I haven't spoken about my disease much, it's difficult to comprehend and to explain in words and sometimes my cognitive abilities aren't up to the task. All of this is part of the Fibromyalgia disease, along with it's bedfellows, depression and anxiety.
I was diagnosed early last year and experienced an abrupt escalation of many of the symptoms of this chronic neuroimmune disease in July
So when I launched this project it was an experiment and a longing - a chance to create, perhaps stimulate my taxed brain with colorful paper scatterings. Rather innocently, I thought...
The Good Trigger: Two months ago, I was thrilled to stumble upon a you tube video tutorial by Steffogal1 for her super cute and easy journal.
For my project, started in the a week ago in the midst if Christmas preparations on the unusually balmy days in south Carolina, I simply started off with a sheet of the 12X12, not knowing how important this simple step would be to the path of my healing.
The Sad Trigger: The tragedy and loss of so many lives once filled with happiness, hope and potential, in Newtown, Connecticut, is a trigger for everyone with access to a TV or computer to address their own issues of loss, as well as their value systems, humanitarian philosophies and meaningful roles in society. I couldn't bear to address the issue head on. since my nine-year old granddaughter learned of terrifying act from the news. She's an introspective girl, one who observes and broods and I know she has lost some of her innocence because of this. Each generation has it's tragedy, one they never really put away. I suffered through nuclear bomb drills when I was in middle and high school, although I didn't realize why my mother cried all night and let us sleep with her on the eve of the Cuban Missile Crisis until I was and adult. then came the shock of assassinations of President and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, while I was a senior in high school and shortly afterwards, the death of my cousin who was shot by a sniper on Hamburger Hill the first week he parachuted in Viet Nam. The 30 to 40 year-olds saw their world forever changed and lost their own innocence due to 9/11 and now those who are under twenty have now lost their sense of safety, security and innocence due to the mass murders we've suffered through over the past few years. I can't barely think of what my life would be like now, if Kendall had been in that school. I can't hardly bear to hear her talk and ask questions about it and both her mother and I have a hard time often break down when it comes on TV. WE can't take the pain away and we bring those angels back, but the first steps of healing the world, begin with healing our personal wounds. This journal ended up being a healing process, although I didn't envision it that way when I began. but it was even as I worked on it but more so afterwards as I contemplate it. I would hope that each and every family and towns person of Newtown can find a way to heal and also pay homage to those children's, teachers and school administrators lives as well as the first responders who need a way to get those initial scenes out of their head. Whether it be art or humanitarian efforts or politics - action relieves anxiety and creativity fosters healing.
The Start of the Project: To start I chose a paper from a paper stack entitled, Engraved Garden, aptly titled, although i didn't know it at the time. I chose it due to my affinity for the crow as a bird and perhaps for even more powerful reasons in relation to the cultural themes of a highly pivotal time in my life. I was very moved by The Crow, the graphic novel by James O'Barr as well as the movie The Crow directed by Alex Proyas based on O'Barr's masterpiece. The film with it's itself was profound and powerful enough but with the tragic loss of Brandon Lee during it's filming in North Carolina, a part of my spirit was reminded of the entwined meanings of death and loss, love that reaches beyond the grave. He's a messenger between this world and the next, this world and the depths, this world and our subconscious.
He suits and guides me in my interest mourning practices, perhaps because my father died when I was 5 years old and I wasn't allowed to grieve. My mother thought it best not to talk about it, so I endured with my only connection left to my father - a photo of him sitting on an iron rail fence beneath a fruit laden grape arbor at the home of my aunt and uncle in Lawrence, Mass.
The Inner Dialogue: I've come to believe America is amiss in rushing the grieving processes. The idea is to bear up, smile so as not to make others uncomfortable and return to work or whatever your everyday life entails as soon as possible so as not to stop the flow of commerce. This is a grave mistake. It produces a near impenetrable wall to soul building, if tragedy and loss is never explored, and the discouragement of grieving not stopped.
Death loss and grief, major transformational stages of life, while painful, lead to revelations, depth of character, and a fully engaged spirit. Ignored, parts of us are bidden to some unseen land of forgetting, only to emerge suddenly, as shocking as a jack in the box, "the joke's on us," implies that leering sadistic grin.
Instead, if we understand how periods of grief tend to teach us a great deal about ourselves through loss; about love, depth, and the true value of our time here, we have the chance to become a fully authentic individual. The inner struggle and journey through the dark places eventually lead to to open doors at the tops of stairs where an essential soulful life await. - If only we have the courage and are not stopped in our tracks by those who are afraid. Waking up to grief is a necessary step and a means of waking up to life. .
So back to the first page, I added a charm of the cemetery sculpture of a veiled mourning woman - the beginning stage of my personal journey. On the mauve colored flower, a very Victorian color since it was invented in the late 1800's, are tiny black spiders, symbols of the web of life.
On the second and third pages, I started out with a pocket made from a 2001 note card by Robert Frederick Ltd. that I couldn't bear to mail away. It depicts depicting John William Waterhouse's beautiful Pre-Raphaelite painting The Lady of Shallot (1888) - this has long been an important painting in my search for soul and meaning as it represents one must set forth into the unknown despite the dangers which might be encountered. The painting was based on Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem, written in 1832 - The Lady of Shallot, where a maiden is locked in a tower and can only view a knight who rides by in a mirror. Once the mirror cracks, she feels she must go seek him our and sets of in her boat, dressed in white, floating through water lilies (both symbols of innocence seeking Camelot.
Throughout this journal are pockets and tags - places to record dreams or save insights, jot down lists or add photos symbolic of the journey.
Our red-headed young woman does encounter love but loss, as well, as we all do.
On the next page is an journaling area, although the winged pens seem to represent my the fast flight of my thoughts into the aether these days. Below, is a photo of a statue which is in my garden - She stands amidst the camellia and azalea, her feet hidden in ivy, representing Demeter or Ceres - the goddess of growth and fertility, but also the mother of Persephone or Hecate. Demeter/Ceres must bear witness to her daughter being abducted to the underground (our subconscious) by Hades or Pluto.
The fourth and fifth pages are about growth, blossoming, blooming to full flower and adulthood, Life is vital and vibrant, alive and alluring. The poppy foil and gilt envelope and a photo book highlight the promise of abundance, the call to lose oneself in nature, the summons to immerse oneself in the senses, the enchantment of new experiences, offerings, pleasures. On the 5th page the botanical tag barely hides one of my sketches of a nude woman with her back turned towards the viewer in the first stages of her learning to be vulnerable, but perhaps not quite open and carefree.
On the 6th and 7th page, I chose an Art Nouveau woman holding a crow. This woman, mature and unafraid, decides to live a bohemian life given over to art, writing, reading, music and love. She holds the crow, a reminder that death must be acknowledged, and how its acknowledgement proves life is sweet and precious - gift so important, it should be savored each and every day.
On the 7th page, the art noveau tag is made from metallic copper card stock - copper is the element , which in the Hermetic traditions of alchemy was connected with love, and later in chemistry with connectivity, electricity, cauterization. The copper and blue paisley border reinforces the gypsy element of this stage of
The 8th and 9th pages represent two more stages of a woman's life, first her abduction again to the underworld, an experience which is re-enacted over and over through fathers, boyfriends, lovers and husbands. Because woman is emotional with a rich internal life, she fear she must give up parts of herself to be committed to a relationship or to marry. The 8th page with it's hues of reds and oranges is passionate - demonstrating all the emotions connected with these colors: passion, lust, anger. I cut this illustration from a label of Trader Joe's Apple Cider as it represented these emotions in a unique and powerful way - as the man leads the woman up a ladder - to the heights of passion and life experience, yet she refuses and struggles to escape, afraid of loss of self. The tag further illustrates her confusion filled with promise and guises she doesn't know whether to trust or not. The tag is tucked into the bottom border of a bowed Cupid's mouth, serious, closed and silent.
On the 8th page, our woman does indeed lose herself - in bearing children. this page is an explosion of life and the joys of motherhood and how losing oneself to the innocence of children, is a life giving experience. This theme is emphasized by the botanical card in the background of a lily, an long time symbol of innocence. The other tag, tells a different story made of lime green cross-hatched card stock, while it depicts the shade of new life, it also has a more important message - the interconnection, the weaving of lives and souls and futures.
The final two pages represent the woman who has come to terms with her life.
This tag: with a journaling tag like a mirror into the soul, and an additional tag of luxurious, deeply-hued magenta flowers, voluptuous and inviting, the red of passion altered, but not muted, instead enriched with the depth of experience - of love and loss, but now rampantly the reds and pinks are deepened into mauve and burgundy through experience, reflection, insight and resolve.
On the 10th page, once again, I used a Robert Frederick note card of Proserpina by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. This goddess, also know as Persephone, Rossetti saw as the empress of Hades - queen of the underworld, who has become adept at exploring her subconscious depths. She is no longer an unwilling victim, but now a mature and resolved woman, aware that to be fully authentic, she must also reside in the liminal world of Hades for half of her each year to become a fully authentic individual in her own right. She is adept at delving into the past and her subconscious through dreams, stillness, silence or meditation, and she'll continue to partake of the pomegranate because such journeys to the depths are imperative to soulmaking.
I tucked a tag I found at the side of the road once while walking - a scientific specimen card of the lunar, a perfect addendum to tuck into the Proserpina pocket as a symbol of a being whose greatest insights are discovered in the depths of the dark., while at the same time illuminating the night with its luminous life-colored wings and its observant golden eyes.
The Revelation and Resolutions: Now the journey is ended. While working on this boudoir journal, I was too busy to pay attention to the pain, too involved to feel like I needed to go sleep, too frantic to stop. Once I started, I couldn't stop working, laying out, reaching into the scraps and broken pieces of my life trying to fit them together.
I finished it in one day and although I felt the pain big time after I finished, the trek through my own personal underground or Hades was worth it.
And now as I write this, I discover things I didn't know - the paths of my life so obvious laid out this way, shrouded in mist until now, as I put the fragments together.
Issues came to light, past decisions were explored, questions arose and some answered. More importantly, I found resolution - without any assistance from my conscious mind at all. It was all delivered one through my hands and a part of the brain I can't access on command. But now I know it's there and waiting - a higher self, an inner guide, a wiser deeper voice - one that says - yes there's loss and abduction, refusal and abandonment, but also, also there are so many gifts, so many illuminating numinous moments to savor, treasure and tuck away, once released from this Pandora's box we call life, but with attention - waiting to wrapped in the healing ribbons, the themes of our lives, until ready to be tucked away for safe keeping in pockets made of shreds and tatterings.
As of yet, I'm still too confused to confront the myriad confusing emotions I'm feeling after Newtown. I do appreciate each moment with the people I love more, and more emphatically believe that each individual has the power to alter the world. I'm just not sure how.
For now all I can is speak from the narrow pocket of the universe where I'm sequestered, due to my current struggle with fibromyalgia and it's unpredictable symptoms.
Dr. Oz did a two part series on the disease and there are many research studies ongoing with the ability to scan the brain's activities and there's even been some talk of stem cell research for fibro. One recent brain study, reported and updated in a paper, February 27th, 2012, by neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
"In the patients, that same mild pressure also produced measurable brain responses in areas that process the sensation of pain," says Clauw. "But the same kind of brain responses weren't seen in control subjects until the pressure on their thumb was more than doubled."
Though brain activity increased in many of the same areas in both patients and control subjects, there were striking differences too. Patients feeling pain from mild pressure had increased activity in 12 areas of their brains, while the control subjects feeling the same pressure had activation in only two areas. When the pressure on the control subjects' thumbs was increased, so did their pain rating and the number of brain areas activated. But only eight of the areas were the same as those in patients' brains.
So while the many people who suffer from Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme Disease, struggle everyday, trying new medications and methods, don;t forget to look at some form of art therapy to express your pain, coconfusion, eventual comprehension and acceptance and even an ability to try and rise above it.