On The Practice of Space and Connection

This morning, I woke to find an e-mail from the wife of one of my cousins – one of my favorite people.  This gal is known throughout the family as warm, sunny, loving, caring, funny.  We all look forward to seeing her.  A devoted and generous daughter, wife, and mother, and now a beautifully graced grandmother.  She manages to do all this without any grey hair or wrinkles, mind you.  She remembers dates and connections and keeps the family together through her gestures and thoughts – everyone adores her, as do I, though I hardly tell her enough.  We are lucky to have her and the deliciousness she is to our family.

Her note was a forward about two art-making projects:  the Solstice to Equinox:  Out of the Darkness into the Light and the 2019 100DayProject.  You can read about both, here.  We had spoken about the 100Day Project last year.  But while very inspired to participate in the project, my motivation was nowhere to be found.  This is nothing new.  Inktober 2017 – I managed to draw/create for a total of three days before daily home life got in the way and I “forgot” I was supposed to be drawing every day for the month.  Earlier this year, when the 100DayProject came around, I went out to my art space (aka The Shed) and drooled over my favorite mark-making supplies and tools and daydreamed about arting for a luxurious 100 days;  I’d be transformed, feel accomplishment, be in touch with my creativity and experience a sense of deep inner peace I’ve not felt in a while.  Plus, a project commitment might result in the bones of a show or a series of new work.

Instead, none of this happened…except for those three sketches/drawings back in Inktober 2017 and in May of this year I did Avenue Q (which was a hoot and nourished a portion of my creative bones).  That’s it.  Performing art is a different creative process than visual art, at least for me.  In June, the fresh tenacity and confidence high from the show easing, I received a promotion at work.  As much gratitude as I have for the betterment and support of my position, I started smack in the middle of the crazybusy season (which only ended about three weeks ago) and jumped into a roiling, disorganized mess left by my predecessor.  My first month was no less than 70-hour weeks, if not more, and there was little-to-no training.  Baptism by total engulfment.  No time for art – or writing, or carrying a camera or getting involved in another show. 

The weekly promise of days-off looms large; in my head my art intentions are strong, ideas rampant.  Motivation and follow-through are uncomfortably stalled at a big fat meh

meh

a big fat meh personified

We have a sizable shed.  It came with the house.  It’s not heated nor insulated and the mowers are in there with yard tools, patio furniture, and the tubs of Halloween/Christmas stuff.  The shed is not dedicated to art.  But, when we moved here I was VERY – super, over the top, elated- enthusiastic about the space and gleefully set-up my art space in a large corner of the corrugated tin garage with thick plywood flooring.  It felt good.  Cleared cobwebs, played music, lit candles, began painting the door.  Up went shelves, unpacked books and paints, glue, tools, ephemera, found a new work table – all the special magic stuff – arranged to my liking, inviting me to come play.  It felt really nice! and right and exciting to have a creative home, again.  In two years I’ve been in that space four times of any length, maybe.  That’s it.  This morning’s e-mail makes me want to art – daily, for three months or a season – and yet, the next thought is, “Why bother? I don’t have the time. Other things are more important and more practical. ”  Surely this is not uncommon self-defeating innerspeak.

While I understand a creative pause maybe be a necessary aspect of learning a new job and adjusting accordingly, part of my self is regularly neglected or denied and the more I realize that, the more it bothers me.

A lot.

So, on my last day off, I decided to see if how I’ve been feeling could be fixed.

I went out to the shed.
Just be in the space because I miss it.  Because when I’m not there for a while then return, it’s much like seeing an old flame after years pass.  Awkward, unsure where you stand, maybe a cool welcome and, with any luck, things eventually feel comfortable, warm, safe.  Looking around, refamiliarizing myself, looking at projects-in-progress it started to feel good being in there; why do I stay away from art or the space I made for myself?  Mid-overthinking, I turned and found mouse droppings, albeit dried and old, on some of the shelves and work table…to add insult, my books and sketchbooks have begun to lightly mold. This made me sad…sadder as the evening went on, much to my surprise, because the bright side usually pops up and I’m fine.  But not yet, even a couple days later.   
Not sure why, but I know enough that resentment could be around the corner and that’s not good.  When my partner arrived home from work, he immediately asked what was wrong, so I told him.  This is tricky to do without making him feel he should fix or repair what’s wrong.  I said that I would figure it out.  He suggested making the guest room the art space (but it’s already a guest room, and the size wouldn’t work).  The shed is probably original to the house, 1973 or so, and it’s in good shape for a shed.  It feels impractical to insulate or heat it when its primary and original function is to house tools and machinery – which it does nicely.  So, in the meantime, I will move the ‘perishable’ items – books, papers, paints and glues that will freeze (they did last winter, requiring much shaking and re-mixing in spring) – into a doored bookshelf in the den that can hide them until a solution manifests.
It’s stupid, really…what bugged me the most was how much the mouse droppings and mold made my happy sink.  The next day, still feeling tarred and gooey with disappointment, an epiphany:  the period of time I made the most art, experienced the most satisfying production and visually creative period of my adultness was when Wasband was ill.  That was almost 20 years ago.
We were still fairly newly-wedded, DD (darling daughter) was between one and two.  After days of being on-call for my family and working part-time, baby to bed, man comfortable enough to sleep, I would leave the house, drive three minutes to the basement space of a small retail boutique and lose myself in art.  Eventually, I started refinishing furniture which led commissioned refinishing work.  It was art therapy in every way.  I sold all but one piece and took orders for work for a year.  I MADE it work for me by going to that basement because I had to:  I was being paid and had deadlines – and it was spiritually and mentally necessary for me to do so.  It got me through his cancer and treatments and setbacks and single-parenting-while-married and fending off my mother-in-law (who, well-intentioned, at one point, blamed me for not cooking enough hot meals and that is what caused cancer in her son…).  It was epic, my drive to create, to fix, to repair, to mend.  To heal.  Some nights I would be in that little basement space until 4 AM, and make it home in time to shower, put on the kettle for my husband then begin the baby’s day.  Fueled by so much crumbling and uncontrolled around us, I was compelled to make something new.
The bottom line is that I ran away from home and hid in that basement until I had to go back.  Every night for over a year.   I had an affair in that basement; an affair where the partners were my pain and expressing it; the heartbreaking sadness of a spouse fighting for his life and the awful fear of the unknown.
Since I am not running away from anything I am having a hard time finding a valid reason to leave home and run to my creative home, be it internal or out in the shed or another space where I can mark-make and put things together to create something new.  Now, I need permission to be apart from the house, the people in it, the coupled partnership, the bed, the space held for me so lovingly here.  I don’t want to leave but staying all the time is not balanced, at least not creatively.
That said, I will endeavor to engage in either the 100DayProject or the Solstice Project.
If you’re going to do so as well, please let me know and we can run away to art for a little while, every day.
DJD
Advertisements

Rabbit Mother, Tiger Daughter. [Journal entry 6.9.14]

I am not going to fight.

I am going to vastly improve my argument (and it’s pretty damned good already).

I am not going to point out the obvious (at least not obviously), and I am not going to name-call.

What I AM going to do is be there. Be present, and supportive, and listen and focus on what is important: She is. My daughter, my child, the pine cone to my fir.

I am a Rabbit raising a Tiger. It is not always easy.
I am a Scale raising a Ram; she butts her head, hard, into every.single.thing.

She will learn tact and compassion, and how humor is our lifeboat during difficult times, and how it is my primary way of coping *any* time – to see the humor in every situation.

She teaches me what it is like to be enraged, fully, and to express myself – as she does – with no filter, with passion and heat and language and every venomous bit of vocabulary when provoked or frustrated (or tired). Her anger is pure and without apology or shame; mine is always “polite”.

She teaches me how to let go quickly and move on, and that there are, in fact, people who just do not deserve to know you. This is a new concept for me, for I have given myself away in pieces my entire life. You wanna piece? Here.

She teaches me that to love someone is to also be in love with how you feel about yourself when you are together. This is new to me, too; I thought loving someone was always about exhausting yourself just to make the other person feel they were loved without any doubt; it never really mattered I received less than I gave.

So many lessons we share, together.

DJDawson 2014

On This Day: 2 April 2016. {journal entry}

It has been several months – including the winter holiday season – since my house has given me any remote sense of joy. I really (really) like this house. It’s quirky enough to satisfy my disdain of cookie-cuttery and “normal” enough to reassure my faint desire to conform.

Inanimate – how could it give anything let alone joy?

But this evening, a weird coldsnappping on the wind and the dog impatiently yanking me down the driveway for a night walk I am beginning to enjoy, I turn to look back at our house, from the corner.

 

66Mill4.2.16

Fuzzy image of our house, dog walk. 4.2.2016

 

Two paper star lanterns hang side by side, glowing in concert with a single strand of un-twinkling twinkle/fairy lights.

She is in there, with six then seven then six of her girlfriends. Playing games and laughing wildly, howling at each other’s uncensored teenage humors and running commentary.

Junk food, juice, real soda, pizza and eventual ice cream cake hopefully burned off before bed so no middle-night stomach issues result. They sang to her, and she commented with genuine thrill, “I haven’t had an ice cream cake since I was like seven or eight!!” and blew out the 19 candles – an extra for luck – in one noiseless whistle. She was happy, IS happy, and that is something I have not witnessed in a long time.  She moved out abruptly, in January, after I drew my final line in the sand about her disrespectful behavior and backtalk.  I was done and that time, unlike previous others, there was to be no discussion, no bargaining.  She moved out the very next day, her father ‘rescuing’ her from me, her awful mother, her personal target, and blame-source.  He showed up, hours after he first promised, and hauled most of her things away, leaving a mess in her room and a giant, painful hole in our home.

Down to the final four, the sleepover will be sweet and sacred, as most of these things are. In the morning, I will prepare crepes and bacon and tea or juice, and cinnamon buns. They’ll be gone before 10:30 AM. And, then, so will she, until the next visit.  She does not come around often at all; I am ignored or shunned or too embarrassing.  It would be the same if she still lived here.  However, it was her behavior – not my lack of love or mothering – that led to the ultimatum:  change how you treat me or take your show on the road and play a few acts at your father’s.  She could not change for us – she needs to “individuate”, my friends all tell me.  “She’ll come back, better than before”, they all say.  But that is not now; the future remains a blank canvas.  We can only love what is right now.  So, tonight, I love this and the following moments of her being home.

Tomorrow night the house will be darker, less full, less lively and certainly less noisy. I wish it were like this more often: alive, glowing and sighing with joy.  Unbridled and happy. But, for now, it is really quite perfect. ❤

cake 4.2.16

Horoscope of an Inappropriate Partnering.

January, 2010. We meet online — not that we were going to admit this to anyone, or that we have any mutual friends to tell (we do not) but there it is:  Truth #1.
After some writing and one phone call, he asks me out. I am surprised to hear a 53-year old man nervous over the phone; maybe because I am 46, a single mother and very little scares me. It is a predictably awkward but not horrific first date. We wander around a small, local museum, alternately checking each other out. While he stares at drawings by Frank Lloyd Wright, I study his shape. I like his height, 6’6″ and the broad expanse of his shoulders.  Top to bottom, side to side.  He takes up space, being that tall.  Where other manfriends and lovers have been lanky and slim, silos, this potential man is a dairy barn.  A sturdy, familiar, chipped-paint barn. I like his large hands, his goatee, the tousled salt and pepper hair.  He is handsome and rusting a bit, not brand new. His inky leather coat says something contradictory but not insulting to his loden corduroys, and after the museum is wrung, he suggests we might take in some wine.
Seven hours and his six-to-my-two wines later, we part company with a rain handshake and parking lot hug.  He smells good.  “Well, that didn’t kill me,” I think on my way home to a too-big empty house.
 
A week later he asks what I am doing for the rest of my life, and asks that I not run away. We are on our second date, riding the train to Manhattan to see Bobby Caldwell at BB King’s. Partly flattered and something marrow-uncomfortable at how willing he is to reveal himself, his loneliness.  The train ride begins at getting-to-know-you and arrives at watch-for-more-red-flags as we pull into Penn Station. I also feel sad for him–that he has no quest, no adventure, other than this. Every man needs a quest to keep him interesting; a quest cannot be another person. As sad as I suspect his story, and as much as instinct tells me ‘this is not your man’, our goodnight kiss in my driveway is one for the books and my concerns are shoved to the back of the closet.  I am that lonely, myself.
 
Valentine’s Day. We return to the museum for Spanish music and cocktails, a date of significance I fail to recognize; to me, this is just another date.  Later, we prepare dinner at my house; a shoeless, casual supper in formal attire at the Formica kitchen table. On too much free wine, he places a call to his son, asking him to be his best man, saying he has met the last love of his life, that he’d better marry me soon before I disappear. Again, I am surprised how he reveals his hand but say nothing.  Later in the month, we attend an 80th birthday party for my father. He is a nice date until I overhear him plumbing my parent’s friends for possible employment. This is off-putting and I resolve to be less available.
 
March. He attends church with me a couple times. I had not yet met his local family members, and he rarely spoke of them despite their close proximity. It becomes a concern, how he started two different families with two different women, only one of whom he married. He has three now-adult children. I repeat this to myself until it sinks in:  he started two different families with two different women…right alongside the realization of me possibly becoming number three. When he brings up “the future” it makes me balk because it is way too soon. He uses my discomfort and accuses me of wanting to break up.
 
April. Easter. A brief resurrection. We cook an afternoon supper for my family, moving a table into the sunspot in the backyard and have a feast for spring. It is “normal” and it feels right…except that he never heard from his family. Our invitation goes unanswered. He never hears from them, ever. [NOTE:  The entire time we knew each other he did very little, if anything, with his family, which I found sad – not in a pity way but in a way that made me want to be his family. Just before the end, I suddenly understood how he wanted to be saved, adopted, absorbed into someone else’s life. I could never be all those people for him, “my favorite people all wrapped into one,” as he often called me. It eventually ruined us both.]
 
May.  I went away with married girlfriends overnight, a well-deserved and needed break at the end of a stressful project. ONE night. He threw us under a bus and broke up with me, preaching it “the beginning of the end.” I’d never dealt with a grown-up who has severe abandonment [like mine]. This frightened me; that he could so easily end things because I was not available for one evening. He stopped answering my calls. I took the next day off from work to find him and talk us back together. (I should have walked away. But since I am familiar with being afraid of being left behind, I didn’t.)
 
How stupid of me. Really. I took us to lunch. He barely ate. Anytime I paid for us (he never had cash), he barely ate. When we cooked at my home with food I purchased, and drank wine from my wine rack, he ate and drank, heartily. I never said a word but kept watching and waiting for him to stop thinking I was either cheating or not caring, or that I was going to leave.
 
By June, things were weird and rocky. He became moody, and blamed his behavior on Parkinson’s. My intuition told me there was more going on; more he was never going to say. He asked when I might be ready to be his wife. I joke a reply, he pouts.
 
July. He wondered aloud if I would let him move in so he could “save some money.” I said no; I have boundaries, and I am raising a girl. His pay would not support any shared co-habitation. Mid-month: I gave $300 to an exterminator who came twice to eradicate the massive flea infestation his two dogs brought to my home. He wondered why I wasn’t inviting him over.
 
I broke up on a day he was shopping for $200 Red Wing boots and I was vacuuming up dead fleas. Not cool. Later that night, he asked if he can take me out to dinner. This is a first. I declined.
 
In August, he called, acting as if I’d been out of the country rather than out of his life. He offered me flea money – which he didn’t have; it was an empty gesture.
 
September. He called, wondering why I was “so busy” with my child, school, my work, friends, as he walked out on his only job and into unemployment — with no unemployment benefits. We did not argue but I asked him to stop calling.
 
October, I asked him to stop calling, again. He said once he was gone, back to Ohio, he would not call or hover or beg to come back. Yet, he left a stack of thrift and junkshop birthday gifts on the tractor in my garage. Every one something important or relevant to him.  Not me, not us.  Each gift had a relationship with his past, they had nothing to do with me.  It was a guilt maneuver which I saw, immediately.  A week later, in the town newspaper, he proposed marriage through a poem published across the center pages. The part of me longing for a good partner wished “yes!” could be an appropriate reply. The meaningless, used items-as-birthday-gifts went to the curb with an ad on Craig’s List, “free for the taking”.  They were gone within the hour.
 
We never spent a Thanksgiving nor Christmas together.  I ended things the following New Year’s Day.
 
He was not a bad person nor a particularly mean man. He was what most people would call “a loser.”  53, no ties to his children nor the rest of his family; talked a decent game about the future but had no idea how to make any plans for himself or with someone he loved. I choose not live with mediocrity; I am honest, vulnerable, I volunteer my time, and my child is the most important person in my life. Those were our biggest differences.
 
And yet despite all the on/off, the back and forth, I had a hard time letting him go…because I had a harder time seeing how I deserved, and was worthy of, someone better. I wanted to be so deeply in love with the man I met that January: the low-country dreamer, the romantic, who could fix anything – and did. The dog owning down-to-earth art and music-loving cook who loved me strong and close…to a point. But those are not the qualities I seek now…anyone can love dogs or paint a wall, change a tire or take you dancing in the kitchen. I know what was missing: a desire for the other person; confidence; companionship, honesty, trust, loyalty, friendship; like-mindedness; kindness; a flawed but loving, caring spirit, and actions that back those traits.
 
The last time he appeared, he and his wounded ego showed up in my driveway the morning I was leaving for vacation, alone. He accused me of going with someone. His constant accusations I was seeing someone behind his back made me weary and pained; there was never anyone but him. I knew it was not love. It was control and lack.  Maybe it was love when we were very briefly on an even keel, but he never trusted me to stay; he fulfilled his own prophecy, all those times he said I would leave.
And, I did.
 
DJD 2015

Clemency + Dispensation {Poem / Poetry}

Up before the sun (with good intentions)
Back to sleep (with no intentions)
Rise, shine, quadruped shuffle
ground beans and hot water
 
sleepy-eyed talk of dance, and creativity
what it means to be good at something
to own what you put into the world
without guilt or fear of being singled out
 
she asks
when did I know I had something
how old was I
who got lost along the way
 
how do you know friends
–where is the line between supportive loyalty
and praise cloaking a blade
 
I tell her:
I thank the blade
here, run a finger over scars of insincerity gouging sarcasm
words that whittled away my arias to murmurs
 
but murmur I owned
10 years at a time
stumbling along small
until enough love filled my lungs
full and lofty
raising above the myopic fog
to the light of now
 
40 years, a long time to hum a lifesong and
not cry out infinite joys
 
17 years, a brief lesson in wearing confident skin and deflecting the subtle dismantling of peers
 
Leave them be, wish them well, love your song.
DJD 2015

How a Toy Bunny Changed My Outlook.

VR Passage

This passage was read at my wedding.  Yet, it holds only the significance of being part of a tender, beloved children’s story. A story not familiar to me until I needed something warm, intelligent and well-written about real love — because *what in the world did I know about that?!* — at the time, early October 1995, I knew very little.  A male, life-long friend suggested the passage and I chose it without knowing the entire story.

Months after I left wasband (was-my-husband eight years), I sat on the thinly carpeted floor of the local Barnes & Noble one night and read, finally, the whole little book. (In a nutshell, it’s about a toy bunny who longs to be a real bunny.)  At the time of my marriage, the ‘be real’ aspect spoke directly to the disenfranchised, pained part of my heart; the part that felt “un-real” for reasons I would only fully understand a few years later when my baby made herself known. Before her, I went through life constantly afraid someone would discover I was a knock-off, a poor substitute for the real thing:  not real.

To cultivate and nurture Love in whatever forms it lives is part of the definition of parenting, I think. Maybe it is also an important element of everything else we hold close and important. Yes, I believe it is.

I still seek real love but no longer doubt my real’ness or place in the world.  I am willing to love the right partner and have every last strand of my red-silvering hair loved off by the right heart.

DJD