A Closer Look Back To Move Forward

BEFORE I GO…

It’s tempting to rush headlong into the new year, yet a fruitful start begins with a rewarding end. What to keep, and what to throw in the trash? To plan for the future, without wisdom gained from the past, would be like jumping off a cliff wearing a blindfold…and I did that last year.

Although, had I known how rough 2018 would be, I probably would’ve hid in a cave instead and not achieved all that I did. I look back with no small amount of compassion for myself, because in hindsight, I didn’t quite celebrate my wins properly. So, that’s the first keeper…

KEEP IT

Small wins. Last year roared in with with a fresh divorce and followed up with the constant change of adjusting to single working motherhood. I catalogued everything with a new series of artwork, and a soul searching blog post as I released each one. Close-ups of the work are featured above, and you can see the complete undertaking HERE.

They were hard for me to look at afterward, the posts so painful to read, that I almost deleted them. But it was all part of the healing process: just finishing each painting was a win, and every post is a goldmine for me now.

Upon reflection, most important is the need to keep self-esteem high in the midst of all the ups and downs. Each hit I take doesn’t need to be a personal disaster, if I remember that challenges don’t decrease my inherent worth. In fact, challenge secures growth. Lynda Field says it better than I do, and her book “Self-Esteem Coach” is like having a life coach on your Kindle. She makes the point that, “We all have our ‘stuff’ so we might as well embrace it, and investigate it, because this is the only way towards increasing self-respect, self-appreciation, self-esteem and happiness.”

I especially love the investigating–not just book research, but also…

Personal tarot reading. Oh, how I remember the confusion and desperation, the crying, “Someone please tell me it will get better.” I just wanted someone to say it would all be okay, but whether you believe in clairvoyance or not, the better question may be, “Would knowing the future actually be helpful anyway?”

Consider being certain that you would achieve a particular goal, because a psychic told you that you would. You’re so certain, that you hardly feel the need to work toward your goal at all. Now what happens to your success? That’s not the point with tarot cards anyway. As Amber Khan, one of my favorite tarot readers, puts it, “What I thought tarot would be like: I can see the past, present and future so clearly!! What it’s actually like: damn I just got called the fuck out by a deck of cards.” Her readings are artful, by the way, on The Quietest Revolution.

What makes tarot meaningful, helpful, and relevant is that the future is determined by our actions today. The cards are full of history and symbolism, part of our collective consciousness, so they remind us that life is bigger than one person or event. The great equalizer is that any card can come up for any person, a universal truth. In other words, they help us gain perspective when life seems small, if we’re willing to listen. And the best way to intimately use them for self-reflection is to read them yourself. There are plenty of books out there which fully explain the history, astrology, numerology, and even their connection with ancient texts like the Kabbalah. I like to research each card as it comes up, with a reputable free online resource like Biddy Tarot.

Realistic plans. Speaking of the present predicting the future, the way to achieve anything is to make a good plan and execute it. Too easy, and the results are nothing special. Too hard, and the results never happen.

The best book I’ve read in a long time about getting shit done was The 12 Week Year, by Brian Moran. I love the way this book breaks up the challenge of a successful year into workable segments, rather than an annual plan. The idea is that our goals are usually too broad, too daunting, or too far in the distance. We blow them off for later, and when later comes, it’s way too late for all the big dreams, and we often settle for less than we’re capable of. The 12 Week method teaches anyone how to be a kickass CEO of their own life. And if you totally screw up the first try like I did, chances are you still got more done in a short period of time than you usually do, and you haven’t killed the whole year. Just begin a new 12 weeks.

Speaking of productivity, I took a long, hard look this year at what has kept me stagnant, especially while nursing old wounds and keeping beer in my tears. These things have got to go…

TRASH IT

The belief that red wine is good for me. I’m not gonna lie, the resveratrol in cabernet wasn’t what I was drinking it for. Never has been. Not surprisingly, my taste for a full-bodied red was often satisfied during the divorce, as a coping mechanism. I never even thought of giving up my simple pleasure and solace during all that drama. Yet, after the dust settled and I tried to cut back…whoops. It wasn’t so easy. Huh? I had never experienced problems with willpower before. As usual, I turned to research in order to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I read a ton of great books on alcohol and addiction this year.

Unlike the widely and blindly accepted media blurbs that red wine is great for your heart, “This Naked Mind” by Annie Grace puts that and other fallacies about alcohol to the test with scientific facts, from credible sources. More than that, she asks us to consider, on our own, beliefs we may have picked up from society that it calms us, that it’s liquid courage, that it makes events more fun. Arrive at your own conclusions.

Of course, not everyone who drinks alcohol develops an issue. Naturally, my next question was, “Why did I?” Next on the docket was “Unbroken Brain” by Maia Szalavitz, who gives some great possible answers to that, and the causes for any addiction. As it turns out, there is no one reason and every person’s need is unique, be it heroin, gambling, or french fries. I think that childhood trauma and genetics are well-known factors, but did you know that IQ is, too? So, each solution is also unique, and ground breaking research suggests that harm prevention, compassion, and acceptance lead the way.

Which brings me to…

This is “me” masks. Sure we all play different roles, like parent, spouse, friend, or co-worker, because we all have many “jobs” in life. The problem for me has been when I’ve imagined that’s who I actually am, and have embellished those roles as “perfect, tireless mother,” or “morally superior wife.” Then, I’ve not only lied to myself and everyone else, but I’ve also made myself a martyr. It’s easy to see how a mother who gives up everything for her kid could become a hapless victim, but staying married to a person whose ethics scare me just makes me a meaner victim. Both drain my self-esteem over time.

Any mask like that is the opposite of authenticity, and it’s the people-pleasing way that so many people fall into addiction. The last book that I read on that subject this year was “Rewired” by Erica Spiegelman, but to me, it was more about living a happy life of my own choosing. I guess that’s the point: if we could all do that, then why would we ever need to self-medicate or self-soothe in the first place? The chapter titles in this book are phrases like honesty, evolution, healthy relationships, and compassion. Thank you, more please. And less of the self-loathing masks that keep all that away from myself.

Black and white thinking. Otherwise known as dualism–that everything is this or that, good or bad, right or wrong, and that I know the absolute difference for myself and everyone else.

I’ve been working on this tome, “Tantra Illuminated,” by Christopher Wallis, for a couple years, but since I started it over and finally finished it cover to cover in 2018, I’m counting it. If you’ve ever wondered, this book goes into great depth about Tantra, specifically Nondual Shaiva Tantra, as explained for the western mind. It’s the first philosophy that analyzes existence and consciousness in a way that makes sense to me, even though my brain was exhausted at first.

Something to help with that: my favorite meditation from last year uses the Magic Mantra, ek ong kar sat gur prasad, which is said in Kundalini Yoga to be so strong that it elevates the self beyond duality. Try it out, if you’re interested, but it comes with a warning.

…AND ONWARD, INTO 2019!

The One

Ah…The One.

That romantic ideal that is always just out of reach. You swear you see it in front of you, but as you grasp for it, it floats further away like a feather on the wind of your needy fingers. Or, maybe it’s more than a feather. Maybe it’s the whole chicken, squawking in a panic as you trip after it over your own feet, heedless of the ignominious scene and the knowledge that you’re scaring the chicken and that you sometimes eat chickens.

“No video please! I’m falling in love with The One.”

Falling in love is temporary insanity, but finding The One is even worse. The insanity lasts, because this person seems to complete you, and most of us would do incredible, embarrassing, courageous, shameful things to feel complete.

Marriage used to be about who inherits the cattle when we die, but now we expect our partners to fulfill what we once got from an entire village. A best friend, a passionate lover, an intellectual equal, a loving co-parent, a personal psychologist, a peaceful in-law. The list goes on. 

Of course, finding your perfect person isn’t the whole story. Often, we find ourselves tagged as the perfect person, and the pressure is crushing. Now, I have to be an entire village for someone else? It doesn’t seem so fair when the tables are turned. After all, I have my own dreams, needs, and aspirations, but I have to fulfill someone else’s instead?

Or, can’t find completion in a partner? How about a child? I used to joke that, “If I can’t find the perfect man, I’ll make one.”

When my marriage ended, my supreme solace was the beautiful boy who was the result of our union. That’s egotistical to the extreme, and it’s hard to even write those lines, yet I’ll admit it’s the way I felt. I screwed up royally in my own personal life, but my son can fix it all since I made him and at least he is wonderful.

I was one of The Latch Key Kids, also known as Generation X (or, the tail end of it). We were the result of a stifled Baby Boomer generation giving their own kids freedom they never had, which really felt like neglect in real time. I’ve witnessed it in most of my contemporary friends/parents, though: the need to see our children as perfect and important because of a lack of parental care or guidance when we were young.

Yet, no matter how good of place that comes from, putting undue pressure on a child causes problems like anxiety, depression, and low self esteem. Does that sound familiar? Kinda like it feels when you constantly disappoint your partner for not living up to unrealistic ideals?

The point is, that finding someone to complete you–at whatever detriment to you and the object of your affection–doesn’t work. Anytime we feel that someone else is our answer, we miss the opportunity of a lifetime to see the truth.

Each of us is complete already, and always was.


This was Mean Greeting Card #5. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

Crocodile Tears

You just can’t rush the healing process, no matter how annoying it is for friends and family.

I was dismayed when my best friend gradually stopped returning my texts. When my old boyfriend, who I had always assumed was still in love with me and would always listen to my whining, finally bowed out, too. And you know you’re in trouble when even your mother says things like, “God, why can’t you just get ever this already?” The general consensus seemed to tip-toe around this sentiment: You wanted to get divorced. Now you’re divorced. Be happy now.

In hindsight, alienating myself from my confidants was the perfect remedy because it forced me to talk to myself. Wow, I annoyed myself, too. Yes, why couldn’t I just get over it?

My crocodile began to emerge as what it really was, once I cared to look. It was my subconscious and I was terrified of it. I had read enough about the havoc that beast can wreak in all the self-help books I devoured in a panic over the last several months.

In What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, Shad Helmstetter, Ph. D. said I’m telling myself all kinds of negative, destructive self-talk all day long. Most of this I picked up when I was a tiny child and my subconscious has accepted it as truth. Often it wasn’t meant to be harmful: “Be careful, you’ll hurt yourself!” “No, you can’t do that.” Of course, sometimes it was plain mean, though. “You’ll never get into college with a C. They’re gonna laugh.” “You’re a big fat yeast roll.” That last one was adapted from the Quincy’s Family Steakhouse theme song by my older sister, who was very skinny. Yes, she actually sang it to me.

In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz, M.D. told me that 99.5% of the population has unresolved emotional scars from the past which produce the agonizing pain of defeat, failure, frustration and loneliness.

In Healing Back Pain, John Sarno, M. D. talks about deeply repressed anger from childhood causing tension myositis syndrome, which can manifest as everything from sciatica to asthma.

These books were all illuminating and helpful to me, and I do believe that repressed gunk needs to come up and out in order to truly heal, yet I started to see my own subconscious as an enemy. The tragedy of this was highlighted in a surprising way, and the moment of revelation was one I’ll never forget.

At the Kadampa Buddhist Center I attend, we always begin with a breathing meditation. You follow your breath in and out and try not to think of anything else. If you need imagery to do that, you can imagine all your tension and distractions gathering together in the center of your body, in the form of dark smoke. On your out breath, you dispel it.

Simple, right? Not really.

After about a year of doing this very meditation, I realized that I was forcing my breath in and out. Controlling it’s flow, instead of following it. I hadn’t gotten it at all.

Then one fine day, after I had become the crocodile with no one to kiss my false tears, I was able to actually DO the breathing meditation! Finally. Instead of actively breathing, I sat and watched myself breathe. It felt like a balloon being filled and emptied automatically, without any will of my own. And…it wasn’t “me” doing it. It wasn’t my conscious mind doing this benevolent thing called breathing, to keep me alive. My subconscious was keeping me, my ego, “Sarah,” alive.

Wait.

My subconscious is benevolent?

Yes.

What a beautiful, steady, trustworthy part of myself. Suddenly, I had real, wet, salty tears running down my face. How had I been attempting self-love, like all the self-help books say, all those agonizing months since the divorce, without loving the most faithful part of me?

This was Mean Greeting Card #4. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

My Hero

MyHero_Instagram

The rebound.

Everyone knows rebounds are destined for disaster. Most of us have been through one already, or at least witnessed the fallout of a hasty new relationship after a breakup–with friends or family, on t.v. or in books, heard about it in love songs, read about it in poetry, seen art about it. The list goes on. This is no great mystery. Why do we do it anyway?

For me, pressure to begin dating as soon as final divorce documents were signed was intense, and expert dating advice abounded.

“Just have fun with it. Keep it light.”

“My sister met her doctor hubby on a dating site. You should try one.”

“Yay, we can hang out again. I’ll be your wingman like in the old days!” (Translation: Misery loves company. Everyone knows dating is a nightmare.)

The urge came from within, too. Mostly it arrived like my descicated philodendrons crawling out of their pots, across the door jambs and up the window panes, in search of lifegiving water and light. Anywhere!

Because, the divorce process was like a trek through the desert, holding scabby hands with a wounded enemy who occasionally vomited on me as my only chance of sustenance. I’ll admit I spewed on him regularly, too, and probably with more acid. Yet, the nightmare didn’t end once the judge whacked the gavel. Next came a new wasteland, with no hand to hold. Not even in friendship.

After years of clinging devotion, Mr. X moved in with another woman only a handful of weeks after he moved out of our family house.

Ex-family house.

My house.

My lonely house.

The moral superiority I felt with never having been unfaithful or not having a standby lined up blew out in the hot stinking blast of his exit. All I was left with was a hand mirror.

I needed to remember who I was, before I was mired in monogamy and sexual obligation. I needed to reclaim the artist I was, before I stopped working to be a stay at home mom. I needed to feel special and important and authentic, and have someone understand me for who I really was, instead of judge me after over a decade of actually living with me. I needed to know that true love was still possible and that great sex was available and likely, all the time.

Enter, the rebound.

Poor Mr. R. He was no match for my subconscious. Had I considered, even for a moment, what Mr. R needed? Do I really need to even answer that? Heartbroken people are so selfish.

Well, I can’t feel too sorry for Mr. R. He broke my heart again presently.

But, why? Wasn’t he the perfect replacement, the one who I had been searching for all my life? It’s laughable once I write it down. With some distance, I can now see the holes in my delusion…

I’d picture the private corner office he was sitting at (not a cubicle), while thinking of me all day long. Sure, the evidence showed that he drank like a fish while watching sports in bars most of the time, but I believed he led a rich inner life and one day I’d see it. Remember that one joke he told two years ago about attending seminary school? Of course, I knew that there was a good reason he would only communicate in texts, too. Maybe phone calls were a thing of the past. And no, he wasn’t ignoring me–it was my fault for being too pushy. I don’t need kindness, because I’m not a needy girlfriend (friend with benefits).

All of my suffering arose from my own disappointment each time he showed up–or didn’t–to be just exactly who he was. In reality. Yes, my heart was broken when he dumped me. I was in madly in love, after all. But, I was in love with my imagination. I had absolutely no patience for the real Mr. R.

Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

So, why is patience even necessary?

Because it’s the remedy for anger, and anger–or resentment, or constant disappointment, or depression–is a destructive force that places blame outside ourselves and prevents growth. Anger is not accepting what exists before us, and grasping at wishes instead.

Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which one fills up first. Stephen King

Mr. R wasn’t the problem. The problem was a mind that wouldn’t accept reality and a heart that was rushed straight past the healing process. Yeah, I was sad. I had just gotten divorced, for crying out loud. Denial of reality only brought me more pain, each time my fantasy crumbled a bit more. Each time another bandaid was ripped off.

It was a slow torture that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So, please take my advice and run screaming from rebound relationships.

Yeah, right.

I hope yours is easier than mine…or at least quicker!

This was Mean Greeting Card #3. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

Kiss And Make Up

kissandmakeup

I was 26 when my boyfriend almost killed me.

Two months after meeting him, he wrapped my Jeep Wrangler around a telephone pole with me, unseatbelted and drunk, in the passenger seat. After losing my sight and my hearing, feeling my hair fall out and half my face droop with palsy, undergoing multiple surgeries and spending months in the hospital…I married him. That’s young love for ya.

Traumatic brain injury helped.

How does a couple overcome something like that–my ruined body, his dark passenger of  guilt, and the specter of morbidity hanging over us both?

We buried it, of course.

Afterall, we deserved to be happy just like any other two idiots, madly in love. How could one whoopsie daisy destroy us?

But, it lurked underneath every minute of every day, an oozing cancer. Unfortunately, the past couldn’t remain tucked away, because I had permanent injuries that just wouldn’t shut up no matter how hard I tried to ignore them. And once young love wore off and my rose colored glasses cleared, it wasn’t long before nagging thoughts of, “But, you’re just fine. How nice,” and, “What really did happen that night,” and the most ridiculous, “Hey. You never even replaced my jeep,” began to surface.

It got worse from there. The whoopsie daisy polished every smudge in our marriage to obscene high definition.

Years later at one of many marriage counseling sessions, after describing the car accident to Dr. B, he said to me, “It sounds like you’ve got a lot of forgiving to do.”

That sounded accusatory.

What? That’s bullshit, what did I do? I’m the one who was maimed here. Affronted, I choked out something like, “How can I do that? How can I ever be okay with what happened?”

“Forgiving doesn’t mean being okay with something,” he told me. “If everything were okay, there would be no need to forgive.”

“Well…what is forgiveness, then?”

His answer was groundbreaking for me, and I’m sure I’m romanticizing it now, since I’ve thought about it so much–turned it over in my my mind, unpacked it and refolded it a million times since. I’ll try to paraphrase the message faithfully: “Forgiveness is letting go of the pain a person or event causes you. You’re the one holding onto it. You’re the one who has to let go of it.”

Dr. B was blunt like that, and I usually hated him for it. Yet, this time he rang the right bell. So, this was all about my brilliant mind. The mind that had clearly fucked up my own life, in my own power. Well then, at least I had some control.

To let go of the pain I would have to face it first, though.

“That sounds pretty difficult,” I admitted.

“Well. What’s the alternative?”

Indeed.

That sent me on a mission for answers. I had to forgive and I was in this alone. How could I be not okay with something Mr. X did, but still not let it hurt me?

I studied Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Tantra. Religion isn’t my strong suit, since I was raised an Atheist and I have a natural aversion to authority of any kind. I tried my darndest, though. I went to psychics and mystics, learned to meditate and connect to Source, faithfully took up Kundalini Yoga (nearly lost my mind doing that at first). I had my Akashic records read, listened to my soul council, tuned my chakras, cured my allergies, wrote two books, and even started making art again.

Over the years, I began to realize that I was not hurt at all by that fateful event. Not in the long run, in terms of the cosmos. In fact, I would’ve never experienced the richness of my life as I then knew it, had I not been so broken when I was 26. Forget that soulless beauty I used to be. If I hadn’t had my skull smashed, I might not ever have found the beauty within. I didn’t even blame Mr. X any longer. He was the agent of a great change in me, and possibly a divine agent of Karma. There are no accidents.

So, slowly and incrementally…I began to forgive.

The flip side to that was an unfortunate and unexpected byproduct, however. In all this soul searching, I had changed and Mr. X had not followed suit. And from my new hard won standpoint of a meditative, forgiving mind, I began to question if remaining in the marriage wasn’t more like martyrdom.

What a Catch-22! I seek forgiveness to save my marriage and forgiveness is the very thing that must end it! Was this a cosmic joke?

Suddenly, the tables were turned and I was no longer the wounded, but the one wielding the ax. Afterall, I had learned to accept Mr. X for who he was, flaws and all, and I loved him as a person and a friend, even if I didn’t see a lifelong partnership as viable any longer. The resentment was gone, but guilt had taken its place. I was a nervous wreck with all the sifting and sorting. How could I do this horrible thing that I had to do? How did I become the evil one with a dark passenger?

I went back to Dr. B for more marriage counseling, hoping to find help in ending it peacefully.

With snot running down my lips and a wad of soaked tissues in my clenched fist, I babbled something like, “What if marriage isn’t the right thing for me in this case? I think I’ve learned to forgive, but that doesn’t make Mr. X my partner until death does us part, does it? I think I made a mistake. I’d rather die than go on like this.”

Stone faced, he replied, “My main goal is to keep the marriage intact.”

“No matter what?”

“That’s my goal.”

And that’s when I realized the true meaning of forgiveness. I had to forgive myself and I was in this alone. I was going to break people and ruin lives. How could I be not okay with what I meant to do, but still not let it hurt me?

Well. What’s the alternative?

Indeed.

This was Mean Greeting Card #2. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

Opposites Attract

My first finished painting in over a year has turned out wildly different than I expected, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

The series of six paintings–which includes elephants, sea otters, and butterflies, among other fauna–began as an art licensing idea for Valentine’s Day cards, and they were supposed to be sweet! As I stumbled away from ever worsening divorce complications and limped through the swift demise of a confusing rebound, however, my cute little animals became tragic instead.

Too much work had gone into them to quit. Pen and ink, watercolor, pastel, gouache, oil, acrylic–I had really poured my heart into it, probably as a way to stay sane through trauma. I was lost with them, though, because they certainly weren’t commercially appealing any longer. But I had no idea how such lingering sentimentality would fit into my fine art practice.

Then I realized that these paintings had stayed true to their original purpose after all, wherever they fit, and all my frustration vanished. They capture the raw emotion I felt for months and months, and they are quite comforting to me. Much like a greeting card and much better than well meaning divorce chit chat. I imagine it’s a similar feeling when a loved one dies and you’re forced to sit through clumsy condolences. Most of what people say makes you feel worse.

In particular, the monkey and the chicken are so obviously not a great couple! I’ve discovered people to be invested in the survival of others’ relationships beyond reason.

“No! You guys are perfect together!”

“But you looked so happy on Facebook, what happened??”

And the worst:

“What about your KID?! How could you DO this to him?” (Well, by golly you’re right. I have never considered my kid in all of this. Silly me.)

Of course, I’ve done the same thing to divorcing couples, and I think it’s a reflection of my own anxiety in the knowledge that all worldly attachments eventually bring pain. And, if your relationship doesn’t last, that means mine might not either. That’s darn right personally offensive.

But, I mean, come on. What were a monkey and a chicken ever going to offer each other from the beginning? I think if we admitted that many romantic partnerships are like this, maybe we wouldn’t need so much self-medication.

This was Mean Greeting Card #1. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

Some Things Can’t Be Left Alone

This is my first post in over a year, because I’ve been busy with an endless, vomitous, soul-crushing divorce.

It was unavoidable. Most people we knew were so sorry to hear about it, because they always saw us as a well-matched couple, and they loved us both. Then, my friends and family deserted him, and his friends and family deserted me. We tried a “conscious uncoupling.” That was a catastrophe. We attempted “co-parenting” because that was a pleasant sounding fiction, but we were always at each others throats behind the scenes. I finally admitted that was bullshit, too.

We used to be best friends. And lovers. Co-creators. Now, most conversations with him produce hives.

Yet, this is not an angry post!

I feel inspired and hopeful today, because my best friend Sally sent me the perfect laugh this morning with this horse meme. She’s a therapist and she makes these privately to blow off steam. They remind me of Jack Handy quotes on Saturday Night Live–hilarious in the uncomfortable truth at their core. They’re actually comforting to me (and probably a lot of people), because it reminds me that we all dwell in darkness sometimes. Laughter through the tears.

You see, the divorce was a symptom of a larger change that Sally and I have been experiencing, along with so many other friends it’s astounding. The Aquarian Age, finally arrived? The dreaded midlife crisis? Global awakening in the Information Age?

Like most who find their way here, I stumbled onto a spiritual path not by choice, but because there was nowhere else to go. All all other roads led to more misery, worse addiction, and crippling stagnancy. And once you start walking, it’s impossible to step off the path, no matter how many dark nights of the soul you suffer through.

Mornings are just as often bright and fair.

I’ve spent some quality time painting in my cave through all this. I feel like I’m on the cusp of completion of an important cycle. It’s freeing and cleansing to get everything down on paper. I have a feeling that I’ll look back on these paintings in ten years and understand even more about what I’m doing in hindsight, but for now I’m just letting my heart flow out through my fingertips.

They’re large and on very sturdy paper, so I can work on them layer after layer, while surprising details build up.

I’ve been making patterns out of written words for a long time, but in the last year they’ve started working as mandalas for me. Often it was the only way that I could sit down to work on anything, when I felt like I was at rock bottom. At first I felt guilty about “wasting” so much time, doodling away with no real aim in mind, no monetary goal. Now I realize that the act of making these mandalas gets things flowing and connects me to source energy.

Confusion fades and clarity peaks. Ideas coalesce, and problems that I’ve struggled with for months suddenly find their own solution. Doubts and anger evaporate, and compassion soars.

The thing I love most about the mandalas is that I have no idea where they will end up, because each mark determines the next. It’s my favorite work that I’ve ever made. I have a ton, and I’ll post as they develop.

If you’d like to watch how the work grows, follow and subscribe!

 

Classic Horror and True Romance

poorthingsA Book Review of Poor Things, by Daniel Barnett

Find it on Amazon HERE.

Anyone who has read my reviews for a while knows that I’m a huge Daniel Barnett fan. I was thrilled to hear that his latest book, Poor Things, might fall into the YA spectrum. Barnett’s writing is pure poetry, and this one is his goriest, grittiest yet. I’d say it rests rather precariously on the young adult line, and it would certainly appeal to adult horrorphiles, because this author never pulls any punches and his hits can be brutal. Poor Things is bloody and frightening, with language not meant for virgin ears. Parents, if you think your little miracle isn’t ready for something along the lines of Stephen King’s scariest tales, this isn’t their book.

For more mature teens: dive in. Poor Things is also beautiful and touching, a poignant coming of age story.

Main character Joel has it coming from the first pages, as the bullying, arrogantly jocular older brother to a wimpy, pimply, book-reading nerd. You’ll know immediately if you can’t handle Poor Things, because Joel loses everything (including that little brother) in a violent car crash before you can even blink. The change in him is swift and soul deep, and we experience this story through his new life as a crippled nobody in a tiny mining town.

This life changing event, this one tragic moment, serves to destroy and create. It’s a common theme with Barnett—tear it all down, build it all back up—and something worth pondering for any young reader, especially in those days before the brain has developed enough to understand consequences. Physically incapacitated by his broken body, Joel’s mind speeds ahead: “Adolescence is an earthquake, one that feels like it will never end while you’re living it, and eventually there comes a choice. You can crawl under your desk and hide, or you can stand up on top of that shaking desk and dance.”

He isn’t the only character I fell in love with, not by far. The heavy metal loving tomboy with a white-blonde buzzcut, Ash, is one of the strongest female supporting characters I’ve met in a long time. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s best friends with the biggest dork outcast in school. Ash is all soft underneath, and yes, though Joel is paralyzed from the waist down, there is the possibility of romance. It’s hard to say who is the hero of Poor Things, because throughout most of the book, Ash saves Joel’s derriere again and again. Without her, he could never have…sniff…well, you’ll cry at the end, too.

The town of Honaw itself has enough personality to be thought of as another character–an odd and mildly disturbing one from the beginning. Or, rather, the thing which lies beneath Honaw engineers that creep factor. Okay, that’s it! I can’t say any more or I’ll give it away. Yet, bells and whistles aside, this is a classic monster tale. No monster I’ve ever imagined, however. Only Daniel Barnett could imagine such a strange, sad, dangerous beast from the depths of time, and only this guy could make me love that thing by the end.

This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.

Screenshot 2016-05-13 15.12.10