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THE PENDULUM SWING

THE PENDULUM SWING

My constitution is off; I can feel it. The pleasure of getting to know my body as a science project for the last seven or eight years, studying what makes it tick has opened my eyes when something is not quite right. And something is not quite right. I have lost my zazzle for my vigorous workouts, not keeping the morning workout routine I have loved and cherished. I have been eating carbohydrates like a bear getting ready for her winter cave of hibernation and sleep. I am constipated, literally holding on to old shit as I like to think of it as an esoteric message waiting for a literal and figurative breakthrough. All of this has led to a spending spree as these lapses in my life usually do- (thankfully, not a new car, though truth be told, I have been contemplating one) this time, an obsession with typewriters, buying them, typing on them and creating a new business with them as the centerpiece. Yin and Yang, one extreme to the other and I wish the pendulum would just park somewhere in the center of the swing to allow me the joy I felt again from routine and healthy eating that gives me a sense of inner strength and an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

I feel like the word, grey. Not battleship grey, absent of tone and vibrancy, but the type of grey laced with blues and purples, like a fading bruise, but not yet where the yellowy brown tones have started to show. This too shall pass, it always does, but in this whirlwind of staring off into space thinking about working out and planning my next eating plan, I signed up for a painting class. Not a painting class that is filled with structure and discipline, that is surely not my style, but an expressive arts painting class. Expressive arts in general has been part of my personal fabric since one of my first life and business mentors, Judy Chaves turned me on to its power when I was a mere twenty five. It blends creation of art, all types with guided visualizations and breath work. Its premise is to allow the heart to message and guide rather than that lovely and talkative brain of ours. The theory is that the heart is as wisdom filled as our brain, but because our brain is a perpetual chatterbox, we often don’t allow the heart enough quiet to give it room to speak.

I am a believer in its transformative process and there has not been a time when I have not had a seismic shift in my life after taking a class. Yesterday’s class was no different. The challenge of expressive arts is, in fact, to get you out of your head, to not try to “make” a piece of art, to not intentionally draw what you see in your quiet moment, but to allow whatever movement happens on paper and then go beyond. Usually with the nudge of the instructor, in this case the same art therapist that taught me at my first class twenty eight years ago, another major mentor, Susan Fox.

This class yesterday was a messy one. Painting with acrylics, using our fingers, our hands, our fingernails, stepping way out of our comfort zones with humming and movement in a room filled with like minded women all going through some sort of their own shit. Likely no accident that it collided with the day before the bad ass full moon called The Harvest Moon, a moon symbolic of gathering, storing and getting ready for the upcoming winter. A moon filled with light to clean up our gardens, pull out our jackets and start picking apples for the pies yet to be made and crock pot stews yet to be eaten.

We made four pieces of art yesterday and as I put my pastel to paper and moved my hand with my eyes closed, I shed my first tear. It came quick, because I was ready. This is the beauty of grieving loss and the transformation that can occur in its midst, I am in tune with my body, my heart and my needs so tears are exactly the release that my body needs but they don’t come on demand. Art is often their prompt for me. We also had to use our non dominant hands for both the art and the words we had to write on the paper that inevitably come up in the process. It baffles me how much I got out of this simple paradigm shift and my art was all the better for it. And this is a process, there is no beginning or end, no thing to check off our lists as Done, let’s move on. Grief doesn’t allow this; perhaps it wanes like the moon, but it also comes back in full force when it is least expected like the full light of tonight’s Harvest.

My work yesterday was not something I had planned or organized into a neat to do list to accomplish. If this is what you are looking for in Expressive Arts, then you need to sign up for a class pronto because expressive arts takes you away from that incessant female need many of us over achieving super chicks struggle with, those three elusive P’s -planning, progress and perfection. Expressive arts is about giving yourself permission for presence, process, and patience. And it is life changing every time. For anyone out there reading this where the thought of humming and movement and painting makes your stomach curdle like bad milk, take it as a sign that it is more likely just what the cosmic doctor ordered.

I have been feeling dark lately, my immune system has been compromised and as a result, I came down with a whopper of a two day stomach bug, a rare occurrence for someone who doesn’t usually get sick (except for that pesky breast cancer diagnosis, but I am for some reason not counting this in the sickness category). No surprise though because my personality usually warrants an on my knees sickness to actually give myself permission to rest. I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I have come to grips with my perpetual sense of urgency that life is short and I have a lot to accomplish. On the other side though is the full awareness that without my health, life is short and there is nothing I can accomplish. Ahh the struggle, the process. Trying to understand why an old friend decided she would no longer be an old friend in almost the same twisted way my mother decided that she no longer wanted me to contact her again ever, is the grief. Time though does assist and so does the art so here I am today feeling full with light, no longer constipated and moving through, gently and kindly. It is okay to take a rest, a nap, this was what I got out of my art yesterday, to stop being such a nag to myself and just accept where I am right now is exactly where I need to be.




in order of how I made them, I fully realize that I won’t be giving up my day job anytime soon, but this is not the point, right….?
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FOUR DAYS LEFT (part 2)

FOUR DAYS LEFT (part 2)

This past Sunday was a beautiful day. I woke up thinking, ”This is the last Sunday I will ever have with these breasts.” My dear friend and mentor, Judy Chaves, who I was fortunate to work for in my twenties for eight years, was coming over to do a charcoal drawing of me half nude. I decided to make the day kind of a ritual experience. There is something very introspective and honoring about rituals. There is a beautiful Jewish ritual I am not super knowledgeable about but know enough to give a brief description of for the purpose of this writing. It is called a Mikveh. (here are two articles on Mikveh if you want to learn more)

Mayyim Hayyim

http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm

The mikveh is a place women go to (men go to, but I don’t know much about their reasons) for a type of ritualized purification. It is a sacred place of water allowing for a ritual before or after life changing events such as weddings, menstruation, or a conversion to Judaism. Part of the definition on the site I referenced is “A mikveh is a ritual that signifies a change of status… from spiritually unready to ready.” I also saw a further definition that added to this in the second article I referenced above on Chabad.org “An elevation of status, its unparalleled function lies in its power of transformation, its ability to effect metamorphosis.”

A woman goes to a Mikveh and consciously cleans herself removing literal and figurative impurities. Under the nails, in those crevices we rush through in our day to day showers, our ears, scalp, cracks and orifices that may at times get overlooked in our busy lives. Once this is complete and the cleaning is approved of, the woman goes into the Mikveh for a ceremonial bath. Hebrew blessings are said that connect you to holiness and deep spiritual awareness. It is a stripping of outside layers, to get you to your core, to bring you to your knees.

I have only been in a Mikveh once and I don’t remember it.

Oddly it was with my mother.

When my parents eloped at 20 in 1964 and sent their very surprised parents a telegram to let them know, it was big news. Even bigger news for the Jewish side of my family as the small Jewish community of Fall River, Mass was a tight knit one and everyone knew everyone and socialized with each other. My father had recently (aka deliberately) been booted from The University of Vermont and my very annoyed grandfather got him a job at Filenes in Boston which is where he met my mother. My father was a rebel as previously mentioned in EIGHT DAYS LEFT. But when he was a young man, he was also constantly trying to give my grandparents the proverbial finger in the way he led his life. Eloping in 1964 and not being in college was likely a direct flight to Vietnam, and though he never said this, it was probably part of his thought process in running off with an Irish/Scottish/German Catholic girl from Newton, Mass. As luck would have it, Ann (my mother for those who have not read LETTER TO ANN, BOX OF WINE OR CLARITY ON ANN) was also trying to stick it to her mother, my grandmother, who Ann despised for an unknown reason from the time she came out of my grandmother’s womb. Their marriage was the perfect storm and in their partying likely sex filled connection, off they ran to New Hampshire where the legal marrying age was well under 21.

Needless to say, my father’s marriage to a non- Jew often referred to as a “Shiksa,” (cringe here) a disparaging Yiddish slang word used by most elder Jewish grandparents especially the ones who fought their way out of the Russian Pogroms like my great grandparents of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find religious and cultural freedom in the US., was not embraced with the joy that marriages usually bring to a family.

My mother, though for some reason, maybe to fit in, maybe to make my Jewish grandparents happy, maybe to stick the finger at her parents, even though my father had become the anti Jew, (you know the proverbial finger thing) decided she would convert after I was born and diligently immersed herself in a Jewish conversion class in Brookline, Mass. This conversion class is not an easy one, besides learning all things Jewish, religious, cultural, traditional, you also had to learn Hebrew and the prayers in Hebrew too. Of course I can’t ask Ann because, well, we all know by now why.

By the time she finished I was two years old and Orthodox Jewish law is that the child is born with what the mother is (reason: because we always know who the mother is, feels bizarre writing that one from my feminist fingers) so because my mother needed to convert to be considered Jewish, I did too. The Mikveh was the final step in the conversion so we went on a mother daughter trip to the Mikveh in Brookline and voila, Alayne Kathryn Horowitz (maiden name) really meant Horowitz. I give Ann a lot of credit for this. I am sure it was not easy to do this, remember she was about twenty-four by this time, so young. She had a two year old and a rebel husband who had no interest in the religion he was born into. My mother took her Judaism seriously and besides my Jewish grandparents and their parents, I would say that she was the most positive influence in my Jewish identity. This influence in turn made it really important to raise my son Jewish too and I am so grateful for this part of my world.

So this is how I ended up in a Mikveh. Don’t you feel a little smarter now?

So on Sunday before Judy came over, I took my own version of a Mikveh shower because I don’t have a bathtub (yet). I washed and cleaned and scrubbed and honored my body. I breathed. I took my time. I was fully and ‘holy’ present. I said kind things to myself. I made peace with my body, my breasts. I ‘showered’ myself with gratitude and humility acknowledging my fears, my strengths, my despair, and my blessed surroundings both outside and inside. Then I got out, dried myself off, and put on a shirt with no bra (because seriously I will no longer be needing those contraptions with my new rack, may as well get used to the freedom) and waited for Judy. Judy arrived and I took off my shirt. She sketched me. We cried. We laughed. We were two women who’s lives have intertwined since I was 23. She was the boss who took me to my first expressive arts class with Susan Fox and Barbara Ganim before all of these manufactured contrived coloring books for adults came on to the scene (because God forbid corporate should think we can come up with our own fucking coloring books and our own creativity). She was the boss who insisted we go to Kripalu in Lenox for a rest and renewal retreat. She was the boss who gave me my entrepreneurial wings in my twenties and trusted me with way outside of the box thinking about her own business. She was the boss who taught me to shake things up, to move stuff around, to be a bull in a china closet, to make changes often. When she retired, she took up art with a vengeance and she is a supreme artist now though she wouldn’t allow that tag because despite her immense personal power and her influence over countless women on Aquidneck Island who have opened up their own businesses after working for Judy, she like so many women refuse to admit and accept her own strengths.

The fact that cancer reconnected us is undefineable (why is spell check telling me this isn’t a word, fuck spell check, I’m making it a word) As she drew me, I think the experience became just as much for her as her intention was for me. Drawing a dear friend half naked a week before she is going to have her breasts removed is an unintended ritual. It literally bares your soul and brings you to your knees as what you see as an artist is also a reflection of what you see in you.

We didn’t finish the piece, Judy is coming back here on ONE DAY LEFT, but I am guessing that this piece will never be finished. If it turns out as an excuse to spend another afternoon with a woman who was like a mother to me, I actually hope we never finish it.


This is the first piece Judy did for me of a tree I love on Farewell St. in Newport, RI. She gave it to me as a baby shower gift in 1995. Full Circle.