ALICE AND EMPTINESS

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Since I wrote about resistance I had several days of productivity and wrote a bit on THE PET SITTER every day. But that went on for perhaps 4 or 5 days. Then I stopped. I have had to rethink the resistance argument. I think I may be pregnant.

Creatively speaking, I have felt a little empty for a long while. I sometimes attribute it to laziness or a lack of the psychic energy needed to write. But I think I really feel empty. My brain really feels like this huge, barren cavern, with not even air in it. Just a big nothingness. But what does that really mean for me?

There was a time – a long ago crazy time – when I was inspired all the time and wrote feverishly. But real inspiration is very rare nowadays, or perhaps I am just not seeing it.

I think the truth underneath this empty feeling is that I am in gestation. That does not take the responsibility for writing off me, but it explains this inability to do so. The ideas are percolating inside me and, perhaps, are just not ready to be born. Maybe that’s me making excuses. But I do not believe that this feeling of being empty means that I am empty. I think I am stuck in pregnancy. I think I am really full. My brain is working overtime, though it may feel quite the opposite.

So what am I supposed to do in the meanwhile? How am I supposed to feel? If I accept the verity of the quote above, I MUST accept that I am never empty. That there is only unmanifested full-ness. Fear is the block. Fear about feeling that full-ness. I can only try to be aware all the time of how I feel and welcome those feelings. Truth is: I am terrified. Of baring my soul, exposing my heart. And that’s normal.

Bottom line? What am I actually saying? I feel empty but I’m really not. I am pregnant and scared. And I am in avoidance of feeling my feelings. Even surrounded by all the beauty of my new home, creatively I am stuck. Maybe I really am just not ready. Maybe I don’t want to write THE PET SITTER, though I feel pulled to do it. Maybe it is simply resistance. I only know that I am empty and not aware of the unmanifested full-ness. And I don’t know what I must do to see it. Relax. Stop punishing myself for a lack of productivity. Stop worrying about being 67 and not having time to be patient.

Ease up, Alice.

ALICE AND RESISTANCE

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I have had to think long and hard about why I am not writing THE PET SITTER. Kimm has suggested that perhaps I am not ready, or that the time is not right. I understand that approach to this dilemma, but, if I really search myself, I have to say that I disagree. I think those “reasons” are nothing more than excuses. For ME. I believe that my issue is resistance pure and simple.

I look at the man in the image above and wonder if he is being enclosed upon, or if he is pushing against something that is a part of him. That wall that we hit head-on is resistance. Punching a hole in that wall and crawling through it, finding freedom again, freedom and the limitless possibilities that I know I am, is what I need to do.

I hate getting all cognitive here, but what I need to do is devise a plan whereby I take baby steps towards the goal. Giving myself doable tasks for each day that MAKE me write – even if it is just a sentence – will give me the confidence and courage to do more. But my question to myself remains. Why am I resistant?

I think at this point in my journey, the answer to that question is far less important than devising a strategy to DO more. It really doesn’t matter if my mother hated me and told me I was worthless. I already know the genesis of the blocks I am facing. They are all in the past, and it is time to let that go and move on. If I embrace the present, and live in awareness, the past will no longer matter. And it will no longer hold me back.

Without realizing it, I have been playing the victim, and living the blame game. Yes, I was seriously damaged as a child by parents who didn’t know any better. But it is no longer their fault that I remain stuck in certain areas of my life. I have perpetuated the problem. I have taken up their mantle and continued the abuse. I was too willing a student. No, I don’t blame myself as well. I was too young to know better or to protect myself. But I already understand my history, have made a certain peace with it, and now it is time to put up or shut up.

I have been lucky enough to have been given the tools to do better for myself. I realize that I know what I want. I just don’t do all I can about it. THE PET SITTER may help many people see that transformation is ALWAYS possible. It might give people courage. As it has given me. Now all I need to do is to tap into my courage and take action. Baby steps. Achievable goals. And be ready to fail, to feel pain as the writing brings emotional things up for me.

I know I can do it. I just need to give myself permission to tell the story. There is no one living that I can hurt by the telling of it. And if I am as ready to expose the secret parts of myself as I believe that I am, now IS the time.

Alice and Being Creative

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I have been asked many times if I was more creative or a better artist when I was in the hell of the crazies. I have actually done research and written some articles on the subject, and the bottom line for me personally is that, yes, many of history’s best and most prolific creatives were nuts in one way or another. And that includes being addicted to drugs and alcohol.

As for me, I wrote more feverishly and was much more productive when I was living in England and off the fucking wall. My poetry was impassioned, inspired, and full of symbology that I am still deciphering now. I haven’t really written a poem of any note since 1994. I haven’t been moved to either. My writing has become this blog, the iWonderSisterhood blog, and the continued “beginnings” of a book about how animals facilitated my recovery. But no poetry, and nothing written in a mania.

I used to call what I now know is my hypomania, the buzz. During my last few years in the UK I had the buzz all the time. I was completely hypomanic, needed little sleep, and was more creative than I had ever been. Indeed I was more creative than I HAVE ever been. Medications and wellness have overtaken my prolific-ness. I can honestly say it is no longer the same. And if I am really honest, I miss that creative frenzy. I loved having the buzz.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t trade how I feel now for more great poems. Well, sometimes I would, but mostly I would rather just be well and eccentric and not be insane. Living in insanity is painful and exhausting, and I enjoy my life as it is – full of beauty, love, and peace.There is balance in my life now and I treasure it.

I think about the person I was a bit wistfully and wonder what else she would have created if she had been left alone. I have to search for my creativity sometimes now, and back then it was at my beck and call. I have indeed lost something that was very precious to me and I do grieve its loss. But I live in the light now, I see the stars, and when the darkness occasionally inundates me, I wait it out, in the certainty that it will pass. Now trumps then any day.

Andie

ALICE and ROBIN WILLIAMS

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The suicide of comedy legend Robin Williams has hit a lot of people hard, apart from those who actually knew him. The shock of it is difficult to get over, but for me it is the knowledge that he was in such despair, in such a dark place, and couldn’t reach out is what gets me the most. I still really can’t wrap my mind around the fact he is gone, and every time I hear about or read something on him my eyes well up with tears. I know I am not alone in this.

There is such desperation in suicide. The idea that someone just can’t go on anymore is huge, and for some people, a difficult concept to understand. Depression is a silent killer, very misunderstood. Most people can’t “get it”. Unless you have been there it is hard to fathom being in that state.

I have been there. Suicide was something that I lived with every day for a very long time. I tried twice, but they were half-assed attempts, designed more to get someone to see me in that darkness. As much as I wanted the hell to be over, I wanted help. The bottom line for me was that I had a strong survival instinct, even though I wasn’t fully aware of it. I was an optimist in that I knew there could be something better for me even if I wasn’t conscious of it.

When you are depressed and suicidal you are swallowed by the darkness. There is no light, you see no way out, no respite. Nothing anyone says to you, no matter how loving and supportive, changes anything. Medications do make a difference, but some people cycle into depressive episodes in spite of them, and the depressed person feels like nothing will ever change, nothing can help. It seems to me that telling someone you are in the dark pit is essential. I wonder if Robin Williams said anything about where his head was on the day he killed himself, or if suicide had become an imperative for him.

I dreamt about Robin Williams last night – he has been so much on my mind. The world has lost one of its great lights and there is a hole in the hearts of millions. For me, his death reminded me how fragile human beings are, how fragile even I am, and of how much we need each other. It has brought mental illness into the consciousness of many who never gave it a thought before this, and that is a good thing. But how sad it is that it took this event to make people think.

There is a part of me that wishes I could have helped him, but sometimes the dark is too dense. It will take me a long time to come to terms with Robin Williams suicide, to stop crying every time I see his photograph on TV. And I know that I am only one of many who have been so touched by his death. For, at one time, it could have been me, and there but for my tenacity would I have gone. I miss you, Robin, and I didn’t even know you. I hope you have found some peace. Your legacy is huge, and will always remain. Thank you for having walked this earth for a time. You gave many people so much joy. RIP

Andie

ALICE and AGING

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The aging process begins from the moment of “newness”, the instant of conception. Everything, sentient and not, conceived and built, ages. Nothing is exempt. Just more proof that the worn rug under my feet is no different than I am. But our youth-obsessed culture has people getting plastic surgery even before the appearance of the first wrinkle or grey hair. Wearing your age as a badge of honor is almost unacceptable in today’s society. Advertising and Hollywood are not the only institutions at whose feet blame can be laid, but they are certainly two of the most responsible parties.

It is especially difficult for women. Men are considered a bit more dashing and sophisticated with some silver in their hair and a few character lines. But women are barraged with images of sixteen year-olds gliding down fashion runways in clothes only they can wear. They are assaulted with ads in every medium, for anti-aging creams, lotions and potions, all touting to erase wrinkles and fade age spots. The cosmetic surgery industry is booming. No one wants to get older. I’ve got a news flash: You will anyway. And your face lift will not stave off cancer or a stroke.

Yes, the aging process is sometimes a pain in the ass, as well as the joints. Aches and pains come with the territory, we all slow down a bit, and some things are more difficult to do. As for me, I have bad knees, angina, pulmonary hypertension (which BTW, I have had for ages), a bad back, a repaired, shattered ankle with rods and screw holding it together, and sleep apnea. I will never be able to run again – I used to run 10 miles a day – and I get out of breath taking a long walk. I can’t indulge in activities like roller blading or ice skating – I was once a student of figure skating – and even standing for any length of time is painful.

Does it make me sad? In a word, No. I mean, yeah it would be nice to run a bit from time to time, but the truth is that there are things I can do now, at 67, that I never could do when I was a runner. With age has come wisdom, as well as silver hair, which I no longer color, and wear with pride. With age has come overwhelming gratitude for Life in general, and for my third “second chance”. I am living proof that we continue to grow, evolve, and become our best selves no matter our age.

Some of my friends have said I am an exception, as I have learned to embrace change, and have made some big changes. I like myself more than I ever have been able to, and stand in admiration of my accomplishments. 67 looks very good on me, and I revel in getting older as I know only more good is coming, more growth, greater self-awareness, self-acceptance, and understanding. I am getting a bit jowly, but I don’t have too many wrinkles yet; however, I welcome them, as they will reflect who I am – my past, present and future.

I find wearing the signs of aging an honor. They mean I have come through a lot and am still here. They tell my story to those who have the ability to look hard and really see. They say, “This is Andie!”, and I am proud to be her.

I wish more of society accepted the aging process with grace. I wish it weren’t such an anathema to be wizened. You can be wizened and still vital. Vitality is quality not quantity. At 67 I am more vital than I ever was. I think getting old is one of life’s greatest gifts, and it tickles me that I am considered to be elderly. I like it! It doesn’t frighten me that it means I am closer to my mortality. It is part of Life’s grand dance. And I am dancing, baby!

Andie – Fae, Eccentric, Adorable

ALICE and EMOTIONS

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Feelings are difficult, even the ones that feel good – maybe especially those. I’m not talking about expressing emotions here. I am talking about feeling them. Many people walk around not even knowing how they feel at any given moment. I know it was that way for me growing up. When psychiatrists would ask me how I was feeling I often said, “I don’t know.” And I didn’t.

I have come to understand deeply that recognizing emotions, being able to name them, is the first step in working through them, processing them. Being able to say “I feel sad,” is the beginning of feeling happy again. (“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”-Gibran) But for a long time, emotions sat deep within me, unknown, and unexperienced. It is a wonder that I never developed an ulcer, though, come to think of it, I did have a spastic colon for a while.

When Kimm and I reached New Mexico, I had been running on pure adrenalin. If I felt anything it was relief at finally being here where there was so much less external stress and inner turmoil. But I didn’t permit myself to really feel my feelings. I had no idea what my feelings were. There was so much to do in the way of adjusting to a new environment, that I didn’t think about it. I just went along and did what needed to be done at the moment, and learned to live in these majestic mountains.

In ending a long-term relationship – for whatever reason – there are always feelings to sort out, and they surface gradually. I was still hurt and angry, and somewhat in disbelief that the person I had been living with had hated me for so long and pretended not to. I felt like I really never knew her. It was scary. I couldn’t experience the sadness that I knew was inside me, the feeling of loss, and I couldn’t grieve. My emotions were stuffed so far down I was unaware of them. Until now.

I don’t like to cry, I never have. Even as a kid, when I felt tears coming, I would pretend to yawn so that whomever I was with would think the tears were from yawning. Tears were an embarrassment. That’s partly due to the fact that when I was very young and something would make me cry, my father always said, “Cut the dramatics!”

Anyway, this is just the long way of saying I am feeling now. All the things that I know come along with grieving are coming up. I am sad, hurt, and sorry, but no longer angry. I am really beginning to let go, say farewell, and while it’s painful on some level, I also know it’s all good. And it’s not inundating. I am not drowning in it. I still feel joy and gratitude and love for my life as it is. This is a time of deep emotional healing, and I am happy it is finally happening for me.

Emotions are no longer anathema. I accept them. They are embraced now as part of life. They are the gifts of living consciously, and I am proud to have them. It is all part of the human experience that Kimm and I talk about so often. Though, I have to confess, there are still moments – however fleeting – that I wish I were an android. ;)

Alice and Peace

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People race through Life. They forget to savor. They don’t stop to smell the proverbial roses.

I vowed a very long time ago that wouldn’t happen to me. And it was a hard thing for me as my brain was a very disorganized, noisy place. I never felt alone, dreams were disturbing, often I would be jolted awake, gasping for air and terrified. I have written before about the the volume being turned way up for me, and so it was. I was in constant sensory overload, with no respite, and I was exhausted. I never slept the sleep of one who trusts, in true peace. I slept the sleep of a paranoid, looking over my shoulder 24/7.

But I knew there was something better for me and I meant to find it. I practiced meditation, even with my head screaming. I worked with a therapist, trying to free myself from a debilitating past, from guilt that didn’t belong to me but was forced on me. I walked a zig-zag path that seemed only to go uphill, and even when nothing seemed to be helping me find my inner freedom, the peace that I knew was my essential self, I remained a seeker. I was scared shitless and intrepid all at once. For me it was an imperative: Do or die. Literally. And I was not ready to abdicate my place on this earth.

I worked hard. I got to know the darkest places of myself. I saw things I didn’t want to see, heard things I didn’t want to hear, wrestled with them, and tried to put them to rest. I grappled with grieving the loss of so much of my life to illness. It made me angry, mostly at me. I struggled with my feelings about the way my parents treated me. But I had to come to a place of surrender about it all. I had to see it, accept it, and let it go in order to move on and really live my life. And though I had plenty of love and support, no one could do this work but me. It can feel very lonely in that darkness.

Of all the things I learned and unlearned, the thing that struck me hardest is that the work never stops. I found out that I wasn’t going to arrive at some “destination of knowing” and be able to stop seeking. I learned that there would be some things that would remain unknown, and that I was going to have to make my peace with that. I learned that I am beautiful and flawed, and that that is okay. I learned that the parts of myself that I didn’t like were also a part of what I did like about myself. The two sides of me, that pesky duality, needed to coexist for me to be whole. I learned that if I didn’t love and accept all of it, I would never have a peaceful sleep.

I still seek, I still work, but the road is not as bumpy(because I am not as resistant), and the work is joyful even when it hurts. Khalil Gibran wrote “Pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding” and I live by that. He also said “Your joy is your sorrow unmasked”, and I live by that too. Self awareness and self acceptance, living consciously, are the most important things to me. I can meditate in silence and be still, and there is no screaming inside my head. I have tools now, to deal with the difficult times – I do have them occasionally – and they don’t last as long.

But best of all is that I am Peace. I have found my peace. I can sleep unafraid. I have trust. I am more able to surrender to the Universe and put any neurotic shit aside. I am Gratitude. Every day I feel grateful. Every day I am acutely aware of this chance I have co-created with the Source, and every day I say “Thank you!” The import of this moment is not lost on me.

Here in The Land of Enchantment, New Mexico, I am becoming more than ever before.