Art Chaos

The start of 2016 rocked my 2015 into a rumble. Pulled the rug out from under me. Threw a pie in my face.

Facing loss, change, new beginnings and closed doors, I started the year with fear, sadness, grief, uncertainty. What was my life?

I went to an art therapy workshop in January that was supposed to SPARK my passions, rejuvenate my spirit. It was like walking into a therapeutic Michael’s store. She had every sort of craft material I’ve ever dreamed of, from sparkly things to ribbon to different shaped wood to colored sand to every sticker ever made. Overwhelming but exciting.

I wasn’t really feeling anything until I saw a stack of scrap-booking paper. I pulled out the colors I liked, patterns I liked, designs that were pretty. I ended up with a collage of different cut papers.

I wanted my collage, my colors, the patterns, to clash. To be ugly or jagged or chaotic. Because that’s how I felt. My mind, my emotions, my new found life felt chaotic and annoying and I wanted this piece of art to be annoying and hard on the eyes.

When I was done, I was slightly proud because I thought it looked cool, slash slightly peeved because it didn’t look that ugly or gross, like I wanted in the beginning. Other people in the group said they felt my canvas had a lot of meaning behind it, it showed layers of emotion that expressed beauty and connection.

I’ve shown my collage to only 2 friends. They have given me polite compliments and didn’t ask much about it. Outside the group, it doesn’t mean anything.

I can’t decide if I should hang it in my office, as I’d have to stare at it everyday. Thinking of my awkward attempt to create chaos in an already chaotic life.

 

Hustling for Yoga

I finished the yoga challenge!!!

30 classes in 40 days! That’s 30 more classes than normal. It was hard. Hard on my body, my time, my ability to commit and my preference to be lazy. Excessive amounts of yoga.

I’ve been onto that secret for awhile, you know, that yoga is good. Social work is all about the mind body connection, that we can release the effects of life, the effects on our mind and emotions out through our body. Otherwise it stays trapped inside.

Yoga started to feel like an addiction. When I felt triggered by an unwanted emotion one night, instead of driving my car home I drove my car to yoga. And took 2 classes.

I took a David Bowie themed class. I learned about chakras. I laughed at silly jokes. I cried a few times. I drank mint tea and wrote a gratitude statement. I sweated more than ever before and made googly eyes at my friends. I took classes at 6:30am. I took class from a guy who had the voice of Harry Connick Jr. Most days I felt better when I left. Some days I couldn’t wait to go home.

I feel different. My body feels stronger (I could probably do, like 3 push-ups). I’m more flexible. My body feels looser, not stiff. My pants aren’t as tight. I did my best crow pose ever. I notice my breathing throughout the day. I strive to feel calm, to lower anxiety. To be comfortable in the present moment.

I’m fairly low maintenance yoga. I wear T-shirts, not fancy yoga tanks. My mat cost few dollars and gets frozen when I leave it in the car. I don’t know what what all the poses are called and I don’t understand what the 3rd eye is all about.

But I know I want to feel calm, and yoga has helped. I need to keep driving my car to yoga, even though the challenge is over.

“Breathe through it instead of reacting.”

Loss

Ron’s birthday was last Saturday, he would’ve been 28. Instead he’s forever an imprint on our lives. My high school friends click with me in a great way. Who else would road trip to Canada in a ’91 Dodge Spirit?

We saw Ron the night before he died. He invited us to his house and hosted like he normally would, giving us chocolate and blaming it on his mom. He seemed happy, content, reflective on his past. He wasn’t in a hurry or desired to do anything but be together.

Ron sent a text the day he passed away. He reached out as a friend, saying he would be there for me when I needed him. He told me he understood depression, how he found healing and understanding.

Ron and I weren’t bffs, unfortunately I can’t say I remember a time when I acted as a great friend to him. But he would text me every other day, everyday. He’d say something funny, an inside joke, a song lyric. Something that brightened up my life or his. He was a regular, constant part of my life. I have a handful of friends that reach out. Ron always asked when I’d be in Chicago next. When I was coming back. When could we get together.

One of the strangest, greatest, and more difficult things about losing Ron is how he shows back up. I’m constantly reminded of things I want to text him about. Things we would laugh about or share. Things I don’t have anyone else to talk to about. Facebook has the “on this day,” feature, showing pictures, posts and comments from the past. Ron shows up all the time. He was constantly making jokes, posting funny videos or pictures. He was such a part of my life.

The last thing he did for me was to show compassion, concern, connection. I try to find acceptance with this loss. Part of that might be to embody Ron’s ability to be more than just an old friend, but a good friend.

Let’s move

Let’s continue on the wavelength of vulnerability. I grew up a dancer. Every day, hours a day I practiced and took classes and beat up my body trying to become a professional. I took ballet and pointe, modern, lyrical, jazz, tap and hip hop. Yes….I actually did hip hop. I had a gamut of experiences; I was part of Illinois Ballet Theater, on competitive teams, the high school dance team and competed around Illinois. I was in recitals, danced at football and basketball games, went to conventions and camps. I drove downtown Chicago to take classes. I did everything I could. When you dance, you use your body as a vessel of movement and emotions. You take what’s in your head and connect it to music and steps. Your body expresses what you’re feeling or tells a story without words.

A dance teacher once told me I looked so serious, so unhappy when I danced…Yikes! There was my wall, the vulnerable brick wall I struggled to overcome. Being open with facial expressions felt like a risk, letting someone witness my innermost feelings. Scary. Although dancing is personal, it’s also a place where others judge you, compare you, and tell you you aren’t good enough. I didn’t get a part in a ballet when I was 13 because I was too short. She couldn’t say it was because my butt was too big. I would never become a Rockette because I didn’t grow higher- you have to be 5’6’’ to even audition.

I felt fat, basically all the time. Having a butt and thighs that take up space in the room isn’t ideal. Dancers are supposed to be skinny! And agile! And look the same! Around age 16 I finally realized I wasn’t going to have the “body type” to make it as a professional dancer. So I stopped taking ballet as serious, and focused on rocking the dance teams I competed with. That was tough. That was my biggest dream balloon, flying away.

In college I joined the dance team and had all the fun you could have sitting on the sideline, cheering and dancing, waiting for sweaty basketball players to fall on you occasionally. I had a coach with a Southern accent, thus I learned sideline cheers with a twang. “Baass-ket, baass-ket.” She was also downright mean. We were told we were dumb, didn’t do things right. We had to try out every week to perform. She told us we were out of shape. She compared us to each other. We had to stand profile during auditions, our body shape apparently determining our ability to dance. I remember thinking…. No one has ever treated me worse than this woman. Being beaten down, told I’m not good enough, told we’re stupid and constantly criticized…why am I doing this? The fun I had dancing wasn’t worth the abuse I faced practicing. I quit that year and focused my energy on another dance group. Quitting was the only way I could finally stand up for myself. For the years I grew up being told I was never good enough, skinny enough, flexible enough, expressed enough. Never enough. But with less time to dance, it was as if my personality changed.

I still don’t dance as much as I should. I don’t have a daily opportunity to dance to relieve stress, to express myself, to get what’s going on in my head out through my body. So that stuff stays stuck inside. Inside the mind, body, thoughts.