School Daze

School Daze

So here’s a Lovely and Unexpected Gift that has found its way to me. A little over a year ago I wanted to give myself a birthday treat. I’d been wanting to learn some mixed media techniques for the longest time, and those YouTube tutorials refuse to stay in my dainty little head. I did however keep seeing popups about Flow Art Studio in Jax Beach, offering some great classes, and when one mentioned a free art journaling class on the very day of my birth, it was clearly a sign of favor and I was all in. It meant a two hour drive but it seemed too right to ignore.

 

I kind of enjoy going to new places where I’ll know no one, and since it was a free event I wasn’t sure what to expect. Certainly nothing as delightful as what I found. I met a warm friendly group of about a half dozen women, who welcomed me eagerly, slapped a folder in my hand to contain that day’s and all future projects (again all free!), and settled in to get to know me. We painted, glued and played for a few hours, all the while sharing skills and ideas, and my initial impression was that I could learn quite a bit there if I were to keep attending. Well, yesssssss, but…. not the things I thought I was going for, only everything else in the cosmos.

 

You see, I had been wanting for the longest time to see some changes in myself. I gave myself space to grieve and grow, but let’s face it, I wasn’t crazy about all the places my journey had taken me. Grief can be, by its very nature, a bit self-consuming. And there’s nothing wrong with that; any and all parts of that process are, well, whatever they are. It is its own journey; no rules, no parameters, a bit of a perverse funhouse: all warped mirrors and little fun. It just goes where it goes, or that was my experience anyway. I was coming out of it with no self-condemnation, but that didn’t mean I wanted to stay in that condition either. Self absorption is exactly what I wanted to lose.

 

So while I debate over whether or not I’m willing to drive two hours each week to learn mixed media techniques, the Universe has a happy little chuckle at my silliness, and sets me up to get to know women who excel in giving… in serving… in global caring, seeing beyond themselves, in being amazing humans. In short, being the complete opposite of self-absorbed. And just to personalize it to the nth degree, one of them had also lost a son. All of them, in fact, were well acquainted with sorrow and struggle. Yes, dear readers, you can hear the Universe cackling now, can’t you?

 

There is much, so much, I don’t understand about how things work, but I do believe that the sincere desire for growth stimulates the process. Years ago I came up with a title for a short story I wanted to write called “Gentle by Thursday,” because I caught myself wondering if I could become a gentler, kinder person for some event happening that Thursday. The idiocy of my thinking seemed like the seeds of a funny story, and I never forgot that title. Because it is in our nature to want to change by this time next week; in other words, quickly and painlessly. If only. There goes that mad cackle again.

 

But on some level the Universe does recognize the sustained yearning of our hearts for growth… and sends us to Jacksonville for art classes. My group eventually settled out to include three or four fantastic women, sisters of the soul and so much more. My teacher guides. Robin actually runs the studio and a more generous, giving person I do not know. But Mother Teresa she is not; she’s way too much fun and quick to laugh. Not that the Mother was not; I just haven’t heard of her jokester side. Robin’s is front and center, just the way I like it. As an artist she is fine with sharing her skills and secret methods, and that alone makes her stand out in the crowd. Some artists can be the teensiest bit paranoid and overly protective….shhhh. She is brave enough to walk into the studio some weeks with no plan and just the slimmest idea of a direction, that never fails to inspire and take us all somewhere new. Her bravery extends to her business side as well, and it would have to, wouldn’t it? Giving free classes to whomever shows up, supplying all materials, just because she wants to provide people an entry into the creative world. She also offers a wide variety of paid classes, check out Flow Studio, now in Neptune Beach. If you’re lucky enough to hang out with her, be prepared to laugh while learning. She has become dear to my heart, and for obvious reasons she is known as Comet Girl.

 

Teri was probably the one I felt the most instant connection with, which is kinda funny because each week that we worked side by side, my work was always an explosion of overwrought colliding colors while Teri’s was… an ordered, well thought out triumph of calm, soothing beauty. Always significant, always speaking to me. I began to take note of our processes, our differences… and eventually our similar conclusions. We always talked as we worked and I noticed that Teri’s stories were often about serving… caring for pets at the shelters, doing early morning turtle duty during egg-laying season on the beaches… her passion for caring for the planet. She wasn’t sharing them to impress; she didn’t need to. Teri was just talking about her days, her priorities, how she chose to spend the days she’s been given. I just happened to be sitting next to her while it poured out of her. And I knew pretty quickly that her perspective was fresh and new, to me. The kindness just flowed. I’d been wanting to splash in that river for a loooooong time.

 

Jen always had her baby with her, and I think when I first met them he was maybe 6 months old, mostly sleeping in his little seat. I was just getting back to where I could be with kids again without it hurting too much, and Jen and James were the perfect reentry. I right away picked up a vibe from her that we had similar stories. I’m always drawn to those who have traveled the rougher roads; they are my people. Jen was only with us for maybe another 9 months before she moved to TN but before she left we had connected on a deep level, I think maybe because she also was looking to grow and move forward. We all were but those of us who first go backwards for a while have a deep appreciation for every step, and I loved that about her. I so love celebrating life with those drinking deeply at its cistern.

 

And Christy, well, Christy was the capper. Listening to Christy was when I first realized I was being schooled. She talked often of her work at the Mayo Clinic and another area hospital, of the hours she spent developing occupational and art therapy programs, and her enthusiasm was contagious. Some of the other women mentioned joining her and helping her serve the patients there, and I was impressed by their willingness to volunteer their time. No, I wasn’t impressed; I was more blown away. They talked about it often enough that it began to dawn on me that we were talking about regular, weekly time. It probably says something about me that it took me months to realize that Christy herself was volunteering all of this time. Hours spent developing the programs, and then tweaking them to fit the needs of each hospital and its patients, and then faithfully offering them each week to patients and hospital staff. She is not retired. She is a middle-aged, beautiful newlywed in fact, who has a story that I can’t wait to hear more of. For she, and Robin, and Teri, and Jen, is teaching me by osmosis how to live… how to give… how to wake up to generosity as a life style. I’m from jerzey; that does not come naturally to me. No offense, jerz.

 

Oddly, today is Robin’s birthday and 4 of us will gather to celebrate the wonders of this beautiful sister, who has assembled a thirsty group of artists, seemingly to learn about paint and color and creating art. It’s never that simple, is it? Her kindness and open heart has birthed so much more. We’ve kinda come full circle, birthday to birthday, and that seems like more than a coincidence to me. I am being righteously schooled, joyously recognizing the gift of transformation from the Universe. My sisters would say the same, I’m guessing. And you too…. it’s probably happening to you too, if you’re hungry enough. Happy birthday to us all, right? Would love to hear your school tales too, if you’d like to share. Funny, that school bell has a cackling sound to it….

 

 

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Entertaining Angels

Entertaining Angels

So here’s the thing. I’ve been getting signs from the Universe lately about writing. Regularly. Usually when I write and share my thoughts it’s because things have been building up in my head and I need release. I feel relief when I get it all on the outside. But this feels a bit different; this feels more like, well… I don’t need to label it, right? Just do it. When the Universe is sending me personal signals that feel significant I try to go with it.

 

What would I write about? It’s been coming to me for days but tonight I just woke up at 4 with the answer fully formed and flowing in mid-thought. You. I want to write about the amazing people in my life. I am the luckiest girl in the world for a few reasons but one of the more outstanding ones is that my life is lavishly drenched with people that move me, inspire me, teach me, entertain me, and encourage me. And I’ve shared before that people have fascinated me from an early age. As a child I would get in trouble for staring at people, my mouth hanging open in wonder, just watching them interact and be so interestingly….human. It’s probably weird that I was doing it as late as junior high but there you have it. I just can’t get over the way we all think and behave and are made. But I do tend to overthink everything, I am relentlessly curious. A friend just spent last weekend with us and as the poor thing tried to watch a movie with me while enduring all of my questions/comments/thoughts, she finally turned to me and said with a baleful look, “You don’t just watch a movie, do you?” (Well, we may have been the teensiest bit stoned). My reply was, “Sandy, I don’t JUST do anything.” I’m horribly all in if I’m in at all; and this is why at 4 AM I had to get on the computer and begin typing just now.  Like I said, you gotta go with it when it’s happening.

 

A lovely woman who I’ve been getting to know and care for in the past year said a fascinating thing to me the other day. She is a Giver of the highest order, always flowing from a place of kindness and generosity from what I can tell. And she told me that she had recently bought herself the gift of a ceramic pasta set that she had been wanting for about 25 years. She laughed then and said, “I don’t know why I’ve had that in my head for so long but I have and the time was just right this week so I did it.” I got it immediately, and years ago made a similar statement about a spice rack, weirdly. But I also found it intriguing and knew there was a story in there, a story that may or may not have involved pasta. We all have them, and that is what makes life so rich, so endlessly captivating. I love people. All kinds, all ages, all backgrounds. I am deeply curious about our stories, and how we all fit together. So I’d like to write about those….

 

Of course, being female, when I woke up at 4 with this idea, this desire, pouring out of my spirit, I right away thought of reasons not to do it. Things that could be wrong with it. Why do we do that? Like, who do you think you are, that anyone would read this; you’re such an egomaniac. Yes, I am the Queen of Overthinking, but just go with it. Well, maybe no one, and that is fine. I’d still get to put into words my delight in the gifts of the people around me.

What could be so wrong with that? Well, for one thing, maybe people don’t WANT you to write about them, you need to consider that. Like your friend Maryann that you wrote about last week. You didn’t even ASK her before you outted her very personal story all over Facebook. What a jerk…. Well, I did run it by her close friend to get her thoughts on it, but I didn’t want to put Maryann in an awkward position on top of everything else….I wanted to give her and her sons honor, in my own weird way. And I had to get that stuff outta my head, that grief and pain. Writing kinda saved me in my own process…. Even though when I look back and read some of it I find my own tendency toward oversharing and gut wrenching spillage kind of embarrassing now. Well Kevan, this idea of yours could upgrade your embarrassment quota to whole new levels. Yep, I guess it could…. But the thing is, I think I’m ok with that. If I’m true to myself. Being human is kinda embarrassing if you think about it. Us running around being all….crazed with feelings and thoughts and dreams and needs…. Oh, those damn needs. But embracing and sharing and outing those things brings relief, to me anyway.  To many females, especially. So maybe I could write these things and not name the person? Oh, but I really want to, to give them props and honor and mad, mad love. So what, Kevan. It’s not all about you… much as you think it is.  Oh stop. Just stop. Get off my back, will you. Let me be me!

 

Okay then. Go ahead with your bad self. Write about your beautiful friends in all of their mad glory. Do your thing. Maybe just use their initial, instead of their full name. What do you think, readers? Initials or first names? Oh, and one final thought if I may, and this one is, well, honest and real: I am NOT looking for compliments here. Yes, I’m encouraged and flattered by all your kind words about my writing, of course. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for me. Flattery just causes me problems with my ego and I don’t need any more of that. I’d really prefer to pay respect to you, and maybe inch us all toward looking around our own lives and seeing the gifts of each other. Maybe pay it forward by us giving props to one another, privately or publicly. I know I’m not the only one blessed by entertaining angels in her life, aware or otherwise.

Maryann

Maryann

I first met her when I moved to a new town, got involved with a new community. Her son was hospitalized as a raging fever revealed the absence of a spleen, a situation ultimately fatal. Maryann’s first son, Sean, gone at nine months.

The next few years were a blur of babies, as we each had three boys, matching in ages and to a degree, temperament. It was an unexpected development for me, as was our deep involvement in the spiritual community that had opened their hearts widely to us. I never expected to marry, let alone have babies, or go to church or PTA or any of the other activities that quickly filled our hearts and our calendars. But we had already run the games out on our own terms and years on the streets and in addiction made this alternative reality pretty attractive. Very shiny. We were all in.

Feeling such a stranger in a strange land made my friendship with Maryann all the more meaningful to me. In one week I turned thirty, moved to a new town, quit my longtime job and had my first child. It was like being catapulted to an alternative universe, and I’m sure I left scratch marks on the walls, kicking and screaming my way in. Motherhood was an unexpected mystery to me and much of it unfolded through Maryann: nursing, diapers, surviving without sleep….being alone with babies and toddlers for days… A drastic change of course, but our friendship eased me in. With her I could always vent, question, dream…..wonder about so much. My love language is laughter and we did much of it, always talking about things that were real. Keeping things hidden wasn’t our style, and I don’t know if I’d have made it through those years as freely as I did without her.

I went on to have one more baby, a girl, and we both raised our kids in a bubble that seemed to promise a certain future. It took me a while to recognize it but there was much misunderstanding in our expectations. Speaking for myself, I thought if I tried to raise my kids in an affectionate home of love and laughter they’d embrace our values and morality. Simplistic, I know now, but it was the dream that we lived in and lived for. Those early years were some of my happiest; Maryann’s happiness was tempered by the loss of Sean, of course. The loss of a child doesn’t preclude happiness. It does change it, but many of us who have traversed the path of deepest grief reach a new revelation of how to live, and for some it does include joy, or a different version of it. I expected to raise and deliver happy, healthy, helpful citizens to the world.

I often wonder about the various factors that may have played a role in the alternative version of our dreams that ultimately played out. In my family’s story we struggled with addiction issues always; addiction has always been present in my life in one form or another. But that’s not at all the whole story; some of our kids were drawn into the lifestyle, others were completely disinterested. And it is the same in my family of origin. Cruelly random, seemingly. Life isn’t a simple morality tale in black and white. Human complexities plus culture plus circumstances plus….well, you get the idea. Aim in a direction that feels right and hope for the best.

It was my turn next; we lost Zack five and a half years ago. Talk about random; he had a seizure and asphyxiated on his vomit, sleeping on his back. Interestingly, our house was just opened after all the post Sandy repairs, so no furniture yet. Zack’s mattress lay on the new carpet, he hadn’t had time yet to get a bed frame. If he had would his girlfriend have heard the bed shaking and woken him? I say it again: no simple answers. But Maryann and her family were in my house for days, just showing support with their presence.

Three years later, Mare’s turn again when she lost her oldest remaining son David. Absolutely heartbreaking, and she wasn’t even my only close friend to lose more than one. And my heart ached from far away.

I’m driving back to Florida now after yet another cruel surprise for my dear friend. When her third son, beautiful Danny, was taken we drove up to sit beside them. It’s all you can do. After the service a bunch of us took them out, and as I looked at the long table of old friends I realized none of us had been spared. Not all had children who died but all knew the horrendous pain of watching their kids blow up their own lives. And in no small measures. Maybe it’s why we were all gathered, unconsciously. Our dreams have been severely challenged. We’ve had to re-examine our hopes, our own hearts, in the toughest ways. But we still had love, and there was much laughter at the table that night.

I love so many of the 12 step tag lines. Keep it simple, stupid. One day at a time. So much wisdom in these simple yet revolutionary concepts. Our dreams of a beautiful future for us and our children…they’ve been radically transfigured. We’ve had to surrender the idea of simple equations and explanations. We’ve had to learn to never compare; the entryway to endless pain and frustration. We’ve had to redefine happiness…family….future. For the worst reasons. But still….one of my sweet friends at the table that night told me today she’s found friends to be her new understanding of family. I’m so glad she’s able to grasp that silver lining. I’m so grateful that 36 years ago I became friendly with the funny girl who lived across the street. She knew sorrow deeply but she never forgot how to laugh. She never quit living…hoping…expecting goodness. I’m still standing with you, Mare. Counting it an honor of the highest order. 💛

Saddle Up

Saddle Up

Today I will be attending the memorial service of a friend recently lost, a lovely man who played a significant role in our experience of settling into St Augustine, of it feeling like home.  Vito and his equally wonderful wife, Jane, were two of the first friends we made, and that was some serious good fortune right there. A very focused man, Vito’s actions were driven by his huge heart, and the story of how our friendship deepened is kind of a funny one, revealing much about both him and us. He approached us several months after we first met, and told us that he was forming a small group to do some spiritual journeying together. He thought we might have an interest and invited us to come over and hear more about his plans, even though we were leaving for a whole summer in Jerzey just a few days later. More out of respect and affection than anything else, we stopped by that night, along with two other couples.

 

Vito met us at the door with his usual warm hug, and handed us a schedule, committing all four couples to the next six months of bi-weekly hosting and meeting, with our Jerzey time factored in and accounted for. I think the other guests were as surprised as we were. That story could have ended badly, right? But the beauty of it, and of Vito actually, was in its sense of flow. It was hard to miss the humor in it, but we all just as strongly felt the “rightness” of the plan. Something good was happening here, and when the River is flowing right, the only wise thing to do is jump in and start swimming.

 

I’m so glad we did. Two of those eight remain among my closest friends here. It will be my honor to go tonight and celebrate a man who loved chasing the River as much as I do. He spent time in his last months making specific, thoughtful plans for his last service; as I said, a man of great focus. He wanted his friends to enjoy good food, good wine, and some bocce ball. Not a bad sendoff, and I appreciate a well-planned exit.

 

If you know me well, and even if you don’t, oddly, you may have heard me speak of my plans for my own final service. They’ve been in place for probably close to 20 years now, and I mention them whenever the topic comes up because, pushy to the end, I feel so strongly about the feeling I want to communicate one last time to those I love most. Some of the specifics are…. odd. There’s some audience-participation, some physical acting out, and without giving away too much, I will caution you not to wear heels to the service. I know there will be disbelief and/or reluctance, but I figure if I tell enough of you, someone is gonna force the issue, represent for me in my first absence. C’mon, y’all, trust me one last time. It’ll be fun.

 

It came to me when I fell for this song years ago, a song that seemed to encapsulate my own energy and passion for life like no other. For me, there was only one appropriate response to this song. If you know the song and my plans, can I get an amen?! I haven’t been to a ton of memorial services but I know that as much as we want a “celebration,” it’s hard to really get to that emotion on that day. Have no fear, friends, I’ve got it covered. Obnoxious even from the grave. Geez.

 

I listened to the song about a year ago, for the first time in many years, and was kinda horrified to hear how dated it was. It now sounds pretty “pop,” not my style at all.  Some of the lyrics no longer fit as well; my journey has gone off the beaten path since then. I panicked a bit, and wondered if I’d have to actually change my plan, after bugging people about it for years…. Could I really let this song represent me? Can I really go out on a pop song??…. You laugh, but to someone who loves and needs music as much as I do, this is no small thing.

 

Interestingly, the artist is also a parent who lost a child, in a particularly horrible way. Life can take your breath away with its cruelty sometimes. He’s well known, and many people watched him survive, and go on, changed but unbent. “Struck down, but not destroyed.” That’s the thing: life comes at ya sometimes. But this song he wrote that means so much to me… it’s about the adventure we’re all on even as we travel down those rougher roads. Adventure is one of my favorite words. I wish I had the super power that could enable me to implant passion and joy into people who are struggling…or maybe are just missing those things.

 

I think I’m gonna stick with the plan. It just fits too well, with me, with my hopes for you in my absence. Yep, presumptuous to the bitter end. If my peeps come through, and you find yourself at my service doing…unusual things….remember how much healing there is in laughter. Remember the power of unexpected goodness in times of pain and loss. Remember how much fun it is to do crazy things, just for the joy. Let the river flow, y’all, in all of its crazy beauty.

 

 

 

 

Confessions of an Over-sharer

Confessions of an Over-sharer

Subtitled: Get Over Yourself. I’m really trying to figure this out. I think it may be the latest lesson sent from the Land of Both. Here’s my process: I get up most mornings and walk a few miles, usually by myself. Most of the time my brain is flooded with thoughts…feelings…questions. Which I try to figure out as the day goes on. Lately my thought life has felt very directed, to the point where I’ve come to believe I’m being led on some sort of spiritual quest, and I shared some of that last week. Even as I posted it, I acknowledged that a part of my brain was fighting me on it, telling me it was presumptuous and vain. Not so much the posting, but the thinking that anyone would have interest in it, or be willing to join me in sharing the journey. That got a bit worse a few days later, as my brain attempted to punish me for my ego… yes, all who mentioned my overthinking nailed it; I cannot deny it. There are occasional moments when I wonder if I’m having some sort of breakdown and rather than writing about it, I should be calling a doctor. For realz.

 

BUT. In the Land of Both, I’m learning that something can be both horrifying and wonderful. This has much to do with wiring, I think. The way I’m wired, there is much percolating below the surface, until these thoughts slowly begin to rise like overripe bubbles. Sometimes fully formed, sometimes more nebulous, presenting as more of an urge than a specific feeling. If left unattended they may spill out as pink hair or crazy bangs, an easy solution and a real release. See, that’s also a glitch in my wiring: I feel a real release when I get this stuff on the outside of me. Regardless of the results, my payoff comes in the release.  I feel better for having expressed myself, even if it ends up embarrassing me. This may be an artistic wiring, or it may be true of everyone, I dunno. It’s taken a while to learn this, but I no longer fight against my own wiring.

 

However, after the release, when I’ve gone on with my life and am now moved on to calmer thoughts, different adventures…. If I have occasion to go back and consider some of my more public releases… blogs…conversations…I am honestly sometimes horrified. Stunned by… the ego of it all. The oversharing. The fascination with myself and the assumption that others are equally fascinated. LOL. See, even writing this is making me laugh, it’s so….ridiculous. It is funny.  I am funny. We are funny. This whole life thing….. it’s vanity and laughter and struggle and seeking. It’s lessons from the Land of Both.

 

I’m never gonna have it all together. I’m going to struggle with what to do with all these questions, thoughts…especially when I’m in quest mode. I want to adventure, I want to grow, I want to do better. In my heart of hearts, I want to do this in community. I’m a lover of people and their stories, I’ve always been fascinated by the human experience. And yes, keepin’ it real, I think I’m also someone who doesn’t completely grasp publicly accepted boundaries, social media-wise. In a nutshell, I overshare.

 

I went out with three girlfriends the other night, got dinner, did some art walk. I have some hard stuff going on in my life, and much of it involves another person. My husband. Who is also going through his own seriously hard stuff, way harder than mine. Being an oversharer, I ended up blurting out my stuff at dinner. My feelings in a difficult situation, and I didn’t hold back. My motive? To get it OUT. Out of my head. To figure out some of what I’m feeling through talking it over with trusted friends. Honestly, I do feel a beneficial release from this; it is helpful just saying some of it aloud. BUT. Was it right to do? To expose my husband’s private struggle for the sake of my own relief? I don’t know… I do know I regretted it the next day, and sent an apology to all three. I did regret telling his stuff, to a degree, and I felt badly about the position I took that night. It was a bit selfish, lacked compassion…. the very quality I publicly sought just earlier this week!! I was, yet again, horrified.

 

BUT. I also felt blessed by the revelation of my own dark heart. Yes, I publicly shared just one week ago that I was on a quest for more kindness and compassion in my life. Ha! Within a few short days, I revealed myself to be the very antithesis of this; rather, I discovered great selfishness and ego ruling in my heart, at the expense of the one I love most. A dark day indeed.

 

HOWEVER. This self-knowledge came as a result of my openness. My oversharing. I didn’t see it at all until I exposed myself, and my man, to the light of day. And I needed to discover this for my quest to continue.  I guess all I’m saying is that this is how I learn. And I’m very much trying to learn here. I also believe so strongly in the power of community, and want to be a part of that giving/sharing/sustaining process with others. So I’m spilling my stuff all over because I guess I believe that ultimately the benefits outweigh the embarrassing side effects. A friend once offered me a brilliant solution: a small sign that read “I’m weird.” I could just raise it as a coverall, a kind of public explanation/disclaimer. We could then move on to other topics…. Doesn’t that sound freeing?

 

It’s all pretty circular, isn’t it? The signature sign of overthinking. Actually, now that I think of it I overshare, I overthink, I overeat… I’m very much an OVER person, a person of excess. I over express. But again, it goes back to wiring. You can’t fight city hall. Get yourself a Weird sign and do the best you can.

 

PS: Wrote this, left it open on computer to marinate, and meanwhile got a call from my son, the one most like me, poor kid. What did we discuss? Overthinking, its charms, and forgiving yourself. Ha! I’ve reproduced. And the beat goes on…..

 

A Hopeful Journey

A  Hopeful Journey

The name of the game is JOURNEY for me right now. It is becoming a deep focus for me lately, kind of unexpectedly, and I’m not even sure how it all started… A friend lent me a book this past fall, for the quotes at the end of each chapter, he said. I’m always looking for great quotes to build art around…Took me months to pick up “Buddhist Boot Camp” but it’s been blowing my mind ever since….turns out it’s not even really about Buddhism. Then in the past few weeks I’ve had a few things on constant repeat: I’ve probably watched “La La Land” a good ten times so far (or parts of it, a movie about dreamers) (yes, I have a lot of insomnia; trying to make it work FOR me), and the HBO “Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” have amazed me with their wisdom and insights. Also downloaded “Heretic” recently, the new documentary about Rob Bell; it is so thick with ideas and philosophy it also calls for multiple screenings. Which is not to say that I’m letting popular culture lead me spiritually, but it is the sea in which we all swim, right? I’ll say this: I’ve been moving toward a fresh understanding of compassion and inclusivity for a while now, and it only makes sense to me that the Universe would cooperate in that journey. I recently shared on Facebook my excitement about a confirming dream sent to me in the midst of all this. I want to grow in kindness, in understanding how that might look in my life, and how it might take root in my heart so as to flow more freely. I know, it sounds so simple… it may be indicative of my own heart’s darkness that I find it so… compelling and complicated and challenging.

 

I am a person of connection, and I am used to experiencing my spiritual journeying in community, alongside others. Let’s be honest: I am also very verbal. Read: I like to talk. A LOT. Those two things being said, I’m thinking I may share this journey on Facebook. I know, I know, you just threw up in your mouth a little. But before I lose you completely, let’s talk about the Book. I started on FB back in like 2006, when I was writing for music websites. Bands had started using FB like Myspace, and in order to research them for interviews I had to create an account of my own. So I was there when it was all young people and college students, and I was there when their parents started joining and they all left. Since then some of the ‘rents and others have become disillusioned and dropped out, and of course people often go in and out with it, depending on how they handle it themselves. For me, it’s always been a useful tool; for communication, for exploration, for information, for laughing… I’m not someone who loses time with it, because I pay no attention to the extras. I get the information I want, and I’m done. I live a thousand miles away from many dear friends, and I love feeling connected to their lives, and to those in my current community. But I love connection of any kind, so to me the Book is a useful tool. I adore technology, and any tool that has the potential to draw us together, I’m down.

 

But I’m not unaware of the down side of social media, so lemme just say this, in the most friendly, straightforward way: I am not seeking the approval of anyone. If you think I’m going over Niagra in a barrel, if you think I’m wasting your time, if you think I’m endangering my mortal soul, if you think I’m a narcissistic blabbermouth…. you may or may not be right. Feel free to ignore me, block me, or defriend me; I’m totally fine with it. If your worries are sincere, please reach out to me privately and let’s talk. Of course you’re welcome to publicly express a different perspective as long as it is calm, respectful, and contains no name-calling or snide superiority. This must be said as I’ve recently found myself playing unwilling referee among friends duking it out politically on posts that started out quite innocently. The experience has been very uncomfortable and I’m determined to avoid a repeat. I didn’t shut those discussions down (although I was tempted to) because I do value the exchange of ideas, but they were often the very antithesis of kindness and I will have to if hijacked on this topic.

 

Of course I’m reading this all as I type and it begs the question: who do you think you are that people would be that invested or interested, Kevan, that you have to post rules of behavior? That actually does come across like a narcissistic blabbermouth LOL. See, I said it could be an accurate description, I don’t deny it. That possibility is actually part of the reason I’m so interested in exploring my insides, and trying to reach a place less selfish, more altruistic. If I’m being honest this has to be considered, and I’m willing to, because I want it that badly. I may be completely alone in this; it wouldn’t be that shocking to me. But who knows? I may not be. You may have things to teach me, and I invite you to join me. I want to learn from you, from anyone also interested in exploring a more compassionate way to live, a way to encourage others to find and affirm beauty in other humans. It seems especially crucial at this time, a season where ugliness is perceived as a virtue and the ego is king. I need rescue from this culture, this message. In some vital ways, I may need rescue from myself. I’m dreaming of a truth-filled journey, where we may post pictures of our art or our writings or our questions or our songs that lead us further into the adventure of exploring KINDNESS. Feel free to share, join in, ignore, pray, post, or any other soulful response. I’m eager to learn from you. I may NEED to learn from you.

Drink Me

Drink Me

We’ve been up in our home town for the past few weeks, doing some art business and visiting with family and friends. It’s always a very reflective time, and sometimes morphs into some serious soul-searching, a process which can feel like a house of mirrors to me. Very Alice in Wonderland, and the DRINK ME potions make me feel small and then tall in the most confusing ways. Do you ever have those times, when you try to figure out who you really are or what you’re feeling, and everything looks distorted and uncertain?

 

The past few years have been a process of weeding my way through various grief mazes, and now that I’m out of the worst of it maybe, I realize how distorted some of my thinking was along the way. I didn’t know it at the time, of course. In the midst of it you think you’re handling it, doing okay, but you’re mercifully out of touch with the reality of how you’re REALLY behaving. I had moved to Floridee shortly before my process started, so many of my Floridee friends only know that Kevan, the stunned, deer in the headlights, shell of a Kevan. I sometimes wish I could post a public disclaimer, or wear a sandwich board proclaiming “Do Over!” or “That’s not who I REALLY am, I swear”…. but I guess maybe part of it must be? I don’t know, and therein lies some of my current confusion.

 

It’s like trying to grab those tiny pieces of eggshell from the yolk. Your fingers feel all fat and overgrown, and the shell pieces keep moving just ahead of you always. At a party the other night, someone whom I’m really coming to dig deeply said he liked my writing for my “vulnerability,” and I thought really? Came home and started reading in this very blog…. starting being the operative word. I could only get through the first entry and half of the second. Took me like two hours and I was completely overwhelmed… slightly horrified… kind of embarrassed. And yes, my most present adverb companion of late, CONFUSED. Honestly, I have little recollection of writing those words. I felt like I was reading a book from the library, a very intrusive, in your face kind of book that followed me home, snuck into my reading pile, and then leapt into my consciousness without my permission. But then, that does kind of sound like me.

 

I think sometimes our feelings churn and brew inside in a smoking cauldron, noxious fumes rising, with eye of newt and frog’s legs poking out occasionally….until we have to finally, blindly RELEASE. This is usually when my hair gets dyed purple or blue. Because the process isn’t always malevolent or even negative. Sometimes it’s just passion or creativity percolating and rising to the surface. And I don’t even feel like my written words were bad or necessarily problematic. They were just so…naked. And maybe uninvited. You know, you’re reading a blog thinking maybe you’ll pick up a few good recipes and then you realize the writer has slit her wrists and is bleeding profusely all over your bright sunny morning. It’s not BAD, but it may be a bit presumptuous of me to think you’d WANT to deal with all that blood and guts while pleasantly scrolling through Facebook. I basically stripped without an invite. But then, that’s kind of me too…. (I know, forgive me for that image I just planted into your poor brain. See what I mean, LOL?!)

 

These thoughts were running in the background all week, and then this morning I had the opportunity to meet a woman whom I’ve been hearing about for a while, hearing enough to know I was gonna like her. I knew she read my blog and she must have gotten a similar build-up from our generous mutual friend, for her first words to me were about “kissing the ring.” I’m inclined to love anyone who starts off with a wisecrack, and soon we were right in the thick of it all, discussing the challenges of parenting, i.e., keeping parental pain secret vs. being open in the hope of healing. I love someone who gets right to it. Yeah, I’m definitely back in jerzey.

 

Both of these two sisters encouraged me in my “naked writing,” and their timing couldn’t have been better. (Or worse, if you’re a reader who cringes at my over-sharing. And if so, I feel you, I really do.) Because now I’m wondering if even this journeying, this stumbling down the road but still moving forward kind of step, if maybe this is just what it looks like to go on. Maybe many of us walk this way (Aerosmith howl), maybe limping is the human condition. Or maybe it’s more of a baffled-human condition, but if so, that’s okay too.  If I’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s how little I really know. I used to think I had so many answers all buttoned down tightly in my head…now I’ve come to realize maybe my whole head was just buttoned too tightly, period. Now I’m letting some breeze in, airing out some cobwebs. I vacillate between confidence and fear, trust and shame, but at least I’m moving. More of a crablike skittering, but hey, I’m in jerzey. It kinda works.