Writing From The WOMB

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Where do I begin? No, seriously. I have had this book to write all my life. I was given the title, as if by magic, from the mouth of my 4 year old child, 13 years ago.. It was brilliantly absurd and I knew when I asked her to repeat it that it was a gift from an angel, and I got the chills. Of course I immediately wrote it down. It has taken me all this time to get to this place. I started this blog as a means to get myself in the habit of writing. It has been a wonderful outlet for me, but I decided that now is when to begin writing my book. I am writing this as a warm up, a way of working through this last niggling remnant of fear. Also, I am trying to determine where I should start.

The greatest thing about blogging is that there is no pressure. It was the best step for me as a longtime journal writer who never wrote continuously in one at a time, but several. One journal may contain a small period of time, but from beginning to end it can span a decade or more. It seems sort of schizophrenic, but it came naturally to me. I have never been one to do things a certain way just because I was taught that it was the only way, or the “right” way. I realize that is simply the hallmark of being an artist, but that doesn’t mean I don’t second guess myself. I am a walking paradox of angular plushness.¬†

My life is very much like the bunch of sticks and limbs that were recently woven to create a sculptural sanctuary in Jacob’s Woods, at Mill Swamp Indian Horses. The idea came to me out of the blue at the end of December as I looked around at the land that was being cleared to make way for a new pasture with different forage for the animals. The cut trees and limbs were being placed in a long line of brush piles that would serve as a sanctuary for other small, wild animals. As a college student working as an intern at MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Arts, I was greatly inspired by an artist whose installation I worked on, who was a sculptor of sticks. There was this small clearing in the brush that spoke to me. I set to work one day, and over 8 separate days, I arrived at sunrise to work until there was barely any light left.

I just now realized that I am using my blog as a distraction today, but in doing so I fully believe it will propel me toward making this critical first big step. Beginning to write my book does not, after all, have to start at the beginning of the story.

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Who, me? Distracted? ūüėĀ¬†

It started as an archway that began to morph and undulate with a dimensional curve that became a small tunnel/entryway into a cozy little nest of a space. It was quickly identified as a sacred undertaking that was divinely inspired. The frenzied delight from which I couldn’t wait to return to in creating this structure filled me with intense joy and satisfaction. On the second day in, blissed out in the solitude of my surroundings, I found myself frustrated over the sticks that would refuse to bend and ended up breaking, believing them to be an impediment to the flow of it all, and cursing each one. It was messy, and very organic, not perfect and streamlined. Then a voice came to me and said, “There are no broken pieces.” In that moment I was overcome with emotion and awe as I was shown the significance of each limb, stick, and twig that I had so carefully and deliberately woven with love, knowing that it was to become something of great magnitude. It was a symbol for the creation of me, every life experience and the way they shaped me, represented like arteries in a vein. Some of us have messier lives than others, and I’m here to represent.¬†

ar¬∑ter¬∑y/ňą√§rd…ôrńď/Learn to pronouncenounplural noun:¬†arteries

  1. any of the muscular-walled tubes forming part of the circulation system by which blood (mainly that which has been oxygenated) is conveyed from the heart to all parts of the body.
    • an important route in a system of roads, rivers, or railroad lines.

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God was showing me that what I considered broken pieces were part of a greater system that created the strength and shining light in me that He considered His own brilliant work of art. When I was asked what I would name it, I had no answer. I figured the name would come to me, which it did.

I had continued to build around the space inside and after a particularly exhausting day, found myself curled up on the forest bed, giving thanks and meditating on the deep meaning of it all. That is when I realized that I was in The WOMB. The totality of the significance of it all absolutely felt like a rebirth. I became the stick. Every awful thing that has happened to me in my life, all of what I’ve considered little deaths, are the very things that have paved the way for me to fulfill my purpose in helping others to find their way out of darkness. When a stick broke, I tucked it in. It was a part of the process.¬†

This is all of us. It is about looking beyond what we have perceived as being broken to the greater understanding that we are all a work in progress. Death is not just about a door closing. Every little death, those circumstances we thought had broken us, has the ability to open new doors. It is my experience that once I leaned into whatever each moment had to offer, in complete, unwavering faith, it became easier and easier to hear the voice that would guide me toward becoming everything I am meant to be, sharing my gifts with the world and seeing the masterpiece in myself that God sees. There are an infanitesimal number of doors from which we can choose to open. We may hear the siren’s song and be fooled along the way, but it is The Almighty who whispers in our ear to tell us to try another door.¬†

P. S. Giving birth is exhausting. 

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Naked In The Grocery Store

Spilling my guts out in near-gritty detail was like going through hard labor and ending up having to get an emergency c-section. I have been recovering ever since.

I had a professor in college whose work I loved, and who I enjoyed, partially because of his laid-back yet engaging way of teaching, (Printmaking and Design) and partially due to the fact that he found my creative brain entertaining. Evidently I was born to evoke strong emotions, delight being the favored one. There is a feeling of accomplishment and confidence that accompanies praise which fuels the passion for one’s pursuits. Being that I was constantly trying to prove my worth, these were the little victories that carried me toward my goal of success. He taught me the value of my ability to think outside of the box and be unabashed in wherever it led me.

For example, one of my early design assignments was to take 36 squares and inside those squares to draw a circle and a rectangle. My best friend and I, whose brains worked in synch, did the assignment together and showed up in class fairly proud of our individual interpretations.

Everyone put their work up for the class critique. When we saw what others had done we looked at each other with sheepish grins, our eyes cocked. What we saw was not at all what we had done. On their poster board were 36 squares placed neatly in rows, and inside each of those squares, a triangle and a circle placed according to their own creative interpretation.

We had taken creative interpretation to a whole new level, one our teacher could not help himself from chuckling at as he leaned back, arms crossed, with a finger to his mouth as if challenged for words. Here is what he saw from my friend and I; on each poster board we had made a circle out of 36 squares and inside that circle of squares we had artfully placed our triangle and circle. We were commended for our work in surprising him with the unique way that our brains had executed the project. This still makes me giggle. Can’t remember our grades, but I definitely remember our momentary shame being turned into a feeling of pride that only helped us to further appreciate our senses of humor and individuality. Not surprisingly, we are still the best of friends.

Another critique took place in my painting class. The teacher was out sick that day and so the same aforementioned teacher was filling in. The assignment was to create a painting with a minimum size requirement depicting something personal. I had been really challenged by it. My painting style is not classic or traditional but more illustrative and whimsical, which was a stark contrast to what I was feeling at that time. I wanted it to be fantastic and pleasing but with two days left before it was due, I could not for the life of me figure out where to begin. All I had was a quite large blank canvas and supplies.

During this time, in my early 20’s, I was living with my sister and dating the man I would later marry. Our relationship was intense, codependent, abusive, and toxic to the point where I did not know where he ended and I began. It was blindingly painful. He was an obsessively possessive alcoholic I was determined to “fix” because I believed that love had that power. He would get verbally abusive toward me for any man who could not keep himself from looking at me, and call me a whore, as if I was to blame. I had to dull myself, watch what I wore, how I walked, who I talked to, how I talked etc.

I can’t remember the specific trigger, but out of deep anguish I was motivated to pick up my paint brush, and though it was a frenzied couple of days with little sleep, my pain manifested itself on that canvas, to my satisfaction.

On the right side was a large depiction of my face in black and white acrylic paint, screaming and crying in agony with my hands at my temples as if my head might explode. Below me was what looked like an audience, each person the same gestural image of a guy tilting his head back, guzzling from a bottle. In the midst of this audience rose a giant bottle of beer with the same guy being pulled out of  it by cherubs. He was besotted and his body, limp with the weight of it, proved too heavy a task to lift, but they were trying so hard. 

The background to my left and above me was like a sunrise of colors going from darkness to warm golden light. To my left was an image in solid black of a female form, arms and legs spread into an “X”, inside a cage, grasping onto the bars, desperate to be released.¬†

The rest of the piece was done in collage. Above the cage, a cut-out image of giant hands outstretched¬† with doves carrying a banner that said, Loving God brings peace. To the top right was a torn piece of sheet music for the song, “Tomorrow”, from the musical Annie. It read, The sun’ll come out TOMORROW, so I gotta hang on til…

Here is my teacher’s response to it-

He took a step back, once again with his hand to his upper lip and his other arm folded as he took it all in, and chuckled before telling me I had hit a home-run in creating a very personal image. He said it was like walking naked, in a grocery store, under fluorescent  lights. He said it was uncomfortable in that way, but powerful. He liked it.

I won 2nd place in my student art show for it. I wish I had a picture to share, but sadly my greatest breakthrough work of art was most unfortunately destroyed. I had it resting on my easel and one day I came home to find it had been stabbed in the eyeball and my face torn beyond repair. Not a good time. Well, it was never a painting that begged for display anyway. 

But I digress. That process of creating was also like a long painful labor ending in a C-section. I had no choice but to go through it. I knew it was going to be raw and hard to look at. I did with paint what I am now doing with pen in telling my story.

There is nothing on earth more cathartic than having the ability to express yourself without limitation, pushing beyond¬† the fear of judgement and criticism. I’m not here to offer some Hallmark story about overcoming my adversity that makes people feel warm and fuzzy so as to distract from the true ugly and insidious nature of emotional trauma and mental illness. I’m shining a light on the darkness.

My authenticity does sometimes make me feel like I am completely exposed, but it is¬† expressed with purpose and conviction. I’m not here expecting not to be gawked at, shamed, ridiculed, applauded, my sanity questioned. I know exactly how uncomfortable and insane it is to be standing naked in the grocery store, but I am here nonetheless, despite my discomfort.

I am the lobster. I refuse not to molt. It is only when life becomes unbearable that we feel motivated to find solutions. As long as there is fight in me I am surviving. I want other victims to know that about themselves. There is no right or wrong way, only productive and destructive ways.

At long last, I have this survival part down, but my soul craves so much more than that. I want to thrive and I want to show others that they can too.

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