December 22, 2017

life challenges and changes...

As winter begins here in the hemisphere where I live, my little household has been dealing with health challenges that have forced us to slow down... but these challenges have also brought reminders of blessings, and support (seen and unseen), and priorities, and creative solutions.

As I recover from an illness at the same time my husband recovers from surgery, we're taking this time to rest, to be together, to be grateful for what we have, and to think about our next steps.

Before I got sick in November, I had been working regularly on fiction - and I'll be back to that very soon.

Fiction writing has been a through-line in my life for as long as I've been able to form letters into words. There have been some bumps in the road resulting in times not writing, but over and over I continue to get reminders that it's one of my purposes in this life... And I'm looking forward to getting back to work on my current project.

And although I haven't felt up to writing during this time of my own sickness and my husband's health issues and surgery, I did make it to canvas a few times. Only for short spurts now and then, but even that much helps me stay connected to creativity and the painting flow.

This has been a time of taking it easy. Resting. Replenishing. Nourishing body and soul and spirit.

It has been a time of finding creative solutions to deal with limitations of sickness and surgery... but we're doing it.

It has been a time of connecting even more strongly to my spiritual faith, trust, and knowing all will be well (no matter what).

It has been a time of love - love between me and my husband, love given and received to family and friends, reconnecting with people, and our cute Chloe bringing her usual joy and loving presence into our household.

And it has been a time of becoming more clear about how I'm being guided to live and spend my time, what I'm being guided to do, and what I'm being guided to let go of.

This feels like the right time for these shifts... I became another year older last weekend, the wheel of the year has just made another turn with the Solstice and we're about to shift into days lengthening but in winter's grip for a few months, and one year is about to end and another begin.

One thing I'm letting go of is doing work as Subtle Harmony.

Since 2010, my Subtle Harmony shop has been on Etsy with my crafts, creations, and offerings, and then a couple of years later it expanded to be my own Subtle Harmony website in addition to my Etsy shop.

But it's time to let go of doing my work under that name, and it's time to let go of doing certain work completely. Whether some of what I once did with Subtle Harmony will return one day... I honestly don't know the answer to that right now. Even if it does, it won't be with that name.

What I do know right now is that I'm being guided to focus on writing, especially fiction.

I'm being guided to continue to create - and at some point I may offer those creations again, just not with the Subtle Harmony name.

And I'm being guided to continue to focus on self care, soul nourishment, connection to joy, and living true.

What I do might look a bit different now...

But it feels very right.

September 9, 2017

autobiography and creating...

I've had a few days away from blogging during this month's September blogging challenge as my energy has been taken up with weather and family and personal happenings.

As soon as it became obvious Hurricane Irma would mean evacuations for some of my family members - including my 88-year-old mother who lives in an assisted living facility on an island off the Atlantic coast - weather once again became a focus for me.

These days I give myself a lot of room, a lot of space, a lot of permission, a lot of grace, to release things, or back away from things, when that's what I need to do for my self-care, my joy, my well-being, and/or my life-stuff-happenings.

Before deciding to do the blogging challenge, I gave myself lots of gentle permission to skip days if needed, or stop altogether... just taking it day-by-day for myself. And that's what I'm doing.

Today I'm still texting and talking with family and friends who are in the path of, or being impacted by, the storm. I'm still keeping an eye on the weather news. I'm still wondering how our weather here will be effected. We don't get hurricanes where I live, but our weather can be impacted by them (with rain, high winds, tornadoes) and sometimes we'll end up with a tropical storm or tropical depression from a once-hurricane... and that's looking increasingly possible for us with Irma.

What's going on with the weather is very much on my mind and in my heart.

But I'm back to the blog (at least for today), and I'm posting something about today's nudge/prompt:

Share something you’ve created that feels like it’s a part of your autobiography.

There are several different things that fall into this category for me - things I've written, things I've painted, things I've made - but the first two things that immediately jumped to my mind are two particular paintings. I couldn't quickly find a photo of the full canvas for the first one (part of it can be seen as the header/graphic on the home page of my Subtle Harmony site), so I'm going to share a bit about the other one.

This one...

The photo was taken at the beginning of February 2015. Some of the painting was done in the weeks of January and first few days of February that year, but most of the many layers and components of the painting were painted in 2014 over a period that spanned much of that year.

That year was a year of dealing with the grief of my father's death in 2013, and the change and grief of my mother's move several hundred miles away and her entry into the world of an assisted living facility, and the grief of the changes in some family relationships.

That year was a year of a long physical recovery after a fall in January 2014 injured my right hand (and I'm right-handed) and my leg.

That year was a year of facing more losses-to-come as my beloved brother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer. (He passed away 14 months ago.)

Painting, and especially painting on canvas as I stood in front of my table-top easel, was (as it continues to be) solace for me and joy for me... even though sometimes there were so many emotions and tears spilling from me that didn't exactly feel joyful. Still, though, painting was where I turned. Painting was one of the main things helping me keep myself together.

There was a period of time that year when I couldn't do much painting because of my hand injury. During that time, I tried to paint with my left hand, or tried to find some way to hold my brush for at least a little while, or sometimes just painted with my fingers.

It was a few months before I could actually wrap my fingers around a brush (or pen or pencil) again, but still I found a way to paint. And once my hand was recovered enough to hold objects like paintbrushes again, I painted more and more.

This painting is autobiographical for me because it encompasses all of that for me: the memories, the grief, the injury, the tears, the trying to heal (emotionally and physically), the processing of all the feelings, the trying to be okay in the midst of everything, the giving myself permission to paint just because I love it and no matter how it looks, and the wanting to believe that all will be well.

The paintings I do on the canvases at my table-top easel are intuitive paintings, and I just let myself do whatever comes. Whatever color seems to want to be painted. However and whichever way the brush (or my fingers or whatever) seem to want to move.

I don't paint at the canvas for the painting to look a certain way.

I paint at the canvas for the process of it, for the doing of it, and for joy of it (even if I'm releasing some tough emotions at the time).

This painting holds the energy of that time, that year, in my life. It holds my energy. It holds my tears and my hopes.

And that's why it feels like it's part of my autobiography.

(I'm blogging along with Effy this month! Want to join in? Just click here.)

September 3, 2017

passings, memories, and the soundtrack of life...

The first news I saw this morning was that Walter Becker, co-founder of the band Steely Dan, had died.

I've written before (a main example is in this post) about the power of music and memories.

And as I - and the singers and songwriters and musicians I grew up listening to - get older, and the years and the decades pass, there are more and more deaths of people who have been part of the soundtrack of my life.

In just the time between the beginning of 2016 and now, there have been several (not a complete list by any means):

Prince. George Michael. David Bowie. Maurice White. Leonard Cohen. Al Jarreau. Leon Russell. Glen Campbell. Paul Kantner. Gregg Allman.

And Glenn Frey.

I mention Glenn Frey separately because the music of the Eagles has been extra-huge in my life. And...  it was after watching the documentary History of the Eagles on Netflix shortly after Glenn's death in January 2016, that I felt compelled to finally do a final revision of one of my novels - In New Harmony - and publish it. (You can find it right here.)

Watching that documentary, which I've seen several times now, simply does something to my creativity, especially when it comes to writing fiction.

Watching that documentary makes me WANT to write - and, specifically, write fiction - so much that my fingers start to almost physically itch to do it.

Listening to Eagles music does something to me very similar to how I feel when I watch that documentary. For the past year and a half, I've come close several times to writing a blog post with the title "the Eagles are my spirit animal" (and I think I've even said those words, even hashtagged them, on instagram at some point) but as I wrote a couple of days ago, I simply haven't been blogging much the past couple of years, even when I've had the urge or the nudge.

Probably, though, I'll still write that blog post. I'm just not sure when.

Music is a muse for me.

And music is a memory-holder and time-traveller for me.

That's why when there's news like today's passing of Walter Becker, I feel an impact.

Steely Dan's music has definitely been part of my life's soundtrack. I'm 55, so the music of the 70s and 80s will always have a unique and special place in my heart and my memories, and Steely Dan songs are part of that for me: junior high and high school in the 70s, beach trips with my friends, going to see FM on a Friday night at the movies.

When I decided to post on facebook this morning with a link to a youtube video of a Steely Dan song, I had trouble deciding which song to choose. I finally decided on "Deacon Blues."

As I said in that facebook post: Someone else in the soundtrack of my life has passed. I always feel sadness along with the nostalgia... and I always feel so grateful for the music shared with the world.

RIP, Walter Becker and so many other song-makers.

And thank you for the music.

(I'm blogging along with Effy this month! Want to join in? Just click here.)

September 2, 2017

what I really want...

There are so many things I really want... World peace. Inner peace. Good and wonderful things for my loved ones. Joy. Happiness. Creative and spiritual connection.

But when it comes to a just-me-myself-and-I personal level, and if I break it down to one thing I really really want right now, it would be this:

I want to be healthy.

What used to be a once-in-awhile thing became, a couple of years ago, an almost-daily thing, which led to many doctor appointments and all sorts of tests (everything coming back normal), and is now apparently a chronic new-normal for me.

I mention it at times, usually referring to it as "my balance/equilibrium stuff", although it's sometimes much, much more than that. But very few people know how often and to what extent this impacts my life in big and small ways.

My ego accepting the use of a cane was a small thing. (Although I won't lie - it was a thing for me.)

Other stuff... Well, some of them are much bigger things.

I sometimes have trouble accepting these changes in my life, this change in my health, the way that I sometimes feel so awful, the way I sometimes have such trouble moving around or being able to do things I love to do.

And I sometimes especially have trouble accepting them with grace.

I rail and I fight and I pray.

Sometimes I sob in private with grief. Sometimes I yell at God with anger. Sometimes I tremble inside with fear at what might be ahead with my health.

And when I have days - or even minutes - of feeling well and good, or at least not feeling so bad... I'm so incredibly grateful I can't even describe the depth of it.

Gradually, I've been learning to accept my new-normal more, rail against it less, and make adjustments in my life to do as much as I can.

I find inspiration from people who deal with far more challenges and struggles, and do it with more grace than I often summon.

I continue to work on becoming healthier, and to maintain the health I have.

And if I could be truly healthy again? Yes, please. I really want that. 

But if it doesn't happen? Then I want to live as best I can, and I want to do it with grace.

It's a good bet that this is part of the reason embrace grace was the guiding phrase that came forward for me this year.

A reminder for me to open to receive grace.

A reminder for me to give grace to others.

A reminder for me to give grace to myself.

(I'm blogging along with Effy this month! Want to join in? Just click here.)

September 1, 2017

bloggin' along...

For quite a while, I've been in an in-between space, a time that's felt like waiting but also having a lot happening, a time that's been not-quite-sure or clear.

Blogging has been one of the things trapped by my time of in-between.

So often, I've wanted to return to blogging more regularly and consistently, to share my thoughts and my words online in a way I used to do so much.

And yet... so often, I've felt an inner need to be more quiet online, not only with blogging but in all online spaces.

But Effy is facilitating another blog along - and I decided to join in.

I participated in Effy's blog along back in 2013 and enjoyed it immensely, although I didn't blog every day... That month, my father's health failed at a faster rate, and later in the month the decision was made that it was time for hospice, and then he died on the 25th of that month. He passed away 4 years and 1 week ago, exactly, and it still sort of blows my mind that time has seemed to fly so fast since then and I'm not quite sure what I have to show for it.

Those blog posts from 2013 live in various places now... maybe one or two here at this space, a few on my Subtle Harmony site, most converted to draft status until I move them here, some only live now on my computer or personal files.

For the next year I continued to blog (although not every day or even every week) until the following summer when I did a personal month-long challenge of blogging with the theme of journeying with joy.

After that, I still blogged... but it became less and less often.

And the spaces where I blogged changed, as my site shifted from one place to another, and then split into two blogs which are (slowly) shifting again into one blog.

It sounds, and sometimes feels, confusing and unfocused. But where I "live" online is one of those uncertain things in my life. It's one of the things that feels like a waiting-time, a time of in-between.

I still have my Subtle Harmony site. I still have my Etsy. I still have this little blogging space right here.

I'm just not sure where I want to be with all of it at the moment - or even what (or whether) I want, when it comes to online.

I'm online less often in general than I used to be. One reason is an increasing need the past couple of years or so to pull back from social media and from the online world. Another reason is due to physical happenings that inter-relate with some eye stuff, and looking at computer or phone screens - or reading anything, for that matter, including books - can be difficult some days or can cause the problem to flare up at other times.

So I've been focused on more one-to-one, or in-the-flesh, or internal-with-me stuff.

I've focused a lot on my own creativity... writing and creative home-tending and paint-play.

I'm curious to see if I blog consistently during this blog along.

I'm curious to see what might happen between now and the end of the month.

I'm curious to see if returning to blogging more often will help me find more clarity.

I'm curious... and trying to rest and trust in this time of waiting and in-between.

(Want to join in on Effy's blog along this month? Just click here to see what it's all about!)

August 17, 2017

you will have created something...

Creativity matters. Making art matters.

It doesn't matter if you think it's any good or not. It doesn't matter if you make money at it or not. It doesn't matter if it's something big or something small.
It's part of soul-nourishment and self-care.

It's part of living a fulfilling life and connecting to your inner self.

"The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."   ~Kurt Vonnegut

Create something. Anything.

Do it for your soul.

May 5, 2017

where you put your attention...

"Here's the simple but painful truth: what you give your attention to is what you deem sacred." ~Janet Conner

I find such truth in this quote.

Painful, because sometimes being honest with ourselves might mean we realize when we say/think we're 'too busy' for something, it's really an excuse. Painful, because looking at what we're actually giving energy, time, and attention to, might not line up with what we hold dear and sacred.

And simple, because sometimes (maybe even often) we have more choice, more power, more sovereignty, than we believe... Choice in what or where we give our attention. Choice to *do* the thing.

For me, living my creativity is one of the things I deem sacred. Painting. Writing. Art journaling. House-tending. Living my creativity in all areas of my life, as much as possible. It is sacred to me - and it connects me to the Sacred.

What gets your attention, your time, your energy, your focus? What do you deem sacred?

And - are your answers to the questions in alignment with each other?

April 8, 2017

instagram joy connections...

The Joy Connections color series 10-day challenge I was facilitating through my Subtle Harmony site ended about a week and a half ago. It was helpful to notice, even more than usual, what brings me joy.

I posted my joy-connections photos on instagram every day.

The above are some of my photos I posted to my instagram on the days for green, pink, black, white, and blue.

Paying attention to, noticing, being aware of connection to JOY ... as it relates to the beauty of color.

March 27, 2017

writing: a behind the scenes glimpse...

Several months ago, I wrote a post on my indie author blog about some of what went on behind the scenes in writing my novel, In New Harmony.

It's about how the spark of the idea came from hearing something my mother shared from her childhood... and the spark turned into a short story... which then turned into a (quite a bit different) novel.

It's been ages since I've blogged, but I'm feeling the urge... and since I want to include my writing life (and my life in general) in this space, I'm going to be including my writing-related life stuff in my posts here.

But instead of re-saying everything I wrote in my other post about the beginning-seeds and some behind-the-scenes of In New Harmony, I'm going to direct you to that post here.

And if you'd like to check out In New Harmony for yourself, it's available here.

March 13, 2017

joy connections...

Joy has been on my mind a lot lately. And not only lately, to be honest - a few years ago, I realized in a deeper-than-before way that I needed to consciously and intentionally try to connect with joy as much as possible and in whatever ways work for me... I need this for my own well-being and quality of life. (Which then spills over and impacts everything in my life.)

And sometimes I need this just to simply make it through the day. (Because sometimes simply making it through the day is hard - and doing only that is enough.)

There's a difference between happiness and joy.

You've probably heard that before, but do you really (really and truly) believe it and feel it?

Joy can definitely be there in a happy time.

But joy can come unexpectedly, seemingly out of the blue.

And joy can be there even in the dark and the difficult.

I remember the morning my grandmother died, a sunny August day in 1997, and my husband and I walking in our neighborhood after getting the phone call, and talking about our plans for making the trip to my hometown for the funeral, and how it felt so surreal and so sad - that this woman who was a second mother to me, caring for me and my brother as both my parents worked fulltime as I was growing up, was no longer on this earth... and at the same time, along with deep grief and sadness, there was joy too.

Unexpected. Inexplicable. But... yes, joy.

I remember the evening my father was transported by ambulance to the residential hospice facility for his last night on earth - again in August, but this time in 2013 - and after spending time with my parents in my father's large and beautiful-but-awful room, we finally left to have a late supper, me and my husband and my brother and my nephew, sitting around the table at a fast-food restaurant while we ate chicken wings, exhausted and feeling unreal while laughing at the lovely absurdity hardness of life, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying (and crying can be a good and needed thing, but sometimes the laughter is what carries us)...

And even as my heart was splitting open and breaking apart - as it had been doing for the many months leading up to that night, that weekend of my father's passing - and even in the moments of stunned surreal silences and the moments of laughing with loved ones...

Joy was there too.

I could feel it, beneath the sad and the raw and the numbness and the unreality-of-it-all: joy, holding a spot in my heart, a beautiful aching and a wonder of how joy can co-exist with pain.

I've known times of such intense anxiety I couldn't breathe and couldn't go on, times of such depression I couldn't get up and couldn't see a future, times of such uncertainty I didn't know how a path through could appear...

And then a pocket of joy would come, give me grace, help me hold on.

As I said, joy can catch us by surprise.

But along the way, I also started to realize that when we cultivate joy, when we intentionally and consciously try to connect with joy... it can be easier to notice joy and catch the joy when it shows up.

Sometimes this can be in a sort of dramatic way. But often this can be in small, even quiet, ways.

And this is why I so often talk about connection with joy, when I talk about soul nourishment and self care... Because making the decision and the choice to consciously and intentionally try to connect with joy whenever possible and in whatever ways possible - it truly can make a difference.

Will it make life perfect? No.

Will it mean there won't be some incredibly hard stuff and difficult times? No.

But it can help.

We become more aware of those pockets of joy. We notice when there's an undercurrent of joy beneath the pain and the hard. We open to embrace the grace that joy brings. We catch the joy, we live in that joy moment - and it can help us hold on and help us get through and help us live more fully alive.

Life can be so hard at times.

But it also has such beautiful, grace-giving joy.

Being aware of the joy that's there truly can make a difference in life. ♥