’m here to tell you that ain’t the end of the story………..

Do It Till You Do It

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I’m da MAN! Ya!… click here

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Ready

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“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There’s almost no such thing as ready. There’s only now. And you may as well do it now. ”

-Hugh Laurie – actor

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I had lunch yesterday with a friend I had not seen in over 10 years. She is in partnership with MS too.

She is a shining, radiant gorgeous being in every way.

I watched her struggling with a cane for balance and it literally hurt my heart.

This brought back memories for me of pre-walker and pre-wheelchair days.

My identity as a walking woman was carved in stone and nobody was gonna tell me different.

Adding more hardware to my accessories list was not an option in my mind. “HOSPITAL” equipment is SO ugly…just searingly ugly.

And besides that I would cross the line into “THOSE SICK PEOPLE” instead of being one and trying to pass for something else.

In my experience, perhaps the hardest obstacle needing to be met in the disability world is melting the identities we cherish and reforming ourselves into someone else entirely.

When a therapist told me years ago as I was entering ‘walker-land’ and having major issues about it: “Cathy, do you deserve support?”

Well- pathetically, I had to think about it for a moment but my answer arose as a quiet “YES.”

That “YES” has become louder and more ready over time as I see all this hardware/therapy etc.. making my life so much less stressful.

And so it goes- as new and unfamiliar obstacles arrive for me to deal with I go back to that question I was once asked and try to soften into the next little death of ‘the Cathy-that-was” and try to be fascinated by ‘the Cathy -that-is.’

Groove

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get your groove on.. click here

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Dinner Party

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hand-painted silk jersey from men’s/women’s collection, 1987
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Occasionally, I give myself the gift of crafting an imaginary dinner party.

There are no rules so I can invite any 8 people I choose, living or not.

Who’s on my list tells me a lot about what is important to me in the moment and so interesting how the tone of this list changes over time.

For this years’ soiree I am inviting:

1. Maya Angelou (wise, wise, shining soul)
2. Tippi (French girl brought up amidst wild animals in Africa)
3. Lewis and Clark (explorers)
4. my Dad
5. Mooji (self-realized being whose wisdom is a constant go-to for me)
6. Matisse (admired artist)
7. Nora Ephron (biting honesty that makes me laugh out loud)

We all retire to a circular table set with silvery things, good linens, comfy chairs and intimate lighting, good wine….

What do I wish/think they would say to me?

Maya: “You are a star and there is only one of you. Give your gift! Give it again.. and again.. and again. And see what happens.”

Tippi: “If you get real quiet and let go into that pure and empty/full/perfect place, any sentient being will be available to commune with.”

Lewis and Clark: “DON’T GIVE UP BEFORE THE MIRACLE!”

My Dad: I loved you and I am sorry I brought confusion and pain into your precious life. Don’t forget I love you.”

Mooji: “Don’t be scared to let go of everything you think you know. You are never alone.”

Matisse: “No one can ever, ever take away your creativity. This is your safe place and will save you over and over again.”

Nora Ephron: “Shake it up, girlfriend! Be bad, and good and depressed and fun and snotty and fierce and silly and intense…REALLY INTENSE so no one misses the fact of you.

Whatever The Hell Happens

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“Nietzsche was the one who did the job for me. At a certain moment in his life,the idea came to him of what he called ‘the love of your fate.’ Whatever your fate is, whatever the hell happens, you say, ‘This is what I need.’ It may look like a wreck, but go at it as though it were an opportunity, a challenge. If you bring love to that moment—not discouragement—you will find the strength is there. Any disaster you can survive is an improvement in your character, your stature, and your life. What a privilege! This is when the spontaneity of your own nature will have a chance to flow.

“Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now. You’ll see that this is really true. Nothing can happen to you that is not positive. Even though it looks and feels at the moment like a negative crisis, it is not. The crisis throws you back, and when you are required to exhibit strength, it comes.”

Joseph Campbell, A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

A Good Thing

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Terry Wahls, MD has just published her long awaited book: THE WAHLS PROTOCOL.

She deals with PPMS as I do and was restricted to a wheelchair only to have healed herself to the point of an astounding level of athleticism through diet, primarily.

This book is the smartest and most comprehensive tome dedicated to healing ANY autoimmune illness I have ever read.

She concludes that inflammation is really the cause of most disease and her book is about how to feed yourself to allow recovery; in her case from what was essentially a death sentence.

Of course other vital elements are necessary to support healing like stress reduction, exercise and some supplementation but her main focus is on food and I believe her.

A diagnosis of PPMS leaves one to become their own best advocate as the western medicine model has little if anything to offer us unlike the relapsing-remitting MS folks to which all meds. are targeted.

If I eat sugar I can not hold my own weight at all.

24 hours later the effects of the sugar will have passed through my system and I am back to myself again so for me, I need no further proof diet is essential to my functioning.

Self-deprecation vs. Aspiration

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Maya Angelou has written that she disallows the practice of belittling others in her home. She asks those who cannot speak from a positive place regarding another to leave immediately.

I might take that further and say we haven’t the time for false humility concerning our own own gifts.

I’ve noticed myself beginning to cringe at my own or others downplay of talent, wisdom, courage, instinct, leadership, specialness AND ordinary precious humanness.

Why is excess humility valued and receipt of acknowledgement for work well done often shied away from and even abhorred?

Not good manners to let praise rest with a person. Much better to deflect.

I find I do not trust those who do not know or can not stand for what they are good at.

This has been me too often.

Far, far too often.

I was such an impostor for so long that I had literally forgotten my natural self and so there was no one of substance home to accept a compliment or turn away from the dangerous projections of others.

I still work on my skills in these realms but I have a solid core now which is my compass and helps me find North when I become lost .

As I aspire to my highest Self I enjoy those around me knowing their worth and standing in it with no apology.

When I didn’t know myself well I used to ask those in my life whose opinion I trusted things like: “What do you think my best/worst qualities are? What do you sense are my gifts? What are qualities in me you admire? Are there things I do that frustrate you or cause impatience?”

I began to learn myself and that process has never let up.

Tell me what you are good at and I will share my gifts with you as well.

One thing I do well is to reflect others back to themselves so they might get a whiff of their own beauty. I am able to do this because I had a mother who couldn’t with me and I understand how crucial it is to know how we are perceived by others.

This is an innate quality and not a learned one. I used to use it unscrupulously in order to get people to like me.

Now it functions more like an elevating energetic tool; people begin to shine brighter as they remember who they really are.

It is then that the alchemy truly can begin.

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