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Archive for November, 2009

unicorn1.0 

I’m adding these themes to my working list of the sketchbook project that I have in process right now: 

  • you don’t have to be a tree hugger to talk to trees, and it can save the world
  • how an extraordinary little girl used every day magic to save the world (series of pages tell the story)
  • how “childish dreams” can save the world
  • can we be polite and still save the world?
  • what unicorns can teach us about saving the world (It’s a secret-this picture is a teaser page!  You’ll have to keep following the story to learn the secret!)
  • How what you believe could save the world

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Page 2 to go into my sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project.  My assigned topic:  How to Save the World.

 

sketchbook Project #2.0-1

A little background about the symbolism on this page: 

The symbolism here is tied to the religious paradigm of the mythical hero off to slay evil demons out in the wilderness so as to protect kith and kin. 

This paradigm was articulated by Mircea Eliade (1907-1986), a native of Romania, who was “a well-known historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He was a leading interpreter of religious experience, who established paradigms in religious studies that persist to this day. His theory that hierophanies form the basis of religion, splitting the human experience of reality into sacred and profane space and time, has proved influential.[1] 

“Eliade argues that religious thought in general rests on a sharp distinction between the Sacred and the profane;[83] whether it takes the form of God, gods, or mythical Ancestors, the Sacred contains all "reality", or value, and other things acquire "reality" only to the extent that they participate in the sacred.[84] suggests that in traditional societies, people tended to view the world as being one of opposing realms, of the known world, and the unknown world.  The known world was “the realm of established order; and beyond the known world is a chaotic and dangerous realm, "peopled by ghosts, demons, [and] ‘foreigners’ (who are [identified with] demons and the souls of the dead).[116] ….According to Eliade, traditional societies place their known world at the Center because (from their perspective) their known world is the realm that obeys a recognizable order, and it therefore must be the realm in which the Sacred manifests itself; the regions beyond the known world, which seem strange and foreign, must lie far from the Center, outside the order established by the Sacred.”  Full Wikipedia Article on Eliade’s life and work

Eliade’ argued passionately for the universality of these paradigms, probably the most controversial aspect of his work to others.  But I would argue that one doesn’t have to look very hard at contemporary cultures, to at least see the pervasiveness of the paradigm of the mythical hero as a recurrent theme today across most cultural groups, in religious stories, as well as popular drama and other entertainment.  It continues to be held up as a value throughout enculturation processes in some form.  The details may vary, but it is a powerful motivator to act, even today. Though the paradigm has its roots in traditional societies, it clearly persists in modern culture and shapes values on a primal level.   

It is a romantic notion that lies at the heart of the decisions of world leaders to take up arms, though how those leaders have formed their perception of who is included in the sacred or in the profane derives from how they, as individuals, have come to see who is “in” and who is “out”.  Whether you are looking at individuals who take extreme measures to strike through hostage taking, genocide, and mass murder, or the knight who fights on his home soil to defend against invaders, all can be seen to be acting on a sorting process.  This process of sorting the universe of being “one/part of us” or “in” and being “not part of us” or “out” begins in early social development.  How we learn to sort and how we act on that sorting is shaped by how we our personal biases are formed.  It is how we judge the behavior of others. 

If we view and judge others around us as being the profane, “outsiders”, “others”, we make them “dragons” in our minds, or the “chaos monster”, as Eliade would describe them.  We believe that it is a hero’s duty to slay dragons that threaten us.  The problem here, is that they are probably not dragons at all, and the facts are likely not that we are good and they are evil and must be defeated.  In fact, they may just be afraid of us, as we are of them, and by our perceptions and acting through fear, we cannot build empathy or understanding.  What is required to avoid the outcome that we are afraid of, is learn to see one another without judgment, to foster trust and acceptance through mutual respect of our common humanity and unique qualities.

When we are looking over at someone that we are perceiving as a “dragon”, we should question our perception, and the assumptions that form that perception.  We should investigate before we behave with prejudice toward another, and try our best to understand them, to see them as they are, not just as we “fear” they might be.  We should set aside our fear and loathing for what is unfamiliar and try to build empathy with others, not try to force them to be “us”, or to force us to be “them”, but to appreciate the differences and how the uncomfortable feelings arose, and then find the common ground to address respective concerns.   We can’t control what other people do, but we can do our part to attempt to bridge the gap.  This is how we can each be a “hero”, and save the world.

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“I see, said the blind man, when he could not see at all.”

 

horse study #1 5x7 11.13.09 I feel as if I saw a horse for the first time yesterday—I mean really saw what a horse looks like,and they are incredible!  In fact, I feel as if I’ve lived the last 44 years of my life, prior to this past year, as if I’d been blind in so many ways.  During those years, I can count very few, very brief memories of actually experiencing the pleasure of just being, of really connecting with the world around me, in the absence of external or internal judgment or criticism, regret or worry, or the nagging feeling in my gut that something was badly wrong or missing. 

Having struggled most of my life to uncover information that would lead me to some sort of enlightenment about what was wrong, I didn’t have a clue about how I was actually “supposed” to feel.  I just knew that I didn’t feel right.  And the more I learned as I searched for answers, I was afraid that I might not even know what to do with them if I ever did find them.  Experts would  sometimes conclude that whatever was wrong with me was “all in my head”, and those opinions certainly didn’t get me any closer to the answers that I needed, or help me restore a feeling of wholeness and normalcy that was unknown to me. 

Well, I found the answers I was looking for, and what can now be remedied has been or is being remedied, and the rest is with me on this journey for now.  Some of the fallout is physically disabling, and incurable, and I often hear from caring and concerned people that they don’t know how I get through the day, how I don’t feel like giving up, why I’m not bitter, depressed, and so forth. I can say that I did feel a lot of frustration for years, and it was a bit of a shock when I finally discovered what was behind everything. For a short time after discovering the truth, I thought that doctors should have tried harder to figure it out, since they were supposed to be the “experts”, but honestly, I just don’t think that is very realistic, nor does it matter to me any longer.  However I got them, I do have the answers I needed, I’m still alive, and more alive in many ways than I ever was before. 

The thing is that I don’t really see my brain as “damaged” now, even if my body has suffered some setbacks, even if the various growing collection of inflammatory diseases, surgical complications, etc. can be traced back to a very nasty accident that should have killed me before I saw the inside of my first classroom.  The injury healed a long time ago, and just happen to have reprogrammed my brain, but I can hardly call it brain damage, when the “experts” couldn’t have sorted it out with my brain’s help!  That is one of the advantages that I enjoy with this reprogrammed brain.  I prefer to think of it as just different, but it is about as unique in how it functions as a fingerprint, or so I’m told.  In fact, I am blessed to have a brain that gives me significant abilities when it comes to making these kinds of connections, apparently due to massive connectivity & coordination between right and left hemispheres, with amazing abilities to intuitively sense patterns, relationships, and make connections of many kinds, that are not readily apparent to many people, even without particular expertise in those fields. Now that I’m not getting pumped full of intolerable chemicals that interfere with my brain, it does this even better.

I feel no bitterness about the past, what I didn’t have, or don’t have now, I’m not worried about what I won’t have or be able to do in the future.  I’m not afraid of the future, and I’m not miserable about the past. I feel really peaceful right now. Because the thing that I do have now, is what I have been searching for my whole life: to be able to be in this moment, and experience everything that I can experience right now. I LOVE that!  To take all of my living right now, and drink it in, to experience it without judgment or fear, makes me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before. It’s true that a lot of my body parts don’t work like they used to, and I can’t do all of the things that I used to enjoy doing, but who is 50 and hasn’t experienced that, even if not to the same degree as me right now? Hell, I could have died 100 times from all this stuff, but I didn’t.  Instead, I have lived long enough to be able to experience life fully, and to understand me as a whole self today!  How great is that?!  Things finally make sense, and for the first time in my life, all the experts work with me as a team, and I couldn’t be happier!

And although I can’t do some things that I used to, there are so many new things that I am discovering every day that I can do, that I never dreamed of, like drawing a horse!  This gives me great joy. I can SEE things now, that I could never see before!  And what I see, I can draw, and I see so much more than I ever did before, things that used to be so elusive to me, like what a horse’s eyes actually look like, its muscles, and so many other things that are fantastic and amazing!  I think I first felt the NEED to draw, not in spite of pain, but BECAUSE I was in pain.  Now that I was feeling everything, I needed a way to process things, and integrate it into a more aware ME.  I started drawing for the first time ever in July.  It opened up new ways for me to connect with life around me, to experience it, to see it, and to feel more alive and whole.  Now my mind’s eye can see new things, too, things that spring from my own imagination, many possibilities, and delightful impossibilities!  I can show what is inside of me through images now, and not only with words.  How incredible!   Why wallow in disappointments of the past, when I have this to experience right now?  I don’t need to run away from anything, and I don’t need to desperately search for something to fill a hole in my bucket—I have all that I need right now, experiencing this moment.  I am blessed!

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Tangle Patterns #1

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs how helpful it can be do doodle when I’m not feeling well.  One of the activities that I’ve been working on was putting my doodle patterns into a notebook for me to flip through when I am thinking about doing fills in drawings and looking for ideas about patterns that I might want to use, and so I’ve been working on these zentangle pattern sheets with my own pattern designs.   The pattern template itself, is a 12-block blank grid that Milliande put together. 

 

Think of these as doodle patterns that I might use to incorporate into images.  The sheets that I drew them on are standard 8.5” x 11” paper, done in black pen and shaded with graphite pencils, all on the same sheet of paper that you see here.  This is just standard photocopy paper, so it was not doing to take a lot of wear and tear, but now I will transfer the completed pattern sheets to some sturdier stock, and hold onto the originals.  Each pattern was drawn for the first time on this sheet, and was completely unplanned—a bit terrifying, since I was doing them in pen, I tried not to think about what would happen if one of them didn’t work, since I had no “do-overs”!  Think of these as design idea sheets for me to reference, of patterns that I developed before, to give me some ideas for new drawings that I might want to do.  Some of these designs have pet names.  I might update this blog later with the pattern names. 

 

tangle patterns #2 dearley

Much of the detail lines are done with a Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner, which is the finest pen size that I’ve been able to find.  I had to do these drawings using both my reading glasses and my large magnifying task light, and my eyes are still killing me!  Ugh! 

 

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female admin.1  This is a sketch that I did of the admin at the doctor’s office today.  She had such a warmth and beauty that emanated from her, and I really liked her.  I was originally doing a sketch of the two admins together, but I decided that they should be separated because a) I got a completely different vibe from each—both good, just different, and b) not enough time to finish both, and c) curling lines and shading worked better with the tremors in my hand and my pain levels, for some reason.  So I separated them after I had sketched her and part of him.  It was calming to do.   It’s all done in graphite pencil.  I never even caught her name, but I will definitely ask, as I’ll give her the sketch the next time I see her. This is the first time I sketched an African American woman (I’ve done so few serious drawings of people since I started drawing in July), and I’m pleased with it so far!

The thing about sitting in the waiting room, was that my whole left arm was really painful, and I was having difficulty quieting tremors and spasms in my left hand coming from a progressing shoulder impingement.  ; since I’ve started drawing, the impingement in my left shoulder that severely impaired me through half of undergraduate school, and most of law school has returned, and I couldn’t hold my hand steady enough to draw some lines on my doodle page.  This shoulder problem left me with a frozen shoulder that remained that way for over 5 years, and I had to do all my note taking on a keyboard before laptops were readily available or commonly used in classrooms.  My whole left arm was locked down, and using my hand to do things set off these needle-like sensations up my arm and I couldn’t hold my hand steady at all, and quickly the pain.  Back then I was eventually lucky enough to have a therapist who snapped through enough of the adhesions locking down my shoulder to enable me to move my arm again, and once I’d recovered my mobility, it took years of work in the gym to rebuild the musculature that had been lost to atrophy.  In fact, when I started, the whole left side of my back just sagged and was a fraction of the right side.  After that, I avoided using my left hand as much as possible, though I worked out with my whole body, because I didn’t want to set off the nerve stuff again, since they never knew why it had started in the first place. 

Then, about a month ago, I started getting that weird tingly feeling creeping down my arm, from about the elbow, then increasing muscle spasms and pain, and eventually all the way up to my shoulder again.  I wake up in the morning and I can’t straighten my arm, and it hurts to hold a coffee cup, and I have to apply heat and massage, and pain creme to get the pain tolerable, just to do basic things and break up the stiffness that set in overnight.  Holding a pencil lightly in my hand, or a marker, while using good ergonomics, should not cause this.  I do have rheumatoid arthritis, but I don’t know that is what this is.  So they were backed up  at the doctor’s office yesterday and I had to wait a while, so I sat and drew.  I tried to finish up the last pattern in my newest tangle pattern sheet, but what was left were some mostly straight, short lines, and I couldn’t steady my hand enough to control placement. 

So I set the pattern sheet aside, and got out my sketchbook, instead, and decided to use my meditative pain management methods instead.   I needed to NOT control that hand, because it was not in a state of control, but I DID need to calm myself down, at a minimum not increase the spasms, and try to reduce the pain.  Starting from there just meant focusing on easy marks—squiggles in this instance—and she caught my eye.  I didn’t tell her that I started sketching her while she sat at the window, as I waited to be taken back to see the doc. It because with focusing on her beautiful hair, the soft spirals felt comfortable and relaxed, small enough not to be too taxing, and then I was noticing the graceful curves all over her face, and the way the overhead lights created powerful contrasts against her deep brown skin.  I don’t know how exactly to put words to the feeling of having my gut, eyes, and hands connect powerfully when I was drawing her, as if they knew exactly what to do, like my hands felt exactly what marks to make, and it was resonating from vibes that I got from her.   I only had a very rough sketch at this point, and then they called me back to see the doc.

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IMG000069

Doctor’s appt today to circle back on how I’m doing.  I’m both looking forward to this and dreading it, all at the same time.  So much to review about options.  If they ask me what’s my number, I must NOT blow up at them!  Argh….pet peeve when you have a chronic illness!  Okay, find my quiet place…calm…..waited so long since the last review.  I was so patient,especially for me!  I’ve come a long way; I can do this! My other doc appts went well, and hopefully I can get this guy on board with making sense of how to better manage all these comorbid conditions and not fry my brain in the process!  He listened to me last time and earned my respect; I need to trust that it will be easier for him this time with more information.  I’m bringing comparison images for him, in case he’s forgotten how I looked last time.  But I’ve lost so much weight since then, and so much muscle!  <sigh>  I can tell that the steroids are starting to lose their effectiveness, though symptoms are still not as bad as without them, assuming I don’t use any of my joints.  How much longer till I can get this in remission?  Hope springs eternal (stubbornly so with me, thank goodness!)

BE BRAVE!!  YOU ARE BRAVE!!  IT WILL BE OK!! 

Sheesh, my heart is racing!  Why do I get so anxious about these meetings?????  Nothing else has triggered anxiety for me in quite a while, now I’m having this completely unhelpful reaction.  Gotta jet, and take a little calming time before my appt. 

Well, I’m bringing some doodling with me, and that always helps.  Working up some new pattern sheets for some of my abstract zen kinda stuff that I use for pain management and stress reduction.  Will post them as I finish them.  There are 12 pattern squares to a page, and developing new designs takes a little longer than putting down patterns that I’ve already worked with.  Still, it’s very calming and opens up flow.

 

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IMG000049 Some days I don’t really have energy to do much of anything, and it affects my creativity and also my positivity to navigate my way through the day’s challenges, whatever they may be. I am posting a list of tips that I will update as I think of/discover additional tips for boosting energy. 

This first list is derived from one that MSN had recently posted via Redbook Magazine, called “12 Surprising Things That Are Making You Tired.”

  • Have I taken a pleasure break lately?  Read jokes, share them with others, flip through a magazine, call a friend, daydream, doodle, waste time, play a game, play a CD while you’re doing routine tasks.  Mini-breaks will make your time more “ho” than “hum.”
  • Have I had my light boost today?—get outside for a 10-minute walk of some kind at least once during the day or when you’re most tired—bright light has a caffeine-like power to make you more alert. Even if it’s cloudy, you get more light exposure than sitting in your studio or office. If getting out isn’t an option, at least try to spend a few minutes in a room with lots of natural light, and if that isn’t possible, use natural spectrum lighting in your workspace.  Some people get the seasonal blues and blas when the days get shorter and they are outdoors less. 
  • Am I Breathing?  breathe from your diaphragm several times each day—when you’re feeling tired or you’re about to go into an energy-draining situation. Put your hand over your belly button. As you inhale, focus on making your stomach and chest move. This will automatically expand your lower lungs so you take in more air with each breath.  The increase in blood oxygen is rapid and the energy boost and relaxation enhancement is significant.
  • Have I Moved Lately?  Doesn’t have to be dramatic to work. At the gym, I had a 5 minute promise to myself to HAVE TO spend only 5 minutes exercising, and if I didn’t feel like doing more,I could stop.  Before I hit 3 minutes, I was always energized and motivate to continue.  The 5-minute rule has changed for me during flare periods, with so many co-morbid illnesses that fight with each other, but even then, I can do what I can to stretch, walk wherever I can, even yawn (with the whole body). Even striding to the bathroom. When I feel better, I try to break up long periods of immobility and concentration on a project with little breaks to keep my body alert. I’ve found that with doing detailed art, intensive research, and concentrating on a project, being in the flow, I lose track of time, but my body feels some effect from long uninterrupted periods without much body movement, and my eyes become strained when I don’t change my focus periodically.  So I try to look off into some sort of distant point about every 30 minutes or so to give those muscles a rest. Feelings of eyestrain can bring the whole body down into a state of fatigue and strain.  If a long involved project has left me with severe eyestrain, I may need to take a break for hours or days and do something else for a while that gives my eyes a little more rest, and come back to it when they feel better. 
  • How is my sleep hygiene?  It is important for me to try to go to sleep as close to the same time each night as possible, and wake up around the same time, to keep sleep cycles stable.  This is less stressful and fatiguing on my body, and enables it to cycle more efficiently. Lack of good restorative sleep is probably my biggest aggravator of uncomfortable physical symptoms and stress, which drains energy, and makes it more difficult for my mind to shift into a creative and relaxed flow.  Flares, for me, are both an indicator and a cause of sleep interference, so when I am having them, it is even more important for me to pay special attention to getting myself to sleep on my schedule the best that I can, and to eliminate anything in my environment that may interfere with that, such as caffeine, worrying about stuff, clean & comfortable sleep atmosphere (clean room, fresh air, humidity, clean air filters, no noise or late night TV), avoid stimulating activities just before bedtime (TV, work, exercise, arguments & other stressful things), wind down period, avoid daytime naps. And make sure to dim the lights leading up to bedtime, to get your brain shifting into the sleep mode (the opposite of “lighten up” above).
  • Am I getting enough water?  By the time you’re feeling thirsty, you are already somewhat dehydrated, and your heart has to pump harder to circulate blood and get oxygen and nutrients to your brain, so your energy drops.  9-12 glasses of water a day, depending on how sedentary you are and the environment.  Fresh fruit and vegetables have very high water content (as much as 90% and more) in an optimal form for absorption by the body, so use these when a bottle of water isn’t within reach.
  • Did I eat a healthy breakfast?  Usually the answer for me is no, but it matters.  Eat a healthy breakfast—make sure there is good quality protein and long-acting complex carbs.  I’m bad on this one, just because I am almost NEVER hungry, and food is hard for me to handle anytime, as eating easily sets off problems for me rather rapidly. Two things that I currently do ok with, is part of a chewy TLC bar by Kashi (my favorite is the Trail Mix bar). Each 140 calorie bar contains 6g protein, 20 grams carbs w/4 g fiber,and 0 trans fat, and the 5g fat comes from nuts & grains.  I used to do well with oatmeal, but the last 2 times I tried that didn’t go well; not sure why.  Probably because I don’t eat often enough.  I can also handle limited quantities of fresh fruit, and protein powder, and I should at least get in a protein shake made with fresh fruit and a scoop of protein powder, to get me going with 20 g protein plus some fiber & carbs.  Raw veggies & raw fish (sushi/sashimi) generally always are ok to my gut, but not exactly the breakfast of choice!
  • How’s my posture? Check my posture and body language—if I’m slouching a lot, energy isn’t flowing properly.  Change positions, straighten up, pay attention to ergonomics in my environment that may be creating chronic stressors and setting me up for some sort of repetitive injuries (i.e., carpel tunnel syndrome) that will drag me down.
  • Get away from noise.  Noisy environments can be draining to cope with.  Bring down the volume when you can on noise.  It’s ok to play stimulating music for exercise, but control what you can of interfering extraneous noise.  I personally enjoy the morning hours, sometimes most of the day, with virtual silence, since my ADHD is managed effectively now, I really cherish the quiet.  Before the ADHD was being managed, I used to work in a really noisy loud environment as it seemed to somewhat dampen the constant noise and clutter in my head.  I don’t know why it worked, but playing bagpipe music at maximum volume on headphones was the only thing that managed to drown out the noise in my head and enable me to focus enough to get through law school papers & exams.  After 49 years of perpetual noise, movement, and chaos, it is almost shocking to a lot of people at how quiet and still I prefer to be a lot of the time.  But it’s so peaceful now, and I don’t like to disturb that precious calm.  When I have to be around much noise for long, I get tired quickly, and look for somewhere quiet to escape to.  I don’t so much find the noise to be distracting now, as irritating.  It’s like screeching chalk across a blackboard for me now, and it feels like a roadblock to my flow.

    If I am trying to do something creative, and having difficulty shifting into flow, the very first thing I have to do is to quiet and still my mind—to bring it down to a state of openness to flow.  If I am having a flare, I have to do exactly the same thing before I can begin to be able to use creative activity to manage pain effectively and get through the flare with the least impact, but I am starting even farther away from a flow state when I am in a flare.  At that time, my entire body is more sensitized to every kind of external stimulation—light, noise, smell, taste, touch—they all increase pain and spasms—so it may be necessary to go to a quieter room, what I might call a “clean room” that is as devoid of harsh sensory stimulation as possible, to get my mind in the right condition to shift into flow and access positive energy.

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