Saturday, November 23, 2013

Enoughness

For the second time this year, yesterday I jettisoned plans to be out of town for a few days.  This time it would have been San Francisco in early January.  Last time it was Eugene, Oregon in October of this year.

Sometimes I get excited about the possibility of going somewhere, to an art retreat or visiting a place I haven't been in eons, and I'll actually make plans and reservations.  But as the event gets closer, I begin to find reasons not to go...and I'll cancel.  The reasons are always valid, even though I still could go if I wanted to.  But the bottom line is that I realize that I don't really want to do these things as much as I thought I might, at first.  It's really not that important to me at the end of the day.

See, the thing is, there really isn't anywhere I want or need to go.  There isn't anything I want or need to have badly enough to travel anywhere to get it ~ no thing, no experience, no bucket list.  I'd much rather be home, in my cozy nest, with my cat and my art supplies, my comfy bed, my daily round.

I think this is about having a lack of desire.  Not as a lack of passion, but as an absence of that sense of grasping at or striving to have anything other than what I already do have.  My internal critic wants to make this a bad thing, like I'm not participating enough in life...but I won't let it.  It's a good thing, to be satisfied, to feel fulfilled, to have nothing I have to have, nothing I'm highly desirous of enough to impel myself to try to get it.

I think this is an enlightened place to be.  I'm not claiming to be enlightened per se, but I'm happy to be in this place.  It's a blessing, to feel that you have enough.  If I ever do want something badly enough, then I'll get it.  Otherwise, I'm grateful to exist in this place of enoughness, where life is the way it is and I'm comfortable with it. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bearing Witness

This post has been germinating for a while now.  Time and time again I get riled up and then the feelings will dissipate.  Usually it's late at night when things eat at me, but then in the light of day I can let them go again.

It's the state of the world these days that gets me down, sometimes depressingly so.  I realized not long ago that I've been carrying this huge expectation that the world should be more adult, more conscious, more politically correct, ad infinitum.  This is the 21st century, after all, not the Dark Ages...or at least that's what I thought.

And yet in truth, the world is a barbaric place, and 2000 years of so-called socialization hasn't yet civilized us. 

Nearly everything on the planet is vastly out of kilter.  The dawning of the Age of Aquarius was supposed to happen 40 years ago and it still hasn't.  Everything that we fought for in the 1960s politically, culturally and socially has been ravaged again by the egregious powers that be in this country now.

Sometimes it is so unbearably hard to keep my heart open and witness the devastation of everything -- the planet, the animals, the food supply, the land, the air, the oceans, the social safety net, the economy, the middle class, education -- it never ends.  And it's not just in this country, of course.  There is nothing that isn't being negatively affected by the greed and lust for power that run the world.  I just cannot get my mind around how those people think.

What I feel so often must be what it is to be a conscious world citizen in the early 21st century ~ simply aghast at what's going on, overwhelmed by nearly everything I see/hear/read about (which is the tiniest tip of the iceberg), morally assaulted by our sociocultural reality, and rendered speechless much of the time. 

I know the lesson here, the practice if you will, is to simply bear witness to the madness and not be attached to it...because there's truly nothing I can do to change things (besides signing petitions ad nauseum).  It's just so difficult sometimes to stay focused on making art and bringing joy to myself and to the world, because my heart aches so much of the time.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Priceless

In 1975, shortly after my Grandma Sara (my dad's mom) passed away, Grandpa Benny (my dad's dad) gave me some of her jewelry.  They'd lived in New York for decades, and he was on what would be his farewell trip to Los Angeles.  I loved these grandparents, I felt closer to them than anyone else in my small family with no aunts, uncles or cousins.

Grandma Sara's jewelry was too "good" for me at the time ~ meaning I wasn't into gold charms, diamonds, etc. in those days.  So I gave the pieces to my mother to hold for me until I got older and could appreciate them.

One of those pieces was a diamond heart-shaped pendant of white gold.  An outline of a heart with diamonds making up the outline.  Definitely not my style at the time.  My narcissistic mother had it made into a garish ring for herself.  I remember seeing the ring on her finger sometime later that year or the next and feeling a tiny thud in my stomach.  One didn't question my mother about things she did, but I might have said something, and if I did, she would have replied something like, "You didn't want it but I did."  It hadn't been a gift to her.  So much for safekeeping.  I also never saw the other pieces again.

Over the years I forgot all about the pendant/ring.  But it resurfaced recently, in a small cache of my mother's jewelry that my stepsister had taken from her and put aside at a time when most other valuables were slowly being stolen from my mother's room in the facility she lived in during the last ten years of her life.  My sister sent a list of items to me, my brother and stepbrother prior to getting the jewelry appraised for sale, to see if any of us wanted any of it.  You bet I did!  I had no interest in anything else except the diamond heart, now a ring, that was originally gifted to me.

Early last week I received the ring in the mail from my stepsister, promptly took it to the local jeweler to have it returned to its status as a pendant, and am now wearing it around my neck. 

It might be hard for you to believe, but this diamond heart and my Grandpa Benny's heavy gold watch chain are the only things I have from anyone in my family.  They are my heirlooms.  Two precious items from my favorite grandparents. 

Grasping the heart in my hand, remembering seeing it around Grandma Sara's neck so many times long ago, gives me a special feeling in my heart that I'm not even sure what to call, because it's a new feeling to me.  Sadness, joy, a sense of great loss, a sense of connection over time, a sense of my own aging and eventual passing out of this life.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Dust in the Wind

This year is already seeming to be about closure -- things from the past finally coming to completion to open the way to the future for me.

Earlier this month I had an email from my second ex-husband whom I'd had no contact with for over 25 years, someone I did not want to hear from.  I didn't respond, hoping he would just go away...but he didn't, he emailed me again a few days later.  That time I did let him know, clearly, that I had absolutely no desire to see him or talk to him, ever, and asked him to not contact me again.  He was a self-styled con artist -- I'm sure he was coming back around to see if he could scam me again in one way or another.

Yesterday I learned that my mother died earlier this month, five days shy of her 91st birthday.  I hadn't had any contact with her in 10 years.  I'm not sorry she's gone, I wish it had happened sooner.  Nevertheless I feel relieved, freed up to live the rest of my life without the pallor of her insanity hanging over me.

The huge surprise is that I will be getting a bit of a nest egg to assuage my lifelong pain and suffering -- my stepfather had apparently set up a trust for the four of us kids (me, my brother and our two step sibs) of which I was completely unaware.  I really did not expect this, I was sure I'd been written out of the will long ago -- and if my mother had had her way, I'm sure I would have been, she was always vindictive among her numerous other character defects.  But my stepfather had been an ally, until the stroke he had in 1980 eventually left him incapacitated and wholly dependent upon my mother.

The prospect of having a little money is not going to change anything for me or my way of life.  If anything, these last 43 lean years have taught me how to get by on virtually nothing and how to be happy with that.  I actually like it this way, life is a whole lot simpler without anything extraneous.  The only thing I will do with some certainty is make another trip to Italy sometime in the distant future (after BeeGee) and stay for one to six months.  Otherwise, I'm just going to breathe a little more easily knowing I have something to fall back on if anything else big comes along that I want to do.  I am not going to piss away my "small fortune" on meaningless stuff.  My income is still at the poverty level and that isn't going to change.  The amount of my coming nest egg could be gone in a hot minute if not treated with great respect.

I don't have a wish list of stuff I want, and anything I need I already manage to work into my monthly spending budget.  I have no intention of moving, even though Rose Cottage is smaller than I'd prefer.  I like my independence where I am, I like my neighbors, it's quiet and safe, the rent is affordable on my meager social security income -- and I don't want to change any of that...until the time comes that I have to, for one reason or another.

So, in general life will be no different for me with a small amount of financial breathing room.  But since I'd already come to the place where I know I'd be okay for the duration of my life even without a windfall, perhaps now I can open the door just a bit and dust off a dream or two.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Karmic Chameleon

I've been thinking about karma recently, since I learned of a book called "...to be continued..." by Karen Berg -- its subtitle is "reincarnation and the purpose of your life."  I won't buy the book ~ I can't afford it ~ but I got the gist so I don't need to.

Although I'm not sure how I feel about the word reincarnation, I do believe at some level that we humans come into this manifestation with specific lessons our individual souls need to learn.

If this weren't so, then everybody would have the same experiences in life.  And how else can you explain bad people having good things happen to them or being gifted with tons of money...or good people repeatedly having bad things happen to them...or people starving and suffering brutality in many parts of the world...

Each of us has something to work out, some major theme (or themes) to work with in this life.  For me, the big one is being poor.  I've just gotten this, in my gut.  I've spent years kicking and screaming and railing against this reality, to no avail.  In a larger sense I am in a grief process -- grieving for my life turning out the way it has, grieving for the reality of my situation.  I know I've been in a many-years-long phase of denial until recently.  I just haven't wanted to admit the truth.  And I keep alternating between anger and depression lately, on my way to eventual acceptance.  I'm not there yet, though.

I think if my family had been poor, then I wouldn't be having so much difficulty with this.  But they weren't.  They weren't really rich, but they certainly weren't poor.  And they flaunted what they had -- except when it came to me.  My mother was stingy with me in both support and spirit.

I lived with some fantasy of trickle down, which never manifested.  I was never guided helpfully and instructively in seeing that I had to make choices that would enable me to take care of myself.  I was naive for a very long time.  This is one of my major failings in life.  I didn't see the writing on the wall.  I glommed onto some magical thinking that everything would work itself out -- the right partner, the right job, the right location.

And because I never had any help -- neither financial help nor, again, helpful, instructive guidance -- I just kept falling farther and farther behind...until here I am today.

So I'm looking at this more and more as a karmic thing.  Not the concept of karma as repayment for erroneous things I did earlier in this life or even in past lives.  But karma as, This is my life's work, my life path ~ accepting this life as a poor person and learning to be gracious about it.

This is so hard for me...because everywhere around me I see people I know and people I don't know who do not appear to be having any problems financially, who buy what they want when they want it, who travel extensively with absolutely no thought about what it costs, who's larders are stocked to the gills, who eat out frequently, go to cultural events, buy art, etc. etc. etc.  Even right here in rural Humboldt County, people who are in my wider circle of acquaintances who are not rich by typical standards -- but who have the resources to respond to life. 

So it is being excruciatingly difficult for me to feel as though I am a part of life, seeing as I cannot afford to participate in it...and for me to feel anything but a second- or third-class citizen.  I know my ego is intricately wrapped up in this, that I take it personally.  I'm not sure how not to take it personally, as though it is due to some intrinsic lack of mine, or a lifetime of nothing but bad decisions.

Underneath the outer me, I am a soul in manifestation as a human working this thing out of being a conscious, creative person in a bubble of poverty swimming in a sea of financial ease that I am apparently immune to.  And my karma, it seems, is to embrace it just the way it is.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Demographic of One

A note to readers ~ Thanks for reading this personal blog, your comments are always appreciated.  Those of you who do comment I consider dear friends, even though I've never met you in person and likely never will. 

In response to comments on my last post, and previous ones as well, let me say that I am never looking for answers or suggestions when I describe the deeper realities of my life.  More, I'm using the blog as a vehicle to express to the world what's so for me, how it is, the "this is it" of my life.

More specific to last Saturday's post, please know that I am not isolated, I'm not deeply depressed or sad.  I do spend quality time occasionally with various friends and it's frequently at my suggestion.  And I'm not fishing for invitations to holiday events.  The reality is, I prefer to be alone.  One doesn't spend as much time alone as I have in my life without having cultivated a preference for it, for all the reasons you can imagine.  But that does not negate the fact that I AM alone in the world, without family or a close-knit circle of friends.  And that's just what's so.

I also have limitations on what I'm able to do, insofar as doing things with others goes.  And this segues to today's post, my realization that I am a demographic of one.

I live at the poverty level.  Actually I think my annual income, which is entirely from Social Security, is about $500 more than the government's stated poverty level.  Like that makes a difference.  I have come to this place in life with only a tiny amount (read: under $4000) in savings.  I won't use any of that money for month to month living expenses because I have NO way to recoup it.  It's there for a major emergency -- like work on my car if it needs it, moving expenses if I ever have to move again, vet expenses for BeeGee if something happens to him.

After rent (which includes utilities, and which increases annually), my monthly stipend leaves me $500.  That has to cover phone/internet, gas, food (I only get $16 a month in food stamps), semi-annual auto insurance (the cheapest insurance in CA for this good, never-had-an-accident, senior driver who only drives 3500 miles annually is $460 a year), cat food and supplies, computer supplies (printer cartridges and annual virus protection), art supplies (what few things I buy anymore), the occasional art book I purchase, household and personal care supplies.  I have nothing left over at the end of the month.  Or if I do, it's because I've put off buying things I need until the next month.  

I also don't have (and wouldn't, if I could) any of the supposed conveniences of modern living ~ TV, cable or satellite, cellphone, iPad, iPod, et al.  The only publication I subscribe to is a Buddhist magazine.  I can hardly even afford to rent a movie once in a while, or I won't until the end of my income-month (which is mid- calendar month).  I don't have or do anything that is extraneous to basic living.

I live in a tiny 2-room apartment that is under 300 square feet.  It also serves as my studio.  I have no kitchen table and no bedroom.  I eat most meals sitting cross-legged on the couch; my bed is a folding foam mattress that I make up in the living room/front room each night after I've moved the ottoman out of the way.

I have no medical insurance.  In 15 months I'll qualify for MediCare.  If you're in the States, you know the free MediCare only covers hospitalization.  I'm hoping I'll qualify for Medicaid (California's MediCal program) for MediCare Part B, which covers doctor visits etc.  But still, and Thank God, I am in excellent health save a few aches and pains, and I almost never go to the doctor, and anyway I go to the community clinic or see the chiropractor...and I never take drugs.

So, about being that demographic ~ personally, I know no one who's situation is like mine.  I am unique among everyone I know, both online and in the flesh.  Nothing/no one behind me, nothing below me (except for the amorphous and almost non-existent social safety net in this country), little to live on...but also, nothing to speak of required of me these days, which is a blessing. 

I don't engage in idle fantasies of travel or money, nor do I have dreams or magical thinking or flights of fancy about all the things I wish/hope life will bestow upon me.  Because that's all bullshit.  Some of us are destined to get to a place in life where what we have is what we have.  And thinking differently isn't going to make anything different.

The only thing to do is embrace reality.  Which I do, and which I'm always in the process of doing even more successfully. 

So, not only am I a demographic of one, I am also a folk hero in my own life.  Living as well as I can given my circumstances, which include certain limitations on the physical plane.  I also have gifts for which I am bountifully grateful ~ excellent health, a strong spirit, a liberal, open mind.  And everything, intrinsically, for me to be happy.  Which I am.

If you'd like to make a "donation" to help this near-starving artist, I've got a great collection of Art Quilts available on my Sales Blog.  In return for your "donation," you'll get a unique piece of art.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

All But Forgotten

The holidays have become a rather dicey time of year for me.  They are for a lot of people, I know, for a variety of reasons.

In the 25 years that I've been solo, I've probably spent 90 percent of my holidays alone ~ meaning on my own on Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. 

To a large extent I've gotten used to it.  But I've noticed that as I've aged, it has been getting more difficult.  It's the "not being an integral part of a circle of family or friends" that has become so painful for me.  This is hard for me to admit, but it has become obvious to me that my presence is simply not sought out by anyone, not even people I consider my closest friends right here where I live.  If I want to be someplace for the holidays, I have to invite myself.

Years of petitioning to be included in groups or activities -- and not just for the holidays -- have left me virtually unable to do so any longer.  The pain of not belonging is so great and so deep.  I hate being the third wheel.  I hate being an add-on.  I hate that I'm not thought of as someone to include in others' festivities.  This is such a replay of my being cast out as "other" by my family that it is immensely depressing.  Not only was I ostracized from my family, I was replaced in my mother's limited affection and positive regard by my step sister.  I became the step sister, the interloper, the one on the other side of the window looking in, the one who never got one iota of financial or emotional support, the one who's needs and concerns were never considered, let alone met or addressed.

I've never really fit in anywhere, with any group of people.  I've always felt like a stranger.  I am not someone that people think of to invite or ask to be a part of.  You have no idea how sad this makes me feel.  And believe me, I have devoted extensive time, energy, creativity and personal resources on countless individuals and groups over the years where there was some possibility of connection between me and them.  If seeming bonds did develop, they subsequently weren't real and deep and didn't last; mostly, though, it just never happened at all, despite my effort and good will.

While it is true that each of us dies alone, I never in my life thought I would end up spending nine tenths of my life completely alone, on my own, unaffiliated with family or a count-onable group of friends, with no support other than what I've been able to scrape together to meet my basic needs in life, with no help through life's most difficult moments, all of which I have negotiated on my own.  With essentially no one to depend on for much of anything except occasionally listening, when reality has become too much for me to bear.

It's like life forgot about me.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Well Enough, and Leaving It Alone

I got bionic ears recently ~ aka hearing aids.  Fortunately I was able to get them at a huge discount because I'm low income, and I got a pair that had been reengineered or refurbished.  Brand new hearing aids cost upwards of $1000 each these days, if you're not aware of that.

I was on the fence for a long time, because I spend 95 percent of my time alone.  But decided to go for it back in May when I attended a meeting where it was difficult for me to hear.  The truth is, it was difficult for me to hear for many years when I was working and regularly attending meetings (and consequently I probably missed 50 percent of what was said ~ I got quite good at filling in the gaps on context).  But as seldom as I go to meetings these days (and now it is art workshops or similar gatherings, not boring work-related meetings), I do want to hear what's going on.

So I got the hearing aids, and picked them up just last week.  I have another appointment with the audiologist to fine tune the settings, something that has to be done by computer.  The right one is SO loud, even turned down as far as I can get it to go, that I can't wear it.  Standing by the sink and running the water sounds like I'm next to Niagara Falls. The left one works fine.  I've been wearing it some, when I remember, and it has helped in face to face conversations...but it does give me a bit of a headache.

I plan to wear them in specific situations (gatherings, conversations, movies), but not all the time.  Other than the rain and birdsong, some of which I already hear to some degree, there really isn't anything in the aural environment that I feel I'm missing.  And because there are only certain ranges of sound that I miss, I'm not what you'd call deaf.  There's a lot that I hear well that I'd just as soon not.

I've also become quite comfortable in the aural cave I live in.  Makes me wonder how much of my hearing loss is a physical phenomenon versus a psychological one.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Did You Miss Me?

Please pardon my absence.  I'll be back when I have something relevant to say.

Hope you're having a lovely season, wherever you are.

xo