Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One word...

As my faithful (cherished) readers know, each year for the past seven, I have chosen a single word as a form of new year resolution. It is a practice that I read about on another blog, and I love doing it. I have often said that my word chooses me, through weird coincidences, and this year is no different. 

My word for 2014 was LOVE. (From 2008 to present: Health. Wealth. Believe. Authentic. Power. Discipline. Love.)

I started a new job in January, in the middle of a snowstorm, taking the city bus (for the first and last time) and no word less reflected how I was feeling than love. I hated the job, the commute, and the parking (none), for starters. I hated myself. I went from a place where I knew everything to knowing nothing. I hated my boyfriend -- not really, but he had recently retired, and I would wallow in self-pity every time I thought of him at home while I trudged through snow and ice from my distant parking garage into work. I felt like the life I had loved was stolen from me, and replaced with a poor imitation. And then I felt bad for feeling bad, because I knew that I was incredibly fortunate. So it took most of 2014 for me to feel the love– but as usual, my word has seen me through. I can even say that I love my job now, most days.

So this year’s word has been on my mind because of a particular quality that I want to change:

I am a quitter. It’s true. When the going gets tough, or hell, not even tough, just slightly annoying, I quit. It’s usually at the point where I have mastered the basics and might actually have to work hard and fail a few times before I get to the next level. Or, because it becomes easy, it gets boring. And I have noticed that when I listen to successful people that I admire talk about their lives, (I am often referring to artists here), their talents, as great as they may be, are probably secondary to their PERSISTENCE when it comes to how they achieved great success.

And then, as though she had crawled into my brain, this post by writer Elizabeth Gilbert just landed in my Facebook feed after I had written that paragraph…

Somebody asked me the other day if writing was easy for me…I hesitated with my answer…I have never wanted my work to be easy; I just want it to be interesting (for me)…

Meditation teacher Pema Chodron once said that the biggest problem she sees with people’s meditation practice is that they quit just when things start to get interesting. Which is to say, they quit as soon as things aren’t easy anymore. As soon as it gets painful or boring or agitating. So they miss the good part – the part when you push past the difficulty into some raw and new and unexplored universe within yourself.

And maybe it’s like that with every single important aspect of our lives. Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking – be careful not to quit too soon. Don’t quit the moment it stops being easy, OK? Because that moment? If you stay in it and then stubbornly push past your fear and resistance? That is the moment where interesting begins. 

So there it is. 

PERSISTENCE.  (def: Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Fresh eyes

Yesterday, a friend who had never seen my house stopped over for just a few minutes, to pick something up, so I gave her the two-cent tour.

She ooh’d and aaah’d, and said that my house was great, and that it looked just like me – a comment that just about everyone who sees my house says. I hope they mean that my house looks bright and fun and creative, which I’d like to think I am, rather than like it was decorated by a wino, which would also be pretty much true.

And it was just what I needed to hear. Ever since I embraced living alone, six years ago, I have taken on a room each year as a project – fresh paint, new d├ęcor, etc. – except for this past year. So I was in a sort of house funk.

After losing my job and having to pinch pennies this past year, I put all improvements on hold. And once I began to regain my financial footing, my house conspired against me, with unexpected plumbing and electrical repairs and failed appliances that needed replacement.

So even though my home is filled with bright colors and artful pieces that make me truly happy, my focus had been on all the improvements I didn’t get to make this year, rather than on all of the things I’ve done for the past 6 years that already make my home cute and comfy.

And just like that, I am inspired to start working on the last two rooms -- my bedroom and my art/sitting room – so that I have something to look forward to over what I fear is going to be a long, cold winter.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


In 50 days, I will turn fifty. Millions (billions?) have done it before me, but I will only do it once, and it is a HUGE number for me. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, fifty screams with absolute certainty that I am no longer young. 

Overall, I have enjoyed aging, and I have had more fun in my 40s than any other decade, so it is not about youth per se, because that is so obviously wasted on the young. It is about running out of time.

It is about not wanting to squander a single moment of this life that goes by in the blink of an eye. I think about what I will leave behind, besides a whole lot of unfinished projects, unused art supplies and wine corks.

I have no children – so how will I be remembered – or will I, at all – and for how long? And why is it important to me, because I know that it is.

I want my life to have meant something. I want to leave behind something of worth and beauty – a story, a work of art – something.

So, at almost 50, I am in a mad dash to figure out what that is, and to do it.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Beware of simpler times...

The BF and I visited the Schenectady Museum the other day. It’s a very small museum, housed in the historic Stockade section of the city, in an old two-story home, built in the 1800s. As you might expect, the museum’s exhibits focus primarily on items and events of historical significance to Schenectady, New York and the surrounding areas.

The BF was a history major in college, and he has a particular appreciation for New York State history. Among other things, we were there to see a new exhibit that highlighted the creation of the Erie Canal and the railroads, and their impact on the growth and development of the State.

I am more interested in the personal and social aspects of history, and while the canal and railways certainly impacted the social mores of the day, I found another exhibit at the museum much more fascinating…

The medical exhibit.

All I can say is, be grateful you live in 2014. Medicine and dentistry has come a very long way since the 1800s. This is a photo I took of the exhibit. The room is assembled to look like an exam room may have looked back then. In addition to a speculum on the exam table that looks as though it could give the doctor a clear view of your tonsils through your vagina, and a hammer (to test reflexes?) that could knock a prize fighter out cold, notice the rifle on the fireplace mantle in the background.

Based on some of the instruments I saw, along with the long list of deadly viruses that wiped out entire families during that era (cholera, Spanish fever, tuberculosis), the rifle may have been one of your better options as a patient.

Of course, as an artist and irrational lover of all things paper, my favorite item in the exhibit was this old prescription ledger. While I did my best to try to read some of the scripts, one thing hasn’t changed in centuries – it is still impossible to read the doctors’ handwriting.

And here  is my "altered" book of potions...

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Digital collage fun...

My heart keeps beating out a rhythm that seems to be asking me, over and over... What next? What now? What? What? 

Monday, June 30, 2014

NEED to make art...

It has now become an uncontrollable urge, as though I cannot think straight or do my work until I make one (and only time prevents me from doing this all day). It literally clears my head to make these digital magazine collages -- or DMCs, as I am now calling them.

On the practical side of my world, it seems that the lesson I am meant to learn this year is to let go (a little) of my need for order. I do not crave perfection, but I love visual order. I love to see the little bit of world that I imagine is within my control (i.e. my house and my garden) neatly groomed -- from folded laundry to a neatly mowed lawn, and perky well-watered flowers. But this year, time, nature and freakin' LIFE has conspired against me.

A summer flu, a broken lawnmower, and weekend family celebrations have forced me to accept the inevitable - grass gets high, thirsty flowers droop, laundry piles up, and dust settles on hardwood floors, accentuated by the long-awaited summer sunshine through the blinds.

I cannot keep up this year. And I am okay with it. Now. Mostly. I prefer when things are in order. But my DMCs allow me to exercise some control over a tiny party of this uncontrollable world.

DMC - collage therapy...