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
Ever get this way? Staring at your to do list, and not moving?
Feels like a slow bleed, but the blood is flowing backwards causing a brain sting.
I get this ways sometimes. Trying to figure out too many things and struggling with feeling useless and unproductive, even strangely irresponsible, yet knowing I deserve just some time to stop. Especially at this stage in my life.
My overactive, stinging mind and my weary heart compete for who can most distract me from simply celebrating self. Being responsible for just myself.
Tonight, I sit a little stunned, knowing I need to make some seemingly big shifts.
But maybe the shifts can be big through small steps?
If I am not going to catch up on reporting tonight, I can at least answer one email from an anxious student.
If I am not working research materials tonight, I can at least watch Escape from Dannemora.
If I am not going to work on the screenplay tonight, then I should simply just write something, anything. Like this blog entry.
If I am not going to work on the illustration project that I need to get finished this week, I must at least sew on a drawing.
If I am not setting up inquiry meetings about career shifts, I can check in with my vision boards.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. – John Muir
When I am in the forest in Stanley Park, and sit down on the forest floor, I am acutely aware that I am on a sphere. In fact, I swear that I can feel the planet churning. I place my hand on the ground- it rumbles.
I even seem to hear the planet turn over the sounds of traffic.
… your breath is locked forever in my ears where once the name was whispered, and I defy eternity to take from me what is mine! – Gwendolyn MacEwen
Push it. examine all things intensely and relentlessly. ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. – John Muir
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
I am so used to sharing my creative process openly– and now I find myself in a new state of being, where in order to discuss and develop the project further, I have to stop sharing it.
This is all exciting and unreal– so why do I feel anxious? It is weird. Unfamiliar.
A soul reached out and I was chosen to tell her story… but…
When public goes private, do I lose her?
What a strange feeling this is.
Anxiety is potentially a huge by-product of the energy this month as we try to navigate through all of what is coming our way. It is much like a run-away train. We will simply need to trust that the tracks we put down will hold, and the train will end up settling in the right place.
But today as I close my eyes, I am 22, alone, crying, New Year’s Eve, 1984. Though— not quite alone. I am pregnant with Anna. I am scared, crying, in a fetal position on the mattress on the floor. It is midnight and I hear fireworks. By making a choice to keep my child, I have created chaos in my family. And I am alone, in a weird room in a weird house with roommates I don’t know.
Though not quite alone.
The color yellow is prominent.
The color yellow helps activate the memory, encourage communication, enhance vision, build confidence, and stimulate the nervous system. [source]
I believed then that by being myself, I hurt people.
What I say to that 22 year old, alone but not quite alone, on the mattress in that dark room now is—
You made the right choice. By yourself. You don’t need to thank anyone. You don’t need to be indebted to anyone. YOU made the decision. A decision that made your mother stagger…
Trust yourself. Somehow you survive. The impossible is not impossible. I’M POSSIBLE. Inside you is the greatest gift. A child that grows to a young woman who is deserving to live a life untethered.
Anxiety, fear– all is survivable. And those times you have felt done with life- you were not done but simply evolving. You were so young, with no tools. The child inside you will grow up to be celebrated for her decisions…
[I want my children to be free FREE FREE FREE of guilt for living their chosen lives.]
Her grief became your guilt. Your grief can be her release.
I sit on the 23, heading home… leaning my head against the window. The bus is full. It’s damp outside and damp inside. I have a seat, a warm seat on the left side- I always get a seat as I always get on at the first stop. No need to anticipate and worry about trying to get off and navigate the crowd in the tiny bus for my stop is the last one along the route.
Heading West means heading home. The 23 is the last rung on the journey- be it coming from Coquitlam, Surrey, Fraser and Broadway…
The bus driver is the nice one, who chats all friendly always, this time to passengers from out of town. The driver talks about his life, born and raised in Mexico City. He is so kind to anyone getting on, anyone getting off. He talks about his favorite food, neighborhoods.
I do a lot of thinking on this bus. Heading West means the day is done. I shift my brain from youth work to family and creative work. I write in my head, I draw in my mind. I long to get back at it. But I remind myself that I am at it. I seem to stay in the creative process at all times.
The mantra tonight in my head as I lean against the window, as I stare out into the rain runs:
I don’t care if anyone likes my writing or drawings.
I don’t care if I like my writing or drawings.
I only care that I am writing and drawing.
I take this shit pretty seriously.
I get off the bus by the Laughing Statues with a thank you and You are a wonderful person to the bus driver.Stepping off that bus, every time, no matter how tired I am, how many bags I carry, how hungry I am, how distracted- I am always infused with intense gratitude and love for my neighborhood with that first step.
In the daylight, usually in the morning on the way to the 23, I stop every time I see a bird, an animal. Smiling at the towhees, the sparrows, the gulls, geese, crows, robins, finches, chickadees, the herons on the roofs, the squirrels… In the dark, the animals are quiet. But the trees are fresh. The lights are on inside the apartments. And the sounds of domesticity comfort.
There is a melancholia, a history, a soulfulness and full-of-souls-fullness to my neighborhood. And I find myself being able to stay present in this neighborhood. I find myself fed. There is a sense of grief in this neighborhood that I align with. And that seems to feed my process.
There is a melancholia, a history, a soulfulness and full-of-souls-fullness to my creative process, to my stuff that I keep. I begin to understand that I prefer to write and draw and read about grief. And I find myself being able to stay present surrounded by my books, my creations, my collections, the family photo albums. I find my creative process fed. More and more I understand that I am an archivist, a self-appointed family historian because I find a strange comfort in saudade.
Grief seems to both feed and be my creative process. And all along I thought I was seeking freedom, that my current project, Molly, is about freedom, but I think my overarching theme is actually grief– how it shapes and directs us. Perhaps I am simply an explorer. Not seeking answers as such, just shining a little flashlight getting glimpses on something that I may never grasp but am drawn to. Curious. And therein lies the freedom. My soul is being fed.
Freedom is not about the size of your cage, or power of your wings, or non-attachment to a person or a thing. Freedom is about being so deeply, madly and truly attached to your own soul that you can’t bear, if only for a moment, a life that doesn’t honor it. – Andrea Balt
I’m back on the 23, three large tote bags filled with notes and supplies and youth work on my lap, heading west, the end of another day and tonight my mantra shifts to:
There is so much I want to write about, draw about.
And I make a list in my head as I mull over how grief is intertwined in my personal timeline. The list seemingly senseless but somehow important.
Mom losing her mom
Oscar Wilde and the Nightingale and the Rose
Mom, Tolstoy and the moment of
The blog- to deposit
Dad, Drawn Together and being in process
Dead birds and writing
Drawn to books
Process and reflection
The decision to stay and the beauty of being
Why this list? Why do these stand out? I don’t need to answer.
This past weekend, my sweet friend from university days gave me a bunch of letters I had written to her around 1984-86. Fascinating look into my “reality” then. I put reality in quotation marks. It is so painful and funny (and relieving that I survived) as I see “through the sunny cellophane of which not very appetizing frustrations can be readily distinguished.” [Nabokov] I was wearing a mask of perfection and hope.
I recall my friend once confronted me- a few years after this collection of letters- (though it wasn’t confrontation- it was actually care and concern) regarding my relationship. You’re not happy, she said. In my naive, young, anxious, perfectionist self in the 80’s, I heard you’re not happy as a judgment, as coming from someone who couldn’t possibly understand how happy I actually was.
She saw something I couldn’t/wouldn’t see. I was in self-preservation mode. She called me on it. But it took many 20+ years to understand that. To understand what she saw that I didn’t. Thankfully, she and I have connected deeply since then, and indeed the friendship is building profoundly and significantly. And so the gift of these letters is very moving. And thankfully, I am happy how my life (the blood and guts and pains and joys) have unfolded.
My letters read so positive. But my heart aches for me as I read between the lines and fall into a black hole of the past. I recall my choices towards freedom were always questioned. When I gave myself to a relationship against the wishes of my family, I took a huge risk. Then I experienced the heartache of betrayal- but needed to keep the mask of perfection. I found myself out on my own, young, naive, frightened, then pregnant [a story left for another day], then back to that relationship, withdrawing from university when about to start med school, then trust, then the beautiful child, about to marry, then more betrayal, more masks, then married, then another beautiful child, and art school, awakening, more masks- but oh- oh OH— there was such beauty and joy!
Motherhood and the children- so GLORIOUS, and art- GLORIOUS. And in the midst of extreme heartache there was also deep love and laughter and family and life. LIFE LIFE LIFE!
I can’t, won’t change it. So I sit here now, surrounded by the words of my early 20’s self. I am all about un-peeling the layers now. Taking a closer look at the hints and reasons. To forgive that young anxious woman I was, trying her absolute best to be a good mom- caught between two other people- two extremely strong personalities- pulling me apart at the seams. As I forgive myself, I forgive them.
I am not a broken heart. I am not collarbones or drunken letters never sent. I am not the way I leave or left or didn’t know how to handle anything, at any time, and I am not your fault.
― Charlotte Eriksson
I was going to type out some excerpts. In fact I did type out a bunch. But highlighted it all and pressed delete.
More than kisses, letters mingle souls.― John Donne