Happy Valentine’s Day, lovely Friends!
Sending you so much love in whatever forms you need it most ♡ Just so you know… Longer read this month. Quality time is one of my favorite love languages, which is what it felt like to pen this letter. To me nothing compares to community and connection, and sharing with you is a joy. I also want to let you know how joyful it is to hear back from the many of you who write me back. You’re all so lovely and deserving of connection, and I wish that for all of you this V-day.
That said: if you’re in a rush, toggle down for the monthly playlist and other goodies, including a link to a V-Day discount on all of my v e s s e l paintings that goes through the end of Feb ♡ They are, as you might remember, works created specifically to ignite, protect, and inspire your most significant inner gifts, changes, and power. Consider what it might be like to bring something like this into your space to remind you of these parts of yourself everyday. Or to gift to a friend who needs some reminding too ♡
And for those who want to hang out for a sec and enjoy some QT, here are my thoughts right now on one of the most fiercely persistent lovers we court within and outside of ourselves on the daily. It's one that I'm becoming better acquainted with as I try to hang on while life continues to throw speed bumps in my direct path of motion. Here we go, the Universe seems to say, winking. I don't always find this charming. I don't always find growth right away. Sometimes the speed bumps feel like a goddamn earthquake. Hang on, Life seems to say. And more often than not this past month I've had to ask in return, To what?
Many spiritual teachers and practices talk about the still center within us. Anyone who’s dipped a toe into the wellness industry's many waters has probably encountered this and even benefitted from the practice of “dropping in” to this still center. It’s not not there. It’s not not true. And yet there is an element of the still center that many of us miss, which is the fact that while we do possess this pure space of inner knowing – what some call our Higher Self or our Essential Self – this “self” is not a stagnant singular entity or force. That central self or space we look to in times of stress or uncertainty is a moving target. Multidimensional. Like a multifaceted crystal spinning in the window, it begets many dimensions and perspectives. This central Self is always a little different. Its only true constant is its power of transformation.
When I was diagnosed with cancer last year, my entire concept of myself and my life changed overnight. I was no longer the same person and would never again be the person I was before this happened. And this brand of cataclysmic change did not stop there. It has followed me doggedly into 2023, and I’ve circled around yet again to the realization (that like most of us, I still forget on the regular):
The more I attach myself to a certain version of myself, a certain way of being in this world, a certain set of outer circumstances... the more disappointed I become. The less agile. The less able to ride the waves that perhaps the most powerful and definitely the most constant force we know throws at us whenever and however it wants.
It changes you. And the sunny side of myself wants to chirp: With every moment we change, we open to something new!
But we also lose so much.
Sometimes it feels like a swift motion of perpetual heartbreak alongside our perpetual renewal. It's a lot to hold all at the same time... All the time. This is why it's easier not to think about it, really.
Sometimes, however, this isn't one of the choices.
Last year I lost the self that was unafraid of dying young. I lost the part of me that could tell my children, blindly, blithely, I will never leave them (despite the fallacy of this statement, given the ultimate uncertainty of all of our lives). I know now with certainty I cannot peddle this soothing fallacy anymore. And this is a new painful spot I must carry with acute awareness.
Last year I also lost a beloved home for a project I've been working on passionately for a number of years, and planning for over a decade. CA+MP, the artist residency program I started at the Upper Jay Art Center, was discontinued when the artistic leadership at the organization turned over in the fall. It was a shock and a terrible loss for me, and I deeply mourned all the many years of dreaming and hard work that went into making this dream a reality. We had just received an NEA grant for the program during a particularly competitive year (as those things go), and were entering year 3 of a fully operational program. Then poof. It happened quickly and was out of my control. I am still grieving that loss.
Fast forward to our newly minted 2023. Despite the hardships of 2022 I entered the year with a full-steam-ahead attitude, slowly shifting out of deep chemo-land and returning to my work, my creative projects, my people, and my life. I have been aching to get out of bed and rejoin the world. And I was doing it. I called people. I emailed. I connected, picked up jobs, organized my studio, put out feelers for the next iteration of CA+MP (I am not letting this one die, people!), and placed my foot once more on the gas. I entered one of my v e s s e l works in a show run by a local artistic collective, New Systems Exhibitions, and in doing such was inspired to pop into the first community art event I’ve been to in about 8 months. I felt present again. Both seeing and seen.
Things seemed to have turned a corner from the sadness of 2022 at this point, when, mid-month, while out on my daily promenade – because, fun fact, walking a mere 30 minutes a day cuts your cancer recurrence chances by a whopping FORTY PERCENT, thank you very much – I had the good fortune to slip suddenly off of a log during an ice storm (I know), which sent me careening headlong into a gully where my arm effectively bent the wrong way at the elbow, instantly dislocating the joint and shattering the end of one of my long bones. Picture this: A woman who is beating cancer (we hope) somehow continues to endure her way through month six of painful chemotherapy, gathers her inner strength to get out there to do her daily anti-recurrence walks, all the while shouldering the grief of a year of so much loss and... wham.
Face down in the gully, ice pellets slamming against her face from above.
It felt like some kind of cosmic joke.
The moment it happened I separated from my body. The still center would not hold. And like a balloon I floated up above myself, quietly observing the pain and grief on the forest floor below.
Somehow, disassociated, I made my body get up. I found my way back to my house, found a way to the ER. Found my way through a few days of hellish appointments as we decided if it was safe for me to have a risky surgery on the arm, which the "me" below eventually chose to do. And which also meant they sawed off part of my body and replaced it with what looks like a metal golf tee.
In the days that followed I was in and out of the hospital due to bad reactions to the anesthesia and it felt like all the work and effort I’d put into hanging on, still believing, still grabbing for that still center of strength in order to get through the ongoing onslaught was upended. All for naught. What was the point when the trauma just kept coming. “Lost part of your arm,” they told me. “Your lymphedema risk is now very high,” they told me. “Unlikely to regain full mobility or usage of your arm,” they told me. This kind of change was too much. I peaced out.
As many of you probably know, dissociation is a common coping mechanism for anyone undergoing trauma. Some people dissociate on the regular and don’t even know it. I think I’ve done that my whole life, and just chalked it up to having a strong imagination. This time felt different than the other times, though. I was scared. I kept wondering when – and more importantly, if – I would reattach to myself. I couldn’t find anything to connect to. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t answer the calls from friends or family, asking if I was okay after my fall. I didn’t want to read a book, watch a show, scroll Instagram. I felt dead inside, and there was possibly no way back to the living.
The feeling of loss I experienced when I fell off that log was not just hard. It was, for a distinct period of time, unbearable. And yet. It offered in stark reality, right before my eyes, potent information that I suppose I needed to not look away from this go round.
We can and we do lose everything around us. At some point we all lose our bodies as we age and eventually pass on. We lose people along the way. We lose work. We lose ability in varying degrees. Change taketh away, oh how surely it does. Yet what is left in that empty space where what we had used to be? The tide does not exist without the shore. The tide does not exist without the shore. I said this over and over to myself while I struggled to reconnect to a still center. Any center. A moving target center, even. I would be okay with that.
The answer came a few weeks after the accident when I allowed myself to wonder about the shore. It’s not a stagnant place I know, that I’ve been before. We go through shit and we change. And if we can realize that where we return to, or in this case, where we reconnect to, is a new place altogether, then reconnection becomes possible. I could not get back into my body because I wanted it to be the same body. I wanted to be someone who could do a cartwheel without thinking twice about it. Now, I wasn’t able to put toothpaste on my toothbrush. This was a new me, and until I became curious about that person, I would never find my way back.
So, Friends, what's my point here. Is there one? Why am I sharing this story? Why am I talking about art and broken bones and change and loss and dissociation and reconnection?
I suppose different people have different reasons for what they do. Mine is pretty simple. If there is any way to make us feel any less alone in this big messy circuitous ride called Life, that is what I want to do. That is what art does. That is what stories do. That is what connection is for. My art and my stories, like yours, are merely reflections of larger cosmic mythologies that touch us all in some way shape or form. I share them mostly as a mirror in case even one of you finds yourself somewhere in the reflection and feels a little less pain, a little less hopeless, a little less alone on the trail, broken, lying in a gully and wondering what to do now.
Below you’ll find your monthly playlist, as usual, which is actually kind of unusual this month in that it's wholly without words. That’s right. I made this one as a dreaming space... a place to let your mind wander. Circling loss. Circling discovery. Circling new horizons. Circling change. We don’t need all the answers. We just need a little space to become reacquainted with the shifting and still center inside us, and the wild and wonderful and terrible and beautiful circumstances swirling around us. I use this music when I'm writing or creating or just thinking. It's a portal to the place only you can access, the deepest source of your own transformation. Give it a try. Throw it into your headphones. I promise something interesting will come up.
You’ll also find a link to my remaining v e s s e l paintings, which as I already said, are going to be 15% off for the rest of the month. Go check them out if you feel the tug. As you can tell from the pics above, they look pretty dope on the wall ♡
+ a series of sounds that fall and rise + messages from within + swirling between the still and shifting center, seek and ye shall find + space and more space + the writing mind ♡♡♡
Use discount code ONEBEAUTIFULLIFE to get 15% your very own v e s s e l work. Each one was created to bless your everyday spaces with its own signature sigil, a powerful symbol packed with inspiration, protection, and energetic modulation towards your deepest desires. Show yourself – or someone you care about – some love and check these out this month. Discount runs through Feb 28th! 15% of the sale price continues to go to Family Reach, a non-profit helping families cope with the costs of cancer care.
I've realized through talking to a number of people both during and after CA+MP's tenure at the Upper Jay Art Center – which was such a true pleasure, by the way – that there are lots of people in my community and network who are interested in artist residencies in some way shape or form. Whether you're a fellow artist or arts organizer, or perhaps are someone with a space that might lend itself to an artist residency and you've been dreaming of doing something like that but aren't quite sure how to make it happen, I'm using this season to connect with others and brainstorm about the next landing place for this special program.
Please reach out if you're interested in chatting about possibilities, or if you have ideas about potential collaborations with spaces, groups, or individuals. Find out more about what's been done already HERE, or email me to get the conversation rolling ♡♡♡
Go forth and embrace the change, courageous ones.
'Til next time,