Wealthy Street

I was a beggar on Wealthy Street

where I was accused of being vibrant

arrested in my quest for murdered time

charged with being an artist

convicted of faith in more than I do

as an accessory after the top hat

In my sidewalk cell,

I became an advocate as a willing-faced pauper

begging for change on Wealthy Street

The young man and “The Pensive Woman”

The Pensive Woman, 1932 by a German Artist (I can't find the name of the artist)

The Pensive Woman, 1932 by a German Artist (I can’t find the name of the artist)

I rounded the corner from bronze dipped metal spoons that didn’t stir my soul

to observe a lost lamb separated by his emotions from the flock of chittering as a whole.

He stood slouched, small dreads pointing to the sky, bandana tied artfully at his temple

staring at the sculpture trying to understand something I couldn’t see; Sentimental?

I greeted him with gentle voice, encouraging interaction. I explained without pause

“I was in the other room observing several that didn’t move me because

The spirit requires recognition of matching vibrancy to vibrate frequently

Why this one? What drew you to her?” I asked the young man evenly.

He thought quick, deeply, spoke with certainty, “She’s so sad.”

“When art speaks to me, it speaks in bright colors because I’m, as a rule, glad.

Do you understand her sadness, too? She was created by a German in 1932.”

He wavered momentarily as his emotions washed his face quickly, efficiently.

For a moment, I thought I’d lost him as I waited patiently.

“She reminds me of how I felt when I learned my father had passed away.

I locked myself in my room, curled in a ball and cried to myself all day.

That he was gone was hard enough, it went against my every plan,

but I remember wondering, “Who’s going to teach me to be a man?”

His eyes looked at me just like hers. I gave him “Always Beautiful” as I abided

“You are not alone.” I comforted in synonymous tone as he’d confided.

He smiled while hefting the weight of a million gallons of un-cried tears

that will ebb and flow

wax and wane

light and darken his years.

I loved him deeply, truly

in all his pensive human beauty

as much as I admired that German artist of 1932

accidentally gifting me that one on one in bronzed blues.

These Are My People: ORUUC

Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

I’m not a religious person. I don’t classify or call myself anything in particular except maybe leaning towards spiritual. It’s not because I don’t believe in “something” but because I see validity is so much. A few years ago, I felt a strong push as I heard a loud voice tell me to go to the ORUUC. Over the course of two years I found the family I’d been promised by the winds. They didn’t come in the shapes, sizes, or ages I expected, but there is not a doubt in my heart or soul they are my blood kin.

From the youngest children, such as Rayn, to the oldest of children such as Miss Marge, I was blessed with knowing, learning, and understanding some of the most beautiful people I could have asked for. Outside of the confines of the church there were some people whom could meet my level of tomfoolery, but never in my adult life have I found the encouragement to be everything I was meant to be as I did there.

But how can I say that an entire church is my family? A church? It hardly seems possible. What I learned from them, will follow me everywhere I go because I value the life-lessons I was given.

Be Passionate

When I first started going to the Unitarian Universalist Church, I was wisely advised to take my time in selecting what I wanted to do because everything has passionate players. They weren’t kidding. I watched the different volunteer positions to see which I felt I could be enthusiastically involved with. I discovered I loved to greet people, loved to protect, and loved to serve. I ended up joining the safety team, co-leading the hosts and greeters, as well as serving as fifth Sunday usher. I even did coffee a couple times. Find what you’re passionate about and without excuse or what-if’s, jump in and do it.

Learn Names

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning was to be greeter. I have a knack for remembering the names with faces I see often. I could greet nearly everyone in our medium sized congregation by name as they approached the door. That I could do that, hug them, welcome them, demonstrated I truly was glad to see them. Learning people’s name that you see every day no matter who they are is key to discovering some of the coolest people you might never had opportunity of doing so if not for that small effort. When you remember people’s names, they know that someone in the world knows they exist. I believe that’s crucial to mental health.

Talk is cheap, Action is richer

Many times I’d listen to people in the neighborhood where I lived talking about how unhappy they were with where they lived (I was one of them for a while), their circumstances, their addictions, their kids, the etc. What I noticed was that none of them were doing anything to change any of that. They just noted it sucked but continued the same behaviors. I learned that it’s okay to complain because, really, that’s just an acknowledgment that an issue exists.

Once you’ve realized there is a problem, making a difference is the only way that problem will go away. You can kick sand over it, behave like an ostrich, or pretend it doesn’t exist, but once you know it’s there, it’s the Universe’s way of nudging you to make it better. Terry Goodkind wrote in his Sword of Truth series (loosely quoted), “You already know what the problem is, think of the solution.”

I saw solutions pouring out of the people at ORUUC far more than I saw problems. It was the most collaborative group of people I’ve ever worked with. Even when hackles got ruffled, which happens in any large group, everyone worked to make sure that the final solution was a balance. Do what you need to do to bring the positive changes into the world because happiness is worth it.

Fool for love

Pastor Jake Morrill’s closing words for the services he gives are ones I took to heart. He says, “Be pilgrims for justice and fools for love!” What profoundly simple words with such an enormous responsibility behind them. If he chose a different closing, I’d walk away rather bummed because I truly took on the challenge when he would use it.

I believe we should all fall madly in love with the world every day. No excuses, just open your eyes and fall. Even the people or things that irk your sensibilities the most are worthy of love. It’s not for you to choose who is okay or what is okay to love, just do it.

I’m not in any way implying that you can’t have preferences, nor that you should eliminate safety measures for the sake of love. I’m saying that when you look at the world as if it were your intimate lover and you its muse, you’ll find a different kind of kismet with the divinity that is everything; The atom of begin times, the eve of creation.

To clarify, I call everything the Universe, because as a rule, we can all agree there is one. If I called the Universe God, then that specific version that you know/doubt/reject/hate/don’t believe in, would negate this idea. BUT! If I call it the Universe, we can meet at whatever version of that ultimate we accept.

Using this idea, be the fool for love because love has a transformational magic that can be witnessed where two hearts meet in unison. Thus, if you’re falling madly in love with the world every breath you take, does it not then make sense that love will rule your world? And further that love will light your path to happiness because love doesn’t hurt? Indeed. As I was taught by those who love me there, be that fool for love.

A village

A short while before I moved away, I received an email that reminded the Sunday volunteers of the roles they promised to step in to fill. A reply to that email was astounded at the amount of people that took responsibility to make the service appear to be without effort. It made me giggle a bit because I was actively involved in the volunteer activities. I knew how many people it took because of that.

Sidenote: My husband would get really frustrated with me because I’d try to do way more than my body could handle. He’d have to verbally remind me, “Mare, you’re not Atlas. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”

It’s the same when facing life’s many challenges (like moving out of state with a weeks notice). You’re not Atlas. Just like sharing your great experiences with your friends, sharing burdens makes them easier to bear as well. Nothing limits you to only putting on your good face. Being a human with All The Bumpy Bits is by far more deeply satisfying overall in my experience. When you find people willing to be human with you, that’s a rare and beautiful gift. Shine for them even from your darkest places. It’s worth it.

There are so many lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful people I am honored enough to call my friends at ORUUC that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one writing. I hope you will bear with me as I process this tremendous life shift. Together we can be incredible humans together on this wild journey called life.

Always Beautiful

I fall madly in love every day with people I meet, talk to, hang out with, shop with, or see on the streets. Sometimes I keep them (like my dearest of friends), while others I write off to good feelings, but I always fall madly in love. It’s the best part of being alive for me.

I think it’s crucial. If you see someone do something kind, overhear a pleasant conversation, see someone being completely them…fall in love without regrets. You don’t have to act, just fall because when you do…the world is a prettier place. It’s a better place. Happiness and hope flow like liquid silver throughout the day as if nearly transcendent. Who can feel poorly when love is all around flying through the air with graceful messages on every face?

In my pocket full of happiness, I keep little cards that are about 2X2”. On them there are little hearts in the corners with some pretty art down three sides. In the middle, the card has the words, “Always Beautiful.”

A short stack of beauty

A short stack of beauty

That way when I see beautiful things and beautiful people I can let them know that I witnessed them in this world. I SAW them be beautiful. I do it because we all need to be reminded of the beauty of our lives that we take for granted too easily. Life is too precious not to acknowledge beauty when we see it.

My little cards give people something to hold onto that is a tangible reminder that their beauty shined brightly enough for a stranger (or me, rather) to notice. I give them away for radiant smiles, a sweet gesture, a considerate action, a note of dedication acknowledging their hard work, a perfect laugh, or elegance in crafting a movement of body enough to bring me awe or wellies.

But, love. I’m a sucker for love.

I see a kiss between lovers that is one that reaffirms that they are together. Just a simple brush of lips with the inevitable smile of tenderness and affection. That will coax a card from my pocket so fast it practically catches fire. I am particularly fond of couples who aren’t considered mainstream (YET!) because it demonstrates to me that the power of love is worth every sacrifice.

Copy, print, send them out into the world with love, beauty, and happiness in your heart!

Copy, print, send them out into the world with love, beauty, and happiness in your heart!

I encourage you to make your own. I use cardstock to make them last a bit longer. It’s a small way to make the world a happier place in which to walk. It’s a great way to say, “Hey, you’re beautiful and I want you to remember that for as long as possible, because today, I noticed.”

Four Healing Helping Guides: TRIGGER WARNING

How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.

How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.

There was a long time in my life when I was called broken. No matter how much I screamed my denials to anyone who would listen, I was, indeed, broken. I was a child who believed in love when there was consistency but not when there was disappointment. I was conditioned to believe in betrayal, horrific plots against my personal safety, but worse yet, when those things went unheeded or unnoticed by my self incarcerated authentic being.

I’ve many times shared my stories, my poems, my grief over the loss of my childhood. I noticed there are themes at work among my purgings. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a doctor. I’ve read extensively trying to understand, “Why?” For me, these are things that have worked.

Give Permission to Yourself to Grieve

There is no right way to grieve. There is no time limit. There aren’t any set in stone management techniques that apply to everyone. But, if you don’t allow yourself to grieve over the very real, very true, loss of time, safety, comfort, betrayal of trust, anger, hostility, and the myriad of emotions, then you’re not allowing yourself to be human. Grieving is a key to healing. It allows a walk through those emotions that, as a child, you weren’t able to process. In essence, you’re teaching yourself to again feel.

Process the Feelings Individually

Because, when you begin to heal there are so many emotions, it can be extremely overwhelming. I was misdiagnosed with bipolar, clinical depression, anger issues, and anxiety, and finally, accurately diagnosed with Non-combat PTSD. I suffered from major depressions for much of my early adult life.

At one point I suffered so much I developed agoraphobia which kept me locked in a room for months. If my friend hadn’t realized that my isolation was causing me to plan suicide, I wouldn’t be here writing this. Without her intervention, a forced promise to talk to a doctor the very next day, I wouldn’t be here.

ALL the emotions must be met with compassion for oneself. I had to look at it as, “What if I were comforting someone going through everything I am right now?” I’d talk to my mirror self, coaxing gentle thoughts when I was afraid. I could sit with myself and be as angry as I wanted to. I could hate myself if I felt the need, but compassion towards this “other” person was necessary. I had to rethink how I’d approach someone who was hurting so deeply, then adjust my behavior towards myself. Sometimes I’d look like a lunatic talking out loud to myself negotiating “me” off the ledge of despair or frustration. It was necessary. I had to feel what I’d forgotten in order to remember.

Fear is a Liar

One of the hardest things I’ve ever faced was the demons in my darkness. The places where I squirm uncomfortably because I did, said, or acted in a way that was not becoming to how I see myself. Example: My grandmother had the same color skin I did when it came to makeup. I was out. She was not. I took it. Even with my hands red with lies, I denied it. I swore up and down it was mine. Nobody believed me. (*) Can’t imagine why! (*)=Sarcasm Alert (btw) Yeah, that’s not a big one, but I don’t steal. I know better. I knew better. I did it anyway.

As I write about it now, it seems so trivial. It was a stupid thing I did. But, it made me afraid to tell the darker things in my life. It made me fear that if I told about my sexual abuse I wouldn’t be believed either. Because we can all see how stealing something and sexual abuse are related right? I could. Fear held me captive for far too many years. It became such a part of my life that I was suffocated by its “good” intentions. I was wrong. It kept me from living as I was meant to. It kept me from love. It kept me from light. But most of all, it kept me from finding personal grace.

When I realized fear was holding me back, I decided to change that. I started talking about my demons. I started disclosing the cobwebbed ideas that I’d held hostage under the guise that people would judge or hate me. I had to purge my closets. I had to release it. And holy cow was a scared to death! But, as with the next section, once I lopped off the ugliness and embraced me, allowed fear to fall away, I discovered I was okay. That people still loved me, still liked me, still talked to me, and I felt a freedom that I’d only fantasized about through much of my young adult life.

You Have Always Been Worthy

You are worth of love. You are worthy of compassion. You are worth a beautiful life. You are worth happiness. You are worth being every moment who you were born to be. Others may have attempted to steal away your being, but once you’ve decided to heal, as with ceasing any negative behavior, repeating positive messages to yourself when you “hear” the bad things you’ve been told is crucial.

Your inherent beauty is and always has been within you. You don’t have to believe me. You can write this off as new age fluff if you want to, but I know this is true. I see it in people who have no idea how very wonderful they are. There are people who are so confident in their very nature that they exude a sense of light from every action. You know those people. The ones that no matter how crappy your day is, just seeing them, hearing from them, or being with them makes you smile. A small secret here. YOU ARE THAT PERSON! I kid you not.

Understand that those voices, my beloved human, are not real. When you close your mind to the outside and listen to your spirit, you will know this to be true. You are new. You are whole. You are everything you’re meant to be. It’s up to you to decide you want your life to be love. It’s up to you to decide if you are worthy. I assure you, my dearest friend, you are. You really, truly, without a shadow of doubt, are that light of love.

Thirty Something

Okay, so I’ve been working diligently to amass my work for the first display of my art on June 20th. When I was asked to do this, I’d painted this and that, but focused on writing. Having compiled a book of essays, poems, and commentary, I felt satiated enough to move into another genre. I picked up a paintbrush, charcoal, pens, pencils and sheets of fantastica.

From the Unitarian Universalist song, "You got to do when the Spirit says do!"

From the Unitarian Universalist song, “You got to do when the Spirit says do!”

Thirty-One Two pieces later I’m thinking, oh crap! Is this enough? Is this how I’m wishing to be marketed? Is it good enough? Will they like it? Love it? Hate it? Feel ambivalent towards it? Will my art, the creation of my brain from the inspirations that walk over it (like a Jamie Lopez styled painting that just drew itself while I wrote this) satisfy anyone?

You know what? I refuse to care. I wash my hands of the anxieties that are cropping up as the witching hour approaches. This means I’m doing something my mind and body consider to be questionable, dangerous, and that is why I need to do it. Even if I fail (and these thoughts are occurring to me) I’m going to do so with a collective work that glistens with the sweat of my effort. That reflect my love and light into the world in such a way that I feel nearly a sexual satisfaction of bringing these colors to life.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing this for me. Yeah, it’s great if other people take a shine to what I do and even more spectacular when they want to give me money to do what I love. I mean, really. Who wouldn’t want to follow a dream, a hope, an idea all the way down the rabbit hole to see how far it goes? I suppose that’s what makes others comment my oddities to me as if I don’t exist because they’re right. I don’t.

I exist when I allow myself to be consumed by the world where art and breathing are synonymous. I am when I am so engulfed in what I’m doing I forget that I’m human. I become another entity. I love that feeling more as I embrace the whirlwind affair that is dragging me into deeper fields of challenge. But then, I come up for air in this physical world to find people doing what people do.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the people I know. I mean, I REALLY love them. They fill my heart with Rod Stewart songs (“Have I told you lately”) and promises of Moulin Rouge (“Come what may”). My head dances with inspiration from their very existence and I touch the promises of their truth with such delicate breaths that it makes me blush with the intimacy they allow me. It’s not even sexual. It’s like hanging out at someone’s house and everything they do, say, or ask is exactly the most perfect thing they could do, say, or ask of you. And with that, it’s a reciprocation of undulating commentary that ebbs, flows, waxes, wanes, drifts, waves, and hurricanes around in mystical walkways. Each word, phrase, or nothing is vibrant with understanding, love, compassion, and sometimes anger, disappointment, intolerance. Human stuff.

What I describe is not always how it is, it’s just what it’s felt like since I heard the words utter from my lips, “I am an artist.” And so I am.

Tuatha Dea inspired, "Blessed Be, Y'all"

Tuatha Dea inspired, “Blessed Be, Y’all”

The Blank Canvas

I should be painting right now, but I’m staring at the canvases lined up thinking of you instead. I say I don’t think of you, but I do. It’s usually late at night in the silence of a sleeping house. I just get the feeling that if you were here, things would be better. I mean, I know they wouldn’t be, they’d be the same, but I could talk to you about them. I could ask for your wisdom and you’d laugh at me.

“Wisdom isn’t something that can be taught,” You’d laugh. “It has to be learned. The only thing I could possibly do is guide you away from what I’ve already tried that didn’t work.” Then you’d ruffle my hair. I’d act annoyed but I wouldn’t forget.

I look at the canvas and I think, “AHA! I’ll paint you!” Because you were always so beautiful to me. So real that even my own body sometimes felt alien, unkempt, and unruly as I watched you move with grace even though your shoulders were hunched over and you shuffled your feet. I don’t know how to capture everything you meant to me. I don’t know how to not cry when I remember the jokes you told me, how you cheated at cards, your morning prayers, poker with buttons, or sauerkraut making in the basement with the family.

How can I capture the truth of what it felt like to be with you? What it meant to be the most important person in the world in a room full of people with every one of them feeling the same way. You never excluded anyone from your love. You never turned anyone away who came asking, or just to be near you. You were filled with an unending capacity that I strive to achieve because I admired it so much.

I sit here looking at the colors of paints in messy bottles, well loved paint brushes drying after last nights foray, and I wish, I just wish I could hug you again. I wish you could tell me with your heart that you love me too.I wish I could coax the colors to obey my command regarding you. But they sit as still as a stalked mouse with me the pouncing cat. The brushes feel like hammers in my hands, refusing as well to obey.

I feel you sometimes, particularly in the wee hours of the morning. It’s usually when I pour my first cup of coffee from the still brewing pot. I sit down at my table and I look at the spot where my husband and usually the guests sit. I can see you sitting there with your own cup, smiling at me. Together we take that sip and the hot bitter beauty washes my tongue with scalding hot communion. We exhale and whisper the prayer together. Then, you usually go wherever you go while I talk to my ceiling and look to the sky.

My canvas is still blank. My heart remembers you. And for no particular reason, my wish is that you hear my words, “I love you so very much.”

I declare, I am

I declare I am

I declare I am

I declare by action

You can not call yourself a dreamer of dreams

Unless you first close your eyes to willingly sleep

To strip away reality that’s solid to your skin

Throwing blankets against the world’s forgetful sin

Standing not in the sands of the shores

But drowning in desires begging knowledge of more

You can not call yourself a writer of poems

Unless you first strip back the skin to know ‘em

Stripping down to muscle, blood, grinding bone

Becoming so grotesque, by default, displayed alone

Repulsing your own belief that you were enmeshed

Engaging your spirit fully until it bleeds through your flesh

You can not call yourself an artist of the arts

Until you’ve ripped shreds of everything you know, torn it apart.

Chopped off arms, legs, noses, fingers, and ears

Assembled them into a shape that disappears

Become a nothing awaiting rebirth to this plane

So you can become a God/dess of your own domain