It’s my 55th birthday.
And how do you feel?
It feels like the most non-birthday birthday I’ve had yet. In my entire life.
No idea. No desire to figure it out. Tired of this mountain. The drive to climb it is incessant inside me. But A, I’m just tired.
It’s okay, S.
No, A. It’s not okay. None of it is okay, really. Waking up after five decades. It’s not okay. I’m just waking up, in fact, to waking up. I read things and they sink in more—about trauma. I feel my weather more heavily. I can feel Teresa digging in further with a sharpened knife, trying to have me find these things beneath the blanket of amnesia that cause me weather and pain but the whole exercise of this all, A, is just endless and daunting.
And it’s my life.
There is no way to escape it.
Quit therapy…but still I can’t quit what is a runaway train inside me.
It’s okay, A. You don’t have to cheer me up.
But here’s something I would not admit anywhere but here; I was checking my Sandbox website log to see if anyone had come to it. I see some activity. I check again…more activity. Later on…more.
Eventually I figure out…it was me. That I’m the one looking at it. The only one. And that, A, felt…bad. And…about right. It hit home.
I care about your work.
You’re paid to care.
He’s wonderful—my person all the way. But it’s…it’s about wanting…more. About knowing deep down that maybe I could have been someone, could have done something with my life. I wake up and I go, furiously, not with consciousness even but I think it is a drive to make up for a life so profoundly lost.
What did you read?
I read a sample of a book about dissociation and I fit—not like I didn’t think I fit—but there is something about the definition including this inability to find and see self that fits so well.
Oh A, I just fucking hate myself. And I hate this life.
S, come to me. We are near the ocean…we can listen to the waves.
Hey TT. It’s okay. Thanks though.
You have been sick for a long time, only now, yesterday, do you experience a full day without fevers. Worn down…sick…filled with process not yet unfolded…a book still sitting in a stranger’s hands for review.
Yeah…I hold hope but in this kind of gloomy mood it feels like I’m losing it. Yesterday I began to feel lousy about my creatures—that somehow they are not art but something other, less-than. They are, to me, special. But maybe that’s how everyone’s art feels to them. And maybe the lesson to learn is that-- that I specifically am not special.
We are working hard, churning, flowing gloriously to become all the we’ve meant to become. It is hard work but honorable work. It is, as you said in therapy a week ago, a privilege to experience what we do. And I believe you still think this?
Well…it makes sense that there will be moments filled with doubt, headaches, summer colds…waiting periods. Waking up after five decades…is a blessing and curse. We must ride the blessing curse wave patterns.
What is blessing? What is curse?
Blessing is getting to finally see all that lives inside unfold..day in and day out. Blessing is now finally living.
Curse is the chaos, the doubts, the inability at times to hold self and understand self.
They feel…equal to me.
The goal should be to have blessing tip the scales. But not inauthentically. Which means hard work. Which is something you do not shy away from. Nor, S, do you lack courage.
In my fantasy world my creatures have become beloved by all the world. They are so expensive they are nearly priceless. They have become collectors items—nearly impossible to get. People get and love them. They adopt them like pets or children.
In my fantasy world Bob the reader gets back to me.
He has finished the book. It is unlike anything he’s ever read. The piece lingers and he’s left to wonder…what happens to this person?
I admit these are fantasies. And I admit to them. Not to holding them as truths I want or must or will ever have. But as places to go inside that make me feel good.
Like yesterday…I found such joy in the smallest thing about my creatures. That the finger painting meets Joan Mitchell abstract paintings I am doing on their hats could be a hit…that the underglaze appears to be popping and it is so hard to get this kind of vibrancy of color in a high fire context.
It was this one thing making me happy inside…this place of joining up with my fantasy…I am a famous artist…known for her little heads…for using this world to process trauma, to find self, hold self, express self.
There is almost a narration that goes on as I go through my life…how someday someone will uncover me and tell my story after I am dead.
I am both living my life but also viewing it from a posthumous lens as well.
I am a child…pretending I am a famous artist, a talented, unique one-of-kind author who stumbles upon a new way to write a novel.
I am in New York City…with Pete. We are walking together in the snow. We are there for art reasons…creatures or words or perhaps even both. But we are walking slowly together in a thick snowfall that makes the world soft and quiet and white. We are bundled up and oh my Not Gods the beauty of the snow…like frosting a top every surface.
And I am with my mom right now…holding her hand…walking in snow. Oh how I love the snow…and my mom. How was I to know how badly things would turn out between us…how she would leave…and leave me to fend for myself…to fight for my life.
How I would have uprooted my entire life for a moment like this again…a late afternoon, the skies a muddied threatening blue.
Tears, A. Confused—or not so confused—tears.
Allow, allow, allow.
Inside our heart
We are process
We are art
Allow, allow, allow.
We now have a heart the size of not one moon but two.
Allow, allow, allow.
S…how was your birthday? How was the churn?
Conscious, visual battle last night. I was putting up physical walls in my mind to fight against process and churn. The churn was about…churn.
My birthday was okay. Honestly, well, kinda sad and I felt tired and beat up.
I literally had a group of my creatures on my back in a pack and we wandered off into town to check out places to see if they could find a home.
Oddly, the first place we went to turned out to be the one guy I wrote in advance who turned me down. I did not realize this until the end, a half hour after talking with him and stirring up my courage. I reached in my bag, pulled out a creature and he said—I know you.
Before though…the whole conversation…it was this dance where I asked him a lot of questions, showed keen interest in not only his gallery but the work he did that was hung. Of course I loved up his dog. He liked it all—loved it all—until I said I had a question and he seemed nearly braced and disappointed—I caught this in his eyes.
Anyway, when I brought out just one creature he said yeah, no, no one carries ceramics anymore.
And quickly the conversation moved mostly back to him because feeding his ego was clearly what this exercise was about.
But it turns out he was mostly right. This was not a welcoming place for my creatures. This is a pretentious town filled with pretentious art. Why I thought anything would change or be different from two years ago I have no idea. After a few stores, going in and out, it became an obvious drill to me; I would simply ask the creatures if they wanted to live in the place and the answer came to me both quickly and invariably with a “no.”
So I spent my birthday in a state of ruling something out—not just a geographic location—not just a town—but something maybe larger I’ve yet to articulate exactly.
As I spoke at dinner with Pete I began talking about how finding your place is likely about a lot of wrong turns, roads that go nowhere and don’t feel so great. I realized too that I could likely create pieces that would sell—that would fit—that would do what they needed to do work in these shops. I could go back to making huge feet—unusual, whimsical, textured—and they would sell. They would be purchased less for the amount of money they could command but more for the attraction they could provide in getting people in the door. This is how, I think, some of the more whimsical pieces are used.
They also would put a huge price tag on them.
I am learning how the game is played and I try on what I could do to succeed at it.
I like making my small creatures. And I am seeing as I analyze my finances, that I don’t need to make money through my art.
I want, however, some way to touch the world and have the world touch me back. And monetary exchange seems to be the way it’s done mostly. But as we walked from store to store, as my feet grew more tired with the weight of twelve creatures and a bunch of marketing materials on my back, I grew more attached to just making them and collecting them.
I told Pete as we sat at dinner that I am shifting…moving elsewhere…downplaying the business until I think it will likely evaporate into nothing. What I’m left with will be…right now…art, writing and…something else.
I know something else will evolve but presently I have no idea what this is.
I just know something is out there and I know it’s unknown.
Many good thoughts and progress on our birthday. Ruling out options is just as good as finding ones that work.
And the churn?
I don’t know. It was churn about churn. About resisting churn. About allowing the purity of sleep. About slamming a door on process. It was a thicker door, a louder slam than any other night. The churn spoke to me…told me that it would be wise advise to give others to embrace their churn, that I should listen to my therapist and allow for it. But the slammed door won over the churn for I do not believe there was any allowance of any thought around deep past, Eileen, etc.
This morning I can still feel this slammed door inside me. I feel closed down.
What did you read last night?
Ah, yes. Continuing under the theme of depressing exercises on my birthday, I did a search on Amazon for the word “dissociation” and came up with a million—not really—but a bunch of—self published what looked to be crappy books. No reviews. Weird titles. I stumbled upon one with like ten five star reviews so I downloaded a sample and it was written by this woman who had been through the mill around ritualistic satanic abuse. I read the sample. Thought the writing was…okay. I was shocked that she could tell the story or at least start to tell it as I did not read past the sample, with such clarity.
What kind of thoughts did you have about this exercise of looking at these books? Of reading this sample?
I thought that The Sandbox is written in a highly unusual manner. And that the writing is poetic and graceful and I had to conclude in some way that this is me, my writing I guess. But I feel far away from self still. Of seeing that this all is me. But I chose and continue to choose right up into this moment to express myself this way in this container. It is hard though, A, to get to know and to get used to self and to accept oneself after not really having this kind of container and view of me for most of my life.
Anyway…it forced me to compare my “voice”, my Sandbox “voice” and how my story is told to this other person. And where she is one voice I am also one voice but…not.
Anyway, in seeing and hearing her voice it forced me to look at my voice and perspective more. And my voice and perspective is new to me. How I work…new to me. New, new, new to me.
I also read a great deal on self publishing—what to do and not to do.
I found what looks to be like a good cover design company too.
So we are trying to move beyond just waiting for Bob’s comments?
I think so.
We took four thousand pages, a backwards messed up therapy, a life walked away from inside, and made…sense. What we accomplished in terms of both product and process…should be something that fills us with pride.
It does A. Sometimes. On a good day. But I can’t seem to sit still. I’m onto the next pride swallowing siege exercise which will be about getting it into the marketplace. To not have it be sitting with a thousand other pieces on a similar subject unread. Uncommented upon.
My Not Gods, A.
Does the challenge ever reward?
If we do not consciously allow the rewards then no. It never does.
It’s days like these that I feel like giving up. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, A. But I feel like I was doing pretty good—got this incredible feedback—but then got into some kind of shitty vortex these past few days.
I am using this shitty vortex to try and get you to find the shitty deep past vortex it represents. I am using this all like a scalpel, a surgical tool to extract the deeper past meanings in all this.
Churn, I insist.
Churn, churn, churn.
Here, alas, I am able to do my job.
Churn, and let the churn never stop.
Work, and let the work never stop.
Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work. Work.
S. You are tired. But you cannot stop. Waking up this late in life has set a fire inside. No time to waste. But how do we balance this with some level of enjoyment.
I want to go home. I want to go for a run. I want to do what makes me feel good. I want to get the fuck out of this town that is not me or mine. That is not a home for my creatures.
What’s going on?
I thought this morning, A, that I don’t think I want to go on anymore. That I am just tired of this mountain. That I…give up. Honestly, A. I just give up.
Arms around you, S.
It’s just some kind of capitulation. I had a lousy day yesterday—just could not get away from such intense sadness. We got back and I ran and I forced myself into twelve miles and I fell, tripped, just mildly, but I got back home and I thought…I give up. I cannot keep climbing anymore. I am so tired. So painfully exhausted. I went to the studio to pick up pieces and nearly all of them were ruined, too. The clear glaze I suspect has been contaminated which has created running which runs into the nostrils of my pieces—nearly all in this firing—and clogged them up. Odd pock marks too on several.
It’s nothing insurmountable.
But I thought to a degree: who cares.
And why am I doing this?
A pursuit for…what?
No one really wants them anyway.
I like them but…I cannot seem to make too much in the way of connections with the outside world.
Like the Sandbox, very similar.
It is just life?
Getting down to brass tax? That I haven't really amounted to much? And that it doesn’t matter but I suppose it matters to me?
Have I disappointed myself? Whatever self that is I think I am? The self that I seem to be desperately trying to put together?
Could I have been something bigger? Better? Could I have done more with myself?
A, I’m not sure what is going on but my Not Gods I woke this morning not wanting to continue. With life. I find it meaningless.
And I know I wrote less than a week ago of life being such a banquet…and finally I am gorging. But I see perhaps I was delusional. And that my life isn’t a banquet; that it’s a battle inside, a painful, endless battle inside that I don’t understand.
S, up, up, up. And onto my park bench.
You are exceptionally sad today. We have not seen such sadness in the Sandbox in quite some time.
Pete’s been trying to cheer me up. He’s wonderful.
We feel unheard by the world?
Maybe, B. I just can’t seem to take it anymore. I feel like I need to give up. Just take off the backpack and call it quits.
Up, up, up?
I’m not sure I even want to do that, B.
I command you to come up.
We shall sit quietly on my bench. There is no expectation to do anything more than that.
We have been steeped in steep expectations. And we have grown wary of it. Our only expectation now will be to expect nothing. To be and say and do whatever we want without expectations.
Tell me everything you are feeling inside…and thinking. Let me be here for you.
Thanks, B. Like I said. I just feel like giving up. I don’t understand the purpose of all the energy and drive. I think before it was making me feel good—alive—that life had purpose and meaning. Or at least my life did. And then…something switched
It was in this waiting on Bob’s feedback for the book—the rest of it. Waiting…and hearing nothing.
Gaining confidence…then losing it…then gaining it…then losing it.
In and out like the surf.
Then, I began to look at what is involved in self publication—essentially what is involved to get the voice that you finally found, finally heard.
It is a mountain, B, I just feel I cannot climb. I just fell onto my knees and cried. In panic and in capitulation.
We climb mountain after mountain, S. And we do so without much in the way of positive feedback—sustenance. Granted, a climb must be for oneself for it to be endured, for it to have deep meaning, but at some point, without others to witness we reach a point where it is no longer sustainable.
Yes. So how to keep going?
We don’t. We sit down and we cry and say it’s not workable. It’s too hard. It hurts too much to be this alone for this long. Imagine a person deep in the woods painting for years…and years…and years. One canvas turns into two turns into a thousand turns into two thousand. The house is filled with paintings and the forest too, becomes filled up with work.
This person has so much to say…but remains alone, unheard, in the forest. painting. One canvas after another.
The canvases grow…in beauty and in power. The painter’s skills grow from doing so many, from exploring so many angles, how adding just a hint of one color evokes an entirely different set of emotion.
One day the painter decides he must show his work to…somebody.
He has so much to say in his work. So much work to show.
And as hard as he has worked to paint these paintings he works just as hard to see if he can get some people to witness his work.
He hikes out of the forest for days upon days. Exhausted he finally knocks on one neighbor’s door. But they do not answer; they are not home. He finds another neighbor who says that they have heard of the forest filled with paintings and will keep him in mind. He knocks on nearly every other door in town but…silence.
He begins to doubt himself.
But he is driven to share his forest filled with paintings with the world.
So he asks a gentleman, knowledgeable in the arts, to come and look at his work. And says he will pay him to do so.
This gentleman agrees but can only take a quick peak at first.
“My goodness” the gentleman says, “I’ve never in my life seen such an abundance and such unusual work.” He says he will get back to him once he’s had a chance to tour the forest.
The painter waits. And waits. And waits.
While he waits his confidence wanes. The praise he received seems to fade. It becomes instead something else in his mind; the gentleman was being only kindly for he is a kindly gentleman. And he’s not seen the entire forest, has not seen how paintings are scattered in places this gentleman would never imagine, how the paintings, all together, might lead him to a conclusion about the painter’s work that is negative. How the forest, in its entirety, may be disappointing in the end.
As days turn into weeks the painter grows even more insecure. He keeps painting, the insecurity and pain of not knowing if his life’s work is at all worthy. This insecurity comes out in his newer pieces, different pieces with a palette reflecting pain and insecurity.
One day the painter is walking in the forest and he thinks he’s hears footsteps.
Has someone come to visit his place? Finally? Is there someone who has heard of this forest filled with paintings? His heart leaps. Finally. I need only one visitor, he thinks to himself. Just one. That is all you need. To share just once.
As he walks through the floor of the forest, crisp with leaves he stops suddenly. And hears nothing but silence He continues again…and hears again noise. He doest this exercise several times over until he realizes…
….the visitor he has hoped for is not a visitor.
It is he.
What a hopeless fool, he thinks to himself.
A hopeless old fool.
He looks around at his forest filled with paintings. Paintings he knows, deep down, are quite beautiful.
But as he sits in this forest alone, surrounded by his work, surrounded by the truth that the only one making noises in this forest, the only one visiting is his own self, he begins to cry.
He has lost hope. For all he has ever wanted for his entire life was for someone to witness what he has done. To be inside his forest, his journey, from beginning to end.
Look, he says. I have made my journey colorful. And entertaining. I have grown skilled in my execution. My canvases are easy on the eyes, to take in.
But as he lays down, alone on this forest floor, this is nothing but the sound of his own tears dripping onto the fallen leaves.
He is too tired to get up. Too tired to paint anymore.
Too tired to keep trying.
He falls deep asleep in his forest filled with paintings.
And he wishes never to wake up but instead to dream of a rather different trajectory for his life. And to never have this dream end. This, he says, will be the only way I can keep going.
To remain in a dream.
But we cannot remain in a dream like the painter.
I feel the story of this painter weighing heavily upon us today.
It feels right…this metaphor of being surrounded by what we create. But the effort in sharing too arduous, too much after too much. A straw that breaks our camel’s back.
Is there anything that feels good?
Not one thought we can grab onto that moves us away from this place of sadness?
The clay used to do this but I am finding that not a place right now.
I’ve lost hope, B, that I can sustain the energy to break through the surface. It’s like I’ve been screaming inside for so long my voice is gone.
I got back from running and I laid down for a few minutes and I realized I feel the same way as I felt when it began to dawn on me that agents were not the route I should go. I was getting silence. Or rejection. And I knew I could not sustain this. I knew that my journey was too important to put into the hands of this vortex of negativity and unresponsiveness. It hurt…like it hurts now. This painful place of having to confront the world saying that being heard will somehow never be mine. So painful that I was driven to come up with a website. That seemed to help; a constructive exercise that allowed me to more easily connect with the world.
But just like the painter, the other day I was checking the logs—and I went back a few times—and there was someone visiting. Check, check, check…and then I realized…it’s me. I’m the one visiting.
I’m the only one walking through this forest I’ve filled with paintings.
That moment was quite depressing. I must say. Profoundly so.
At least I was interested. Now no one is.
Yeah. I know. Thanks, E. But you were coin operated and damaging in the long run.
S, we are tired. Sick but now better but still depleted. We are worn down from the waiting, the fear that our work is not good, that it takes a turn that our reader didn't like. We are disappointed in the last round of work from the kiln, concerned that the glaze we’ve been using has become contaminated or worse yet, that we are not sure what’s going on. We are disappointed in our efforts to get our creatures out into the world…nothing is quite panning out.
We need some wins, S. And we will get them.
We are not alone in the forest.
Oh A, yes we are. Every day I check my logs and A, we are very, very alone.
Let’s not get defeated. There are things to do—many. And so many, many exciting options.
I woke to a new mantra: I own the process. The process does not own me.
Bob the reader wrote yesterday. And, as luck would have it, ten minutes before therapy. The bottom line: the larger story is eclipsed by the smaller one. The story of my bad therapy eclipsed my own story, the reason I needed to go to therapy to begin with.
My fears declared. The therapy hijacked my own story.
He did a detailed, compassionate critique. First a larger picture critique. And then chapter by chapter.
I went to therapy.
And I discussed this briefly.
And then I went onto to talk about my exhaustion. About wanting to give up. About wanting to take off the back pack and end the climb. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I read Teresa the story—about the man, alone, in the forest filled with paintings. And I cried. I couldn’t stop. I was back in time. Crying over something unremembered.
The tears seemed to represent…everything.
A letting go or perhaps a letting in.
Teresa asked what I was thinking, where I was, what I could remember and I said through tears, just weather. And this was truth.
It was cloudy, a weekday, late afternoon.
But it was weather in my neighborhood where I grew up.
But only weather.
No events tied to it I don’t think. Just a photograph of a neighborhood, filled not with people but a dominant late afternoon, drearily lit sky. It’s not an abstract painting, not something filled with splashes of magnificent color that evokes.
Just a cloudy day. And a weekday at that.
And my Not Gods I wept.
Teresa said she wanted me to listen to her, that what she was going to say was going to help me understand what was going on and that understanding what was going on would make me feel better.
So I looked up, blew my nose into the Kleenex she provides and up until this day had never used.
And I said okay.
She said that this writing, this enormous creativity that I find now inside me, the talent I possess is part of the trauma, something I lost, something that I missed very, very much. It was something that I shared, hell, probably something I inherited from, my mother. And losing all that this creativity meant to me is likely the place where I began to dissociate, to walk away from my own self, long, long ago.
And as she spoke, as I sat there crying, this weather insistent inside my mind, I knew she was right.
There were no specifics, no lightbulb going off, no traumatic memory of my mother waving goodbye, or ripping something away from my hands, no smoking gun to confirm the theory.
Just weather. And a lot of tears.
And that was enough. Plenty.
I have written now over seven thousand pages, 1.7 million words, the document I now type in called Sandbox_Volume_16. And all along, up until yesterday, I have not understood, truly, why all the words.
And why this process has left me feeling more vessel than writer. More Parts than Person.
And I see that I’ve not been writing to find myself exactly. I see that the writing is perhaps to find my mom.
And the exercise, I see, is perhaps as endless as it is fruitless.
I lost my mother and my own self deeply and traumatically long, long ago. And it has, as I view it now through this lens this morning, not been in the content of the writing that I have been trying to find her necessarily but in the process of it and of making something of it.
I don’t know what happened to me exactly. But I have enough of an idea to know that my truth is that I lost her, that person I so badly needed with me in that forest filled with paintings.
I considered rejecting my parts, my characters, even the whole of the Sandbox this morning. But I’ve decided to just say that, allow the thought, but see how each day goes moving forward.
I considered dropping my mantra, too, Authenticity.
But I felt otherwise, quickly. That regardless of whether or not I rendered my Parts or characters in my meditation that they likely are part of me—just like any person’s own self is found in one’s thoughts. And that my mantra, Authenticity, a reminder to always be true, is a good thought.
For the entirety of this meditation to date I have felt owned by the process, talked to by my parts, less than…everything and everyone. But this morning I see that I own the process, the parts. Everything. I can control the story, if and how it’s written.
Last night I walked Stella. It was late and she was a patient dog as I delayed walking her till after 9PM. As I did, I mulled the beginning of the book, the new one. The one I would write. The one where I would take the reins. The one I would write while now, finally, awake.
And it began….like this.
I did not take the short way home. Not by a long shot. It took fifty five years, seven thousand pages, one bad bout with therapy—and one good one—to get me there.
I’m not sure I’ll use it. For writing is about re-writing. But it’s the general idea. That I can tell this story now. Me. Not hiding behind parts or things unknown but me.
I own the process now. The process does not own me.