Don’t Let Anyone Call You Stupid

‘I Rode A River Of Words And Heard Wisdom (Bryan)’   https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/gallery/dancing_the_ghosts/

Last night I watched one of my favourite Christmas shows, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

This morning I woke thinking how, as kids in school, we labelled each other.  Those labels did a lot of damage.  Unlike Rudolph, some of us were never able to rise above the words we were called.

I love words.  I love playing with words, putting them together and taking them apart.  I love crossword puzzles, word games, and Scrabble.  I love reading other people’s words and writing my own.

When I was thirteen years’ old and entering high school, my parents gave me a thesaurus.  I never dreamed such a treasure existed.  I read it cover to cover, like a novel.

My husband didn’t have a love affair with words.  For him, it was much the opposite.

He struggled with words. He couldn’t make the connections between sounding out a word and spelling it.  Spelling was a disaster for him.  He had to consciously, repeatedly memorize the sequence of letters for each word. Otherwise ‘celery’ came out ‘clegery’, and ‘chimney’ was ‘chibmny’.

He was told he was stupid, and he felt stupid.

I know the English language has weird and wonderful word spellings, but his struggle was beyond that.

By the time my husband reached high school, he’d struck a deal with a friend who was an ace speller. His friend struggled to come up with ideas for writing assignments.  My husband always had loads of ideas.  So he provided his friends with ideas, and his friend spell checked my husband’s essays. Win win.

My husband is not stupid.

His brain came equipped with a different pathway to understanding words, sounds, and spelling. He had to find his own way, and did, into learning how to spell.

It’s so easy to stick a label on someone, easier than taking the time to consider the whole of the person standing in front of you and finding an understanding.

No one is stupid.

I have twenty years of experience as an artist, but ask me to sculpt something and the result would have you seriously doubting I have any artistic ability at all.  I am a disaster at sculpture.

My brain doesn’t see and understand the way a sculptor needs to.  What my brain naturally sees and understands is drawing.  Give me paper and drawing materials, and I am a wizard.

I’ll say it once more.

No one is stupid.

This life is rich because of the uncountable paths we have for seeing and understanding.

I have a very old dictionary from Great Britain, a school discard dated 1954.  It contains a definition for ‘stupid’ I find interesting. The dictionary defines it as ‘wanting in understanding’.

This definition surely describes me trying to sculpt and my husband trying to spell.  We want to understand and are unable to.

There are other layers in this definition.  We all want and deserve help and understanding from others when we are struggling.  And for those who label others then walk away, describing the label-ers as having a ‘wanting of understanding’ works for me.

_________________

In this post:

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, animated stop-motion Christmas cartoon, first aired in December 1964, produced by Videocraft International Ltd. (later known as Rankin/Bass Productions).  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudolph_the_Red-Nosed_Reindeer_(TV_special)

Creating Love In A Year Of Grief

‘Everything I Know About The Human Heart Part 2’     https://www.walkingowlstudio.ca/

I am searching for comfort today. Sitting in my sun-filled studio. Cuddled in my softest, warmest socks and shirt. Favourite Christmas music playing. Milky chai tea at my side. Mickey Mouse pencils and loose leaf paper on my studio work table.

Do something I love. Do something that helps me find my way. Write.

Three deaths in my family this past year, and now a fourth coming sometime in the next few days. An uncle, my Dad, and two cousins I grew up with. And then there are the continuous small deaths of my mother deep in Alzheimer’s.

I feel like someone has taken a knife and cut away my childhood.

These people were a loving presence all through my life. There are cherished experiences I shared with them. Now I am the only one who remembers.

Where do memories go when there is no one left to feel the story run through them?

I know I am far from the first or last to feel such grief, I know my entire family is suffering, but this knowing does little to ease how I hurt.

The only way out is through.

Today I will sit in the sun and drink tea, listen to music, and let the memories run through me. A way of loving my cousin and myself and the stories we created together in this life.

Being A Writer Who Is Writing

joydiary08.page10and11.2018In my second year of art school, I had a painting teacher who taught attitude along with technique.  He talked about how we needed to love making art more than love being an artist.

At first I didn’t understand the difference.

Something happened, though, after I graduated.  His words stuck with me, and the longer I made art, the more I experienced how my love of making carried me through the hard spots.  If I had loved being an artist more than making art, I would have quit.

When I began writing, I carried this experience and understanding with me.  Problem was, it didn’t transfer completely.  I still had to learn to love writing the same way I had learned to love drawing, by doing it.

At first I mainly loved Being A Writer, reveling in how I felt when I said to myself, “I am a Writer.”  The feeling was not so enjoyable when actually writing.  I loved the concept, but sometimes the doing was capital-H Hard.  I became frustrated and depressed at how slow it was, and editing was oh-my-ugly.

What saved me was the fact I loved reading books, and every amazing read made me want to really, truly be a writer who was writing.

I found ways to keep writing.  I read creativity books and let them inspire me.  I listened to writers talk about their work and process.  I freely bribed myself.  When none of those worked, I used guilt.  Guilt always worked, sooner or later.

Slowly, what I had experienced with making art happened with writing.  The more I did it, the more I loved doing it.  The more I wrote, the more I trusted I could write, even the hard bits.

On Monday this week, I took myself to my favourite café and spent the whole day writing.

During the afternoon, a woman came in and sat two chairs over from me.  She pulled out a stack of paper like mine, a pen, and Halloween candy.  Got her coffee and settled, I thought, to write.

I was wrong.

She rearranged her papers.  Clicked her pen a bunch.  Looked out the window.  Looked around the café.  Kicked her chair leg for a while.  Chatted and laughed with people who walked past her.  Looked over at me like she wanted to start a conversation.

In the meantime, I was writing and becoming increasingly irritated by this person.  She was distracting me from what I wanted to be doing, which was writing.

I noticed I was judging her, big time.  She had her tools in front of her, yet she was doing everything except writing.  I decided she was one of those who loved the idea of being a writer but didn’t love doing the writing.  A pretender, while I was the real thing.

Wow.  Me being snarky.  Very.

I felt bad, judging myself for judging her.  I should know better.  I’ve been where she is, done exactly what she’s doing.  Maybe she needed a change of scenery after writing all morning at home.  Maybe she needed distraction as part of her process.  Maybe she gained ideas from talking with random strangers.

I kept writing while this flashed through my mind and feelings.

I wondered why I was irritated by her activity.  She was doing me no harm.  I was distracting myself by allowing my focus to wander over to her.

I knew I was in a hard place in my draft.  I was struggling, feeling overwhelmed, not sure I could bring this all together.  Doubting myself as a writer.

I understood.  I wanted distraction.  More than that, she looked like she was enjoying herself, and I wasn’t.  She looked relaxed.  I wasn’t.

I was feeling jealous, too.

I kept writing.

There is the important thing—I kept writing.  I let myself be distracted enough to move out of the writing, realized what was happening inside me and how I was feeling.  Realized I was working my way through a hard spot in my writing, it was getting to me, and I needed to release pressure by putting my frustration on someone or something else.

I understood.  I forgave myself.

I silently appreciated the woman near to me who was enjoying the feeling of being a writer.  I knew how good that felt, and I let myself enjoy her enjoyment.

And I kept writing.

My Get-Up-And-Go Got Up And Went

'Building a Sky to Shelter Me'--Cat FinkMy Mom worked at home.  Three children, a husband on shift work, and a big house to care for.  I remember her sitting at the kitchen table in the late afternoon, resting before beginning dinner preparations.  Especially when my brother was a toddler roaring around the house, she looked worn through, and her day was still hours away from being finished.

She’d look at me and say, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

That’s exactly how I feel when I wake this morning.  I had an excellent sleep, yet I feel worn out.  I lie here, wondering what this is.

I don’t want to get up.  I don’t want to start the day, even though my days are my own.  I don’t feel like writing or drawing, unusual for me.

Wrapped and warm in my blankets, I let my mind wander, and then I understand.

I am emotionally exhausted.

I’ve been riding a roller coaster of grief and love, and it has worn me out.  Worn me to the point of affecting my creativity.

My current creative projects are long ones, writing a book (years), and filling a sketchbook with drawings (months).  Normally I love long projects.  I enjoy the feelings of where I have been and where I am going, seeing how an idea expands, shifts, and finally fulfills itself and me.

Today, long is more than I can handle.

An idea pops in.  How about shotgun creativity?  Get the idea, aim, fire, done.  Except, generally, firing a shotgun requires dealing with the resulting mess.  Clean up is necessary.  I live in a rural area.  I know this.

How about creativity that is like laughter?  Sudden.  Surprising.  A joyful explosion of fun and play.  Nothing afterwards but feeling good.

Yes, this is my kind of creativity.  Unexpected creativity that is joy.

I get out of bed and start my day.  Eventually I am here at my studio table with my Mickey Mouse pencils and stack of loose leaf paper, writing.

Interesting that my get-up-and-go is back, and I know why.

I started exactly where I was, recognized and allowed my feelings to be what they were.  I let my thoughts and imagination, and then my words, run where they would, no limits, no expectations.  Whatever showed up was fine with me.  With all this space to play, ideas showed up—shotgun creativity, and creativity like laughter.

I gave myself permission to be.

Wanting To Go Backwards, Needing To Go Forwards

Family
Surrounded By Family

I learned something last week.  For the past nine months I’ve been trying to go backwards.

I’ve been trying to imagine my Dad back to life.

Impossible.  And I have caused myself all sorts of pain because of this desperate need to go backwards in my life and in my Dad’s life.

There are many things I can do backwards.  Spelling.  Counting.  Swimming.  Skating.  Skipping rope.  Dancing.  Walking and even kind-of-slow-running.  But I cannot get life to move backwards.  Not going to happen.

I need to grieve forwards.  Sounds funny, I know.  It actually makes me laugh when I say this to myself.  Laughter feels like grieving forwards.

Realizing what I’ve been doing makes a difference in how I feel.  Something has eased within me.  I’m not going forward, but at least the backward pull has stopped, and that is an improvement.

Yes, Dad, I was trying to head in the wrong direction, backwards.  A mistake made out of a long love, and an unwillingness to stop seeing you here in front of me.

Dad does not want me sad.  He loves me too much for that.  I can feel him gently putting his hands on my shoulders and turning me around, so now he stands behind me and my life stands before me.

I don’t want to do this.  I am crying, but I feel Dad behind me and there is strength in that feeling.  Love, and a kind of steadiness I had lost.  He has my back, and I can make the first tentative steps forward again.  He won’t let me fall.

________________________________

In this post:

The excellent, imaginative book I was reading last week, that sparked my aha, is Lost & Found by Brooke Davis, Penguin Canada Books, 2016.  I love the three main characters, a seven-year-old girl and two seniors who create themselves as family, take a road trip to find the girl’s mother (who has left her behind), and emphatically refuse to be anyone other than who they are.  I keep thinking about them.  I want them to be happy.  Thanks, Brooke, for writing this.    https://www.facebook.com/brookedavisauthor

Brooke also wrote an article, very much worth reading, about her experience of grieving.  A shortened version is included at the end of the book, and the full version is at www.textjournal.com.au/oct12/davis.htm

A Change Of Season

5crowssilver.600ppi
Five Crows Silver, Six Crows Gold

Yesterday my husband and I drove to our northern home.  Today I sit at my other studio work table, in front of a view that includes aspens and pines.  There are thunderclouds low over the hills.  I am north again, and will be until next March.

I am the opposite of the migrating birds I see in the sky.  They are leaving for the warm hug of weather in the south.  I want the cold, snowy Winter.  I want the clear, crisp air and the crackle of frost and ice under my boots.

I want to smell snow coming, and witness the first snowflakes fall from a heavy, grey sky.  I want to feel them melt on my cheek, so gentle a touch, present and gone in the same instant.  The first snow is always fleeting, Winter hesitant, touching the farthest edge of Fall.

I love the change of seasons.  I love feeling with all of my body the movement of time.  I love how each season stands forward in its fullness, then moves back a step at a time as the next season comes forward.  A dance, step and step, forward and back, each season partnering the ones before and after.

I know I am a Summer Girl.  It’s true.  I love Summer best.  Warm sun and cool shade, iced tea with lemon, long slow evenings and a bright moon.  Something in me saddens at leaving Summer behind.

Yet that same something is anticipating with joy the touch of those first ephemeral snowflakes.

All seasons are sweet to me because of the change, each season precious because of its particular joys.

The seasons dance around me, dance within me.  I would have it no other way.

 

Life Changes

familytiedtolife
Family (tied to life)

There is no easy way to say this.

My cousin is leaving this earth tomorrow afternoon.  It is her choice, after five years of dealing with a malignant brain tumor and standing up to every change it placed into her life.  Yesterday, she decided it is time to let go.  The biggest change of all.

Our families spent summers together, and the occasional Christmas.  We went swimming in the ocean and the lake.  We folded fleets of paper airplanes and flew them around the house.  We leaned against the railing of the second floor sundeck and spit watermelon seeds as far as we could send them.

I miss her already.

Life is all change.  The past year has shown me this in abundance.  It has also taught me it is possible to find my way through each shift.

Today I am doing things my cousin and I both loved.  Listening to music.  Playing with word puzzles.  Having time with family and friends.  Writing.

The small things in life walk me through life’s big changes.  The small things, and love.

Bon voyage, cousin, and much love.  I am glad we’ve been family.

Sunny With Cloudy Breaks

rainbow.flowers 017How happy am I allowed to be?

This question has been coming up since the weekend.  I’m not getting anywhere thinking about it, so I am writing about it instead.

I had an awesome good Sunday.  Everything and everyone was sweet in some way.  Basically, I swam in joy all day, no matter what I was doing.  Play or household tasks (there were a few), it made no difference to my mood.  I sailed through the day, fair winds prevailing.

I woke Monday feeling the opposite.  Monday, my mood was resistance and struggle, no matter what I was doing.  Reading?  I love reading.  Monday, I could not find a book that satisfied me, and I have a lot of books.  Word puzzles?  I love those too.  Monday, I had no patience for them.  They made me feel angry instead.

Monday’s mood continued on and off, mostly on, through Tuesday and Wednesday.  Today I have had enough of this miserable weather.  I am writing it out of me and onto the page where I can see it.

Something happened after the sweet Sunday.  Something said I’d used up my quota of happiness, and I turned off the flow.

Yes, I did that to myself.  I am the one who chooses how I feel about everything in my life.  Here, now, I can either choose to find ways and help to lift my mood, or not.

How happy am I allowed to be?  How happy do I let myself be?

These are not the same question.  The first implies someone else puts the cap on my happiness.  The second says I own the happiness control in my life.

My heart is my happiness control.  I learned how to open my heart to love, and I know how this feels.  I also know how my closed heart feels.  Sunday, my heart was open to life.  Monday, I closed down and stayed closed.  I was missing my Dad, and it hurt too much so I closed my heart.

That simple.  I closed my heart, and then all felt like struggle.

Enough struggle.  I have an idea about my happiness level.  Yes, I miss my Dad fiercely, and I also love him fiercely.  So, I choose I can miss him and love him at the same time.  Let my heart be open to both feelings.  My heart is big.  It can handle it.  I know how much Dad loved me and still loves me though he’s not here in body.  I feel it every day, and I love him right back.

I choose.  I give myself permission to be happy as much and as often as I please.  I give myself permission to not be okay when I need to not be okay.  Be happy and be sad, and let my heart play fully with all in my life.  Not bittersweet.  Sadsweet, and more sweet than sad because the love is so huge.

I feel sunny again.  There are clouds too, but fair winds prevail and the clouds will pass.

_______________________

In this post:

I learned how to open my heart to love through Dee Wallace’s Red Dot exercise, and I wrote about it here   https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2014/12/23/   and here   https://catfinkknowtrustchoosecreate.com/2014/12/24/  ,  with Dee’s permission.

You rock, Dee!  Thanks, with love as always.  https://iamdeewallace.com/