Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Word for the Year is "Excavate"

I was driving home on the highway tonight, when I had a Vision. Or maybe it was a reverse vision?

I had just spent four hours at a tiny, Western-themed, BBQ saloon in a NH summer lake resort town - that was shut down and boarded up for the winter. (The town was boarded up, not the BBQ saloon). I'm not sure if any of the adjectives in that long sentence really go together... but, well, that's where I had been.

It was the kind of dinner where you start as sort-of-strangers and end up completing each others' sentences! Honestly, the only reason we stopped talking and went home was because the saloon closed. And turned out the lights. Then we got the message and left. :-)

We talked about art (all four of us are artists), and work, and ex-husbands, and then... labyrinths, quantum physics, manifesting... you know, the usual dinner chatter. But all of this is still new to me. The whole idea of going out to dinner and meeting new friends - especially other "square pegs" - seems so out of my comfort range. But as the evening evolved, I realized that wasn't true. I USED to be more social. I USED to have friends and actually liked leaving my house. I USED to crave adventures and ideas...

One of the ladies asked if I have always felt out of place or did I ever feel like I belonged somewhere. No. Nothing has ever felt permanent or rooted. When I bought this house and renovated it, painted it, mural-ed it and studio-fied it - then I thought it was "mine." But the divorce showed me just how impermanent people and things are. Although I am currently still living here, I know this house is just borrowed.

As we all hugged, climbed into our cars and drove off into the freaking cold, dark night... I kept thinking "did I ever feel like I belonged?"

I was in a good mood though and didn't want sad thoughts bugging me so I turned up the radio. I found myself singing along to "Red Red Wine" and that's when I had the Vision. It was so strong I knew that if I closed my eyes and then opened them again (too bad I was driving a car at the moment!) - I would see the canals of Venice in front of me. I was seventeen years old. Just graduated from High School. I had my left arm hooked with my friend Christie's elbow. We were sharing a Walkman, dancing over the Rialto Bridge. We sang "Red-red-wine you make me feel so fine..." as we twirled around tourists. I could feel the sun, the blisters on my feet from walking around Italy for weeks, the blush on my cheeks when an Italian guy smiled at us... my absolute joy in just being alive and in that particular moment.

Me and Jen and Jen in Venice, Italy. Age 17.

And then I was driving along I-89 again. In the dark. 44 years old with two kids and 27 years of later experiences that are not nearly as vivid as that one moment in Venice. It hit me that one of my kids is almost the age I was in that vision. And then, weirdly enough, I suddenly understood WHY vampires are usually around 17 years old. All these Twilight stories and Vampire Diaries I've been reading have characters who are struggling with the idea of being "frozen" as a teenager. In Twilight, besides the whole issue of becoming a soul-less, blood-sucking monster, Bella's big dilemma is if she becomes a vampire as a teenager, she will stay that age forever and never get to experience a normal, human adulthood. But when she becomes a vampire (sorry to spoil it for you) not only does she stay young forever, but every sense becomes heightened. She sees, hears, tastes... experiences life in a way mere humans can't. Huh. Maybe "adulthood" is overrated? I think I had done most of my forming and "becoming me" by the time I was twenty. Everything after that seems like just check marks on a "to-do list" for adults.

Christie and Me in London. Age 17.

Now that I am on my own again and trying to figure out who I want to be...
I want to be the person I was when I was 17. I'm not saying I want to give up all the experiences I've had since then, or my kids, or any of my life. But I want to be that person who felt anything was possible. I never felt like I had all the time in the world, as some teens feel. Doctors had put an expiration date on me. But maybe that added to the sense of "nothing to lose" and "do it now or never."

When I got home tonight, I went looking for my scrapbook of my adventures to find a photo to show you. I haven't looked at them in a long time. I was stunned by all the other places I went that year and the next... besides Italy, I went to Japan and Egypt and Mexico... and Brown University and School of Visual Arts and RISD... so much packed into one scrapbook (and there were at least 6 other books on that shelf I haven't looked at!) Time and stories whizzing by!

I had another memory of being on a train hurtling through the Italian countryside. Windows wide open because everyone in my car was smoking. It was so hard to breathe - I had my head out the window. A station sign flew by that read "POMPEII"! And with all my soul I wanted to stop the train and explore Pompeii! How could we just pass by a place I had wanted to visit all my life? But it was gone, and I still have never been back there.

And now time, like that train, feels like it is moving so fast and I don't know where it's going. I see things flying by and wish I had the courage to scream "stop the train" or the courage to just jump off and explore. I get glimpses of things I want to do or try, even knowing they could be big failures, and I do think I am brave enough to try... but the prescribed steps or the acceptable way of proceeding - especially at my age - are highly distasteful to me. And while I am trying to reinvent the wheel... the train keeps moving...

"Did I ever feel like I belonged...?"

Yes. The vision of Venice reminded me that I DID once feel like I belonged. But it wasn't in a house, or a town, or even with a group of friends. I belonged in a moment. In myself. In a feeling. All these years of "trying" to fit in - as a wife, a mom, a board member... whatever... I managed to forget who I was.

Last year, my focus for the year was on "learning" - I overdosed on taking classes! This year, my word for the year is "Excavate." Like the archaeologist I intended to be, I will use my training to spend this year excavating the layers, the stratigraphy, of my life and my art. Some things may be better left sealed in a tomb! But it seems worth the risk to me, now, to see what jewels may still be buried there. Besides, "excavate" sounds so much better than "regurgitate," don't you think?

32 comments:

  1. You are lucky! At least you got to be 17. Me, I have never been. Hope you see your Friends from Venice and the Saloon Soon and enjoy your Wine together.

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  2. Great post! Very thought provoking. You are on the right track but rethink "excavate". Think what an amazing journal cover you could make with "regurgitate." :)
    You may not "belong" for a long, long time. That's OK. Accept the special, unique, talented person you are. At 70 years old, I am not so sure belonging is an important thing (except when we are 17), just being is.

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    1. Yes "regurgitate" certainly does make for some great images. But I just keep seeing mommy penguins spitting up fish into their babies' mouths (my son was VERY into penguins when he was little). And THAT image is not really what I want to focus on THIS year. hee hee.

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  3. What a fabulous post. I think you nailed it entirely when you said, "...I DID once feel like I belonged. But it wasn't in a house, or a town, or even with a group of friends. I belonged in a moment. In myself. In a feeling." Whether you realized it or not, it's the "in the moment," the NOW, that is our only chance to belong, in my opinion, and it is the hardest task we ever have to fully be present and to stay present. Nearly impossible.

    Sandy, do you feel you belong in the moments when you are creating art? I'm betting you don't even think about this question in those moments, because you are completely absorbed in the moment.

    Just my opinion. Anyway, I just thought this was a lovely post. In addition to being a fabulous artist, you are also a wonderful writer and fearless interior explorer. I so admire your ability to go excavating and share what you find! Sending you a hug.

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    1. Good point... I don't think about belonging when I am alone. Just like - I'm not lonely when I'm by myself - only when I'm by myself and there are other people around.

      And thanks for the nice words and the hug. I may start collecting hugs too... ;-)

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  4. WOW! wow wow wow
    thank you

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  5. Sandy, I love reading your posts. You have such a way with words. One more thing to add to your list of accomplishments - engrossing writer!

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    1. Thank you! It's weird to want to do something your entire life... and suddenly realize... you've been doing it all along.

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  6. Great post Sandy. You have me exploring my past. You make me think. You are an amazing person. Continue please, I think you are on the right train. Just remember you are the conductor and have the right and authority to yell "STOP the Train!".

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    1. Ah... I have never felt like the conductor. My view has always been from much farther back in the the series of cars.

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  7. Sandy, I loved reading this post this morning and hearing about your journey. You articulated in so many ways....this ? of belonging that I have been churning over for the past 1+ year. I spend so much time as an introvert in my own head so having you formulate those words gave me such clarification! Thanx. What I have discovered over the past year about "this feeling at Home" was in the quietness of self where my authentic self lies-which I discovered through the breath and meditation. Although It is quite similar to the feeling when you lose track of everything and anyone around you when you are fully imersed in the creative mind-it is quieter and can bring profound wisdom and joy. Love to you,
    Namaste, Carol

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    1. Thanks Carol. It was so nice to finally get to spend some time talking with you last night. It was our conversation that sparked some of these insights. I look forward to our next meal and the next epiphany! ;-)

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  8. To Susan: hear, hear! Retired 5 years now, art is one of the ways I've been searching for the definition of ME - and learning to 'just be" is an adventure in itself. If only we could get smarter sooner :) and accept the joys and challenges of each phase of life for the unique gifts they are! (SO much easier said than done!) And I love your art, Sandy! It always makes me smile.

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    1. Thanks Jeanne - and good luck on your next phase and adventure in art making.

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  9. I've never belonged and I never will. I don't have the gumption to just tell everyone in my life to just go away and leave me alone. I need to be somewhere else. I just don't know where.

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    1. Yes. i certainly understand that feeling. And I admit, it took a lot of energy to drag myself out into the dark to go to dinner last night! This time, it turned out to be worth it. Sometimes... not so much.

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  10. Do it continuously! And consider using an adult kick scooter as your mode of transportation when you get there.

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    1. Oh I actually HAVE an adult scooter!! It's called a Skooch, I think. The tire is flat. I could find some kind of symbolism in the flat tire... or I could just get it replaced this Spring? ;-)

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  11. Fabulous post! Yours are always SO interesting and so well-written! You should write more than your Zentangle books...although I LOVE every one of them. Your life, both inner and outer, is so interesting. I would read anything you write. That's one of the reasons I love your blog! Keep writing...in whatever form you are comfortable, and I will be a faithful reader.

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    1. Oh Raine, I love you! It may shock some people... but Zentangle is only a teeny tiny fraction of my life. I've been writing books since I was 15. Mostly kids' books. They are all in the big flat file somewhere. And I have post-its all over my studio of book ideas... now I can tell myself that I have at least ONE guaranteed reader!! hee hee. One of my secret desires would be to find a way to earn enough money that I could stop selling stuff and just write and draw books. And take trips. In an Airstream. With a hunky driver. ;-D Now you know!

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  12. I am at a similar place at age 60. I don't know which way to go but I know I have to go somewhere. I am not through living yet. Thank you for your thought-provoking words. Keep writing.

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    1. I promise to keep writing. And you - keep living. 60 is still really young, so much to do!

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  13. My motto has been and will always be 'Look for the gift " regardless of the situation." I turned a special (all in the mind of the ego) age this year and now I just say I am in my "second blooming." I have found so many ways to enrich my live through reaching out to others and through sharing my gifts. Life is short---live it up, appreciate your blessings,and express your thankfulness.

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  14. Sandy, What a gift this post is - thank you! I could come at my not fitting in from a variety of directions and I'm thinking it offers a great journaling prompt. Perhaps I'll combine that with my first attempt at an art journal. At this point in my life, 65, retired, widowed, kids grown, a life of "not belonging" is more a curiosity of "why?" than angst for me. I like the idea of "Excavate" as a year's theme. lol - I studied anthropology so my excavation may be haphazard. Barbara

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  15. Your post touches me so deeply because I can relate! The feeling of wanting FREEZE that 17-year-old self that felt so free, experiencing ALL sorts of new things with passion and excitement! And then -- suddenly (or it feels like it's suddenly) -- 17 (and more) years have gone by and I'm an adult. How did that happen? That space inside that KNOWS we are more than a job, a house, a relationship seemed so alive at 17. Today, it can easily be covered with to-dos. Thanks for reminding me that. And, it's nice to know I'm not alone in feeling that way too. :)

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  16. Sandy, your post is so profound and it was so consoling in a sense - what a gift that I stumbled onto it this morning!! We communicated a bit in 2010 when I became a CZT. I have found in the past, that whenever I turned a hobby into a business -- that totally changed the dimension of the hobby/passion in to a sense of pressure and stress and removed much of the original joy. Sometimes the business begins to be the "conductor" and you begin to feel out of control (because you are being swept along with the momentum of the success of the business). LIfe is all about finding the balance -- sounds so simple but I'm feeling that is a huge impossibility as we try to balance the obligations of life with trying to satisfy the creative internal pull to create art. As a Libra, I feel I need to complete all my "business of life" before I can paint/tangle/rug hook/etc. Like that business needs to be done so I can give myself "permission" to play...Let's you and I decide to play today -- the business stuff can wait til tomorrow!! :-)
    Deanna W. CZT#3

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    1. So true. I feel like I'm lying to myself when I say, "Just finish this order or post that blog... then you can go draw something." Silly... but I rarely ever finish in time to just play. TODAY... I will go up in the studio and draw.... :-)

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