Being alone with one’s self is a holy act.
I am moved by the wind. How it recites to me in whimsy the colors of the sunset, the secrets of the trees. I often laugh as it shares the giddiness of its antics; toying with the birds pushing them back as they labor forward then toppling trash cans and blaming raccoons. There is so much to learn if one eavesdrops thoughtfully and observes her variance. It takes patience to understand her divergent ways and I embrace each distinction. It fuels me on a quiet day. It satisfies me when I am lost.
To those of you who read this blog, thank you for the encouragement (you know who you are). I’ve been putting off posting this for almost a month. It was the kick in the ass I needed!
THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear
Something of a Prologue
Today I begin
a challenge beyond my brain;
one to reach my soul.
From the beginning I am asking that this be a dialogue. So please follow the blog from the site directly and not just Facebook or Twitter (comments on those sites don’t translate for a blog). I suggest setting the notifications to once a week. I want this to be a shared journey and not just me yacking at me (I already do that).
I did it – I made my “ASK” (thank you Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking). That was my first big risk on this journey, the second is this post! Please post comments and ask questions, I would love this kind of communication and sharing. And lastly if you see a post that means something to you, share it (anywhere and everywhere).
So here it goes. I am making a declaration. I am going to commit one year to self-exploration and writing a book documenting my journey. I have been thinking about this for quite a while and after reading THE HAPPINESS PROJECT by Gretchen Rubin I see it is time to do something different. I know this certainly is not a new thing, but I am inspired by the idea of a yearlong dedication and research of and to one’s self. I started my journey in March without realizing it. I had challenged myself to commit to 3 things for 3 months. Honestly, I was not sure I could do it. The reality is that with a few glitches here and there, I was successful…until the discovery of a brain tumor that is. I admit my priorities and commitments moved elsewhere for a bit but here I am back on track.
I ask myself: How am I going to do this? What is my end goal? Do I take it on all at once or do a month by month thing? How do I assess myself as I go? Is it a “Happiness Project” or something else? I had all these questions. I am not a psychologist or a researcher. I am not a doctor or a professional writer. But, I am ready to share my voice, to commit. I love the idea of dedicating a year to self. So what the hell….I will give it a shot.
The expedition I am embarking on is one of truth and self-discovery. For years I have been fighting myself in so many aspects of my life with no idea why. I have taken classes, read books and seen a shrink. All of this work has helped. I now realize the wall I keep hitting is me. Over and over, as I start to move forward believing I am on the right path that voice in my head steps in and says; are you sure? Is that what you really want? Maybe you’re just on the bandwagon again.
So, in spite of the doubt and questions I commit one year to writing a book for me. I will examine my choices and decisions. I will do the things I say I want and explore why I have a self-sabotaging (or self-punishing) pattern.
Each month will have its own goal…yes Gretchen, that’s your inspiration. What would this entail? I will start with a list (by the way I love lists)! Here is a quick draft of my monthly commitments.
It’s a start. As soon as I know May, June and July I’ll let you know. I will get more specific in my intentions as I go from here, but this will serve as a good platform to dive in. The working title is “THE WHO AM I PROJECT? Finding myself through the layers of my own baggage, bullshit and fear”. It is an extension of an art project I have been organizing over the last year. However, this is more personal since I am the subject. The art project asks the question of all who experience it (more on that later around month four).
The reality is that I have somehow lost track of who I am and what I want for my life. I do know “who” I am but not in the existential way I am seeking. I want to know why I’m here and my purpose in this life. I want to find passion and heart in all that I do. The only way to really accomplish that is to truly understand myself and to figure out what I want. For me this starts with why. Why do I continue to get in my own way? Is it that I really don’t know what I want or is it that I have told myself so many conflicting things over the years that I’ve confused my soul? Is it that I honestly don’t have the ambition or drive? Is it that I deep down know my purpose and it terrifies me? Or is it that my need to know WHY is my problem?
Even as I write this I’m thinking…this is silly? Who the hell is going to read or connect with this? At the same time, do I really care? What if no one reads it, but I have answered a key question in my life; if that’s the case then nothing else matters. I am a person filled with ideas and longings. Yet, despite what many think of me, I am also a person who I believe gives up easily. I don’t love challenges and I absolutely despise being bad at things. Failure is unacceptable so it’s better not to try (I don’t really believe that, but it is my perception of how I’ve lived). I’m not sure where it came from, but I have this deep seeded notion that I should somehow know how to do things (all things). I should be a natural and if I’m not, I’ve already failed. I know it’s not true and yet this is how I judge myself. I envy people who thrive in challenge; whose goals are to get better and better with ambition and enthusiasm, the ones who enjoy learning and failing until they get it right. I want to be that person. I wonder though if that’s who I am. I hope so. The goal in this yearlong exercise is to answer my question and teach myself how to embrace and accept who I am. I know I am smart, strong, and sometime courageous but truly believing it is what I crave most.
I will be using my blog to work through a lot of these theories and challenges. At least one weekly post is going to be dedicated to this work. We all need to be heard and I believe that there is something inside each of us that everyone needs to hear. I believe this about myself, but I have been unable to figure out what voice to use; which one is the loudest, which is the one I thrive in and enjoy the most. Is it my visual art, poetry, writing, theatre or something else entirely? Being heard as an artist seems daunting and almost impossible. My mind goes directly to how I make money as opposed to exploration and fun (which is why I became an artist to begin with). When did I start denying myself the fun in art? I am an artist. For me, this has many faces and forms. I am certainly not limited in the creative use of what I do unless I take no risks; I’ve never been willing to risk enough to fail. I never had the confidence. That is the intent of this book, to find that place inside of me willing to fail for freedom.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope you will join me on this exploration of self.
OK. I’m writing because I feel myself on a winding path again. A bit unfocused and spacey. It is the most annoying place my brain takes me to. I feel exhausted and yet I’ve had enough sleep and it seems I cannot accomplish anything but the basics. Have you been there?
I have been busy I won’t lie, but still there are things I want to accomplish. I have been taking 2 classes and finding the time to do the work in between feels anxiety ridden and almost impossible. I get lost in the minutiae then get blocked because I’ve lost not minutes, but hours. I just can’t tell if my expectations are too high or if I am actually being, not lazy but undisciplined.
It just seems I have backtracked again, or is it that I have so much I want to do that I am overcrowding my mind. I just don’t know. This maze is getting in the way of my freedom…so how the heck do I stop throwing up the darn obstacles and blocking my own way? I have plans people! Am I alone out here?
Hmm….thanks for listening/ reading...oh whatever!
“How we explain that when someone is cruel, or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is: When they go low, we go high.”
First Lady, Michelle Obama
Quite often I choose to not discuss anything political here, but the reality is is that something amazing has happened. We have elected Hillary Clinton, the first woman, to serve on a presidential ticket! Can you image what it will be like to have a black man then a woman consecutively in office?! What would this say about America? I believe it would signify that we are still great, that we are still #strongertogether and the we are still the land of opportunity.
Whatever your politics the atmosphere of the DNC serves America far better than the hateful rhetoric of the RNC. I agree we are not a perfect nation, we can’t be; it is run by humans and humans are flawed. They make mistakes…all of them. However I find it outlandishly hypocritical that Hillary Clinton is dragged through the streets as a liar, while Trump stands on his podium spouting lies, hatred and hypocrisies, but somehow he is the “change” we need?! What is wrong with people.
I also very much understand that Bernie people are upset, but as he himself said in an interview after his speech, “It is easy to boo, but it’s harder to look your kids in the face who would be living under Donald Trump”. The reality is that if one chooses not to vote or to vote for a candidate that they know for a fact will not only lose, but take votes away from the best candidate…they ARE voting for Trump! This is the reality Bernie is trying to convey. He said, “You fought and you won a seat at the table. We have to act like we have that seat, and using it and using our power and stop acting like we’ve been shut out”.
So political notions aside, what I want to do is point out two absolutely amazing speeches. Michelle Obama is the quintessential woman; smart, compassionate, strong and inspiring. Her words brought tears to my eyes as I sat watching. She spoke out without insults, she made commentary without naming names. She did all this with style, class and the full on confidence of a woman who has gained the respect of a nation. If you haven’t seen the speech watch it here . Here is an except.
“And look, there were plenty of moments when Hillary could have decided the work was too hard, that the price of public service was too high, that she was tired of being picked apart for how she looks, or how she talks, or even how she laughs. But here’s the thing. What I admire most about Hillary is that she never buckles under pressure. She never takes the easy way out. And Hillary Clinton has never quit on anything in her life. And when I think about the kind of president that I want for my girls, and all of the children, that’s what I want. I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues the president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters.
Look, because … because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions. You can’t have a thin skin or a tendency to lash out. You need to be steady and measured and well informed. I want a president with a record of public service, someone whose life work shows us and shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves, we fight to give everyone a chance to succeed. And we give back, even when we’re struggling ourselves, because we know that there’s always someone worse off. And there but for the grace of God, go I.
I want a president who will teach our children that everyone in this country matters. A president who truly believes in the vision that our founders put forth all those years ago, that we are all created equal, each a beloved part of the great American story. And when a crisis hits, we don’t turn against each other. No, we listen to each other, we lean on each other. Because we are always stronger together. And I am here tonight because I know that that is the kind of president that Hillary Clinton will be. And that’s why in this election, I’m with her.”
First Lady, Michelle Obama
Second, another amazing speech to remind us what America truly is was Corey Booker. I missed the actual viewing that night so I was not susceptible to the rambunctious crowd. Instead I was able to read the transcript without disruption. His words are truly powerful.
“I respect and value the ideals of rugged individualism and self-reliance. But rugged individualism didn’t defeat the British, it didn’t get us to the moon, build our nation’s highways, or map the human genome. We did that together.
This is the high call of patriotism. Patriotism is love of country. But you can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen. We don’t always have to agree, but we must empower each other, we must find the common ground, we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.
We can’t devolve into a nation where our highest aspiration is that we just tolerate each other. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love. Tolerance says I am just going to stomach your right to be different. That if you disappear from the face of the earth, I am no better or worse off.
But love – love knows that every American has worth and value, no matter what their background, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Love recognizes that we need each other, that we as a nation are better together, that when we are divided we are weak, we decline, yet when we are united we are strong – invincible!”
US Senator, Corey Booker
I cannot help but be moved when I think about how young men and women of all colors are now able to see the world. I think about Chelsea Clinton and the Obama girls growing up in the White House. The experiences they have had at such a young age. The idea that their dad, a black man, was president and now a mom and more importantly, a women. This is an age to be proud not divided. It’s #strongertogether.
Well I guess by now you can see, #imwithher !!!
Underneath the skin
Is a breathing organism
Made of blood and energy
Feeding our minds and our hearts.
We discover ourselves beneath the surface
Beyond the mirror
It is the only truth.
Our gap is in the idea of ourselves.
Our weakness is our assumptions
Of what and who we think we should be.
But beneath the surface
We live freely, breath openly, invite others in
Unafraid of ideas or projections
Unconcerned with fear or failure
A simple truth;
To be shared
To be embraced
It is Life.
It is time the take a deep breath, clear the mind, spread my wings and soar.
On an amazing Saturday in Miniwaska State Park my husband, niece, 12 year old rat terrier Shyann and I went on a quiet yet complex hike up to one of our favorite points, Millbrook Mountain. The trail has some steep inclines and ragged, rooted, rocky paths. I will admit I was exhausted by the time we reached the top, we all were, but it was well worth it.
Along the way we stopped to catch our breath in a hollow. This is one of my most beloved spots in Miniwaska so far. The way the sound of the river softly mumbles as the birds serenade begets a calmness that only nature can induce. The air there is always slightly damp and cool, a retreat from the humidity that besieged us after exiting our air-conditioned Prius. We sat on the moss covered stones, searched for unique rocks (the best and cheapest souvenirs available), laughed and bathed in the muted voices of the trees.
I wandered taking photos as I often do in these woods. This place is my creative muse. I watched as my niece retreated up along the brook alone. She sat on the rocks taking it all in so quiet in her beauty. It warms my heart to see her enjoying this special place, calm; knowing that it soothes her as it does me.
She’s was with us for the week and we had all been looking forward and excited to share this place. On the way we picked blueberries and discussed how different a “real” blueberry tasted in comparison to store bought. There is nothing like plucking the berries of the bushes and wishing we had them at home all year long. There are so many in those woods. We were actually able to continue to moisten our palates with berries on the long hike after drinking all our water.
At the top we sat and watched the eagles glide, mediated and warmed in the sun. The air was so much clearer up there, less humidity and more breezes. We sat for quite a while refueling our energy sources for the trip back. I wish we could do this with her every week; escape into the real world and renew our souls. For now we have this day, these memories of an amazing young lady full of dreams and desires, delectable blueberries, two middle aged hippie wanna be’s and a 12 year pup who now only goes one way…we had to carry her down!
The river flows out
To the open sea of life
But the tide returns.
Southie: the protector, the defender and the neighborhood that wasn’t mine
I look out onto the street from my second floor window. I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for, but I know it’s different from what I see.
Silver Street is dirty and filled with jagged memories. There are the stairs I sit on longingly waiting for my dad to drive by. I watch the corner with an eagle eye hoping the tough girls don’t come around. The gym where the nasty boys hang out and where Atilla and Finegan (two very large and scary dogs) reign sends shivers through me. I’ve spent more time running into this house and away from the world than living in it. I’ve confronted meanness and aggression too many times, I’ve had to stand up to protect a friend only to bawl my eyes out from fear the minute I’m alone.
Yet I sit here watching – remembering the laughter, the singing, games of kickball, and the old man who comes by every day to give Rags bologna. I think about the flames breaking out from behind painted wood windows during a warehouse fire across the street that fascinated and terrified me. I’m reminded of the many special 4-leggers who have come and gone; my beautiful Vicious who wandered into our lives introducing us to love bites – gentle nibbles of gratitude on the cheek, our handsome Bruno – a stunning tramp of a Shepherd who let us adopt him for a couple of months then moved on, Medford Tom downstairs who’s wild stories of his harrowing life scared the pants off us and his rottie Eric who stole my heart, Buffie my best friend whose belly was my pillow, and Rags – the most well lived dog I’ll ever meet- he knew more of Southie and its secrets than the many humans who live here.
I picture how beautifully Silver St. lives up to its name in a thick snowfall. The light sparkles over the uninterrupted drifts of snow covering the grittiness. There is a quiet sadness in my observations. This place is my foundation. My parents are from here, it’s in my blood. I am so different than this world. I don’t belong and I want nothing more than to leave; to run far and fast from the hardness of it. I am a stranger here and yet, it is a part of me.
People in Their Environments 056 – South Boston 1983 by, Sage Sohier
In my search for an old photo of my hometown, I came across this picture and was immediately awed. I reached out to the photographer to tell her how much the photo moved me and reminded me of my childhood. I asked her if she knew the girls in the photo, she did not. As an artist and photographer myself, I wanted her to know she had captured something visceral for me. In the poem above I mention the “tough” girls. While this isn’t all of them, it is some of them…the actual girls! That is the corner of the street I grew up on, straight down across from that car was my house and the fire I mention was in the warehouse the car is parked in front of. I have personally destroyed a bike and my nose on that very pole these girls are sitting behind.
I want to share how much a simple photo by a stranger can unexpectedly move someone even years after it is taken. I am nostalgic of the location itself, but also by the girls. These girls terrified me as a child. They were hard, mean and often cruel. Looking at them now as an adult knowing so much more about life and considering those around me, I see their pain their longing and their dreams of escape. I see now that their anger was not at me, I just happened to be the easy target.
I love this photo. I wish I could afford it. Its only available through a gallery for quite a hefty fee, so I will simply admire it from afar. I highly suggest looking up the artist. I am grateful to her. This photo allows me to look back at where I came from. To see the pain of my past in a new light, to see and forgive that hardness of life and to remind me of how fortunate I now am.