Advent Day Twenty: Try transforming

Lots of shapes, colors and line converge in today’s collage, and many of the collages made in the past three weeks. Some are down right chaotic. Sometimes the photograph makes them appear less so…other times, like today, the photograph seems to emphasize the chaos. photo (18)

I’m grappling with what my doctor said to me on Wednesday about the need for me to stop avoiding my feelings, and to let myself move through them, creating all kinds of chaos in my brain. These words came to me this week: “I’m guessing there is something comfortable for you about not changing.” Have you ever consider that in your own life? How staying in whatever pattern you are in is easier and even comforting?

It’s like getting into cold water for me. Exhilaration pulsates throughout my entire body when I am able to immerse myself into cold water. The pain and discomfort evaporates because the success of completing the challenge is so great. I know this to be true. But the anticipation of the first part paralyzes me and prevents me from getting to the second part.

Try transforming. Find that thing that is easy and comfortable for you, but is not serving you well and see if you can work through it–in spite of the pain and the discomfort. You are the only person who can do it.


Advent Day Nineteen: Let Go

I received some feedback on Wednesday that forced me to take a look at some of the things I am not doing and avoiding in relation to my mental and emotional health. I even work to avoid considering why I am avoiding it. So do I need to let go of the feedback OR do I need to let go of the things stirred up by the feimageedback. Truly the latter is what I must do. Wish me luck.

Advent Day Eighteen: Keep at it

Anyone who has tried to eliminate a bad habit, or start a new one, knows how difficult it can be, and frustrating. Especially when you know that you actually feel better when you do or don’t do whatever it is you are trying to stop or start. And we all have some sort of thing we want to “work on” so we can feel good. photo (17)

Kelly McGonigal wrote a book dedicated to this called the Willpower Instinct. It is based on a course that she teaches at Stanford designed to help someone stop or start something. She gets at the science behind the willpower muscle, essentially saying that like any muscle you have to keep it in shape, and that when it gets tired, it may not function as well.

One of the first thing she has participants do is begin meditating. Because when you are distracted, you are more likely to give into temptation…meditation helps you cultivate focus. It’s amazing how it works. (Try it. Meditate for five minutes a few days in a row and see how it enhances your focus the rest of the day.) But she also talks about failure, forgiveness, really understanding why you want to make the change and embracing the process versus the outcome.

I keep picking-up The Willpower Instinct, as well as the The Power of Now, and the Power of Habit. I need to return to varying practices of my own that help me deal with stress and process whatever emotional/mental/spiritual blocks that I currently slither through my system.

I keep reminding myself to keep at it, that I can feel good. But I have to do the work. It isn’t just going to happen.

Advent Day Sixteen: Eagle

On Monday as I was driving along the Massachusetts turnpike I luckily spotted a bald eagle perched in a tree. A friend recently recounted an experience in the same part of that road where a bald eagle was flying nearly parallel to her as she drove along. These moments where we spot another species in “the wild” stay with us.

While this was my first bald eagle sighting, it wasn’t my first eagle encounter. Ten years ago I spent a month in Tasmania on the most magical piece of earth cared for by my friend Peter Adams. On one of the hillsides near an ancient she-oak tree, an eagle nearly dive-bombed me. While this was a completely different kind of experience compared to Monday’s observation, I take away similar feelings and gratitude for being present and attentive to my surroundings.

Then yesterday, I was introduced to this poem by Joy Harjo, entitled Eagle.

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

And while this college is not filled with eagles, let’s pretend it is. photo (15)

Advent Day Fifteen: Converge

What exactly is converging here?photo (14)

Little dots and pathways back and forth and back and forth finds its way into my work regularly. Often the dots are red. Lately they’ve become white. And in my mind’s eye, I see them suspended in three-dimension. Ideas, thoughts, obligations, time–moving through the ether. When I pull back to see the full picture I understand how they converge together…but so often I am caught up inside the movement, tumbling within the chaos.

And I ask myself, when do I need to be the movement and when do I need to push back against it or diverge from it?

Advent Day Fourteen: Chimeras

Chimeras, what a great word. It definitely goes onto the list of possible titles for future exhibitions. The origin of the words comes from Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing hybrid of a monster but I prefer the meaning as it is used in the quote below from Muriel Barberry’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog. (A fantastic book you must read if your haven’t.)

Personally I think there is only one thing to do: find the task we have been placed on this earth to do, and accomplish it as best we can, with all our strength, without making things complicated or thinking there’s anything divine about our animal nature. This is the only way we will ever feel that we have been doing something constructive when death comes to get us. Freedom, choice, will and so on? Chimeras.

We think we can make honey without sharing in the fate of bees, but we are in truth, nothing but poor bees, destined to accomplish our task and then die.

I know, I know, not the most uplifting quote for a Monday. But these realizations also remind us of something that Paul Tillich said, “Suffering introduces you to yourself and reminds you that you are not the person you thought you were.” photo (13)

I embrace the chimeras. Every single day. Sometimes I call it magical thinking, but more than once it has gotten me through a challenging day. And with that, I am going to ride my bike in the woods in the middle of December, because everything is better amongst the trees.

Advent Day 13: Steady Practice

Often when I sit down to make these collages, what I think I am going to make and what I end up making are two very different things. The paper dictates the composition, as does color and occasionally the presence of words. The words “less fear” and “improve balance” in an article about yoga and strokes drove the direction of today’s arrangement.

I consider these words steady practice. improve balance. show less fear. in the context of news about someone I know diagnosed with lung cancer, another person anticipating invasive brain surgery, a friend who is now successfully recovering from a neck surgery, an acquaintance finding her way through Parkinson’s disease, family members with various physical and relational challenges and my own recovery from an unexpected health challenge. These words fly back and forth and back and forth between steady and practice. For me the only way to improve balance and show less fear is through the rigorous commitment to being a woman of faith. It’s a big tumble, so much so that I often don’t know which way is up. Do you?photo (12)photo (12)

photo (12)photo (12)

Advent Day Twelve: Saucy

Noisy. Restless. Sauciness. I’m feeling all of these things right (11)

Primo Levi also says it all for me right now.

Unfinished Business

Sir, please accept my resignation
As of next month,
And, if it seems right, plan on replacing me.
I’m leaving much unfinished work,
Whether out of laziness or actual problems.
I was supposed to tell someone something,
But I no longer know what and to whom: I’ve forgotten.
I was also supposed to donate something —
A wise word, a gift, a kiss;
I put it off from one day to the next. I’m sorry.
I’ll do it in the short time that remains.
I’m afraid I’ve neglected important clients.
I was meant to visit
Distant cities, islands, desert lands;
You’ll have to cut them from the program
Or entrust them to my successor.
I was supposed to plant trees and I didn’t;
To build myself a house,
Maybe not beautiful, but based on plans.
Mainly, I had in mind
A marvelous book, kind sir,
Which would have revealed many secrets,
Alleviated pains and fears,
Eased doubts, given many
The gift of tears and laughter.
You’ll find its outline in my drawer,
Down below, with the unfinished business;
I didn’t have the time to write it out, which is a shame,
It would have been a fundamental work.
Translated from the Italian by Jonathan Galassi

Advent Day Eleven: Time Change/Change Time

Time change. Change time. Time to change. Change the time.

Change your mind. Change your time. Time your mind, time your change. Whoa. photo (10)

A couple of years ago I received a workbook about Time and my relationship to it. It was a collective effort initiated by leaders of organization Impractical Labor is Service of the Speculative Arts.  We hosted an exhibit of the nearly 50 completed workbooks at PRESS last year. (You can look at some of the pages here.) Today’s collage dips into leftover scraps from the photocopied version of my own completed workbook.

But the statement I have for myself really comes from Mary Oliver: What is it you plan to do with your one precious and wild life? And then the subtext–is it really what you are doing right now? And if not, change your mind!