Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

K

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Taking Some Credit

I often struggle when deciding if I should mention my accomplishments. For some reason I’m always concerned I’ll sound like a pompous ass. Lately, the more I consider this the more I realize how flawed my logic is. I don’t judge others to be pompous asses when they celebrate their accomplishments. They must be far more braggadocios, to earn the odious title of pompous ass. Why shouldn’t I have the same standards for myself?

This is a picture of an alcohol ink abstract piece in my new Galexcapes series. I’m still learning about alcohol ink and enjoying the process a great deal. I’m proud of how I’ve been able to find my own style with this medium and the confidence I’ve built up.

I think it’s long past time I took credit for the progress I’ve made. Lately it feels as though my heart and mind are stronger. I still suffer from anxiety and depression, but I feel I’m better equipped to cope now. I’m slowly beginning to see my self worth again and I’m recalling what a joy it is to know that I matter.

Every time I finish a painting, visit a friend, write a blog post, advance my stretching routine, keep up with the house work, lay down for a rest when I need to, or achieve anything positive, I take a moment to remember that those are all things I’ve struggled to do in the past couple years because of my mental illnesses and chronic pain. It’s important for me to acknowledge any progress I’ve made.

I still struggle and my illnesses are unlikely to go away. learning to live differently has been a huge challenge but I’m not fighting it anymore, I’m adapting and learning to love my life as it is – not as I think it should be.

It matters for me to continue improving. It’s not like I’m keeping score though. The point is to celebrate a job well done and ensure I remember my abilities. Even when my accomplishments are small it makes me feel good to give myself credit. Small accomplishments eventually add up to big accomplishments.

For me, a good way to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and show myself I’ve got lots to celebrate, is to occasionally write a list. Here’s my most recent;

Shit I’ve Accomplished Recently

Blog – As of this month I’ve officially been writing my Perkreations blog for 2 years. When I started writing I worried I’d never be able to keep it up, but I have. I’ve written well over 100 posts about mental health, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, suicide, self harm, the psych ward, art, poetry, creativity and feminism, to name just a few topics and I feel like I’ve got lots more fodder kickin’ around upstairs.

Art – I finish art although finishing is the hardest part for me. I’ve learned finishing is the most satisfying part, perhaps because it’s so difficult. It’s not as though I keep track of what I’ve finished, I just enjoy the buzz I feel once I’m in the home stretch and I intuitively able to figure out the best way to add the finishing touches that make all the difference. I believe the finishing touches are what takes a piece from, “meh,” to, “WOW!

Practice – Even on days when I don’t finish something important, like a painting or a blog post, I’m always working to hone my craft. I find practice to be incredibly satisfying. Usually the satisfaction comes from variations of the simple but important work listed below;
**I practice drawing skills in front of the TV. I find trying to focus on two things at once helps distract me from the pain I’m ever fighting to cope with and all that practice adds up to steadily improving skills.
**I scribble down story and character ideas, thumbnails of future art projects and bits of verse all the time. These bits and pieces don’t look like much to start with but often they develop into interesting and original finished projects.
**I study the craft of others for inspiration, I never steal but studying is an important part of my creative process. I do this by reading a wide range of subject matter, both fiction and non. I love looking at other artists work as well. I do this by watching documentaries, checking out Instagram feeds, looking at books and magazines filled with art as well as info about the artists and their methods and philosophies.
**It’s also important for me to draw inspiration from artistic avenues that aren’t my forte. For instance, I will never be a musician as I’m rather tones deaf, but I absolutely couldn’t live without music. Painting without my music feels lonely. Having music on warms my soul and helps me work with greater passion. I also love to check out podcasts, movies, jewelry, cake decorating, dance, and recipes for inspiration.
**The nice part about having a home studio set up is that everything I need is there and ready to go. I don’t have to waste precious energy setting things up. Any time an idea strikes I can stroll into my studio and make it happen. Further, when my pain is outrageous and I’ve no gas in the tank all I do is walk in, mix up a colour, and add a few strokes to something or a layer that needs to dry. Even if I feel I haven’t done a whole lot, it all adds up in the long run and that’s what really counts  –

Organization – Another thing I’ve been working hard on is cleaning and organizing my home. I tend to be decidedly untidy but I’m working to break that habit. Over the past year I’ve organized and sorted my closet and drawers, winter wear, jewelry, linen closets, medicine cabinets, cleaning supply closets, bathrooms, kitchen cupboards and drawers, art studio and vinyl collection. It’s been a slow but steady process and the act of getting rid of excess crap and organizing the rest has been surprisingly satisfying and cathartic.

Cat – Most importantly, a direct result of all the cleaning and organizing done this year is that my husband and I recently adopted a one-year old cat from a nearby shelter. It’s been a little over 2 weeks and Rafe (rhymes with safe) is fitting right in with us and making our lives far more interesting. I’ll be writing more about Rafe soon and the benefits of having a pet when suffering from a mental illness and/or chronic pain in an upcoming post.

It’s not a lengthy or exhaustive list but the projects mentioned are highlights for me. In spite of my logic earlier, I still find this sort of thing tough to accept. Part of me is screaming that I’m becoming a pompous ass and I shouldn’t dare post this. In the interest of progress, I’m going to press post and take a big step towards appreciating my abilities and accomplishments and loving myself a little more.

If any readers have stories about learning how to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve one I’d love to hear about it. I’d also love to hear about your recent accomplishments.

As I mentioned, I’ll soon be writing more about acquiring our cat, the benefits as well as tricky spots. Should you have any advice about training therapeutic, service animals or general stories about how animals have been helpful in your life, I’d love to hear all about it.

Feel free to write in the comment section on Facebook or on WordPress. If you’d like to be anonymous when commenting you can do this by going directly through the WordPress site as a guest. You can also email me directly at kim@trefor.ca

K

It’s Only Dinner

Tonight I made dinner. Tonight I made dinner and this is significant because, since my Mom died 3 years ago, I haven’t had the patience or desire to cook anything but the barest of minimums. 

This is everything assembled and ready to go when the time comes.

Thank goodness my husband took over in the kitchen to a great extent and coaxed me to at least eat a bit when I had no desire. My appetite has slowly returned but between my issues with anxiety, depression, and chronic pain I feel as though I often have to force myself to eat the simplest of things, let alone the inventive meals I used to love.

I associate the kitchen with my mom. She was an amazing, adventurous, and fearless cook. I followed in her footsteps after leaving home, cooking up a storm and often phoning her for advice. So when she died I just couldn’t find that desire to channel my creativity into the kitchen. It felt too overwhelming, still does to a great extent.

I am pleased to report in the past couple weeks I have slowly begun to edge back into my old domain by baking muffins, banana bread, and even some cookies.

Today, for whatever reason inspiration struck and I found myself topping cucumbers with cream cheese and chili pepper jelly. Then I drizzled olive oil over shoestring sweet potatoes to be baked later along with sliced prime rib I rolled up with Italian Coppa Di Parma. 

While I may have shed more than a few tears as I assembled everything I’m pretty sure this meal is going to kick ass! And even if it doesn’t… deep breath… Tonight I made dinner.

K

Isolation and Illness 

Isolation due to hurt or illness begins as soon as illness or injury prevents one from participating in activies of choice. The longer one is away from familiar activities the more isolated one can grow to feel. Isolation may become even more pronounced should it be decided one will likely never return to the previous activity of choice.

The persistent plant shown here could easily feel isolated amongst the stones

For me, my life revolved around the sport of curling and building up as much knowledge as possible over 25 years. When it was finally decided that my career in curling would have to end due to injury I cannot begin to describe the loneliness and sense of hopeless isolation this brought. 

Suddenly the network of friends and colleagues I’d spent three quarters of my life building was roughly ripped away from me. Sure, I could visit, but I dreaded the questions and the looks of pity. I also dreaded simply being around what I couldn’t have. It was too painful. To this day there is a giant curling rock shaped hole in my heart.

Illness can also feel physically isolating. Once my back problems began to cause issues with low impact activities like walking, hiking, and biking, I began to feel isolated. I dreaded telling friends and family I couldn’t keep up or had to turn back earlier than planned. 

Did my anxiety and depression develop just because of chronic pain? Probably not. Frankly, a lot of shit has gone down since my initial injury. 

Chronic pain has definitely contributed to my mental illness. That is for sure. I find my mental illness to be isolating as well as it’s still somewhat taboo to talk about and can be difficult to understand if one hasn’t been there.

Others may empathize, in fact, empathy is the best we humans can hope to offer each other as we all have our burdens to bare. What of it when confronted by an individual with an inability to empathize? Is it worth trying to explain or should I just mutter something about my situation being complicated and hope the conversation drops? I’m not entirely sure but in recent years I’ve begun to tend towards the latter.

What has worked for me to combat isolation? I started taking art lessons and practicing at home as well. This gives me some sense of pride and accomplishment and I have started to make a few friends within that community. 

I have started this blog and I find sharing my stories and feelings to be quite cathartic. I can only hope that my blog offers solace, insight, or a sense of understanding and/or camaraderie to readers. 

I try to schedule at least one social outing a week along with my Dr’s appointments so I ensure I get out of the house for fun occasionally. 

I try to schedule something outside my home almost every day, such as simple errands, and brief trips for groceries. This also combats isolation because I must leave home and dwell amongst the living for at least a little while each day.

Most importantly, when I begin to feel isolated I check my schedule and start calling friends and family. Sometimes we just talk and sometimes we make plans. Either way I begin to feel a lot less isolated and far better equipped to cope in general.

K

Today’s Special: Anxiety 

At risk of sounding whiney I’d like to express my experiences from earlier today. Sometimes it seems anxiety is a beast and I am its, long-suffering, bitch. 

It crept in this morning like a slow-moving fog, suffocating me before I realize how thick it is. I try to breath deeply and focus on listening to my headphones but the anxiety continues to bloom and blossom throughout my body.

This is the sketch I worked my anxiety out on. I think, for a practice piece, she turned out quite well. So glad I have access to such satisfying creative outlets.

I roll from my bed long before I need to be up, long before I’ve had enough sleep, and I stretch out my aching and tense muscles. The more anxious I become the more my pain increases…or is it the other way around?

I wrack my brain for a cause, pain management, upcoming appointments, over-booking myself, setting my expectations for myself too high, or some other myriad of possibilities. 

Could my anxiety be from baring my soul in a tell-all blog? I’m not used to offering up my life as story fodder in such a manner. Usually if I appear in one of my stories I am much more abstract or part of a composite and no more than a sidebar. 

Am I actually having an impact or is this some self-serving, narcissistic project only intent on garnering pity and pardon from everyday life? Is it worth giving it all away like this or should I continue to hide my mental health issues as is common practice?

I take a scalding hot shower and let the steam and water leech some of my aches and pains away. Next I head downstairs to a place of sanctuary. I click on an innocuous TV show and pull out my drawing tools. 

The smell of pencil shavings, erasers, and soft wax pencils all begin to sooths my jangled nerves. I immediately begin working on portrait practice. I find this skill difficult but difficult is what I need in order to best distract myself.

Soon I sink into a peaceful trance while I choose colours, begin shading, and try to rough in shadows and light. I add in my own touches and subtle changes. I let my imagination run wild.

Soon I am calmer and revel in it. I then head out the door to see a Dr. Just another day in paradise. I embrace the calm and get on with my day. 

K

Nothing to Fear but Phobias

 Looking back, I realize when my anxiety flared to it’s worst I began to develop more and more phobias. Sure, in the past I’d  had a mild aversion to worms and slimy looking things but that mild aversion didn’t cripple me to the point of inaction. 

Disturbingly the phobias that began to plague me seemed to develop out of nowhere. I decided to seek therapy after a particularly frightening incident. 

Roughly 9 years ago I had closed down the restaurant where I worked. I checked and rechecked to see I’d locked the gate properly and finally managed to accept it was locked and got into my car. I then fought the urge to start all over by checking and rechecking I’d not forgotten anything inside the restaurant.

I managed to drive roughly half a block before turning around to go back and check the restaurant hadn’t caught fire. I turned back one more time before finally convincing myself to go home.

Later,in bed, my eyes snapped open at 3am and I was compelled to go back and check on the restaurant. I breathed a sigh of relief after driving half way across the city to find the building safe and sound.

I turned back twice more before finally heading home where I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t understand why my conscientious streak had turned into paralyzing paranoia.

In the coming years I battled with a gripping fear of driving. I was terrified of handling any bend in the road above a speed of approximately 50kmh. This made navigating any stretch of highway frightening for myself but also damn dangerous for anyone sharing the road with me.

My friends and family could not understand my new aversion to driving. I felt horrible for not being able to explain and not understanding it myself. I hated the highway, handling curves and corners, passing, being passed, and, the ever-dreaded (by me only it seems),vanishing horizon. 

Seeing the crest of a hill and not being able to see beyond set my pulse pounding and my breathing shallow and ragged. I felt there would be no road to catch me should I cross that invisible horizon line. And, like a puppy chasing sun rays, as soon as I safely crested one horizon I’d begin to fear safe passage o’er the next.

I also developed a fear of flying even though I’d happily travelled on planes quite frequently since infancy. I feared forgetting to shut off the stove top, the oven, the coffee maker, or the curling iron thus burning my house to the ground. 

I feared losing my keys, locking myself out, running out of medication, losing my job, being robbed, the death of a loved one, and my own death. I feared all these things and more to varying degrees and for varying lengths of time until one day the fears became just a little quieter. Currently my fears are tamped down to little more than a whisper. 

I’m not sure what it is that finally exercised the demon of fear. Perhaps the medication did it, or therapy, or reading the right book, or doing enough fucking cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) work sheets,  just the passing of time, or a combination thereof.

I still have spells where fear creeps in and possesses my body and mind but, for now at least, I am able to quell the beast with relative ease.

K

Musing and Ranting About Getting Older

In less than a month I will be 37. I will be 37 and I feel like I’ve been standing still for the past 5 years. When I was working I was achieving, I was pushing myself, I was creative, and making friends and I had a busy, full life.

Lately in therapy we’ve been working on finding my ideal future career. Sometimes I even feel excited, ready to take on the world again. 

I feel like maybe it’s just something simple I haven’t done recently that will make all the difference…like reading The Secret -FYI I have read the Secret and it was stupid and any psychiatric Dr or nurse I’ve ever mentioned it to have laughed and then quickly said “…uh yeah, The Secret is bs.” Who knows…maybe I just haven’t met the right Dr yet.

Anyway, back to career thinking. These are some of the questions I grapple with constantly when I’m not daydreaming of running some creative fortune 500 company:

* What can I handle mentally?

* What can I handle physically?

* Can I handle a position that’s as incredibly creative and stimulating as I want it to be? I need passion💚💃💚

* Who will want to hire me and my limitations?

* Do I deserve a second chance at a dream job?

And on and on and on…

I’m told to dream big. Warp my fantasy where all limitations no longer exist. Honestly, I wonder if my aversion to showers and my hermit-lifestyle isn’t perhaps a glaring sign I need to deal with that shit first.

Ug! Pardon my whining, I’m just finding priorities hard to pin down.

K