Best Birthday Present Ever

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Some of you know I’ve been working on my memoir for a very long time.  A long, long, long time.  Fifteen years or more.  I brought my flash drive to Michigan so I could work on it while my sister and her husband are at work.  I realized that if I pushed myself, I could finish the book on my birthday, September 14th.  So I pushed myself and I finished it that day!!  I’m very excited about it.  It’s almost hard to believe it’s done!  I think I was around forty when I started it.

The next step, when I get home, is to write a query, a synopsis, make a table of contents, and start submitting to agents!!  Wish me luck!

Start an Art Adventure for Three Dollars!

Or even less!  That’s just one of the reasons I think collage is a great way to include art making in your life.  Another reason collage is so wonderful—you can make a beautiful piece of art and not be able to draw a stick figure.  There’s a lot of us in that category! 

Collage is an intuitive process. The best way to keep it intuitive is a method I learned from a wonderful lady, Linda Maree.  Linda’s a collage and writing mentor for so many of us in this area.  According to Linda, and after doing it, I agree with her, the best method is to go through the magazines quickly and tear out anything that catches your eye.  Don’t try to figure out why.  Just keep turning those pages.

Before I met Linda, I would sit and stare at an image, wondering if I wanted to use it or not, read the caption—sometimes I’d read the whole story connected with the picture.  Doing that takes you away from an intuitive process into an intellectual one.   Staying intuitive is the best way to let what’s inside your heart come out.  Staying in the intellect will result in a process that’s about your mind, not your heart, not your soul.

People make art for many valid reasons.  I am advocating doing collage in an intuitive manner to help with healing wounds of the soul. 

In collage you don’t have to decide what to paint, draw, or sculpt.  You simply choose images that present themselves as you flip through magazines.  The results can be amazing—so perceptive, so revealing, so true. 

Intuitive collage is another way to bypass the inner critics we all have to contend with.  Intellectual collage, in which you try to control the process—so you can make something beautiful, so you can make a collage about some certain thing, so you can keep the pain in your soul in your soul and not let it out, so you don’t have to know about it, look at it, deal with it, or feel it—does not heal the soul.

Back to the three dollar part.  To do collage, you need images, adhesive, scissors, and paper to attach your images to.  Most people have scissors, but if you don’t, you can buy them at the dollar store.  You can also buy glue sticks there, but if you don’t want to, school glue works, although your images will not lay flat like images attached with glue sticks.  The wetter the adhesive, the more warping of the page.  A composition book can be used for collage, but you will need to glue two or even three pages together to make the paper strong enough to hold up to the mixed-media canstock2316607process.  Mixed-media is the more popular term for collage these days.  It also includes many other art forms. 

If you have old magazines you’re willing to cut up, you’re ready to collage!  You can also get magazines from friends and family.  Many people are relieved to get rid of them!  Another good source for free and very cheap magazines is the library.  I’ve bought many copies of National Geographic for ten cents each.   Some thrift stores sell magazines.  You don’t need a lot of magazines to begin with.

Another source of interesting images is stuff around your house.  The label on the box of tea.  The wrapper on the soap.  Tags from new clothes.  Wrapping paper and junk mail.  Catalogues.  Old newspapers.  Another use for newspapers and catalogues is to put your chosen image upside- down on, and then apply the glue stick, pushing it out a little past the borders of the image.  This is the best way I’ve found to apply adhesive of any kind to an image.  My friend, Valeria, taught me that.  Thank you, Valeria!

So, for three dollars or less you can jump in and make collage!  I think it’s an exciting adventure.  I’ve been making collage for fifteen years and still love it.  Each collage I make is a new experience and a new revelation.

It isn’t necessary, but if you want to spend more, the first thing I would recommend is a mixed-media notebook.  These can be found at art supply stores and chain stores, such as Michaels and Hobby Lobby.  Do not get a sketch book, even though sketch books cost less.  The paper in a sketch book is too light weight to withstand having layers glued on it.  Mixed-media and water color paper can stand up to just about anything!

I use UHU glue sticks.  They are generally considered to be the best glue sticks available for paper arts.  I don’t know why, but they aren’t available in craft stores, art stores, or big box office supply stores.  Don’t order them from Amazon.  They are charging about five dollars per glue stick.  The only places to find UHU glue sticks, at least around here, are local office supply stores.  They sell from one to two dollars, depending on size.  They really are the best.

The last thing I would recommend is a brayer made of hard rubber.  A brayer is a roller with a handle.  It has so many uses in art.  For collage, I use the brayer over every image as I apply it to my collage and to the collage itself, as I get near the end.  A brayer spreads the glue under the image more evenly and makes the whole collage lay flatter.  I love my brayer!  If you get adhesive on your brayer, you can wash it with soap and water, since it’s hard rubber with a plastic or metal handle.

Collage is inexpensive, accessible, you don’t need lessons, you don’t need to be able to draw a straight line, a stick man, or a daisy.  Collage is an intuitive, soul-searching, soul-healing art form. 

I hope you try it!!

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Therapy Journey

 

I walked into a wall as I entered the office—that’s how nervous I was.  I never thought I would see a therapist, especially since I attended a church that taught psychology was of the devil.  But they’re against divorce too.  I was choosing between a therapist and a divorce lawyer.  I didn’t know that the man I was meeting that day would help change my life more than even a divorce lawyer could.

His voice was gentle over the phone and he spent over twenty minutes talking to me, answering my questions, and telling me things that made sense in a way I’d never heard before.  I decided Joseph would be my therapist.  And he was.  For the next twenty years.

His office was small.  It felt like a safe, cozy burrow away from the rest of the outside world and its crazy-making chaos.  He had a fountain running and dried flower arrangements on the wall.

And a tissue box.  UGH!!  I didn’t want to cry.  In movies, people walk into the office of a therapist they’ve never met and start sobbing almost before the introductions.  Would that happen to me?  I hoped not.

His voice and demeanor were kind and welcoming; he dissipated some of my nerves, but not all.  He asked me many questions I didn’t know the answer to.  Questions about things I’d never in my life thought about before.  I considered myself a smart person, but it didn’t seem like it when we talked.

I was thirty-five-years old when I met Joseph, and meeting him was the first time I’d ever met anyone who understood me, wanted to know all about me, and validated my feelings instead of discounting them.

After eighteen months of therapy and still no tears, struggling to make progress, trying hard to think in a different way, and reading every book about therapy I could find, a remark Joseph made triggered a poem.  I wasn’t a poet at that time, but I wrote a poem.

I brought it to him the following week and when I read it out loud, I couldn’t breathe.  Something was closing up my throat.  Something inside me didn’t want the poem’s truth spoken.  After I struggled and straggled to the end, he suggested I read it to him again.  I told him I didn’t want to.  That suffocating feeling scared me.    He said that was proof that I needed to read it again.  So I did, gasping for breath the whole time.  Joseph said later that reading my poem was the first time I’d shown any emotion with him.  It took eighteen months.  Poems started pouring out of me, sometimes six a day.  I can’t vouch for their literary merit, but they did express my truth for the first time in my life.

That began many years of breakthroughs, realizations, and change.   I left a twenty-two year long crazy, abusive marriage.  I left what I’d realized was a cult that I’d belonged to for twenty-eight-years.  My daughter and I moved in with my parents.  I went to school, learned a profession, and started supporting myself.  I bought a house.  Joseph was with me through all the progress, the faltering, the mistakes, the tears, the failures, and the successes.  Like all therapists, he says that I did the work, he didn’t.  I still say that he was right in there working too.

By the time I was fifty-four and he was almost seventy, he told me he was retiring.  After being there for me during my appointments and numerous phone calls for twenty years, I would lose him.  Even after all the abuse and trauma I had experienced, this felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me.  We said goodbye on March 23, 2016.

My new therapist, Judy, says my sadness is normal.  I’m glad.  She says  only people who’ve had a therapist could possibly understand my grief.  And she’s right.  My family and friends don’t seem to understand the depth of my grief, but they love me and offer support and caring.  I’m so glad I have them.

My new therapist is helping me with the loss of my old therapist.  I’m glad she’s with me.

 

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Triggers

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Sometimes we’re walking along, enjoying the sunlight and trees and grass.  Everything’s coming up bunnies and daisies.  Life is good.

Then we step on the dreaded TRIGGER.  An emotional landmine planted into the day we were just enjoying.  A day we’re enjoying no more.

That happened to me shortly before my carpal tunnel surgery.  The nurse had told me I might not get to have the surgery because of my blood sugar.  I have type 2 diabetes  and I’m not that great about keeping my sugar where it should be.  Hence my upcoming appointment with an endocrinologist.

That evening, I went with my parents, my brother and sister-in-law and their three kids to a nice dinner in a restaurant at a new mall.  It was fun and delicious and great to spend time with time with Bill and his family—they live in Kentucky and were in Florida for a visit.

After dinner we decided to walk around the mall and I headed for the Papyrus paper store.   The conversation with the nurse and prospect of not having the surgery that would enable me to collage and write again never left my mind during the meal or the walk around the beautiful mall.  As I made my way to the store, a chant started in my head.  “I hate myself.  I hate myself.  I hate myself.”  The people around me started looking like cardboard cut-outs, like the kind they make of Elvis and other celebrities.  These cardboard mall-goers were walking and talking, as if they were animated–not real people.  Soon after that, it looked like I had a ten-foot thick wall of glass between everyone else and me.  I was imprisoned in glass with only the loud chant in my head for company.  I wanted to hurt myself.  Burn myself.

I walked to the store in this confused state of mind and bought several things.  I even had a conversation with the cashier.  Somehow, as one part of me chants in my head and causes me to disassociate, I still function like none of that is happening when I have to interact with another human being.  Someone whom I don’t want to know about the drama going on inside me.

I walked back to the indoor playground where we were all meeting up and told my mom what was going on with me.  I felt so glad she was sitting alone at that moment so I could talk to her.  She tried to help me and we agreed I would call my therapist when we got back to their house.

I called Judy, my therapist, and she helped me a lot.  We talked about if I needed to be in a hospital or not.  I’ve been in short term psych hospitals five times in my life, starting in my mid-forties.   She told me to squeeze an ice cube instead of burning myself, which I did after I got home.  It hurt!!  It was a great substitute for burning myself and I recommend it to anyone who wants to self-mutilate.  Judy talked to me about hating myself.  This self-loathing is triggered so easily.  I feel sad that so many things, big and small, can catapult me to that place.  Often it’s something that makes me feel like I’m not good enough.  Even that my blood sugar isn’t good enough.   I didn’t end up going to the hospital and I was able to sleep that night.  I felt better in the morning.  Sometimes it lasts longer, is more severe, and I do end up in the hospital.  I hope that doesn’t happen again.

I did get to have the surgery and it went well, so all that turmoil was more wasted emotional energy.  I’ve wasted so much of it worrying about things that never happen.  I want to stop, but I’m still struggling with the whole thing.

Most people with mental illness, or maybe all, have triggers.  Once I saw a bumper sticker that triggered me.  Triggers are different than causes.  Triggers take us back to the causes, back to the events, back to the dark places in our own minds.  They reactivate something that already exists inside us.  Triggers are hard and they do remind me of emotional land mines planted in our own personal landscapes.  We don’t get any warning.  They just go off in our faces and we have to deal with it.

Get help when a trigger explodes your world!   Tell someone you trust!  Tell your mom, your therapist, your friend.  Tell someone.  Don’t try to go through this alone.  I ended up in the back of a police car for the first time in my life the last time I tried to handle it alone.  He was driving me to a local psych hospital for a 72 hour involuntary hold, called a Baker Act in Florida.

I don’t want that to happen again.  And I don’t want it to happen to you.