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.  This lovely gal and I had spoken about the 100Day Project last year (or was that earlier this 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, daydreaming about arting for a luxurious 100 days and how great it would be.  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 days of sketching/drawing 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.  Not a great time to make art.  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.  The 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.  I relish the promotion.  I miss art with a clear and present ache.

Now, the weekly promise of days-off looms large; at work, in my head art intentions are strong, ideas rampant.  Once home and free, motivation and follow-through are uncomfortably stalled at a big fat meh


a big fat meh personified (not my art)


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 bubbling enthusiasm is followed by, “Why bother? You 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 to be in the space because I miss it.  When I’m not there for a while then return, it’s much like seeing an old flame after years pass.  Bittersweet, awkward, unsure where you stand, maybe a cool welcome.  With any luck, things eventually feel comfortable, warm, safe.  Looking around, refamiliarizing myself, seeing 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 to find 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.
You can find further information on the 100DayProject and the Solstice Project, by clicking HERE.

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

Bluegrass Sunday.

My first Dailey & Vincent concert.

During the long-distance part of the LDR, this event every March marked a later Sunday morning phone call, especially if The Guy ‘ran squad’ the night before.  We’d talk after the concert was over, late afternoon/early evening.  I’ve heard about it, never got to go.

Until today.

Only seven songs in and I know this will not be my last.  The wild rambling country classics, the touch of gospel honey; rusty, dented-heart ballads and oaky warm folk – all good soul food for this North Shore girl.  And, damn, I love the banjo and mandolin together…and the guy with the velvet gravel bass voice?  Yeah, his singing is mighty fine…mighty fine.

Here’s a link to the opener.

Dailey & Vincent, opening number

Here, a few random shots from the concert.  Can’t wait until next year!


Sunday evening truth:  After two full weeks, I feel a bit lost.

Maybe it will come and go, just as the realization I am actually here at all keeps knocking me over in unpredictable, powerful waves of ‘Oh my gosh!!’  They rise up at the silliest times and catch my breath.  At the kitchen sink doing dishes; brushing my teeth for bed at “his” bathroom vanity (the first three years, I used the hall bath, not the master bath); waking up in the middle of the night and hearing him sleeping, or letting the dog in and out but not leashing her for a long car ride home/north.  And, driving everywhere, to learn where I am and how to get lost and, then, found.

So, it happens a lot, the realizations.  They’re not easing, either.  It’s like moving here and living here are One. Big. Dazzling. Shock.  (You will let me know if this is normal or if it is not.)

Tonight, sitting quietly, my internal compass is off.

Parts of Being Someone’s Partner feel unfamiliar and rough-edged.  And, while I am generally happy (OK, ecstatic), I am presently uncomfortable and (angry with myself for) feeling lost – exactly the feeling I do not want in this new geography and new home, cohabitating with another adult-as-partner.  (How do I do this?)

Things are going fine.  Today:  simply spent.  Grocery run with his son, brunch prepared by partner.  His son left to visit other parent.

We napped, adulted, supper’d in summer pajamas.

6PM.  I cleaned up dinner and manfriend headed to bed (yes, that early), to rise and shine at 2 AM to work the mechanics of crushing or pressing grapes once they are picked in the cool, early morning.  His schedule will be nuts for the next six to eight weeks.

And when he bedded, suddenly the day came to an unexpected halt.  Or, rather, my role in this house/as a partner did.  My things finally here, in storage, as of yesterday.  I feel safe, the way one feels safe in the vestibule of a city building during a passing rainstorm.  Safe, and a relief I can’t explain.  Also like a visitor, lightly breathing, trying to not take up space or exist too loud or make noise that would wake a person.  Waiting (but for what or whom?)

“You belong here, in this house.  You do know that, don’t you?  You fit perfectly here.”  He asks/tells me when we are quiet and enfolded, adulting in private earlier this afternoon.  I smiled and nodded; at the time I agreed.  It felt “yes” and accurate; it has felt “yes” for some time.

Left alone to myself right now, I realize my ‘belong’ space and fit-in-here has been defined by the other two people in the house.  I mediate gently, listen, deal with food when asked or when obviously my task; I fill in the gaps an alpha/partner/’aunt’/friend female might fill, had there been one here before.  There was not, not in this house, anyway.

I am the first (and the idea is, the last), of any length or measure, outside the wife and mother – roles someone else owns and I am happy she keep them as long as appropriate.  But, who am I when not needed or sought?

Wait – stop.  I ask that again.  It rings in my head a few moments then wanders down into the velvety, gooey darkness where all these things murmur – these deeper truths, the painful questions – and something unlocks.  I have been asking this question, “who am I when someone doesn’t need me?” since DD moved out abruptly in late January.  Her departure left me reeling; it continues to seize regularly, weighted collars of failure and heartbreaking loss make it hard to inhale, and my once-usefulness exhales and dies all over again.  It’s been doing this for nearly nine months, a gestational period of “Why?” and “Where did I go wrong?”  It’s hard to live with someone you doubt or do not trust, especially when that person is you; it has been grossly uncomfortable facing myself every day despite what loved one’s say of my good worth and “excellent parenting”.

So, by her not needing me, I have defined myself as a mom-failure, an adult unworthy of just about everything related to mentoring, guiding, teaching…and being capable of weathering the needs – or lack thereof – of others.

So, who am I here?  Here with manfriend/partner and his dear teenson?  And while he sleeps for early work, who am I, waiting out in the living room/den, playing hushed-martyr-girlfriend, stalled and waiting to feel sleepy enough to tiptoe down the slender hall to bed and ghost in beside him.

Who am I when no none needs me?

Who am I when I need someone?  Better still, who am I, what of me do I own, when I need me?  That is the answer, the anchor:  who am I at my core regardless of role or being desired or fetched or filling in a blank or mending or paring or hemming or holding or kissing or unfolding or responding?

It is the beginning of week three.  I will make an effort to Be myself and not immediately define my fit here…but I’m not sure how to do that without automatically embracing stereotype or without the administration of someone else’s needs before my own.  Women who caregive do this without a second thought:  we take the role(s) we know, rather than one we create for ourselves.

“Reinvent yourself,” they said, when I announced my departure from Long Island, from DD living in our/my/the house, from leaving a traditional desk jockey job.  The leavings, juicy and ripe with potential.

“You can reinvent yourself when you come down here,” manfriend/partner suggested on more than several occasions.

I’m working in it.  One feel-good at a time.  One dizzying, elated wave of relocation euphoria at a time.

Sidestep West

Goodnight, desert.

Goodnight, desert.

Between packing my NY home and moving to VA, I stopped in the desert. My sister, evertheyounger, turned 50 last week; we flew out to surprise her and visit a while.

Yes, she was utterly speechless and teary Saturday morning at The Egg and I (delicious breakfast, sweet staff, curious fellow diners). No, she never suspected a thing. Mission: Accomplished.