“Covid Crafting Therapy” is my ongoing personal process for relaxation, a type of journaling, a type of meditation. Every stitch a thought. It’s different from drawing, painting, writing. I’m not trying to find the style, the form, the character. I’m not trying find the perfect color, the perfect brush stroke. The perfect narrative. Crafting just… is.
The Little My Pillow
Little My, character from the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, is a personal obsession. I draw her continuously. I aspire to be like her, though, according to all the Moomin personality quizzes I have taken, I am Snufkin.
I love drawing on cloth or layers of paper and embroidering along the lines. No end product in mind. No rush. Just a place to land those thoughts. This project (using an old tablecloth as canvas) has become a pillow. (still in progress)
The fear that I will lose control over my project if I collaborate
Attachment to the past
The need to NOT forget all the details of my life
The need to please
Achieving my full potential
I AM THANKFUL FOR:
Essential workers (on the frontlines in hospitals, in care homes, the care givers, the care partners, first responders, shelters, support staff, teachers, researchers, grocery store staff, retail shops, coffee shops, the delivery folk, the post office, maintenance crews, garbage trucks, ecologists, those who work with animals, those who foster and adopt, donors, volunteers, activists, journalism, the internet, Zoom… etc etc etc etc. THANK YOU)
Masks and soap
PS. In 2021: eat more fruits and veggies, take more steps, bring in more plants
The whole world is experiencing an extraordinary, difficult and dangerous time.
I can’t help but to wonder: Am I ready to die?
A journal entry from August 2013
Is it ok to die today?
Would I run into Mamma and Pappa’s arms? Would I be at torpet: my childhood summer house?
Would there be flowers and yellow clogs and juice and cinnamon buns and red and white houses and yellow buttercups and blue and white checkered tablecloths?
Would I worry about those left behind or would it open the world to them? Would my “life” continue despite dying? Would it be eternal summer and my own version of paradise and would all be well forever and ever?
Would this be an ok moment to die? Would I let it happen and plummet to earth yet fly to the heavens? Would peace abound, astound and surround? Would I let go and give in, give up and sigh to it? Would it all stop and turn black or would I want to go back?
Would I be conscious or conscience-less? Would I recognize and understand or lose myself in confusion? Would my brain unravel slowly, spirally or dwindle, diminish in a whimper and whisper? Would I cease to be or be more me?
Would I feel boiled, clogged, harmed, alarmed, swarmed, smothered, aloof or blissful, ignorant, surrounded, astounded, abiding, loving, quietly forgiving, allowing, not knowing, no longer questioning or trying- just dying?
Would I be a child? Or a wild animal? Would I be alone or at home? Could I take time, say goodbye or just stop? Into blackness. Or would I see sun and clouds and lakes and birds- the birds my mother saw when she was dying- would I join her there over coffee?
Would we be then?
Would we be now?
When the heart at last acknowledges how much pain there is in the the mind, it turns like a mother toward a frightened child. All that remains incomplete seems somehow workable and an unmistakable joy arises at the possibility of becoming whole at last. – Stephen Levine, A Year to Live
“These are the days of tweeting, blogging, posting, instagraming, snapchatting, you name it. Everyone seems to be doing it. Some people seem very comfortable expressing every morsel of their living and breathing and eating into the world. Not that this isn’t totally fascinating to the one sharing, but most people (including me) don’t care about what you ate for breakfast, who you ate it with, and what you were wearing. However, when someone writes with a raw vulnerability, expressing with exquisite clarity a thought or feeling that I recognize in myself, I tend to sit up and take notice. Truth has a way of getting my attention.
In my work with grieving clients, I find that one of the most helpful activities I can encourage them to do is to write. “Write about what?” they say. Write about what is on your mind. Tell your story. Share your experiences, the secrets that need to be let out. Open your heart, feel the love, anger, pain, joy, sorrow, gratitude, regrets – whatever is present in the moment – and put it on the paper. Write letters, notes, poems, rants. Anything. Just express.”
Spontaneous drawings may relieve psychological distress, making it easier to attend to things.We like to make sense of our livesby making up coherent stories, but sometimes there are gaps that cannot be filled, no matter how hard we try. Doodles fill these gaps, possibly byactivating the brain’s“time travel machine,” allowing it to find lost puzzle pieces of memories, bringing them to the present, and making the picture of our lives more whole again. With this greater sense of self and meaning, we may be able to feel more relaxed and concentrate more.
“Anne’s reliance on her books for mental well-being and personal happiness was clear – ‘What is there like gaining knowledge?’ she once said. ‘All else here below is indeed but vanity and vexation of spirit – I am happy among my books – I am not happy without them’ (2nd May, 1829). Words on a page empowered, enlightened and educated. She said that it was our ‘intercourse with the world that blunted our feelings, which made us suspicious, and mistrustful’ and that living as she did among her books her ‘heart was left unchanged’ and her ‘feelings rather sharpened.’ (2nd August, 1829)” – Anne Choma (2019), Gentleman Jack- the Real Anne Lister, Penguin Books
My life feels very complete. My children grown and following their hearts fully. My creative process keeps my heart beating and my soul happy. And at the end of each day I remind myself it’s all about process and all my endless projects need to just unfold as they will. As does my life. No attachment to outcome nor need for accolades. And the ups and downs are simply part of it. However, there is that one thing I must do before I die. Setting the intention today.
Saturdays I tend to have– a type of Saturday Migraine– what I call- spiritual migraines- as the time to myself hits after sleeping in an extra hour after a full week of so much output– I can either be in euphoric creative mode, or despair/exhaustion. Of course, I enjoy the euphoria. I get a lot done! The despair tends to look like this:
Today I did have plans. Several of them were canceled. And instead of filling up the space with other get together requests– I took a walk alone, checked in on the herons, and settled myself here on a rock at Second Beach.
What do I hear?
Seagulls, small birds, bike bells, this paper, crows, planes, squeaky bike wheels, waves, boats, jet skis, children by the water, people on the seawall.
The tide is out and I am surrounded by tide pools.
I am not depressed today. I am not euphoric. I don’t owe anybody my time today. I don’t need to hear anyone’s despair, or help organize their thoughts. Even my own.
I spent a wonderful afternoon with my family in Fort Langley today.
While the egg scramble mayhem and sugar highs rang out outside, I was drawn to the silent interiors.
Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.
– Frank Lloyd Wright
Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.
– Frank Gehry
I don’t enjoy living in a white box flooded with light. I like shadows, small spaces, old furniture.
– Kevin McCloud
Every city is a ghost. New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel bean, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now a park.
Couldn’t sleep well last night- overthinking- work, responsibilities. But this morning I pause, knowing I’ve worked dang hard to get here. To get to this moment. To get to a place where I can sit at a kitchen table alone on a Sunday morning with the New York Times and a good book.
My children grown and expanding their lives. What could be better? I have to remember to pat myself on the back. And to expand gently into whatever lies ahead, knowing it’s all good- in this moment.
This pause is well-deserved and I have nothing else to figure out today, this second day of being age Fifty-Seven.
I am walking to the bus stop heading to work. I walk south through the little park on Chilco between Nelson and Comox. It is a sunny cold morning, so I am bundled up. My extra long black and grey scarf hangs down the front underneath coat and covers my knees. The scarf bounces off my knees as I walk.
I turn left onto Comox and I hear sparrows singing. I stop (as I usually do when I see birds) and observe them. I see a few of them sitting atop branches. I smile and keep walking. My eyes are blinded by the sun. The song of the sparrows combined with way the scarf bounced on my knees triggers something. A feeling so familiar.
All of a sudden I am not in Vancouver and I am not in 2019. I am walking along a country road in Sweden. It is early summer and the Sparrows are singing. My layers of skirts and my worn apron bounce on my knees as I walk. It is 1910 and I am on my way to general store. To my right are birch trees and pine, and daisies grow in the ditch. To my left farmers’ fields bordered by wooden fences. Cows are chewing on grass. I know these clothes. I know these bird songs.
I feel so peaceful and content. I keep walking back into 2019.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.– Carl Jung
This vision board has stayed on my bathroom shelf all year as a daily check in. And as I reflect on a year that just sped by, much faster than expected, I feel the greatest gift of this past year is that I found an ability to speak my truth (out loud). Even if my voice shook.
In 2018, I came to understand that my core value is TRUST- to be trusted that I know what I am doing. And I have been challenged in this regard both by myself and by others many times this past year. Even today. Even in this moment, As I encounter(ed) and work(ed) through those challenges, I hear(d) myself (not perfectly, mind you, and not always in the most succinct way) speaking up.
Inktober was life changing. Bringing me into a deeper creative process- allowing me to experiment with colour and narrative.
Molly has been in hiding (as some producers took a stab at her) but I am “taking her back” and my life’s biggest creative project now enters a new draft, a new creative process. I hear the voices of the ghosts again and a sense of emancipation flows through the work. (And a relaunch is imminent)
I explored my 1977 diary on the blog and though I haven’t been working on it of late, being too busy with my bread and butter work, I had a great sense of peace working on it. A pure comic book version is the ultimate goal.
I simplified this past year. Savoured family. Visited San Francisco. Twice. Here at home, I retreated from invites. Staying in with the cats. Working, constantly working.
I pulled an angel card before I started writing here, asking for a message as to how I should approach working on my Vision for 2019:
We have to be willing to accept that “drawing a blank” to our questions is sometimes the very best response we can receive. It calls for us to look inward for the truth and access our own authentic power instead of looking to others to tell us what to do or think. – Angela Rider
So as I have been reflecting on the year in the last month, one word keeps circulating in my mind for 2019: COURAGE.
c. 1300, corage, “heart (as the seat of emotions),” hence “spirit, temperament, state or frame of mind,”from Old French corage “heart, innermost feelings; temper” (12c., Modern French courage), from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart” (from PIE root *kerd- “heart”).
Meaning “valor, quality of mind which enables one to meet danger and trouble without fear” is from late 14c. In this sense Old English had ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.” Words for “heart” also commonly are metaphors for inner strength.
In Middle English, the word was used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination, and it was used in various phrases, such as bold corage “brave heart,” careful corage “sad heart,” fre corage “free will,” wikked corage “evil heart.” –SOURCE
Why this word?
I have become more and more aware of when the anxiety arises within me. When the floor opens up and I fall through.
And a journal entry at the airport on my way to an extraordinary adventure in San Francisco clinched the work I need to do in 2019:
That question often came up this year– what happened to my courage? Asking myself that question actually kicked my ass into motion even though anxiety feels like a cheese grater scratching at my heart.
Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” – Brené Brown
And focus on the word COURAGE as a tactile connection to my 2019 Vision.
Head up. Straight back. Panic arising? Yell- BRING IT ON!!!
Speak. Speak UP!
Listen. Carefully. Mindfully.
And create. Create. Create.
Anytime you write something, you go through so many phases. You go through the ‘I’m a Fraud’ phase. You go through the ‘I’ll Never Finish’ phase. And every once in a while you think, ‘What if I actually have created what I set out to create, and it’s received as such?’
– Lin Manuel Miranda
When I read something that really needs to sink in- I mind map it out. My whole brain is engaged and I can then look at the mind map throughout the month and be instantly reminded of the lessons.
This morning was all about the Power Path- taking some quiet personal time for a coffee, house to myself (except the ladies of course) and a therapeutic check-in.
Thank you to my soul sister, Patti Henderson, who first connected me to this powerful resource.
Evaluate all the structures that have formed your foundation and restructure what is needed.
My biggest takeaway from this month’s forecast:
Allow a new project to fit you rather than you trying to fit the project.
“As you approach your life with creative pragmatism, you may need to cut something loose that has been holding you back. Attachments to patterns that keep you small and hold you hostage to old ways of thinking as well as outdated perceptions about what is possible will only get in the way of you moving forward. If you find yourself saying “I can’t possibly do that”, question this belief. Practice saying “I could do that”. This gives you the choice and the possibility of something new instead of shutting the door before you give yourself the chance to see what is on the other side.” – The Power Path August 2018 Forecast
Instead I fell down a nap hole and dreamt of a fox.
I was going to write tonight about how much I hate my face, but instead looked up foxes and symbolism. And put on a pot of coffee.
I was going to write tonight about how I (could) love my face, but instead pulled out a drawing pad and turned on Netflix (crime, French).
I was going to write tonight about how strange it was finding my house filled with people last weekend working on my passion project and discussing crime and science, but instead pulled out china markers and white acrylic paint.
I was going to write tonight about how the wind storm swept in as spirits started swirling on Sunday evening, but instead made some eggos with fresh strawberries and honey.
I was going to write tonight about coming across a 1940’s fur coat strewn over a park bench by the Hotel Sylvia. But instead put my drawing board across my lap.
I was going to write tonight about navigating anxiety, but instead tapped into my subconscious.
I was going to write tonight but my hand just drew and drew and drew.
Lore has it that a fox sighting was thought to be a signal from the spirits of the deceased. Fox animal symbolism takes a turn of intelligence in the Celtic realm, as the Celts believed the fox to be a guide, and was honored for its wisdom. The Celts understood the fox knows the woods intimately, and they would rely upon the fox as their guide in the spirit world. [source]
I haven’t posted for awhile. That’s not to say I haven’t been writing, drawing, planning, thinking, working.
A new job started January 15 and somehow 5 months have sped by. Work has given me a place to land. During that time there have been some exciting new developments…
Ah, blah blah blah. Fuck that. I don’t need to write that.
I have been thinking a lot lately about death.
Oh my God. That is nothing new. Ugh, start again.
I am sitting in the kitchen at my favorite spot, by my windowsill garden. There are fragrant buds on the jasmine plant. The rosemary and mint are sprouting new branches where I snipped off leaves for cooking and for my water. I do not take this seat, this spot, for granted. My role has changed. And I celebrate that I have been given the gift of …
Ugh. I am just regurgitating the same old musings. That’s OK. That’s what this journal process is all about. But I have been away from it for awhile. And if I haven’t been writing in this online journal, what have I been doing creatively, that is?
I have been stitching.
Thought after thought after thought.
Stitch, stitch, stitch
Obsessed with stitching. And what have I been stitching about, quite obsessively in fact, is that I want to be OK with dying tonight. Not specifically tonight- but “tonight.”
What do I mean by that?
What I mean is that I know I will never complete all that I want to do… and that is OK. If I die tonight, not having completed all I want to do– that has to be OK.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
What I do know is that I want to relax into life (and death)- relax into its unfolding.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
Depression has had me by the throat many times. I have desperately tried to find a way to ease my pain. And the fear of the effect of my pain on my family. There have been times I admit, I have forced myself to look forward and walk with an even pace. Simply to get off that proverbial bridge. Death, or thinking about it, has been a way to cope. The option has been a way to get through the day.
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
I have been lucky not to have tried to hide from it- to numb it. My mom needed to numb it. And that is a sadness I will always carry.
Last summer, I made a pact with myself to live life as a second chance. To die into life. To be a ghost. To walk in peace amongst the noise, haste, stress, pain, joy. To understand all the ups, downs. I was so tired of resorting to perseverating thoughts. I made a pact. Life as a second chance.
I realize that dark journeys help me understand the characters I research, and feed my quest of understanding of human nature. The understanding of ghosts I walk among. How else could I walk the path of those I write about?
Stitch, stitch, stitch…
So much happening. With so much to come. What makes me feel this peace? What makes it different now?
I am older. I am old. I am approaching the other side of the staircase.
I am truly blessed to enter this new chapter of my life- I call the chapter putting on the crown.
I am so blessed to have been given the gift of art to use in every aspect of my life. It heals me, it unmasks me, it opens me wide open, it hides me. It allows me to live. And to die into life.
And if I die tonight, I am ok with all the unfinished projects, knowing my life is mine, and my children’s lives are theirs. They are grown. And how incredible is that?
Photo evidence that once upon a time my feet could do this. Grateful for the once upon a time. Grateful to still be here with creaky bones, spreading body, soreness, slowness. I am still here. Grateful. Especially for the discipline that dance taught me.
I’ve got a lot to think about these days. (Not really any different from other days, I guess, but seriously, there is some amazing stuff brewing).
To stay on track with massive projects, to dos and ideas racing around in the head, I have found great solace in pulling out embroidered drawings.
As I stitch, my mind relaxes and somehow- magically, solutions arise, anxiety dissipates, energy refreshes, ideas come to light. Fascinating.
It’s all about following the lines of my drawings, just wandering along the pathways, new ways of looking at things, no attachment to the thread or how things unfold. Just let it unfold. And I think that is my greatest lesson in all this- let it unfold.
“When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.”
― Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair
Researching a seemingly unrelated subject tonight, I was thrown down into a pit of dark memory of betrayal and attack to my heart. How strange to be reminded of that time, of that sickening anger.
How strange to have to grab my own hand and pull myself out of the pit– real quick– for it is not a place I should to spend time in.
I can revisit it for use in my creative expression, in my understanding of the human condition. But I cannot spend a lot of time in that pit, for I know the anger that wells up is not towards the other but is actually directed at myself– for I am heart broken about how much energy I spent trying to save an illusion.
But wait— maybe I need to spend a bit of time in that pit.
For perhaps, just perhaps, what the memory is telling me to do is to address any unfinished acts of self-forgiveness, to step fully into self-love and CONFIDENCE.
I am about to commit fully to a new stage of my passion project that will test me and empower me in ways I can’t even imagine yet. IF I AM READY.
Journal entry April 16, 2018 San Jose Airport [unedited]
It is so odd to take time out from the trajectory of every day in these journeys… to get off the tracks so to speak. The experience both relaxes the brain, and creates unease. You feel like you spend too much money and you are wondering about day to day reality, but you also give yourself to the situation and throw caution to the wind.
Does it shake off the cobwebs? This importance of eating well, looking at new things, and INPUT before gearing up to hustle when back home.
But what if I RELAX into the RETURN as well? NOT worry about it. TRUST and FLOW and let the sand sift through the fingers? Just release.
Not only trust that others are allies, but that LIFE is an ALLY.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
Opening up to defining myself as ace and what that means to me feels relieving right now.
• I have found my identity that really explains to me who I am now.
• Life is fluid and so am I.
• Every stage of my life has been magical, deep, rich.
Touch me life, not softly. – Maya Angelou
• I have experienced joy, lust, juice, frenzy, quiet, cozy, lovely, scary, gutsy, sensual heterosexual love.
• I have witnessed and been astounded by the earthy, gorgeous beauty of my body carrying and birthing two children.
• I have had crushes on men and women, madness, deep love, incredulous love, frustrating love, zany love.
• I have been happily married.
• I have been heartbroken.
• Though I have experienced heartache and trauma, I am not ace because of those experiences.
• I experienced intense freedom and a feeling of coming home when the pain of divorce finally subsided.
• I have been single since 2001. No- scratch that, I’ve been me since 1962.
• I have zero interest in sexual relationships.
• I still love me though and my ever shifting body.
• I have zero interest in getting to know someone romantically.
• I do have crushes on minds.
• And I admit, I have romantic types- the whole gamut from Louis CK to Idris Elba and Tom Hardy, to Tilda Swinton, Janna Levin and Twyla Tharp, to Stephen Fry to Lynda Barry— you see what’s happening here- it’s about characters they portray or who they are in their lives or how they talk when they are being interviewed. It’s not real life.
• The overarching crush though, I suppose, is Lol in This is England.
• But it shifts from having a crush to wanting to look like her. Yeah, I want to look like her, wear Fred Perry clothes, maybe hang out as twins. Kick some people in the ass or on the chin with shit covered boots.
• Not a single cell, molecule, atom in my body is interested in dating.
• There’s no interest in spending the time or making the room.
• I admit I have zero interest in small talk and getting to know new people at parties unless its about some kind of creative endeavour or really interesting stuff.
• Observing the game makes me tired and all I can think about is wanting to make a sock monkey or draw something and wish I was wearing PJs.
• I love my friends.
• I love my family.
• I love my kids and we are so damn close.
• I love my kids’ friends. I sometimes steal them.
• I love having freedom to laugh and be myself.
February 14, 2018
I wrote it to state THIS IS ME.
So what happened after this declaration?
I received so many messages of camaraderie and the article was shared on Rebelle Society. But what happened to me?
Upon reflection, I know that the declaration was an important statement to myself that I can and should express myself and my art fully. And though the year that followed contained a roller coaster of emotions and strange adventures, what unfolded inside me– slowly over the year– was an inner peace.
By openly declaring THIS IS ME– I allowed my creative process to be mine– very important state of being as I spent the year vomiting out the third draft Molly.
By declaring THIS IS ME– I was able to navigate an extremely deep depression and pull myself out.
By declaring THIS IS ME– I am able to choose my well-being over people pleasing, I am able to put up healthy boundaries while maintaining authentic connections, I am able to meet anxiety with self-compassion (and just let it be what it is instead of finding solutions).
I am able to sit at my kitchen table in a peACEful house, celebrate myself– and my life, my role as daughter and mother– celebrate myself for a job done as well as I am able, knowing everything from here on in is gravy as my children have reached their 30’s and I, me myself and I, rejoice in the joy of solitude.
On this Valentine’s Day– I am proud of being me- saggy, ugly, creative, lovely, too-loudly-laughing me.
Something has come to pass, you think, something more important than a mere flight over the ravine – Gwendolyn MacEwen
And now it seems these days like I am practicing neutrality.
Allowing things to be. Just be. Letting fear crumble through my fingers. Sighing it out. Letting the little bird free.
… keep some middle ground of neutrality amidst the chaos to stay out of other people’s drama.– Lena Stevens
I am practicing. Every minute of every day until it becomes a habit.
Gnight! Lay out your worries. Some you’ll pay down a bit every day, some evaporate upon being named. Don’t bring them into bed, they cast grotesque shadows and leave crumbs like a muhf***ker. Sleep easy. – Lin Manuel Miranda
Yes- they are filled with sprinklings of magical memories about raising children- that is definitely the best part. But they are also filled with extraordinary pain, confusion, stupidity…
I pull out an old journal from 1991, and sit and smile and laugh as I find little scrawls about the kids, but then turn the pages and my heart is ripped out of my chest as I so desperately tried to make sense of what didn’t make sense. Letters from my family that sting my cheeks. I lacked tools and experience to navigate the relationships in my life. I did the best I could, but how did that affect my children?
So why do I keep the journals? Is there any value in the pain contained within along with the scratchings of creative process, or even those happy memories? Is the vice that strangles my heart when I turn the pages strengthened by me keeping them?
I have dragged them with me so many years. From place to place.
Is it time to let them go? And if so- how? One big purge and never look back?
They do prove I have tried my best, that I, even in the darkest despair, scrape pen on paper to remind myself- I AM HERE. I AM HERE.
“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” – JOAN DIDION