"I don't want that." She looks up at me through her bangs, softly. I am suprised, and ask why. "I don't really like it that much." I look at the drawing in front of her, and again, ask why. It is a beauty. "It is not good." I look at her, watching as she shrivels up into herself. I feel her shriveling as if it were my body. I know that pain. I know that doubt. I ache for her.
"I think it is a great drawing." I point out the formal elements in the drawing that are working, along with the quality of her hand in the drawing. She smiles at me shyly. "No," she responds, "I don't want it." I shrug my shoulders. "Okay, " I say, trying to find some type of acknowledgement in her eyes. She turns away and starts cleaning up the rest of her drawings.
This is an amalgamation of several conversations I had last Friday with girls of different ages after five days of drawing classes. It is an amazing experience teaching kids to draw or sculpt or paint or create. Kids, like adults, are brilliant, and when they let themselves go, they do spectacular things. It is a privelege to behold. But at some point in their development, something happens. In the presence of their peers, they have a hard time stepping up and claiming their creation. They are afraid to claim it because if it is contested, that just might feel like death.
We talked a lot about that during the course of the week. I would give them quick exercises to do to warm up hand-eye coordination, then a longer assignment, along with a group assignment for the week, and a final. During the class we would have discussions about what everyone was drawing, with an emphasis on what made a drawing good. Over and over, I told them if I could not see them in the drawing, it was not as good. If the drawing communicated something about them, it was a success. That was the only benchmark.
We talked about why we liked certain drawings and why we didn't. I facillitated conversations within the group regarding long term project strategies and individual strategies. Everyone participated. There were moments of incredible insight and courageous sharing. These children were having complex and brave conversations. It gave me hope. I could see, admiringly, that many of them would surpass me. During this week, I experienced long, rapturous moments of awe and pride.
Then came Friday. I asked all of them to compile the work they had done that week and make folders for themselves. Some folders were bulging with work, others contained only two or three pieces of paper. In the end, for some of them, it was just too hard. Too much of a risk.
Over the course of our lives, we are trained to love less, to risk less, to play it safe, because doing otherwise would risk embarrassment, or worse, on a very public level. To show great love for someone is to be completely vulnerable; not only to that person, but to the world. And this world is not set up to support love that is so free. Not right now.
But love is love, no matter who feels it, no matter who it is felt for, it is always love, and it is always okay.
But when you are 11, and you are drawing a ball in a class with a bunch of other 11 year old kids, you look around. Everyone else is drawing, looking at the ball, back at their papers, at the ball, back and forth. You are scared out of your mind. What if your ball is bad? What if it doesn't look like a ball? What if people laugh? You can't face that, you just can't put your heart on the paper and risk it being ripped to shreds, so you don't. You put half of your effort into it so that it won't hurt when people don't like it. That feels safe, and this is where it starts. You hold back, you don't give your all, you find a way to not care as much, or at least to not show how much you care, because caring is a risk. Caring is too vulnerable.
So you go through life not risking. You go through life trying to avoid exposing your passion for it. Your passion is delicate, it is volatile, and it feels like everything. And you just can't risk everything. So you go through life missing out on great experiences. You go through life feeling safe, but that safety is a fabrication. That safety is dependent upon too many things that you cannot control, and eventually, you are crushed. Eventually, though you have tried your best to protect your heart and your passion, you are stomped, and it feels like you will never recover, and most likely, you won't, because you have never had to endure this pain before. You have never had to contend with losing just about everything.
You see, you can lose your world in increments, but it is never too late to risk. It is never too late to ask to be loved. It is never too late to declare your passion for the world and claim your stake in it. You might be on death's door, but it is never too late.
I think about that every time I encounter a shy young kid, or a kid who is bullying someone else into a cage. I think about what I might do to change the course of one life. How that one life might in turn touch the lives of hundreds of people I might never meet, and I risk it. I reach out. I take the chance and I let that kid know how special she is, how great she is. I let that kid know that what he cares about matters. Even if it falls on deaf ears. Even if he looks at me like I have lost my mind. I reach out.
Because I know that love is love. No matter who feels it. No matter who it is felt for. No matter what. Showing love is never a wasted effort.
Not showing love? That. That. That is a complete waste. Every single time.
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I had just been thrown to the floor with wrenching gut pains, the likes of which I had never known, nor hope to ever know again. That was the moment I had the inking that my body had a mind, and a personality, all its own, it was the moment before I started to develop an actual relationship with my body.
Before that point, I had inadvertently put my body through the ringer; from starting to drink alcohol and smoke pot at the age of 13, to the stress I carried around with me in my stomach and on my face, to the pounding it took when I over-worked it. It is no wonder it threw me to my knees; all other previous communications had gone unnoticed.
Before that, my body for the most part was a source of shame; something to be hidden or ignored. There were brief moments of love between us, when it would do amazing things without my having planned it, like some of the feats I was able to accomplish while playing baseball, or how uniquely strong my upper body seemed to be for its size, or how fast I could run. There were times that I can say that I was truly proud of what my body could do. Then again, it is easy to love anything for its great ability and beauty.
For my part, I was somewhat oblivious to the idea that my body would actually talk to me, and no one ever told me I would have a life-long relationship with it, maybe because they assumed I knew, it being obvious and all. No one ever told me to listen for signals or communication from my body. So I ignored it from right around the time puberty hit. Well, actually, I started to try to ignore it when I was 8 and my face started breaking out. By eleven I was in full-on lock down mode. Between my boobs growing, my period starting, and hair starting to grow in various embarrassing areas of my body, I was doing everything I could to pretend my body wasn't there. I was not very successful.
As for my body, it was doing everything it could, growing and developing naturally, sending me signals when I was sad, angry, anxious, happy, excited, etc., but generally speaking, after the age of 8, my body noticed that I was listening less and less, and in response, sent more and more desperate signals as time passed. None of them did I heed. I went on much as I had, doing more and more damage to my body, though my body desperately needed my love and attention.
At nineteen, my body doubled down and in a desperate attempt to get my attention, it sent me to the hospital for acute appendicitis. Still, I did not listen. Instead I just cut the damn thing out and kept on suppressing my emotions with alcohol, weed and brutal indifference. It wasn't until I moved to Portland, and after I found myself writhing on the ground, that I decided there might be something really wrong with me. I went to a local Naturopath who told me, after running several tests, that for all intents and purposes, my body was no longer digesting food. She told me I had three options: Eat clean for a period of time to see if that would clean out my system and kick-start my body back into action, take drugs to alleviate the pain and maybe enable me to eat again, or undergo surgery to remove some of my colon.
Being young and without health insurance, and being innately scared of Western medicine and doctors in general, I went for option one. Though I did not know it, this would be the start of a relationship that would teach me more about myself than anything I would do before or after. This was the relationship my body had been waiting for; the relationship, it turned out, that my body had been demanding. So I started eating Macrobioticly. No processed foods, no dairy, no meat except for seasoning, but plenty of sea vegetables, fermented foods, vegetables, beans, soy products, nuts, seeds, tea and water. Nothing else. It was quite rigorous, as I had to make all of it; pickling my own food, slow-cooking everything (raw food was not permitted), I spent hours a day cooking, and I could never really eat out. I did this for one year. During this year, I also learned how to read some the signals my body was sending. I even started examining my poop. This is not to say that I always listened to the signals, or did what they were instructing I do, but I did get very good at recognizing them.
It was as if I had a new friend and had to monitor her mood on a daily basis in order to know how to treat her. In the beginning, she was very demanding, kind of bitchy, and not at all trusting that I would make the right decisions for her. It was kind of funny because I realize now that it mirrored the same relationship that I had with my mother at the time; my body felt about me the same way I felt about my mom. After a few months of care and attention, however, she softened. She started to trust me again, and so she started sending me even more signals; all regarding my emotional health. I still have the journal I used to record everything that was going on with my body at that point. It is chock full of my different bodily processes and all the research I was doing to figure my body out. It is also chock full of the emotional ups and downs I was experiencing on a daily basis.
At that time I was also suffering from a broken heart. I had broken up with my first love two years earlier and was attempting to deal with the loss of it. My body was not in to heartbreak on any level, but in no way did it want me to keep pushing it down to try to avoid feeling it either. This is when all of my emotions started coming out. It felt like I was puking emotions for about three months. In hindsight, it was a good thing I was living in my brother's basement with few local friends to speak of; I was kind of a mess.
That was twenty-five years ago. For twenty five years, I have been practicing listening to my body. I say praciticing because I am still getting new messages every day, and I still don't always do what my body requests, but I am better, and what's more, I love my body; not because I think it looks good, but because it saved me. My body, through all of the shit I was piling on top of it on a daily basis, never gave up on me. It always believed I would eventually listen. My body has loved me, unconditionally, for as long as I have been alive. Yes, sometimes it has been tough love, but no matter what I put it through, it has always loved me, has always tried to teach me, to keep me awake to what I need, what I can use, and what I can let in.
My body has also been quite good and lettling me know what not to let in, including certain types of food, personal hygeine products, pharmaceuticals and people. I get signals about all of it. That is how I know that no diet on the market is right for me. That is how I know that products full of chemicals do not belong in or on my body. That is how I know that when I am told that I need something outside of myself to be happy that it is utter bullshit. My body knows me better, and I trust it. This trust is based on mutual love and admiration, and I know I am lucky to have it.
That is also why I would never advise anyone to do anything other than listen to their body. Your body knows better than doctors, better than actors hired to sell you products, better than your friends, relatives or partners. Your body knows. Learn its language. Become fluent. Develop the relationship with your body that it has always wanted. It is waiting for you to listen.
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I woke up bright and early yesterday morning to hike Oysterdome. It was a grey day, but I had been looking forward to this hike ever since I decided to do it. I love hiking alone; I get to keep my own pace and stop when I see or hear cool birds nearby doing their thing, which in the spring can involve teeny baby birds; little puff balls of love learning to fly and explore the world. I especially like this particular trail because it is somewhat challenging and provides some spectacular views.
But early yesterday morning, I paused. I had read a story the day before about how two men raped a local woman in broad daylight beneath the pier at Boulevard Park. Additionally, the Rapist Brock Turner was still fresh in my mind, as I had been reading everything I could about the case and had been busy posting and re-posting his face on my Facebook wall, making sure to emphasize his new status, "Rapist," and not the "Stanford Swimmer" title I had seen bandied about in different stories.
When I am dwelling in my fear-based world, once you have raped a woman or abused or otherwise exploited a man, woman, or child, that is your title until the day you die. Nothing you did before or after you committed that horrible act matters.
So there I was, laying? lying? in bed listening to the birds singing, and for the first time in a very long time, I was afraid. I have traveled across the country alone, gone on hundreds of on-line dates with strangers (yes, hundreds), gone to movies alone, gone out to eat alone, and hiked alone, and always with a heightened awareness one must take on in these types of situations, but not really with any fear. Many times I have been asked the same question by a wide variety of people about all these things I do, "aren't you afraid?" and always, the answer is a simple, "no," because, generally speaking, I work diligently to not alter my behavior due to the dangerous/destructive/disrespectful/insensitive actions of others. If I do that, they win. They have me. And I won't be had.
Especially not by such bastards.
But holy fuck, I kept thinking about the description the victim gave of waking up in the hospital, wanting to disown her own body, and the horror she felt at being violated by the interrogation after she had been violated by The Rapist Brock Turner. I kept thinking about the announcement I saw on Facebook about the local woman who was raped in broad daylight, and I could feel the fear start to creep up my spine, flood my chest and crawl into my sensitive brain.
So I started to argue against this fear; I began to rally in favor of the courage I knew I had deep inside of me. I told myself that if you look hard enough, you can find something to scare you or keep you from living your life fully. You can find someone who might be a threat to you if you really search. You can find a reason to keep yourself from really experiencing the world in all its incredibly glory. You can always find something.
And, I reasoned, you can always create strategies to overcome these fears. You can always find ways to feel safer. You can always make a plan to keep yourself protected, even as you venture out the door unaccompanied by someone who is bigger, stronger and more intimidating than you are. You can always find something. And you can always find role models. Usually, I look to Willy Wonka, Mary Poppins or Buddy the Elf, but in this case, I looked to my man Bilbo Baggins. If a Hobbit can do all the shit he did, being as small and simple as he was, well....I mean....
So I went. I hopped out of bed, got on my hiking clothes, and as a safety precaution, let my fella know where I was going. I also had another friend in town who knew, and as I hiked up, I posted pics on Facebook and sent pics to my fella. I felt strong, and more importantly, I felt free. The trail was just like I like it; empty except for the birds and other critters busy doing their critter stuff in the early morning hours. When I reached the top, I was greeted by two women who had just reached the top themselves. We talked about the possibility of a night hike sometime to witness a full moon. The air was chilly, and the Ravens were flying so close, I could hear their wings in the wind. It was truly a beautiful morning to experience so high up.
As I was walking down, about one quarter of the way and still in the densely wooded section of the trail, I heard the loud pecking of two Pileated Woodpeckers, and the chirping of their baby birds in a nest nearby. I spotted the nest and could tell that these cute little things were not yet ready to leave. They were still relying on their parents to feed them, which I figured was why they were making such a ruckus with all their pecking.
I stopped and wondered at what all this meant; the baby birds, well-cared for in their nest, the night hike I was considering in my future, and the idea that not two hours prior, I was on the cusp of missing all this. I could not think for the life of me why I would want to limit my experience of life because of the horrifying current events that had been filling my Facebook feed, and knew how profoundly the victim's lives would be irreversably altered; that they would most likely have a long and painful journey back to themselves, if they ever made it.
It was a lot to think about, as I stood there in the woods, alone but for the critters, and chilled in the morning air. So I moved on, and continued my hike down. I felt lucky that I had never been raped, and still wondered what exactly I could do about keeping that from happening to anyone ever again. What could I do to change the world so no man, woman or child has to be afraid to leave their home alone? What could I do to stop the abuse and exploitation of men, women and children all over the world?
I admit, it is a lot to take on. I don't really know what to do except what I am doing, trying to teach and inspire self love, and maybe show that in the end, it is about the journey to self love, the exploration of the self that can save.
The pain I feel when I think about this shit is overwhelming. The helplessness I feel is palpable. But this is what keeps me going; that I might in some way be able to help someone going through this, that adding my voice to the chorus of people all over the world who abso-fucking-lutely will not stand for this will in some way bring comfort, that is why I do it. I know what it means to need help, to need support. I also know how wonderfully life-changing it is to receive that support.
I have known rapists, sexual abusers and other people I would label as violent. Without exception, they had all in one way or another been abused themselves. This is not a secret, this is a statistic. It is fact. So why? Why have we not prioritized people? Rape, violence, and expoitation are all learned behaviors. It is time we start learning new ones. It is time to stop supporting the culture that allows this. It is time to stop seeing the people who do this shit as bad people and start seeing them as damaged people.
It is time to start taking care of people. Rape, theft, and addiction are all symptoms of a society that does not prioritize its people. They are symptoms of a society that prioritizes power, wealth and control. It is time to create a new paradigm in this country and figure out a way to take care of people.
Just like it is my priority and my biggest focus to love and care for myself, it should be this society's biggest priority to love and care for its people. Right now, it is a society divided. It is a society so bound up in unnamable fear, we are easily manipulated into hating each other; easily manipulated into believing that people different than us in any way are the devils responsible.
But that can change. We can see beyond that facade and start caring for ourselves and each other. We can start believing in ourselves and each other. It just takes a little faith. It takes a desire to be more than we have been allowed to be. It takes a willingness to risk.
I am willing.
How about you?
I am going to be honest. I don't even think this shows up on Facebook when people FB Like it. So, if only as a message to me, like it. Let me know you are willing to put your faith in people. Let other people know that there is another way to live a life. That there is another way to be in the world.
Helpless. That is how I have been feeling lately. As if the whole system, meaning, all three arms of the government, and society in general is rigged to work against people. Helpless because I find myself having to explain recent history to individuals who are, by all accounts, educated people. My Facebook thread is full with stories of Justice gone horribly wrong. At one point, it was about the arrest of the Black Live Matter activist Jasmine Richards. Now, a whole other issue has blown up, and I am beside myself that I have very little to say or do about it.
One of the posts contrasts Black Lives Matter activist Jasmine Richards treatment by the judicial system to Rapist Brock Turner's treatment. There has been so much in the press about the inequities between the two cases, not to mention how the Trayvon Martin case was handled by the media and the judicial system. Not to mention the Brian Banks case.
There are thousands of different examples with which to compare Rapist Brock Turner's case. But these comparisons miss the point, and focus on an issue that is widely known; entitled white men get away with shit. They do. All my life they have, and if you are a person reading this right now, they have all your life too. This is not news. The rest of us live in fear of the structure they have created and willingly or unwillingly play along.
What is not in the news? We are all responsible for this. We are all responsible for the culture in which Rapist Brock Turner grew up. You might argue, but you would be wrong. Because every time we as a society let all this other shit slide, due to not feeling like we have power, we enable people like Rapist Brock Turner. We enable people like his father and mother to raise a man so bereft of moral compass.
We are participating in a society which allows this. I look at Rapist Brock Turner's pictures, and frankly, he looks a lot like my nephews; white, priveleged, and somewhat innocent. But this is just the picture which I have been presented. It does not accurately depict him, as his victim found out last January behind a dumpster...oh wait.. no...she found out later in the hospital....because she was unconcsious during her rape.
This is the same frustration I feel when I look to see that most of my tax dollars go to fund wars, corporate entities, and the ever-growing prison system. It is the same frustration I feel when I see the overwhelming support a racist is getting as he runs for the highest office in the land.
So the question is, what do I do? What do you do? What do we do so this shit, this blatant mistreatment of people based on class status and skin color will end? Stop participating. Start something better. Engage with individuals who understand that violence, that greed, that exploitation of the weak, is unacceptable. This shit goes on all over the world, in much more horrendous ways, and it must stop, we must at some point acknowledge that we are all one. That anything you do to another human being, you do to me. Even if you are in the fortunate position where you can ignore this, it is no less true.
Every arm of our government is absolutely rigged against the people. People say it is broken, but this is untrue. What it is, is carefully built to enslave the lower classes (98% of us) and give the control to the upper class. And we participate. We have been convinced that this is the way the world works, when in fact, it is not an absolute. It is not how the world must be.
Simply put, in order to stop it, we must cut off its oxygen. we need to not allow it to go on. I understand that I ask a lot. This would basically mean you would have to figure out a way to stop paying taxes, only buy local, and completely disregard the law. I get it. It is a lot to ask.
But there is a place to start. Let's stop, for the love of all that is holy, fighting amongst ourselves. Let's stop being hateful to each other. Let us stop fearing the people who the government wants us to fear. Let us stop hating the people the government blames for our ills. This is a facade created to keep us separate. This is a plan enacted to keep our focus off the real problem. We are not the problem, no matter our gender, race, or class status. We are being manipulated into believing it, but we are not.
This is the best way I know to unite; to stop bickering amongst the manipulated. Stop looking amongst ourselves for why our jobs moved overseas (politicians) why our wages have not increased with the cost of living (politicians) and why, finally, there is no justice in this country (politicians.)
The next thing? After we stop hating each other and start seeing that we are all one? Maybe vote those fuckers out of office. EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM.
I get it. This is not like my usual posts...so if you don't want to share, or, if you are disgusted, fine. I get it. But, if what you read rings a bell, share the fuck out of this. Add this to the thousands of voices screaming out against injustice.
#rapistbrockturner #StanfordVictim #endpatriarchynow #loveyourself
When you get trained to be an artist, you get downloaded with a lot of information about what a serious artist should be. There is a lot of judgment, a lot of jealousy, and a lot of critical analysis that in the end, doesn't amount to a whole lot. The work I have been doing lately is a definite departure from what I have been taught because I realize in the end, I just want people to love themselves.
This doesn't come from a flowery desire for world peace, (though frankly I wouldn't mind it) or a great need to fix everything. What I really want is to live in a world where I can be myself. It is a selfish wish, I know, but I want it.
This stems from growing up and watching my mother slowly kill herself with cigarettes and food and alcohol, mostly because she couldn't be completely honest about who she was. Yes, she was a lesbian, but also, she was a woman who defied stereotype, and for that, she was punished. Punished first by her parents, then by society. I watched her stuff herself with crap just so she wouldn't come out. She was miserable. And I have seen this with other people throughout my life.
My desire is that everyone, no matter who they are, be accepted, and most importantly, accept themselves. There is so much against this happening. There is so much in the media, in stories, in our culture that tells us we have to be a certain way to be right.. We have to believe in a certain god, love certain types of people, and above all else, value money as the most important thing.
I have watched friends, lovers and relatives struggle with who they are, look externally for answers, live their lives according to some other person's rules in order to maybe find happiness, but it doesn't ever stick. This is because on some level we all know that it is much easier to look outside ourselves for the answer than to look within. Need love? Read this book by this dude who says he is an expert. Want a job? Follow this woman's advice who hires people. Want to lose weight? Follow this plan by this doctor-type-dude who says you should eat like a caveman. It is crazy, but completely logical. Because we don't know what we will find if we look inside. We might find that we are indeed unworthy. We might find that we are the monsters that everyone tells us we are.
I believe that people are basically good, that some people are just in pain, and use that as the guiding factor in life. I believe that we all have different special gifts, and that if we could just see our way through to accepting and loving ourselves, the world would change. I just think we need reminders. There are so many messages in the world telling us that we are worthless, or in need of change, or in some way wrong. I want to make shit that does the opposite. I want to fight the power that would tell you that you are not indeed amazing. I want to crush those motherfuckers into the ground.
So, in essence, Fuck art school. I know it is super awesome to be a tortured crazy artist like Van Gogh or Pollock, but I would much rather be happy and make art that people want to look at, make art that makes people smile and maybe even inspires them to give themselves a chance. I make art that seeks to change the world by starting with me. And maybe, you.
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