Hence: The Parable

the-farmyard-1962The title is a quote from my latest email to my mum. The complete email reads: “Yes, it applies to so many situations in life doesn’t it? Hence: the parable.” The it in question being a traditional Jewish tale she once told me long ago which I’ve been sharing with people lately to describe how living with a full-time migraine feels on days when the pain is at a ‘tolerable’ level, as it has been for the last few days, thank heavens. There are many versions of this tale as these things go, but this version, adapted from “How the Children Became Stars” by Aaron Zerah  is more or less the version I tell:

A poor man lived with his wife, his despicable mother-in-law and six children in a very small one-room house. They were always getting in each other’s way and there was barely space to move. One day the man could stand it no more. He talked to his wife and asked her what to do. “Go see the rabbi,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

The rabbi greeted him and said,

“I see something is troubling you. Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home, with him, his wife, his constantly nagging mother-in-law, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room. The poor man told the rabbi, “We’re always yelling and fighting with each other. Life couldn’t be worse.”

The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem. Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better. Do you promise?”

“I promise,” the poor man said.

The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question. “Do you own any animals?”

“Yes,” he said. “I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens.”

“Good,” the rabbi said. “When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you.”

The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said. So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi. “What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried. “It’s awful. I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house! Rabbi, help me!” Continue reading

A good day is a day without pain

No connection to this post, but a preview of something I've been working on for a good long while—that's my dad visiting at last year's student show.

My latest bout of the blues was set off by a night spent fighting the bedclothes, and insomnia always leaves me feeling very sick the next day. So I took a “sick day” today and slept till I could sleep no more and feel better for it now. This means I missed my art class, but I don’t even feel badly about it, though I should, I guess. All I know is I didn’t want to be in the same room as that irritating woman. My bruises from last week have gone from blue to greenish-yellow and cover a good portion of my upper and lower right arm as graphic reminders of just how badly I handle stress. Continue reading

On The Road

I’ve had a pretty harrowing week so far. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on what could have triggered the numerous meltdowns I had in the past few days I realize I’ve been reacting based on old scripts which of course have nothing to do with the here and now but have gotten so deeply entrenched over the years that “losing it” has become a knee-jerk reaction.

I read—more like devoured—Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in the past couple of days. It’s a Pulitzer prize-winning (and Oprah Book Club!) novel about a father and his son trudging through a post-apocalyptic American landscape, trying to survive on what morsels of food they can find and avoid being killed and eaten by the few remaining humans they come across. A harrowing story to be sure, and if it had been written by anyone else than McCarthy, I doubt I would have made it past the first few pages, but it’s the kind of book you can’t put down once you’ve started it and from the first, I was drawn in by the poignant relationship between father and son who have nothing left but each other and the great love and tenderness they share to keep going day after day.

As I was reading it, I was able to enjoy the writing and keep my emotions detached from the gruesome world McCarthy describes. But then when I finished it in the middle of the night, I exploded into bitter tears with the realization that for much of my life, I’ve been walking around feeling pretty much like these fictional characters did, more in tune with my own inner apocalypse than the actual living world around me.

Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I read a book review in Vogue magazine about a successful book editor’s memoirs relating his descent into his own private hell of crack addiction. Now in his early 40’s, he’s managed to get sober and stay that way for the past five years and according to the interview, this book was the catharsis the author needed, helping him to honour the life he led even through the worst of times while also attaining some kind of closure. I was uplifted by this story and after that I fell into a long sleep and had the very rare experience of dreaming simple, almost pleasant dreams.

No big surprise then that this morning I had a story forming in my mind. It was writing itself out as I was going through my morning rituals of walking the dog, feeding the kidz, getting myself ready for my painting class starting today. So I pulled out one of the beautiful notebooks I collect for those moments of profound insight and inspiration, and I started telling the tale I’ve only told a handful of people about, one that should be long gone and buried by now but which has left me with unhealed scars. It’s time I make peace with the past, release the old hurtful memories, turn them into creative fodder and move back into the present.

Rants & Raves

I just finished expanding the “about me” page aka Hi, my name is Smiler. I found the inspiration to do so after visiting the blog of a person I will not link to for obvious reasons, who is clearly technically proficient with WordPress and volunteers on the support forum. I first noticed her because she really is ubiquitous and I was initially put off by what seemed like frequent snarky remarks and impatient replies to the newbies who usually populate help forums. I’ve come to the conclusion that she must not like people very much, and only contributes her brand of advice to gain maximum visibility for her own blog about all things WP. I was there searching for elusive answers, afraid to post a question and become her latest victim, then had to give up, “man up” (so to speak), and post my query. The answers came from various volunteers, including this person and this helped me move on, but with every step, new questions cropped up. After I’d posted a third question she said that I was “going around in circles” (i.e. wasting her time) and she wasn’t going to help me anymore. I would have left it at that but I still didn’t have my answer, so I wrote back and clearly explained why she had misunderstood my question and asking her or others for an answer. It’s been a couple of days, and response time is usually within the hour and still no reply. Because I knew I’d likely have to deal with her in future (or be actively ignored by her for all the wrong reasons) I sent her a thoughtful private message to try to reach common ground.

Before doing so, I read her “about me” page and found out that she is also dealing with a chronic condition which leaves her depleted much of the time. I deduced this might explain her terse coaching style, but was hopeful that I’d get through to her with my missive. To her credit, her profile was honest and direct, and thinking about my own whimsical, pithy resumé, decided it was time to change it to reflect my recent efforts online and in the “real” world to open up about issues that affect my life.

That’s the story behind my new profile, and methinks, an elegant way to surreptitiously post a rant about this woman who quickly sent me back my carefully crafted message with “return to sender” for a reply. Again, I should have just let it be, but “shoulds” don’t don’t do much for me lately, so my emailed response was:

At least now I know for sure my first impression was completely accurate.

What I sensibly left out and am dying to add is: and thanks for confirming you are in fact a complete bitch.

Rrrreowwww!!! ^,,^

Part Two (7:30 AM)

I couldn’t help myself. Had to get my point across so posted the following on the forum:

Dearest [screen name], I have just now posted a tribute to you on my blog. I thought you might be interested, or at least a little bit curious. Best regards.

As those who know me can attest, I can be the nicest person, but slights and unfair criticism bring out the worst in me.

Final note on the matter (7:46 AM)

After posting my rants, I just now went for a quick look at the Stumbleupon site, which I haven’t checked out in quite some time. I should have known this was coming… here is the page I landed on (from World of Inspiration):

“We should be too big to take offense
and too noble to give it” ~ Abraham Lincoln

then

“No one needs a smile as much as
a person who fails to give one.”

I guess I have my work cut out for me.
From Smiler, with Love. ;-)

365 Days of Creativity

Giraffe Drawings_3784

One of my friends, K, whom I had originally met in a painting class said something on Facebook just a short while ago about looking forward to starting a new art class as she hoped this would get her painting again, something she’s been finding hard to do lately. I understand the frustration of wanting to create things and feeling held back by lagging motivation. In my reply to her, the idea just popped into my mind that maybe I could start a group and/or blog where people would be encouraged to post a creation every day, in whatever medium they choose. Back in March, I blogged about wanting to find a project that would entail me showing my creations on a daily basis and gave myself a month to think about what I could possibly want to do every day for at least 365 days. I set myself a deadline to figure out what that thing would be: April 11th. This date is fast approaching and up until today I’ve been dreading it. Making that process interactive and having other people contribute their own creations too however… that seems a lot more exciting to me. I’m thinking that a group effort will encourage participants to keep going and stay motivated if only for the pleasure of sharing their creations with others.

I’ll think this over and share what format this group/blog will take on (making it user-friendly being a priority), when the start date will be, as well as how others can join me in this project, etc this Sunday April 11th. I’m hopeful that others will want to start this 365 day adventure with me or at least participate occasionally. If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment—I’d also be curious to know what you think you might like to contribute, though I encourage everyone to participate in whatever medium they are most comfortable with, be it photography, painting, drawing, knitting, doodling, poetry, design, recipes, short stories, music, sewing, videos, haikus, baking… basically ANYTHING that is your own creation and which you can show others via internet. Anyone from beginner,  or amateur to professional is encouraged to participate. We’re not looking for perfection; participation is the only goal and any kind of effort will be encouraged. Suggestions are welcome.

Whether there are other participants willing to start on Day One with me or not, I’ll set the whole thing in motion in hopes that others will want to join along the way, though I’d love it if at least a couple of people joined from the start. Are you in?

This photo by Smiler was originally  featured in this post.