May God bless and keep you always…
“I want to know what’s become of the changes we waited for love to bring…were they only the fitful dreams of some greater awakening?” – Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Around the time I started this blog I also began participation in a class based on Julia Cameron’s books, The Artist’s Way and it’s sequel, Walking in This World. The group was being facilitated by my dear friend, Kelly Forrester. Kelly and I met when she was seventeen and had suffered a devastating accident which crushed her leg and her dancing aspirations…she came to see me in my massage practice at my little business office in Traverse City, Healing Arts Associates. She generously claims I saved her life that year…she has now more than returned the favor some twenty-five years later.
But I wasn’t trying to recover my creativity in the class – I was trying to survive. (Turns out they’re the same thing!) I remember sitting across the room from Lisa Perrine Brown, whom I had never met, and having her look me in the eyes and proclaim that if I would commit to this process, to doing the work outlined each week in the corresponding chapter of the book, that my life was about to change…”Expect miracles…,” she insisted. I couldn’t trust that; I could let her trust for me. Danielle Bearre played us Amanda Palmer’s Ukelele Anthem and took orders for $20. ukelele’s…I didn’t order one. I wasn’t at all sure I would be around to play it when it arrived…but I have since become a huge Amanda Palmer fan. And when I learned that her husband, Neil Gaiman, had written some of my favorite movie stories, I embarked on a new reading frenzy. I started this blog and it provided an outlet for my 3 a.m. insomniatic angst…and Nan Peterson blurted out loud in class one night, “You’re a writer, Susan!” I could not see that; I could let her see it for me.
I had never met most of these amazing women. They couldn’t possibly imagine what their influence would mean. But this month I am participating in NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. I write almost everyday; I have since day one of The Artist’s Way class. I paint and draw, for the first time in forty years. My life looks nothing like it did when I timidly showed up so raw and vulnerable . My heart is still broken from so much grief and loss. But it remains as open as I can hold it. I love my new life.
For beautiful Kelly.
I have had the great privilege of seeing most of these performers live – some several times in their many incarnations. Prince only once, and if you ever have the chance, do yourself that favor…Here they play what I consider to be one of the most brilliantly written songs of all time…were we just not listening?!
As a prayer for our nation.
My dad passed away the morning after Father’s Day. I’ve been too sad to write until yesterday. We had spent much of my adult life estranged and had become close again just the last several years of his life as his health failed. We reconnected only after my Mom’s death. They had been divorced many years by then, but had remained good friends. After her death he fell apart. We all did.
Just this morning I am cleaning out closets and came across a small old box labeled “Mom’s Photos”…but they weren’t Mom’s – they were Dad’s. My guess is they had not been opened since my mother moved out of our big family home thirty-some years ago now. The box contained photographs from as early as the nineteen thirties…my dad as a baby held by his mom. Dad as a toddler in knickers and argyle socks, and as an Army Corporal during the Korean War. Precious treasure.
I never knew these photos existed. I had never seen a photograph of my father as a young man. I assumed there weren’t any. Trying to figure out who all of these other people were was perplexing. When I turned a photo over I discovered he had gone through this box in 1978 – the year my son was born – and labeled everything. Consciously or not, he meant this for Steven.
And consciously or not, he knew somehow the box would survive in my mother’s care. She was The Archiver.
The past two months since his passing have sparked many memories, of course…some expected, some surprising. The most surprising are all the many times he stepped up to the plate and came to my rescue. Sadly, I have only seen those in hindsight. I am a time-traveler of a certain sort…likely aware of stranger’s stories more often than my own.
He and my mom were married at the age of nineteen, having been life-long friends and high school sweethearts. I was born when they were twenty, and by then he was stationed in Texas waiting orders to ship overseas. His brother was in Korea serving on the front lines, and I think they tried not to send two sons from the same family. (That was back when the country still had it’s soul intact.) As it happened, they were my grandmother’s only two children. Thankfully the war ended, and he and my Uncle Bill came home safely, reluctant heroes.
Throughout my childhood my mother drove all of us nuts with her constant picture taking. To this day we have canisters of old home movies. Since cleaning out my mother’s house ten years ago I have stored the many boxes of old photographs, always meaning to go through them. Sort them into separate boxes for each of my siblings and myself, and for our children – the grandchildren she worshipped and adored.
When my great Aunt Edith passed away she left a file cabinet hidden in the back of her bedroom closet with a note: “Give this to Susan.” I thought, “Why me?!” It lives in the back of MY bedroom closet now. It is packed full of photos and momentos…daggerotpypes and marriage certificates brought over from Ireland during the famine.
What will I do with all of this? Surely, I had to keep it. I moved recently, downsizing dramatically. Culling a lifetime of accumulated collections, I decided my criteria for throwing things away: would I risk my life to save this in a fire or tsunami?! Lightening my load became easier the more I did it. It feels so freeing. I have often envied those who could live in a gypsy wagon.
But alas, I have moved into a 1,000 square foot cottage and it is just right for me…and I sure am glad I didn’t throw that little box away.
Thank You, Rose, for your encouraging words. Bless you.
As people get to know me they often say I must write a book about my life…and I reply “I wouldn’t know where to start.” How do you write of the remarkable and ordinary?
As I meditated on this I heard “begin with the soundtrack.” I have always been a shadow musician and artist…and have written stories since Carol Ruth Owens and I made books of scrap paper in our front yards on Sandra Lane and filled them with adventurous mysteries like our heroines, Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…but with horses, of course…we were obsessed. We volunteered at Dick Trotman’s (yes, his real name…) stable so we could ride. I rode a gentle giant warmblood named Duchess. Even then in grade school I was tall and ugly skinny and the only bony child she would tolerate.
A junior high teacher told my Mother I was a talented writer…if only she could get me to finish something. I was not interested in writing. A sixth grade art teacher had entered me in the Detroit News Scholastic Art Awards unbeknownst to me, and I had won – with a watercolor homage to Rembrant’s Young Girl At an Open Half Door…all my waking hours I wanted only to paint. Little did I know I would win again, with an abstract oil my senior year of high school. I haven’t painted since.
Beginning college brought “two-fers” – creative writing instructors would have me complete two semesters worth of assignments in one. But I haven’t written since.
Let’s just say I lost my mojo. Has anyone out there seen it?
The last forty-five years or so have been about survival mostly. Learning how not to BE my emotions…how to navigate and balance the depression of addiction and medication and it’s insidious clusterfuck of side effects…the sins of my fathers…it’ll suck the mojo right out of a person.
Both my parents were “hobby” musicians, as were their parents. My mother’s father was a direct descendant of Franklin Pierce. He purportedly had some African American blood in his genes as well, and carried many of the physical attributes. But he passed for white, and made his quick and short lived fortune as a contractor building railroads, first for the booming automobile industry in Detroit, then across the continent, and eventually as far away as Japan. I ADORED him…especially on the weekends.
Amos Pierce lost his Golden Gloves to a young boxer named Joe Louis, and he and Joe became fast friends. In their twenties and suddenly well off, they hung around with their mutual friend, Chubby Checker…and many other young Detroit musicians, some who would soon have contracts with a new label called Motown…but first, they needed a big empty space to practice and relax in. So Amos built a rambling old Tudor mansion near downtown and finished the basement like a ballroom with a bar, a stage, and a big dance floor. Some of my earliest memories were negotiating the wide stairway, sister Sherry hanging on, carrying a heavy bag of cornmeal down to sprinkle all over the fancy new invention called linoleum so that the dance floor was slippery slidey…I’ve wondered if the Twist were born here. But mainly, I was just mesmerized by my six – foot – four grandfather with the head of curly black hair shaking to the beat. Late at night, perhaps early in the morning, I would flat out refuse to take off my new patent leather shoes. I remember those arguments; my grandmother coming to my rescue by making a pallet of blankets on the floor where I would eventually fall asleep. Somehow my sweet little self knew I didn’t want to miss a minute of this…
My Dad used to play boogie woogie piano so fast I wondered how his hands could move like that…we would all gather around… Mom on the guitar. Everyone picked up a tambourine or conga drum, a pan and spoon, or just a harmony…and the neighbors would wander down…hearing the ruckus coming through the windows…his old favorites play in my dreams at night…
And one of mine…
Just Sayin’….Thanks, Nadine…I was needing that.
Yesterday was a great day. Circumstances have been pretty hard here lately…my father has become quite ill and is fighting for his life. I have had to cut off most communication with my abusive siblings throughout this process, while still maintaining contact with my Dad. A lot of letting go is going on…
My dog and I slipped on the ice about a month ago and are still dealing with our injuries. It remains to be seen whether or not he will walk again, and whether or not I can keep him alive much longer. A second offer on the purchase of my home appears to be falling apart now. It’s looking like we can’t give this thing away. My finances are a disaster. A month’s worth of income runs out after a week…
Wow, I need some relief. It came yesterday in invisible form. I fell into bed late morning utterly spent – mentally, emotionally, physically…and the healing began. Spontaneous healing is not strange to me, it has occurred all my life. “Psychic surgery” is not a new or strange concept; I have experienced it. This was similar to previous “sessions”, but with a bit of a twist. I could HEAR them as well as feel them. Invisible beings were working to restore my well being.
It sounds crazy – no one knows that more than I – because being thought of as crazy has been one of the biggest fears of my life. It just is what it is. I just report what I experience. Imagination? WHO CARES?! Einstein said “Imagination is the language of the divine.” At this point in time I’m in no position to question any blessing I receive…
While I don’t wish to share all of the things that went on over the course of nearly an hour, I suddenly felt a pinching sensation in my back where I had hit my scapula on the pavement when I had fallen. It was far more acute than the pain which had become a general ache in that area, and when I focused my attention there, it felt like I was being STITCHED…I said “I feel like I’m falling apart at the seams,” and I heard, “No, you are falling apart at the SEEMS.”
What the heck does THAT mean?! And then the images…Dad, the dog, myself splayed out on the pavement, the house, it all began to dissolve…and then come back together in a new way…Vibrant. Healthy. Happy. Alive.
Now, I am more blessed than many with inexhaustibly supportive friends. Smart friends. I am a student of A Course in Miracles. And I belong to a community committed to the path of joy through meditation, Bright Path Ishayas. I have received guidance from all over the country. I know I am loved. Now I know I am loved by many beings, and deeply. We all are. I don’t know why we matter, but we matter. Greatly.
The Course teaches “Salvation is my only function here.” Salvation means joy. This world is NOT what it seems, or how it appears to the human eye…Thank God. Couldn’t we please learn to be a little more compassionate with ourselves…and let ourselves fall apart at the seems.
For Nadine and her infinite patience…and all of you. You are my light.
This happens to be one of my favorite scenes from one of my favorite movies, the very romantic comedy, The Holiday:
“You’re supposed to be the leading lady of your own life, for God’s sake…” I think it’s one of my favorite movie scenes because I have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in therapy trying to learn some common sense – the common sense that says: if you are trying too hard, stop. Just stop. You checked your self-respect and integrity at the door of Narcissist Land. Pick them up on your way back out – running!
My life has been changing rapidly these past few weeks. In transition now for the past couple of years, I hope to be able to settle soon into a new home in a new city, and begin a new life…it is terrifying and exciting. With the impending move, an acquaintance is becoming a friend, and she is going through a painful breakup. We are examining our addictions to emotionally unavailable men, and reflecting on our co-dependent behaviors. Blah blah blah…there’s THAT ugly subject again.
But I am more intensely -and consciously- dealing with my loneliness as I distance myself from close proximity to the alcoholics and addicts I LOVE…some of my closest family and friends. According to Melody Beattie of Codependent No More, I am not an enabler…I am a Master Enabler. And having just celebrated my sixtieth birthday, it is time to grow up…insert here Neil Sedaka singing…but replace the word BREAKING with the word GROWING! That’s a gas, man…
“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” -Agnes Repplier, The Treasure Chest
“The light has come.” -ACIM, Lesson 75
For my darling women friends, and my dear new friend…she knows who she is!
Here is an old video taken from my favorite blog, Content In A Cottage…it cheers me to no end! Lucky children to have her as their second grade teacher…