Tomatoes & Mayonnaise

Tomatoes and mayonnaise. 

I’ll eat that for weeks on end when tomatoes are in season. I’ll even make my own mayo from scratch, with a bit of garlic and hot peppers. It’s so simple, I know – I’ve been asked more than a few times: “Is that all you’re having?”

The answer is always Yes. 

A simple thing done very, very well is sublime. To not be overwhelmed by competing sensory experiences, to focus completely on one thing and experience it fully, truly, and let everything that made it what it is echo through what it is. The savory, salty, slightly spicy mayonnaise giving way to the tang of the earth and sun and rain and warmth of spring and summer coming through the tomatoes. If you let it, it will have you closing your eyes just to sink deeper into the experience. 

Maybe tomatoes and mayonnaise aren’t your thing – maybe you have your own version of this. But if you understand, you know exactly what that thing is. There’s that smile on your face thinking of it. The memory, the sensory memory, is one you can call up at will, no matter how long it’s been. You know.

I’m not a minimalist for what it’s worth – I enjoy art and Art Nouveau and walls filled with photos and frames and bookshelves entirely too much for that – but there is an unparalleled level of satisfaction in having the opportunity to appreciate the nuance of simple things, the joy in discovering their hidden complexity when given your full awareness. 

(And yes, this is a metaphor about much more than just tomatoes and mayonnaise. But it’s also about tomatoes and mayonnaise, which I am having for dinner tonight.)

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Airplane Mode

The airplane mode key on my laptop
reminds me of you, you know.
That little icon flying
left to right
just over halfway through it’s
symbolic and stationary trip
across the expanse of my keyboard;
It feels like time does
when we’re halfway between 
the flights that mark the transitions
between you and I
and us:
I know it’s supposed to be moving
but it doesn’t seem like it. 

I have been in a relationship 
(it’s well past dating, let’s be honest)
for almost 5 months now –
and maybe that sounds…
well to each their own assumptions –
but regardless, it’s both impossibly good
and terrifyingly difficult. 
This person,
they’re Good,
even if they don’t quite seem to acknowledge it;
their humility and self awareness is a credit to them.
They’re kind and brilliant and loving,
and a list of other things
they’d probably face palm at me listing openly,
but regardless, its a long list.
Recognizing that this person
is a Good person,
who has done The Work to heal
and be a good partner
and be compassionate and empathetic,
it’s been a bucket of cold water
on what I expected
after years of
abuse, gaslighting, guilt, games, avoidance, and so on.
The growth it’s asking of me,
to show up and learn how to
ask for what I need
requires confronting just how much
of my own behaviors
have been protective and defensive;
how much I am 
waiting for backlash or stonewalling,
and the unlearning I’m doing.
The tools I’ve been teaching myself
so I can show up honestly.
It’s hard to trust,
and there’s a tremendous amount of reservation
and worry 
each time I say
almost anything.
But here I am, trying anyway,
still hopeful.

On the other side of hesitation
I’m realizing how much I don’t hesitate.
I’m realizing just how much
loss and death
changes you. 
I love differently now. 
I make choices differently. 
I know all too well
that you are not guaranteed tomorrow,
and that has me 
caught between
not wanting to give up on possible good things
but also not willing
to waste what time I have. 
I have found a
brutal sort of pruning honesty within me,
and I am not always comforted by it’s existence.
It is also difficult at times for me to remember
that those who haven’t lost that deeply
are more cautious with change,
and do not have quite the same
fragile sense of time. 
At times I might seem
frenetic or kinetic
because I know
I am not guaranteed tomorrow,
not with those I love,
not with the work I want to do,
not with myself. 
I’ve known for
entirely too long
life is a fragile tenuous thing,
silver chain links
easily pulled apart,
sometimes by your own hands.

I have said that
frequent long visits
with death and suicidal ideation
made me realize that
if I am not afraid of death,
what do I have to be afraid of?
If I am not afraid of dying,
the theoretical worst thing that can happen,
what do I have to be afraid of?
Possibly not living as much as I can. 

“The problem is,
you think you have time.”

It was one of the last things 
Steve posted on Facebook before he died,
and he knew, and 
it haunts me a bit
because for years
I tried to live and love
knowing it was going to end
sooner than I could ever be satisfied with.

And then there’s me now,
often trying to find the strength
and the will
to keep going one more day
and also
feeling time flow through and past me
like breath from my lungs;
me, balancing on its silver threads and chains,
me, trying to find a balance
deciding if I can make it through
all the time I have left
and if I will ever have enough left.

I do not yet have
good words
to describe the feeling
of the hope
that maybe there’s love and joy
and arms left for me to call home,
combined with the known 
of how love lost breaks you. 
It takes more courage than I have
more often than not
to let myself love you
when I know
both of those things,
but I keep telling you:
I believe you’re worth it. 

I hope you feel that way too,
you who is hearing these words. 

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hope with hard work is something worth fighting for

I’m sitting at my desk eating grapes and cottage cheese,
and just feel lucky that I can. 
Lucky that I have hope to hold on to
hope that I can make things better
even if they’re challenging right now. 
Lucky that I can walk into the garage
and try to make something
that could improve my situation –
lucky that I can.
I’ve been in worse positions – 
I’ve been 19, pregnant and disowned,
I’ve been 30 and couch surfing,
and now I’m 38 and 
trying to make the mortgage with 
my art and craft and skills,
but this time
I have a decade of work and reputation behind me,
and a support network I will
probably never
feel like I can ever fully deserve,
they are so incredible. 

I’m not there yet – but I get a little closer each month. 
Maybe not much,
but a little. 
As long as I beat out the foreclosure time frames
it will be okay. 
And even if I can’t…
I am choosing to believe
that somehow
it will be okay then, too.

For now,
I just have to work
harder than everyone says I should.
I wish I could tell 
every single person
who tells me to take it easier
or rest more
or not to stress so much
that it’s not an option
in a way they’d understand,
but I haven’t been able to find the words yet.

I keep thinking
I need to work harder
before I lose the window
to make it better –
before it’s too late.
Because as much as we like to think
that won’t happen to us
to someone we know,
it can, and it does. 

And still, I feel lucky.
I have been in so much worse,
and this time,
I still have hope
that I can make it better. 
It won’t be easy,
but hope with hard work
is something worth fighting for. 

The 2021 Snowflakes are coming along.
I need to sit down for another round of Blender
to work on the earrings. 
They start in 3D digital space,
and eventually are made by hand in 
well, meat space, I guess. 
I have a slew of designs to work on after that,
and each bit of inspiration
is a little more hope
that something will stick
one more time
and I’ll keep eeking along forward.
It’s all I’m trying for, 
to make ends meet. 
Not to get rich,
just to make ends meet. 
Anyway, Snowflakes.
Almost ready to put up the pre-orders.
When those go up,
and orders come in,
I’ll order the supplies to make any I don’t already have on hand,
and get down to business.
(To defeat the huuuuns…)
Once the workflow for all Snowflake designs has been settled,
I’ll head back to the drawing board,
and Blender,
and start working on the next jewelry design. 
Rinse and repeat.

It’s roughly the same for resin and pens.
I try to cast new blanks at least every other
to every third day,
and I try to turn about 10 blanks a week.
I’ve been way behind, 
and it’s hurt me a fair bit,
but I keep reminding myself:
I had switched from my preferred Silmar 41 resin
to an Alumilite epoxy resin
oh, several months back,
and oh my holy hell
It had things going wrong with it, 
from start to polished,
every. single. blank.
I know, I know,
apparently lots of people don’t LIKE Silmar 41 –
Alumilite is the preferred –
because Silmar is brittle to turn due to how hard it is,
and so it requires a light touch,
and is finicky as a result,
but it’s worth it to me. 
I like that hardness 
and I love the casting results I get.
I was NOT thrilled with what I was getting
with the epoxy resin AT ALL. 
So last month, I switched back.
It meant I had to scrap
nearly 100 blanks,
and 10 pen kits,
because they were not worth
the time needed to make them work – 
and start recasting all over again to rebuild my blank library. 
And it meant that 
hey, uh, I won’t be releasing new pens for a while,
and that means some gnarly things for my revenue.
(And ability to pay the bills.)
Which, okay,
look, soap and paintings totally came through –
well, everything but the mortgage got paid.
Soap has been growing, to give it credit,
and I am crossing every single finger
people keep sharing and telling friends
and we keep getting new people picking up the free soap sampler on the farm website.
On the bright side,
that month of having to cast new blanks
meant that I had the window
to move all the turning stuff to this website
and it meant that 
I could really make them artistic and beautiful
and not worry if it was going to clash with the Farm branding.
(Which, okay, sounds silly, right?
Only people were having a hard time finding the soaps they wanted
and it just felt off 
and I checked with other pros
and they agreed,
so yay for it sorta working out
even if it meant that the mortgage is going to need catching up on.)
(You say Get a Job,
I say, I’m already working three,
plus six hours a day in the car.
I go round and round about this,
but what is that saying,
the Universe loves a stubborn heart?
God above, I hope so.
Please don’t let me be fucking up royally right now.
Too many people believe in me.
Don’t let me let them down.
Please let me be good enough
and hard enough working
to make this work.)

But uh… I’m a little stressed, obviously.
And there’s a lot on my mind.
And I’m all over the place. 
But I’m still going. 
And I am trying to write, 
even if it’s… meh at best.
But I am here. 
I am still here,
and I have not given up yet. 

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Perfectionism & Death

It’s not until the influence was gone
that I realized how strong it was,
how deep it’s roots were,
and how little of what it grew
I wanted to keep.

I keep starting to write this
and I keep not
because I have a dislike
of being misunderstood,
and more than that,
of being preached to.
But for my own internal equilibrium
and in case someone else might feel seen in reading this,
here I go.

I know
thanks to more spirals of personal evolution
(and not always in the upward direction,
because energy and souls,
well, they have little regard for space and time
when it comes to growth)

than I ever would wish on anyone
well, shit, why are these words so hard?

the only way to learn who you really are
is to lose everything
that formed your borders and boundaries.
The people and goals and hopes,
you have to lose them and
take stock of what you have left;
like those exercises
they teach in beginning meditation
and self awareness
of looking for the thing we call I,
when you strip away
the things that
delineated You and how you lived
or didn’t
you are left with
a whole lot of questions
and a chance to exhale into
who you actually are.
Or, who you are at that point.
It’s a process, and
one that doesn’t ever really stop.

And that’s where I
always am
and that’s what I keep talking about –
this exploring and discovery
of what is I today,
and the things that
give me grief and joy
in this brief snapshot
of my experience of linear time.

And so that’s what I’m doing,
and what I’m writing
and I know damn well
that it will keep changing.
I’m pretty good with that.
I understand influence and chaos
as much as I can I figure
and have been slowly
learning how to enjoy the ride.

And so now, today.

I’ve been eyeballs deep in grief
and new love
and financial worry
but optimism at the same time,
and today it’s just been delightful –
literally, I’ve been delighted –
to just be puttering around my house today
taking care of random little tasks
as long as I had the attention span and energy,
which rarely was long enough to actually finish anything in one go.

I like working this way,
and it doesn’t bother me much
to bounce between and have unfinished bits for stretches of time-
within limits,
but admittedly,
those limits are pretty permissive.
There’s something satisfying for me
about 15 minutes of working
and to see visible progress.
But I realized today
that while I am okay with this,
on a gut deep level,
there was this odd tension.
I’ve been aware of it a while,
but today was the first time
I sat still long enough to pick it apart.
(As in, I curled up on the bed with Kali for hours.
Borderline unprecedented,
definitely not going to be the last time.)

It was judgement, really,
but it wasn’t seated in my own values.

You know how that is –
someone else’s standards or hang ups
that you take on as yours
when in relationship with them,
or even with a society or a community,
that aren’t naturally yours,
or don’t align with how you’d work naturally
and contentedly.
And this one?

It’s an odd kind of perfectionism
that doesn’t recognize process as the purpose,
and insists we hide all signs of
life as an ongoing process.
The kind that insists
there are no sketch lines or brush marks;
no signs of the
between the soul and the world it exists in.
It denies our humanity
and invalidates our inherent, natural knowing
of our limits and needs and capacities.
It says
getting it all done
in one go
and if you can’t
you better not start
because that’s failure;
it screams at you
no dishes in the sink
no project started
until the others are finished
and you go until you’re empty
because your experience doesn’t matter
more than the results you get;
It’s mired in guilt guilt guilt and
rage and self hate
that just grows deeper roots
the longer we try
and the more miserable we become
because you see
our lived life is a reflection of
life as a process,
of a thing that exists only as long
as it remains incomplete and in progress.
has it’s feet mired
in death
and the illusion
that anything is ever complete
before we’re dead.
It is a denial of the very nature of life.

I know where I learned it,
and I know how it was perpetuated for so long,
and I understand what I need to continue to do
to continue to unlearn it –
it’s another deepening of
what’s been an intensely focused
process this last year,
another spiral of
the entire process
of exhaling into who I am –
the infinite I,
one breath
of the Universe.
I recognize the breath will end
but until then,
I will revel in
the breath
without worrying so much
about how it will end up.

And so I put the words down
even when I know
they absolutely
will not be perfect
and will be misunderstood
and probably will be embarrassing someday;
the importance is in the writing of them.

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And so I let it burn.

Today was one of those days where
the casual joking
about something personal and important to me,
and the way people in power
can let their ego 
result in cruelty
just because they can,
got under my skin
just a little more than
I’d usually admit to.
I was already
worn thin –
butter scraped thin
over too much bread thin –
and feeling the kind of
far behind and overwhelmed
that leaves me usually
holding my drowned heart
after pulling it from
an ocean of hopelessness and despair. 
The kind of emotional space that
leaves me
trying to resuscitate hope with
promises I don’t know if I can keep; 
trying convince myself 
to just keep going,
just don’t give up,
there’s reasons to keep going and keep hoping,
and one more step one more day,
and don’t go there
don’t think about
how yes
there are people who love you
but also how
more days than not
what should give you
some measure of joy or 
at least satisfaction
leaves behind little more than
a hollow echo of accomplishment
and wondering 
why can’t you feel 
like it was worth it?
Maybe you are broken
maybe you are crazy
why can’t you
find that warm sense of gratitude
for the blessings around you,
why can’t you feel it
when you know you should?
It would be worth it then,
if you could feel that again,
but instead it’s just 
a hollow metal ring of 
an empty oxygen tank
an abandoned grain silo
a long empty reminder
of the golden grain warmth 
possible but denied. 

And instead of that
instead of that and the 
spiral into it’s
not worth
it just
be done
once and
for all
everyone else
will survive and manage
and you’ll finally 
not be 
forever tired
instead of 
wondering if 
I had those hollow 22’s in the house
instead of that
I stepped into
an incendiary 
white hot wildfire
of rage running through
my veins the way
fire seems to drip 
when gravity refuses
to let it dance in the air,
and I breathed that in
the way a drowning person
breathes air
and there I was finally
not turning the 
hurt inwards
not denying myself 
rage because
someone told me once
it was bad to be that way
bad to be angry 
that now I know
it’s only bad because
it made me harder to control.

And so I let it burn. 

There was a point where it was exhausting and I needed reprieve. So I sat down, and reached out to Kali, the goddess I maintain a devotional practice to, and there were the words I didn’t know how to tell anyone else yet:

I’m tired. I’m tired. I’m tired.
I’m hurt and I’m tired and
the world is needlessly cruel and
I cannot bear witnessing it alone anymore. 

I cannot carry this anymore.
This overwhelming heartache and
old trauma brought to bear, 
and I handed it to her
because I do not deserve
to annihilate myself
as a last resort to avoid hurting
that never seems to stop,
and she knows all too well
the power of rage
to protect and defend and preserve,
but she also
knows her child can only bear so much. 

I’m less angry now,
and very thankful
for this
cobbled together
spiritual practice of mine.

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If you know, you know, and if you don’t, count yourself lucky.

I’ve been trying to meet new people, make new friends, since Steve died. It’s the first thing they tell you to do, right? So, being an artist and artificer, I’ve been trying to make friends that work in the arts, or at least participate in some form of creative hobby on a regular, somewhat serious, basis. I figured we’d have a better chance at understanding and relating to each other, and as a result, each other’s work.

But I’m finding myself reluctant to talk about my work with new people. I’ll share the work, but when someone asks me to explain what’s behind it, I find myself balking, holding back. It’s not that I can’t talk about it; I just know most people don’t want to hear about how my work is a reflection of what I’m dealing with right now, and what I’m dealing with right now is fucking hard.

I’ve learned from silence or subject changes that they’re not actually interested in knowing when it’s that personal and hard, or that they don’t know how to sit with someone else’s discomfort or hurt without taking it on. We’re all looking for happy, and I get it. And I’m not that happy go lucky smooth sailing person you take out for drinks and play around with. 

I’m increasingly more appreciative of that. My work wouldn’t have the power it does if I was. My work has it’s roots in trauma and recovery, and the resilience needed to still find the joy in living when you are still standing, in stark contrast to the joy you’re embracing for as long as it lasts, in the middle of some damn dark experiences. It doesn’t bother me much anymore, but the sensation of interpersonal doors slamming when people realize you’ve experienced pain they haven’t is a singular kind of feeling. 

(I still test the water with each person, and in tiny drops at a time, before anyone comes and tells me to not give up on people.)

But the thing is? More and more often, I find that it’s me closing the doors now, out of compassion for both. I am not going to invest in a relationship where I make you uncomfortable, and you don’t deserve to be uncomfortable – and neither do I. I don’t want to waste your time, or mine. 

I tend to write and think more when I’m actively painting. It’s better self-development and therapy than actual therapy. I work things out and find the words for things I’ve known but didn’t have the words for. I realize what it’s time to let go of. 

For a while, after Steve’s death, it felt like there wasn’t much left to me to let go of – and then as the year went on, I realized how much I still had left to let go of. How much doubt, how much insecurity, how much of who I was and what I was capable of that I had refused to see. I realized how much I had been settling because of all of that. How much I had been not trusting myself.

It’s been good trusting myself, and it feels like it shows in my life, writing, and painting. It’s a different kind of fearless. It’s the No is a complete sentence kind of fearless – a handful of brush strokes well placed, and either you understand or you don’t, I’m not going to justify or explain. 

If you know, you know, and if you don’t, count yourself lucky. 

I am protecting myself better now, and it’s been a good feeling. What I am seeking is seeking me, as my friend Luis Gottardi says, and I am going to take that to mean the people who have the depth, capacity, willingness, and compassion to sit with my work, and me.

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