Trending:  Why Doesn’t S/he Leave:  Domestic Violence

Trending: Why Doesn’t S/he Leave: Domestic Violence

blog dv 4This started to be a post on FaceBook but I realize that there is no short blurb way of telling this story.

If you don’t have time for this full piece, scroll to the bottom where you’ll find a good article on how to help someone in an abusive situation.

I was a domestic violence victim for 17 years, half my life by the time I finally made it out.  In those 17 years I divorced him and remarried him and chose to have 2 kids with him while we were still divorced.

Most of you who read my blogs, I think, would not consider me the victim type.  I did a lot of work to change from a victim to a brazen, confidant Wylde Woman.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I want to try to track some of this.

I was the only, adopted child of an alcoholic Mom.  My father held me to standards that were hard to attain.  If I can an A in school, he wanted to know why I didn’t get an A+.

Before my pre-teens I was active, and a tom-boy.  I liked jeans and t-shirts and flannel shirts (this is in the 50s) and was the only girl allowed to hang out with the 3 neighborhood boys because I was quite willing to fight if called for.  I remember being confident.  I was not afraid to talk back to adults I thought were wrong.

Then, something changed, and I remember being painfully shy.

Trying to find the thread, I think the shyness started in 5th grade, when I was looking at books in the aisle of Dart Drugstore on Lee Highway in Arlington Va.  Momma was a fewblog dv 2 aisles over looking at cards in one of those twirly stands they put cards on.  There was a man looking at books beside me.  I remember smiling a greeting to him and continuing to look at books.  I chose a book that had 2 stories:  a horse story and a dog story.  When I turned to go towards my Mom, he had his fully erect penis out, smiled at me, and said:  “You like this?”  I brushed past him.  I didn’t tell my Mom.  For 3 years.  I didn’t go back into that Dart Drug ever again.  My parents never asked why.

By the time I was in my teens, Dad would call Mom at night (he worked nights) and she’d be drunk and he’d have her put me on the phone and ask me whether or not she was drunk, with her standing there.  It felt like being put on the spot.  It *was* being put on the spot.  My life long distrust of psychiatrists started at about the same time – Mom was seeing one and he knew she was drinking and yet he was giving her downs to sleep and ups to wake.  She, on some days, did in a fifth of gin and half a fifth of bourbon. And some nights she would wake me to come write down long disjointed thoughts because her hand was tired and she felt she needed to get this all out on paper.

Up until 16 I was the “good girl/good daughter” personified.  I followed the rules.  I thought about being a nun (I was Catholic in a Catholic school).  I have my diaries with entries about being a nun.  I got good grades.  I made National Honor Society.

My cousin, raising hell for her own reason, came to live with us.  Out riding between Tops Drive Inns on Lee Highway in Arlington and Broad Street in Falls Church with her, I ran into my next 17 years.  She wasn’t shy.  The next night I lied to my Mom for the first time and said I was going to a school dance and went and met Him instead.

Maybe the shadow side of the Good Girl is the Rebel.  At any rate, I embraced that persona whole heartedly.  At school, no one really expected anything from me but my known Good Girl persona so I got through my senior year breezily, getting drunk on slow gin fizzes most weekends.blog dv 1

Senior Day I went to D.C. with friends and got drunk (18 was legal at that time).  I came home and slept some of it off and went to pick Him up from work and drop Him off at his house.  He was very angry that I had done this without Him.  Never mind I could never count on him to be where he said he was or to get me when he said he would.  We had a huge fight.  Huge.  I remember putting my seat belt on (which I never did back then), putting my foot on the break, flooring the accelerator and aiming for a telephone pole halfway down the street.  I woke up in the hospital.  He had taken his car over to get my Mom, who was drunk.  The first thing I said when I woke up was “Are you still mad at me?”  She didn’t notice, I guess, because she never asked about that.  48 stitches in my head, 1/2 block from stopped to high enough speed to snap a telephone pole in half, a totaled car, and neither of my parent asked me what was up.  Ever.

I felt unlovable.  I felt if he left me I’d be alone for the rest of my life.  I was 17.  There are more stories.  When we got married at 19 people were literally taking bets that we’d either kill each other or divorce within the year.

 

Domestic Violence Cycle

Domestic Violence Cycle

In case you don’t know, in battering relationships there is a cycle.  There is the honeymoon phase where everything is lovely and loving and couldn’t possibly be better.  Then there is the tension build up phase.  Intuitively the battered partner knows what’s coming.  After a while s/he will incite the battering phase just to get rid of the tension and get back to the loving phase.  The cycle can be years or hours.  It does not get better, not matter how many times the battering partner promises because the battering partner believes (and may not be able to articulate this) that if the battered partner would just [fill in the blank, it changes even within relationships and usually is actually something like:  "read my mind, fulfill all my wishes and make the rest of the world go away because it is your fault and their fault that I am so unhappy"],  then everything would be fine.  The battered partner believes that too, mostly for reasons of lack of self worth (see “unlovable” above), and tries to control *everything*.  Believes in perfection.  Tries valiantly to do the impossible.  Get’s verbally denigrated, pinched, pushed, punched anyways – incites it to get back to the loving phase.  Around and Around.  If I write it all down, we’ll have a book here, so I won’t.

In my opinion many of those “instances” of female on male violence are that incitement phase.  But maybe that’s just me.

Why I stayed:  All of my friends were in the same situation, more or less.  Isn’t that sad?  There were no empowered women around me anywhere.  I had no psychic support system.  My religious system (which I have long now discarded) said I was married forever and must take whatever I got.  I was the main money earner through all those 17 years so at least I had that, but women don’t earn that much and two small kids to support by yourself was no easy feat – easier than supporting him too but I didn’t know that yet.

Trying to Leave.  It took numerous separations, a divorce, a remarriage, 2 kids I loved fiercely and wanted to protect, and a broken eye and bruised ribs before I finally left.   Each time there were promises that it wouldn’t happen again.  Promises I wanted to believe.  Each time I was alone and didn’t know how to be alone because there was no “me” there.  I had no concept of wanting something for myself.  The idea of putting myself before *anyone* was as foreign to me as living on the moon might be.blog dv 3

How I Left.  It was the convergence of several things:  at work I was doing well for someone with just a high school education.  I was given more and more responsibility.  At home I could do nothing right.  Cognitive dissonance.  Big Time.  Lunch hour in the park every day for two years writing my way to understanding I could want something, writing what it was I wanted, prioritizing that list.  Last ditch weekends away together to talk.  Him:  “Let’s not ruin this time by talking about all that.”  His female heroin buddy calling in the middle of the night ostensibly for him to fix her battery.  My car not working the next morning and Him refusing to get out of bed to help me get it started to get to work.  Finding my daughter playing with a hypodermic needle.  My own rising rage that was flowing down hill to my kids. A magazine, Woman or something like that – one of the first with short articles and definitely not Women’s Day or Good Housekeeping, with an article that felt like a punch to the gut and a wake up call.  I shared it with Him.  He said so what.  Heroin Buddy calling the house even though I specifically told Him to have that stop, but I wasn’t answering the phone (denial).  I answered the phone.  He came back from visiting a friend across the street.  It was nighttime.  I started yelling.  He pushed me down on the couch.  I twisted around and attacked ready to claw his eyes out, He backhanded me, my cheek swelled up to where I could see it within seconds (broken eye socket).  Scared Him.  He left.  I had my prioritized list and it did not include this treatment.  I had Him arrested.  I’d like to say that was the end of it but of course we went through months of my having a Peace Bond and Him breaking it, trying to break in the house at night, coming for the kids, choking me, back to jail with the kids begging me not to.  All those lovely, very hard things.  The difference:  I had done the work, I was walking my way to empowerment.  I got individual therapy for me and the kids and group therapy for DV victims which was the best thing I ever did.  I could see it in others and then I could see it in myself.

Then I forgave myself for not figuring this out sooner.

Here’s a Good Article: much shorter than my whole thing if you don’t have time for all of the above:  …Helping Someone in an Abusive Relationship

Why Didn’t You Just Leave?

 

 

Poetry Saturday:  Naomi Shihab Nye

Poetry Saturday: Naomi Shihab Nye

inside title page with handwritten note by Naomi Shihab Nye to blog authorI have been cleaning my bookshelves.  Was packing today to take some more books to the used book store when I ran into 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Signed by her to me.  It was in the “to go” pile, which made me 2nd guess myself.  Where you are on any given day can change your choices.  Any of them.  I am in the middle of wanting to scream about what’s going on in the Middle East.  And what we, America, are doing.  Again.

My father, the man who adopted and raised me, is Syrian Lebanese (it was one country when he was born, here in the U.S., his parents immigrants, so I don’t know which he is).  I am adopted.  Being adopted had its moments of difficulties.  Once my aunt, his sister, refused to talk to him in his last months in the hospital before he died to help me tell him he needed to go into a nursing home.  She said to me, “You wouldn’t understand. You have never had a family.”  Those exact words.  I was 46.  I had been his child for 46 years and yet I had no family in her mind.  I begged to differ and said I most certainly did have a family and they were gathered around me at that moment (my husband and kids).

My father and I had a volatile relationship – I was never the submissive woman he thought I should be.  Maybe submissive isn’t the right word.  I was a leftie, somehow.  He hard right.  Hard right.

Anyways, I arranged for a nursing home since I was not going to move myself and my family into his house, and he died 4 hours after he arrived.  He was having none of it.

Back to poetry and Naomi Shihab Nye, whose work I have loved for many years.  I sat and read a spell.

This is a beautiful little book.  As we jump into yet another war in the Middle East, I decided to share some bits and pieces with you.

In the Introduction, Naomi say:  “I dedicate these poems of my life to the wise grandmothers and to the young readers in whom I have always placed my best faith.  If grandmothers and children were in charge of the world, there would never be any wars.  Peace, friends.  Please  don’t stop believing.”

from Passing the Refuge Camp

Yesterday the soldiers smashed
Lena’s sink and tub and tiles

They whipped a father in front of his sons
ages 2 and 4

They do this all the time
The house filled with water

They locked the door on the crying boys
taking the father

Believe me Lena says
They had no reason

On the steps of the National Palace Hotel
soldier peel oranges

throwing back their heads so the juice
runs down their throats

This must their coffee break
guns slung sideways

They are laughing
stripping lustily

They know what sweetness lives withing
How can the know this and forget

so may other things?

 

from The Palestinians Have Given Up Parties

…..Where does fighting
come into this story?

Fighting got lost from somewhere else.
It is not what we like:  to eat, to drink, to fight.

Now when the students gather quietly
inside their own classroom
to celebrate the last day of school,
the door to the building
gets blasted off.
Empty chairs where laughter used to sit.
Laughter lived here
jingling its pocket of thin coins
and now it is in hiding…..

See the hand-tinted photos of young men:
too perfect, too still.
The bombs break everyone’s
sentences in half.
Who made them? Do you know anyone
who makes them
? The ancient taxi driver
shakes his head back and forth
from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They will not see, he says slowly,
the story behind the story,
they are always looking for the story after the story
which means they will never understand the story.

Which means it will go on and on…

 

from All Things Not Considered

You cannot stitch the breath
back into this boy.

A brother and sister were playing with toys
when their room exploded.

In what language
is this holy?

The Jewish boys killed in the cave
were skipping school. having an adventure.

Asel Asleh, Palestinian, age 17, believed in the field
beyond right and wrong where people
come together

to talk.  He kneeled to help someone else
stand up before he was shot.

If this is holy,
could we have some new religions please?

Mohammed al-Durra huddled against his father
in the street, terrified.  The whole world saw him die.

An Arab father on crutches burying his 4 month girl weeps,
“I spit in the face of this ugly world.”

*

Most of us would take our children over land.
We would walk the fields forever homeless
with our children,
huddle under cliffs, eat crumbs and berries,
to keep our children.
This is what we say from a distance
because we can say whatever we want…..

 

To do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome is the definition of insanity.  We have tried this before.  What can it hurt to change the steps to the dance into something new?

Begin at the Beginning

Begin at the Beginning

This soul card is titled "Rebel."  I realize that I want to retitle it "Hero": I am the one who breaks the rules; the one who eats the apple, grows weeds in the sidewalk cracks.  I am the one who is a red dragon, loiving beneath blue water in the underground cave.  Cross me at your own risk.

This soul card is titled “Rebel.” I realize that I want to retitle it “Hero”:
I am the one who breaks the rules; the one who eats the apple, grows weeds in the sidewalk cracks. I am the one who is a red dragon, living beneath blue water in the underground cave. Cross me at your own risk.

Which is to say:  “Start where your are” since where ever you are is surely the beginning of something, or it can be if you so choose. Last post I spoke of heroes.  A favorite quote of mine (it can be found in my thesis written in 1996 or 97) on heroes can be found in a discussion between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell in the book (also a PBS series), The Power of Myth.  It follows:

Bill Moyers: Unlike heroes such as Prometheus or Jesus, we’re not going on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves.

Joseph Campbell:  But in doing that you save the world.  The influence of a vital person vitalizes, there’s no doubt about it.  The world without spirit is a wasteland.  People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth.  no, no!  Any world is a valid world if it’s alive.  The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.

Makes me think of another quote I picked out of a magazine, long lost, so I can’t give attribution.  It went something like this:

We should pay attention to those around us.  We should note, out loud:  “You look as if you love doing that.  You should do it more.”

A gift of attention, along with permission, which all of us seem to need at some point when we’re waffling between the way it is and the way it might be.

I am the one who wanders the labrynth searching for treasure I already hold; I am the one who is alone but never lost, the one who knows the language of the wind.

I am the one who wanders the labrynth searching for treasure I already hold; I am the one who is alone but never lost, the one who knows the language of the wind.

Anyways, this quote shows up in the front of a book I started this morning, Make Magic of your Life,” by T. Thorn Coyle.  He of Kissing the Limitless I mentioned last post (“Seaweed-slick and Barnacle-Encrusted”). I started reading and started underlining and then stopped underlining realizing that I was going to underline the whole book if I did it like that, and started jotting my reactions.

I rarely jot my reactions.  Mostly I think marvelous thoughts – profound, earth-shaking – and then lose them because I fail to attach them to something concrete like paper and they’re off to the next person who might take more time and attention.  As I may have mentioned, I’m transitioning (the last stage before birth), or in labor birthing something and since the restlessness beforehand is the same I never know which (in the end something new this way comes).

So this post is something like a conversation between underlines and thoughts.  It is always amazing to me to find someone writing things I think every day – more than an affirmation that I’m not the only one, more of a, at least at the moment, synchronicity of being reminded what I already know, and an urging to take that farther than I have before.

There you are, living your life, when suddenly, the call comes. (all italics are from the book)

Thomas Merton says, “Your life is shaped by the end you live for.  You are made in the image of what you desire.”

Christina Baldwin, in Calling the Circle,  says it this way:

In every path that leads to maturity, there is some form of dark night, a readiness finally to enter into shadow, to explore that which we have kept hidden.  We enter into darkness by dealing with the wounding we have endured and the wounding we have caused.  We enter the darkness by walking off the edge of our life maps into unknown territory.  There is no more meandering.  There is no more escape – not one more errand to run, not one more load of laundry to wash and fold, not one more phone call to answer, not one more word I can write until I take the next step.  Until I am willing to fall…I shout…’Are you sure I’m ready for this?  I already feel as though I’ve been hurtling from one experience to the next.  How do You know I’m ready?’  I am staring into the bright eyes of an angel.  ’You cannot know if you are ready until after you fall,’ she says. ‘This is a leap of faith.’  I face the edge.  I do not jump.  It more subtle than that.  I simply let go. [quoted in my blog, "A Woman's Guide to Breaking the Rules"]

I am the one who is learning to be old, the one who is remembering the wisdom I carry.  I am the one who is naming the spirits who walk with me.

I am the one who is learning to be old, the one who is remembering the wisdom I carry. I am the one who is naming the spirits who walk with me.

Me:  What is manifesting in my life – what have my “recent” [say last two or three years] choices let me to in my day-to-day life?  How are these manifestations clues to my own Soul Work.  How do these manifestations compare with the spirit cards I’ve made to date?  Have I done Tarot lately?  What showed up there?…..No I haven’t done Tarot lately but is it by chance that Kissing the Limitless has a new-to-me spread called “reading the Moon” that I found flipping through the book – and I found it the day before the full moon?

We can also get caught up in thinking that our purpose needs to be some earth-shattering thing.  Most often the soul’s work is what feels most ordinary to each of us. [emphasis mine]

Me:  We are always at the beginning of something [see my title?  aren't I clever to wind this in here?  I digress, patting myself on the back.]    I remain incomplete, yearning, in transition, unknowing so that I can write about it and others will not feel so alone.  Not so earth-shattering, and certainly not the glitter and dazzle (and income) I’d have chosen given a choice in the matter (or moreso to the point, maybe it is exactly what I’ve chosen to date), but not bad soul-work.  Certainly gratifying from time to time when feedback happens.  Granted that’s few and far between but if you get a carrot every time instead of randomly you aren’t as inclined to continue whatever it is you are doing that wins that carrot.  Pavlov proved that already.

There is some work – some practice, joy, or way of being – that only we can manifest in this world.

Me:  Yes.  I believe that totally (when I’m believing anything)

I like to look at the parts of the self that want to reject the idae of a life purpose of the soul’s work and ask ‘Why?’  Is there anger present?  Or cynicism or a sense of betrayal….we can invite our ears, anger, or cynicism to the table of desire.  The add spice and savor – cinnamon and chili – to our dark chocolate.

Me:  Anger? Cynicism? Betrayal?  Indeed.  All of it.  And it’s not bad and wrong, it’s spice. I’m nothing if not spicey! My conclusion for today (and this is only a taste and about 5 pages of the book) this transitioning/birthing I’m moving into is soul work.  I have “done” lots of stuff – those were the

I am the one who has all the questions, the one who has some of the answers.  I am the one who sees the buttefly flap its wings in Tokyo while the full moon laughs remembering all the yesterdays gone before.

I am the one who has all the questions, the one who has some of the answers. I am the one who sees the buttefly flap its wings in Tokyo while the full moon laughs remembering all the yesterdays gone before.

strands of my unique piece of the web that I have been (and continue) to weave.  Time now to focus on integrating the doing - letting it move through my body as the impetus to art does, and the impetus to write does – to let that flow – which is unique to me because it gets my “spice” – move out into the web.

Heart work is weaving the strands.  Soul work is giving them strength and resiliency and long-lastingness.

A light clicks on around what’s been happening in my work life the past 3 weeks or so (well that’s really a culmination of about a year of events).  I keep trying to figure out (take control) of the situation when really it’s only there to remind me it’s time to go deeper and that’s more of an inside job.

I am also reminded that if I am exhausted, psychically and physically from giving way too much energy to the outside, the inside won’t have anything left over.  Or maybe you have to get to that exhaustion before you surrender to the transition period of birthing.  I don’t know.

What I *am* coming to understand is that if you get the solitary, the Self down (understood), you are moving toward wholeness.  Wholeness is the most you have to offer the rest of the world and your own piece of the web.  And there are ramifications you will never be aware of by getting there or not.

Seaweed-Slick and Barnacle Encrusted

Seaweed-Slick and Barnacle Encrusted

dragonfly and sun with word "transform"

Transform: watercolor by Tammy Vitale

I know this post has some energy around it since it has been mostly written in my head for about three hours and I have twiddled away my morning writing time and run myself up against the wall of have to be somewhere too soon to get it spell checked and out.

Having said that, I am going to try to capture the raw energy of this morning and then get it out to the world later.  I’m leaving all this in because it seems to say something about important information that is trying to come through me:  if it’s big, I procrastinate.  Especially if it feels like something that has been asleep in the deep, and is now not only awake, but rising towards the surface, seaweed slick and barnacle encrusted.  Hard to not want to run away.

In The Origin and History of Human Consciousness, Erich Neumann says that the community (the world) depends on “outsiders”, whom he defines as people “within an ebnlarged category of the type known in myth as the hero, the Great Individual.”

He says the hero “must conquer the ordinary because it represents the power of the old order” which is constricting.

But conquering normal life – which is the life of the unheroic – always means sacrificing normal values and so coming into conflict with the collective.  If later the hero is honored as a culture-bringer and savior, etc., this is generally only after [the hero] has been liquidated by the collective.

I hope you do not think less of me that I claim for myself the title “hero.”  It seems my whole life has been standing up to “this is the way it is” because it chafes me raw.

In the epic poem, NightVision, that is the heart of my Master’s thesis, I write:

“you don’t understand,” he said.

I am 19.  It is several lifetimes ago.

“This is the way it has always been,” he said.
And he said, “Why won’t you go along with the game.
The game is played on middleground guarded by rules.
Why must you always pace at the edge.  You might
fall off.”
“We know,” he said, “how it is done here.  Don’t rock
the boat.”

His voice is all the voices I had ever heard in my life.
All the voices trying to drown out laughter heard
at border’s rim where Yellow’s lightening sounds to them
llke howls the do not wish to hear. [see" note" below]

I did not choose this ledge,
this edge,
this tightrope,
this tension between land and beckoning abyss.  It is just…..
despite myself, I am not afraid.

This piece of the epic creation poem is a conflation of my first (and second – one and the same, another story) husband and my 2nd semester Master’s facilitator, as well

mixed media by Tammy Vitale

Making My Own Myth – mixed media by Tammy Vitale

as a lot of other people in my life who did/do not understand why sometimes you have to go ahead and challenge the status quo.  No matter what.

And while Heros have their moments of knowing they were meant to do the work they are in the middle of, they also have their moments of complete despair.

It says something about the past two weeks that I was brought to near  tears by the words I read this morning  by T. Thorn Coyle in Kissing the Limitless:  Deep Magic and the Great Work of Transforming Yourself and the World:

We have put parts of ourselves in a box on a shelf, or made another facet toe an invisible line…We conformed to lives that did not fit. It is up to us to make our lives fit who we are…At this point, who we are includes whatever years we spent attempting to shape our lives to fit some other ideal, or hiding parts of ourselves in order to feel more acceptable..

The heroic is calling.  I am never sure what that means.  Coyle says:  “The figuring out impulse is an attempt to take control, to be active, to do. Sometimes the doing is in the being,  and right here, teaching and learning can occur.”

What is rising for me right now is doing things in ways that I have not done them before.  At work, both sitting with “the way things are” and trying to be true to myself is creating a good bit of internal drama.  External too unfortunately.  It seems I almost never react until I am in full reaction mode and can’t quite turn it off.

Inside I am restless which is usually the way I get when I am in transformation.  Always scarey (see above:  seaweed slick and barnacle encrusted), so you can see why “doing”/being in control would be and has been my first response.  This time, I am going to sit and see what comes up.  And write – around both feelings (my last post was inspired by “the way things are” at work).  That was actually said to me:  “This is the way things are.”  My edge walking self responded:  “And this is they way they will be 100 years from now if someone doesn’t say something.”  Of course I am always and every “Someone.”  Can you see why I might identify with the definition of the hero who gets liquidated?

I can unequivocally say that I have been through several liquidations (and haven’t we all by a certain age?!).  The bad news is that it always feels like death.  The good news is that wings grow and I rise again, often boosted by the energy of the awakened seaweed slick, barnacle encrusted thing I am transitioning into/with.

How about you?  How do you respond to transition?  How do you know you’re in the beginning or in the midst?  What do you do or be while there?  Share!

Note: so you understand the reference to Yellow in the quote above, here is a previous stanza in the poem to put it in context:

Before Beginning,
Purple lay humming
and the hum danced
in and around Purple
criss-crossing and spiraling
until Purple was full of whom
it might be.  Caught by curiosity
and thrum, Purple became Blue Water
and Red Flame quite by accident, more
a letting go than a splitting apart, and hum
became sigh and sigh became Winde; then Blue
and Red and Wind danced together long enough
to create Time.  Beneath beyond Purple hummed
and, because of Wind, the hum began
to tickle Purple and Purple laughed
out Yellow and Yellow draped
among the crosses and spirals
of Purple’s Web creating
intersections vibratin
Shadow and
Light.

For all I know, they are sill dancing.

(the poem is concrete in that the shape of the paragraph is meant to bring to mind the belly of pregnancy….for the birthing of shadow and light)

The Grand Miscellaney of Life

The Grand Miscellaney of Life

print out 2I have been away a bit longer than planned.  So rather than stay away and let the shadow of wanting to blog grow bigger and bigger, I’m going to reenter here with some rambling.  Sort of like getting your toes wet and then realizing you have to go ahead and dive into the waves or you’re going to spend the rest of the day on the beach.

Blogging is a nod to my writing self, who isn’t a major player in my art but who does like acknowledgement every now and then.  So of course I decided to start blogging at the same time I signed up for Patti Digh’s Project 137 for 2014 (through December 30), the 30-day challenge with Tea Silvestre at Story Bistro (September), and, as I have for 7 years now, Art Every DayMonth, every November, with Leah Piken-Kolidas.  I am either on a roll and it is time for inner writing girl to be upfront and forward, or I am crazy.

I think there’s more to it than that, though.

When I am under stress or confused about “what’s next” or in the middle of “man, is this uncomfortable”, I tend to get “busy” – I guess maybe that’s my way of dealing with stress.  If I’m really busy, I don’t have time to  obsess.  Except of course in the middle of the night when I should be sleeping.  So all of the above, plus working on my step risers (a bow to my inner artist child who actually holds all the keys to my life – have to keep her happy) lead me to believe that I am in transition.  And that all of the above will help me work through this transition if I pay attention.  Patti’s project is very introspective.  Tea’s is about on-line business – something I’m thinking about again.  Leah’s project is both a personal tradition, now,  and a loosening up of the critical artist eye, since making art every single day and being angsty about it doesn’t work.  I’m also buying books.  You know, the ones that are supposed to help you figure out the world and the way it runs.

And here I am writing my way to clarity, by writing it all out (with several paragraphs of explanation around the stress deleted since the particulars aren’t really the focus, it’s the overarching cycle that I want to pay attention to).

Interestingly enough, it was buying books this morning that clued me in on the transition thing. print out

Patti’s project had a lovely video with Lauren Rosenfeld, author of “Breathing Room.”  It is ostensibly about clutter.  I adamantly resist all this decluttering fad that has been going on for years now specifically because “clutter” to me (being the visual person I am) is more about possibilities and art than something that drains me.  In fact, it can be down right energizing.  But the definition of clutter that is being discussed is not about things so much as it is about things that don’t belong.  It is about having an intention for the spaces in your environment and realizing that you are being dragged down by a misalighnment of intention and objects.  Fascinating!

Lauren talks about “accidental collections”:  28 boxes of teas, 12 shades of red lipstick.  We buy these things over time because we believe they are going to fix difficult emotions [this is basically the same concept as retail therapy].

Anyways, in participating with a meme on Facebook about naming 10 favorite books off the top of your head and naming 10 others to do the same, I found myself checking out some titles on Amazon, and wound up following a “you’ll like this” thread to 2 books that looked fascinating, weren’t to be had at the local library (always my first stop), and wouldn’t be good on Kindle if they were in fact as good as they sounded and

step risers:  mosaic and letters by Tammy Vitale

step risers: mosaic and letters by Tammy Vitale

reviewed.  Let’s face it, for some of us, having paper books is required for on-going self-work.  Writing notes on Kindle is not the same as arguing with a concept in the margins of a paper book.

So anyways, after I ordered the books I wondered if my books were an accidental collection.  Remember I have just gone through and gotten rid of 2 bookcases of books and told myself I’d hold to one floor to ceiling bookcase, which is packed, and here I am ordering books.  Hmmm.

I didn’t cancel the order.  I really want to at least look at the books.  Maybe I’m not comfortable with my office being so pristine.  It doesn’t look like my space.  Or maybe I AM making accidental collections (although they will be purposeful from here on out now that I’m aware of that “belief that a thing or things are going to fix difficult emotions”).

I’d call that a tiny step of success.  Awareness is always good.

Here’s something from a dear FaceBook friend, written just last evening, that seems pertinent, so I’ll leave you with it:

“Nothing is better ignored. Everything conceivable longs to be heard, otherwise it can neither heal us or prepare us for the next voice.” Jacqualine-Marie Nunes Baxman

 

 

 

 

Why Go on Vacation?

Why Go on Vacation?

rainbow over sand dunes by Tammy Vitale

look up and see. Photo by Tammy Vitale, Outer Banks, N.C.

Silly question.  I’m sure most of us (unless we hate being aimless and want every hour of our day scheduled – I know some do) can answer this quickly. I have in the past and since summer is drawing to an end, just in case you haven’t taken yours yet, I thought I would encourage you.  Maybe you need a 2nd one?! 11 Reasons to go on vacation (see the original post here). 1. to look up and see 2.  to look down and pay attention 3.  to remember wonder 4. to awaken awe 5. to meet new people 6. to stretch the boundaries of your imagination

lady bug in a foot print, photo by Tammy Vitale

look down and see, photo by Tammy Vitale at Westmoreland Park, VA

7. to get lost (my trip to Yellowstone) 8. to build new foundations 9. to strengthen old traditions 10. to remember who you really are 11. to come home and remember why you love where you live   12.  lagniappe:   to take time to write (from Rehobeth Beach, 2009): 1.  9/1/09 Rehobeth Beach, DE:  it is 67degrees, a harbinger of Fall approaching in the early morning.  From the North a strong wind whips up whitecaps, waves race each other to shore, seafoam somersaults across wet sand.  The world is populated only by Plovers, a variety of gulls, and me, standing rapt before the pound of surf.  Salty spray wets my hair and my eyelashes.

daybreak, Outer Banks, photo by Tammy Vitale

daybreak, Outer Banks, photo by Tammy Vitale

The sun is rising.  From my stomach something else is rising: unnameable and full of yearning; a recognition of the power of endless water – it’s kinship with the salty fluid that runs through my own veins; the clarity of connection at a very basic level.  The longing for this to last lodges in my throat, causes a sharp intake of breath, might yet manifest as tears.  The seconds extend and extend. It is here that I open without thought to my true self – to the Wylde and Wise Woman I am when the stories end and really true begins. In the space desires rise, drift away.  When I meet myself I am complete and perfect in my human imperfection, and it is enough. 9/2/09.  I rise at 6:30, take 30 minutes shower, 15 to dress.  The clock ticks steadily forward to departure.  My last day here.  I walk 12 yards or so to the beach.  Today the wind comes directly off the water and is gently warmer than yesterday, the water no longer capped white and frothy, waves rolling over each other like puppies. I check the clock at Grotto’s Pizza.  It is 10 minutes to 7. The sun climbs.  The sky is distantly robin’s egg blue; closer in, dense charcoal gray clouds sit motionless despite the wind, place holders as far as I can see – all the way to

the sandy beach and bridge at Solomons, 3 minutes from my house

why I love where I live: the sandy beach and bridge at Solomons, 3 minutes from my house

the horizon.  The sun slides behind the largest cloud, directly in front of me.  I look down, following a rollicking wave with my eyes, wonder if it will reach my toes.  I look up – there are rainbow prisms all around the cloud’s edges. Not impressed by the sun’s virtuosity, a young Laughing Gull, all brown and white feathers, sidles up to me hoping for a morning snack.  Finding none, it walks down the beach between the perfect tires tracks of earlier beach vehicles, leaving its own trail. Every day the sun follows its track across the sky.  Some times you can watch the long arc as light moves into dark; some days you can’t.  The wind blows or doesn’t blow; the water is calm or it isn’t calm.  The shore birds find food or they don’t.  Rainbows appear and disappear even when no one is watching. I turn.  The clock over Grotto’s Pizza still says 10 minutes to 7.  This is not magic.  That clock always says 10 minutes to 7.  Sometimes thing work better when they don’t work as originally planned Wylde Women’s Wisdom:

To the wylde divinity in each of us

even when the way is dark and full of brambles

and we are traveling blind

 

Fear and Freedom and Foolishness

Fear and Freedom and Foolishness

currently being passed around on facebook

currently being passed around on facebook

Elsewhere, in a private discussion, we are talking about what holds us back from living our life NOW.  Not after we lose 10 (or 60) pounds, are make more money, or get through just one more year of a job we hate, but NOW.

It got me to thinking.  Boundaries – those things you have that help you live a sane life – are not my strong point.  As the adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA), I’ve had to do a lot of guessing and really work hard at recognizing where my boundaries are and where they might should be.

My ACOA tendancies show up in both wanting for people to be happy with me and in being defensive because I keep running into people who seem to want to run over me.  I recognize this as their own insecurities but they trigger mine, and my defensiveness in turn triggers theirs and around and around we go.  At least I’ve learned to reach out and ask for outside help these days!

The discussion got me to wondering if wondering about boundaries is normal, or if I’m hyper sensitive/aware.  I don’t feel like I can embrace something that has ramifications beyond myself (and being in a family means what happens to me does affect others,) that might be detrimental to them or my agreements with them.  Were I alone, my life would probably look a good deal different that it does now, but I’m not, and by choice I stay in these relationships.  So, instead, I embrace my “wylde” a bit at a time (although I am sure there are those in my family who would argue otherwise), and try things on for size.  This does not make me feel as if I’m waiting for something to happen before I do something I want to.

But.

If I had a good retirement income, my life would be different.  I am not waiting for that because there is nothing on the horizon beyond my continuing to work that will give me an income that allows me to do things I like – art and travel and girls’ days out and retreats – in moderation.  That’s good enough until grace falls out of the sky and changes all of that (for the record, if anyone is listening, I’m waaaay open to changing all of that!)

I don’t find it hard to embrace my life, whether I think it is where I want to be or not.  In this, I have been guided for years by a lovely Tragically Hip lyric:  no dress rehersal: this is our life.  (at second 54 on this video)

Obstacles to “living fully” (if you want to call it that) come more from trying to figure out where the lines are between fea,r freedom and foolishness, between exercising good judgement and diving into an empty swimming pool hoping to grow wings on the way down.  Into the abyss is different – you have a longer time to grow the wings!

Let’s face it, fear can be healthy:  if you are being charged by an angry rhino, it is good to be afraid.  If you are only afraid of the possibility of being charged by an angry rhino, not so much.  Freedom then becomes taking proper precautions and going to see the rhino in the wild because she is so magnificent.rhinos

Day to day I sometimes find it hard to figure out which of those scenarios I’m in.  Is that person at work really out to get me come hell or high water or do my own insecurities and theirs have us circling each other, both of us dancing with possibilities?

What do you think?  How do you identify your boundaries and then hold them?  I’m all ears!

Wylde Women’s Wisdom

For TOO LONG you have allowed the past to affect you!
For TOO LONG you have taken personally what others say about you!
For TOO LONG you have stood on the sidelines watching others thrive!
For TOO MANY NIGHTS you have gone to bed worrying about what may be.
For TOO LONG you have held a fear in your heart.
For TOO LONG you have settled for second best!!

NOW is the time to awaken!
NOW is the time to shine!
NOW is the time to ACCEPT that you are DIVINE!!

This is my message for you – allow it to touch the deepest parts of your being – to help you awaken to the truth – that you do deserve to live a GREAT life – and whatever that means for you!

~ Lee-Anne Peters ~

TBT – How Many Blackbirds….

TBT – How Many Blackbirds….

one of my favorite torsos, sold years back.  Never got such a nice red glaze again.  TBT old  photos

one of my favorite torsos, sold years back. Never got such a nice red glaze again. TBT old photos

Almost forgot (and almost broke my successful string of 2 weeks posting 5 days a week!). Random choice and was delighted to see myself writing about an upcoming workshop with someone named Connie James, who has since turned into a tight art pal.

Lovely to back and read when that happened! So here’s tbt How Many Blackbirds – I don’t know that it’s anything other than a sort of record of where I was that day.  Certainly nothing earth shaking, but sometimes that’s the very best kind of day, isn’t it?!

Monday Musings

Monday Musings

What would you do if you were fearless?

What would you do if you were fearless?

Actually, I think all of this current writing is musings; nonetheless, today’s prompt says that this is musings Monday and I am to pick a quote and write about it, see where it goes.

Another of those madly open ended ideas I jotted to “help” me blog more regularly.

A trip to the bookcase – much pared down these days but still full of goodies I can visit and revisit – left me with David Whyte and Brene Brown in hand.  Brene won this round.  In The Gifts of Imperfection  she says:

If we want to live and love with our whole hearts, and if we want to engage with the world from a place of worthiness, we have to talk about the things that get in the way – especially shame, fear, and vulnerability.

Some of the best writing I read on the web is the writing of women who are being open and vulnerable.  Their “real” rings true and calls each of us to follow.

Interestingly enough, a friend, a bit younger than me, has started a secret page on FB (invite only) to talk about how we women of a certain age see ourselves.  Want to talk about a place of shame, fear and vulnerability?  Talk to a 60 something woman about what is going on in her head every time she looks in the mirror.  (For reference, I am 66).

There’s something about going on vacation and seeing yourself in strange mirrors that seems to make things come into view that your safe home mirror doesn’t call attention to.  Maybe it’s lighting, or that most of my mirrors stop at the waist, or the one that shows me waist down so I can check my pants or skirt – no head attached (no denial there, right?).

Hubby and I went on a magnificent vacation in July and I had an opportunity to seriously check myself out in some full length mirrors (gasp), naked (double gasp) and

Tammy in front of a redwood tree

Me in front of a redwood tree, 2014.

remember why I don’t shop for clothes in department stores anymore.  It isn’t just because shopping on line is easy and painless and I can send things back if they don’t fit.  It’s those 3 way mirrors in the dressing rooms!

We also took a bunch of pictures and I will tell you that I had to steel myself against looking at pictures of me.  None of these photos is the one I carry of myself in my head.  That vision is about 45 years old, weighs approximately 60 lbs less, is still wearing her hair shoulder length and has her own eyebrows and a fuller mouth.  Did you know that your nose keeps growing throughout your life and your lips get thinner?  Things I think of as I look in strange mirrors and at photographs of myself.  Including the full length one of me in front of a giant redwood where I fail to look tiny.

Shame:  how the hell did I let my body go like this?  Well, honey, let’s face it.  Back in your skinny days you were on a cocktail of 3 hours of go-go-dancing every day for a living, and as much speed as you could buy, beg, or borrow.  If you don’t anything about speed, let me tell you that it keeps you from eating, and also helps keep a very clean house because you don’t sleep either.  So, by the standards of the world I looked great but I wasn’t doing any favors for my body.  I apologize to my body all the time these days and thank it for continuing to take care of me despite my lack of care in earlier days.  Still, I want to look like that.  My body may be

How I see myself until I look in a mirror.

How I see myself until I look in a mirror. Me around 1972. I LIKE pictures of me in the early 70s!

paying me back, but when I hit menopause at 52 my ability to easily shed pounds stopped dead in the water, and the weight began to creep on.  I ignored it until I couldn’t.  Now I don’t quite know what to do with it.  So I eat organically about 75% of the time (when I’m note eating out), and make sure I use the elliptical or the garden or cleaning house to move more than I sit, and make peace with no longer being 45.  Or even 55.  Never mind 25.  And I make peace with myself as I am every single time I look in the mirror.  Because the 60 something women that are on tv and in magazines and everywhere else that bombard us daily certainly don’t look like me!

Here’s a post of some work Heather Brooks and I have done around Body Image.  We call it Body Politics.

Fear:  I spent way too many years feeling like I was already too old to do whatever it was I wanted to do at the time because I wouldn’t have time (starting in my 20s no less!).  I have always been afraid that there isn’t enough time.  In the last year I have let go of that, recognizing that if I keep worrying about not having time, I will stop living my life and I’m even more afraid of laying on my death bed saying:  I wish I had gone ahead and done that/spent that money/taken that trip/allowed that bigger scary idea to have a chance to come to fruition.  Being an artist helped with all this.  I was afraid I started too late but then realized that the art I was making now is way different than what I would have made in my younger version simply because of experiences I now bring to creating.  Everything blooms in its own time and if you rush it, the cracks are going to show, the plant is going to die or the clay is going to explode in the kiln.  Nothing like clay to teach you how to live your life!  (I”ve written more about this here:  What is the Fear that Will Stop You?)

Vulnerability:  Sometimes gifts don’t seem like gifts when we first encounter them.  From 17 – 34 I was in an abusive relationship.  I divorced him and remarried him and had 2 kids with him and finally untangled myself.  That untangling taught me some good things and some bad things.  The best thing I learned was the difference between empowering and enabling.  That understanding led me into the 2nd (middle) part of my life doing community-based organizing around issues of social justice.  It also held me in good stead when my son went into 10 years of drugs and alcohol addiction (he is clean and sober and just celebrated 6 years that way).  To be a good organizer, you have to be permeable.  You have to listen between the lines.  You have to feel what isn’t being said.  That kind of opening always left me vulnerable to whatever energy was flying around and needed a place to roost.  Learning that it wasn’t my energy to keep and learning to bless it and send it on its way, took another 25 years or so.  I’m still practicing how to be open an vulnerable without being available to random energy.

Me, as I sit here writing this blog.

Me, as I sit here writing this blog.

Anger.  Not mentioned in Brene’s quote, but my underlying friend forever.  I have spent way too much time being angry because the world doesn’t work like I was told it did as a child.  Do your best, get married, have kids, live happily ever after.  Obviously my own experience as been “a tad” different.  I think making peace with things happening as and when they happen, whether or not I’m ready for whatever that is, has been one of my hardest lessons.  And stubborn person that I am, it has taken me the longest to make peace with.  You’d think that seeing the amazing things that grew out of that abusive situation would have given me a clue that there’s always a pony buried in the shit, but no.  It has taken age and even more experience to realize that I may not be seeing the whole picture, and to trust that whatever I am in the middle of, if I am being true to my heart and myself, will work out well for everyone, self included.

Love.  Also not mentioned but definitely within the scope of “musings” and where this quote takes me.  My greatest accomplishment is to remember that when I feel empathy, I must feel it for myself first.  When I am moved to care for, I must be moved to care for myself first.  When I am moved to love, I must love myself first.  And I must feel that kind of love fully as I feel it for my husband and children and best friends, for myself.  I’ve heard it on and off all my life, but I haven’t truly understood it and remembered it regularly until very recently.

In the end, I am ready to make peace with everything, even not being younger and beautiful anymore, because I have attained some wisdom.  Wisdom being the process that it is, I am still acquiring.  But none of the earlier stuff (skinny, pretty, able to run longer and jump higher (as son was wont to say of new shoes)), none of it, it worth giving up what I’ve won through life experience and reflection on it.

Here’s to the opportunity to grow older and wiser and to the wisdom it brings.  May I learn to share it with the world.

 

Things That Strike My Fancy

Lessons 2013, Dreams 2014:  A vision journal page

Lessons 2013, Dreams 2014: A vision journal page

My cheat list for encouraging me to blog every day suggest that today is “Solitary Saturday:  miscellaney, whatever strikes my fancy.”

It is clear to me that the range of possibilities here is enough to stop me in my tracks, so perhaps I had better rethink that prompt.

In the meantime, because it is pertinent to what I do – make art – I will share some thoughts around art.

I was recently turned onto the short and sweet and quickly available on Kindle book, Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleoni.

It is a quick read but requires going back and thinking about what’s being said in a more leisurely fashion.  Which I will do here because (1) it will make me take the time to revisit the book which the content begs for, and (2) if I think about it out loud, I will have to order my thoughts and that will bring the abstract into the concrete world which is much more beneficial than having incomplete ideas running around in my head.

Kleoni starts the book (he is a writer) with:

Andre Gide put it, “everything that needs to be said has already been said,.  But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

Jay drumming.  Meditation, 24x36 collage portrait by Tammy Vitale

Jay drumming. Meditation, 24×36 collage portrait by Tammy Vitale

Boy if that doesn’t knock the “I don’t know what to write/paint/sculpt – it’s already all been done” out of you, nothing will.  Before he even starts talking about doing your work, he knocks out a huge block:  who’ll pay attention?  what do I have to offer?  Which made me immediately like him and be inclined to get all the way through his thoughts.

But let’s linger with that for a moment.  Because for me my greatest doubts come in around why I should take the time and practice the persistence to do something someone else has surely already done, and probably done better (ok – that “done better” happens to be the voices in my own head.  But I do not think I’m alone in that).

The fact is, I know better from work outside my art.  (And here’s a secret:  EVERYTHING plays into your creative life.  If you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in the mundane, you are missing a great deal of inspiration. )  In putting together workshops for nonprofits (among the tasks of my day job), I hire different facilitators to teach the same material.  And each of them has a slightly different take, and participants take away a different “my favorite new idea” from these workshops.  Same topic.  Different presentation/nuance/focus.  Because I do written evaluations with open ended questions, I get to see this time and time again.  So my daily life experience absolutely supports what Gide says.  That’s a take-away that makes the whole book worth while even if I stopped there.  I didn’t.

Kleoni’s take on all this is:  You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.  You are the sum of your influences.  The German writer Goethe said, ‘We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”

Shades of the Law of Attraction!  Only presented in a way (some content, different wording) that makes experiential sense to me, not if-I-hope-enough-and-pretend-there-aren’t-any-bad-things-in-the-Universe-enough-I-will-get-what-I-want kind of no-sense to me.  Granted I tend to be a skeptic about the Law of Attraction, and am down right tired of:  oh, if it’s happening to you it must be what you called, or need, or whatever on your spiritual level.  Ahem.  Bullshit.   But, if it is presented to me that *everything I LOVE (important distinction)* I let into my life (including all those things I let in

You Are the Universe in Ecstacy.  Collage by Tammy Vitale AEDM 22, 2013

You Are the Universe in Ecstacy. Collage by Tammy Vitale AEDM 22, 2013

when I was young and had no filters or didn’t know better or was in a learning mode) affects my creativity then I am more careful, now that I know to be careful, about what I love.

I did then what I knew how to do.  Now that I know better, I do better.  Maya Angelou

So each new creation we allow to come through us may have been written/sung/painted/danced/spoken before, but in this instance it is filtered through our unique human experience and so it must be something new under the sun.  Bayles and Orland, in Art and Fear say:  Each new piece of your art enlarges our [everyone' else's] reality.  The world is note yet done.

Sera Beak, in The Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark, says

This is a mysteriously connected universe.  We don’t always consciously know how far our energy might reach and how intense its effect might be, but by doing what you intuitively feel you should be doing in this world, you are actually , believe it or not, helping to infuse this planet and even the entire cosmos with deep soulful purpose as well as encouraging other beings to seek out and bravely live their own role.

To not take what we love from those who have gone before us and refashion it through our own love and life experiences, then, becomes an act of selfishness that stops the forward movement of *everyone* and *everything*.  Which is not to say “shame on you” because, according to Brene Brown, “Shame keeps us from telling our own stories and prevents us from listening to others tell their stories.  We silence our voices and keep our secrets out of the fear of disconnection.”  Rather it is to say:  “Courage!” and “Have the audacity to reach out to others when you need to lean on someone – those others are waiting for your creativity in their own lives!” and “Onward – Begin!”

Well, all right!  That was definitely miscellany!  So I can rest for the day having fulfilled my own creative mandate.

What helps you get through doubt to your heart work?  Who do you use for inspiration and why?  Would love to hear from you!

Wylde Women’s Wisdom

You came with instincts and imperatives, and they will thrust through the mud and bud in their own glad season.  It’s not your answers or ideas that you need to worry about.  It’s your resistance to your ideas, any immediate reaction to choke the strange and uncomfortable. .. There’s nothing to choose.  Just something to set loose.  Tama Kieves, This Time I Dance