Day 1321 – 1359
Recently a new friend – a young talented actor and musician was admiring my paintings and I told him that I enjoyed my most recent paintings the most, out of all of them, because the journey of learning to paint has been one through more than 18 months of grief, rumination, second chances and finally unwinding from an exploitive and toxic relationship. The journey is all there in the artwork and the stuff I’m painting now feels so much more like me – the me that I am, and always have been, in the centre of my being.
It is no surprise, then, to think that in dealing with all the gunk of that unwinding, there has been a roller coaster of health and un-wellness. There is a natural cycle to unwinding trauma in the body. It is a kind of spiral dance we do, as we unwind the physical, mental and emotional pockets where we have stored what we could not process: the gas lighting and the deceptions, the exploitations and the manipulations. As we realize that all the things we accepted at face value were really falsehoods, the moment is another shock. The way we need to frame our story and our position in the world needs to be adjusted for each of these shocks. Each time I recognized another pattern or level of deception and abuse, I would fall ill as I released the grief that belonged to it. There are people in this world who can lie with a straight face and whose lack of empathy borders on, or is pathological. Most of us don’t operate at that level and so when we find that we have been fooled by a disordered person, it sends our world spinning and coming back to balance again takes a lot of unwinding.
Last week I found myself flattened with vertigo. I’ve struggled with a lot of malaise and I’ve gotten used to this being my baseline but when the world started spinning and I could not walk, all I could think was – what fresh hell is this?
I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t drive and I couldn’t work. So I was forced to stay home and follow doctors orders while I waited for this to pass. I could not lay down without being nauseated and I could not sit up and focus my eyes to read or even to watch a film. So I sat in my tall drafting chair which has arms on each side, to keep me upright, and an easel in front of me to keep me from falling forward. As I tried to paint, straight lines turned curvy and curvy lines turned straight. And then I had to laugh. Like a dervish who spins towards the heart, I sat in the centre of the spin.
And what I found there was my innate but buried sense of play.
Play hasn’t been too easy for me for about 18 months. It has always been a feature of my personality but I’ve been pissed off like I’ve never been pissed off, before. I’ve been mad at people who wronged me, mad at my situation and mostly, I’ve been furious with what I would call God, for some time now. I felt like I was led by my faith to go against my psychological defences and I followed signs that took me down a metaphorical dark alley where I was beaten up and left for dead.
In the midst of the spin, I had a wonderful talk with a fellow graduate of the seminary I attended. We spoke of faith and spiritual beliefs and world views. I told her that on the path I’ve chosen, which is an eastern path of mysticism, one can expect everything to be taken from us and our ego destroyed on the road to preparation for enlightenment. I was angry for following the mystical signs and ending up down the dark alley and beaten within an inch of my life. And my friend said to me: If you are meant to have everything taken from you to cleanse the ego, then why is this loss not a cause of celebration?
And the world around me spun faster and the earth tilted a little more.
Yes, many things have been taken from me. My life has been completely changed in the last several years and some things are no longer possible. But what has arisen in the cracks of my broken and beaten body, left for dead in that back alley, is really quite glorious.
While I mourn the passings, I’m grateful that while a part of my cognitive processing takes a backseat, the artistic, mystical and musical side of my mind has come to the fore. I made it to the second round of an open call for artists in London to which 8,000 artists responded. I didn’t make the final cut of 40 artists, but I did make the short list, and that tells me something about what I’m able to express with colour and form and line. And if it is speaking to others, then it is something worthy of continuing.
I will, by the way, have two paintings in a group show here in Canada next month, and that is a cause of celebration.
I’m grateful that I found my voice again and although I feel myself pulled in too many directions, I can always squeeze in a bit of singing practice in the car. It’s not ideal but what it does say is that my life is full. I have worked as a healer and I know that sound vibration is the most subtle form of healing that there is. It can create dissonance and disease but it can purify and heal as well.
So, while it hasn’t felt good to be left for dead, I’m grateful for the opportunity to consider what is holding me back from rejoicing when the people I love, the life I have lived, and the illusions that I held dear are ripped away from me so that I am forced to face myself and my remaining life on deeper and deeper levels.
There has been a return to joy, despite this spin. I went to listen to my new friend Harper Stone sing this week, and it made me so happy to be well enough to go and listen to his sweet music. I drove home with a mile-wide grin plastered on my face. When I pulled up to the border, the guards took one look at my massive smile and pulled me over for a sobriety test. All I had consumed (and all I ever consume) was a cup of mint tea, so I passed it immediately. But even the nuisance of it made me laugh – we are so quick to be suspicious of joy.
I feel more grounded now than I have in a long while – a strange thing to feel in the middle of a spinning world, but I do. I feel confident in myself in some areas and I can see a route to growing confidence and putting the meaning back into other areas of my life. Sometimes I can get out and mingle and sometimes I have to miss out on events. But whether I am home and sitting with myself – perhaps painting or singing – or I am with my new and growing circle of friends, I feel a sense of Oneness with a tribe that I’m beginning to identify and explore, in this strange new land.
I’m not really sure what I can say that I have done this month by way of service except to try to keep productive and restorative in equal measures so that I don’t fall into being a burden on anyone. Sometimes I can gift some beauty into the world. What I’d like to be able to convey is the beautiful depth that is at the centre of life and that this depth contains both our joys and sorrows. Both are gifts, if we can see them rightly.
I don’t know that I’m yet fully living a life of purpose but I heard the Shaman Christina Pratt once talk about how to find your purpose. Finding our purpose is about doing what we love to do and doing it in a way that brings good into the world. We might make our living from that work and we might not. But that does not remove the fact that it is that which sets our soul on fire, that is our purpose to be fulfilled in this world.
I sang for my voice teacher, Paul Russell, last night and I felt like I was truly in resonance with the tone of G. Each time we truly vibrate, we manifest. What I will manifest, I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to know. Perhaps, as long as my vocalizing is done with integrity and purity, as long as I can stand still and resonate with the tonal centre, while the world spins around me, perhaps then the Source, from which all sound emanates, will take care of the rest.
For what are you most grateful, today?