Let Me Re-Introduce Myself to You by Answering 20 Questions

It’s been a long while since I wrote simply for the joy of, well, writing. I need a fresh start. This is a way to relieve the tension and get back to my natural self. Nice to meet you all over again.

Wild Wind-Blown Self Portrait Near Lake Joanis, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Wild Wind-Blown Self Portrait at the shore of Lake Joanis”

What did you eat today?

One cup and a half of rice and cream of mushroom soup, washed it down with Vanilla Coke. It’s now late at night, I forgot to have supper, so I have to make up for it by making a quick tuna fish sandwich! I tend to skip meals whenever I get manic creative like I did today. Yes, I’m kicking myself in the fanny over it. But, to be fair, I’ve been on a treatment called Bydureon that has significantly reduced my appetite, so it’s made me extra forgetful when it comes to eating!

What have you done today?

Slept in too late, that also meant I took my medication later than usual (I’m talking about my diabetic meds) so that gave me a combination of a belly and headache, so I spent the first half of my wakefulness in meditation, stretching, easing my body back to a natural state of composure. This is what happens when my chronic fatigue attacks my system, so I compensate. I move slow, have done so for as long as I can remember, but now I accept it instead of beating myself up for it.

Next, I answer to the call of my cats who are ever mindful to help me stay awake by tending to their every need and desire. I not only just feed them, I clean their bowls, make sure their water is fresh, check the litter boxes three times a day (otherwise they will complain, loudly), and the best part is cuddling them. Today my elder cat, Calie, wasn’t feeling well, she’s got a hair-ball problem, so I massaged her belly and throat, prepared softer food for her, and made double sure the water and food bowls are free of dust.

The biggest chunk of the day I spent at my COLOURlovers profile site where my digital coloring obsession helps me relax and forget about the troubles of the outside world. It’s a part of my daily routine. Whenever I get stressed out, I’m there almost too much!

Tonight I am house cleaning, taking out trash, clearing clutter, and preparing for a late night visit with a good friend. She and I planned to collaborate on art projects while I put in a load of laundry. Unfortunately, didn’t work out, so we had to re-schedule, which is just as well considering I still have more cleaning to do before I can really make my place presentable. Ugh!

Name a few friends and what their talents are:

Saumya: Multi-talented, so I will name the one talent she has that’s my favorite (actually, I don’t have one favorite, so I’m just picking the one at the moment) — her ability to create intricate drawings where there’s images seemingly within images, like paisley maps that lead to “mind’s eye” hidden things but each time I take a look, I see something different within each drawing.

Michelle: Watching her drawings and paintings develop is like seeing flowers open fast forward, and they don’t wilt.

Nicole: She’s a true visionary, someone I can really relate to and can communicate with on a psychic level, but even when we can’t seem to connect in the “real” world, she has this earthy, motherly quality that soothes everything out. I can truly call her a “soothe-sayer” because as both an artist and healer, she can apply both at once in her efforts to bring someone a calming truth.

Trent: He drums like he was born out of a different era, yet also can drum in any style of music, or genre. What he is best at is rockabilly and jazz. His specialty is really keeping that nice, flowing beat… I can’t describe it as well as you can hear it. You have to hear him live.

What is your star sign?

Capricorn with Leo rising!

Can you play an instrument?

No. But I can sing. I took vocal training as a child and performed in semi-professional church choirs while growing up. I hated the travel, the church retreats, and constant auditions for solo and duet ensembles I didn’t get to be a part of! Yet when I did get to be, I did it like a Diva. Now I only sing on stage for karaoke contests, or just to surprise friends. I perform Stevie Nicks songs the best, my favorites songs to do are Enchanted, Talk to Me, Stand Back, and Edge of Seventeen, just to name a few, yeah, I could make a HUGE list. However, people who really know me often request I sing Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.

What has been your work experience mainly been in?

Retail hell.

Considering we’re only a few days away from Black Friday, I am VERY glad to not be experiencing that anymore!

Have you ever been to uni or done any courses?

I spent what seemed like decades in college obsessed with achieving my BFA in Studio Art, emphasis on Drawing and Painting, with a minor in Writing. Originally what kept me in classes so long was I double majored in English and Fine Arts! I soon realized I had to cut down those classes and focus on Art since that was where my talents truly were the best. I didn’t graduate and went on to just achieving a degree in Life Experience!

In fact, it really does feel like I spent my entire life in universities. My mother worked at Cardinal Stritch University during my grade school years, so after school I was “enrolled” in a life drawing class while Mom was at work. Instead of going home alone, it was great to take a bus to the university and engage in creative pastimes like that, really had a major influence on me. Later my Mom went to Central Bible College where religious studies also had a major impact on my life, but not in the way my mother would have hoped! By the time I was of age to get into college myself, university life was already a part of who I was and it’s my “church” in a very real sense.

I miss being in classes. I still feel a deep loss not attending. I have constant dreams where I think I’m late or didn’t show up for a class, and I’m missing out on it “all”, or I need to catch up. I also still feel like I am in my 20’s!

Are you in a band or do anything creative?

Hell’s belles, wish I could of been in a band, gods know I practiced like I was in one when I was a teen! But, no, that didn’t happen.

As for creative… I got that going on up to my eyeballs and beyond! Art’s my bag.

What is your favorite planet?

Planet? Planet sch-man-et! THE MOON!

Last film you watched?

The Shadow of the Vampire — I love my vampire movies. I’m also a HUGE fan of actors Eddie Izzard, John Malkovich, and you can’t beat the amazing Willem Dafoe as the classic Nosferatu!

What have you discovered about people?

Anyone I know, and love, can pass away, or leave, at any time, without warning. So make every moment count. Make sure everyone knows they are loved. Even when they refuse to believe you are their friend, or that you love them, still extend to them love. Just as often as people change their minds, they can change their hearts as well. Forgiveness is liberating, perhaps even necessary for survival.

What clothes are you wearing?

A turquoise and forest green batik sarong I sewn into a poncho, pair of black trousers, no socks, no bra, feeling like an all natural woman.

Are you a jeans and t-shirt girl or dresses and skirts girl?

Bah! I weep if I have to wear jeans. I love to wear dresses as long as they are semi-formal and exotic. And skirts, yes, skirts! I rather wear flowing things than tight, hugging my legs and thighs things.

Don’t even try to make me wear shorts in public. I think shorts are the ugliest things women wear. Get yourself into a skirt or pants, a romper even, but not shorts. And jumpers? Puh-leeeese!

However, you will only see me wear shorts to bed. When you’re a woman going through menopause, shorts are the best thing to wear at night. Never thought I’d EVER wear turn to wearing them for anything until I got the sweats.

Denim or leather?

LEATHER.

But I feel like I should be more kind and point out I don’t condone harm towards animals, even though I do have a leather couch that I know wasn’t made from the hides of cows who committed suicide. I also own a coyote fur coat, a gift from a friend and my father. I honor the animals and thank them for their contribution to my well-being as much as possible. We all nourish other living beings in this life and death and re-birth cycle. Someday my body will return to the earth, and perhaps will contribute to another’s life in this cycle as well, gods’ willing. I don’t know yet. Or I may disintegrate in an instant. Should I even think too long about this?

Why do I feel guilty over my humanity whenever I think about how leather is made?

Oh, I look back at my couch and suddenly start to imagine the moo-ing moans and death cries of the cattle when they lined up for slaughter… ouch. Stop it, Val.

What was the last song you listened to?

This is sad for me to say, but I don’t remember! This means I need to listen to more music again. I get into a silent mode. Last night I was content to listen to the geese outside, and then became very concerned when I heard a blue jay cry out in alarm just after dusk. I get to be a watch dog for my neighborhood woodland, the flora and fauna mean a lot to me, so I worry sometimes when I hear something strange like that.

Lately I am watching more movies, so the last songs I heard were instrumental soundtracks. However, to be specific, last time I heard an actual song was from Pink Flamingos!

The Trashmen : Surfin’ Bird ( 1963 )

Probably one of the most annoying songs ever created, but the “Papa, ooma mow mow” lyrics are perfect for the “singing asshole” scene during DIVINE‘s birthday party.

How many pokes have you got on Facebook?

You know, I’m slow to social media, always have been. Never understood how “pokes” work. So whenever someone pokes me, I don’t poke back, and I never poke anyone! It also took me FOREVER to get the hang of Twitter as well. I even wrote about how much it frightened me.

What things frustrate you?

People and money.

What political party do you support?

Liberal. I lean to the left. No particular party.

What is more important money or love?

Love. Because when you got love, the money follows, it really does. You might be able to “buy” someone’s loyalty, but when push comes to shove, people who love you will stick by you when you’re broke and sick. I know this because whenever I am broke and sick, I’m not that way for long, and my friends aren’t that way for long, too, so supporting each other with or without money, you can’t buy that. Love glues us all together.

You get invited to see your favorite rock star, what do you say?

Ha! I’m either speechless or over talkative at first, but the conversation will be mundane, which may be refreshing to the star. I don’t want to gush all over them because I think it’s just stupid and everything they’ve all heard before over and over again. I also know they are jet-lagged, or weary after a performance, so what I have to say will depend upon the circumstance of the chance meeting. I will dance according to the music played. But chances are, I’m awed speechless, or speech-full silly, so I should let them talk, tell me a story I can repeat for bragging rights later for me to tell to my friends. I collect stories of chance meetings like that, not autographs. Maybe I’d take a selfie with them, if they feel up to it, but even that will feel rude.

Fame can turn people into assholes. Being popular and successful is a job. Very stressful. It can get ugly just as much as it can be rewarding. When you’re famous people think they can say whatever they want about you, uncensored, sometimes even to your face, and this means my “heroes” have to wear thick, heavy armor. When I meet them, I know I’m not meeting the “real” person inside, it’s still a part of their performance. I know this because I’ve met and worked with several famous people, seen the life behind the stage, so being careful and kind to a performer goes a long way. I can’t just walk up to some star and think I’ll be their best friend over night. Even if that star was someone I used to know, went to school with, or was a friend of a friend’s friend, I don’t have the right to call on them willy-nilly.

Also, I no longer have any heroes, no one to look up to like I once did. I don’t believe in heroes anymore. There’s just people who are good. Good at what they do and doing good in the world.

We don’t need to put anyone else on a pedestal above us. Appreciate someone who deserves it more, like your mother, or the people who struggle to save refugees. Or just appreciate yourself. Yes. Do that! Great way to end this tonight. See you again soon!

My Harrowing/Hero-ing

Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red, photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

“Walking Away: A Self Portrait in Red” photo by Valentina Kaquatosh, 2015

When I take action to control my life, I’m told I’m being manipulative. When they say I do not inform them of my life plans, it means they wanted me to ask their permission. When I decide what I want to do, it’s not done against anyone else’s will. When I ask for help, I am not asking for everything. When I ask for assistance, I am grateful, because there are things I cannot do for myself due to abilities I lack. I ask to be useful in return.

…and here’s where it gets personal.

It is not my fault when my help is refused. I am not your burden when you took me on as a “project”. I am not a project. I am a person, and I grow, I learn, and despite disabilities, in order to be happy, I have to help myself, do for myself, and not subsist on the crumbs public assistance assumes will leave me healthy.

I never ask anyone to break their back for me. I never lifted a hand to swipe away your bread for mine. I never got this depressed and sick in order to live lazy. When I volunteered at places I loved to work at, with people I loved to work with, it’s not my fault they turned me away because they thought the work was too hard on me, or maybe they thought I became a burden, too? If I cannot even volunteer, what use am I?

When I lost friends, those so-called pals told me they dumped me because they wanted to remember me as I was before I lost my health. But I am beyond pleasing them showing how crazy that made me feel. And when I could not fulfill deadlines for projects of my own, my passions were dying, I felt my fire flickering, my heart burning… What does it matter if I fail or not when I am considered this burden?

I cannot be a burden. It’s too heavy. I have to lose this weight. Not in the physical sense, but as in this weight of expectation. No more will I let my father tie me to the ground and shape my body into nothing but fat. No more will I let anyone sink me into mud whenever they give me looks of disgust like that. I am not this weight. My body is more than fat and meat. I’m not this heavy thing, yet…

I can be an anchor.

I intend to take action to control my life, and, yes, that is being manipulative because I am cutting off these strings to be master-less. I intend to live my life as I’ve always lived, really: as I choose, by my own power, whether or not you feel it’s what you think is proper or not. I do not need approval or acceptance. I never did. I don’t exist to take advantage of anyone. If I can, and I do, I support others in return with the abilities that I have that you do not. What I can do no one else can, and in that I have great value. Let me shine. Let me be my best. Let me produce.

I am a creatrix.

I should not subsist on crumbs, or favors, or public assistance alone. The shame of disability is a shroud created for me once diagnosis rears its ugly head and all the medical expenses pile up, keeping me a slave to an insane little budget, but how else to live when I have to maintain this balance? I no longer fit the mold. Since I cannot do as all the rest, what use is there for me? Do I forfeit all my learning and talent and remain in my closet drawing pretty pictures no one will see? So what shall I do? Wait to die? For years this body has rested underneath the burden of being a burden, practically the word alone “disabled” is enough to shame me into permanent instability. I am not disability itself. I am my own person. I am myself. Don’t mock me or tell me I’m this burden on society, or that my illness means you’re obligated to nurse maid me to Hell. I am not a crippled child who needs to lean on you in that fashion. Who said you had to work for me? Or fix me? It’s not your job.

While on disability, I’m not unemployed, I am working for myself.

When I choose to stand up for myself, I am not putting anyone down. When I decide to try something new, I am not abandoning help. When I ask someone to let me go, I am not asking them to dump me. Stop beating me up for being me. Quit hurting yourself taking responsibility for me. I never asked you to take my job. That’s always been up to me. Someday you won’t ever have to worry. It’s okay to think like you do because you really think it’s because you care. But it’s not helpful.

I am strong. I survive. I work my way through many tough things. But even when I am alone, I realize my survival has been the sum of many peoples’ assistance through many years. Even in my solitude, I am not an island.

I want you to know, I am not this so-called burden. Each time I’m called that, I think I die, and sometimes I thought I did, but each time I bounce back, I know it’s a lie. I grew up angry. How many women like me are told the same thing? How many lose their lives trying to work their way out of being a burden? How? Why?! I suppose I’m to feel guilty for everything they did for me when I couldn’t do anything in return, and they knew I didn’t have the means, so why did they decide to make me a burden? Does it feel good to stab themselves for picking me up when they knew I was too heavy? Because I’m not stabbing them. Just like they accuse me. I don’t do anything! All day, oh, yes, I sit here and project nothing. Especially not that.

Once you realize I am not a burden, you’ll be on to calling someone else the same thing. By then, I hope, I will have forgotten the sorrow of it, yet for now it is not a nothing, it is something I choose to toughen me up. I do not like getting like that. I like being soft, but like so many of you have told me,

  • “it builds character”

.

(not addressed to any one person, or organization, but written for all the women like me who are striving for independence while living with a disability)