Category Archives: MY TENDER HUMAN JOURNEY

(vulnerable sharings on my very human journey)

on creativity, intuition and making time

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“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.

I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”

I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.

“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”

This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”

I told her that there were courses she could take online, and sent her a link to Flora Bowley’s website, even offered to lend her Flora’s “Brave Intuitive Painting” book.

Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.

I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.

Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.

I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.

A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.

I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.

Not the art, though.

When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.

It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.

The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.

“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”

On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:

“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”

I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.

While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.

I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.

If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.

I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.

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on scars and the transience of memory

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I’m reading PAX this morning. I was laying on our adopted brown couch, on its chaise lounge protrusion, reading with my feet tucked into the cat’s underbelly for warmth. When she got up I stayed, until the rain started pelting so hard that it broke my concentration. I got up to look through the window, at the dense streams of rain coming down so hard they bounced back from the pavement in white flashes, like nails. When it rains this hard, our sloped street looks like a rushing creek, the bands of water so deep that they reach to mid-sole level of a pair of regular sneakers. That’s as high as the Santa Ana river runs some days.

My writing mentor from the TWSO program says that she senses that there is a lot of great material to mine from my childhood experiences. I think she must mean the parts about growing up in an immigrant family. When I peer back through the telescope of memory, everything is tangled. The timeline is scarred together like layers of puckered muscle adhered into place onto organ, bone, where it was cross-sectioned, stuck together where it doesn’t belong.

The news since last week has been ripping away at one of these. The Jian Ghomeshi trial has brought up many things I wanted to let rest in the darkness where I’d buried them. I realize now that this exhumation initially began when women started coming out of the woodwork of his past, infiltrating the news with their experiences.

How muddled things become with the passage of time. A lived experience that some of us have denied even ourselves the whole truth about, the details so humiliating that we want to disown them. The ones that made us fear for our lives – the too tight grip, the punches that left no marks, the switchblade that was unsheathed with the push of a thumb on a button – those are embedded with crystal clarity. The rest – how we got into the predicament, how we became compliant, before or after, just so that we can retain some sense of a normal that over the course of our lives has become skewed – those things we push away into forgetfulness. A normal that we have come to accept but that is far from what the definition of it actually means. We want to disown this dissonance.

I stood trial for the “event” – I say this only mildly facetiously, because though I was a witness, I was treated like a defendant, attempting to defend an honour that was up to the most vicious scrutiny – that culminated in what would be a forced sexual act. I feared for my life. I complied. I walked away with only my winter coat and boots (because I grasped onto them as I locked myself into the tiny bathroom of the motel room to which he had brought me for what I thought was a transaction to obtain a gram of blow). I did what I did to stay alive. He took the little that was left of my self-esteem and every other material possession that I had walked into that room with, and left me with a threat to keep my silence.

I was already a bad girl, by societal norms. I smoked pot or hash daily, worked as a nude dancer in a club in a part of town that was considered less than savoury. I was nineteen and excruciatingly naive but thought I was the opposite. I was sheltered against most everything growing up, except for discipline. That was meted out with brutal regularity. It had softened the lines between love, pain, hate, respect. I wanted out from beneath the thumb that pushed down on me, that didn’t care to listen to who I was, didn’t want to understand me or find the best way to reach me across the chasm of culture and generation gap.

I left home on my eighteenth birthday to join an ashram, convinced that in Vedic philosophy I would find explanations. At this juncture, I just wanted to find a way to understand a world that made no sense to me – I was convinced I would find it there. I would leave half a year later to briefly return home and resume college in the fall. There I met the young man with whom I’d leave home a final time, just before my nineteenth birthday. With neither of us working and having a rent to pay, I took the only job I could find – I supported us both. This “career” lasted just short of a year, until that fateful day in early November when I made a poor choice and misjudged someone’s intentions.

This man who violated me, he had violated others before me and would do the same again, over and over, for decades to come. In and out of jail he’d go, for petty crimes and preying on women, always skillful enough to evade the worst penalties, copping lesser sentences for being an informant and a snitch. In a news article I read a few years back, I found out that he was deceased. In some small way, the invisible scar with his name on it finally felt clipped from its source. I read other articles about the havoc he wreaked over the years, one of them a trial that created a legal precedent in Canada. For the many times I’d wished him dead, I was glad that the universe had finally complied with my request.

As for me – no sense can be made of all of this. We can claim it is karma until the cows come home, but I don’t understand (even now) the vagaries of the universe, within the context of our small lives. We are insignificant, when we look at how vast the universe is, and yet each of our experiences is important in their own right. We are each important. We deserve respect, love and to not confuse those things with the pain some feel determined to inflict upon us in their guise.

looking forward • staying focused • finding gratitude


One of my intentions for the new year is to get better organized.

Between working two jobs, and the writing program, I’ve had very little time to create any visual art, and I seldom schedule in some time to simply journal. My days feel like they speed by at light speed – I hardly slow down for long enough to take stock of what I’ve done and where I’m going.

Last year I thought keeping a bullet journal would be a good idea but I never followed through (mostly because I was stuck on the notion that I needed a proper squared journal to do it right). So I got one at some point this summer but it has been sitting on a shelf, patiently awaiting a time when I could focus on it and begin setting it up.

I saw some pretty intimidating bullet journal spreads on the interwebs – very crafty and creative – but I decided to forge on after rewatching the original bullet journal video.


So here is my first little header for December. It’ll be nice to slow down for long enough to take stock of my days and envision where I want to navigate. It’s been a long time…

This week I’m mostly off on vacation. I’ve been so tired lately that I can’t even speak straight. (For example, yesterday morning I started my cashier shift at 8AM but I was sending off the first several customers with “have a great evening”.)

Today will be a PJ Day… taking stock, organizing my schedule for the rest of the week and maybe getting some laundry done. Between naps and daydreams. 🙂

Wishing you all a restful and centred Winter Solstice. ❤

“morning” pages

Decidedly UNmorning pages.

It is a few short minutes before 2PM and yet I sit here at my computer, still in pyjamas. It’s raining and grey outside, and I have no intention of putting any real clothes on today.

I’m tired. I’m recuperating from a very busy week which consisted of two “normal” work days, each evening ending in my attendance to a conference call in my TWSO (writing) program, and then three “normal” work days followed by three evening shifts at my second job at the grocery store. It was a long week, busy yet somehow leaving me feeling unproductive in all of the “important” ways.

I always think that on my single day off I’ll get All Of The Things done. It’s an ambitious hope. Mostly I end up resting in a semi-vegetative state. This morning the cats woke me up at somewhere in the neighbourhood between 5 and 6AM. Little buggers. I did manage to fall back asleep and ended up lounging in bed until around 10AM. Again, an unusual occurrence for me, but clearly a much needed one.

Last week, after a particularly disheartening moment of pulling up freshly washed slacks and having to suck in my gut more than usual to tie them at my obstinately expanding waist, I decided to set up the second of three personal training sessions that I had purchased at this time last year and only went to one of in January.

The first one was a dud – the personal trainer was clearly not enthused to be helping out an extremely out of shape middle-aged overweight woman. He prescribed a few stretches and exercises that I had requested that he email to me, because contrary to my middle-aged spread, my memory has unfortunately been receding and the detailed movements to three exercises (if I was expected to do them on my own) would largely be forgotten. He never followed up with the email and I resentfully never returned.

So yesterday I lugged in my gym bag to work and took an early lunch, showing up at the appointed time to meet with a new trainer. This one was a young woman and she was by far more helpful and motivated to Do Good. We did little but I learned a lot. I discovered how much more out of shape I am than I had at first imagined. It’s not just the excess weight, but also body mechanics due to multiple injuries (and various surgeries) that have never been properly addressed. So I reckon that progress will be slow, but better that with steadiness than attempting things that will injure me further (which would ultimately result in further inactivity and continued distress on my body).

This poor ole body. Holder of so much cellular memory, good, bad and indifferent.

Today I can feel the work we did yesterday. It’s not a bad idea to let me rest the body and the mind and the spirit for one day. I truly am in need of the respite.

I confess that I am not feeling any holiday spirit this year. Things are tight both financially and in space, our space glutted with furniture and stuff that needs to be attended to (which I never seem to have enough time to attend to). We also have two youngish cats that are relatively new to our home but whom I fear will not do well with a big Christmas tree – or rather the Christmas tree will not fare well with them. There is simply too much for a feline to be drawn to, whether as an ornate scratching post, a thing to climb into, or the associated baubles to hunt and bat around, perhaps even to take bits out of, just as a flavour experiment.

So I’ve opted for a tiny little potted Grinch tree and not much else. Christmas arrangements are largely up in the air; guests or no guests; cooking or no cooking; working or no working. I took the week just before Christmas off as vacation from my office job but I’ll still be scheduled to work at the grocery store for several of those evenings and on both Sundays. So a bit of a break but not a nice stretch of nothing-doingness, or doing what I will for a stretch.

After working two jobs for about a year, that year off while unemployed feels surreal in juxtaposition. I appreciated the time SO MUCH as I was experiencing it, cognizant of its transience, but all of the restful zen-like quality to how I felt in its throes (despite a rather high level of stress in regard to our financial situation) has all but dissipated during this year of working too much just to be able to live. It’s crazy that one needs to work this hard at surviving with some level of comfort. No wonder people give up.

There are a few things that keep me afloat – my immense gratitude for being able to participate in the TWSO program, thanks in part to my day time employer, because writing (creating in general, really) has always saved my life, and my son, whom I adore more than life itself.

I love all of the colours of the decorations this time of year. I sense a falling-down-the-Pintrest-rabbit-hole moment this weekend.

I want to get started on some holiday baking, inspired by the various emails I get from baking or cooking newsletter lists that I subscribe to, but just feel the process itself to be too overwhelming. Instead I write, which is what I ought to be doing anyway, and I read, because ditto on that one, too.

I finally finished reading one of the requisite books for my writing program, Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing by Betsy Warland. It was a slow read, for me, imbibed in short bursts from station to station during my morning and afternoon train rides to and from work. The book lends itself well to this sort of reading because of how it is written, minute concept by minute concept expansively building into a holistic unfolding of the act of writing from an inner perspective. It was absolutely wonderful – beautifully written both in form and content. If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it, I highly recommend it.

And now… I will write a bit on my novel and then I will be off to research recipes for our meal for this evening, and to go do some housekeeping – little and probably not (definitely not) enough, but it will have to suffice. I just don’t have enough time or energy to do more.

certainty, uncertainty, and the gift of words

Yesterday I wrote a particularly plaintive poem. It is a good one, well-written in my opinion (though given the close proximity, I probably have very little perspective on this little darlin’, but still).

I sent it to a friend and this morning I got back a reply. This paragraph made my heart sing, because sometimes you need to hear from the outside what you can’t muster up internally:

“You as a person have so far outstripped, outgrown and outdistanced anything you were or might have been had you stayed with him, any comparison is ludicrous. Yes, you’ve had shitty days, and crappy months. But you evince a strength, depth, talent and purpose that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. So buck the fuck up. You rock. Hard. Even on the shitty days. Mwah. Hugs.”

I am so grateful for that.

Whatever growth I experience, I always think it’s temporary, a trick of the perfect storm that has me dig a bit deeper than I would if the conditions were sunny and clear. I think that I will become complacent and enjoy the good too much, forget about the hard times that carved the places that made me extraordinary when the need arose.

Still. I am alone and I think that it’s a failing.. of personality.. of resourcefulness.. of luck? I don’t know anymore – one of those. At times I do feel isolated, but I contribute to that by being somewhat difficult to reach, to connect with. It isn’t because I don’t want to, I just don’t feel the need to, under less than optimal conditions. Why waddle in the shallows when there is so much richness in the depths, so much more?

My writing has improved because I have come to realize that the way I was doing it before left out the reader. It’s become more powerful because I trim it down to say more with less words. It is in the editing, the power of pithiness – it is incomparable at keeping to the locus of the piece.

I have much to do, still. Review my older work and rewrite until every piece says more with less.

And life will continue to bring me inspiration (in whichever form it chooses to) so that the words come through, because that – I think – is my gift.

staycations and all that

the-universe-you-are-here (photo courtesy of catalyzingchange.org)

Today marks the end of my “staycation”, during which I did very little.

I worked two nights and two weekend days (though I will tonight as well, but have not counted it yet).

I nursed the wound of losing my Kittie to a sudden illness.
I rejoiced in welcoming two new (and very big) furry pusses into our family fold (not without some level of drama, I might add).
[I revel in the wisdom of my son and his lovely girlfriend who knew that these purring new additions would lessen my sorrow.]

I cooked for and entertained a handful of good friends.

I cleaned the fridge.
Did some household chores.

Slept (or tried to, despite bouts of insomnia compounded by construction noise).

Journeyed through ten days of a new(ish) meditative practice with Carrie Anne Moss via her Milk and Honey online course (which was delightful, though due to the aforementioned nursing of wounds, I must say I was less than focused on regular practice).

I spent some time thinking. Thinking about what I wanted (and didn’t).
I moved furniture around.
I read.
I unplugged.
I spent a lot of time musing about how fleeting all of this is.

I thought about how much importance we impart to our meaning.
I wonder at the dichotomy of finding meaning in all of this and our establishing self-importance through the act of finding meaning.
Does either serve us well? Do both, simultaneously?

I pondered on how “meaning” and my understanding of it has shifted over the years; what I thought meaningful at different stages of my life.
How the shift in paradigm could not have occurred by any other means but through the passage of time and experiential knowledge, the grinding away of my external “skin” to smooth away all of the edges that I held on to as parts of who I believed I was integral to the journey.

I considered that perhaps some of those edges were necessary (and, now that they are no longer there, have changed me in inexorable ways – not always for the better).

I considered ways in which I could tap into the juice that those edges brought into being through other means more aligned with who I am now.
And now.
And now.

I marvel at my ever-changing nature.
I honour her.

There is love in my heart. It flows through me and over me and out into the world. Our world.
This love feeds back into me in ways that I would never have noticed a decade ago… or perhaps even yesterday.

I give thanks.
I have much to do.

daddy’s girl

me & apu“You know you have a dead bug on your desk, right?”
“Yup.”
“Okay, just checking.”

This is somewhat typical of my conversations with my son. The young man. The high school graduate. The one about to quest onward into the rest of his life. The boy with a geographically challenged father-son relationship. The one with a wide, wide, tender heart, trying to come to terms with the world, on his own terms.

Perhaps we are all doing that.

Yet another Father’s Day has come, this one in conjunction with summer solstice. It is somehow fitting that the sun, a symbolically male energy, would be paired with the day celebrating what could essentially be viewed as a man’s accomplishment of siring offspring.

Popping out children into the world isn’t hard. Don’t kid yourself, though – good parenting is, although our individual views of what that entails varies wildly depending upon cultural, socio-economic and philosophical adherences. It’s fascinating, really.

Unwittingly, we pass along to our children the best and worst parts of ourselves; they are formed by both, the cycle perpetuates itself.

The best we can do – at least the best that I can do – is to attempt to be as unobtrusive an influence as possible so that he can, within the safety net of the family home, find his own way.

There are many things I wish.
I wish I would have taught him to be closer to the earth, and more in tune with the natural world.
The unnatural one, too. The one that sits in your belly and helps steer your way.

It’s hard to teach that without sounding woo-woo. Woo-woo was a bad word in our household when our family was still intact, probably mostly because I engaged with it.

Me, with my crystals and my incense burning, trying to find a healing way as much for myself as for others. To them I was just weird, not wyrd, if you know what I mean.

This mirrored much of the dynamic of my childhood. My mother was the one who was the skeptic while my father remained noncommittal.

apu

No opinion was better than a verbal debate with my mother, yet we both read Ouspensky, Rampa, Crowley and Castaneda. He still offered little in the way of commentary, but I felt a sort of silent solidarity with my father.

I’m pretty sure my father was never really shown how to be a father, by way of a proper example, and his early life experiences shaped him (or misshaped him).

The gift my father brought to me, in the end, was that of redemption. I can’t explain what I mean by that without dragging the whole of my family dirty laundry out into the open. Suffice it to say that I believe that my father’s actions, throughout most of my life unto his passing, were a quiet attempt at redemption. I have no doubt that he suffered. Guilt erodes us from the inside.

His passing, when I was 27, punched a hole into our enmeshed little lives. It changed the dynamic and created a vortex for me to exit through. And I did. It was long overdue. I was, however, so very unprepared for what that exit entailed. It has been a long journey. I am still journeying.

Perhaps we all are.