Monday, November 9, 2009

Smoke and Mirrors

As one who has never lived in Southern California I can only speak from casual observation. I don't know how it is really. I can only say what I see. That being said, the closest metaphor I can come up with for the past four days in SoCal is "smoke and mirrors". A study in stark contrasts, perhaps?

Here's the thing that started it all. 6 years ago was the last time I was there. I was on a work assignment similar to ones I had done in the past where one of my best friends was always there. Not so this time. He had just been diagnosed with a very serious illness so he was in the hospital and I was working without him. I had also just barely started learning about adoption issues a few months before that. So not only was I up in arms about my friend, I was very fragile emotionally as I began that journey into dealing with all the adoption issues. Not a good combination really. I don't remember much about that trip besides overwhelming sadness.

As I headed back there last week I wondered how it would be now that things in my life are so much different yet somehow the same. I still struggle with the same issues as I did then but to a somewhat lesser degree. I've definitely become older and wiser as the story goes. How did it turn out? My head is still spinning from it all.

First of all, my hotel roommate was a fellow adoptee. How serendipitous! I had to marvel at her strength and things she has overcome. She's only 18. I still had my head stuck up my hindquarters when I was 18. I had no clue why I was so sad all the time. So I have to give her props for that. I was grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk with a fellow adoptee/kindred spirit. We had a couple of good talks but she also wanted to be with her friends. So I don't know how much of a friendship we will have but I guess I'll just have to see how the universe works this one out.

I also struggled, once again, with being there without my friend. He's from there. I heard so many stories about SoCal from him. Very gritty and crazy stories because he came from several bad neighborhoods. So that's partly what I base my theories and observations on.

What are my theories? I see sharp juxtapositions. Gorgeous scenery blanketed with heavy smog. I see areas of heavy poverty and crime yet I marveled at the beauty of some of the graffiti. We saw all this as we drove to and from posh museums on the hills that contain some of the most celebrated art pieces on the planet. Being surrounded by gazillions of people yet being able to sit on a beach surrounded by said people and being able to have a few minutes of pure peace and oneness with the sounds and sights of the sea. The ultimate was having some time to wander on my own in a shopping center near our hotel in Anaheim. There was a karaoke talent contest with impressionable and beautiful children, no more than 6 years old, participating. God bless them for chasing their dreams and paying their dues in the trenches. I could never take that away from them. But I have to wonder.... how much of it really is their dream? How kind will the world be to them in chasing their dream? Not very. What are their chances, after paying their dues, of keeping their head on straight and seeing through the smoke and mirrors that is fame? Celebrities whose lives have turned into train wrecks just make me sad for them and those who choose to laugh at them. Sure they chose that life. But everything is supersized there. The myth of Hollywood hangs in the air. Its intense and its intoxicating. I even found myself groping in the smoke and mirrors a bit and I was just watching that world from a bus window and meandering in and out of it on our various stops.

There are many things and places that make my soul sing in SoCal and many people who I think would be my kindred spirits especially compared to my current locale. I have to say though that going back there was exactly the stark contrast I needed to show me where I was back then to where I am now as well as how much some things never change.

Much needed reality check!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Happy Mistakes

OK so....about my plethora of art classes..... I'm having a great time and also realizing how much I still have to learn. I'm taking the time to learn and practice to get all the concepts down so things look right or as close to right as possible.

Best of all, I'm becoming very acquainted with the lovely concept of happy mistakes.....the kind where the project or the medium doesn't do what you had does something way better! How fabulous is that? It's kinda stressful in the process to watch "good" plans go out the door. But that's where the magic of the happy mistake comes in!

I love that I am also becoming more acquainted with my personal style of handling the mediums. I've already had two drawing professors tell me that they like my style. One called it edgy and modern. The other called it lyrical and modern.

And the creative groove?! Fabulous and zen and funky and everything else. LOVE. IT!

A Zen-like Birthday

So how did I spend my birthday today? I did a watercolor. It's not fantastic but I'd say pretty damn good for being my first formal watercolor. I was in the zone. I was trying things and most of them worked. Overall, not a shabby way to spend my b-day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Clay Play

Looking back, it's amazing to realize how much learned about myself just by fiddling with lumps of clay for four weeks. I really sent myself through the wringer on this one. It really is a reflection of life and having hurdles to jump at every level of the process.

My first disclaimer: Watching claywork on a potter's wheel being demonstrated just looks oh-so-soothing and oh-so-easy. I'm here to's not!

First of all, just centering the clay is a challenge. Even seasoned potters still have their days where they can't center worth a crap. That definitely helps me feel better. It does help if you have good aim to just plop it down smack in the middle of the wheel. Then you have to hold your hands properly to mold the mound so it stays centered and works out the air bubbles (hopefully there are none). The process involves molding it into a sort of cone shape and then pushing it back down several times. This makes sure the clay is on true center if you do it right. If you don't or you are having an off day, it's just an endless source of frustration. You also have to make sure that your hands are wet enough to make the clay more pliable but not so wet that it's saturated. This comes more into play later. If clay is not wet enough, it's too abrasive and your hands get a microdermabrasion treatment which I can't say is entirely bad. Exfoliation never really is. With practice though, you can figure out the right pressure to use and get your feet to coordinate the speed of the wheel.

So once the centering is mastered then you can move on to opening the mound up so that you can raise into the form of your choice. Our first obstacle was the cylinder. An 8" high x 4"wide tower of clay. Frustrations galore. Too much pressure, too little pressure. Too much water, too little water. Not raising the clay in proportion to the speed of the wheel. Not having your hands in the correct positions. The result was all the same......collapsed towers of clay. There was also the issue of checking the thickness of the walls and the bottom. It had to be the perfect thickness so that it wouldn't explode in the kiln. I had that happen on several pieces. My other problem was that when I was attempting to raise the clay into the cylinder form I would get bowls, plates, candleholders.....everything but an 8"cylinder. However, I do remember the magic of the moment I finally had the perfect combination of water, pressure and hand placement. The clay raised as though it was touched by an angel. Such a fleeting and ephemeral moment. That is when I learned how much the clay responds to what you are thinking, even if you don't know that you are thinking it. Somehow, in that moment, I was in the zone. It fleed as quickly as it came when I came to and started intellectualizing it. However, I did learn to get to that point easier so I could continue to make semi-successful pieces. I can't wait for school to start to be able to go back and start practicing again.

So anyway, I did have some semi-successful pieces only to destroy some of them when trimming them too much or having them be so thick that I had to carve them tremendously to save them or not carve them enough and have them explode in the kiln. The delicacy of touch applies just as much here as it does in the process of throwing the clay.

Even fewer pieces made it past the bisque firing. Once they did, I knew I was pretty safe. The only thing to do now is not to mess up the glazing which I did do on a couple of pieces. Some glazes don't play well together. Even with all of my knowledge on color theory and color grouping, I still managed to make some pretty decent raw pieces look pretty horrendous. Oh well!

So many lessons and obstacles at every point. But I learned so much about myself through this process. I worked really hard and spent a lot of time on it. I came face to face once again with my perfectionism and my tendency to think too much. I have friends that I rag on for thinking too much about things and here I am, just as guilty as they are. The few fleeting moments where I was able to step outside of that and to give up the control and just go with the flow of the clay and the wheel were the moments where the magic can begin to show itself.

I can't wait for school to start again!

Back to the Drawing Board

Being back in an art class was like stepping into another world. My instructor for my drawing class was lovely. He kind of took the view of giving us a subject and just waiting for the surprises on how we interpreted what we saw. He said that was the fun for him....putting an ordinary subject in front of us and seeing 15 different takes on it. I couldn't believe how freeing that was. I think I would have been more discouraged had he graded on technicality and execution etc.

The zone that I would go into was just indescribable. I would start out being so overwhelmed by the subjects. Sometimes it was all I could do to put the pencil to the paper and just put a line down, especially when I saw the skill of some of my fellow class members. Then somehow I would start to sketch, endlessly trying to just get the forms just right. It would get frustrating because I can be such a perfectionist. Then, all of a sudden, a light would come on and somehow I knew how to make it work. I would go into a flurry of sketching then stop after a bit to look at the grand scheme only to see something better than I could have hoped for. Sure, it wasn't dazzling in all of its intricacy. It certainly won't make it onto any museum walls. But it was me! It was my artistic voice starting to come through. It was such a self confidence boost especially since it has been so long since I last attempted anything like that. I loved how each assignment just challenged me even more and opened me up for taking more rewarding risks. The teacher was just amazingly good at seeing what I was trying to do and encouraging it with just the smallest of suggestions. I wish that I had him again for the upcoming drawing class. However I am excited because the person I do have is a truly gifted artist who is pretty well renowned in these parts and I can't wait to see what I can learn from him.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Am I Living the Dream? here I am back.....back to the old blogging board. I'm here in my new stage of life. I took the leap and feel quite intrepid at times.

I'm living out in the boonies and realizing just how much of a city girl I have become over the last 12 years. I'm in prime ATV country now so I will admit to falling for that redneck-ish vice. I'd even go out long as it was clay or paper targets. No hunting for this one. All things considered, I really don't fit in with people around here. I consider myself pretty progressive on most issues. People around here believe everything Fox News tells them. I've had to do more censoring of myself in the last two months than I have in years. I didn't say much to most people before about my opinions on issues. Now I do it even less. Sad.

Thankfully I've got a lot to keep me busy with school work and all the necessary things for my grad school application. Thankfully my classwork in artistic endeavors doesn't require me to censor myself. Equal opportunity therapy.......what a lovely concept.....which is why I'm so in love with it. Maybe I really am living the dream. In fact, all things considered, I'm pretty sure that I am.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's the balance?

OK what gives? I have spent so much time wrapped up in my past, tossing it around in my mind, reliving it constantly etc. You always hear the quotes about not remembering the past and therefore being condemned to repeat it. Even one of my favorite Bob Marley songs says "In this bright future, you can't forget your past."

With some really hard emotional work I have learned to not get so caught up in my past destructive cycles. I've put my behind in my past as Pumbaa so eloquently said in "The Lion King." I have a real chance at grabbing something that would be representation of the hell that my past was and the partial victory that I have acheived over said past. I have decided to help adoptees who don't have the voices that they need in a sort of unconventional way. It is absolutely perfect too. I get so excited just thinking about all the possibilities.

Interlaced with this past is a life that I have built in the city where I am at right now. That includes old friends and attachments to this city and things I would do here. It also includes great newer friends who I feel have possibilities for more great times and learning experiences. I've built a life here. But in some ways I can feel doors closing as well.

I'm just so torn because I see the fantastic possibilities and I'm so excited for them. On the flip side, I feel terror at giving up something that has in some ways become mediocre (even with the good new stuff) for something which I'm pretty sure would launch me into what I dream about versus what I let myself live with.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The pursuit of happiness?

Its been a particularly good day, even up to the last week or two. I'm happy right now. In fact, I'm REALLY happy. Its not even to rebel against all the doom and gloom of life today. Everywhere I turn it seems like there is something wanting to steal my happiness. I don't want to let it go though. I think I subconsciously decided to put a Patronus Charm around myself so that all these Dementors couldn't have their way with me. Sorry I just got done watching that particular HP installment so that was the first comparison that popped into my brain. As I've walked through my happy days recently I've thought about the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". I used to use that phrase a lot when asked how I was doing or what I was thinking about and didn't feel particularly inclined to share. But that's just me. I'm a smart a** that way sometimes.

When I think of pursuit I think of running after something and it implies a certain degree of exhaustion something implies to me that the "pursuit" is always there, seemingly just beyond our grasp....sorta like a treadmill, running and running and never getting anywhere.

Is this what Thomas Jefferson intended when he wrote those words? I've thought quite a bit about it lately and I really don't believe so. On their own, these are great and powerful happy words. However, I think that in order for you to see where I am going with this you need to consider it on the basis of it being a family of words, not the individuals themselves. Life and liberty are the parents and the little rugrat is the pursuit of happiness. The definition of life is pretty self-explanatory. You have to be breathing first of all in order for this to work. My Random House dictionary tells me that the definition of liberty is "freedom from arbitrary or despotic government" or "freedom from captivity and confinement". Even though this is coming unhinged in today's society it still more or less exists. So we're alive and we're free for the most part. Good for us. So now that we are alive and free, what comes next? The "pursuit" of happiness which, I believe, is a product of being alive and at liberty to choose the path and station which we believe will give us the peace and prosperity that we desire. I believe that that is what our Creator had in mind for us and that is what I believe Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote this. The problem is that somehow we the people have screwed it up. Somehow we have turned, as a society, toward thinking that happiness is external so therefore it needs to be "pursued". In other words, we have actually taken Thomas Jefferson literally, way too literally. We have learned to think that happiness comes in the form of other people or things. So that automatically sets us up for problems. Not only are we denying our inner arsenal and capacity for real love and happiness but we do endlessly crazy things like working at jobs we hate, spending money we don't have to buy things that we don't realize won't fill the need, all the way down to inflicting violence on ourselves and others. Most of us are no longer acquainted with our power because we as a society gave it up for whatever reason. Everything we need to create real and lasting freedom, happiness and to stop giving away our power is right here within mad grasping or treadmills involved.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Change of Gratitude, Change of Attitude

I've done a lot of venting about various adoption issues so far which has been very cathartic. I just re-read some of my posts and can see that the venting did its work because the edges don't seem quite so raw today as they did at the various posting times. Don't get me wrong. There is still anger and sadness attached especially to the issue of sealed adoption records. I've done plenty of reading over the past couple of months to know how saturated this issue is with special interest influence. I've learned a lot more and been disgusted a lot more.

I don't want to focus on the disgust though right now. I want to focus on what is right and good with my life. I've spent way too much time living in a fear-based mentality. Over my lifetime I have suppressed so much. I was one scared puppy. When I learned about adoption issues and started to tap into it I was absolutely inundated. I dwelled in it because I was so scared by the massive volume of it and I just wanted it all out. That is a sure recipe for life drainage. So I've done the work I needed to get the catharsis that I least for now. I'm realizing how truly blessed I am in many regards now that the edges of my pain aren't so raw and many issues have been mitigated if not eliminated. I don't want to say that my grief work is done because I don't know what life has in store for me. Something may happen that may trigger it again. I don't know. I do think that I am better equipped now to handle it should it appear though.

So like the changing of the seasons, I find myself changing. I'm feeling more in sync with the universe. Somehow it is showing me how to function without the things that I used as defensive coping mechanisms in world that didn't understand me and understanding myself even less. It is lovingly teaching me how out of touch I was and showing me a better way. I've seen the life that I have created in my unconsciousness. My life was just a manifestation of that unconsciousness. I don't want that anymore. I find myself craving a life with less anger, more acceptance and less grief, more joy and less emotional violence.

I didn't ask for any of this adoption stuff, but I can't change it either. I can't change the fact that I was given up, both chosen and denied. It's a paradox that still messes with me even if it doesn't define me as much as it did. I can't change the fact that none of us understood the nature of adoption so there were a lot of needs that weren't met on all sides. Believe me, that takes a lot of grief work and eventual forgiveness to get to the bottom of it. I also didn't ask for this perpetual hole in my soul that never completely goes away. I didn't ask to be placed with a family (with huge societal expectation of gratitude) that still feels a bit alien to me. The beautiful thing is that this has all worked together to teach me just a little bit about the grace of God. For whatever reason, I had to go through being chosen and denied. I was granted a family that for all of our personality struggles, they all have good hearts and they are trying harder now that they know better. The hole in my soul is being somewhat filled by some friends who are more understanding than I could have hoped for and by acquaintances who share my same struggles and have become a "virtual family" that I can depend upon. I've been very blessed to make the acquaintances of many people over the Internet who are touched by this issue. I've learned from their wisdom and strength. I have also been able share some of my own wisdom and knowledge. We are all at different points on our journeys and some have definitely had a rockier road than I. These are all kind and beautiful souls and I feel blessed to be able to call them friends even though we probably never will meet in person. I found a fantastic counselor who validated me from the start and has been a lifesaver at helping me get rid of most of my negative coping mechanisms and replace them with ones that are infinitely more productive.

So it goes. I have seen what I have to be grateful for and I'm making it concrete for myself in the form of an anonymous shout to the world. I am so blessed. I feel it growing too. Feeling and expressing gratitude makes room for receiving more and more things to be grateful for. Even things that didn't previously seem like blessings have the benefit of hindsight to show that they were blessings in disguise. It truly is a beautiful and transforming thing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blessed Timing

I got some news a couple of days ago that I am not happy about. I am once again being railroaded in my search for my birth family by the laws in their current form. More hoops to jump through, more time to wait. More sadness is building too. I'm still in the stage of anger. It is not the seething anger of the past though....or at least a lesser degree of seething. I still wonder when my government and fellow citizens will look at me and finally see the need and demand that I be treated in the same manner as them. I wonder when my identity will not be a "state secret" and kept from me "for my own good." Time and a lot of hard work have healed or are currently healing me from many of my emotional wounds. This is where I have to defer to my faith in my God that gave me this information at time when I could better cope with it and not be quite so derailed by it. Right now I'm more sad than anything. Sad for people's lack of empathy. Sad for many things. I will not be derailed though. I will still do all I can to help people understand and pray for that day to come. In the meantime, I've got a life to lived and for once I actually have a desire to really do something about it. So off I go.............

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Emotional Vomit

I've only told one friend about this blog. I know that it is publicly searchable so I don't know if someone in Timbuktu or Vancouver or Ireland has found this. This was my reason for creating this blog. I still want a degree of anonymity but I also feel this fantastic need to reach out and share my story and my struggles. That is why I made it publicly searchable. I will tell you why one more time.

I know the nature of adoption, especially if its a closed adoption. For the adoptee, it forces a certain silence. It requires a degree of self sacrifice. It forces your knees to bend and to bow in submission and gratitude for being "saved" or "chosen" even if the circumstances they come into through adoption are even worse. Some can deal with it. me are continually dealing with it. Some force it down and pretend like its not an issue. Who are they harming? Themselves. Denial is never a good thing even if it is serving the purpose of sheer survival as it did for me. It will come out in the end in some way, shape or form. There is a beautiful side and a truly ugly side to adoption. Never has there been more of a need to understand the truly ugly side than now. I find myself repeating over and over again both here and in my conversations with people the need to look beyond the "rescuing" aspect. I repeat a lot of things. I find myself thinking of new ways to say the same things hoping that maybe that will be the ticket to universal understanding. This is why I use the term "emotional vomit". I stole this from the friend who I've told about this blog. But to me it fits because when you are truly sick to your stomach you don't just vomit once, you do it multiple times....however many times it takes to get the junk out. I'm speaking. Its not pretty. Maybe someday people will start to listen.