a poem for matthew

Uncategorized May 27, 2015

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I couldn’t help but think of you
as I was seized by the wondrous awe of nebula intestines
shimmering lava flows of iron and helium
refracting pulsing windows of light.

I was in Brooklyn, raking dry soil and snow,
Brown and white blended into a speckled gray.
my heavy breath burned my chest with each icy inhale
of hydrogen laced air, as we laid the bricks for the fire

A valve connects us, us who like vines have managed
to push through the salinized soil up the sagging fences
to the gastric burps of the heavens where we bathe
in sulphuric showers and float like feathers over dark matter

Pushing rocks, rotted leaves, chunks of coal and other relics of fires past
Notes surfed on the rattling clang of rake on earth,
“it’s all one” it sang to me, “this world and that one”
The prism shifted. Hued dispersions of light bared themselves
over the muddled snow, clinging to my snowflakes of breath.

befriending the darkness

Uncategorized May 27, 2015

I didn’t sleep at all last night. Or the night before. I woke up every hour or so dreading with every cell in my body my annual MRI scheduled for Friday. I attempted to meditate last night before bed and then just burst into tears, finally surrendering to the fear that had been following me around for the past few days. I heard my doctor’s voice in my head last year… You have cancer. You’ll have this for the rest of your life. This is never over. I have been cancer free for 2.5 years, but it’s one of those pesky slow growing ones that could resurface 20 years after my treatment. My doctor is a leader in her field, but she can be a real asshole sometimes. Thankfully, I have two doctors, and the other one, Dr. Ginger Gardner from Sloan Kettering is one of the kindest, loveliest doctors I have ever encountered. I love her.

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Homage to Life, Agnes Martin (2003)

I called my mom and let it rip, snotty tears and all. She convinced me to change the appointment from a friday so I wouldn’t have to wait over the weekend. I did.

I haven’t been on this blog in a while, but I am going to be here more regularly now. So I will be sharing a project that I am working on that I am really, really excited about and proud of. Part of that has been doing the Artists Way for the past 3 months (which I can’t recommend enough). I sat down to write my morning pages and decided to write a letter to the darkness. I imagined the worst case scenario — relapse. And then I reminded myself that I just am acutely aware of my worst case scenario. All of us cancer survivors are. But everyone has a worst case scenario. That’s the fragility of life, that everything can change in a moments’ time. For better or for worse. You could fall in love in an instant or you could get hit by a car. I took some time to sit with my darkness. To remind myself this is why I am here. Why I have had the courage and desire to live so fully and deeply.

As a culture, we are terrified of darkness, of loss, of the unknown. They make us uncomfortable. Because we don’t know. When it will end, where we will be when it’s over, what we will lose. I have lost a lot in my life. But as I sat writing this morning, in the midst of stomach churning MRI anxiety, I reminded myself that I am the person here today because of those losses that are sad, but nuanced and rich and beautiful at the same time. I sat with my darkness for those moments. I acknowledged her presence. It felt better than frantically trying to pretend she doesn’t exist.

And the truth is, if I do relapse, I won’t die. It’ll suck for a while, but I’ll be OK.

A friend shared a quote by the might Agnes Martin yesterday. “When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not just in the eye. It is in the mind. It is our positive response to life.”

All I could say is that mystery is highly underrated. Indeed.

No, you are the fucking problem

Life February 17, 2014

I found myself growing impatient to get back to New York last week when I hadn’t heard back from a new client on a project start date. I called my friend Joe and groaned, “I’m just ready to start my life again!” Joe gave me all sorts of advice, one of which was to take control of the things that I could control and start doing them. (This happened to be working on a new website for the company). So I did. I experimented with code on Squarespace, emailed their customer service team literally 50 times (and they emailed back within 10 minutes each time). (Side note: Squarespace, you rock)

But the big change happened when I woke up the next morning. I was on a hike and I had a grand epiphany — “my life starting” is purely a matter of choice. I can think of myself as stuck in sick/recovery mode or I can think of life as ALREADY restarted. This period of California time has been incredibly fruitful after all — I have rediscovered my creative spirit, started a growing company and set off on the path of embracing my new self.

And then, I was just perusing my healer/teacher Reverend Zoe’s new site and her blog post popped up: “You are the fucking problem.”

Yes,  through some rather tough love sessions, I have been told this before by lovely Zoe. And with practice and work, I have begun to accept this. That nearly all of my gripes with people, jobs, life’s circumstances etc., are re-created patterns of shittiness over and over again and then I wonder why the same things keep happening “to me.” (I, for the record do not include cancer in this category) (And, I believe this is universal, but just decided to take some ownership over that by putting it in the 1st person).

Today, I stared at the screen. And a number of deeply personal thoughts flashed through my mind — parents, ex-boyfriends, jobs, etc. Sometimes it’s easier to blame other people for pain. But in the end, it’s not. Because we give away our power to change our lives and the relationships that we find ourselves in over and over again. And how fortunate I felt in that moment — reflecting on my own patterns — that I am able to read that statement and embrace it.

Not a coincidence is the fact that I did hear from formerly MIA new client this morning. Somehow, I KNEW it would happen that way. I had to retake control, of the things that I could control rather than griping about the things that I can’t. Call it universal vibes, or a lesson in patience, but I think it was a little reminder that we are far too often, the fucking problem.

Dear Universe, I am Grateful.

Life September 12, 2013

I caught myself this morning. I was sitting in my morning meditation, warm fog nestled over the valley below.  I could hear dogs barking in the distance and the occasional hummingbird whirred over my head. The heavy smell of bay leaves and dust sat in the morning air. It was perfect.

So perfect that I should take a picture and share it on instagram! (Yes, this popped into my mind during meditation).

No. I reminded myself. Not everything needs to be shared on social media. How would I capture the fog just so, the smell, the perfect damp coolness brushing my face? I knew it was impossible. And one of those moments I wanted to keep all to myself.

Can technology ever replace these simple, yet extraordinarily beautiful moments in life? I don’t think so. I don’t think it will ever be able to do so. For these are the moments that separate human from machine.

Grateful for this time. So grateful.

Finding the artist within

Art, Identity, Life August 22, 2013
A corner of the garage studio

A corner of the garage studio

Last week, my family and I toasted over a nice bottle of wine. “To unleashing our creative spirits,” I said. My dad looked at me like I was insane.

I’ve been in California for almost a month now, and I can safely say that my creative spirit has been unleashed. I wound up at a drawing night in Sebastopol a couple of weeks ago with my dad who had befriended an older artist named Robert. Robert was a former NYC art director, but has been a fine artist for the past 15 years and now resides here in Marin. I thought I’d go for the hippies, and warned Robert that some stick figures might pop out (we were drawing human figures). To my astonishment, people came out.

Robert coaxed me into coming to his studio to draw with him. So I did. And then I started working for Robert’s friend, the legendary Stanley Mouse (who is creating a label for my baby olive oil company), in exchange for a logo. I have found myself hanging out with one of the most creative people I have ever met in my life, full of constant wonder and curiosity at the world around him.  It’s been nothing short of inspiring and endlessly entertaining.

Much to my father’s chagrin, the garage has been transformed into a pottery studio. I have raided Clay People and Aftusa in Richmond — literally a gold mine for all things ceramic. I have also begun befriending Sebastopol’s senior citizen community at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts. While on a solo hike this weekend, I decided to take Stanley’s lead. I would sell my own art and work with Robert to fulfill my creative potential. I would continue the plunge into the world of unconvention (via what I like to call the Coney Island Skycoaster). I came down a little bit from this manic planning since then, but I am at LEAST making a killer dinner set.

“Quite a life you are leading there,” my friend Gena said to me last week. She had caught me en route from Robert’s studio to my studio back home. “I know,” I laughed, “its amazing.”

I halfway feel like a spoiled brat writing this post. I know that I am allowed some degree of a life vacation given all of the shit that I have been through the past year, but I also know that I am tremendously lucky to have a supportive family and a beautiful house I get to live in rent free in California.

I feel like there must be more people like me out there. Those of you who became a doctor or a lawyer, or a banker or some other boring professional (I say that because I am one too) and always felt a nagging within. An emptiness that told you you had to just GET IT OUT. (I spent years trying to figure out what that thing was) You probably loved art when you were a kid and you were really good at it, but then you figured that no one can actually be an artist when they grow up, and who has the time to draw/throw/paint when there’s crappy reality television to watch and a Facebook newsfeed to surf.

I began to paint after I was sick. I was in Alabama and figured it was better than sitting at home alone feeling sorry for myself. The ceramic studio was attached to the paining studio and I saw people getting messy and I KNEW that I wanted to do it too. So I did when I got back to Brooklyn — at Columbia Clayworks — which happened to be 3 blocks from the house I was living in for 3 years. I used to walk by that studio every night with the dog and pick out my favorite pieces. It just seemed so… unattainable to actually do it myself. I deactivated my Facebook account, tired of wasting my time and energy reading other people’s newsfeeds and feeling increasingly shitty about my own lack of direction.

I started spending hours in the studio. It became my Friday night ritual. I would bank on a member working there who would let me stay for hours. I started smuggling pieces home and carving them at the kitchen table. I saw patterns wherever I went, especially at Strand, where I would sit on the floor in the art section and flip through art books for inspiration.

I had no idea what to do with my own life, but I knew that I wanted to create. Just a couple of days after arriving in California, I sat with my longtime therapist / clairvoyant Zoe (yes, I know it sounds totally new agey but she is seriously amazing) and she told me to accept the gifts that the universe was offering me. To live rent free until I knew what I wanted to do, to hike in the woods, to wake up smelling dusty bay trees, and to spend hours painting and carving clay in the garage. I’ll take it I decided. The next week, I told Stanley I could help him in his studio.

I still am about 50% clueless of what I am doing with my life. I know that I am headed back to Brooklyn, eventually. For the first time in what seems like my entire adult life, I feel calm (for the most part at least). I am learning to be OK with the fact that I am a multi-faceted human being, and that I probably will never just do one thing. The next year looks like potter / olive oil entrepreneur / management consultant.  And, you know what? I am okay with that.  Just as long as I can keep these creative juices flowing.

Learning to Freefall

Life July 27, 2013

IMG_1824Last night I flew over the Coney Island Boardwalk. (Well, via the Coney Island Skycoaster). As we sailed back and forth, cutting through the moist night sky, the fireworks began, and I felt exhilarated knowing that I had leaned into my fear of heights and melted into a graceful tumble at the mercy of gravity.

We were still damp, mind you, from diving into the ocean as the sun was setting. Laying on our backs we floated over the gentle waves as the vibrant colors of Coney skimmed the surface of the salty ocean. We yelped into the setting sun, and the creeping black, hollowing out life’s stresses and expectations from the depths of our bellies, laughing deep gutteral laughs that were reserved for life’s special moments.

I’ve had so many moments this week of fear and anxiety, as I have packed up my apartment, said my goodbyes (which are hopefully just temporary) and mentally prepared myself to step away from New York for a bit. I’ve started working on a screenplay, which is all about life after the end. Life after loss, life after new beginnings, life after life didn’t turn out the way we thought it would. It just felt like the most fitting thing I could do at the moment.

I have been in some what of a free fall the past year or so, with illness, career experimentations, and heartbreak. Despite being utterly terrified of going on the Skycoaster yesterday (and thank you Briana for coaxing me to go on), I knew that I had no other choice but to embrace the free fall.

Wikipedia describes free fall as any motion of a body where its weight is the only force acting upon it. We often think of free fall as something bad — events feel out of our control, people don’t act the way we want them to, ultimately, we feel out of control. But imagine experiencing life in a way where we are the only force influencing our experience of the world. Let go of parental expectations, of past baggage, of New York standards, of traditional notions of what one’s life should look like at age 33. What if we just allowed ourselves to tumble, weightless, knowing that the universe would not only catch us, but reward our courage with a flight through fireworks as we sail over the crowd below?

I am fortunate to have an amazing family who will always buffer me from complete devastation, and I will be staying with them in August. But as I step away from the security of my home in Brooklyn, my professional and social circle, I know that I am allowing myself to fall into some place of unknown. I am tired of fighting, of pushing, of wanting, and expecting. It’s time to surrender, to look at the ground from a 110 feet above, pull the cord and to tumble into the arms of the universe below.

When love persists beyond loss.

Life May 26, 2013

Something beautiful and unexpected and mysterious happened to me this morning. An email from a person who I have not spoken to in years fluttered into my inbox and has left me lost in reflection about love. So often, the relationships that we lose are intimately tied to other losses — friends, rituals, and hardships that were endured by both partners (carried by one / supported by another). I myself have been trying to make sense of this latter loss lately — where does the loss of the individual partner end and other related losses begin? How do we separate that person from the devastation of an illness for example? In other words, how do we measure what we have lost and what remains a part of us as individuals as we carry on in the world solo? And what happens to that energetic love when the journey between two people comes to an end?

I think I fully understood this morning that real love never dies; it only changes form. This remains so challenging for me to accept and embrace, but somehow makes the risk of loving another person slightly less terrifying. I love how this video of artist Marina Abramovic and her former partner Ulay so beautifully and honestly depicts the spirit of the special relationships that tie us together for life — beyond time, new partners, and loss.