So today, I'm sitting in one of the most unauthentic places on the planet, Las Vegas, thinking about authenticity. That wasn't a derogatory commentary on Las Vegas itself, the people have been very nice, particularly the employees at the M&Ms Store. How can you not be happy working in a chocolate factory, right?
But I think Las Vegas says a whole lot about American culture. I'm struck by the sheer "Matrix"-like environment. The city was built to give its visitors the reality that they are somewhere else. There is a fake Statue of Liberty, which makes me sort of sad... in my opinion, the Statue of Liberty shouldn't ever be duplicated, whether it's a scaled down model in front of the New York New York hotel or a bobble head for that matter. But not only that, there is a full on neon castle, the Excalibur Hotel, where you can have dinner while fake knights joust away. Every hotel is a small city in itself where pheromones are piped in and there are no windows to the outside world. All of this is done to make the participant wile away the hours plugging quarter after quarter into neon one armed bandits hoping to make it big. Meanwhile, the only one who makes it big is the corporation running the pseudo-city. Thousands of people keep these places running, some making barely a living wage and yet people flock to Las Vegas every year by the hundreds of thousands.
As soon as I landed here, I missed home. I stepped off the ramp from the plane and was immediately accosted by ding-a-linging, flash-a-flooting slot machines and shops filled with rhinestones. I immediately hated it. I didn't miss Billings per se, but open land, clean air, pine trees and soft dirt paths. I realized, maybe thanks to Las Vegas, how important being authentic really is to me. How living the life I was meant to or even drawn to is now my mission.
Maybe there's a lesson here as well about how many of us were fooled by fake news during this election cycle. Have we gotten so used to accepting a facade as reality that we no longer know the difference? Las Vegas is a really good example of this. The whole town is really a facade... did I mention I was staying at the Excalibur Hotel, a fake castle with a fake drawbridge and everything... are we so jaded by our everyday lives that we are desperate to escape from them?well, I digress a bit.
Let me get back to authenticity. Remember that authenticity is different for every individual. What I love and want to work toward or celebrate is probably totally different from what you find genuine. Nevertheless, real is real, facade is facade. I'm grateful that my life has led me to appreciate agates over diamonds or wood over plastic. I'm grateful that I'd rather be sitting under a big cottonwood drawing rather than in a castle in the city flipping through obnoxious television channels. I'm grateful that for the most part, I've built a life of authenticity and even though I'm not quite where I want to be, I feel I will be there soon. So, if you're like me, find those things that matter to you. How do they influence you? Figure out what's important to you and then live that. Be that. Be YOU.
On Friday morning, I walked into my office (of my day job) to find a little clipping from a newspaper or magazine. It was strategically placed on my keyboard. It said:
"Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away." First, a BIG thank you to the co-worker who left it there. I needed it. It was a rough week and it brought me laughter which is great natural medicine. It also brought me some wisdom cloaked in the guise of humor, that's always good! Dogs, and my co-worker, are really brilliant that way.
Let's think about it for a minute. We internalize stress like no one's business. In fact, we're learning (when I say we here, I generally mean people much smarter than I am) that stress is a silent killer working diligently over the years to shorten our lives and make the time we have alive, harder and less enjoyable. Don't let stress win... Just say no to stress, RELAX DAMMIT! Yes, great advice, but difficult to follow.
So, how do we deal with stress more effectively? Lot's of people suggest meditation or relaxation techniques, but these, if not done effectively can actually add stress to our lives. We, essentially, beat ourselves up because we can't concentrate or don't know how to do it (meditation that is). And frankly, finding the time to practice meditation can add stress as well. Let's face it, meditation is hard work.
I'm going to take a bit of a diversion here that has a point, so stay with me, okay? Have you ever watched a program like Mutual of Omaha's Wild Africa, or something like it? A program where an unfortunate gazelle gets run down by the consummate predator? It's difficult to watch right? Well, here's the thing... Imagine the gazelle gets away. Sometimes they do and here's what happens... When the gazelle is at a safe distance away from the danger, I'm guessing they know this purely by instinct, they collapse. Yep, they collapse into a heap of nerves and shake until the 'stress' is relieved. At which time the gazelle gets up and trots merrily on it's way. Stress dealt with. This is the natural way to deal with stress. To allow the physical reaction to it. Even mental stress creates physical symptoms. In the gazelle's case, the physical symptoms are initially adrenaline and other things that fuel the "flight or fight" response. The gazelle can't fight, so it flies. (Check out Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body by Peter A. Levine)
Now, how does this relate to my stress or my point for that matter? Well, people don't fly & generally, don't fight either. Ha ha, you know what I mean. We essentially internalize this stress. We can't help it. Our society doesn't look well on collapsing into the shakes after a stressful business meeting. And it certainly doesn't allow us to deck the person who just ticked us off or treated us badly. I mean, we can react that way, but someone's gonna have to bring some bail money, right? I know there are exceptions to these observations, that people do fly off the handle and physically react. Things like road rage do exist. But you have to ask yourself, does road rage exist because we've finally pushed down enough stress to blow like a Paula Dean pressure cooker? I think there's some merit in that observation.
Here's another... observation I mean. When the gazelle is in fight or flight mode, non-essential systems shut down. What's non-essential, you ask? Well, things like digestion. Interesting huh? Do you see where I am going with this? If not, here it is... Americans live highly stressful lives (the reasons for that, I'll save for a later posting). In fact, some reports suggest that the American life is one of the most stressful in the world. What other thing have we been hearing about lately? Obesity. Could it be that the stress we are not effectively dealing with, is shutting down our non-essential systems like digestion? I think so! I think it's a really valid conclusion. We know stress can cause us to eat as a way of finding comfort. So, in this case, stress carries a one-two punch! And of course in some cases, obesity can shorten the life-span as well. So the less we deal with stress, the more likely it is to affect us, physically and emotionally.
Now, back to the brilliant clipping left at my desk. "Learn to Handle Stress Like a Dog: If you can't eat it or play with it, then pee on it and walk away." What a wonderful idea! Let's be clear, I am absolutely, positively not advocating that you ACTUALLY pee on things... or people... that upset you or cause you stress. Although... I DO think that could be cathartic. Also, what you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. However, we can all visualize this, can't we? The next time you feel particularly upset, whether its traffic or people who treat you badly or even the water bill that pushes you over the edge, visualize yourself peeing on it. You heard me. Just metaphorically pee on it and walk away. I did it several times on Friday and I have to say it was wonderful. This may be a little crass, but honestly it relieved the stress almost immediately. Huh, maybe the phrase "relieve myself" actually makes sense to me now! If nothing else, it will make you laugh and laughter is a powerful weapon against stress. So, go forth good people, and pee, pee, pee!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I can chatty Cathy with the best of them, I really can, but there’s a point in time when I prefer to not talk. In fact, there are times when useless chatter sets my teeth on edge (low-hanging pun, couldn’t resist). My point is that they say Silence is Golden for a reason. I did a little research into that phrase, and by little I mean I Googled It and looked at one of the results, this isn’t a dissertation, don't give me a hard time. (Sidenote: you know you've made it when people start using your company name as a verb.) Evidently, the first example of "Silence is Golden" in the English language is from a poet named Thomas Carlyle, which is a little ironic if you think about it. But it may have even been used in ancient Egypt as well... also ironic considering the recent vocal uprising.
My point is that a lot can be said with silence. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I could actually talk (verbose would have been a shorter way to say this) until I tried to teach a 4-hour class immediately after a wisdom tooth extraction... three wisdom teeth to be exact. Besides the embarrassing drooling, my speech was as illegible as a drunkard's handwriting. So, I resorted to writing out what I had to say on the available marker board in the classroom. Let’s just say, all of my talking made me high as a kite. It also made me consider my words more carefully and it definitely made me admire those who use an economy of phrase communication style. To this day, I worship the monosyllabic! Something I am really not capable of.
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Another interesting turn of phrase is A picture is worth 1,000 words. We’ve all heard this one, right? I love this one. Is it because words are cheap and art is expensive? I don’t think so. I think it has to do with the amount of bull you can put into a picture as opposed to a sentence. Quite frankly, I can only speak for the US here, but we talk too much. We talk so much that we quit actually saying anything about 15 years ago. I blame marketing experts. A great example of this is modern business lingo. Have you noticed that all the great “management/business/leadership/training experts” basically say the same thing, just with different words. They take an old idea, re-brand it so they can copyright it, and then they sell it. I guess everyone needs to make a living, but when I see things like this, I just want to scream “EMPORER’S NEW CLOTHES!! EMPORER’S NEW CLOTHES!!!”
I’m also not a fan of filling awkward silences with useless chatter. Don’t get me wrong, I do this. It’s awkward and I’m co-dependent, so I like to fix things. But it’s still annoying. It’s taken me a long time to realize that some people communicate s-l-o-w-e-r. They need time to digest the conversation as they go along. This is a good thing... I mean actually thinking about what we’re going to say before we spew meaningless jibber-jabber on our conversational partner is generally appreciated by said partner.
And finally, in silence, you can hear. Okay, I know that sounds like a leap in logic, but silence gives you moments to listen with your ears and your everything else. Have you noticed that intuitive people tend to be more quiet while “sales” people tend to chatter? It’s because intuitive people are listening, they are absorbing. Sales people, on the other hand, are trying to convince you of something. Remember that real communication is primarily non-verbal. Some experts estimate that up to 80% of what we say isn’t in the actual words we use. It’s in the cues we get or give. If we’re constantly chattering, we miss all the good stuff. I’m talking about the crinkle of the eyes, the fidgeting, the smile or frown, the nod etc. In the non-verbal, we can connect. And ultimately, this is what we’re so desperate to do right now. Unfortunately, this desperation is actually the trigger of some of the jibber jabber. It’s a vicious cycle isn’t it? So, the advice for myself and if you agree with me, for you, is “when in doubt, shut up”. I could have made this more elegant, but it would have taken more words.
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I’m blessed to have known my grandparents on my mother’s side. I’ve probably spent more time with them than with anyone else in my life. My grandpa passed away several years ago, but my grandma, who is now in her 80’s is a regular part of my life. I learned a lot about life from the two of them, but in this post, I’m going to concentrate on my grandma. My grandpa deserves a post he can call his own.
First, my grandma is a great cook. She’s made several tons of comfort food throughout her life, feeding anyone who would eat. Even feeding me when I didn’t want or need to eat. It’s her way of showing people they’re loved. It can be a little frustrating, especially if you’re round like me, but it’s also really lovely. There’s nothing like a good bowl of homemade clam chowder with real cream and butter and a freshly baked loaf of bread to make you feel like someone cares. Even though she’s good at making just about anything, my grandma is actually famous for her dill pickles. I call them “poignant pickles” because they're a mixture of so many things.
She gives a jar to random strangers when she feels like it and of course always shares with her family. I can’t tell you how many times someone has said to me, “I ate that entire quart jar of pickles in one sitting, they were excellent.” or “Can you get me some more of those pickles.” Our family attorney has even settled the bill in pickles... they have to be good right?
I'm not going to share the recipe here even though my grandma would say it wouldn’t make any difference. She says her pickles are special because of the water she uses. It’s well water from the place her and my grandpa built together in 1967. She still lives there and swears that the well water is full of the right combination of minerals which in turn affects the flavor and crispness of the pickles. She’s shared the recipe with others and they never have the same result, so she could be right about the water. However, I prefer to think my grandma’s secret ingredient is a little magic. She puts a lot of love into everything she makes and I think that's what makes the pickles so special.
My grandma is also a little quirky. Sometimes... a LOT quirky, okay? She’s scared to death that I will quit my job to be a full time artist because the job means security. But my grandma risked everything in the early 1960’s to start her own beauty salon. In fact, she had a successful business for 43 years and finally retired when she was 78 years old. She also encouraged my grandpa to take risks. Before video rental was the norm, she suggested they think about starting a video store. He declined. She also suggested he buy a truck and do water-hauling for outlying communities operating cisterns, this would have also been a very good business in our area. But, he declined. Here’s the paradox: my grandpa never took a risk but always encouraged me to do what made me happy no matter what it was, even art. My grandma always took risks and doesn’t want me to leave my steady paycheck. Now you know why I’m confused most of the time.
My grandma also uses quirky turns of phrase. Anytime we were considering adopting a new dog or cat, she would say we should check the “pond” not the pound. I’m honestly not sure where that came from, probably just pronunciation, but it makes me laugh every time I hear it. When we’d watch the news together about someone who committed a crime and was getting probation, she would refer to it as “prohibition”. “He’ll probably only get prohibition...”, she would say. Also not sure where that came from, but hilarious. It’s the little things that people do that make you love them.
And finally, my grandma loves the birds. She’s an honest to goodness “mother nature”figure even though she still wears bright pink lip stick and dyes her hair platinum blonde. She’s in her 80‘s now. Like me, she loves to plant things, to dig in the dirt and sit in the yard and watch the birds. This connection or similarity I have to her was something I didn’t fully appreciate until the last year or so. It’s because of her that I love these things as well. Don’t get me wrong, my grandma can be “scary hell on wheels” and stubborn as a goat, but she can also be gentle and kind and full of heart. I’ve watched her nurse kittens with eyedroppers and hold broken birds tenderly in her hands. She looks at flowers like she can actually see God in them. And she can grow nearly anything. And even though she fought with my grandpa over almost everything, she loved him with all her heart. And he loved her back.
Some time after he passed, we were talking about her “ladies”, her friends and customers from the beauty shop. She said a lot of them were on the look out for boyfriends at the senior center. First of all, they were all ages 70 and above and I thought this was adorable. In fact, I thought “maybe there’s hope for me yet!” But I wondered if she was trying to covertly ask permission to date maybe thinking it would offend her daughters or grandchildren. I told her that if she wanted to find a companion that it was her business and that no one should hold that against her. That I wouldn’t hold it against her. It was only natural and she deserved to be happy. She said something that I will never forget. “Why would I want a boyfriend? I had my love. That’s all I need.” Yes, grandma, it turns out, that’s something else I got from you.
People are like colors, relative. Have you ever noticed that when you place a grey paint chip next to a red one, it has a pinkish hue? Yet, next to a blue chip it looks blue.
And have you ever noticed that you may like someone that your best friend despises or vice versa?
It's because, like color, people reflect the energy around them. Smiles are contagious and negativity catches like fire. Some colors are just not compatible.
But the best part about knowing that people are relative is understanding that not everyone is compatible with everyone else. We can let go of the notion and the need to want everyone to like us. Isn't that a huge relief? Knowing this makes it easier to be kind, in fact, to people you don't particularly like, or even the ones who annoy you when you realize it's no ones fault that you're incompatible.
And by the same token, people you are drawn to could be considered your complimentary color, right? How nice is that? Complimentary colors are opposite on the color wheel, they are of equal brightness and intensity. The people you are drawn to, are your equal, even though both of you are unique.
Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel and are generally color families, get it? Yellow, yellow-green, green, green-yellow. Colors with the same base color or gene. Related colors.
And finally, harmonious colors. I believe that these colors represent your tribe, or the family you choose for yourself. All over the color wheel, but generally they evoke an emotion. Soft nature colors are serene, primary colors (the colors of Legos) are fun and childlike. No matter the theme, these colors are the people you feel at home with. The people you make a conscious choice to spend your time on. Why or harmonious colors the most important? Because time, my friends, is the most precious thing you can share.
Have a beautiful, harmonious sleep and a vibrant tomorrow. 💜💙💚💛❤️
You’ve heard the phrase, “My dog thinks he’s human.” Well, my dog thinks I’m a dog. Most people know this about me already, but I’m a fanatic about dogs. I can’t help it. I love all dogs. I actually think that dogs are little furry angels & reincarnated saints. They truly are beautiful souls.
I really do love all animals, worms, lizards even snakes & spiders. Although you won’t find me cuddling up on the couch with a spider anytime soon. Worms, maybe... I think they’re cuter. I do like to watch spiders, however, they’re fascinating. I watched a wolf spider act like a dog once, but that’s for another blog.
There is one animal that I have a love/hate relationship with and that's the shark... any kind of shark really, but primarily the great white shark like the mechanical version in the Jaws movies. My mother made me watch Jaws (the original) when I was very young, so consequently I have an irrational fear of sharks. I live in Montana and have never actually gone for a swim in the ocean, so that should tell you how irrational my fear is. In fact I’ve been known to have minor panic attacks in the bathtub on occasion... But I also respect sharks as amazing predators who have a specific place in the food chain. Anyway, I’m getting off topic a bit. Let’s get back to dogs.
My first dog, Molly, was a beautiful Shepherd/Lab mix who protected me from some very dangerous situations and even though I was only three years old, I loved her with all my heart. She was bigger than I was and I instinctively knew I was safe whenever I was near her. My grandparents and my mother have always had dogs. In fact I grew up around a menagerie of animals: dogs, horses, cats, turtles, turkeys, chickens, pigeons, love birds, rabbits, ferrets, cows, hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, shetland ponies (not exactly a horse...smaller and with much more attitude), ducks, geese, bugs of all kinds. And as an adult, I’ve had my own dogs (now, Hairy), a cockatiel named Homer, a tiger salamander named Digger, four fire newts I just called “the boys” and some fish. PS, I am not good with fish.
I loved every single animal I’ve lived with. Even my grandpa’s duck “Quacker”, original right? And Quacker used to bite me in the butt every time I got near her. Now she was a grumpy duck! But I’ve never loved any of them like I’ve loved my dogs.
There are lots of reasons why I think dogs are so lovable, but here are a few.
Dogs live in the moment. Like little kids, and Buddha, dogs appreciate the beauty of being in the here and now. They don’t wonder if they’ll get to play ball on Thursday. They are just happy to be. Humans don’t generally operate this way. We fret and worry and plan and chide ourselves. It’s amazing that more of us aren’t a bit apesh*t! I might, in fact, be slightly apesh*t most of the time, but one moment with a dog can snap me out of it altogether. My dog Hairy is great at helping me with this. He's joyful and happy and hugs me all the time. One mischievous “tag you’re it” look from him and all my worries vanish as I chase him around the house or yard... depending on the season.
Dogs love to ride in the car. Well, most of them, although I've known a couple of dogs who were cursed with motion sickness so rides weren’t so pleasant for them. But for the most part, the only thing better is a raw steak. We’ve all seen dogs with their nose out the window breathing in the fresh air and sunshine, sometimes pacing around in the back seat from window to window. It’s like they can’t get enough. Like they're so excited, they can't sit still. I didn’t truly identify with this 4-wheel ecstasy until I got the Jeep. In the summer, when the top is off, I myself am essentially hanging out the window and feeling the wind in my hair and the bugs up my nose. It makes me ecstatic. You'd be surprised at how much more intense the experience is when you have no roof or doors between you and the open road. I find myself raising my face to the sun and smelling the air, just like Hairy. I absolutely love it. I always wonder what people think when they see the two of us doing this as we drive down the road. It must be a sight.
Dogs play. I’m going to take a little leap in logic here so stay with me, I’ll bring you back to my point in a moment. I’m considering moving out of the states for this very reason: dogs play. Why does that makes sense to me? Well, Americans work. There’s a line in Eat.Pray.Love from an Italian character who basically says that Americans know how to entertain or pre-occupy themselves, but they don’t know pleasure or basically... how to have fun. We don’t know what real joy is anymore. Everything has to have a purpose. We walk to “lose weight” not to enjoy walking or the journey or the birds singing on the trail or to admire the scenery... We walk to accomplish something. Quite frankly, I don’t even think American kids play for play’s sake anymore. I think we’d be a kinder, happier society if we listened to this lesson from dogs. Play for play’s sake. Do something fun because you just feel like it. Because it makes you joyful. Because you don’t have to “think” about it! Don’t set a timer... “okay, I’ve set aside 10 minutes to play, then back to work.” Do it spontaneously. And when you feel happy, jump up and down, hug someone, laugh even when its inappropriate. Play.
Dogs have heart. When I say heart, it’s actually a mixture of things: love, loyalty & courage. There are countless stories about dogs rescuing their owners and even dogs rescuing other animals. Dogs complete search and rescue missions all the time. And recently, there have been many stories about dogs in Iraq and Afghanistan who have saved the lives of our soldiers. Dogs love with every ounce they have. They can’t help it. They just do. They’ll risk their lives to protect us. Now, I know some readers will be saying something about dogs not having the capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, yada yada yada. They’ll say since they don’t understand they could die, or even understand what death is, that the actions are merely an instinctual reaction to threatening stimuli. I say POOP on that theory. Eloquent, right? If you’ve ever had a dog sit in your lap or on your feet... had one lick your face or bring you their ball... you know, instinct has nothing to do with it. They love because they have the capacity to trust. Another good “dog lesson”. I hope we can live up to it.
And finally, dogs forgive. A book came out a while ago that I think everyone should read. It’s called Oogie. It’s about a gentle pit bull. I know what some of you are thinking, but yes, it’s more likely than not. This soulful dog has a heartbreaking story and is finally a part of a beautiful, loving family. I’m not through the whole book yet, because I have to stop occasionally to cry. Yes, I know! I think the whole country knows about Michael Vick’s shameful and despicable dog fighting with pit bulls. And I think we all know that the problem is much bigger than Michael Vick. But what amazes me about Oogie’s story and the stories of other rescued abused dogs is that they can recover... they can love again. I think it’s a testament to the power of forgiveness. Oogie, who endured unspeakable trauma, both emotional and physical, loves his human family with everything he has. It’s not because he doesn’t know any better. In my opinion, it’s much bigger than that. Oogie had a choice to make. He had only experienced humanity’s cruelty and had no reason to trust another human again. But he didn’t hang onto that fear or that trauma. He forgave. Again, I think some people would say I’m giving way too much credit to dogs. They simply don’t think this hard. And to that I say, HOGWASH! But that’s really sort of my point. Let’s think about it for a minute. If every person you encountered beat you or starved you or tortured you, how easily would trust the next person you meet? If that’s all you knew, wouldn’t your “instinct” be to fear them or hide from them or even lash out at them? If dogs could utilize only their instincts, they simply wouldn’t bound, tail wagging to an unfamiliar person when all of the people up to that point were cruel and hurt them. Something inside of Oogie... a spark of hope, maybe... said this person could be different. And thank goodness, they were. There are times when I think forgiveness is even more powerful than love. I know it’s more powerful than hate. And I’ve seen it first hand. I haven’t met a dog as traumatized as Oogie or another fighting pit bull. But I have conducted midnight rescues of dogs who were terribly abused and I'm always amazed by the look in their eye when they see me. It’s fear and pain, yes, but there's also something else. Hope and love and “will you please help me”.
So, there it is. I love dogs. They are noble and good. They make me laugh and cry, but most of all, they fill my heart with joy and love. I prefer their company to most people and don’t be surprised if when I come to visit you, I sit on the floor with your dog instead of on the couch with you. I’m more comfortable that way. You know, I got a card once that said “May you become the person you’re dog already thinks you are.” Yes, may we all become that person.
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[Throwback Thursday: I'm a few days away from 45 now! 40 was great!]
My 40th birthday was just a few days ago. Here’s the thing... I don’t feel any different AND I feel totally different. But that’s a lot like me. I usually have completely opposing views of... well, everything really.
For instance, I love a good steak, but I hate the fact that it has to come from a living cow... well living at one point anyway. I love the idea of living as a hermit in the woods... kind of like the uni bomber, without the bombing or the crazy part, but I also love high speed internet.
This started me thinking about choices I’ve made. I think a lot of my decisions depended on the person I was at the time the decision was made. I’ve spent a lot of my life being carried away by opportunities that were good, but not exactly what I would have chosen had I really thought about what I wanted.
For instance, I have an Art Degree, but my longest career was in tech support and computer installation. Yep, a computer geek. How did that happen? I’m still asking myself that question. It was a good career, it paid well and I enjoyed it. I learned more lessons than I thought I ever could. But they were all good lessons to learn. And I've had some amazing experiences to boot.
So, the quintessential (I had to look up the spelling for this magnificent word) mid-life question is “How did I get here?” Although I think I’ve made good decisions, and they’ve led to good places, I think they were ultimately safe decisions. In other words, I don’t think I’ve been a power player in my own destiny. Did I just say power player? (Blek!) In fact, it’s a little weird to use power player and destiny in the same sentence... but I guess that proves my multiple personality point.
So, most of the time, I’ve gone where the conventional path has taken me. I think this is part of the reason this milestone of a birthday hit me so hard. The conventional path is never the path my heart or soul wanted to take. Nevertheless, here I am. Now, what do I do? If I think too much about what has to change... what I want to change, it completely paralyzes me. But, if I think about the possibilities... it’s so exciting someone might have to peel me off the ceiling. You see this conventional path has taught me things I would’ve never known if I’d jumped feet first into the art world. The computer jobs brought me to building websites and setting up inventory databases. Working retail taught me about pricing, costing... budgets & operating expenses. Working for a realty company helped me buy my house and my house equity paid off my student loans. And so my life went, one foot in front of the other.
Although there are times when I regretted not becoming a full time bonafide starving artist (a term which I wholeheartedly loathe), I am also grateful that I can make the leap as an older and wiser woman. If I would have leaped first, not knowing what I know now, chances are about 50/50 I would have failed... Actually the odds were probably more like 90/10 in favor of failure. And I have to be honest, failing like that, might have discouraged me from ever trying art as a business again. I don’t think I can ever not make art. It’s biological for me. But I do think I would’ve given up the idea of supporting myself with it.
So, all in all, the path I have haphazardly chosen was really a good one. My conventional jobs have paid for my clay habit and other equipment. All things considered, I would have never been able to afford those things had I not had a good job. And now that I’ve had the time to figure out what I really want, and how to get there, the odds are finally in my favor
So, when you have sleep apnea, like I do, you actually quit breathing while you’re sleeping. That doesn't sound good, right? Breathing is important. How do you know if you have sleep apnea? Well if you're tired all the time, wake up a lot in the middle of the night, have some other issues (sinus inflammation etc.), that will be your first clue. Get yourself to a sleep center for testing.
Let me explain the testing process. You basically go to a sleep center in a clinic or hospital like you'd go to a hotel to spend the night. You get ready for bed and then the nurses wire you up. They connect about 150 wires to your head. They stick them into your hair with what could only be described as a mixture of Neosporin and silly putty. And yes, it’s hard to get out of your hair. You're expected to ‘sleep normally’ while the wires collect the data for your sleep report. Now if anyone thinks you can sleep normally while connected to a box by 150 wires, I’m prone to hyperbole- but I am honestly not exaggerating the this part,you can check!
If it turns out that you have sleep apnea, the doctor will prescribe a machine for you called a CPAP. Okay, now let me explain a CPAP (for those who are unfamiliar). CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, I looked it up! It’s not an oxygen machine, it’s basically a fan with a hose. But here’s the thing... The machine that generates the air connects to a hose which connects to a mask, which connects to a... well, I don’t know how to describe it except that it’s like a horse bridle, but for your head. The harness keeps the mask on your face. Now just take a moment to picture that. You’re expected to sleep with a harness around your head that holds a mask in place and that mask has a plastic hose coming out of it which connects to a little machine that sits on the nightstand and is also plugged into the wall. That sentence almost made me stop breathing! You’re basically tethered to your nightstand. This is difficult for me because I didn’t even have a nightstand before I got the infernal machine. Now, not only do I have one, I’m tethered to it like a horse at a hitching post!
Imagine if you will, trying to sleep on your stomach or trying to roll over... uh, nope! Now think about having to get up in the middle of the night because you can’t remember if you locked the front door or you have to go potty? Yes, I said potty, don’t make fun.
Now for the Star Trek portion of our show. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there's an alien race called the Borg. The Borg are a species of aliens that are basically part human and part machine... Kind of like Zombie Robots without the “I eat brains” attitude. They're also very smart... another unzombie-like quality. The zombie-ness is because they blindly follow one directive, no thinking, just doing: "MAKE MORE BORG" because evidently "resistance is futile". To “sleep” or regenerate as Trekkies would say, they plug themselves into a port using a cable that is embedded/attached/growing... who knows... out of the back of their heads. Is this sounding familiar to anyone? Can you say CPAP?.
So the other night, I woke up with this sinking feeling that I had left the front door unlocked. Without thinking, because I was ASLEEP, I jumped up with my mask-connected to the hose-connected to the machine-sitting on the nightstand-plugged into the wall. Well, this didn’t go so well. The tether pulled me back down into my seat, still half asleep and trying to figure out how to extract myself from my contraption. The easiest thing to do was to leave the mask on, but unhook the hose from it. Here’s the thing... I also wear glasses, which of course are not worn while you sleep, especially if you already have a bridled mask with a hose on your face! Let’s just say, I got the genetic short end of the stick. Add to that, I can see clearly only about five inches in front of my face. So, in the dark, sporting my fancy schmancy CPAP mask, blind as a bat, half awake, I go stumbling for the front door. Big surprise, I tripped on a dog toy and went hurdling toward the concrete walls. Yes, my house is made of concrete including the interior walls. Long story... Suffice it to say in case of tornado, COME ON OVER! So you can understand that if I’d hit the wall with full force, I’d probably have a concussion or worse... Luckily my reflexes kicked in. Probably the only thing unaffected by my shallow gene pool. I instinctively put my hands up and stopped the trajectory. Phew!
By the time I got successfully to the front door, which is approximately 40 feet from my actual bed, I had been up for about 30 minutes. At this point, some internal sensor on the CPAP realized it wasn’t turned off but also that I wasn’t connected to it anymore, so it started beeping. Still in a ‘not quite awake’ haze, I stumbled, arms forward like Frankenstein (technically Frankenstein’s monster because Frankenstein was actually the doctor’s name) more successfully back to my bedroom where I promptly and unsuccessfully tried to turn off the alarm clock. Now, I don’t know about you, but when you’re half asleep, you’ve had a near death experience, you can’t see and you're unable to turn off a shrieking machine, waking up is the only option. Resistance is futile!
Oh, and I had locked the door...
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So, I've recently had to come to terms with the fact that I don't 'fit in'. Although it's something I've dealt with all my life, my mid-life crisis is changing my attitude about it... and in a good way! No longer am I trying to fit in, but instead I am embracing who I am. It really hit me the other day during a business meeting. As I was sitting with people who were talking about driving to kid's baseball games, watching sports and sending kids to college, I realized that I was the odd man, I mean woman, out. I do my best to understand their perspective and share conversation, but for the most part, my life & my attitudes are very very different from theirs.
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For instance, I believe in unicorns... and fairies and angels. Basically I believe in almost anything that sounds absolutely impossible. This sounds a little bit like my 'second childhood' has pushed me over the edge of sanity, right? But I'm as sane as the next person. I just choose to believe that magic is real. Why? Because it's a beautiful idea, isn't it? It's beautiful to think that something miraculous exists beyond us. It's also a great source of inspiration.
Let me tell you how I got here. As an artist, I've always been blessed with a wild imagination. I was an only child and from the time I was a little girl I daydreamed about fantastical characters and alternate universes. I particularly believed in wizards and unicorns, gnomes & fairies, elves & dragons. Sounds like the makings for the ultimate fantasy geek, right? Well, I don't actually attend Comicon, but I do think it would be fun.
Here's the thing. I didn't live in a house where my parents read me bedtime stories. In fact, it was just my mom & I unless I was staying with my grandparents, and none of them read to me. In fact, I can't remember one instance of anyone reading to me. I didn't have any early reader books. The first memory I have of someone reading to me was my second grade teacher, and he was really good at it. It's probably the reason why I love listening to audiobooks now. It's my indulgence. Some women like pedicures... I like a great audiobook read by someone who is really good at it.
So, I have to wonder where these imagined characters came from. If I didn't have any knowledge of fairy tales, how could I just know about fairies? I don't know the answer to that. But I do vividly remember moments where I knew it was true. For instance, I used to play at my grandparent's hobby farm. There was a shallow ditch running across the pasture and I loved to sit in the ditch and watch what passed by. There were dragonflies, snails & earthworms, crickets and birds, a plethora of tiny creatures that most people didn't notice at all. I would build boats for the snails out of milk weed pods complete with leafy sails and set them on their course. Looking back, I sure hope they made it safely to wherever I sent them. But I had a clear picture in my head of all of them communicating with each other, assisted by tiny fairies when they got in trouble and off to lands where they could see dragons and ride unicorns.
That imagination is alive and well today. Thank goodness. It's always been there, but it sort of woke back up when I started reading the Harry Potter stories a few years ago. What a magical and wondrous book! A friend recently said that J.K. Rowling was divinely inspired. She suggested that there was real magic happening in the writing of that story. She's a friend who believes as well, thank goodness for her. And I agree.
Artists and Art Historians have talked for centuries about divine inspiration. People accept the term without really thinking about it. But I'm here to tell you, it's absolutely true. I've feltit. There are moments in my studio, whether I am drawing or throwing pots, that I forget myself... even forget what I am doing and just work. It's not like I'm possessed or anything dark like that. It's a sort of stepping outside of myself. It's like I can understand the clay, or the pencil. Like the medium just works itself. I can tell when it's not happening and during those times it almost always pays to get out of the studio. In the inspired moments, the magical moments, the ideas create themselves. The forms create themselves. I am just tool in this. But I am always fascinated by it. And I always thank the fairies when the project is complete, because I truly believe they were in the room.
So there you go. I believe in fairies & other crazy things. So be it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to replace my DVD player so I can watch Lord of the Rings tonight. ;)
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