wee hours of the morning…

Cecropia moth eggs!

4am. I awake to the dog whimpering. This has become a regular nightly affair as of late, starting with his body shifting in his crate in a way that says “I’m here and I’m uncomfortable,” followed by a couple of high-pitched squeaks that eventually become louder and meatier. “No Stanley,” I grumble into the darkness. I know he wants to go out and eat some grass. After a frustrated grunt, he quiets down, as if he can hear in my voice that I’m on the edge of something. I roll over and try to sink back into sleep, but then I feel that ever so subtle sting in my bladder. I’m afraid to get up for fear of instigating more whimpers, so I wait a few minutes, until the weight in my lower abdomen feels like an utter about to burst with milk. I tiptoe into the bathroom and do my business, imagining myself to be invisible and praying the dog will remain settled. When I slip back into bed, Deena has stretched her limbs over to my side, her bony knee protruding sharply into my thigh. I give her a gentle nudge and with a sleepy moan, she pulls away. Even in her sleep, she knows the drill. I reach for the comfort of my stuffed animal and roll over to face her. Yes, if you must know, I’m a 52-year-old woman who sleeps with a shabby, flat dog that looks as filthy and worn as the stuffed animals I slept with as a child, bearing that slightly sour smell of safety. 

I close my eyes and begin to match my breathing to the hiss going in and out of Deena’s c-pap machine. I listen to the fake ocean waves that can be heard twenty-four hours a day in our bedroom from one of those machines that are supposed to drown out noise, whether it’s distant sirens, or a howling wind that sounds as if it’s going to snatch our home from the earth like Dorothy’s in The Wizard of Oz, or the way-to-early fourth-of –July-ers and their fireworks. I tune into a steady snore coming from Juniper, our other dog, who like Deena, can sleep through just about everything. I am hoping that these rhythms will rock me back to sleep. 

And then the thoughts begin to trickle in, gently at first, but persistent none the less. I try to pretend they’re not there, try to camouflage them with fluffy pink clouds moving by like I sometimes do when I’m meditating, and when that doesn’t work, I focus my attention on memories of swimming in the sea with wild dolphins. But before I know it, the trickle grows into a flash flood, and I can no longer keep my eyes closed. I stare wide-eyed into the blackness— I’m sure if someone could see me, I’d look like a deer paralyzed by headlights, both curious and terrified. 

What are we going to do? 

These words take over everything. They encompass the fact that Roe v. Wade was overturned roughly 72 hours ago by the Supreme Court, making it clear to women like myself that we have no voice, no choice, no power, no value.

What are we going to do?

My thoughts wander into knowing that my marriage to the beautiful woman lying next to me is next on the straight, white, Christian men’s chopping block. It doesn’t matter that we’ve been devoted to one another for going on twenty-five years and have two grown children. It doesn’t matter just how much we love and adore one another. The fact is, our relationship will be violated by rich men in business suits, and the hundreds of dollars we once spent on wills and powers of attorney and co-adoptions to buy a fraction of the same protection and dignity that straight couples automatically have will once again become more than precautions. 

What are going to do?

The roar of thoughts then turn to my aging parents and a recent situation that has me questioning if I will see them again before they move onto the next life, for it feels as though they’ve got their bags packed and ready to go, and I can’t lie, the little girl in me feels abandoned, and at the same time, I can’t pretend that if I were their age, I wouldn’t be eager to get on the next bus out of this messy world. 

What are we going to do?

My thoughts spiral into the fact that more than half of our income is suddenly disappearing, and my belly fills with acid and embarrassment, knowing that no other 52-year-old is supported by their parents like this. I know I’ve taken it for granted at times, and now my fearful, muddled, shame-ridden parts can no longer see the difference between spoiled and blessed, between gratitude and regret, between generosity and control. It doesn’t help that we just signed a three-year lease and our rent has gone up. It doesn’t help that I was a stay-at-home mom and then built a business from the ground up that crumbled due to Lyme disease and that I am still haunted by flares each time I find myself under an inkling of stress. It doesn’t matter that I chose to combine my own healing with that of my struggling son, that I made juggling therapy and boarding schools a full-time job. It doesn’t help that Covid happened, and the thought of going to work after barely leaving my house and my dogs for the last two and a half years terrifies the bejeezus out of me. NONE of these things look good on a resume. At least I finished the first draft of my book, but will it ever be more than a “shitty first draft?” I feel a profound grief as I call myself stupid and reach for the iPad and scour the internet for jobs and tiny houses and the safest and cheapest places for a pair of ex-pat lesbians to live. 

What are we going to do? 

My mind turns to the moths in my studio, the Luna moth I had to rescue from its own cocoon yesterday, the sixty or so Cecropia eggs that will be hatching in a few days. I worry that I won’t be able to care for them if I get a job, and it feels a little bit risky, but better than setting the eggs outside in the crook of a cherry tree where they would likely become bird food. I wonder if this too, this scary, infuriating, and confusing time, is metamorphosis. My insides feel like soup. 

6am. The bedroom is filled with a dim light and the birds have begun to sing. Deena’s breathing has become shallower, and she’s swallowing air through her c-pap mask, and I nudge her every so often so her stomach doesn’t turn into giant painful bubble. Soon it’ll be time to get up. We have plans to go shopping at Trader Joe’s– a step toward breaking our privileged addiction to Wholefoods delivery. I haven’t been to a grocery store since Covid began, and so to pull this off, I figure it’s best to get there just as they’re opening, to beat the crowds and traffic. I hear one of dogs shaking off their sleepiness, and expect any moment, they will both make it known that they need to pee. In the meantime, Deena pulls off her mask, rolls over and asks what I’m doing while snuggling up to my side. 

“Writing,” I say, grateful for a container for the thoughts, grateful that my heart keeps wanting to express itself, despite the chaos, grateful for the way words can be a salve to all the aches and uncertainty and also bring me back around to what really matters.

What are we going to do? 

blurbs

I recently began another memoir class, this one with Lissa Rankin, based on Nancy Slonim Aronie’s book, Memoir As Medicine: The Healing Power of Writing Your Messy, Imperfect, Unruly (but Gorgeously Yours) Life Story. It felt right, considering I was heading all the way back to the beginning to start working on a second draft, one that I envisioned delving even deeper into the nitty gritty and letting go of what is no longer relevant to what I like to call the “tree trunk” of my story. One of the first assignments was to write a blurb for my future book jacket, real or imagined. I have been given this exercise countless times in other classes, and honestly, I have avoided it like the plague. The idea of shrinking down the gist of my story into one or two paragraphs felt pretty much impossible. Until I concluded the first draft of my book, I had allowed myself to write with wild abandon, not worrying about editing for either the sake of my own personal comfort or that of others. It had slipped out of me like a jelly fish, and while it was an incredibly healing process, I had not concerned myself with the bones– the sturdy structure or frame that holds it all together. I basically had a tree without a trunk.

Thankfully, that has shifted. This shit is getting real.

Here is a (working) blurb for my book… (squeeee!)…

Sentient Being  is an unconventional journey into motherhood, the bittersweet energy of change, and the discovery of what it means to live with an open heart. When Lisa and her family stumble upon a chubby green caterpillar on their driveway one late summer morning, she has no idea how saving it from hungry birds and bringing it inside to witness its metamorphosis will ultimately guide her back home to herself. Led by a profound connection to animals and the natural world and a boundless love for her children, Lisa peels back the layers of all the ways she’s been tamed by her family, culture, and life’s hurdles, and learns to unapologetically inhabit her wild and tender nature without shame. Through poignant story-telling and a willingness to be vulnerable, she broaches subjects such as grief, interconnectedness, abortion, lgbtq issues, artificial insemination, miscarriage, adoption, chronic illness, trauma, and letting go, and invites her readers to emerge from their own cages and cocoons, guided by their own feral hearts.

let’s celebrate…

Yesterday, on my 52nd birthday, I woke up early and went into my studio to do some writing before Deena and the dogs were awake. I’ve been waking up a lot early. It’s the stories and the words and the ideas that have been stirring me in the wee hours when I should be sleeping. If I am able to hover within that half-awake-half-asleep-writing-in-my-head time, I can sometimes slip into short dream snippets that provide more creative fodder, especially if I surrender to writing things down in the dark of the bedroom so that my brain can let go without forgetting whatever it was that I was tapping in to. But other times, there’s just no going back to sleep. There’s nothing that I can do other than get up and sneak into the studio, turn on my little electric woodstove and a warm pair of socks, and stare into the glow of my computer screen.

Roughly twenty minutes in, that’s when the moment hit me. I was finished. Not DONE done, but rather, done with the first draft of my book, or maybe the second or third if I dare to stretch the definition of a draft, as I’ve been working on this iteration of my memoir since the start of 2021, but there were other unfinished iterations before that. THIS IS HUGE. I mean, I’m not yet ready to share it with anyone other than Deena and my small memoir-writing group. But at the same time, it feels damn good to say outloud that I’ve hit this unimaginable milestone.

I’ve been taking a wonderful series of classes with Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers called The Heart of Memoir, and during the last class, Kiese Laymon author of Heavy: An American Memoir, confessed to writing over thirty drafts before being DONE done. Just weeks before, Joshua Mohr, author of Model Citizen, said something similar in his class, calling the first several drafts of his book the “danger drafts,” written purely for himself, the bare naked, unrefined, nitty gritty truth of everything. As someone who has always admired Anne Lamott’s take on the “shitty first draft” and thought that I needed to have this thing ready to send off to trial readers, agents and the like within two, three, or a-handful-at-most edits, there was something both deeply comforting and profoundly overwhelming about how these gentlemen spoke about their processes, and how they both emphatically and repeatedly said in so many words, whatever you do, do you. Find your own way. Now is not the time to worry about doing it the “right” way. Just do it.

And so I shall.

To me, it feels a bit like having a brand new jigsaw puzzle. As far as I know, all of the pieces are there– that being said, there’s a good chance that a few pieces are missing. Others might get eaten by the dog along the way. And there also may even be some extra pieces there that belong to some other puzzle and need to be set aside or thrown away. Now begins the work of dumping all of the pieces out on to the dining room table and piecing them all together into a solid, cohesive story. That will surely take time, but I feel excited and proud to be here in this place. Just like a puzzle, I’ll start with the border, the frame, the structure, and then I’ll work to fill in the holes, look for patterns, and see what’s what. Will it turn into something that will eventually be published? I’m trying not to think too far ahead. Who knows. But now that I have all or most of the pieces in front of me, I can see the possibilities in my mind’s eye, and I doubt I’ll be sleeping in anytime soon.

In the meantime, will you celebrate with me?

discernment

drishti

A moth chooses when to fly by the pheromones of other moths drifting through the air, the direction of the wind, the innate sense that its wings are ripe and ready. A moth always aims for light. A moth knows that its sole (soul) purpose is to create before its time is up.  

What if we all approached discernment in this way? 

an intention chose me

It’s that time of year…  when we’re ready to let go of what’s trailing behind us from time gone by and launch ourselves into new intentions, goals, and resolutions. It’s a time for savoring our beloveds, envisioning how we want to show up in the world, awakening dreams that may have been dormant for a while. 

I’m not a believer of resolutions. For me, they have this habit of eventually leading me to abandon ship at the first sign of failure to be perfect. I like the gentle persuasion of a good intention instead. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have fierce goals. For example, my biggest one for the coming year is to finish my book. But intention is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about practicing rather than becoming an expert. It’s about how I want to be or feel while completing my manuscript, but also in general. It’s about the tools I need to gather along the way in order to make it happen, and the courage it takes to forgive and love myself if for whatever reason I don’t make it happen. Because let’s face it. Life is particularly full these days for most of us, and has a way of nudging us off course when we least expect it with things we have no control over. Beating ourselves up about that seems counterproductive to me. 

I was having a difficult time choosing my intention this time around. I have found my last two were perhaps too specific for covid times. Emergence in 2000 was a major stretch as we all went into lockdown, and belonging in 2021 wasn’t easily fulfilled either, as we all struggled to strike a balance between re-connecting and staying careful. Because intention isn’t about a destination, they still worked, mind you, at making space for those things in my inner world. But I’ve been longing for an intention that can ground me more both on the inside and the outside. 

I usually choose an intention in November, but it just wasn’t coming to me. I tried to get quiet and tried to feel it in my body. I sat at my altar and emptied my mind. But nothing felt right. Nothing felt capable of transcending all of the chaos happening around me and the overwhelm I felt from the mess the world is in. Nothing felt both spacious and solid enough. 

But one thing I know for sure is that when I can’t decide on an intention, an intention will choose me. Sometimes it’s while I’m cutting pictures out of magazines to make a dreamwheel, and sometimes it’s even more random and mysterious than that. 

Several weeks ago, I rearranged my studio. In so doing, I had a bowl of writing prompts on little pieces of paper leftover from a writing class that I decided to toss into the recycling bin. Like the mischievous feather that floats around in Forest Gump, one of those slips of paper escaped and landed under our kitchen table, and sat there for over two weeks, undiscovered by Juniper, the puppy who I’m sure would have eaten it had she known it was there, and somehow not swept up by Deena in one of her cleaning binges. One morning in December, I dropped one of my vitamins and when I leaned down to pick it up, there it was! Trust.

It didn’t roll across my tongue the way I usually like my intentions to, but immediately, I knew I had been chosen. It landed in my gut with an aha and fit me like a snug pair of flannel pajamas. I knew it would guide me, teach me, and open me up in ways I hadn’t imagined for myself. I still have yet to discover all of the ways it will show up significantly in the coming year, but I do know that I’m needing to re-learn how to trust myself, for somehow or other, that ability has gotten a bit piddly as of late. I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of over-thinking, over-explaining, and over-apologizing. Gotta let that shit go. And I need to trust more in the flow of everything and not worry so much. So yea, there’s that. 

There’s more there, I know it, yet to be seen and understood. But it’s a beginning.  

the great shuffling up

It’s December… and I can already feel myself inhabiting my studio in a different way, one that speaks of hibernation, stewing, rediscovering my heart. I had the urge to rearrange the furniture, make a sunny spot for working, catty-corner my desk so that I can feel the warmth from my sweet little space heater/woodstove-wannabe while I write, create a cozy spot for journaling and dreaming and a wide open space for dancing, yoga and qi gong, and spreading out on the floor with the pups while ruminating on our future dream farm. 

And now the rearranging bug has hit the rest of the household. I’m close to certain that if my honey has her way, she is going to instigate some sort of drastic swapping of rooms over this coming weekend, which might entail moving our little home-gym and a new paint-color in our sleeping space. 

We’ve always been somewhat smitten with change, she and I. When we were younger, we would move to a different house every couple of years, savoring the process of unpacking boxes and setting up our home with fresh eyes. We’re getting older now, and moving is a pain in the ass. Rearranging the furniture and getting rid of stuff we no longer need is the next best thing. This urge surely comes from wanting and needing to stretch ourselves beyond what we consider normal, get out of our tired and boring routines and to gracefully meet the requirement of letting go of things that are familiar and snug to make room for whatever our hearts might be yearning for next.

It hasn’t escaped me that this propensity for switching things up might also be a way of trying to keep up with the shifts and adjustments and modifications that life throws at us on a daily basis. There’s SO. MUCH. There’s a son, living on his own, learning to drive a car and applying to colleges in Florida, and a daughter who I so rarely see these days because she is busy making a masterpiece of her own life. There are the aging parents, and the desire to be held and taken care of by them as if we were still children, alongside a sense of urgency to travel to Virginia and Indiana to take care of them by driving them to all of their doctor’s appointments and making them home-cooked meals. There’s that overwhelming midlife theme of not wanting to let go of the sweetness of the past, and yet, feeling like there’s not enough time left to do everything we want to do. There’s covid and all of its straggler variants that make life feel so very fragile, and the shit in the news, like school shootings and idiots trying to end the right to abortion, that make life feel so very broken. There’s just so friggin’ much to worry about these days, isn’t there? 

However, worry is not sustainable. Focusing on how fragile it all feels is not sustainable. And so we shake things up. Make a stink. Challenge the status quo. Rearrange the furniture and paint the walls a different color. Not necessarily in avoidance of the worry, but to invite in the question of what might bring us a whisper (or a cacphony) of joy in this moment? What feels loving in this moment?What inspires hope?

 I suppose I rearranged my studio because I wanted to rearrange everything, inside and out, from the state of the world to my own inner workings. I wanted to watch the garbage man drag away everything that is stagnant or harmful, and tuck the things I love into their rightful places, so that life itself is a sanctuary of meaning, of light and warmth pouring through the shadows and onto my feet, of space to dance and play with the dogs and celebrate all of our good fortune, despite how delicate things might appear on the surface. 

balance

There’s nothing like a day in the studio…. music turned up full blast, paints spread out all over the table, my sweet puppy Juniper growing more and more annoyed with me that I’m not playing with her. It’s been a while since I’ve put a whole lof of energy toward my art. I’ve been obsessed with words instead. But my recent announcement that I’d once again be offering drishtis this year changed all that. I’ve had a handful of orders so far, with others possibly on the horizon, and I really needed to create some balance within my creative endeavors. That being said, I have to remind myself that it’s not about perfect balance. Some days, a particular chapter I’m working on grabs ahold of me and won’t let go. Other days, burning or painting is highly addictive. And some days, I’ll completely fall on my face and find myself trying to ease the overwhelm by vegging and watching Netflix. But if I keep myself moving forward in one way or another, I can usually stay grounded in my work. Imperfectly.

So I paint a little here, write a little there, hoping that by the end of the day, I’ll feel somehow complete with what I’m accomplished. Which is not always the case, but it’s something to strive for…

these times

These are strange times, aren’t they?

It seems only fitting that as the days get shorter and the leaves cascade into rivers of oranges and reds and browns that I would begin another blog, as it’s that time of year when I feel sentimental, inspired, and a little bit regretful, all at once. Especially after the last couple of years of covid.

I seem to have formed this mindset my friend Jennifer Louden calls “why bother” in her newest book. Mid-pandemic, on a whim, I decided to do away with my website altogether, leaving me no way to share my creative process at all, and this piece in the photograph sat on my easel for months untouched. There was a strange incompleteness to just about everything as we all stood by, waiting for life to become normal again.

Menopause and being in mid-life might have contributed to that as well, I suppose. It seems that I’m neither here nor there… but rather stuck somewhere in the middle of everything.

The blessing in all of that is that it has given me the mental space to write, and write in a focused yet gentle, non-pressure-y way. I can actually see the end of my book in sight, but it’s a bit scary to say that outloud. I just can’t put a timeline on it for fear I might disrupt the flow. There are days when I write multiple pages, and others I’m lucky to write a paragraph. To that end, the temptation is to surrender to the call of winter approaching, wishing for snowdays so I have yet another excuse to not have to engage with the world beyond my studio door. I love to hibernate. But something is nudging me forward, telling me it’s time to emerge from my veritable cave– perhaps on tiptoes (shhhhhhh)– as quietly and softly as possible. And with the recent facebook debacles, I can’t see that being a sustainable way to stay connected over the long haul, so I thought I’d re-imagine my internet home and see what happens. Not from the ground up, and nothing fancy. Just some check-ins, some sharing of works-in-progress, and perhaps some art offerings (check out my gallery! I’m opening up my heart and my time to working on a few drishtis for 2022 if you’re interested!). If you want to stay connected if and when I decide to do away with my facebook account like I did with my website, you might want to sign up to receive updates from my blog. Easy peasy. Just add your email address below.

So welcome. I hope to share something atleast once a week, but my book is my priority right now, so please forgive me if I skip a week here or there. And admittedly, I have no earthly idea what I’m doing, and I’m an emotional mess. But then again, my memoir is all about seeing my sensitive side as a strength, not a weakness, so to hell with it. There is so much uncertainty out there right now that we’re a bit more tender than usual, right?

“The very idea that you’re too kind, too sensitive, too emotional, too enthusiastic, too loving is bat-shit preposterous.”

~Meredith Marple

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