Postcard #13: Snow Daze

I like the way the wind seems to take form as it lifts the snow and howls through the trees. There is no way to escape the dance-in-the-face snow-snake-spirits that weave and wave off the roof edges. I barely feel the cold as I stand in the snow, ignoring how it spills into my boots as I sink into its bank. If I let the awe of watching the snow fall get to me too long, before long I will be washed with snow and shivering. That is how this week began, with the snow, a clean blanket of it, a proper snow, but not as deep as those in my fondest memory.

My favorite snow days are the ones when the snow is new, right when it has just stopped falling, and has turned the city into a wasteland. No one is outside, no businesses are open, the air is still relatively warm, and snow drifts have been molded into lovely curved mini-landscapes by the wind. It is during those times I feel like the only person left alive in the world. I bundle up and look forward to being the first human to make her prints in the snow.

My least favorite snow days are the ones when the snow has become crusty and hard, when snow is more like hunks of ice tossed into a glass to keep a cocktail chilled, and we’re set afloat in the drink, getting colder, and colder, and colder…  The coldest ice covering everything, slowing things down, giving us months of below-zero torture, with breezes to chap every cheek and turn skin to chalk.  That is the February snow, the time when the Cailleach will tell us how long she will want to stay with us. Never mind that groundhog. This Goddess will be riding a wolf when she storms. If the sun shines she will be out gathering wood for her fire. And, if the sky is full of cloud, she’ll stay inside to cook a stew, perhaps take a nap or two. Even when the Spring Equinox signals her exit, she can stay as long as May if she so wishes. I have learned to respect her.

As I stay awake late, I feel the cold breath of the winter beyond my window, just a few planes of glass separate me from the chill. For the moments I took to write this, my heart flashes with enough heat to melt the snow outside. Even if you are not appreciating the cold like I am, I throw this warmth at you like a snowball, hit you so soft that it won’t hurt when it hits, it will just dissolve, maybe turn to vapor, light as a whisper by the time it reaches you, yet leaving you touched by the most gossamer of fairy-wing.

That is a wish I wished come true for you, from me at home, to you out there, and everywhere, beyond the snow, or in it, where ever you will be.

Catch you in another daze.

I know who No One is

No One likes, leaves comments, darts through the pages of friends I once saw back when No One was someone I knew. She shows up, the shadow in my tea-cup, that little bit of froth at the edge on the surface, the burn on tongue-tip when I dare take that first sip. No One is the steam rising, threatening, the boiling, the tea kettle scream, the sudden silence after. No One and I were those groggy mornings after long nights of talk. No One and I were sisters of the keyboard, brush, ink, and paint. No One was as fine as white lace, like snow flake crystals magnified, hard and soft, cold and melty, made of linen but the lace could itch at the collar when it got hot.  If we had met as children, we would have been the girls who stayed after school in the art room, our hands and cheeks dotted with our fingerprints of tempera. If we had met in the 19th century, we would have been the Soiled Doves in the Old West shuffling about under paper-thin parasols, giggling as if innocent, making the cowboys blush.  But instead we met, as many do now, on this spaceship internet, sharing a relationship built upon text and digital photograph, we had each other all stuffed in a box, like dolls we were, enticing each other to come out to play. And we did, we did!  It was grand, as any saga is, and our’s was like no other.

Gone now the times with No One. As if she had only existed like someone I had made up. I talked to her like a real person, thought she would stay, she even promised “friends forever” just like we would have, had we been age 9. Yet. The traces of photographs, the evidence that we lived before we murdered each other, can be found all along the roads we took to our secret places. We were the ghosts’ paparazzi, but she with the more ‘excited’ camera and matching tri-pod.  I never suspected that No One would someday be one with them in my dreams, roaming all the abandoned buildings, her thin lips a red grapefruit sweet-sour line of pursed persnicketiness. I held on to No One for as long as I could cradle her. The problem was, she forced me to go, and left in a fury.

Instead of making-right, she did the saying-nothing, her talking fingers brutally scratching at me as if I were violating her, as if every effort I made to abandon a fight were an invitation to begin another duel. I could not win a battle she told everyone she had already won, and since No One was the only one there, who would say she was wrong, or that I was right? My every apology was misinterpreted, read as cryptic code to mean something opposite, and all the blame fit perfectly on my shoulders all because I could not be there in person to soothe her temper.  My someone became No One the day she no longer saw me as someone.  It is how things end that you can’t help but let end.  Calling for her just gave me answers of silence.  She left me to my scribblings, and even though I no longer gave her a name, I wrote for anyone to see what sorrowed me.  And my public sorrows angered her the more.  The pain continued the way our joy did, online and in Hell, just as it was in Heaven, undead and breathing.

At war’s end, our poison tongues lashed and strangled each other.

The words we used to bring us together was now the means of our death.

Long after I buried No One in her unmarked, empty grave, I saw No One’s reflection once in the ice… I got stuck on her when I attempted to wipe away the icicles, and as the icicles wept, I gave her a kiss to make her feel better, but my lips told me she was still too cold, that she could no longer be here, and that what I had kissed could only be drunk, and what was drunk was only hard water barely frozen over with a mist on stone, tasting of clay and stone, the gravestone that did not mark her grave, the stone without her name.  I dare not speak her name, let alone carve it into stone. Even today she would rage at the thought I am writing of her so, yet how can she damage me more over this? Even as I write her in poetry I can hear her critique me with a hard stare through the metaphors.  Yet the grave symbolism would surely make her smile in the way I remember she used to when we were not busy disagreeing over the little things.

No One’s lasting impression does not leave me twitching with hate.  Affection remains like snowflakes, like dust, like sprinkles, like lipstick marks, like the aftertaste of black coffee at a rest stop on a late night drive to nowhere just to be somewhere.  Whenever I journey now to unknown places, I still feel as if she accompanies me, wishing she was accompanying me, and that all our fighting was just a bad storm that blew away the house that was our home.  The damage had made us go our separate ways, but the disaster forced us to rebuild our lives, and when we are all done hammering, digging, redecorating, re-roofing… we’ll come home again for some tea.

I do not linger dreamily over other souls online like I once did with her.  I am no longer all anxious to travel and get out to meet people, and write on them all my expectations. Anticipation is exhausting! Rarely do I take invitations to meet-up seriously, only now suspiciously, careful not to work my fractured heart apart again. I only just got this thing glued back together, you know. Too much passion makes me shake, even joy could tear me apart. But somehow that kind of heart-shake seems to liven up my blood, the fire inside penetrates the anxiety, burns straight through any panic, and this passion frees me to dance so hard, it starts to shape my belly from pannicular to somewhat svelte, if only in my mind as I lift myself higher.

No One is still out there watching, living, doing. I feel her eyes on my words once a while and then gone away again, blinking me in and out of her consciousness, sometimes not even sparing me a single meaningful thought. I have made my sorries and forgives, but she has her grudges to nurse, and more important things to invest her anger in. As I spill these words, I can sense she must talk that way about me as well, or not talk at all, yeah, perhaps I am the subject of disregard, even when I still hold her in good regard. It is a wonder how we make our past best friends into next-door-neighbor villains, the stuff of legendary coffee table talk. Oh, the stupid tall tales I could tell you about No One!

I know I am her No One.

Yes, I know who No One is.

Do you know No One, too?

Who is your No One?

Postcard #12: Dolphin Wood & Smiling Pods

I find meaning in the small things. All the little stuff people pass by, ignore, or just plain don’t notice at all. Even when I pointed out the smiling dolphin in this log of fallen tree, the men who were doing the chain-sawing paid it no mind. It was as if it were invisible to them. Or they were just too busy being, well, busy.  How unfortunate. I think you would have appreciated it, so here I can share it, freeze it in time before it was fodder for the fire.

I could not decide what would give me more joy to share with you this week, so I chose to present two photographs that display the hidden wonders I have discovered this winter. It has been too cold to do much exploring outdoors, so most of the time I have been creating indoor entertainment for myself, much of it a temporary fix for real fun.

But when I look and find smiles in the most surprising of places, in the most oddest of things, I keep it stocked in my photo album and keep rejoicing in it when the days are too dark. Like when the dead milk pods continue to stand despite the hardest winter wind, their gaping mouths parted as if to tell hello. Even a bit of tenderest silk seeds, long dead and lost, stick out like a frail white hanky signaling surrender. The snow covers them, but not completely, and they appear warm to me, like I could fit right in there and store some poems inside… or a secret message for some fairy lover to find.  Come rescue me from ordinary, I’d scribble-cry.

I read into these things as if they were pages in books. I was trained to take note and study these omens, record them, draw them, be aware of what else is going on around me when I notice the signs. What were the birds doing that day? How were people reacting? What was the weather like? What did the clouds say?  Yet I also keep in mind they may not be omens at all.  The messages may just be ones I am making up.  I am using what I am seeing to send myself signals…  I automatically read them, it is within my nature, yet my imagination has a logic to it, I just need a good interpreter.

So what do I see?

The Dolphin in the wood is smiling and is accompanied by a bird with an open beak and a plumed head.  The body of the bird looks like that of a tropical parrot, a macaw, perhaps?  The dolphin reminds me of the innocence of my youth, when I still believed in heroes and legends and chased fairies in the woods.  The bird with the open beak seems to herald a waking-up to a new morning or a revival of spirit.  The dolphin resembles my first “spirit guide” when I was a baby witch going through my year and a day initiation period before my dedication.  I still have the dream journal from those days, and most of my dreams were of that smiling, pink dolphin spirit who could transform into other kinds of animals and people.  The wood was from a healthy ash tree that fell victim to a wind storm that knocked many trees down.  The Ash tree is very special — the leaves and wood are used to cure loneliness, wands made out of ash are best used to help connect us to the Gods, and as the songs go “ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold!”

One teacher of mine, one who passed away years ago, used to walk around with a staff of ash wood.  When he aged, he lost his sense of balance and reality, truly a pity, but he leaned on the ash, a staff he once used solely for magic, yet in the end it was his cane.  They buried him with his staff.  It was as long as he was tall.  I know, I know, it is a pagan stereotype, can’t avoid it, some people are just that way.  I consider it quaint and comfy, just so.

The ‘smiling‘ milk pods were the last of their kind to remain this winter and they are still there outside my door.  I like to think they are there to remind me that even through the intense below-zero nights and snow falls, there they are with their frozen smiles a gape.  Months from now the milk pods will come to life again, grow green, and sprout pink and white blossoms, smile open with the fall and spew out seeds til cold freezes them to death, all in that happy way.

Happy omens are creeping up all around me.  The woodland spirits are not fully asleep this winter.  They are peeking around each corner, teasing me, chasing after my cat, blowing indoors with the gusts of wind, crackling in the static that electrifies my hair!

I think of the dolphin in the wood and regret not picking it up and taking it home.  Yet it is serving a purpose right now.  It will keep someone warm this month.  At least I captured the smile… and felt the joy and passed it on.  Even the smiling milk pods will continue to smile long after their death now, preserved here for your viewing pleasure.  All because I could not escape noticing them, and maybe that is what they were meant to do all along, to stay behind and be a smiling symbol of joy in the midst of lonely cold.

No.  It is all about hope.  Yes.  I feel it.  The hope.

What do you see when you look at what I see?

Personal Tarot Readings for 2012

I do several readings for myself at a year’s beginning. I just posted the one card that will represent myself this year, now I will get to several much shorter readings that deal with more private concerns in my life. What I love about Tarot is that there are endless possibilities to be interpreted with each shuffle of the cards. Doing a reading for myself can be challenging because it is hard to look outside of my own personal experience for information.  It is doubly hard to keep myself from being overly cynical!  After reviewing the following questions and answers, I realize that I have expressed a lot of insecurities this year, more so than ever.  How interesting.  To keep track of my impressions, I keep a handwritten journal to record them at my bedside.  I like to do readings at night in the comfort of my own bed.  Perhaps later this year I will have more positive questions and answers to share.

Questions: Is it too late for me to regain my health? What about recapturing my sexy side? Am I doomed to age ugly?

I asked these questions because I have been going through the first years of my body upgrading for menopause. Not only is it wrecking havoc with my emotions, but giving me a complex about my sexuality and looks. I feel more insecure than ever about my body as gravity takes a hold on several parts of my body. The Empress, however, indicates that I need to shut up about all that! She is all about fertility, creativity, sensuality, and is the queen of all queens, THE woman of all women. Her answer is it is NOT too late and that my questions are pretty much ridiculous, no matter how much I fear drying up. The Empress gives me a sign that the best is yet to come. I will be fully embracing my sensuality and exhibiting my feminine side. It is not gone.

Question: Will I be able to control my emotions better this year?

I always ask this question because I struggle with my emotions all the time and worry that it will impede my efforts to get to know people and keep friends. Strength is all about taming the wild beast. The woman riding the back of the lion is a maiden (virgin) and with the littlest of effort she is able to get him to be calm. This image is not that hard to interpret. My answer is a ‘yes’ — a clear indication that my training is going to really pay off this year. I will still be over emotional as always, but will not panic or get as upset as I have in the past. The lion becomes a pussy cat here. I see this as the way new and old friends will treat me. People genuinely miss me. I have nothing to fear or be embarrassed about.  I have faced the worst.  Strength indicates that I can handle anything now that is thrown at me.  I’ve earned this strength.  I will endure because I already have.  Good.

Questions: Will I achieve awesomeness this year? Will I meet my belly dance/sword dance goal this year? Will this achievement bring me the reward, friendships, and love I desire?

Past: The Hanged Man
I had to give up or I gave up on a dream. I put the desire aside because I didn’t believe I could do it. I thought other people were better at it and I would not amount to much. I thought I was too fat.  The Hanged Man sometimes puts himself in that awkward position to gain a different perspective. I had to separate myself in order to get control. More going on than just the surface meaning.
Present: The Queen of Swords
As the Swords Queen, I see past illusion, but with the butterfly crown and throne, I am nervous, on a knife’s edge. Holding a sword is symbolic of holding onto one’s thoughts like a weapon or tool. Or it could be the very obvious thing: I am longing for a sword! I want to dance with a sword. I want to use it as a thing of beauty, something to symbolize the balance I am working to achieve. My current practice of meditation and new form of therapy is engaging my thoughts and emotions in ways where they fit together. I like it. Just works for me. I am proud of it, but there are still stirrings of anger and restlessness within. I want to act more, become more involved, get less isolated, so I am carefully planning an escape from the ordinary…
Future: Judgement
As an outcome, Judgement means a resurrection, a rising up from the dead. I will shed my skin, answer a wake-up call, revive, make a bold decision, follow through, do it for me, and, by golly, impress myself. I believe that is who I am working to please more. If I can impress myself, then I will shine with confidence. I have been too long living in the dark.

Update on this outcome:  This week I made a connection with a local dance troupe and will be joining the group next Wednesday.  They are excited to meet me.  I found out that they even have one guy member, too.  Yay!  I love guys who belly dance.  I will write more later as things develop.

One last question (the one everyone asks, of course): What kind of love life will I have, if any, this year?

Well, what do you know? I drew the High Priestess AGAIN. In fact, she has been showing up in a lot in my nightly readings, something of an ongoing theme as of late. When I get a re-occurring card like this, I start to pay a bit more attention, especially when I have used several different decks. This time I used the Love Tarot, a deck of just the 22 Major Arcana, focusing only on romance interpretations of the cards. The imagery is mixed-media collage of details from historic paintings. The image of the High Priestess in this deck reminds me of the quaintness of early 19th century ladies — the purity of virginity and the customs of engagement, the long years of waiting, traditions of correspondence, family negotiations over arranged marriage, and how unfair it was for young women who did not have a say in who was chosen for them to marry. The High Priestess is often a virgin, a woman who is married to the Gods, whose life-long duty is to serve as a keeper of mysteries. Men do not come to her for sexual favors, nor do they consider her a romantic option. She is holy, respected, revered, to be left alone. Kisses given to her are placed upon her hand or foot, not on the lips. Men seek her for advice and spiritual comfort, they rarely take notice of her as a sexual being.

I believe my answer here is ‘no love life this year’ at least not one that is earthly. Love will come from a divine source. Or perhaps I am blind. The High Priestess can also be a cosmic lover. She may appear cold and pure, but inside she is hot. Yet who will dare discover her passions? Who knows? Maybe this High Priestess just simply is in love with the Gods? Ha! That could very well be, my friends.  Perhaps I am being too jaded here.  I will give it a rest.  My reality right now is no one is interested in me, as far as I know, so it makes me very aloof.  This card could reflect how I feel about love in general, like it is not meant for me, so I choose a life like a nun.

Later next week I will post Tarot predictions about the rest of the world. Tomorrow look forward to a new Postcard from Home. Time for me to catch some dreams… *sighs* looking forward to that.

High Priestess: Personal Tarot for 2012

Each year I pick at random one Tarot card to represent myself for that year. For the year 2011 I chose Justice, for this year it is The High Priestess. The card I choose each year will tell me what challenges and blessings I can expect in the new year.  The card I pick will portend the role I will play in the lives of others, will predict in what direction events in my life will take, and what lesson I will learn this year.  Basically, it is like determining which way the wind will be blowing psychically.  If there was one special talent I have as a witch, it lies in divination.  Mixing potions and remedies gets a little too messy for me.  I find visions come to me naturally and that I find symbolism endlessly fascinating.  I spend a lot of my time studying dreams, crafting my own symbolic codes, and creating my own forms of cartomancy.  One card deck project in particular, one that I have been working on since 2006, I hope can be used to help bring joy to the sick and dying.  Someday soon I wish to write more about that, but for now I shall concentrate on just Tarot reading.

Justice: 2011 Year in Review
Last year, Justice taught me the importance of balance and morality, namely how to know when is the right time to act on my sense of rightness, knowing when I am acting out of a sense of selfishness and when out of a true sense of ethics, and how to pick my fights wisely — the lesson learnt was be careful not to get into any unnecessary battles.  I also learned that I cannot fight for every cause all at once, that sometimes I have to hold back and let those better suited and trained to fight to do their job (like letting the police investigate and apprehend a group of arsonists).  Justice is also about adjustment — I successfully met my health goal last year — I balanced my blood glucose!  I am continuing to make progress beating my diabetes.  Awesome, yes?  The transition from Justice to High Priestess means I am given the invitation to take steps beyond what I have so far accomplished.  She is a good omen card to have following Justice because it is good to start from a balanced foundation before one takes the next steps to manifest any kind of change.  Without that balanced, stable foundation, we would have a faulty, pipe-dream kind of foundation that will collapse the moment we build something solid on it.

My Annual Tarot Ritual
I am writing about my Personal Tarot for Year 2012 a bit late. I celebrate the new year on Samhain, which occurs on October 31st during the previous year, and the most suitable time to perform divination ritual. Besides being the Irish new year, it is celebrated as the Witches’ new year as well, a sort of respectful nod to our Irish cousins who have gifted us with their wisdom and ritual. My annual Tarot ritual may seem complicated, but it is not to me. I use one of my oldest, most worn and trusted Tarot decks, laying out only the Major Arcana (the 22 trump cards, not the minor pip cards that our playing card deck is based on). I use only the Major Arcana for the annual prediction because they represent the main events and themes in life. I go into trance, using the image on the Tarot card as a focus, and free-write the images and feelings I experience during the trance. Again, it seems more complicated or weird than it actually is. There is no secret trick to it, just some spiritual cooperation and, as some would say, creative visualization. Here is what was written during my trance last Samhain…

The Vision the High Priestess gave me…

Center spirals, openings opening up like never evers before — a freeing up from obstacles — a door opening that was once locked to me — an invitation. Revelation revealed revealing ritual repeating so it can be repeated and passed on and on. Between women, between friends, hands opening and closing over other hands, holding. The people will show you that they can be trusted, that there is time to trust, and let there be caution first, and slow ease in the dance as you learn to open to trust. The closer you are to the Quiet Things the more They will feel secure enough to whisper Their sweetness into You and the more They want it to be shared through you unto others and beyond, beyond and boldly flow outward into the world. But. There are some things left hidden beyond the curtain, left to imagination, left behind for others to discover and you must let them find it on their own, you must hold back your joy and not give it away too much, and wait on the other side to celebrate. Grace cannot be learned, or taught, it can, however, be experienced, cannot be owned, but lived with, allowed to flow, and you will learn to move with it. Moving with it alters you and becomes part of your behavior. Grace owns you. She is the series of spells that draw you further into the woman you are, the woman who wears the moon on her head, the woman with the lunar moth’s wings for hair, who cries tears of silver, the woman who stands between two halves of herself — one ugly, the other beauty — holding the book-map-key. Her words are curved, twisted, centering, spiraling, curling and uncurling circles. Do you know who you are at the gateway? Do you feel where you are at the curtain breathing? Is the window open? Can you hold the wind? Detect the draft? Do not invite mystery to kidnap you, “You will never be prepared,” She says, “because you still have living to do in this world. I am here to show you the dream of being what may become.” Let the mystery wait. And then the whispers floods and the words I write here cease to come. Her one voice is lost. My vision is disappearing and I run out of poetry to describe the sensation as I return from the trance.

The Interpretation
First, the traditional symbolism is thus revealed:
The two pillars, one black with the letter B for BOAZ, the other white with the letter J for JACHIN, represent the destructive and blissful sides of creation.
The scroll in the hands of the priestess with the word TORA means divine law.
The solar cross, with arms of equal length, on her breast is a symbol of elemental balance.
The Veil, or curtain, behind her is decorated with pomegranates to represent the vagina, and palms to represent the phallus — together both plants are the regenerative forces in nature = fertility.
The Crescent moon at her feet and her gown trailing on the floor is the stream of consciousness.

The High Priestess is the link between worlds, or different states of consciousness, she is a conduit, spokesperson for the Gods, yet also a keeper of mysteries. She can reveal secrets, but only to those who can be trusted to keep secrets safe. She can represent higher education, revealing to you information that wasn’t available to you before, letting you into a world or business or direction you weren’t able to earlier, yet it is still up to you to act within that realm. She is just the invitation and, sometimes guide. She is an especially awesome omen for women who value the arts and mysticism because she connects us with people of a like mind.

What it means for me this year…
Based on both the traditional symbolism and the vision I received, I am to take a more active spiritual role this year. I have for too long put aside the Witch to concentrate more on Valentina the ordinary person working on her health problems. Ever since my mother died I have sacrificed my way of worship and spiritual practice to make the people around me more comfortable. I felt an obligation to my conservative Christian mother to carry out her dying wishes, but now I feel that her spirit has given me the “okay” to be free and happy to worship God/dess in the beautiful and meaningful ways that bring me joy and comfort.

During my own bouts with illness, my religion has been a great and powerful force of comfort and motivation. I long to be with people like me again. I have kept myself too isolated, afraid that it has gotten too late for me to rejoin the dance. But you know what? It is NEVER too late. The High Priestess is telling me that my talents are not dormant, nor are the lessons I learned and the secrets I’ve kept wasted. All of the struggles I got over the last seven years were necessary to go through, and now the time is ripe (and right) for me to emerge again into the larger world. Even though I still have my doubts about how people will respond to me, especially when they learn I have battled and still cope with a mental illness, the High Priestess tells me that I’m not here to be perfect. She volunteers respect from others, she doesn’t demand it. My struggles are part of my story, and let that be a testament for you, too. Let your struggles not be your downfall, let them be the steps you took to victory.

There is much more I could write about the High Priestess, and there will be more to write about other personal predictions I have made for this year, but that will be another blog post for another time later.

Why do I use Tarot cards as a tool to foretell my own future? Why not just meditate without the cards and come up with a vision on my own? The answer is simple: I like Tarot cards. No. I love Tarot. It has been a primary interest of mine since I was a kid. The art and symbolism have always intrigued me. I never felt that they were evil or wrong or even mysterious, just pretty. I learned the cards fairly quickly, too. I have always been a natural reader. This is the way I like to do it.

Don’t Forget to be Lazy

There are times when I am so caught up in doing all I can to be awesome, I forget to take a break and be reminded by a friend that what I’m already doing is awesome. Sometimes I do not allow myself to relax. I’m too busy worrying and giving myself a hard time. There is always a voice inside me never giving me a break. What are you doing just lying there?! GET UP! Stop doing nothing, you loser!  Like I’ll suffer all kinds of bad karma if I stay in bed another fifteen minutes, and when I do, instead of enjoying a bit of lazy time, I end up curling into a weeping ball of feeling-sorry-for-myself ill-productivity.

There are times when I feel guilty for doing nothing, especially during the dead cold days of winter when there seems all one can do is nothing.  I usually always find something to do.  It is the best thing about living a solitary life; having the time and freedom to concentrate on making art and writing without interruption.  I live for what I do because that is all I have to do.  Yet there are the days when the motivation is not there and my depression threatens to disrupt everything.  I have to stop and take one step at a time.

Over the last seven years I have trained and disciplined myself to better control my emotions, but I still have to take the time to let the tears flow, and I do cry often.  More so than the average person, and few people will ever understand why it is necessary for me to weep.  They think I cry to get attention, but I cry for a release, often feeling much better afterwards, just like spitting out a poison before it gets a chance to infect the rest of my body.  I do not have to let my emotions control my life, but I have to remember to take the extra time to cope with them, and this means occasionally remembering to be lazy.

The key to being productively lazy is to do so in a way that means you will be taking care of yourself.  It may sound stupid to plan on relaxing, but some people really have to schedule it in because they have to keep to a schedule that normally does not allow them to relax (sad as that may seem).  In order to do any good in the world, you first have to start with yourself.  If you are not taking care of yourself, you cannot take care of anyone else who needs your help.

The first step is to not do anything.  Put aside anything that requires a lot of thought and just have a good lie down.  Stay in bed for at least a few minutes longer than you usually do.  Don’t be in a hurry to get up.  And when you do get up, do it like a yawn, moving each limb in slow motion and revel in the joy of how you move — from the tips of your fingers down to your toes.  Enjoy your pillows, listen to music, have a warm bath, move slowly, and when you eat, savor each bite of food as if it is going to be your last meal on Earth.  I mean it.

Do that all day.

The next steps are to not plan anything.  Just be yourself.  No pressure.

The last step is to sit and let time slip away.  The night is for further enjoyment, but now you should get out and watch people.  Or animals.  Or the ocean.  Or just watch the stars.  Whatever feels great.  Let each moment speak to you.  Now you are getting the idea.

Go get your lazy on and feel better about yourself.  Tomorrow you’ll be more refreshed to tackle the challenges the world will offer you!

Do We Have to Compete?

One thing that has always felt unfair to me, competing against an equally talented artist to win honor, power, prestige, favor and reward. Why? Because someone else has to lose in order for me to win. Or I have to lose in order for someone else to win. Most of the time it is the latter. I am told that losing builds character, will make me strong, but all it has ever done has made me feel not good enough. Losing after spending a great deal of time and energy on a project that is only important to win a contest distracts me away from actually working towards a practical goal of my own. When I should be working to better myself, I am instead doing everything for the approval of someone else whom I have deemed superior to me, usually a person I consider an authority or hero. And how did they get to be in that position? They either worked very hard or…

They beat someone down to get on top.

If we have to fight, no matter what the game, in order to gain a victory, no one really wins, because someone has to lose.  To gain a victory, one has to fight, and most of the time the contest is never really about who is the most skilled, talented, or lucky, it’s more about who is the most ruthless bastard at getting what they want.  In any contest, people duel for approval and attention, hoping to be picked, some put each other down with insults and satire — psychological torture — to weaken their opponents’ confidence to get ahead.  We compete not to prove our honor, we compete to be superior, but are we really proving that we are the best when we have to destroy someone else to do it?  Is it necessary or fair to compete for a prize that only we will benefit from?

When we are pitted against each other we are not working for the common good, nor are we achieving awesomeness by being the best human beings we can be, instead we are displaying our brutality.  It is the basis for all wars — someone beats someone else to gain an unfair advantage — and the reason why men die defending the weak — one power has to stand up for the disadvantaged party.  Competition is not about empowerment, it encourages power-over-others.  The lesson we end up teaching by continuing this social ritual is that it is acceptable to make yourself superior over others.  Weakness is not to be tolerated in others, especially so in ourselves.

When I was in elementary school, public spanking was still tolerated and approved as a way to punish academic weakness.  I had a learning disability that went undiagnosed until I was 19, so you can imagine how I struggled and, out of fear, had to compensate to stay out of trouble.  Not only did I have to fear coming home to getting a whooping from Mom if I got bad grades, I also had to deal with the very real possibility of facing the principal’s wooden paddle, displayed in all its horrible glory, in his office for every kid to see each day as we made our way to class.  One spring semester I came awfully close to getting spanked.  I was about to fail Math, but two other kids did worse than I did, and it was very clear they had some kind of disorder much worse than mine.  I made it to the next grade, just scraping by with a C and escaping summer school as well, yet they were kept behind.

I will never forget the day the entire school was assembled to watch the public spanking of those two boys.  We were told that we were shown this for our own good, to keep us from making the same mistake, and that if we continue to improve we won’t ever be punished like this.  As those boys screamed, we were all shocked silent.  After that, the boys faced further humiliation, ruthlessly picked on at the playground and cafeteria, especially by smarter and more popular kids.  The popular kids were also known to be “favored” in church as well, coddled and treated well by adults as if they were chosen by God.

I hated them.

After I completed sixth grade in 1982,  public spanking was finally against the law, but the fear of humiliation and being beaten for being weak or not being good enough at something never left my mind.  I never allowed myself to simply relax and be myself in school, or at anything, for a long while.  The conditioning to be THE BEST and to push yourself all the time is still hard to unlearn.  Having drive and determination is good, but one should acquire it from a source of kindness, out of a love for your fellow humans, not out of a ruthless urge to be better than everyone else and stay on top by keeping other people down.

This is one of the reasons why I’ve never liked sports or reality television shows where people are faced with outrageous challenges.  Competitions can be entertaining to watch, but it all loses its flavor when I witness the ugly coming out in people.  It is like watching your brother or sister bitching at you during an off moment on a camping trip, it’s not something you want broadcast, let alone photographed and saved to be shared in your photo album!  You want to choose to remember the fun you had on the trip, right?  Yet the drama and the harsh behavior between competitors fuels the gossip on all social networks.  All that bitching encourages dishonor between human beings.  We make heroes out of people who don’t deserve it all because they are famous for nothing.  The famous become public domain, rarely using their fame for causes to better humanity.  They advertise products that promote our vanity and continue to sell tabloids that are not worth the paper they are printed on.

There is another kind of contest-ing that I do not like, one that I have decided to never participate in ever again, and that is submitting artwork or written material to win a celebrated artist’s or writer’s approval in order to be given a gift or win a favor from them.  The results are quite disappointing every time, not because the one who is picked isn’t talented, but because once again, it is more about winning approval and pleasing one person who, no matter how well executed your work is, may not understand or appreciate your perspective.  The judge in these contests (sometimes they are juries of artists or authors) seem to be looking for a “mini-me” that they can take under their wing.  Yet even when I’ve attempted to please a judge, that tactic does not always work.  It is a gamble.  You invest more money and time into something you have a 10% chance of winning.  As with advertising, you only have about 10 seconds to capture an audience’s attention.  If the judge is particularly well-known, they are going to have a ton of submissions, and a large panel of people assisting them in narrowing down the best.  There are more chances of you not making the cut.

Best get used to disappointment… fast.

I have always said that disillusionment has been one of my greatest teachers.  This has been true because I have made many heroes.  Those heroes have shown me they are liars.  Most of my heroes were comic book artists and authors.  The competition in the comic book industry has always been fierce.  My first close and personal hero rose up in the ranks to make his first million by stepping on a lot of toes.  He was my first connection in the business and I must have been like a tag-along little sister with stars in her eyes following him around.  He may have been frustrated with me, but how could someone I looked up to so much treated me so mean in front of his peers?  Not everyone we look up to deserves to be a hero.  I have seen my heroes wear many masks, make fun of the very people who worship them, and take for granted the cool job they have making believe for a living.  We pay them to lie.  That is the truth.  Let us not be blind to the fiction-makers.

I thank my first comic book industry hero for breaking my heart the way he did, because it freed me from falling for the bullshit that so often keeps my head out of the game.  The game?  For fifteen years I competed for jobs in that business and found out that it was not right for me.  Why fight when all I am really great at is to create?  I am no longer as bitter as I was and I am content to be at home producing as much work as I can.  I do not have the aspirations I once did to be the best.  I now have better goals and challenges to meet that involve helping others.

Last year I collaborated with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa to produce a comic book printed entirely in the Ojibwe language.  The goal wasn’t to make money, or even to make history, it was to provide a book that will get the Chippewa people, and others, interested in learning and using the native language that we are trying to preserve.  I want to do more projects like that, ones where I don’t have to compete to prove I am worth a damn, but one where I give hope and help to others.  Especially inspiration to other little girls like I was, the girls who make believe and live for dreams.

Yet still, on occasion, I find myself tempted to step up to the plate and count myself back in the game.  Especially when I want to be as admired as I admire someone else.  The little girl with the stars in her eyes still wants to believe in a hero, still aches for someone to prove to her that they are worthy to be praised, but also she wants to prove she is good enough — no, the BEST — woman worthy of your love.