It’s Time For the Bad To Be Over

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Otherwise known as: Remember this blog? Let’s start it again.

I wrote this on my birthday last week but I figured it was a good way to ‘rebirth’ the blog. So, enjoy.

So I’m thirty eight today and I’ve just managed to convince a three year old that a nap is in her best interests. I did so because my kitchen table is covered with potential art. I’m making shadow boxes, and paper cuttings and “altered houses” and Sculpey things for Fall and (christmas). At the same time I am reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott in an effort to make myself write. I am also looking for a job and trying to find a way to make a million dollars without getting a job, dealing with newly bloomed back pain that my doctor says “let’s just deal with it!” instead of “MY GOD YOU POOR WOMAN, LAY DOWN WITH SOME CAKE” like I want him to, and ill timed PMS that takes me from near perfect contentment this morning to unbearable sadness about fifteen minutes ago because Todd looked particularly lonely.

The thing is, Charlotte’s asleep and for an hour and a half I can sit here and do whatever I want. I can lose myself in a book, make tiny apples from clay, paint, sketch, write, bathe my stinky dog…and none of that sounds good. Frankly I’d like to lay down on the couch with said dog and think about all the things I’d like to do and imagine how great they’ll be when I do them one day “When I Feel In The Right Mind Set To Do Them”. I put stuff off every day because my literary dramatic nature demands that the “time” be right. Writing needs an eight hour minimum with no possibility of television parole. I need to have taken a long bath and be carried by words to the notebook, bursting with gems of dialogue and description. Art demands a frantic mind, a cloudy day, a positive outlook, an almost obnoxious happiness and energy.

In fact, for the past decade or so, I’ve done great damage to myself and to others, laboring under the illusion that nothing can be properly accomplished unless it’s done in the midst of happiness and peace. I can’t imagine doing a scrapbook page while angry, or sad, or lonesome or hungry. I can’t imagine writing when I’m jealous or frustrated or fed up. In fact, the list has grown longer so that I can’t find myself cooking an interesting dinner, cleaning the bathroom, organizing a closet or going to the library without a pre-approved emotion to guide me there. It’s no surprise to me that after quitting painkillers I never went back to pottery class. I loved throwing clay on the wheel, going back to discover a beautifully glazed, if a little crooked, coffee mug with my name etched in the bottom. I loved the entrancing focus that centering the clay required, the accomplishment that surged when I properly pulled a bowl up and out. But i never went to class without first taking my pills, ensuring that I would be euphoric during my creation.

So for years — YEARS (I quit in May of ’08) I have been ‘waiting” for my brain to return to normal. For the endorphins to straighten out and the pleasure centers to repair and for natural happiness and euphoria to take their place. I’ve been waiting for life experiences to increase my serotonin and dopamine levels before I ‘get back’ to who I was. The fact is that I may never get back there. I jacked up my brain something fierce and trained myself to believe that if I wasn’t ecstatically buzzing with creativity and energy then I was “sick” or “sad” or “depressed” when actually I was just “normal”.

My mother gave me a little “helpful hint” about a year ago that I promised her I would take to heart, and I actually did try to do so for a while…but then I got laid off and it became easy not to … do anything really. Sitting around moping became my hobby. She told me that a friend of hers in recovery gave her a quote that said:

We do things to feel better, not wait until we feel better to do things

So brilliant in its simplicity and SO. HARD. TO. DO. But I guess that’s my focus for this year. I would like to feel the joy I once felt doing the things I loved, including things that would be so good for me like yoga or swimming. I would like to learn how to make myself feel better rather than laying on the couch waiting for an antidepressant or an antianxiety pill or a couple of tylenol to do so.

Charlotte will wake up within the hour and ask to “do halloween”. We’re making decorations together this year to save money, and it makes her so happy to cut a piece of cheesecloth into a ghost on a string. There’s almost nothing to it, but it thrills her beyond belief. So that’s what we’ll do. And i’ll make sure that it’s fun.

Blogging The Life I Have Imagined

February 25, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’ve been collecting up crafty/lifestyle blogs for a few months.  I use them as a sort of ever changing inspiration board because my inspiration board is covered with diaper coupons.  I use them to get my butt in gear.  I use them to … punish myself for being inactive, for sitting on the couch doing nothing while there are women out there writing books,raising families and raising awareness for charities around the world.  

Art Junk Girl was one of the first blogs I bookmarked because I was heavy into collage/ephemera, and I wanted so badly to have a shelf full of moleskine journals like she has.  I wanted to have the drive and creativity and sort of animal need to create like she has.  Her most recent entry almost brought tears to my eyes, I was so jealous of her ‘artistic madness’.  She speaks of existing only to draw, to draw on any and every surface, day and night.  She can’t stop it.  I haven’t felt that in so long.  I wait for that feeling like someone waits for true love.  I wait for it like Christmas.  I just want to have that NEED to create…of course I’d love it if it was a drive to write, but I’ve very nearly given up on that.

My loss of ambition to write is made even harder, and more bitter when I see so many blogging women publishing books, living the life I’ve always dreamed of, and then I read things that basically pierce me right in the heart like a  hot dagger, reminding me that others are succeeding where I have failed.  For instance, in this blog entry  by Marissa over at Creative Thursday:

Yesterday I watched the Oscars and I was reminded  ~ that I went for a dream and I MADE it. And even on my cranky days where I’m not at my best, there is still an always present tiny glimmer of the pure joy I have for living I life I intended. There’s nothing like that feeling. 

No amount of money, no industry connection, no gift certificate can get that feeling.  It’s something you must earn yourself.  It’s a goal you scratch off of a list you wrote when you were ten.  It’s a framed first dollar bill, a contract from a publisher that says “yes,”, a sign over a shop that says ‘Linda’s Pies’.  I have to assume that I’ll never feel it.

Earlier this year I reported that my friend Meredith and I gotten together and brainstormed BIG. GIANT. PLANS. to merge our love of creativity, writing, crafting, blogging, the internet, shopping and homekeeping into one big happy magazine that would focus on living a small, efficient, creative,handmade life.  Since that meeting we had, we’ve watched our favorite, most inspirational magazines (Domino, Craft, Country Home, Cottage Living, WonderTime) go under, effectively showing us that this is no time to get into the magazine biz.  We switched our focus to creating a website that would have the same feel and would actually be much easier to spotlight sellers on Etsy and Folksy and DaWanda.  Decidedly, this is a more dangerous and much less profitable venture since there’s so much competition and so much existing “supply” to meet the “demand”.  We of course became angry when we came across websites that had already done what we dreamed like Dabbled, The Crafty Crow  and Craft Gossip because, while there’s always room for another great thing…we know our limitations.  We are creative, and good writers and good cooks, and good people.  We have a passion for the subject, but we know exactly nothing about web design, web advertising and web….presence…ing..ness.

So now we have to rethink our ambition.  We have to put aside our dreams of living the life we imagined, and instead live the life someone else imagined and needed a staff for.  In the meantime, I want this blog to represent my passions, but it will also represent ME, warts and moles and crooked backs and hypochondria and all.  While I like to bake, I will never be Smitten Kitchen.  While I like to craft and create, I will never be the incomprable Lollychops, and while I want with all my heart to be America’s SuperMom HouseManaging Wonderwife, I’m just never going to be Martha Stewart, or the House on Hill Road.  

I don’t take great photographs, but I’m happy to share them.  I’m not very gourmet, but you can have my recipe for Peachy French Toast.  I can’t sew in a straight line, but I’m pretty darn proud of my Pear Dream Tote Bag.  So stick around if you’d like.  You can hear about my childhood, my daughter’s childhood, what I made for Sunday supper and what I do when I’m not working on someone else’s dream.

Construction Paper Blockage Removed by Pipecleaner

October 7, 2008 § 5 Comments

My fear was that I’d never regain the limitless creativity and passion for art after going through detox.  All I could remember was being warm and comfortable on my painkillers and working on a scrapbook page for an hour, or writing for six hours or some other amazing marathon session.  And for a long time, it was true.  I stopped taking my painkillers in May of this year, and for many months following I had no desire to do anything.  I abandoned my writing, my journal, my scrapbooks, my painting, pottery, sculpting in favor of naps and Bravo Marathons and whining about why I’m sure I have Hirschsprung’s Disease or a Bezoar, or some sort of incurable cancer because my leftmost toe is throbbing.

Paper clippings from my collage ephemera

Paper clippings from my collage ephemera

But in the past week or two I feel like I”ve been overcome with a wave of creativity that I can’t possibly keep up with.  Were I not afraid of being thrown into yet another doctor’s office, hospital bed, I’d swear it was what the pros call “mania”. 

I went Antiquing with Meredith last weekend, and almost everything I picked up I had an idea for, including a twenty or thirty slot time clock punch rack that I couldn’t find once I’d talked myself into buying it.  It didn’t stop there, and it hasn’t stopped since.  I want to rehab a house.  I want to sew clothes and embroider flowers and vines on them.  I want to make a quilt that resembles an abstract sunset, make a felted christmas tree, shadowboxes for the four seasons.  I want to start a charitable foundation.  I want to make a set of greeting cards.  And most of all, I want the time to do it. 

I created a little ‘idea book’ last week that i carry around everywhere.  Not only is it a binder for holding pictures and articles from magazines, but there is blank paper in each of the six sections (Self/Beauty,Gifts,Home Decor,Crafty,Travel,Christmas) where i can sketch my ideas and write down the vision long before I’m able to tackle it.  Already the “crafty” section is smudged and blurry from sketches, ideas, scrapped ideas drawn over with new ideas, lists of supplies.  In a dream world, I’d become good enough at my crafting that I could perhaps sell a few things on Etsy, but for right now, it just pleases me to make a bookmark, sit back and look at it, and then pause for ten seconds before making something else.  This must be what they call ‘living in the moment’.  In a life full of nostalgia, regret, guilt, worry, hope and question, I am constantly missing what’s happening right now for fear of breaking my leg five minutes from now.

This creativity has become what my counselor calls “self care”.  I’ve never been able to grasp onto the idea “You can’t love others until you love yourself.”  I understand that all of you firmly believe it, but to me it makes no sense.  If I give and give and give of myself, if i devote my life to keeping my daughter, husband, dog, family, friends, coworkers happy, why do they care if I sit at home saying “Gosh I’m a great person, I’m super duper in love with myself.” 

first in a series

A Kitty bookmark: first in a series

It was my counselor who took the word love away. He explained that it wasn’t a matter of loving yourself, but of taking care of yourself so tht you can take care of others in the way you see fit.  The obvious example is that in order for a mother to be at her best, she needs rest and nourishment and an occasional emotional recharge.  So instead of feeling guilty for going to pottery class because I’m not spending time with my only child in this finite and rapidly passing lifetime, I should see it as me taking care of myself so that when I return home to Charlotte, I’m the best ,most energetic mom I can be.

Then this art is part of my therapy. Even though it serves no purpose, doesn’t put food on the table, doesn’t do laundry or prevent disease, it has some importance.  It allows me to be nostalgic.  It lets me use my favorite side of the brain.  It recalls stories, experiences, places I’ve gone, it gives me a reason to buy more Hints From Heloise books.

I’m not sure how long this CraftMania will last, if it’s a one time blow out or if it’s forever, but I’m trying to enjoy it while it’s here rather than worry about it leaving.  I’d say that’s a li’l bit o’ progress.

I’m expecting a dollar from the imagination fairy

July 3, 2008 § 6 Comments

This week I started therapy to get my brain in shape.  In two weeks I’ll start physical therapy to try and get my back, legs, hips, stomach, arms and neck in shape.  No need to work on the small distance between neck and shoulder, that’s in the top 1 percentile.

Two minutes into my first session, my counselor had me pegged as a catastrophizing major depressive.  Now I’ve been insulted before, on a number of occasions.  A man at Soldier Field called me the C-word AND he said I was fat, but really, CATASTROPHIZING MAJOR DEPRESSIVE?  You take that back.  With his notebook propped on his knee he asked me why I thought I’d started catastrophizing things (don’t know).  He asked me what exactly trigged my depression (don’t know).  He asked me what started my chronic pain (ice) and finally, what started my dependence and addiction to pain medication (well, ice and Microsoft Word, I guess).

The first time I was prescribed Vicodin, I had slipped on the ice outside our apartment, and rather than let myself fall to the ground, I caught myself and jerked my spine back up into a standing position.  I can replay that moment like a FILMSTRIP, hoping, praying, that this time I’ll just fall down and spare myself the nightmare years that followed.  After taking two days off of work, unable to walk, my doctor called in a prescription for muscle relaxants and vicodin.  I took one of each and fell into a peaceful sleep, so happy to have some relief.  After two or three days, I began to feel better, and the pills sat untouched in my medicine chest for months.  But as we all know now, that was not the end of my back problems nor the end of my prescriptions.

The difference was that the next time I needed my vicodin I wasn’t tired.  I was wide awake and hurting.  And what happened was that I experienced the greatest night of writing that I ever had or ever will encounter in my life.  I sat, painfree, at my computer and my mind filled and spilled over with ideas; poetic phrases, literary allusions, plots and symbols, people, places and things.  My depression was non-existent, pushed far away somewhere, and after weeks and weeks of coming home from work, barely speaking and then going to bed, I found I had more energy than I could ever imagine.  But it wasn’t a wild, manic, racing energy.  I was peaceful, content, optimistic, brimming with creative energy.  Potential.  For the first time in a while I wasn’t thinking about my back, or how I could have cancer and not know it, or my infertility.  I was just writing.

Twenty three pages later I realized it was three o’clock in the morning and, smiling ear to ear at my accomplishment, I went to bed.  

As time went on my back got worse and my depression persisted – feeding on 9/11, infertility, losing my job, weight gain and constant, unrelenting pain. I turned noticeably pessimistic, my sister’s depression had come and gone, treated and released, while mine grew unchecked.  But my Vicodin put me at ease.  With two pills I could feel my favorite sensations: relief,peace,contentment,creativity.

I’ve never understood people who get “high” on painkillers, and I’ve been on ALL of them.  I’ve also been drunk.  I know the tipsy, giggly, loud, uninhibited behavior, the freedom, the invincibility.  I know what it is to be “loopy”.  To be “flying”.  I never felt that with Vicodin.  It was quite the opposite.  I was focused, ambitious and determined.  I felt the “passion” for art that I’d had when I was younger and that I’d lost track of somewhere late in the nineties.

Soon I realized that I was taking this medication every day and I was afraid of being without it.  Not only because I couldn’t even sit in a chair without wincing, but because I had fully convinced myself that I couldn’t write or scrapbook or devise a catering business or teach myself German without it.

My therapist nodded as I told him all these things, things that I hadn’t told other doctors for fear of being labeled a ‘drug seeker’.  He told me that it made perfect sense.  One of the functions of painkillers is to act as a sort of antidepressant, a mood elevator of sorts, and that some doctors even use them as such, depending on the kind of depression the patient was suffering.  While this cleared up a lot of questions for me, I felt a tremendous sadness, knowing that way back then I had essentially found the antidepressant that best worked for me, but I’d ended up abusing it as my tolerance grew and now it’s gone.

A few months ago I told my aunt that I was afraid of being without painkillers not only because of the pain, but because I was afraid I’d never feel that passion and creativity again. I would, in essence, lose my imagination.  And whether it’s self fulfilling prophecy or not, it’s true.  I have no desire to write anymore and I don’t make time for it.  I have no desire to return to pottery, to paint, to act, to scrapbook, to cook.  I don’t want to throw parties.  I no longer walk the streets pretending that my life is being filmed.  I no longer pretend to be interviewed by Stone Phillips when I walk the dog. I no longer converse out loud with my characters while I drive alone in the car.  When I go to bed, I fall asleep, exhausted, rather than lie awake imagining what my dream bathroom would look like or planning an imaginary trip to Europe.

Sure enough, I have no imagination.

I don’t try to invent better ice cream containers or write letters to the editor.  I don’t make greeting cards or develop new recipes to send to Better Homes and Gardens.

And it’s time to realize that these things may never return.  I may never get that creative contentment back.  This is what I must come to terms with. Perhaps, like baby teeth, we are only granted our imaginations for a while, to steer us forward as we grow.  In the end, normal is to find satisfaction in your job, in your family, in reading a good book instead of day dreaming that you wrote it.  Normal is not talking to yourself in the car, or pretending your three speed bike is a prize racehorse as you coast down the “big hill” in your subdivision.

But I am not UNhappy.  I smile uncontrollably at my daughter; I feel safe and content in the arms of my husband.  My dog makes me laugh EVERY day. I have fun on vacation.  I sleep well.  My leg isn’t tingling with pain all the time.  I no longer have to worry about running out of pills, or getting my refill, or ruining my liver.

Through therapy I will train myself to believe that this is enough.  If euphoria can only be achieved chemically, then I suppose we were never meant to have it at all.

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