Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

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Dis-CONNECTION

unplug1

Last night a line was drawn in the sand. It all started when I was sitting on the couch writing. My husband was watching a news program, probably 60 minutes, and the reporter began reporting a very specific violent act, I immediately told my husband to change the channel. His response, they are not showing it, which was his way of telling me not to listen and just focus on what I am doing. Okay, Yeah fine BUT I cannot completely turn my ears off AND why do we need this information? I could have gone my entire life without knowing this very specific information – it was being reported on for shock value.

Later we turned on The Walking Dead.. Anyone who watched this show and watched last night episode might already know where I am going with this based on what I just shared above..

We have been watching this show from the beginning and there are absolutely times when I have had to skip a week because the episode was too violent. When this happens Todd will usually report the highlights to me so I can be caught up for the next week while editing out the parts he knows I cannot handle. Last night was different though.

I know there are probably people who would have things to say about my objection to the level of violence portrayed and that is fine. I think we all have a line though (at least I would hope most people do) where they say Okay that’s it, too much, I am done. I only saw a few seconds of the violence the show portrayed, normally when a violent scene comes on in a show or movie I close my eyes/ears. Even the few seconds I saw though was too much. And per hubs, it only got worse so it is a good thing I left the room when I did.

Admittedly my threshold/tolerance for this kind of thing is very low, like 5 year old level. So between what I overheard on the news and the little bit I saw on the show, I was a mess and went to bed crying last night while hubs comforted me and tried to remind me of all the good in the world.

I woke up this morning and did not turn on the news. I proceeded to unfollow a lot of my political feeds on social media and am taking other steps to insulate myself from the darkness of the outside world. That’s right, I am going full on ostrich-head-in-the-sand.

I have felt the toxicity of the outside world seeping into my bloodstream for a while now, a big part of it is all the coverage of the upcoming election. And regardless of what anyone thinks about this, it is what I know I need right now. I cannot sustain going on this way. I need a break.

Sometimes we need to disconnect in order to feel connected. I think it is healthy and essential to unplug every now and then.

Every single day we are exposed to so much pain that we become desensitized, some of us less so than others maybe. I can feel my nervous system buzzing with negative vibrations and the thing I fully recognize the stuff rattling around in there does not belong to me. I have to cleanse myself.

I am no less of a feminist, or social worker, or activist, or concerned citizen, if I take a time out to take care of me. In fact truthfully, I should probably do it more often.

Do you know what happens over the weekend when we are far less likely to watch the news? The world keeps going just as it would if we were tuned in AND we get a day or two of emotional/spiritual/mental peace and rest. Self-care exists on many levels – emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, social.. So of course we (referring specifically to my hubs and I) feel rested after the weekend because we have unconsciously spoken to many self-care needs just by having this habit of less technology and news on the weekend.

In my twenties I used to love Sex and the City, I found super relatable to many of my relationship issues etc. I watched it a lot and as a result I can still quote many of the episodes. There was one episode where Carrie was meeting a man for a first date and he teased her for running late and not wearing a watch.. Carrie’s reply was a tongue in cheek comment about how she does not need a watch because finds someone will always tell her the time, which is exactly what her date had just done.. That is kind of how I feel about all of this right now. I am not going to miss some huge world event because I “stop wearing a watch” someone will let me know, I will hear about it. I do not have to subject myself to all this negativity, it is okay to unplug.

So this week I am allowing myself to do just that. I have decided to go online only to write on this blog and as needed for my internship/school. No social media though and no mindless internet time. I am taking a break from NPR in the car and instead will stick to my more soothing Pandora stations. No news this week, no violent TV shows; in fact the only TV I plan on watching is my two favorite shows which are both artistic in nature and prerecorded so I can fast forward through toxic political commercials.

We will see how I feel come Sunday. I may find that one week was enough, I may discover the disconnection felt better than the alternative and stick with it longer, we will see.

Either way this is my way of giving myself space that I need and right now that feels super important to me.

unplug

Paint Stained Finger Tips

magic1

I am OVER IT! And by IT I am obviously talking about all the political nonsense whirling around in America. Please stop the ride so I can get off.

I am at the point of total escapism. I don’t care of what anyone thinks of this, I don’t care what this says about me. I just. don’t. care!

As a true blue INFP I am always looking for excuses to escape into myself anyway, this is as good an excuse as any other.

So I have been doing what I do best, focusing my energy on creating and all things that feed my heart, mind, and spirit. I have been doing lots of painting, playing in the kitchen with culinary creations (I made an enchilada sauce from scratch for whole wheat black bean enchiladas and it was delish!), lots of reading for fun, and spending time with others who will indulge me in deep conversations.

I named my latest painting Philomena Threshgood, she was the inspiration for the title of this post. I used my fingers to blend the different shades of red in the heart and did not wash the paint off properly (I never do) which left with me paint stained finger tips the color of ox blood.

philomena1philomena

I did not think twice about the paint left on my fingers until I was leaving this morning to meet a girlfriend for tea downtown. I suddenly realized how disturbing this might look to another person and proceeded to scrub my fingers.

My girlfriend and I were meeting to work on a group assignment for class but we also had plenty of time for social chat. We talked about school, and family, and relationship dynamics over tea while the tea house clambered in the background. I love all the local cafes around town, most of them have art from local artists hanging on the walls. Today there was a piece I cannot describe fully other than to say it was as if I had stumbled into someone else’s dream land. It gave me a bit of inspiration for the next piece I will create.. I think I am going to play in surrealism..

There is a lot of negative energy banging around out there and sometimes it is just too much. It is important to step back and see the magic. Whether it is the magic of nature, spiritual energy, love and human connection, creative expression, or any other kind of magic we make for ourselves.

Please Don’t Feed the Animals

don't feed the animals

You know when you go to the zoo there are signs posted asking you not to feed the animals? This weekend while we were at the concert I was thinking how great would it be if Todd and I could wear signs around our necks saying Please Don’t Engage the Introverts.

I am a social introvert. I like to have random conversations with strangers (usually older adults), I like to have social time with a small group of friends or one on one with a friend, but at my core I am still an introvert and sometimes I just can’t.

Examples of when I just can’t:

After being out in the world all day (either at school, at work, shopping). If I have had a lot of time out I need a lot of time in.

After road trips. I know it seems like a road trip would be a great time for an introvert to refuel because it can be quiet down time, and that is partially true. The other part to consider though is that when on a road trip you are taking in a lot of stimuli. Constantly changing scenery, noise from the radio and road, possibly talking with your road trip companions. It is exhausting.

After any activity where a lot of new information was taken in. For example, I wrote a 10 page research paper yesterday. It was quiet all day long while I did research and wrote but it was a lot of new information and I was zapped after. I did not want to talk for the rest of the day and went to bed early where I fell asleep immediately. This morning I woke up still tired.

Long story short, because I could go on forever with examples, being an introvert and highly sensitive person means the world can really take it out of me.

So when we got to the venue for the concert I was already wiped out. We had driven for 3 hours, unpacked the car at the hotel which was busy busy busy with an enormous family reunion, got back in the car to go to the grocery store (my current dietary limitations result in me having to make all my food myself, even when on vacation), came back to the hotel, ate, and then got back into the car to fight traffic at the venue.

We had lawn seats so we scanned carefully when picking out where we would set up so as not to get next to any big groups of rowdy concert goers. We ended up next to a few couples and one small group of older adults. It seemed like the perfect spot and it was, at first.

We set up our blanket and flopped down to rest until the concert started. I was laying on my back watching the sunset when I heard a loud group of women pass us and start arguing over where to set up, there was a lot of back and forth about That is not enough room for us and Don’t be ridiculous, they want us here! I propped myself up on my elbows just in time to see that we had been invaded by 15 women and two heavily intoxicated men in a space big enough for maybe 3 people. They ran off one of the couples we had been next to and were quickly encroaching on our space. Todd and I picked up and moved forward near another couple and away from the boisterous group.

The couple we moved closer to had been quiet and relaxed like Todd and I up to that point so we figured it was a safe and easy move until one of them started trying to chat us up. He was talking crap about the new group that had taken over behind us, he was oogling every woman that walked by, he would not leave us alone even though we never engaged him. Finally he made an off-color Mexican joke and I had enough. I was tempted to shame him and let him know that my husband is in fact Mexican but that was not my place, Todd let it slide so that was how he wanted to handle it. At that I rolled over on our blanket to face Todd and keep my back to Mr. Big Mouth. This is also when I came up with the idea for the sign.

I don’t like that just because I am not feeling social I can at times be seen as rude. I don’t like that my introversion, and introversion is general, can be portrayed as some kind of deficit or personality malfunction. I think instead of Why are you so quiet?, the question should be Why do you feel the need to fill blissful silence with so much noise?

Here is the real kicker, 30 minutes into the concert Mr. Big Mouth and his other half left. And not just left our area to find another area, they packed up and left the venue. Todd and I were shocked. These tickets were not overly expensive but they were not cheap either and the concert had just started. They missed 2 and a half hours of music. Oh well, their prerogative.

It ended up well for Todd and I. We were far enough away from the big group to not be bothered and Mr. Big Mouth was no longer a factor either. It was just he and I on a blanket under the stars listening to music.

 

A Perfect Day

I feel like a switch flipped in my head this last week thanks to all the time I had for meditation and quiet because the art just came flowing out of me. I still have three more pieces I want to work on but at this point school is starting back and I don’t know that I will the time for a while.

Saturday was my idea of a perfect day. Todd and I woke up mid-morning after a late date night the night before, we put on a melodic Pandora station and he worked on his introvert project while I worked on mine. His is math/computer stuff that is too far above my level of understanding to explain, I painted. After I finished painting he took a break from his project and we spent some time together talking while I got ready for dinner with my two best girls. A truly perfect day. Painting, music, thunderstorms, time with my hubs, and dinner/drinks with my two best girls.

When I got home Todd and I played a game together and went to bed. My gratitude is still running over.

So my inspiration for this piece is one of my favorite photos from one of our Chicago trips. The painting is an abstract recreation of the photo. We were so pleased with how this one came out we framed it and put it over the fire place. Chicago Inspiration The photo in the shadow box is the inspiration and this is my original sketch.

Chicago Rough Painting

Getting started. It doesn’t look like much at the beginning.

.Lucy Chicago Painting

When I paint I like to sit on the floor because as of right now I do not have an easel, if I keep up painting as much as I am right now I might need to invest in one. So when I sit on the floor a lot of the time I will sit in Lucy’s dog bed to save my bones from the hard wood. When I got up to rinse my brushes I came back to this. Lucy had apparently staged a coup and taken back her bed.

Chicago Painting

This was the half way point when it started to look like something quasi recognizable.

Chicago

And this is the finished, framed piece that is now over the fire place.

Sigur Ros and Painting

Creative Process               AND

This is a piece I made earlier this week. I was clearly inspired by the word And. It is not yet finished. Once I complete it I plan to hang it in my walk in closet as a private reminder everyday to remember that everything in life is on a spectrum and to not fall into the trap of black and white thought patterns.

I am really please with the piece I created today. I put down my drop cloth and set up my supplies as usual and then laid on the wood floor listening to Sigur Ros until I was ready to start painting. I was again thinking about my gratitude. I was thinking about Todd and how fortunate we are that we get to return to the city of our honeymoon the week of out one year anniversary, we are essentially getting a second honeymoon one year later. I started reminiscing about our first trip to D.C. and while doing so I remembered how tame the wild life was in the city. I was able to feed squirrels and birds from my hand. Also, when we were at Jefferson’s Memorial we saw a young fox trot down the steps of the memorial and off into the nearby bushes. We were stunned. I have never seen a fox in the wild, it seemed so comfortable just hanging out in society.

From there I started sketching and this is my end result after putting paint to canvas.

Sleepy Tod

On Journaling and Growth

journaling

There is very little that I find more calming than a cup of hot tea and a blank page to write on when my mind will not allow me to sleep. So here I sit, like so many nights before, with my cup of chamomile and my blank page hoping to get whatever it is out so my mind will be still.

I know what keeps me awake this night, it is my to-do list. What a silly thing to be fretting over, don’t you agree? At this late hour there is nothing I can do about the things on my list. They all have a time and a place where they will soon be checked off and tonight laying restless in my bed I knew was neither the time nor the place for any of these items to be addressed. yet there I lay for quite sometime wondering how I can squeeze more than 24 hours out of a day, like so many of us do. Alas I have no answer to my quandary. And with no solution for my lack of time this week for all the things I need to accomplish it is time to stop dwelling and refocus my mind.

This is one of those posts I have been writing in my head for quite sometime.

I have kept a journal of some sort since the 4th grade. When I was 9 I experienced my very first real loss from someone close to me dying. I struggled. My fourth grade teacher and the guidance counselor at school teamed up with my mother and the hospice social worker to help me work through my pain. One of the results of the efforts was my introduction to journaling.

My first journal was for my grandmother whom I lost. I wrote to her. It helped.

Years later I still found myself writing. I journaled, I took creative writing classes, I wrote poetry (badly in my opinion, certainly not one of my strengths). Written word has always felt like a place where I lose and find myself. What I have found though is that it is difficult for me to go back and read old journals, or creative writing submissions or even posts on this blog. Reading the words from your past from your place in, what is technically the present, but to that past version of yourself the future, (I hope that sentence made sense, it feels very clunky to me).. You are sitting in the future with an understanding that whatever you struggled with before turned out OK so you feel foolish for your past worry or you have grown and maybe feel embarrassed by the younger version of yourself and your thoughts. Whatever the case may be.

While I admit I do not love to read old entries in journals for some of the reasons mentioned, here is what I will say, doing so helps me to really recognize and appreciate my growth. Reading old entries in outdated journals has helped me identify patterns in myself that I would maybe not have otherwise seen. Old entries help me realize nothing is as bad as it seems and most importantly that I do not have it all figured out.

The photo I found above speaks to this last point beautifully. I really do feel that as I grow I lose touch with versions of myself that do not fit with who I am now in this moment. I am sure the same will be true a year from now, 5 years from now, and so on.

There have been times in this process where I have given serious consideration to deleting this blog all together because some of these entries no longer feel like an accurate representation of who I am now. I always talk myself out of it though because the very purpose of this blog was to document my journey as a returning student. It all has to stay, all of it is important, it builds on itself, it outline the growth and the struggle and the success.

Even now I know I am about to turn a page into a new chapter and I wonder if my thoughts and feelings and ramblings from the last 6 months and prior will feel relevant a year from now. I don’t know, maybe not. But that is OK, that is the point. I have to just keep telling myself that.

Again I find myself reflecting on my gratitude for this space where I can clear my mind and share my story. When this experience is said and done I will have so much more than photos to account for this time in my life. I will have my words, my thoughts, my feelings. To me it is worth so much more than a photo on special occasions. Having one photo of me volunteering at Hospice will not speak to the experiences, neither will a photo of me from the first day of school and graduation day. What about everyday in between?

I am thinking about who I was three years ago when I started, one year ago when I started the program, and who I will be next year when I graduate. I look forward to meeting that woman, I hope she looks back on this post and every post before it and instead of feeling embarrassment for what I do not know today she feels gratitude for the journey and the growth along the way.