Thursday, February 24, 2011

Doing Nothing...

“I invite you to take some time this week to do…nothing.” Patrick, our facilitator tells us during class this past Monday. Panic floods my brain. I don’t have time for “doing nothing”. I have a list a mile long of things I have to accomplish before I move. That day is fast approaching and I’m not quite finished with packing. “How do you guys feel about that?” he asks.
One woman pipes up saying she is having a hard time with it because to her doing nothing is not being “productive” and she doesn’t know what to do with that. I completely understand because I have the same outlook. Somehow I got it in my head that I am to be doing something at all times. I am to be in motion all the time. I’m thinking that maybe it’s because I believe that if I slow down for a moment, I might actually feel something. I may not like that so I don’t want to stop and look at it. Whatever “it” is, it’s like a little bee buzzing in my ear making me run harder, spin faster into orbit desperately wanting to leave the planet and any unpleasant feelings that might come with it.
I sit quietly and take in this information. I’ve been silent since sharing at the beginning of class when I opened my mouth to speak and tears came instead. I haven’t stopped running around long enough to acknowledge that I am tired. I am overwhelmed and scared. I also have a mean case of PMS so everything feels like it’s going to come crashing down at any moment. I listen as Patrick reads aloud a paragraph in Artist’s Way book that says artists need time alone. Away from people. It’s a way of recharging that we can’t get through completing our “to-do” lists or engaging with someone else.
On Wednesday I’m back in my apartment, packing. I’m an hour in when it seems I’m going to drown in a pile of laundry and I’m not sure what to put in the next box. Jeff’s words play over in my mind. “Just put it in the box. You just need to transport it from A to B. It doesn’t have to be perfect.” That last part was so freeing. I don’t even know what “perfect” packing looks like but it doesn’t stop me from striving towards it. I fill another box with books and walk out of the room. I’m taking… a break. To do… nothing.
I sit on the couch and stare out of the window. The sun is shining. The clouds are fluffy. I feel air moving in an out of my lungs while watching the birds as they jump from branch to branch on the tree that resides at the window. A man is playing with his dog across the street in the park and for a moment I forget everything. Nothing else matters but sunshine and being still.
Of course this doesn’t last long before I’m back in my room putting away my books until there are no more books to put away. I start the laundry feeling just a teeny bit more peaceful thinking I should do this more often. I (and you) deserve to stop a moment and take that break.
Do you have a hard time doing nothing?


There has been something strangely cathartic about moving this time around. Something about purging crap I’ve accumulated and discovering things I’ve forgotten feels a lot sweeter than it has during past moves. I feel I’m also moving into a different part of myself, shedding a layer that I no longer need, and am ecstatic for the discovery. Usually I lose my mind during moving, worry more than necessary, overeat, and procrastinate my way through the process causing me to scramble in the end, amplifying my feelings of insanity at the very last second before action must be taken.
This time though, I am consciously trying to make a different choice. Before, weeks before actually, making a split decision to move I told a client who is very dear to me that I would dog sit for her in Evanston. For ten days while she and her husband were away to visit their daughter who is studying abroad in Spain, I would be taking care of their adorable Golden Retriever and staying in their house, reducing my 45 minute-1.5 hour commute on the train to a 15 minute walk. I had no idea how wonderful this arrangement would turn out until I started packing.
On days off this week I have been commuting back home, with boxes left over from product/color orders from the salon, filling them and packing what I could before feeling overwhelmed, stopping and heading back to Evanston to walk the dog, and breathe a minute. It has been a dream to be away from the chaos that is my room right now.
Despite all this back and forth stuff, work, dog sitting and trying to see Jeff I am still managing to squeeze in an artist date. I’ve noticed that if I even think about skipping them now I go completely insane. (as opposed to brushing them off as I’ve been tempted to do.) It has been imperative for me to carve out a teeny space in my week for this little bit of a time out from life as I know it and explore something I’ve wanted to try or something I’ve forgotten.
I chose to draw this week. I used to draw all the time. In seventh grade I loved drawing cats along with the occasional Disney character. Penciling in the cat’s fur and their eyes were my favorite parts. The hair of the Disney characters was also a favorite. As I’ve gotten older I have a tendency to draw when things feel so difficult that I can’t write and making a collage seems like too much effort. I love to take ladybugs, or butterflies and personify them, giving them human emotion. Today though I sat down with a photograph of a mocha that Jeff made and drew it as I saw it. My original plan for this image includes bright colors, and possibly some paint but for today, I was curled up on the couch with some drawing pencils I’ve had for a while now and a small sketch book. When I started, I was all uptight like I usually am, wanting every single line to be perfect, (it never is) and have it perfectly proportioned. (never happens) Why must I take all the fun out of something with my incessant perfectionism? Why not just let go and see what happens?
So I did. To the best of my ability I did. I let my hand move freely, and did my best to interpret on my paper with my hand what my eyes were seeing. This is always the most difficult part. My eyes, and my mind’s eye sees so much. I can’t understand how to communicate that to my hand except through practice. Practice, I tell myself, is something I don’t have time for when really… I don’t “feel” like doing 500 hundred drawings just to find that “one”. Not having time is my favorite excuse.

Our “homework” this week is to stay away from reading/tv/movie watching/face book/internet surfing etc…anything that sucks up time and numbs us out. I don’t watch tv, only get on face book when someone has sent a message or posted on my wall, and my internet surfing has been reduced to a couple blogs I read and email, unless I’m going to bake something or need directions. I feel pretty good about keeping my distractions at bay.
The two things I do the most though are writing constantly in my journal, and sadly, consuming way more food than my body needs. Reading used to be up there but I’ve drastically cut back on that as well. (I did the Artist’s Way on my own right before signing up for the course.) I also use one creative outlet to block others. I may want to work on a collage but baking something new, or writing seems way more interesting or enticing. I’m just now starting to become hyperaware of how I’m spending my time. It’s helped me organize myself though this move. Telling myself that I don’t have to spend all day packing, just part of it makes me move faster and be more efficient. Knowing I can allow myself breaks helps, plus needing to take care of the dog has also kept me moving in a way I wouldn’t otherwise. Actually walking him has gotten me out of my head. Walking in general to work has done the same, releasing extra tension that might be building up. I’ve penciled in time to see a friend, time for Jeff and the gym. I stare out the window on the train, stand on the platforms observing life around me instead of burying my nose in a book. I’ve even managed to be more present at work, really engaging with my clients and remembering that worrying gets me no where.
I’ve still had my moments of freak outs, distractions, irritations and the like but ultimately am feeling like I’m moving (quite literally) in a good direction.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentime's Day...

That’s how my mom says it and it still makes me giggle. When we were much younger my parents would wake my brother and me up before school with heart shaped boxes of candy among other goodies. I loved Valentine’s Day. I loved all that red, pink and white. I enjoyed seeing all the hearts, flowers and all the expression of love. I also loved actually making Valentine’s from construction paper, and while in elementary school, exchanging the small, rectangular cards with cartoons on them stuffed into white envelopes. In fifth grade, I had the biggest crush on Mark Cathy and saved, for many years, the Garfield valentine he gave me.
Sadly my love for the day of love has turned into something resembling that chalky white stuff that takes over a piece of chocolate as it ages. The disintegration began in high school when the first Valentine’s Day I spent with my high school sweetheart Nathan was complete with us driving around Jonesboro (GA) looking for a place to eat that didn’t have an atrocious wait before finally deciding on Wendy’s drive-thru and watching Hope Floats with mom.
Since then I’d rather not deal with all the hoopla. Getting dolled up and going out with the rest of the city doing the exact same thing isn’t enticing. The idea of a forced good time isn’t a good time. (for me anyway.) I’d rather be with friends or home cooking a nice dinner with my Jeff.
Saturday the 12th is my first Saturday off in I don’t know how long. I’m now working every other Saturday, alternating with Sunday so I’m not working the entire weekend like I have been. I am ecstatic!!! I woke up at Jeff’s place at 7:30am. Seven! Thirty! Now, I know to most of you, this is awfully early but it was sleeping in for me as I’m usually up at 5:45am, out the door at 6:15am and on a 6:43am train to Evanston. While Jeff slept I went out to the living room and wrote for a bit before going back to him.
Minutes later we were up and making coffee and breakfast, before sitting on his love seat by a large window, the sun coming through. He doesn’t stand a chance of sleeping when we’re together. I have so missed sitting across from him, coffee in hand, talking about whatever pops into our minds. Life has taken us all around lately and it’s nice to be still for a moment and actually look at him.
We decided today that we’d make valentine’s complete with construction paper, glitter and stickers. I have so looked forward to this since we decided on it last week. Once the coffee is finished we’re spreading out all our crafty things on the dining room table. I’m feeling a little shy and try to snap out of it by testing out the different glitter glues and paints on a piece of construction paper. Eventually I pull out a ladybug card and go to town on it. One by one, I placed the stickers down, pushed the paint around, and cut out the hearts and letters without judgment or with a critical eye. I stopped every now and then to admire Jeff and see what he was up to. We didn’t talk much. The silence felt comfortable though. I moved from the ladybug once I finished on to cutting out hearts, and arranging a valentine for Jeff, then made a couple more cards.
It’s doing things like this that makes me appreciate such “holidays” as Valentine’s Day. It’s experiencing something out of the ordinary and sharing it with someone I love that makes me all warm and fuzzy.

What about you? How do you spend Valentine's Day?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love letters...

…I still drink soy caramel lattes. I have the shirt you wore on the day we met. I still hear your voice in my mind and still remember your birthday. You were the love of my twenty six year old’s life. You showed me what it was to be loved for exactly who I was. You cracked open my hardened shell and gently pulled me out of myself. By loving every ounce of me you taught me how to give that love back as well as receive all the sweetness you had to offer. You taught me how to be a better person. You showed me that it was ok to be my authentic self. Granted I feel I have a long way to go but you placed me on a path I have never been able to walk down before.
For you my dear I am forever grateful. I love you.

your ladybug

It’s been three years since I met Rob. I decided I would write him a letter and send it out anonymously to the Starbucks we met at. I got the idea from a book that sits behind a bench at the Unicorn Café in Evanston. It’s for love letters. Every now and then I like to sit next to it, peek into it and read about love in all it’s many forms. It’s a book where people can write (anonymously should they choose.) whatever they feel from crushes, to rants about exes, to expressing deep love towards a partner, or…expressing their deep love for the Unicorn. For me, there is something delicious, freeing, and very personal about letter writing. It takes on a form of honesty that I don’t otherwise articulate. Rob loved getting my letters whether I handed them to him or mailed them. I thought it would be appropriate to send something out into the world, hoping that it lands in hands of someone who might be in need of some kind of love or brightening of their day.
Getting started with this project was met with much procrastination until one day I just sat down and did it. Not gonna lie, it felt really crazy to be writing a dead person but once I got about a paragraph in, I was into it and happily relayed all the details of that early Sunday morning, sometimes giggling, sometimes feeling my eyes fill up with tears, but feeling mostly content. Three pages later I closed with the above paragraph and found the address to send it to.
This didn’t feel particularly hard, or easy. I felt really good that I took the time to at least try it. As I was writing it, the usual question of “why did this happen to us?” popped up. I try not to ask it very often but it finds it’s way into my mind. After three years, and getting a little bit further away from the grieving part to being able to see a bigger picture, I’ve noticed that without Rob I wouldn’t be able to love Jeff like I do. I wouldn’t love anyone like I do if it weren’t for him and the experience.

I thought I was passed the usual anger and crying spells that happen the first week of February and the second week in April (he died on the 20th) but nope. It all came to visit yesterday while I was spending the day with Jeff. I’ve noticed my schedule is way more packed than usual aside from needing to start packing and figuring out actually moving. I feel I’m running pretty hard from something but I’m not sure what that is. After brunch and walking around in well below freezing temperatures Jeff and I were back on the train to Lincoln Park to get sunglasses for him at REI. I closed my eyes for a little bit and the tears came. I wasn’t thinking about anything, they just showed up. To avoid this because it literally feels like it’s going to swallow me whole and I’m not going down without a fight, I get extra special hard on myself. I will push, shove and guilt myself into or out of anything to keep the focus off any kind of hurt that might be under the surface of all that crazy. This makes everything worse but none of it hurts worse than what’s already there. If I could just stop a moment and acknowledge it…
Once outside under the sunshine with frozen feet and a red face I walked alongside Jeff, feeling my gloved hand in his. He asked how I was. I didn’t know how to answer. I just said that I hurt. I’ve never admitted that before. I pulled him into me and cried.
I got to work today after a soy latte and breakfast at the Unicorn. I noticed a new client on my books today named Tracy. She was getting color with Stevie first. A few minutes after she arrived Stevie came to get me asking me if I wanted to talk to her.
“Yup.” I nodded, standing to walk out to the color area. I feel like I’ve been beaten. My face is puffy and hasn’t seen an ounce of make-up this morning. I see the back of Tracy’s head and remind myself that I am working and I owe it to my clients to be there for them.
“Hey you!” Tracy turned to face me and I instantly recognized her. She owns the Unicorn. I gave her my card a couple of weeks ago.
“Hi!” I squeal, ecstatic to see her. She is someone I aspire to be like. I love her bubbly genuine sweetness, the way she interacts with people, the way people love her back. Her face brightens my day instantly every time I walk into the café and see her.
“I finally decided to do something for myself and gave you guys a call!” she exclaims. I laugh as I can identify with putting off self-care stuff. We talk about the plan with her hair and Stevie gets to work on her highlights. A little while later Tracy is in my chair and I’m combing her out. We talk about her day and her work and how she’ll open tomorrow and I’ll also be there fairly early.
“Tell me about you.” she says. “How are you?”
I turn her to face me so I can start her layers. Something tells me it’s ok to be honest with her.
“Ok. I’ll be honest. I’m having a hard day. I’m good, I’m happy to see everyone, I’m just a lil emotional.”
“Oh I’m so sorry! I know how that is though and thank you for being honest.”
Talk of Valentine’s Day comes up and she tells me about the love letters she has hanging in the café. I’ve noticed them and I’ve read a few of them but couldn’t exactly figure out if they were an art project or what.
“You know that book we have by the bench? Those letters are from that book. I copied them and put them up.”
“I so love that!” I beam. Something is chattering at me to tell her about Rob and my letter. I ignore it and keep cutting.
“I so love Valentine’s Day. I think it’s great there is a day out there made just for love.” she smiles.
The chattering is so loud that I feel I’ll regret not telling Tracy that she was the one who inspired me to write the letter to Rob.
“I have to tell you that the love letter book you have totally inspired me to write…um…ok so I lost my boyfriend in a car accident almost three years ago. We met today three years ago so that’s why I feel a little nuts.”
“I’m so sorry! Oh my gosh, that’s some really heavy stuff you walk around with.”
“Thanks, and yes, and I’ve been fine but yesterday it hit pretty hard. I decided to write him a letter and send it to the Starbucks we met at in hopes that whoever reads it will get something that maybe they’ll need or want.”
“Oh my gosh! That’s great! They totally will. Oh, I’m so glad you did that!”
I laugh. “Me too.” I tell her about meeting him, about how when I interviewed here I felt he was going to leave and here we are.
“He called it with your job here and you knew that something was up. What a connection. Wow.” she shook her head.
I spin her back around and work on her layers before trimming her length. “I know. I don’t know what it was, but something told me it wouldn’t last, I just couldn’t see why.”
Talking with Tracy had sparks going off in my head. I felt so much better having let some of my crazy out.
I enjoyed my work day despite my crying in between clients and giving myself a hard time in general for feeling the way I do. I wouldn’t judge anyone else for feeling this way but I berate myself constantly when out of no where these intense emotions arise and knock me back a bit. I turn to hurting myself when I’m already hurting to avoid the original pain. Stopping to look at what hurts is like anticipating some blow to the head that you think will knock you senseless but you don’t know for sure so you brace for it, expecting it to take your life but it doesn’t. It doesn’t and you’ve gone through all this trouble to fight it or brace against it. I see all of this and still, after three years, I can’t quite be still long enough, get curious enough to be where I am and experience whatever it is. I can now see that it is an option though whereas before it seemed there were no options, just anger and crying. I see that no matter what storm is going on in my head, I am capable of remaining calm, of functioning, and enjoying my life. I’m excruciatingly slowly moving in that direction but the lunacy that succumb to is still very much present. I’m happy that for today I can see that I have an option should I choose to take it.
Being still through the good stuff, the bad stuff, the sparkly stuff, the angry, scary, hurt, broke-down-palace stuff is most certainly a lifelong learning experience I feel I’ve been slowly embarking upon these past three years. To see that feelings come and go, to know that I can’t attach to them as much as I’d like (or even do) to is something I so desperately want to master. Until then, I’m back on my rollercoaster, trying to figure it out one day at a time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Who,What,When,Where and How...

It’s snowing again. My favorite kind, the big fluffy flakes are gently kissing my cheeks as I make my way to the street I live on from the bus I’ve taken a million times since learning how to use the bus system. My first experience also included snow and was a world class disaster but that’s another story.
While walking I admire the glittering white substance piled on the sidewalks from last week’s blizzard. The fresh snowflakes are resting peacefully on these mounds, showing off they’re sparkly little selves in the otherwise dark evening. I have come to appreciate snow more than usual these past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because the blizzard made us all slow down, or maybe Jeff’s love for it is rubbing off on me. Whatever it is, it’s been simply delightful these past few days.
I turn on to my street, turning over the evening in my mind. I’m coming home from my artist class. It was wonderfully intense and emotional for me as it usually is, but with different emotions. I wasn’t fidgety but calm, happy, peaceful and found myself wanting to cry at time for reasons unbeknownst to me. I walk past the Montessori, under the trees, feeling the snow crunch beneath my boots. I hear it. Really hear the noise. My eyes take in the gates surrounding the apartments, the obstacle course of snow piles residing on the sidewalks, and the park across from my apartment. Home again, but my days here are officially numbered.
A little more than a week ago my current roommate and I needed to find a third. We interviewed a great girl and all decided that she would move in March first. Done and done. Four days later I sadly got notice from my current roommate saying that this girl needed to back out. A day or so after that, still feeling really sad that this great person wasn’t going to be around, I asked him for her number. Two text messages later and it was decided that I would move out and find a place with her. After a brief craigslist search, I had written down some names and numbers vowing to make calls on Monday.
So it’s Monday and what fun is calling people? For some reason after writing at Lovely, I decided to check craigslist one more time. An ad jumped out at me for some reason. There were no pictures attached, just some really great information in a neighborhood I wanted to look around in. I emailed the guy, and left Lovely to see my therapist Beth.
An hour later I got a call from this landlord. He had time available at 4:30 which worked for me. I confirmed I would be there, texted my new roommie and was astonished that she could also meet up with us. (both of us have crazy schedules.) The landlord showed us and another couple the place. The four of us were in love. This place had just been rehabbed and it was apparent this man took great pride in his work. Commuting to work just might be an even bigger pain in my ass than it already is, but to explore a different neighborhood, and live, truly live, in a cozy space with a great person who already more than supports my desire to create things, has her own things to create, who loves to cook and is all around a nice, considerate and fabulous? Please, sign me up.
When we all walked out of the building, the landlord said he’d be around should anyone want to talk with him. Dana and I squealed that we wanted it while standing outside. Figuring the couple wanted it, we knocked on the door again, telling the landlord when he answered, that we were ready to sign a lease. It just so happened that I grabbed a little cash before heading out of my place so we were able to “hold” the place.
The three of us walked to a coffee shop, went over the terms and signed on the dotted line. Once we were done, more squealing ensued. We couldn’t believe how perfect the whole process was. It was the first place we looked at and couldn’t have been easier.
I share this because in class tonight we talked about letting go the “how” and focus on the “what”. This has been a huge challenge for me. I like to “fix” everything, find a solution for everything and in scrambling around like that, I get caught up and stressed out and ultimately perpetuate the very thing I’m trying to “fix”. For the past few months, I’ve made collages surrounding beautiful spaces, objects and furniture, wanting something comfortable to come home to. I haven’t felt comfortable or even welcome in my own home for well over a year now. In trying to remedy that I imagined what I wanted. One thing led to another and Dana and I met. I then got nervous about finding a place, not sure of how I was going to get there then stopped worrying about that doing my best to trust that God had something amazing in store. I trusted that I would get what I was looking for even though I couldn’t see how. Sure enough, I followed my gut in contacting Dana, and this landlord and one by one the details fell into place and I feel happier than I have in a long time. It’s pretty much paradise…

Next step...moving.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day...

I do believe that one of God’s greatest creations is… the snowflake. I am mesmerized by how each one is completely different and how gentle they are even when being thrown by the angriest wind. Coming from Georgia, now residing in Chicago, snow is still a novel thing to me. I’ve even figured out what my favorite is, not realizing I would have an opinion about such things. I don’t like the really tiny flakes, or the flurries. The best ones to me are the giant fluffy ones that leisurely drift from the sky, slowly, tenderly accumulating on tree branches, cars, and pavement. I could stare out the window all day and watch them, or go for a long walk among them feeling them kiss my face.
Yesterday though, I got to experience an actual storm, complete with crazy wind, making it look as if it were snowing sideways, thunder, lighting and some serious accumulation. I went home from work early and was annihilated on my walk to the train station and on my walk home from there. I’ve never been assaulted quite like that by precipitation before. The wind moved my body as I trekked home in a sea of angry, blowing snowflakes that felt like tiny razors as they hit my cheeks. My glasses were completely covered by the time I walked into my apartment, the hair peeking out from may hat wet and my face red. A couple of hours later Jeff arrived looking about the same.
This morning we high stepped it down my street on our way downtown because Jeff had to work and I needed caffeine. My feet sank well into the piled up sparkling fluff and suddenly I was ten years old again desperately wanting to run through it giggling and pelting Jeff with snowballs.

It’s a lot of work traipsing through all of that. We made it to the train and to downtown, stopping to look around before heading into Intelligentsia where he worked and I admired him while glancing up from my writing every now and then.

Downtown is quiet. Most of the businesses were either closed or working shorter hours. I walked to Millennium Park to look around and take pictures. The snow had ceased fire at this point and people were out laughing and running around. It was nice to see and despite the frigid temperatures, nice to be outside. The sun even came through a teeny bit.

On my walk home people were everywhere, digging out their cars, drinking coffee, playing, snapping pictures and taking advantage of the day. It was really nice to see and made going home all the better.