That Afterward Feeling

May 1, 2017

I had a wonderful day today. I took my four-year-old nephew across the bay in the ferry into the big city, where we had lunch and “treats” (truth be told, he had way more treats than lunch, but aunties get to spoil people, right?). It was an absolutely beautiful sunny day and he had fun making up stories about his stuffed bunny, riding the ferry, passing close by bridges, seeing fire boats and police boats, eating ice cream, and much more. It was absolutely joyful.

He’s still in the cuddly stage and is a little small for his age, so he sits on my lap and holds my hand, and I have to bend way down to hear what he’s saying as he chatters along about everything. He has the adorable little-kid trait of not yet speaking in contractions. On the way back, he said, “I  cannot wait to tell Mommy and Daddy how much fun we had and everything we did that was so fun.” I’m a really good auntie!

It was wonderful. Then I came home and took a nap with my dog who is freshly washed and smells good and whose fur is so soft.

I couldn’t have asked for better.

So now, of course, my brain and its messed-up chemistry is kicking in. Now instead of realizing that it’s a blessing to be able to go home from a hot, busy, noisy day with a little boy I love and be alone and quiet, I am fixating on the fact that I’m alone. That no one would know right away if I lived or died. That there’s no one who puts me first in their life. That my nephew loves me but of course, his immediate family will always come first. I’ve managed to negate everything that was so special and wonderful about today.

Instead of realizing how wonderful I am to have such a wonderful dog, I’m worried about when she’ll die. She’s seven years old, barely, so she’s in the second half of her life but may have 5+ more years. And I’m wasting them by worrying about what I’ll do when she dies.

I don’t know if this is depression or growing up in an alcoholic family and always having to be prepared for the worst, because no one else was. I’m sure it’s b18222306_10155025134535700_2956203768163496233_noth. But I do not want this legacy any more. I need to find a way to change this; I am not willing to go through the rest of my life losing out on this joy.


Flamenco

March 25, 2013

I’ve been taking flamenco dancing classes for about five years, off and on. I’ve taken dance classes before – ballet and tap when I was young, swing and salsa in college and later – but flamenco is my favorite. It’s not necessarily my favorite one to dance but it’s definitely the one I admire the most and the one I would like to use as a metaphor for my life.

When I took ballet, it was always about sucking in your stomach, trying to be graceful, and – even as a young child – not being too large. Flamenco, on the other hand, embraces whatever size or shape (or age) a woman is. My flamenco teacher is constantly telling us to “take up all your space.” It’s about being stable on your feet and your hips, using all the body that you have, and learning the technique in a way that you can impart the dance with all the soul and feeling that it needs.

Another thing I like about flamenco is how empowered the women look. There is a specific look cultivated with this dance, and empowered really is the best word I can think of for it. Women keep their head up, look proud, and don’t lower their eyes for anyone. There’s also the stomping – which is clearly not the official term and my flamenco teacher would be angry with me for using it – that is so cathartic. As wikipedia says (and I rarely quote wikipedia) El baile flamenco is known for its emotional intensity, proud carriage, expressive use of the arms and rhythmic stamping of the feet.

I want to live like that. Not proud in a narcissistic way, but proud in a non-apologetic way. I had to spend so much of my life apologizing for who I was – in words and actions – that I didn’t get to have that proud carriage. I still feel so often (but less and less!) like I’m broken and flawed in an irreparable way that it’s hard for me to feel that I have the right to have a “proud carriage.” I come off as empowered to many people because I’m opinionated and not afraid of public speaking, but that’s not how I feel. I want to have the empowerment inside too.

I also want to feel like I have the right to take up all my space. I don’t want to try to be smaller or shrink into spaces I don’t fit in. I want to take up the space that I take up and stomp if I need to. Again, I think I come across as stomping much of the time but I don’t want to be an angry, reactionary stomper. I want to express myself in stomping if I need to. I want to stomp because I feel proud, empowered, and expressive. I want to stomp because I am beautiful and persevering and have learned to hold my head up high.

 

 

ImageImage


Some Good Things

September 10, 2012

I’ve been working on gratitude lately.  Gratitude is tough for me and I’m not totally sure why.  I have some ideas which I’ll talk about in another post, but people who I trust tell me gratitude is important.  The Bible says so too.

I’ve been self-employed for five years now: this month is my anniversary of self-employment.  A couple of my friends recognized how hard I’ve worked (and it has been hard!) and are throwing a party for me.  A classy party, with dressing up and people saying good things about me.  I’m a little terrified and a little excited and a lot amazed.

I spent the weekend in Mendocino with two other amazing friends and rested and relaxed.  This was the view from the hammock.

There are some good things happening, and I’m trying to be aware.


Purple Flowers

May 8, 2012

I’ve made a decision.  It may not seem that dramatic, but it’s been coming for a while and I think it has the potential to change my life.  Here it is:

If I say I trust God to take care of me, I need to trust God to take care of me.

I know that sounds obvious and simplistic, but I’ve been so worried about so many things lately (work, money, future… I’ve even found myself not able to sleep at night because I don’t know who’s going to take care of my in my old age.  I’m 36.) and worry is contrary to what I say I believe: that God loves me and cares what happens to me.

I don’t understand, but I remember one time when it was as if I actually heard the voice of God.  About 8 years ago, during a time when I was not doing very well emotionally or spiritually, I found out that my landlord was selling the house I was living in and I had to move.  That doesn’t seem like that big of a deal now, but I was having some issues with insecurity and upheaval and it just felt like one more thing I couldn’t do. Even though this news wasn’t exactly earth-shaking, it felt like it was.

I talked to a number of people and shared how scared I was about the future and how much this one thing triggered me.  The one thing I heard over and over – from people who were Christians and those who weren’t – told me to ask God (or “the universe”) for exactly what I wanted.  For some reason, what came into my mind was that I really wanted a house with stairs, a yellow bedroom, and purple flowers out front.  I don’t know why those things were what came up, but I kept asking for them.

I felt pretty silly but then I found a house to rent.  It had stairs in the front and a few inside, beautiful purple Mexican sage out front, and the room that my roommates didn’t want was a lovely pale yellow.  It was so exactly what I was looking for that I still have a couple of friends who say “remember the purple flowers?” whenever I doubt.  I felt like God was looking me directly in the eyes, saying he loved me and would always take care of me.I know it could be a coincidence but it wasn’t.  I can’t explain how I know, but I do.

Again, I don’t understand.  Why would God provide what I was asking for in silly details of housing when he wasn’t healing my depression (and didn’t for over 6 more years)?  Why was God providing this and not other things that I was asking for: a husband, healing for someone I knew with cancer, the ability to sleep through the night (still don’t have any of those)?  Less importantly, why did I get to have this house for only 9 months before that landlord sold it? And, of course, why would God pay attention to these details when there are people without basic needs?

I don’t know.  I have no idea.  But I’m making a decision to trust.   It doesn’t come naturally to me (it would be an understatement to say I’m a worrier) but that seems to make it more important somehow.  A few years ago, I got a tattoo to remind me that God was always with me.  It’s a beautiful thing, to know that the presence of God is with me.  It’s time to live like it.


Another Vacation

March 3, 2012

I had another vacation and it was another miracle.  Not just because vacations are incredible and fantastic and rejuvenating.  Not even just because this vacation was truly a gift from God, as I didn’t have the money to go but ended up with miles and a free place to stay in Playa del Carmen (near Cancun, and far more beautiful because it’s not so Vegas-y).  But also because, as I mentioned here, I have been in paradise on vacation and been suicidal.  Like I mentioned in the other post – being depressed on vacation really brings it home that the problem was with ME.

It wasn’t the weather; the weather was incredible, sunny, warm, and absolutely ideal for me.

It wasn’t the surroundings: warm ocean, snorkeling, beautiful fish, tropical flowers, white beach.

It wasn’t the company: my brother is my favorite person in my family and easiest to get along with (aside from my baby niece and now my sister-in-law)

It wasn’t anything external.  It was me.  And it felt like even more of a waste than depression usually seems to be because I wanted so badly to be enjoying the weather, food, company, and activities.  And I wasn’t just not enjoying it – I was actively miserable.  I was thinking about wanting to be dead.

So, this vacation was an incredible gift.


Beach Glass and Redemption

June 9, 2011

I love this.

 

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Isaiah 43:1


You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.

Lamentations 3:58


Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Isaiah 52:9

 

18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:18-19

 

I love how God works.

 


Growing Up With Art

November 15, 2010

OK, I’m writing something for the church newspaper, and my assignment was to write about how growing up in a family of artists affected me and my faith.  This is what I have so far, and if anyone feels like giving me feedback (in the next 24 hours) I’d love honest feedback!  Obviously, it’s not finished, if you look at what’s in brackets!  I seem to have hit a wall in writing so I’ll try again tomorrow.

“Artist” is an incredibly emotionally loaded word for me.  Art does not come naturally to me like some might think it would.  [I need something else here, I think]

My mother’s family is made up completely of artists.  We have poets, painters, sculptors, printmakers, musicians, photographers, and dancers.  There are abstract artists, portrait artists, and landscape artists.  Some had formal training and others just had it come naturally to them.  Emails are sent around to family members about gigs people are playing, art shows coming up, photography blogs, and poetry prizes.

I don’t fit into this mold as well as most of my family members, since I’m one of the few non-professional artists.  I like words and facts. I like words to mean what they’re supposed to mean and things to be described as they are.

I spent a lot of my childhood around artists, with all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful things that come along with that.  I was always around oil paint, turpentine, and wood shavings, and can vividly remember each of those odors.  Art and artists had strong positive and negative effects on me.  I learned to paint when I was about eight years old and my grandfather decided that one hour of art every other Wednesday at school wasn’t enough, so he took me into his oil painting studio and let me use his supplies.  I learned to see beauty – in art, in nature, in faces, in colors, and even just in shapes – a gift that I think adds a great deal to my life.

The stereotype of the tormented artist has a lot of truth in it, however, and there were also many negative effects on my life.  Many of these artists in my family had substance abuse issues or mental illness.  Depression abounded.  Art was a way to disappear – people could, for a short period of time, erase themselves and offer a beautiful creation in the place of their frenetic thoughts, sorry, and low self-worth. Even as a child, I was confused about this.

[connecting these two paragraphs]

Somehow, I have not only always believed in God, but I’ve always known that I was being taken care of.  I’ve been able to use art to remind me of God’s faithfulness, and of the fact that I am redeemed.  At times I have wished that I could not believe – when I’m angry or disappointed in God.  For some reason, I can’t not believe

[something about experiencing God through art]