fear

We ARE The Threat

I've been struggling with what to say in the wake and aftermath of the attacks in Beruit, Paris, Nigeria, and this morning, Mali. I've been watching what's taking place in Minneapolis as a community demands answers and justice for Jamar Clark and are met instead with a miltitarized police force, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and refusal. I've heard the deafening shrill of hate and xenophobia towards Muslims. I've read comment after comment, heard remark after remark from elected officials and fellow citizens, from Christians declaring a need to turn our backs on refugees from Syria. Last night, I read, in disbelief, the names of all who voted to ban Syrian refugees and withdraw aid. I sat reading it in stunned silence not knowing how to even respond to it.

I've been paying attention to all that's going on. I'm woke, but I don't know how to respond to what I'm seeing unfold every day. Words fail me, paint fails me. So I've just been quiet.  

But today I will tell you this: after all that's happened to Black & Brown lives over the last few years and after all of the racist, xenophobic hate and cowardice I've seen from our elected officials, presidential candidates, and US this past week alone? I'm far, far more terrified of Americans (and culture warring, refugee rejecting Christians) than I will ever be of terrorists.

Why? Because White supremacy, fragility and privilege? That's terrorism. Racism? Terrorism. We're living with it and dying from it every day. EVERY. DAY. Hate towards Muslims? That's terrorism. Rejecting refugees to "protect" yourself? That's terrorism. No gun control-the fact that it's easier for someone to get a gun than it is for refugees to actually get into this country or gain asylum? Terrorism. Forcing your beliefs & ideologies on others who are and live differently than you? That's terrorism. The mindset and power structures that support and enable Donald Trump and Ben Carson to be GOP front runners for the presidency of the United States, a country of refugees, immigrants, indigenous people and former enslaved people? Terrorism. Caring more about an ideology than you do about people, about their humanity? That's terrorism. White men plotting to bomb Black churches? Terrorism. White men shooting up Black churches, movie theaters, malls...those are terrorists. 

We really want to pretend that we're any better or so far removed from what a terrorist thinks & believes. We want to look at them and then look at us and self-righteously boast to ourselves and to the world that we're different.That we would never resort to such heinous and soul-less violence or beliefs. We talk about wanting to defeat terrorism, but adamantly refuse to start with killing it in ourselves, and within our own society.

Instead we purposefully allow fear and hate to seize us and and enable us to do exactly what terrorists hope and plan for when they carry out these attacks: foster an environment they can continue to thrive in. Everyone's talking about destroying the enemy like we aren't our worst one. Like WE are not the actual threat. 

News flash: We ARE the threat. 

This week has been proof of that. This year has been proof of it. Our history has been. We've been here before and we're failing to once again do the work that could keep us from coming here again in the future. I'm desperately hoping we eventually show History that we've learned from it. Until then I'm just stuck here grieving that we haven't.

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Intentionality & Expression

I've been thinking quite a bit lately on how I can grow as an artist, on what would stretch & enhance my visual work. For the last few weeks I've been feeling the compulsion to grow and reach for more...to root down even deeper and excavate what lies dormant, whatever is I'm searching for that's waiting for me to unearth  it. I hear its desire for expression and I've taken to trying out new tools, and studying new techniques in videos and books in an effort to find how to articulate it. In the process I'm learning what my limits are and where my capacity & skill need to be further developed. 

I'm exploring...and questioning, and "ruining" sheets of canvas in the process. It's honestly just as extremely frustrating as it is liberating.  I'm also making a mess on my work tables, which led to the current thought sitting at the forefront of my mind after an attempt at cleaning them up: As an artist, I'm afraid to let go & go deeper, press inward, and unearth what's calling me to be expressive but...unrestrained. As bold or declarative as my work may be with color & subject matter, I still find I've been holding back. It is wild but only within my self-imposed boundaries. I'm afraid to do the next level of work necessary to free my artistic voice even further. I also think this is largely due to my desire & efforts to become intentional & methodological with my expressions. 

That is, after all, the message I was given 2.5 years ago when I asked my arts & humanities professor what she thought of my work. I had only been painting for 6 months and was questioning if it was just a hobby or something more for me. She said she liked it-loved my use of color. "I think if you could bring intentionality to your artistry, you'd really have something here." Art should be...intentional, shouldn't it? Or perhaps not. We never really arrived at a definitive answer about that, or what art actually is or isn't, that semester. (Especially in regards to abstract & expressionism) I think I took that message and internalized it too deeply as I've created since then. I've leaned too far right, focusing so greatly on intention that I've shut out intuition and being at times when it probably would've benefited me creatively. 

That brings me to my work tables. Scattered across their surfaces are what's left behind: drips, drops, splatters & scrapes from pieces I completed. They are not organized into a structured composition. There is nothing intentional about these remnants that are scattered across my tables but when I stopped trying to scrape them off and just stared at them, I saw the freedom I've been craving to convey lately on page & canvas. It made me teary eyed because I recognized the kind of visual expressions I want to translate throughout my work. I saw that I've been thinking too much about the what and how-to of expression instead of just the act itself. Instead of just being and yielding to what's there. On some level I've come to care too much if my visual work is likable, digestible, or even meaningful to others. I've been trying too hard (mostly out of fear) and as a result I've been stifling my creativity. Maybe subconsciously I'm still searching for validity as I get used to identifying and calling my "untrained" self an artist...

It was this flurry of thoughts that forced me to quit trying to scrape away what's been left behind on my tables as I cleaned up my workspace earlier today. I'm going to keep them there and add to them as I keep pushing myself to grow beyond my current boundaries, piece by piece. I need them there to hold me accountable as I strive for courage & not fear when I show up and sit down in this arena to make. I need them there as a reminder to use everything I've got and leave nothing to waste. 

It it makes me wonder what my art (and my life) would look like if I became more intentional about just trusting The Muse & my intuitive urges. 


Yes, I'm Scared of the Dark. Terrified, Really.

I have a lot of fears. Well, maybe not a lot, but at least two or three that seize my body with terror & fill my mind with awful images & scenarios whenever I think of them.

Like drowning.

The thought of not being able to draw in a breath without choking on water & being submerged in a body of water petrifies me.

And snakes...my toes curled up & my heart nearly flew out of my chest just typing that s-word...so I think it's best we just move right along to my final fear:

I'm terrified of the dark.

Yes, I'm 29 years old and I'm afraid of the dark-have been since I was a kid. Even as grown woman & mother of two kids, a small part of me is always convinced something will emerge from it to "get me," even though my rational mind knows this isn't the case.

But that's the thing about fears, right? They aren't always rational, are they? (Follow me, I'm trying to go somewhere, I promise.)

I think what scares me the most about darkness is that it places everything it covers into The Land of the Unknown...what was sure & recognizable in the light becomes shadowy, fuzzy & unclear in the dark. For a control freak like myself, I'm sure you can imagine why this freaks me out. I wish I could tell you that I don't stay awake some nights wondering if the shadow in the closet is really from the ironing board that I KNOW is there...or from some horrific figment of my imagination it's put there to f-- with me. Seriously, I wish I could but I can't. I don't do it much when I'm with someone else but if I'm by myself? Forget it. I'm cowering under the covers trying not to think about how unsafe I feel...Sometimes, just to shut up & shut down the fears screaming in my mind I have to actually get up, turn on a light, and go physically touch objects around the room I'm in...just for reassurance.

Crazy, right? Weird, right? Yes I know. Stupid? Probably...but as I lay here in my bed typing this and trying to tell myself I'm not going to wake up with some stranger laying next to or on me, and that the boys & I are VERY safe, I'm realizing that my fear of the dark is really just a fear of uncertainty. I hate not knowing. Ambiguity and I are not friends. Not being able to see & know everything around me leaves me in a very unsettled place emotionally...which disrupts me mentally, and manifests itself physically into agitation, irritability, paranoia, and crippling anxiety. I even get intrusive thoughts sometimes. My mind smells any hint of fear & just takes off in about 20 different directions, all of which lead to something horrific happening. If I can't see or know everything there is about something, a person, or where I have to go, I'm a wreck and not too pleasant to be around. This is one of the reasons I hate getting lost. Can't. Stand it.

And it's one of the reasons why even though growing up a military brat acquainted me with change & taught me the importance of adjusting & adapting to it, I'm not very good at embracing it like I should be. I know, you're thinking to yourself "The chick who changes her hair color every time she blinks is afraid of change? What the hell?" But seriously, while I may not be afraid of changing how I look, I am terrified of how change impacts my life in other areas.

I like change...There are times my restless and adventurous little soul yearns for it...but then when it shows up ready to deliver I promptly begin to freak the hell out. I know-I don't get the contradiction either, trust me.

So even though I was dying to pack up & move across the country...am giddy at the thought of marrying the nerd of my life...am relieved to be taking a break from work & school and looking forward to just being MOM....here I am, laying in a hotel room in Austin, TX, (IN THE DARK!) absolutely paralyzed by my fear of the uncertain...of what's unknown...imagine Usain Bolt running around at record speed inside my head waving 500 "what if?" flags stirring up a fear tornado. That's my mind right now.

A fear tornado. I'm dead smack in the center staring wide eyed at all my fears & questions swirling furiously around me.

What happens if Bertski doesn't come back from PA next week because his train derails and crashes and I'm forced to be here by myself? How would we survive & live without him?

What if someone breaks in here or attacks us while he's gone? How would I defend us?

What if he changes his mind & doesn't want to marry me?

What if he hates it here?

What if I hate it here? And the boys? What if this was a mistake?

We haven't found a place yet-what if we don't? How long can we stay here at the hotel? Will they kick us out? Where will we go?

What if by choosing to "just" be Mom, I lose the other parts of me that make me...ME? What will happen to my passions, my goals, my ambition? What if I don't go back to school & I regret it? Will my children think less of me if I don't have a degree? Will I be setting the bar too low for them if I don't go back?

Can we survive off of just one income?

What if the boys get sick or need to go to the doctor? Or me? Or Bertski? We don't have health insurance...

What if I'm not strong enough to handle all of this change & I sink into an episode or my illness rages out of control again?

I could go on...but I'll stop the list there. I know some of these fears are irrational, slightly silly & maybe even stupid-I know this, I do. But there are others that are valid & real and they're the ones that cause me the most unease. I'm incredibly happy we moved. Grateful for the people we've met here & the connections we've made despite being states away from family & friends who have supported us for years. Thrilled that I'm doing this with the man I love dearly and my boys...

But I'm also scared shitless over the unknowns of this venture, of everything that sits in the dark, and restricts my vision of the future. We've executed a plan that brought us here, but large amounts of that plan have been rooted in uncertainty & our desire to just stick together & "make it happen"until we're settled.

I'm afraid of the dark, because not being able to see what's in front of me leaves me feeling very unsettled...uneasy...uncomfortable. I'm trying to take it all in stride & just learn to be okay with not knowing. I'm trying to embrace the nuances of change without trying to control it too much. It's not easy, but I'm trying.

Well there you have it. I told you some of my fears, what are yours?

Fear Redefined

Today I experienced fear in a very real way. I thought I knew fear, what it felt like, what it was to experience it, but after today, my definition of what fear is has been obliterated into nothingness...and all that remains is the cold, harsh reality that try as you might as a parent, you can't protect your kids from everything... I don't have all the articulation necessary to convey what happened-not right now. I'll try to give a proper voice to what I experienced as a mother today-tomorrow, or the next day-when the stark reality has blurred around the edges of my memory and lost its sting....

Tonight I will just lift my eyes to the One who always holds and comforts me when I'm vulnerable, my Father who covers me when my emotions are raw and exposed to the cruelty life can bring...Tonight I lift my eyes and my voice in gratitude to the One whose name left my lips in a panicked prayer the instant fear and hopelessness began to seize my being. Tonight I'm just so grateful to God fear didn't win and that my son is still here-I'll never take him being on this earth or the fact that I'm his mother for granted ever again....Until tomorrow....