Sunday, November 29, 2009
I was sitting in the Sunday morning Sober Sunday meeting, thinking. This is a no-nonsense, closed AA meeting, for alcoholics only, no window shoppers or academics trying to dissect us or the disease. They even frown on repeating the usual phrases, like the last tradition, which begs us to consider "principles before personalities". It seems to me if you are this picky about your meeting, you probably should be saying this out loud at least once a day, but, hell, who am I to say what should happen there? Like I have all the answers. Anyhoo, I was not alone there. Sitting around me was the most astonishing array of the human condition one could hope to run into in this lifetime. Some of us were dolled up, heading to places like church or the relatives house for Sunday dinner. Some of us were in our grubs, looking forward to an afternoon of raking leaves or cleaning gutters. Some were young and full of juice. Others were old and shriveled. Diamonds sparkled on a few hands. We were smiley, frowny, and just plain confused-looking. And we were all there, hoping for the kind of transformation that turns lowly caterpillars into butterflies. It was a moment of grace for me, sitting as I did squarely in the middle, not young, not discernably old (yet), not dressed up or down, just me, happy to be there, happy to be sober, happy to have my meeting behind me so I can do all those other things I get to do because I got to a meeting. I am changed now, ready to rake leaves and render a huge drawing and paint a Cezanne hommage and run the dishwasher and fold the laundry. Life on life's terms. With wings.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Anyone else looking at my life might think I made a lot of mistakes. Well, not so, despite appearances. Yes, I was divorced - three times. Each husband came into my life to teach me something, and was exactly the right decision for me at exactly the right time. Trouble is, you see, I keep changing. They didn't. Funnily enough, often the reasons I married them were the same reasons I divorced them. He was strong and opinionated. I was, too, and he hit me. I left. He was intellectual and effete. I wanted to not feel, he worked for me. Except it became an emotional dessert. I left. He was conservative and a great provider. I felt out of control and needy. He tried to control me. I left. Every upheaval in my life has taught me something new, about myself, my values, my real wants and needs. I don't need a vacation cabin with a sweet Mercedes convertible attached. I don't want it, either. Everything I have is more than I need, and most of all, I have the peace of mind that knowing I am clean in the world gives me. I am enough now. For me. If I'm not enough for you, bless you and goodbye. Too little time left in this life to worry about how to please you. Hard enough pleasing myself!
Friday, November 27, 2009
It is interesting to note that personal responsibility has taken a pretty big nosedive in our day and age. When I was growing up, I was responsible for EVERYTHING, especially my mother's feelings ("you make me so mad", "see what you make me do", etc.). Since everything was my fault, I really didn't like myself very much. It was hard to like you, too. Now, I am not even responsible if I spill hot coffee from McDonald's on myself, at least not according to the litigators. That's sad. Look, what happens in my life is the result of where I go and what I do. I have some responsibility in EVERYTHING that happens to me. Sometimes that responsibility extends to putting myself in your sights. Sometimes it is more active. That is a good thing, actually, because I can then remove myself from the presence of people and things that are going to screw me up and over. Mostly, I am responsible for what I say. My thoughts, well, that's another story. They seem to bubble up of their own accord, out of the stew of experience I have lived through. But I don't have to say them out loud. Hell, I don't even have to believe them. Most of the time, they are not true, anyway. But what comes from my mouth, well, that can never be unsaid or unheard, and I want to not make any more of that bad karma that comes from cruel words. So, excuse me, but I am responsible for me. You, that's another story.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Another Cezanne hommage for my final project, this time a rendering of one of many paintings he did of Mont St. Victoire in near his home in Aix-En-Provence. Cezanne loved mark-making. He slashed this way, then that way, making little rectangles or lines of color, lots of color. That is easier to reproduce in oils, or acrylics, as I once did. Watercolors just make puddles, though you can run those puddles of color together to make interesting effects. I was talking to a fellow student, remarking as she worked on three small paintings at the same time, letting each dry thouroughly before going back into it, how patient she is. She thought it was more compulsive-obsessive. And where I saw myself as impatient, she saw me as very brave. It's all in the mind of the observer after all.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Those of us in recovery pray a lot. Our Big Book says the proper prayer is for God's will for us. So, I pray for guidance a lot, and I pray for the highest good to come to all, even those who drive me screaming up the wall, they need it most of all. Sometimes, their highest good may be a piano falling on them from a great height. I mean, what do I know? God has the plan. And, even though we are not supposed to treat our Higher Power like Santa Claus, I must admit that occasionally I will add the proviso "and, if it be your will, send money". Just in case God does not know that I want it. I really am quite grateful that money has flowed adequately through my life. I have never known true want. Once, I was unemployed, briefly, and my job came back to me before my unemployment insurance or my auxiliary funds ran out. But, hell, the Bible says "ask, and it shall be given unto you", doesn't it? So, yesterday I got an unexpected check in the mail! For $2.62. Very funny.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
First image for my final project is done. I chose Cezanne, because he is imprecise like me. Okay,he was messy. And he had this love affair with color that just leaps off the canvas at you. Here is a portrait he did of his gardener. I fell in love with all the yellow, and with the big feet, and with the hat. How dignified he looks! What an honor, to sit for this great artist. Of course, I was unable to replicate the subtleties that make this a masterpiece, but it is a fairly accurate rendering, and was majorly fun to slap away at. The next will be one of his many, many renderings of Mt. St. Victoire, this really puny mountain near Cezanne's village of Aix-en-Provence that fascinated him. I began to see the pull of it once I started the painting. It has a peacefulness that was so refreshing. Really, how much fun can one have in one lifetime?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
As a kid, I loved rain. Rain meant no jumping around outdoors, where I was the last to be chosen for any team, the slowest to run that dreaded dash, all arms, legs and big feet. Rain meant we got to do recess and lunch indoors, and play games at our desks, like fruit basket upset, or kings and queens, where we ran around like idiots with chalkboard erasers on our heads. Rain became my mortal enemy in my adolescence, where the vast majority of my time was spent worrying about my hairdo and my outfit. Curl just pooped out in any kind of humidity, and my mother made me wear a really clunky pair of plastic overshoes that I managed to lose as soon as possible. (I also had to carry a lunchbox in eighth grade, very embarrassing, and since I couldn't lose it, I hid it outside under a bench most of the time.) Rain was also dreaded when I was commuting. The first rain of the season had all the maniacs out on 101 skidding into each other till they figured out, gee, it's wet and slippery here. It added time to the drive, sometimes more than an hour, and often, that wasn't due to accidents, either. Umbrellas are collateral damage in themselves. I have lost so many of them over the years, I just buy two at the beginning of every rainy season expecting to not have any by the end. Now, in my netheryears, rain is welcome. There is nowhere I need to rush to get to, and I read the news and know that water is precious. Rain saves me beaucoup bucks in water, and heat, as it is warmer when it rains. Right now, the sun has broken through, and everything in my little front yard is sparkly and fresh. Please stay that way till I get back from dunch (dinner at 2:30 PM) with the FOO (family of origin). Thanks.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
In my kindergarten for adults yesterday we assembled collages from bits of colored paper, old watercolors that we cut up, and pictures of stuff out of magazines. Mine tended to be pretty simple compared to others, that got big and cluttered. However, themes escaped me. I was just looking for shapes and colors that seemed to blend together. Nevertheless, this one is definitely about natural objects, sumptuousness, illusion, and yes, vanitas, because all are supremely evanescent. Ah, that's it, evanescence, the inevitable fading away. Now to make a painting of it, that's the trick.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Two subjects have plagued me lo these 6 1/2 decades: my hair, and my attire. I have more or less found the answer to the hair thing (short, of course, and (gulp) blond - who'd of thunk it?). Still working on the outfits. Like, what to wear to the gym. I used to have little stretchy capris or Bermudas that I wore under a leotard thingy. Nothing spandex or sparkly. Black or grey, very classic and understated. When I was in full bloom, men much younger than I would trip over barbells watching me stride across the gym floor. Now that the bloom is off this rose, I think that statement is a little out there. Now I wear charcoal yoga pants, so comfy and loose, with either a light grey long or short sleeve tee over my sports bra. Since this has a tendency to flatten my attributes, I look like a grey string bean, with a haystack on one end. Hey, I am trying not to draw attention to myself here. I tend to be a bit of a klutz. It is hard to look cool when mystified by a Nautilus. However, I got tired of the black Speedo (and it was getting tired of me, too, kind of stretched here and there where there is less of me than before), so I got a RED swimsuit. I don't know what I was thinking, just that I like red, and needed a lift that gray day when I logged in to Swimoutlet.com. Okay, I am proud that I have whittled 20 lbs off the old bod, and gotten some tone here and there, and this may be my last gasp. It is hard to overlook me, anyway, since I am tall and fail to blend anywhere. No use hiding, right?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
We learned about "vanitas" yesterday in watercolor class. It is an artistic expression of the fleeting quality of life, the inevitable passage of time, and yes, death awaits. The Dutch had those amazing still lifes with an overturned glass, or a piece of fruit in the process of being peeled until the peeler fled the room, or even a piece of rotten fruit, signifying the evanescence of the moment. So, here is a collage of the cowwoman's transitions. First the baby cowwoman, all done up in pigtails, two sweet years old. And there's that dreaded rosary, the cross she bore for decades before deciding it was all just fear-mongering dogma, let the old folks roll around in it, I'm out of here. Glasses, well, they arrived around 40, and hung in there. My teddy bear Hermione is my eternal youth symbol. I have that youngun right here, in my heart. The Olay cream is the last ditch effort to keep everything hanging together just one more day. Love my toenail lotion, and, while I will go out without foundation or mascara, I always put on my lipstick. It's the least I can do for the world at large. Vanitas. Tempus fugit, folks.
It is Tuesday, almost 1 PM, and I notice I am not at school, sitting in the northwest corner of the art studio, portfolio and ArtBin poised for a good workout. I just didn't want to go today. I hated my vegetables on the gray paper in Conte crayon. And I don't like the assignment we started, on a huge piece of colored paper, where we reiterate that blasted toy I drew 99 times last week. I am just not into it today. So, I am settling in to watch my soap, with a cuppa, peppermint tea, and a warm dog or two. And then I think I will mosey over to the town next door for a women's meeting. And then, into a warm bed, the one I shouldn't even have gotten out of in the first place. Mental health day, a time to put a big bandaid on my head trips and just veg out. Thinking and planning are forbidden. Forgive me.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
It was a particularly cold autumn night, and, typical of Saturdays, a dearth of decent television. I eschewed the six big movies that the independent stations show perpetually (The Matrix tops the list), and the dreary network programs, and put on a DVD. I watched What the Bleep Do We Know, probably the fifth or sixth time I have done so. I understand less every time. But I do get that those mystics known as quantum physicists surmise (no one KNOWS anything, they just make the best possible guess, like no one can SEE a quanta) that atoms, the stuff that make up the known universe, are basically just tiny nuclei orbited by tinier particles that seem to flash in and out of existence. Now, there are vast distances between the nuclei and the particles, and vast distance between atoms, in fact. And in that space there is nothing. Nada. Zippididodah. On top of that, everything is made of those particles, so, in reality, though there seem to be vast distances between you and I (or I and my mother, there's a HUGE distance), what we perceive as reality is ALL THE SAME THING. One thing. One. It was almost more than my tiny brain could take in all in one gulp. The truly spiritual believe that this vast emptiness is the mind of God. I like that idea. I'll take that over nothing any day.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Friday means no school, laundry, cleaning, and my weekly Costco safari. It was a cheap day there today, only $37, and I will get $13 of that back tomorrow when I serve up the muffins and strawberries for my home group meeting. I got apple streusel and poppy seed this week. I like those best, and now that I am off my eating plan, I can indulge, a little. I dropped in to the Cafe des Croissants for a 16 oz. non-fat latte, then headed to the noon meeting around the corner. Got to schmooze with dear friends, hear a stirring share, then left early to get home and have my pumpkin pie lunch (I got hungry for it writing about it here, actually). After putting laundry in the dryer, and watching my soap opera (will Nicole get away with Sydney now that Sami knows Sydney is actually the baby she (Sami) gave birth to?), I headed out to the gym with my new red swimsuit, red and orange towel and personal Speedo kick board. I found that 2:30 is a better time to get there than 10 AM, not very many folks on the weenie workout circuit, and I got in a good workout without skipping any machines. Then I struggled into the new suit (a little tight, but then so was the Speedo in the beginning, and it is starting to sag here and there, probably because I am 15 lbs lighter now, so I got a smaller size, hope it works), took a cool shower and jumped into the pool. Oh, it was heavenly! I got in 15 minutes of laps to cool down, then a lovely dip in the jacuzzi before showering, drying off, dressing, blowing dry and heading home. Then I paid some bills, vacuumed, cooked some dinner and had my pie for dessert. All in all, a well-balanced day, to be finished off with a good book and some inane television, and a large portion of doggie love courtesy of the Pickle/Boo folks. Oh, and folding the laundry in the dryer. And determining my morning wardrobe, so I can sleep till the very last minute. What can I say? I'm retired.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I was perusing my Bas Bleu catalog last night, this wonderful conglomeration of odd and wondrous literature, games, toys, fun stuff for the Mensa crowd (oh, lord, not me, but I like hanging on the fringe, you know). And there was this offering called Things We Eat When We Are Alone. After recovering from my incredulity that someone thought to write such a book, I had to admit I was tempted to BUY it, as well. Like, what do the rest on the single folks out there do? It is as if we are some kind of exotic sub-species, us singletons. Having been part of a relationship, on many, many, many occasions, and mothering more than a couple of kids of my own, I know how to do life in relationship. And I have cooked many a family meal, as well as festive occasion feasts for happy crowds. But these other people have no idea what MY life is like here, living as I do with two neurotic little dogs and a paranoid canary. Well, it seems the world wants to know, so here goes. My favorite eating habit is the all-pumpkin-pie, all-the-time. I go to Costco and throw a pie the size of Brazil into my cart ($6,99), pick up a gigantic tub of (Light) CoolWhip, and eat nothing else for the first day. That's pie for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, and for dessert. Seems like a no brainer to me. My mother always served meat (protein), potatoes (starch), and vegetables. Pumpkin pie has eggs, crust, and pumpkin. It satisfies all my mother's criteria, so hell, it has to be GOOD for me, right? That's an occasional plan. Most of the time, I chop up some veggies, saute some meat with them, and throw it all on top of a tortilla. Very satisfying. Today, I cooked some chicken, cut into small slices, in spices and olive oil, threw on some butter lettuce and sliced carrots, put the whole mess on a warm flour tortilla, and topped it with Light ranch dressing. Then I had low fat, low calorie ice cream for dessert, butter pecan, about 200 calories worth. Tonight, I think I will have some of my homemade meat sauce on spaghetti (yummy with mushrooms and olives), and steam some fresh asparagus. Yes, I cook, just for me. I am worth it. And the good news is I don't have to cook things I don't like any more. Because I am cooking for my favorite person in the world. She deserves good things. Always.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
We're coming up on final project time, and in watercolor class, it will be a series in the style of a favorite artist. Six images. That's a lot, folks. So I began with Van Gogh, because I have a book on his flower paintings currently in my possession, and, let's face it, translating his impasto oils (he squeezed the paint right out of the tube to make the stems in some of these paintings) into wimpy watercolors is a real feat. I cheated on this one, and used white paint, something that is kind of a nono. White is the paper, period. Well, my teacher will get over it. Some of Vincent's mania came through in this very care-full rendering. My teacher thought it interesting that I was working from the bottom of the page. There was method in my madness, I told her. That was so I would be PATIENT, and be certain the paint was dry before moving up to the next part of the painting. Notice that nothing runs together here. That in itself is success. I am not terribly unhappy. No, not at all.
I developed the theory of reality bubbles after taking my 15 year old daughter to see Pulp Fiction. Pretty heavy stuff, and hilariously funny. (Yes, I knew she was young, but she was also going to see it whether I took her or not, and I thought more better to be with common-sense parent than not, right?) These people just lived a wholly different set of values than I do. And it occurred to me that the same thing is true with EVERYONE. We all have our quirks, little ways of shaving integrity to suit our egos. Mine do not extend to killing anyone, and not even to character assassination, a previous passtime which bit the bullet in my recovery. But I am not immune to gossip, though I may label it as a heads-up, necessary to keep dear ones from falling into another person's black hole, as I did. I took political science in college, and let me tell you, politicians live in an alternate universe of power and entitlement heretofor unheard of by the likes of little old me. And even though I know this stuff, I am always surprised at what my fellow humans do out there in the Big Bad World. I know it is all scripted to make them feel not even good, but at least okay in their reality bubble. And it is not bad so much as sad. Compassion is the key here. It's all about FEAR, people. Self-centered FEAR. My motto for the day: It is better to be kind than it is to be right. My way may not be your way, but it is not right just because it is mine. And your way is showing you who you are. And you could, if you wanted to, change. Yes, you could. Would you, please?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Okay, once again, it is time to gripe about the superabundance of leaves that seem to wind up in my front yard this time of year. I live on the east side of the street, which means only half the leaves are mine to begin with. Think the neighbor comes over and helps me rake up his half? Think again. He could at least give me some room in his yard waste bin, but, oh, no. So I spent a happy hour today raking up 7 huge piles of them on the lawn, while the lazy bums down the street ran their infernal leaf blower in my ears like an angry hornet on steroids. Then I dragged my bin over, flipped up the lid, and oh, no! It was full from earlier rakings this week. Well, the truth is, those bins are bottomless. You just have to punch down each new heap and magically, you have a whole half a bin to work with again. I bet myself that I could get all the piles on the lawn into that sucker. Did a whole bunch of leaf punching. And, TADA! I succeeded. Of course, there are a few piles along the street and by the side of the driveway still. At least this was not a windy day, which would mean the lawn would be strewn again even before I was through picking them up. And I am remembering thecool shade in the summer, and the warm sun in the winter once the leaves are gone. It's just that the landlord told me they all drop off over one weekend, you rake, and they are through. And, idiot that I am, I believed him. In reality, I spend 6 or 7 weeks raking and stuffing the trash bin. Hell, it's great exercise, right?
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Anyone else perplexed by what goes on with all those other people on the big blue ball? It's difficult enough that we all speak different languages in different latitudes. And then there are those speaking the same language who are pretty much indecipherable, too. It would be nice if one could rely on others to show up, too. Like, I show up. Most of the time. Of course, lately I have been sick. That is a good excuse not to show up. My drawing teacher didn't show up all last week. No excuse was offered. And yesterday, when we were all in our places with bright shiny faces, we found out she is never going to show up again. No, I don't think she died. Of course, that is the ultimate excuse. I think she was just one of those fragile folks who trembled on the edge of sanity like a tightrope walker, and she fell off. Am I disappointed? You bet. But we got a new teacher, one who does staccato speak. She is a ball of energy, and I just snuck a peak at her art online. Edgy. Am I excited. You bet. Things change. I'll get over it. And God speed, dear fragile woman.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
There was nothing on TV last night until 10 PM, when my new heartthrob Castle was due with a sparkly new episode, so I settled into some favorite old music. I chose Rachmaninoff's 2nd Symphony. Once upon a time, we were all excited to go hear this pistol performed by the Honolulu Symphony, only to find they had wimped out and substituted Beethoven's 5th, a very sturdy workhorse, indeed, but not the prancing, snorting stallion I had expected. This music has the distinction of never quite sounding the same, depending on the rendition. Gee, even the cadenzas in concertos are scripted these days. What gives? Well, it is so multifaceted, so prismatic, it must be easy to lose the delicate thread of line that is supposed to emerge at any given moment. I have owned three versions of it myself: vinyl, cassette, and CD. All are different. And the vinyl version, the one done by Eugene Ormandi, who premiered this work under the supervision of the composer, has always been the best for me. In my musical life, the 2nd symphony represented a major leap for me. I usually fell in love with a phrase or a melody, and suffered through the rest of the piece just to roll around in that emotional paydirt. And that was the original appeal of this work, too, except it was the entire third movement, a haunting ripple introduced by a solo clarinet before swelling like a tidal wave, sweeping through the entire orchestra. Then the rest of the work caught up, and it became all one thing, vast and awe inspiring. I reached a new level of sophistication in my quest to feed my soul. I headed off for my date with Castle, all new and juicy for the listening. Bless you, Sergei.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Okay, I am in a big bunch of self-pity here. Any other atmosphere and I would have set foot out my door, braving my way through the day, cold and all. Oh, I would have suffered. But I do suffer so very nobly, you know. But, because everyone is so very paranoid about the flu this year, I have suddenly become Typhoid Mary because of some little sniffle. Well, maybe not so little. And I do feel crappy, even medicated to the gills. And maybe this is the way it is supposed to be. Get sick, slooooooow down? You think?
Amazing how this happens every year. Even when our weather is hot well into November, the leaves know it's time to give up the ghost, the birds know it is time to head south, and the grass quits growing. I think it is the angle of the sun that is the key. I am taking the cue myself. This fall and winter I dedicate to making a new me, inside and out. Well, that is new, to begin with. I used to just care about the outside, how do I look, am I okay here? Now, inside is much more important. How do I feel, what needs attention? I had some big heads-up moments this year, never very comfortable, but oh so revealing. So, while my sycamores are busily depositing their abundance on my pseudo-lawn, I will be just as busily shedding old, no-longer-needed layers here in the little yellow house. The world will thank me for this. Right.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
I was all comfy in my bed of pain last night, quilts up around my chin, dogs at my feet, watching a panoply of horror movies celebrating Halloween. They showed Bram Stoker's Dracula, a faithful version of the tale, starring Gary Oldman as the big guy himself. It was a resplendent picture, magnificent costumes and sets, great cast (Keenau Reeves as Jonathon Harker, Tom Waites as Renfield, very edgy). And I realized that, in his fancy duds and little blue smoked glasses, Dracula was looking pretty good. And it was all very sexy. And I wanted it to work out between him and Mina (Winona Ryder, very winsome). Not the first time I have noticed that propensity. I was rooting for the Phantom to get his gal, and for Tony Soprano to get his shrink, and Frankenfurter (best, best bad boy ever) to get Janet, too. Nothing makes me want to dive in more than telling me not to touch that. Forbidden fruit, I think it is called. I have gone for it a couple of times in my life, myself. It always ended badly, but for the first few moments, it was sublime. Well, Mina got Jonathon in the end, and, as a consolation prize, he didn't exactly suck. In fact, he didn't suck at all!