Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Super Silly Us

A moment of seriousness, if you please.

Okay, that’s enough.

Really! Don’t you ever just get tired of being serious? (Someone actually asked me that!) But, I’m asking you… don’t you ever just get tired of being serious? Don’t you ever just need to get silly… get your crazies out… be nonsensical? I’m not talking about finding humor in a given situation. I’m talking about getting down with the ludicrous and absurd just for the sake of goofiness.

And yes, I do get tired of being serious. A l l   t h e   t i m e. I am a serious person and more so, and more often, than most might guess given my sense of humor. But, I constantly find myself in the deep end of my mind for all sorts of reasons and purposes. It takes a fairly dark and twisted look at things to come up with the humor that I do. I promise you, the funniest people on the planet are the most heartbroken ones.

One of the things I most appreciate about Steve is his ability to get silly. Just plain old silly. The man has an engineer’s mind and is one of the most logical people I‘ve ever met, but he knows how to get in touch with some fairly sublime lunacy. He’s also very good at sensing when it’s needed, and is utterly unafraid of looking like a madman. There have been a couple of times I desperately wanted to be pissed off at him, but found myself laughing so hard that I couldn’t even utter the words, “I’m pissed!” And then I found myself wondering why I was so annoyed in the first place. Usually, in the other sense of the word, I was just being “silly,” or, if you rather, I was being too serious.

Yesterday was kind of a funky day. I was feeling the usual full moon mania (y’know… my restless, feral thing). I was working on a project that I felt wasn’t going fast enough, and I have other projects I need to get to. I probably needed a little more sleep than I’d been getting. Steve’s project wasn’t going well either, his phone was acting up, and the clouds were threatening storms - all of which was making him (understandably) “a little too serious.” Besides all that, there was no chocolate anywhere in the house. It wasn’t a bad day, just a disgruntling day.

I needed silly and I needed it badly, before disgruntled turned into crabby. I never use crayons in my artwork. I don’t know why. I just don’t. But the urge hit me. I needed to smell that scent that brings back everyone’s childhood. I needed to feel that waxy wonderfulness, to read the fun descriptive names. “Burnt Umber” always sounded like something delicious to me. “Periwinkle” made me think of old tittering ladies at a tea party. Anyway, I grabbed a big sketch pad - no tiny card-sized paper for me, I needed room to scribble! I pulled my box of Crayolas out of the dresser - all 96 flavors, I needed color insanity! And I went to town. I didn’t even try to make anything that looked like something. I simply scribbled (Jackson Pollack's got nothin' on me!). And at first I did it while making raspberry noises. Nothing like a good ol’ bilabial fricative to get your sillies going.

And there it was. There was the thing that’s been missing in all my recent artistic growth and happiness, and even in my sense of humor. I felt… I felt… joyful. I felt the thing that looks like a giddy, giggly child. So, I’ve decided to make a silly date with myself at least once a week. If I find I need more intensive silly therapy, I may just up my dosage to once a day. Yeah. I think I’ll just do that anyway.

Y’know what? I challenge you to blow a great big raspberry. Do it right now while you‘re still reading this. Do it. Don‘t worry about who‘s in the room with you. You may just start a silly epidemic. There, don’t you feel better?

This world could do with some outright, out of bounds, out of sight, outlandish silliness. Seriously.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boxing Match

Why would anyone need to purchase luggage when we have all this extra baggage?
~John P. Johnson

So much of our lives comes in boxes, is it any wonder that we think in a box? Truthfully, we do live in and from boxes. Even our homes are squares and rectangles, essentially boxes. Our food comes in boxes - even if we don‘t see the box when we buy it, it‘s been shipped in one; our electronic gear comes in boxes; clothing gets shipped in boxes; letters are put in boxes. Everything. We live boxed life; everything gets packed into a tidy square. When we move, the first thing we do is put everything in boxes. We carry the boxes in a square truck, to the next square home, and unpack everything from those squares.

It makes sense, really. Boxes are easy to stack, and can be stacked neatly. While cereal doesn’t require a box for storage, people like it because it would be a pain to have a bunch of sacks of cereal hanging around being all unruly. I have several large boxes that hold all my fabric for sewing projects. They’re stacked up, and it’s easy to find what I’m looking for - much easier than, say, rifling through a big garbage sack full of fabric. Also, the fabric doesn’t get as wrinkled in a box. I keep my craft supplies in a dresser - a big box with several smaller boxes that slide in and out. My books are on shelves - essentially open ended boxes. We live a boxed life. Oh, yes we do.

Yet, so often the cry is, “Think outside the box!” How are we to participate in something that’s so outside our nature? I’ve come to detest the phrase, “That’s outside my comfort zone.” Puh-leeze! If we’re really living, really spending some nitty-gritty, brass tacks, superlative time on this planet, we ought to be outside our “comfort zones” in some way every damned day, all day! A comfort zone ought to be saved for when you cuddle up with your pillow and drift to sleep. If we live in a family environment, how many times do we serve up dinner and hear, “That again?” It’s not that it’s a bad dinner, it’s just been done to death. Conversely, when we serve up a new recipe, we hear, “Hey! This is great! I like it - it‘s different.”

Thinking outside the box. We’re capable of it, but we don’t do it. We like to think we’re the creative species on the planet, but we live in fear of that very creativity. I spent part of this morning re-inking my ink pads. Even if you’ve never seen my artwork, even if you don’t know me, you could walk into my studio and know which colors are my favorites just by looking at the re-inker bottles. The ones that have less in them have been used more often. Obviously. I had a few that had never even been opened - a sure sign that I rarely use those colors. It’s the same with my paper stash. See? I have my own box. Granted, it’s a fairly creative box, but still… it’s a box. So, as I was re-inking every stamp pad in sight, I thought to myself, “This is where it stops, Gypsy Girl. Every color is worthy of your consideration. Get out of your freakin’ box already, and let the colors fly.”

If we live outside the box (without the safety and protection of the box surrounding us), we’re open to whatever comes our way. Me? I’m throwin’ mine in the burn pile.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Three R‘s

Reading, wRiting, and Resilience

Outside of a book, a dog is man’s best friend. Inside a book, it’s too dark to read.
~Mark Twain

Every now and then I think about what essential thing in my life I could lose that would completely change my existence (don‘t we all?). Sure, losing any one of my senses would be traumatic. I can’t pretend I’d know my mindset were I suddenly to lose my vision, hearing, or ability to speak, but I can imagine certain feelings and reactions to those losses. The thing that would most dramatically alter who I am, what I am, and how I see the world, would be a loss of words. I don’t know how I would cope with not being able to read, with not being able to comprehend written words.

Books and stories were always a huge part of my life even before I could read. I think it’s funny that I don’t remember learning how to read. I was old enough at the time that it seems to me there should be some kind of memory of that first Aha! moment, that first moment of recognition when all those funny symbols and characters turned into something tangible. I can well remember reading as a child - reading aloud to my mother, having her help me through words I didn’t know - but I don’t remember learning how to read. I do know that once begun, I was unstoppable. I read everything I could get my hands on. I devoured words like they were gourmet meals - I had to know the mystery behind the flavor. I fell into stories, only to get to the end of the book and wonder how I’d ended up in a four-bedroom house in Kentwood, Michigan, because I could swear I’d just been in another country, on another planet even.

I loved going to the library to find out to which new places I’d be traveling next, which new friends I’d be meeting, and what adventures awaited me. To this day, the scent of a library is one of my favorites. When someone says the word “library” I can conjure that smell and make it real just as surely as I would swear I smell chicken paprikas when someone says the word “grandma.” When I walk into even the smallest library, my first thought is always, with a sigh, “So many books… who are they…?”

In my life, writing has always been a close second to reading. In fact, barring a photo-finish, I’d say it’s pretty much been a dead-heat most of the time. I loved writing letters as a kid (in the Long Ago Days before email). At a very early age I loved hearing things rhyme - I can’t tell you how many variations I came up with on the old “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue” theme. I was the weird kid who loved jumping rope strictly because of the iambic pentameter of the singy-song lyrics that went with it.

I do recall the day that I discovered my love for dictionaries and for finding out what words mean. I even remember the word that started it all. It was when I was in 5th grade. We were given our weekly spelling list, but with a twist. “This time,” our teacher explained. “I want you to write a paragraph that makes use of all the words.” I scanned the list, “Hmmm. Zenith? Why would she make us learn to spell the name of a TV?” I asked Mom when I got home from school. As was her way, she said, “Go look it up.” Mom not so secretly had wanted to be an English teacher, we were her unwitting students. Fortunately. I looked it up, only to discover that this Webster guy knew nothing about the names of televisions, but that the word had to do with celestial spheres (I then had to look up those two words, Mom wasn‘t giving up anything that day) and/or the highest point or culmination of a thing. I was hooked. I wanted to know what all the words meant, and I wanted to be able to write them so that they made sense.

A few days after John died, I had a rather bizarre, but very telling dream. In the dream I was caring for a little girl. Some bad men got into the house and they had guns. We tried to hide, but they found us. They raised the gun and pointed at the little girl, I whirled around so that I was between her and the gun, with my back facing the gun. I heard the gun go off and felt myself falling. I pushed the little girl toward the door and screamed, “RUN!” She did. I hit the floor and couldn’t move at all. I just lay there on my belly, with my head turned sideways as I stared at a blank sheet of white paper that was thumbtacked to the wall. I heard scuffling in the room behind me, another gunshot, and heavy, running footsteps. I never actually saw John, but I felt his hand my back as he tried to reassure me. He said, “I know it hurts, Baby. I know.” I could feel the searing, achy hole in my back and the pressure of the bullet against my heart. I felt John’s hand brush my hair as he wheeled his chair past me and out of the room again. All I could do was stare at that piece of paper. As I did, a single tear (not water… in my dream I knew it was a tear) slid from the thumbtack down the length of the paper.

When I woke up, I knew what John was trying to tell me. There was no question what my dream meant. The little girl in me had been utterly devastated by his death, and I was the only one who could save her. The woman in me had received a nearly fatal blow all her own. There was nothing to be done about the pain. The only way through it was to write, to pour my tears out on paper. So I have. Funny thing is? I thought I was writing purely as a way to deal with losing John. I had no idea back then that I was writing to find that little girl, Barb. She had run so far away that I wasn‘t sure she‘d ever come back. But that’s what happened.

I can’t imagine a life without words. When everything else fails, they’re what I have.

I think I’ll see if my local library needs any volunteers. I owe my life to those books.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Standing in the Q

"One must create a vision, and not merely something one knows to exist."
~Alberto Giacometti

I've taken a bit of flack over all of my recent posts about creativity. Some folks have protested that I'm talking about art and my process too much. Well. Too bad. It's where I am in my life right now. Besides, the creative process isn't just about the fine arts, ya big Sillies. Creativity ought to be part of nearly everything we do. When your children complain that they're bored, do you simply tell them to go watch TV? If you do, shame on you! When I was a kid, we never ever dared complain of boredom. Doing that was a sure way to end up with extra chores. We could make a couple of branches turn into an afternoon long playtime. The branch was a gun, or a horse whip, or a fairy wand, or a sceptre, or something you had to hop over, because if you touched it, it was an aligator and would surely bite off your foot.

I live with a man who is highly creative. He doesn't dabble in the fine arts, can't understand poetry, much less fiction, at all. However, he can look at an engine, any engine, and know how it works, and know what needs to be done to make it work. He can listen to it run and say, "Oh, it needs a new hoozy-whatz and the jigginflatz is gummed up." Then he proceeds to tear the thing apart, fix it, and put it all back together without a single left over part. That's a creativity I can't relate to, but that I deeply admire. He tries to teach me, really he does. He tries to tell me all about the parts and what they do and why. And, although I'm engaged and interested, I just don't get it. I still don't know a whatchamajig from a thingamajig. I do love watching him work - he falls into a rabbit hole all his own.

See, creativity is all about non-linear thinking. I've heard this before, but once again it was brought home to me yesterday as I read a wonderful blog post at Creative Chai. Dave, the blogger, is writing a six part series on the creative process. In the foreword to this series he writes: "Creativity is a non-linear process. We start out at Point A and end up at Point C, or Point Q, or any other point that happens to not be called Point B. This is because, on the way from Point A to Point B , impossible things happen that steer us away from our original endpoint and onto fresher, shinier, more startling destinations."

I end up at Point Q fairly often, certainly more so now than I ever have. Why? I allow it, for one. Secondly, I seek it. (There is a difference.) Most importantly, I refuse to settle for mundane. I refuse to do anything that will force my inner child to whine, "I'm bored." I don't want to do chores, I want to build visions. A bit of a grandios statement, true, but why not put it out there? If we refuse one thing, we're forced to contend with and/or react to another.

Take a journey this weekend... a non-linear journey. Just a little one... baby steps, remember. You don't have to go far, but don't be surprised at the places where you might end up. If you need to reach me, I'll be taking a non-linear walk on the un-road to Q... or maybe W... I never know where I'm going to end up.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Run Around

Let's get something straight before I start rambling. I am not a runner. At all. What I know about running, I know because I know those who do run.

But, I just realized something. In figurative terms, I'm a sprinter, not a long-distance runner. I realized that I'm all about short bursts. While I have staying power - I can and will see any task through to completion, and although I firmly believe in commitment and honoring commitments, I function much better with short hauls. This applies to so many things in my life: art, writing, cleaning, exercise, cooking, socializing... pretty much everything but love. Love, in any form, is a marathon event. No question.

Do I have long range goals? Of course. But the short term goals take precedence. Clearly, many of the short term goals are in conjunction with long term goals, but beyond that, I simply find it easier to focus on them, and easier to achieve them.

Paradoxically, I don't like it when things are over with. There's always that uncomfortable feeling of, "Now what? What next?" Plus, being a sprinter, the rush is over with all too soon. One of the things I love about making cards is that I can complete an entire work of art in as little as 10 minutes. One of the things I hate about making cards is that I can complete an entire work of art in as little as 10 minutes.

I may be out of breath, but I want more. So, I sprint again.

Some might chalk it up to my Scorpio personality, and a Scorpio's need for almost constant intellectual stimulation. I can see that, even though I take astrological pronouncements with a grain of salt. The only thing I get bored with is sameness. So, I sprint, and each race is completely different from the other.

That's it. Just my little internal epiphany for the day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Now and Zen

I think what I like most about any kind of art is that it’s imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay. Lately I’ve been re-reading some of my old poetry and, all too often, I find myself rolling my eyes and muttering, “Ugh. What absolute dreck!” Oy, the schmaltz. But I also remember how good it felt to write those feelings. To at least try to tame the Creative Beast in my head, and let loose some of the soul gunk.

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I look at the things I created the day before, shake my head, and ask (yes, aloud), “Egads, Woman… what were you thinking?!” But I’m okay with that too. I’m okay with that because at the time I was wholly absorbed in what I was doing. I was in a place where nothing else mattered. I really wasn’t thinking… in a good way.

Making any kind of art is so totally Zen that it’s not Zen. It’s a paradox of getting so into the moment that I’m not in the moment at all. Let me see if I can explain that better while trying not to sound completely psychotic in the process, and I don’t promise that I can do either.

Often when I write I feel that I’m the third person in the room. There’s the paper & pen (or screen & keyboard) which is an entity of its own, there’s me doing the scribbling, and (this gives me goosebumps to actually write it), there’s something outside of me (call it a Muse, a god, spirits that have passed, the Creative Beast, whatever) that’s dictating the thing. I’m merely the scribe.

When I play piano, even when I play horribly, I’m always a little astounded that the music is coming from something I’m doing. I look down and see my hands moving, and I hear the sound, and I think, “This is possible? How?” Perhaps it’s because I’ve been playing since I was five years old, so in many ways the keyboard feels like an extension of me. But that’s really not it. That doesn’t capture the feeling of it. When I write music, I could swear it’s beamed in from another world (and anyone hearing my caterwauling might just agree). The point is, it always, always surprises me.

When I make art, whether it’s stamping, painting, sculpting… I get lost in it. I am, by all accounts, totally out there, Dude. Hours go by. Very often when I climb out of the rabbit hole, I look at my work and think, “I did that? Wow.” Even though I’ve been aware, on some level, of doing it. It’s a little bit of feeling mentally disassociated while at the same time feeling completely connected. I know, psychotic, right? But it really doesn’t feel that way.

I know there are others who don’t ever experience this, much less acknowledge “it“ beckoning to them. Granted, it is more than a little… weird. It’s only been recently that I’ve become aware of it in myself, and I’ve been “creative” my whole life. As much as I joke about it, I really do feel that there are Muses at work in my life. This can’t all just come from me, I’m a conduit of some creative collective of artistic lost souls (oh, there, that’s it, that sounded right!). But, you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am humbly grateful and honored to be the conduit. I accept. So, channel away, ye lost artists, ye wandering writers, ye muted musicians… I’m here for you, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the trip.

Zen again… maybe I’m just nuts. Ya think? Well, hey, s’okay by me. One man’s passion is another man’s insanity. But tell me this, what is it in your life that takes you out there? If you don’t know, I recommend you find it. ‘Cause let me tell ya… getting there is all the fun!

You may be right
I may be crazy
Oh, but it just might be a lunatic
You're lookin' for...

~Billy Joel, You May Be Right

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

These Are The Days

It's Spring. It's time, once again, for me to feel like I need to shed a layer or two... of my own skin. This time of year makes me internally restless. It's a time when, fostered by events of the past, that I re-evaluate who I am, what I want, and what I'm doing with my life. It's always been that way to some extent, but it's become even more so in the past three years.

Three years ago at this time, my dear mate John was quickly losing the battle with cancer. Three years ago I was in the deep despair of saying goodbye to the person I loved most on this earth. I wasn't thinking much about myself, only about the frustration and futility in trying to keep John comfortable and with me for as long as I could. As much as I wanted to obliterate the feeling, I couldn't. I couldn't, not just because John was still alive, but because I knew that I had to allow myself to feel everything I was going through. I knew it was somehow important.

Two years ago at this time, I was going through the end of the one year grieving period after losing John. I was dissatisfied with my job, with where I was living, with what I was doing with my life and with the dead-end feeling of it all. I wanted to peel off my skin. I wanted to run wild. I wanted to experience something truly joyful. But, again, I knew that I had to allow myself to feel everything I was going through. I knew it was somehow important.

Last year at this time, I had just lost my job and was frantic about finances. I was mired in a relationship that I knew was all wrong for me. I knew there was something better, something more, but I was too wrapped up in circumstance to focus enough to see it. I felt like everything I really wanted and needed was lost and floating downstream on the river I was living next to. I was aware that my life was unravelling - not necessarily in a bad way - in a way that made me realize a big change was coming. So, I began to say goodbye to things, material things and expectations. Once more, I knew that I had to allow myself to feel everything I was going through. I knew it was somehow important.

Spring 2010. I've now been out of the corporate world for over a year. I've begun to make money off of the thing I most love to do - art. I'm in a healthy, loving, wonderful relationship with a guy who appreciates me just because I'm Barb. As odd as it feels, for the first time in my life I'm with someone who wants to take care of me. My life has never been this good. Yes, I'm allowing myself to feel everything I'm going through. I know it is somehow important.

This is a time in my life that will carry me. This is a time that, even in any darker days that might await, will shine through the rest of my life with the idea that yes, it can be that good. Now I know. Yes, I'm still restless with the Spring. As much as I have right now, there's so much more I want... not in a needy, greedy way, just in a let-me-make-my-life-all-I-can way. So, I'm busy peeling off a few figurative layers of skin, all the while enjoying the co-mingling feel of the cool breeze and the warmth of the sun.

These are the times of love and meaning
Ice of the heart has melted away and found the light
These are the days of endless dreaming
Troubles of life are floating away like a bird in flight

~Jamie Cullum, These Are The Days

Monday, March 22, 2010

National Goof Off Day

Last week a friend said, “You’re so damned philosophical lately that it makes my head hurt!” I think it was her way of saying, “Lighten up, Woman!” And, yes, I’ve been deep in my head lately. I fake no impunity. Much like that little Ikea car in the old commercials, I’ve had all kinds of thoughts and ideas stacked on my mind (ooooh… hey… that gives me an idea!).

As I was trying to wake up this morning, waiting for the first jolt of caffeine to kick in and watching the news, the traffic advisor guy reminded everyone that today is National Goof Off Day. Well, who am I to deny anyone a holiday! Celebrate as you see fit. In that light, I give you ten of my favorite fun-filled quotes…

If variety is the spice of life, I’m over-seasoned.
~Paul Rodriguez

Whenever a big white man picks up a banjo, my cheeks tighten.
~Robin Williams

Life should be a little nuts. Otherwise it’s just a bunch of Thursdays… y’know… strung together.
~Rumor Has It

What is poetry
Why are there wars
Is there a God
Why are there hairs in the nose
Only the final Question
Answers all others
~Aram Boyajian, The Hairs In My Nose

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a raindance.

If you’re going to do something tonight that you’ll be sorry for in the morning… sleep late!
~Henny Youngman

You have to be tolerant toward anyone who carries one of those “you-know-whats” stuck on his body. It’s sort of a parasite. It has a kind of life of its own.”
~Theodore Sturgeon, Godbody

Make love in the microwave. Think of all the time you’ll save.
~Carly Simon

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.

Leader of the Lemmings: Follow Me! Today is a good day to dive!
~John P. Johnson

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Out of My Mind... Back In 10...

Y'know... sometimes I just need to get out of my head. I don't mean out of my mind, most would say that's a general state of affairs anyway. I'm a deep thinker, an over-thinker, constantly pondering several things at once, it never stops. A friend of mine mentioned that the Buddhists call it "chattering monkeys." My monkeys are the high-octane variety. Sleep doesn't help. I'm a vivid dreamer, a wild dreamer, a rampant dreamer... there's always a show going on in my sleep. At times, it's all too overwhelming, and although I'm a relatively calm person, I need to go on a quest for quiet, especially some internal quiet.

So, where do I go? Ahh... nothing but music calms this particular savage breast. It has always been so. On a somewhat moderate level, it works to put on headphones, tune in, turn on, and drop out. On a greater level, what works best, is to make my own music. It sounds contradictory, I know, but it does work. If I'm sitting at the keyboard playing and/or singing, there's nothing else going on. It's just me and the music.

I can tell when I haven't played in a while (as it is now), because I get this... hmm... almost an electrical current charging my entire body. I can't sit still, I can't concentrate. I get frustrated with myself and my lack of focus. I get crabby. Then I stop for a minute and realize what's missing, what's nagging at me. I need to play. It's that simple. Making music is my meditation. It's a mental orgasm. Nothing matters but that surge. Nothing satisfies but that shuddering burst.

Music. I can't imagine my life without it. I don't do art without music playing in the background. A snippet of song will take me back to and into a brief moment in my life. It sets a mood, it sparks a feeling, it's a light in the darkest times.

Music. It's been there for me through everything. I wouldn't know how to live without it's accent on a day.

"Music when soft voices die
Vibrates in the me

~Percy Bysshe Shelley

Mr. Shelley understood. It's madness, but it's a beautiful madness. If you'll pardon me, I'll be out of my head for a few... however, feel free to join me n' Mr. Franti... c'mon... sing along... or sign along...

Everyone Deserves Music
~Michael Franti & Spearhead

Friday, March 19, 2010

An Interview with External Validation and Self Doubt

(The Camera comes into focus on a somewhat dimly lit stage with three over-stuffed chairs. A rather ordinary woman sits in the middle chair. As the camera zooms in, it’s obvious that she is clearly focused.)

Barb: Welcome to the Church of the Wayward Gypsy. My name is Barb Black, and I’ll be your host today. Please, have a seat, grab a cup o’ bean, and get comfortable. Today, as previously promised, we’re foregoing the usual philosophical ramblings so that I can interview two of the most prolific entities in the known Universe, The Maligners of Morale, those guys you hate to love and love to hate… Señor Self Doubt and and Monsieur External Validation! Without further ado, let’s bring out Señor Self Doubt first…

(Camera and lights pan stage right as a small, rather bookish, but surly looking fellow enters the stage.)

Barb: Hello, Señor Self Doubt, and welcome!
Self Doubt: *slumps in chair* Uh… thank you. You can call me Sid… my middle initial is 'I', for Inflicted. That is, if you’re sure you want to do this at all. I mean, if you’re sure you’re up to it. You don’t look well… have you been getting enough sleep? Your clothes look a little tight… maybe you’re not eating right.
Barb: No, I’m fine, thanks Señor Sel… um… Sid.
Self Doubt: *heavy sigh* If you say so.

Barb: Sid, you seem to be able to be in several places at once - truly an admirable trait. How do you do it?
Self Doubt: It’s easy, really. It only appears that I’m in several places at once. But basically, I only make little visits throughout the day, plant my seeds, fertilize them well with BS, and then I’m off to squander my attention elsewhere. Does your hair always look like that?
Barb: *clears throat* I’ll ask the questions here. You say you plant some seeds. Expound on that, please.
Self Doubt: *scoffs* Right. Like you’d understand that. I didn’t say “some seeds,” I said “my seeds!” Seeds of Self Doubt. See, you people are so easy to manipulate that all I’ve got to do is plant one of my wiggly little nuggets, toss some BS in the mix, and you’ll incubate the thing until it grows completely out of proportion. Ta Da. I call ‘em Sid’s Little Tumor Babies, ‘cause they grow fast, take over everything, and all they do is eat, spew, poop, and whine.
Barb: I see. They don’t sleep?
Self Doubt: *rolls eyes* Never. You’ve got something stuck in your teeth.

Barb: Uh… Sid. Tell me where you grew up.
Self Doubt: *yawns* Oh, here and there. But mostly I spent my time in the Halls of Apathy. You’d think it would be boring there, but there’s so much mischief to get into. I had a blast.
Barb: Halls of Apathy?
Self Doubt: Duh. Huge place, lots of great hiding places, plenty of food. Been around pretty much since dirt was new.

Barb: Hmm. Who were some of your early influences?
Self Doubt: Oh, well… I’ve always looked up to my Dad, Cynicism. He’s an Expert. Goes around telling people that nothing’s ever gonna work, and most people actually buy it! Morons. My Mom, Pretention, is a great gal, but she’s kind of a show off. My Uncle Lan… uh, short for Pusillanimous, I think (his Dad was some old Greek guy… spent forever pushin’ a rock up a hill). Uncle Lan is a real kick in the pants.

Barb: Have any playmates as a kid? Have any friends?
Self Doubt: *snorts* Yeah, unlike you. My best buddy is your other guest. Me’n Val been runnin’ together since we was knee-high to foot fungus. Lotsa fun… he sets ‘em up, I knock ‘em down.
Barb: Well then, let’s bring him out. Please welcome Monsieur External Validation!

(Camera and lights pan stage left as a tall, dashing, self-assured looking man enters the stage.)

Barb: Hello, Monsieur External Validation. As always, it’s good to have you here.
External Validation: Hey, hey! Great to be here. Fantastic. Wow, you look great… beautiful eyes. Hey, call me Val.
Self Doubt: *shakes his head*
Barb: I… uh… thanks, Val.
External Validation: Sure, sure, sure. Really, so nice of you to have me here. Always thought you were a great gal.
Self Doubt: Geez… c’mon Val… you’re pandering.
External Validation: Of course, ya little imp. Go with what you’re good at, right?
Self Doubt: Ya make me sick, ya big Sugar Sack.

Barb: Okay guys. Okay. Val, unlike Sid who seems to be around all the time, you seem to show up only when you’re needed…
External Validation: Oh, well, don’t let that fool ya, Pretty Girl. I’m needed a lot, way more than it looks like, really. But I do sit back and monitor situations before I step in. Sid gets people feeling so lousy about themselves that they need a boost - hey, who doesn’t? That’s where I step in. I nudge other people to, truthfully or not, say nice things to that person. Then I give the person a good ego massage, get ‘em all relaxed and happy again, and send ‘em on their way.
Self Doubt: *chuckles* I can’t handly that sappy crappy craptastic crapola. I give it a few minutes and then, just like Jack Nicholson, I chop down the door and… “I’m baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!”
External Validation: *good naturedly tousles Sid’s hair* You do keep me busy, ya little booger.
Self Doubt: Hey, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn‘t even have a job!
External Validation: True speech, my little friend. Little… hey… you getting’ taller? You look different. Better.
Self Doubt: BAH! That crap don’t work with me! Shovel it somewhere else.

Barb: Guys, guys, guys… Val, Sid mentioned earlier that you’re somewhat of a mentor to him…
Self Doubt: Hey! I never said… he ain’t no…
Barb: Shush. Val, who were some of the great influences in your life?
External Validation: Definitely my parents, Si (Self Importance) and Miss Guided… hi Mom and Dad! You’re my heroes! Love you, love you, love you!! Oh, and my Grandmother… wonderfully sweet lady… always handing out useless advice… making people feel all warm and fuzzy… dear old Granny Cloy. I miss her. My cousin, Perfidious… lots of fun, that guy.

Barb: Interesting. Alright guys. Lastly, I’m going to give you a phrase, and I want each of you to complete it. Val, Sid… I am worthy because…?
Self Doubt: Worthy? Who is really worthy of anything. Nothing you do really matters.
Barb: *raising an eyebrow* How about you, Val? I’m worthy because…?
External Validation: Easy, Gorgeous! Because everyone else says you are.
Barb: You’re both incorrect. I am worthy. End of sentence. The “because” does not signify.
Self Doubt: You’re so full of shi… hey, you cheated! *mutters in a whiny voice* “because does not signify“… pfft…
External Validation: As intelligent as you are, I disagree… “because” always signifies… who are you without the splendor of outside opinion? Who could exist that way?

Barb: I know who I am, and I am worthy. And, I’m most definitely done with the two of you. You can leave now.
External Validation: Sure, Dollface, we’ll wait for you in the wings while you wrap it up.
Barb: No, I mean leave for good. Go away. Hit the road. Be gone. Done listening to either of you... so done. Get out.
Self Doubt: You don’t have the strength to get rid of us.
Barb: Watch me. I know who I am. I am worthy. Bye guys.

(Camera and lights pan stage right as Señor Self Doubt and Monsieur External Validation exit hesitantly. Sid can be overheard whispering to Val, “Don‘t worry, Pal. Just yesterday I planted a whole bunch of my seeds… she ain‘t seen the last of us.” Val claps his hand on Sid’s shoulder and replies, “You da man!”)

(Camera and lights pan back to Barb as she sits, looking worn but satisfied, rubbing the back of her neck.)

Barb: Thank you all for joining us here today. Boy, I’m exhausted, but I‘ve never felt better. Oh, a word of caution… if you see those two, I recommend that you steer clear of them. Take care and be good to yourselves… happy wonderings.

(Camera and lights pan stage left as Barb exits purposefully.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Excuse Me

Anybody want to buy an excuse? I’ve got over 1000 of them and I really don’t need ‘em any more. They’re cheap! In fact, if you buy one, I‘ll give you two more for free. Sure, they’re a little flimsy, but they’ve held up for years and they’ve still got plenty of life in ‘em. Come on… whadya say?

As always, when the gods are trying to drill a point home into my rather thick skull, they send the message in threes. Yesterday, from three completely different venues, came the rather loud edict, “No More Excuses!” Okay, okay, okay! I hear you already. So, I’m trying to get rid of mine.

Oh, sure, I’ve got a whole host of great ideas, big plans, grandiose dreams and schemes, but countering them are myriad shabbily dressed beggars whining about the pursuit being too difficult, or giving ludicrous analysis as to the worth of actually implementing them. Oh yeah… and you thought I was a go-getter. Nobody’s as good at pleasure delaying as I am.

Man, I tell ya, I’ve got excuses by the by the bundle, by the box, by the ream, by the gallon, by the… well, hell, I’ve all but got ‘em stacked in multiple coffin-sized Sterlite containers and then I’ve got even more hanging around loose and stacked on top of them and crammed into any nook or cranny available. I’ve got a big BUT. Yep, definitely some real estate there. I‘ve got a vast plethora of IF floating around like so much itchy, wheeze inducing pollen. I’ve got excuses for making excuses.

After the gods so blatantly caught my attention yesterday, I spent some time thinking a lot of my excuses for not doing things. My excuse for not going to bed when I was tired, was to turn on the TV, “just to see what’s on…” What did I land on? It was TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive. It’s about people who compulsively collect things and stash them in their homes to the point that there is literally no room to move. The show’s advertising catch phrase is, “What if the only thing you ever threw away was your life?” As I watched the first ten minutes (I don’t do reality TV), the focus was on a man who appears normal - leads a good work life, has a pretty girlfriend, dresses well - but his house is absolutely stacked with things, all kinds of things. There is so much stuff in his house that he has to climb over piles and boxes to move about the place. As he put it, “I feel like a mountain goat.”

I thought, “That’s what my excuses look like.” Egads. I have so many of them strewn about that it’s sometimes difficult to move. And then, in my head, I heard the show’s catch phrase again, “What if the only thing you’re throwing away is your life?” Oy. That’s a harsh one. When the gods feel like snap-focusing my attention, they do it with a fairly stinging swat to my big BUT. I get it. I do. No more excuses. I’m cleaning the temple and letting in some of this glorious Spring air and sunshine.

Tune in tomorrow for an interview with External Validation and Self Doubt. I found them hanging out under some of the excuse clutter and they need a new home. They, too, come with free excuses.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Expertly Stubborn

I’ve been having a lot of pivotal moments lately. Go figure, huh? Put on a catcher's mitt and people actually toss you the ball. Yeah, yeah, yeah… I may be slow, but I can be taught. Every now and then, those pivotal moments, those epiphanal blinks, why, they manage to come straight from me. Such was the case this morning after I’d read a wonderful blog post by Ken at Mildly Creative, “Better Than An Expert: 7 Things I’d Rather Be.” I highly recommend that you follow this link and read it.

Ken’s posts have been inspiring me for a few weeks now, and it’s eerie how closely his posts have been following my own mindset. I’ll have a little nugget in my head that I start chewing on, when suddenly… BLAM!… there’s Ken expounding it. We don’t talk to each other, so he’s not gathering my thoughts from conversation. We’re barely even acquainted on Facebook. Our communication is pretty much limited to stuff like, “Great post, Ken,” and “Thanks, Barb.” The point I’m trying to make is that he doesn’t know me and I don’t know him except for his posts. Yet, I feel this odd kinship, a recognition of someone I’ve been waiting to hear from, the backbeat to the riff I‘m layin‘ down (if you‘ll be so indulgent).

But, I’ve digressed - none of that is really my point here. Where were we? Ah. Yes. Pivoting on the pointy tip of a shiny moment. After I’d read and re-read “Better Than An Expert: 7 Things I’d Rather Be,” and cartoonishly shook my head at the number of arrows sticking out of my head right between my eyebrows, I pulled up Ken’s profile on Facebook and made the comment, “If you were an expert I wouldn’t pay attention (I’m stubborn that way).” It flew out of my fingertips without me giving it much thought. It wasn’t until Ken blipped back, thanked me for making him laugh, and said, “I’m stubborn that way, too,” that I realized the import of what I’d said.

It made me realize that I never have paid attention to so-called experts. While The Experts may have the experience to back up their talk, I’d rather listen to someone who’s busy living the experience now, than someone who had the experience once and is making commentary, and likely making money too, by reviving the memory. The Experts are somehow separate from the struggling proletariat souls who are simply trying to further their own enlightenment. Nothing, but nothing, will make my eyes glaze over faster than watching a documentary and hearing someone introduced as The Expert in Insert Field Here. Ugh. Knowledgeable? Yes. Leading Authority? Hmmm, maybe. But, Expert? Nuh uh. Because, who’s really an expert on anything? It just isn’t possible. Knowledge is an endlessly expanding thing, it’s a ripple in a pond, a many fingered web. Nobody can know everything there is to know about a subject and all its off-shoots. I will rue the day that I become an expert and there is nothing new left for me to learn or discover. Besides, to my way of thinking, it would be incompatible to be an expert and be a creative person at the same time. The very act of being creative demands a search for unknown variables. Whenever someone tells me "this is exactly how to do it, don't do it any other way," I automatically find some little way to twist the doing of said thing. I'm stubborn that way.

Often The Experts are so caught up in what they know that they fail to see the variables. They’re so busy using their expertise, blathering on about the nature of the ointment, that they fail to see the fly that’s doing the backstroke in it. I remember when I was still a kid (back in the early 70's, mind you), my older brother Tom used carry a ratty old folded piece of paper around that had a typewritten version (remember typewriters?) of The Hotdog Story on it. I don’t recall it word for word, or have any idea who wrote it, but it went something like this…

There once was a man who owned a hotdog stand. His success was simple - he sold great hotdogs and had a sign that said, “Get great hotdogs here!“ Over time, he sold more and more hotdogs. His hotdogs became famous for miles around, and people came from everywhere to buy them.

Then one day his son came home from college and said, “What are you doing, Dad? Don’t you know there’s a recession going on? Nobody’s going to buy hotdogs!”

The man thought, “Well, my son’s been to college, he must know.“ So the man took down his sign. He stopped going into town with his cart, stopped ordering buns and wieners, mustard, ketchup, and relish.
Hotdog sales fell overnight.
The man said, “Wow, son. You’re right. There certainly is a recession going on.”

It pays not to listen to experts. It does, however, pay to listen to experience. Big difference. Huge, even. Experts once said, “If we throw her in water and she floats, then she’s a witch and we need to kill her.” Experience said, “These women knew a lot about herbology at a time when people were dying of all kinds of simple ailments.” Who would you rather listen to?

Thought so. Pass me the hotdogs, please.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Creating A New Day

“If you build it, they will come.”

~Field of Dreams

Have you ever been in a situation where you weren’t sure if you could do something, but you knew people were kind of expecting you to, maybe even watching for it. So, you tried it, managed to do it with a fair amount of grace and elán, received some kind of external validation for it, and thought, “Wow. I did it! I managed to fool them into thinking I can do this, and I actually kind of did it too!”

I just realized that I put that one over on my very own self! I burrowed into my surreal li’l rabbit hole, played with some pretty colors, and managed to convince myself that I‘m an artist. I just kept making things until it clicked. As I type this, I’m looking at an array of birthday cards that I created, and I’m thinking, “Not bad… not bad at all… pretty damned good, in fact…” Within the past month, I’ve received orders for cards from people all over the place, people I would never have thought would order from me, even a couple people that I don’t know at all.

About a year and a half ago, when I was still in bondage to the corporate world, I made a card for a co-worker’s birthday. As my friend Bill signed the card, he admired my work. He kind of shook his head, and with that beautiful smirk of his said, “You’ve really got talent with this.” I kind of gave him the aw-shucks shrug, whereupon he leveled me with a more serious look and said, “Really. Can you picture yourself in a small studio? People are putting together cards that you’ve designed and you’re over in a sunny corner simply doing design work and nothing but design work?” I’m sure I blushed in all my sheepish glory (Bill’s one of the straightest shooters I know, so when he says stuff, I tend to listen and listen well.) He repeated, “Can you picture it? Can you see it? It’s there.” Uncomfortable with the internal squirm he was putting me through I said, “Oh sure. Yeah. That’ll be a good day. I‘d much rather be doing art than accounting.” But I didn’t really believe it. Nope. In my deep dark heart, I didn’t see it as anything more than a hobby. While I knew I had decent creative instinct, I didn’t believe that I had real talent.

Losing that job was just the cataclysmic event that I needed to shake my cage. No, it hasn’t been an easy year, but I know if the opportunity was still available, I’d still be working there. I’d be working there, making a card here and there for a friend’s birthday, and wishing I had more time for my creative life. As it is, I just mailed out two completed orders today. As the postal clerk calculated postage, I had an Aha Moment. I realized that I’d gotten out of my own way (finally!), that by ignoring my inner Doubt Demon, I was simply allowing myself to do what feels good, to do what feels natural to me. But here’s what really knocked me out of my shoes and sent my socks flying… I thought to myself… “Egads! I’m doing it! I’m making art for a living!” And then I kind of laughed to myself, because I realized that between my daily affirmation (“I am an Artist...”) and simply by creating something new every day, I’ve finally convince the most important person in the process. I’ve convinced myself. I can do this!

Initially I may have had to fool myself, but I believe it now. While it’s still not doing much more then putting milk on the cereal, it’s definitely in the process of becoming something bigger, and my work is being recognized. While I don’t yet get to simply design and let others do the grunt work, I do have a studio and a process and orders to fill, and yes, Bill… I can see it. I can do this. I’m an artist.

I hope you all have and use daily affirmations. It’s easy for us to believe negative things, especially the things we tell ourselves. The more we hear a thing, the more we believe it. So, why not tell yourself good things? It might sound silly at first, but eventually you’ll hear it enough that you’ll believe it. Trust me on that. I ought to know because…

I am an artist.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Favorite Things

Yesterday Steve and I spent a harrowing 5 hours driving down to the Tacoma area and back to pick up a boat and motor. We did so in the midst of a hearty Nor’wester, and traffic was, to say the least, squirrelly. We both arrived home (safe and sound, thank all the gods) with raw nerves and tension headaches. As we passed several multi-car pile ups, I tried to quell my jitters by internally singing the song, My Favorite Things. You know the one, “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, and warm woolen mittens… I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don‘t feel so bad.” It’s one of my favorite tunes in the world. Yes, I lean more toward the classic rock sound, but I do also have a penchant for show tunes. I‘m not an uncultured heathen, I‘m only a heathen.

Anyway, the tune got me thinking about my favorite things. So, I decided after all the deep philosophical regurgitation of my soul gunk on my posts lately that I’d post ten of my favorite things. They are, in no particular order:

1) The scent of coffee brewing, followed by that first sip of deep, dark, murky brew.

2) The feel of opening a not new book, knowing that other hands have touched the pages, other eyes have seen the words, and wondering about the lives that have read the same copy that I’m reading.

3) The feeling of crawling into a bed made up with freshly laundered sheets.

4) Long, slow, soft kisses. Oy.

5) The whispery chatter sound of rain.

6) Dictionaries - I don‘t only like reading words, but also reading about words.

7) The enameled tin cup that my Grandmother brought over on the boat. To others, it just looks like a ratty old cup, but to me it is a symbol of strength and courage, of an intrepid, tenacious quest for a better life. Even more, it represents to me a woman who is one of my greatest heroes and one of my strongest inspirations.

8) The scent of the back of a man‘s neck. What is it with guys and their necks anyway?! It‘s like they‘ve got some kind of pheromone-laced secret sauce they slather on just to drive women crazy.

9) Old American-made trucks. It doesn‘t matter if they‘re Ford, Chevy, GMC, or Dodge. There‘s just something comforting about watchin‘ ‘em role.

10) Bread and everything about bread… making it, smelling it baking, eating it, sandwiches, warm with butter, gravy-soppin’, soaked up and slurpy… Bread. Yeast is one of the most ancient organisms in the world and it’s still alive when the dough hits the oven.

So, there you have it. These are a few of the many thousands of my Favorite Things. Things that make my day better just by thinking about them. What are yours? Share some.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Perfectly Imperfect

I’m a reader. I would like to say that I’m an avid reader, but that comes and goes depending on the time left in a day. Yes, sadly, reading is one of my favorite activities that takes a back seat to anything else I’ve got going on. I am woefully backlogged with my reading list. In fact, I haven’t even added to the list in almost a year. Even so, at this point, and at this rate, I won’t get through it until my 127th birthday.

However, there are two books that I keep handy and that I read and re-read bits of every day. One is The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba, and the other is the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. As with any truly great philosophical tome, they both translate into life, love, art, and of course, war (both with known and unknown, tangible and intangible enemies). Though both books are well worn, covers are bent, pages are dog-eared and smudged, I find something new in them each time I stop to read. Such was the case this morning. It should be noted that I typically flip both books open to a random page. Upon doing so with The Art of Peace, I fell upon Ueshiba’s words with a nod and an okay-you-got-me-Sensei grin. I landed on the 67th article which reads:

It is necessary to develop a strategy
that utilizes all the physical conditions
and elements that are directly at hand.
The best strategy relies
upon an unlimited set of responses.

How many times do I catch myself thinking, “If only I had, If only I could, If only there was, If only, ifonlyifonlyifonly…" The whole time I’ve got exactly what I need. In fact, we all have exactly what we need for this moment. It’s up to us to adopt what we have to our situation, needs and dreams, and it’s up to us to adapt ourselves to what we have. Only then can we move fluidly through the day. John’s words, “Adapt or Die,” are a keystone for me when I’m faced with a challenge.

I often watch the Food Network show, Chopped. Chefs are given a basket full of oddball mystery ingredients. Upon opening the basket, they get 20 minutes to combine them into an edible, presentable dish. It’s become predictable that the chefs who freeze over an ingredient, who allow themselves to become completely stymied by it, do not fare as well as the chefs who look at the ingredients and take a moment to talk themselves through it. The stymied chefs immediately fly into action working with the ingredients they’re familiar with, only to be left at the two minute warning still wondering what to do with the other ingredient. But, the chef who spends a minute taking it all in, the chef who says, “Okay, I’ve got sweet, I’ve got salty, I’ve got heavy fruit flavor, and I’ve got venison… what will tie these together?”… that chef prevails. That chef prevails simply because he or she has managed to do just what Ueshiba suggested.

I’ve gotten into a funny habit lately. When I’m feeling stuck on a project, or uninspired trying to come up with something new, I close my eyes and grab whatever color of paper I land on, and whatever stamp set my fingers first touch. Then I challenge myself to come up with a usable design in 15 minutes or less. Guess what happens? More often than not, three hours go by as I’m happily lost in the world of artistic creation, and even better, I’ve either discovered a new technique or I’m using elements I hadn’t thought of before. Why? I’m using what’s at hand and I’ve opened myself to an unlimited set of responses.

So, I pondered all of this after reading Ueshiba’s words. Then I did my random flip to a page in the Tao Te Ching. Guess what? Lightening does strike twice. In Verse 45 Lao Tzu lays it on the line all over again. (Note: The word Tao translates to the way.)

True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.

True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True art seems artless.

The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.

Sometimes we allow ourselves, more than anything or anyone else, to get in our own way. So, step aside and have an imperfectly perfect day. Now if you’ll pardon me, I’m off to unlimited my responses and lose myself to the artless wonder of the day.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Harriet & Maude Meet The Gypsy

Anyone who’s known me for all of… hmmm… maybe 30 seconds, knows that I have a highly sarcastic sense of humor. Anyone who’s known me for… oh… let’s say five minutes, knows that I have opinions. If they’re paying attention at all, they’ll understand that I’m honest and direct, but mostly reasonable. They’ll also get that, although my personality can lean toward the acerbic (amusing that one of the synonyms for that word is barbed), I really am a very kind and caring person.

Anyone who’s hung around the gypsy campfire for any real length of time knows that I don’t make apologies for who I am (unless I trip on a log and knock over your tequila), and that I have pretty much a zero tolerance for bullshit (you have John to thank for the installation of my No Bullshit Policy). They’ll know that I’m fairly laid back and relatively slow to anger. If they’ve ever been unfortunate enough to be the target of my anger - which, let’s face it, includes annoyance, hurt and disappointment - they know exactly when I’m feeling that way and they know why. I’m a good enough sport, but I don’t pull punches. I’m not a game player (unless you’ve got a crispy new deck of bicycle cards in your hand).

I believe that time has proved me to be a reliable confidant - I don’t betray trust. There are things that not even my hair dresser knows. Well, truth be told, I cut my own hair. So you can see just how far that goes. Of course, this trait is something that not everyone can accept, given that it’s reliant on their own level of trust or mistrust in other people. Still, ask anyone in my inner circle if they’ve ever told me something that they didn’t want others to know. Now ask them if they ever heard about it from others in my circle. The answer will be “No.” Even if I know that someone else knows the same thing I do, I don’t discuss it.

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this. So, enough with my preamble and on to the issue at hand.

A few months ago two different women (we’ll just call them Harriet and Maude) requested that I add them on as Facebook “friends.” They both mentioned knowing me from school. Although I didn’t remember them (I was very shy back then, and after 30 years, there are only a handful of people I really remember), I figured that was reasonable. They also mentioned that they really enjoyed my (I’m rolling my eyes here in self-deprecation) witty retorts and responses on other people’s Facebook posts. Sure, sure, fine. I added them on - the more the merrier, right?

As time went by I got to know each of them better. (It should be noted that they also knew each other.) They each took me into their confidence and poured out various heartaches and emotional issues to me. Again, fine. They both begged me not to tell anyone anything they’d said to me. Understandable. I assured them that my M.O. is to keep a confidence until my ashes get spread over Mt. Pilchuck. Even then, only the wind and rocks will know.

Occasionally, if I was quiet for a day or two (because I’m a busy girl, dammit), Harriet would email frantically asking if I was mad at her, or if I’d decided not to be her friend because of things she’d told me. I had to reassure her a few times that, were either of those an issue, she’d know without doubt. At least twice, Maude asked me if I’d said anything to anyone else about what she had told me. I reassured her as well. At this point I didn’t know if Harriet and Maude had taken each other into confidence or not, and it really didn’t matter to me. These insecurities bothered me, but I confronted them, spoke my piece in friendship, and left it at that. Everyone’s got different sensibilities and sensitivities. I know that. I mean, geez… I’m not made out of stone.

Then, the other day all hell breaks loose (because of ridiculous interpretation on their part) and I find out that these gals still have a very high school mentality, and in that spirit, they view friendship as a chance for duplicity. (Oh yes, you see the direct opposition to my No BS Policy there?) First I received an email from Harriet again asking, “Are you mad at me?” Rather than a more appropriate, “Why did you say/do what you did? I’m curious and a little hurt.” Hey, call me on my own bullshit and I’ll answer to it. So, I did respond rather curtly that I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t going to answer to her insecurities any longer. Trust my friendship or don’t, but enough already.

In return I received more distressed emails from Harriet that included text from emails she and Maude had been sending back and forth… about me! The sum of it was, to wit: Barb was sarcastic in a not funny way. Does Barb not like me any more? Has she said anything to you? Maude never approached me personally to air any of this. Had she, I would have probably been chagrined that something I said caused her such concern. Either way, I would have gladly allayed her fears. Again.

Harriet made mention of all the woeful tales that Maude had told her about her past love life (evidently the same information she’d told me that she didn‘t want anyone else on earth to know about), and she reiterated how emotionally fragile they both are at this point. She went on to figuratively wring her hands and say she didn’t want to be “caught in the middle any more.” She wanted us to all go back to being friends, and… blah blah blah. Well, golly. Seems to me you can’t be caught in the middle unless you volunteer for it. Had it been reversed and Maude had asked me if Harriet was mad at her, I would have responded, “Dunno… ask Harriet.” Done.

Am I angry at them? No. It’s really much too childish. They have, however, trampled the thing they said they wanted… my friendship. Is it unforgivable? No, not at all. But it will take a while for the garden to regrow. Trust is a two-way cultivation.

The friends I’ve had for years are people who love me without any doubt as to my character, who care without judgment, and who understand that, underneath all this phenomenal cosmic power that is Barb Black, I’m just a gypsy trying to make her way through the woods as best as I can. Ultimately, they’re people who can catch my slings n’ arrows and toss them right back at me, then laugh about it all as we rest against each other while the campfire burns low.

If you can handle that, come and sit a spell. Let’s have some marshmallows.

Side Note: To all of you out there in Internet Land... the anonymity that comes with being a faceless entity on the internet can lend itself to an ill-perceived, if not altogether false intimacy. Know your boundaries. Careful what you say out there. The walls have ears.

Side Note: I have no doubt that both Harriet and Maude will read this post, given that I will be adding the link to it on my Facebook page. To the two of you, prove yourselves by showing some grace, deal with your issues rather than wallowing in them, put on your big girl panties and get real. There's a reason that you are both "stuck" in life. And, please... rest assured that what you told me in confidence is still locked down, as it ever will be.