Category Archives: Uncategorized

Day Late, Dollar Short

Hello patient readers.

I took a bigger break than I thought.  The thing about depression is it can be sneaky and it can be crippling and it can take a long time to notice that you are there.  I’m not really out of the woods if I’m honest.

But!  I’ve been thinking about Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Outliers” because I’m reading it for the first time and it gives me hope that the strange and diverse situations in my life are preparing me for something particularly.

It’s been hard for me to Make Art lately.  In fact, it’s been hard for me to do anything but play World of Warcraft without intense obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors kicking in.  It’s this time of transition where so much is up in the air: the direction of my job, where I’m going to live, the situations of the people around me.

So, you know what?  I can’t do that anymore right now.  I have to care about things, and make things, and sing things and I’m not sure how I’m going to do that yet, but what I do know is I need my fellow Leaguers… so the treehouse is open again! ❤

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Between meh and blah.

I haven’t even journalled this week.  I have been really tired, fighting some combination of virus and hormones that makes me feel like I’m at war with my own body.  The most creative thing I’ve done all week is place stickers on my new laptop.

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My personal brain takes this as a signal to come up with All The Ideas.  It goes between unreasonable amount of activity for how tired I am and super whiny.  I never know if this is a particular quirk of my manic depression or if that’s just how it goes for creative folk, and I don’t know that it makes a difference.

Have you ever been so relieved to be home and so relieved to be away from your desk at work staring at a screen, but then all you have energy to do is watch TV?  Last night I couldn’t even watch TV properly, I curled up in bed and watched Travel Man on YouTube because Richard Ayoade is one of the most interesting creative people I can think of in Television.

Anyway, it is Friday and I’m looking forward to this weekend, and if you have some great journal pages from this week, why not post them in the comments?  They’d cheer me up mightily!

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…

My personal hymnbook was given to my by my classmate Cody upon our graduation.  It’s the hymnal of the denomination of the church we both attended at the time, of the boarding school we both attended our senior year.  Everyone in the class received one.  To me, it’s a beautiful object: img_4406

Shane Bertou recently commented that he uses a hymnal as a devotional, and I deeply resonate with that use.  This morning I cracked the book looking for something to speak to me.  I hadn’t carefully planned the dip into hymnody this week.  (Isn’t hymnody a ridiculous word?  Someone used it in conversation with me and it never occurred to me that someone would use that word for serious. I love it).

Paging through, noting songs like familiar friends and becoming surprised at many that I have no recollection of… I stopped at page 111: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.

I probably stopped because I love the cadence of the word “Tomorrow”.  It immediately brings me show tunes and Macbeth and a feeling that I’ve called since highschool “the possibility of maybe”.

My favorite verse is the third:

I don’t know about tomorrow, it may bring me poverty, 

But the one who feeds the sparrow,  Is the one who stands by me, 

And the path that be my portion, May be through the flame or flood, 

But His presence goes before me. And I’m covered with His blood. 

My classmate (or likely his remarkable mother) gave me possibly my favorite graduation gift, a collection of songs that I sing, that I learn from, that feed me and challenge me.  Even the ones that are edited by the church that printed the hymnal, even the ones that I think seriously miss the mark theologically or otherwise.

Art is important. Music gets to places inside of us that nothing else can, poetry can do it too.  If I haven’t been clear this series; if nothing else I hope you open a hymnal.

Edit: previously I had written my classmate was named “Casey”, this is incorrect, it was Cody.  Casey is his brother with whom I worked at said boarding school.

Bells on Her Fingers… Bells on Her Toes…

It’s Friday and I’m a little fried.  I want to listen to The Cure and read fiction and be in bed, but that is tomorrow’s activity docket. (Okay, so I might listen to The Cure while at work).

I haven’t drawn all week, either.  You ever get the feeling when you don’t draw your hands ache?  When I don’t play music my hands itch sometimes, when I don’t draw; they ache. I sometimes feel like I don’t have much choice in being a creative person, it was decided long before I was born.  I used to think of it as creative compulsion, but now I just think it’s who I am and that’s my lot.  Usually I’m grateful for it.

Sometimes it is hard to go about my normal day.  I’ve gotten over the not doing art for a living thing, I changed my perspective on that and I’m pretty good with working a normie job.  It’s more that my brain comes alive when I solve something at work and starts to compose a song or lay out a painting and it’s super distracting.  Sometimes I’m able to jot it down but often I have to turn it off and just lose the kernel of it.  It’s that trade off that we make sometimes in life, and I haven’t found a balance for it yet.

It’s been a week full of that, so I’m sure I will creatively explode this weekend… and I’ll post the results.

TGIF, y’all.

A Quilt and a Cuppa and a Book

I missed blogging on Monday as I had a rare and true day off, where nothing was expected of me, and it was so much more important to make the most of that, than to sit down and a computer like I do every work day of my life.

Today I was going to write about the depth and whimsy of “On The Jericho Road”, memories of switching the high and low parts,  Merle Haggard, Donald S. McCrossan and the intersection of popular music and hymns, but I think that’s the most I’m going to write about it today.

Instead, I would like to talk about some thoughts that came on that lovely day off as I was wrapped in some quilts with a cup of tea, reading.  My husband bought me the “Time Quintet” of Madeleine L’Engle books for Christmas.  I adore L’Engle.  I love her mannered way of writing and her big concepts and thoughts in children’s books.  Her book “Walking on Water; Reflections of Faith and Art” is a must read in my view.  I did not realize she was so prolific until late in my 20’s, and for some time have wished to read all her books starting with the ones I feel in love with as a child.

I never considered her to be as blatant as Lewis in her theological bent, although she really is.  She just seems to be less pleased with herself about it.  Also, her non-fiction is greatly underrated.  But that’s not what I want to talk about either.

See, when I was a kid, I used to go to the little library in our church and borrow books.  There was  quite a collection of fiction.  Some of them were quite good (Brock and Bodie Thoene) and some of them were abysmal (Janette Oke), but all of them relentlessly moralistic in a way that often literally interrupted the story.  As much as I loved reading Frank Peretti, the Christy Miller Series, and  other perfectly good, wholesome and sometimes well written tomes… I couldn’t tell you what most of them were about.

My mind already had a standard in it for what was Interesting.  Karana on her lonely island eating abalone and taming wolves.  Indians in cupboards.  Bridges and wardrobes to other worlds, and the woods between them. There was Judy Blume to give me a roadmap of how to survive school and siblings.  There was Dickens and Dumas to show me how the world could be cruel or kind and that it was only my heart that I could use as influence.  All of these stories had messages that continue to teach me to this day.

It was bewildering to me when I started to meet fellow homeschooled children who were only allowed to read Christian fiction, and even those books were discouraged because they were fiction.  Although Christian marketed non-fiction was better, it needed a critical mind.  Elizabeth Elliot was a woman of some wisdom and an amazing life story, and yet none of us should have taken her “Passion and Purity” without serious questioning.  Anyway, the idea of someone censoring book reading was so foreign to me.  I don’t think anyone had ever told me “don’t read that”, save for Sweet Valley High books as they were vapid… and I read those and tired of them quickly.  The library was a safe place for me.  I think I was 10 when I read George Harrison’s autobiography and Gone With The Wind, in between The Babysitter’s Club.  I could understand not watching TV, I had no context for a world where one could not read whatever one chose.

When I got to boarding school, some well meaning person had donated entire series of what can only be described as “Christian Romance Novels”.  We read the backs out loud by the fire when we were bored, streaming tears at the copy that tried to convey sexiness but not too much, and promise some sort of redemptive story line.  Nothing was funnier, and yet nothing was more deeply embarrassing to me.  It was the end of the ’90s and the novelty of Christianity as a genre was wearing off as it was shown to be shallow marketing and not lasting in any classical sense.

I feel that I should say that there are vapid, moralistic and shallow books that are not marketed at the Christian sector.  I feel like someone would comment on that right away, or take that to be the bent of my post. Rather, understand that as a person of faith, I weirdly feel responsible for the books that shout “I am a piece of Christian Fiction!” I feel that people will look at my faith from that angle and think it is boring and one note.  So there is something to reading L’Engle and feeling… oh there you are.  There is something to reading fiction where you know the author’s heart beats similarly to your own, even if she hasn’t spelled it out.

As we continually talk about Art, the subject of quality will always come up, the subject of depth and of intent.  I thought for years that the reason that I could not tell you what a single Janette Oke novel was about was being my mind wanted something more lurid because I am a fallen wicked person… but that can’t be it.

I haven’t read Island of the Blue Dolphins since I was 8, and yet I can probably tell you all of the plot points.  I didn’t have to google “Karana” (and I’m hoping that I got that name right).  It was a transformative piece of literature in my life that has informed my person. I have a feeling the author was just telling a story,  based on a true story incidentally, but with that truth that cold facts can never convey.  I think where “Christian Lit” goes wrong is that most that I’ve read is trying to convey a message instead of telling a story.  The story will convey the message that is in your heart if you let it, I think.  I think Dumas knew that.

That is the challenge, isn’t it?  To write what you need to write instead of what you are supposed to write. May I learn how.

 

Gentle Reader, Strong Loss

deep forestYesterday, February 11,  my dear friend would have been 35, had he not left us 8 years ago.  I managed not to think about it in any sad way all day long, just in context of being terribly grateful for our short, intense friendship.  Once I tried to sleep, all I could feel was loss.

Like most people, I’ve lost quite a handful of people at this point in my life.  My grandmother who got me interested in painting and art,  the childhood mentor who encouraged my writing and my love for detective novels (just to name a couple).  The loss of a collaborator had ramifications that I still feel today.  He’s been gone 8 years and I still get the same sharp pain in my chest when I finish something and feel as if I have no one to show it to, no one that will understand the heartbeat of it.

Over the few years of our friendship, there were daily debates, all night calls to discuss Radiohead and how it’s like and unlike Classical Music and Art,  trips to the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo where I learned appreciation for Modern Art, poems that flew back and forth, songs sung over the crappy pre-skype video services or phones propped up by the guitar.  We both used to write for this online community/blog thing, and from the first few interactions, I’d write my post knowing that he’d read it and get it and still tell me what could be better about it… I would post knowing that if no one else read it (and people did, it was a vibrant little community), he would read it and since he was my Gentle Reader, it didn’t matter to me if anyone else did. From the moment we connected via AIM (yes it was that long ago) there was constant feedback, revision, collaboration and camaraderie.

I read a quote on Tumblr last night, it said:

“One day, whether you

are 14

28

or 65

you will stumble upon

someone who will start a fire in you that cannot die.

However, the saddest,

most awful truth

you will ever come to find —

is they are not always with whom we spend our lives.”

-Beau Taplin from Hunting Season

It took me years to force myself to start to do things that mattered to me creatively after he died.  I knew it would piss him off, just stopping, but my grief was a tidal wave that would flatten me when I least expected it.  And I had lost my Reader, why did it matter if I made anything?

I had never needed that before, I spend most of my life just making things as it pleased me, or writing songs for a bigger audience.  I don’t know why the second I found my creative twin soul I couldn’t do without him.

I finally just started forcing myself.  Just knowing that I would be sad and it would suck, and that maybe I was just doing it for me. It helped a bit.  Therapy helped a bit.  Prayer helped a bit.  Doing The Thing helped in various amounts. But I didn’t get over it until I inundated my creative world with the permeating sense of impermanence.

The thing about grief is that I think it needs to be expressed, and we don’t always get to choose what that looks like.  Until I started writing and painting and drawing my grief, until I started to be completely bored and frustrated by loss, I just couldn’t get past it.  I thought chin up, make myself Do, make myself Carry On and it would lessen.  But time doesn’t heal some things, really.  I don’t know if it is healthy for other people, I don’t know if it was healthy for me. However, for me the only way I have found is through it.

It’s a strange thing, setting foot outside the door of my inner creative mind, and to express it these days, sort of without a net.  Although, the gift of having loved someone is that I do hear my grandmother’s voice, my mentor’s voice, my gentle reader for good or for grief, in every scrap I release to the wind.

Social Media Blues

I wanted to write about devotional spaces and art spaces today, but I just don’t have it in me.  I’m working really hard to not care so much about external forces on my thoughts, but once you put them out in the world, it is difficult not to care how they land.

Sometimes I wonder if Social Media has ruined me for sharing art.  The biggest problem with Social Media is that I always seem to find out something sad and dark and disappointing about someone I love. But it leads me to question,  if they can say such vile things, how did I ever trust them with my thoughts or heart or company?

It starts to affect everything I put out there.  I tailor my Facebook statuses to not attract that kind of exchange, and it feels vapid… and still they come. The pedantic, the ignorant, the blindly political, the angry.  How come it’s harder to love someone on Social Media?  Does it bring out our worst, or does it break through our carefully constructed facade?

Yet, there’s all sorts of creative release in Social Media too.  Artists can share directly with their fan-base,  there are good thoughts and discussions to be had.  So it feels as if I would throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater to eschew the platform completely.

And yet it makes me weary.  I start to question if there’s a point to Art and Beauty in such a world, where people who have chosen to befriend each other engage in such rabid egotistical written pummeling.

Sorry guys, I wanted Monday to be cheerful and well researched, but sometimes that is just not something I can work up, even though I spent a lot of time on the groundwork for it.  I probably need to spend more time in my devotional spaces and art spaces to mitigate the social spaces.  I just feel like I do that an awful lot as an introvert already.

 

My First “Leaguer” Blog Post

emotion It has been said people remember not what you do, but how you made them feel.  I’m not a “quick to make you feel at ease” type of person.  I pull no punches and say awkward things at the most inappropriate times.  I also have a habit of saying too much all at once (too often).  I am only aware of these instances  after the moment has passed.  Most of the time I have an objective, or a goal to accomplish because I see right through all the bull, the masks and the lies people tell themselves for their objectives and goals. Nevertheless, I have become more aware of the havoc I create by acting as my own form of “The Justice League” instead of looking within myself.  I think I am helping someone when in reality, I am only serving myself.  It’s a delicate balance to develop a social filter.

I serve at The Rock Church every Sunday either as a camera person or a Producer.  I enjoy serving – A LOT.  I like to observe worship with all the lights, the sounds and multitudes raising their arms in submission.  I get all teary in a way that “allows” me to feel when I see others acknowledge the Spirit moving about the room.  This is only a recent revelation.  Why?

I’m saying “I” a lot here because focusing on myself is something I love to avoid to the point of making all emotion unavailable.  This is an extremely slow process that happens over a very long time of isolation – even in the midst of those who love me or crowds of people.  I cannot confidently say I “feel” anything in between ultimate joy or acute fear unless lazy is counted on an emotion.   This is something I want to change desperately. Specifically for the reason that people I interact with on a regular basis do not know how to read me.  I mean, it’s getting pretty bad when someone approaches me with a puzzled look on their face when they ask “How are things?”.

Emotion is a scary thing.  It creates anarchy in the brain when unchecked and isolation when it’s out of balance.  Emotion when it is in balance allows us to enhance the human experience by sharing life through joy or empathy.  I recently RE-learned that smiling, genuinely smiling, more often – affects everyone around me.  Which brings me to the core of my fear – I don’t like to be responsible for someone else’s unhappiness, rejection or dissatisfaction.  Choosing not to react is an odd choice to make slowly over time.

Serving and spending more time in the Word has gently helped me to face the way God sees me.  Since I stopped reacting to how the world sees me I am feeling mostly peaceful but I admit I am still way out of balance.  I’m far from feeling burnt out because when I serve or study I feel one step closer to the person God created me to be.  empty full