Fountain Of Blood in The Shape Of A Woman

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My heart feels like it is breaking right now without any prompting or reality to warrant these feelings. I’ve just woken up an hour ago. Take a pill, wait half an hour, take the other pills, begin to drink coffee. I tried to snuggle with the dogs, go back to my frightening dreams, just to escape some of this morning alone. I find my own sometimes inability to be alone pathetic. Say whatever you want, no one is going to be crueler to me than I am to myself.

“You have to love yourself before you can really love someone else.”

I see these words often & I think they are bullshit. I love Edward. I love Sam. I love Lena. I love lots of people. But I cannot seem to love myself, not consistently anyway. Take care of myself – sometimes. Love myself? I don’t know. It feels like an act of vanity to try. I can pretend. I can feign confidence. I can become angry on my own behalf when I feel wronged. Sometimes this trigger is too sensitive. Sometimes every trigger is too sensitive. Often I am too sensitive. I’m afraid to take responsibility for my own life and happiness, even though Mary Oliver has told me to do so and I need to. This is vulnerability, this is the blood & guts. “Change the narrative,” my therapist keeps reminding me. My narratives are stubborn. They jump between their iterations but editing them is difficult. I think it has something to do with neural pathways that have become well-worn paths. It’s difficult to create a new path through the wilderness. It’s almost a kind of simple magic that I cannot seem to master yet.

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I am married to a man I adore who also adores me. But he’s gone so much of the time – his mind in ideas, abstractions & concepts I do not understand. He’s taking care of people who are ill, his body in other places besides next to mine. Sometimes his body is present with me but his mind is elsewhere. Sometimes I do this same thing to him, neither of us on purpose, just sometimes screens seem important. Sometimes he is entirely present with me. These times are wonderful.

When I awake in the morning and expect to see him sleeping next to me, snoring lightly as he does (familiar, family, comfort) then realize he’s already across town a feeling of mild but visceral panic sets in.

I often love hearing his stories of the people he cares for at work but I also wish I could have him all to myself. Smothering love, selfishness, greed, low self esteem, lack of independence; I don’t know what he sees in me. That’s a lie. I know what he sees in me, I do not understand how he finds it lovable, why he wants to be married to it. Most men who approach me see only the surface level – thin legs, breasts, long hair, an hourglass figure, a relatively symmetrical face – that is why they come. He’s seen it all – the giddiness, my gaping blackhole of need, the silliness, the desire to burn it all to the fucking ground, the deep shame, the depression, the despair, the darkness, the panic attacks, the perfectionism, the pettiness, the neuroticism, the mania, the laziness, the impulsivity, the cruelty, the breakdowns, the baggage, the hunger, the fury, my strange mix of dependence & independence, the affection. We began dating shortly after I tried to kill myself. He knew what he was getting into, he reassures me of this. Yet I do not understand.

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What is it I am trying so hard to say? Trying so hard not to say?

I don’t know where we will be next year, here or there, and the year after that is another mystery. Black & white thinking, I cannot see some of my family in shades of grey. All people should be seen in shades of grey – everyone is some good & some bad.

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I lose and find connection so easily, so suddenly. With Edward, with new friends, with old friends. It doesn’t take much to connect or disconnect. I grieve my ghost lives (the ones I might have lived) even though I am mostly happy, mostly content, in my current one. I worry that I am a hipster, that I am not a real artist, that I am becoming a boring housewife at 26, that I will never really find my tribe, that I will always feel like I am on the outside looking in, that I will rarely feel like the protagonist of my own story.

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Trying to get back into artist mode

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For a while, I lose my balance. There is too much nesting & not enough artist-ing. My life often feels like it is about avoiding extremes. I am a libra in the truest sense – the symbol: the scales, always seeking a happy medium. I try to get everyday things done while also trying to make something that will last. I try to avoid the extremes of depression and mania. I try to keep my blood sugar from being too high or too low.

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I am diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease & now my thyroid becomes another thing that needs to be monitored. It’s not a bad blow – I figure that compared to the seemingly endless attention that my type 1 diabetes requires, even with the new insulin pump & CGM, taking a pill once a day & letting my doctor add another test to my lab work every three months is small potatos. My mother also has Hashimoto’s. There are many autoimmune disorders that can be co-morbid with type 1 diabetes & I’d rather have Hashimoto’s like my mother than Celiac like my grandmother.

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I realize I am doing too much nester work and not enough artist work so I come up with a sort-of routine. Put the clothes in the laundry – if it gets full, run it. Pick things up off the floor and run my little robot vacuum. Throw any forgotten garbage away – if the bin is full then take the bag outside. Clean up the kitchen, wipe down the counters, sweep the laundry room & kitchen floors with the broom. Wash the bedding as needed. Water some of the indoor plants (there are too many to reasonably water all of them in one go) & the outdoor plants if it’s been dry weather recently. This is my little routine. I usually get it done early in the day, then I have plenty of day left to spend in my artist studio where I am either absorbed in a book, trying to create something or planning the creation of something. My little dog, Lena, is always in her bed in my studio when I’m in here. When I’m elsewhere in the house, she’s there. She’s my little shadow. I project onto her. Edward has learned that when I ask him if he thinks Lena looks anxious it means my anxiety is beginning but I am not aware of it yet.

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I have to go to the ER twice in two weeks. Infection – angry, painful, red, spreading. I finally find a doctor who specializes in breasts & she is the coolest. She tries to teach Edward how to read a breast sonogram while she does mine because she knows he is in medical school. Edward is 6’4″ tall & she is about his height. I joke with her & adore her because she is so friendly. I didn’t used to understand why most doctors tended to be so cold to their patients most of the time but after hearing about Edward’s interactions with patients during his third year rotations, I have a better idea. They just get burnt out on people being stupid & causing themselves health trouble with bad decision making, stubbornness and/or stupidity. I have a new second-favorite doctor. No one is going to top my psychiatrist. No one at the ER can tell me why I’ve gotten mastitis twice in two weeks despite antibiotics. It’s strange for a non-breastfeeding woman to develop this infection in the first place. I make a few jokes about how my maternal insects for my dogs have apparently gotten out of control. The cool doctor I see tells me she doesn’t have an answer either, sometimes this just happens. I can accept that answer.

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My therapist and I set a goal for myself for the time between one weekly appointment & the next: I am to drive around Montgomery alone in the car, no Lena with me, and see how I do. My anxiety/panic disorder makes agoraphobia crop up sometimes and I am surprised when I realize I haven’t left the house without Edward, Lena or a friend in almost two months. Something about being out in the world alone feels wrong – unsafe, frightening, my body telling me to flee back to the place it assumes is safest, “go home, child.” I ace my homework. I get extra credit. Three times during the week I drive somewhere entirely on my own BUT I even go into stores by myself. I manage to go into WALMART alone, which is a huge challenge for me even when my anxiety is at a lower hum instead of the raging storm it’s been. The storm is starting to subside & it’s wonderful, liberating, a massive sigh of relief.

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A new friend turns out to be crazier than I thought and rips me apart for saying her boyfriend “needs to get his shit together” despite the fact that she complains about him not respecting her almost constantly to me. She sends me such a long tirade via text message about how awful I am that it takes me 5 minutes to read. Good riddance, I suppose. I keep in mind that’s she’s only 22, she’s mentally ill, most of her ideas about the world are totally batshit (she thought the government-illuminati were stealing money from her that she could get back) & she’s unmedicated. This is what I tell myself so I am not as sad about losing the only friend I’ve really made in my new city since moving here in May.

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I take to playing a 10 hour long soundtrack of thunderstorms when I am anxious, home alone or both. The thunder & rain sounds soothe me. I don’t know why exactly. They just make home feel cozier – call me a little bit hygge.

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Again I have the desire to branch out into new mediums of art. It’s been a while since I’ve done anything besides take photographs or write. I turned the storage room into a universe for a ritual but other than that I’ve been pretty creatively dry. I want to start doing collages again. I want to learn to paint (even if I turn out not to have any talent for it) & to draw. One night I buy watercolor pencils for Edward & I to play with on a free evening. I buy a little turquoise sketchbook for $5 so I can keep my doodles in one place. I hope I’ll see some progress as the pages become filled front-to-back. I want to start knitting again – you’d be surprised how much knitting you can get done during a phone call or while listening to a good mystery novel. I don’t know how to knit anything fancier than a tiny blanket or a scarf, and even then only using one stitch, but it’s relaxing.

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Thanks to my new medication, it’s been over 3 weeks since I’ve had a panic attack. Right now is a happy time & I’m doing my best to enjoy it. My painting supplies are supposed to arrive today (including 12 little canvases) so I can begin that. On Wednesday I get to go into Birmingham with Edward (he has to do a presentation) & see Mackenzie & I am very excited about that – it’s been way to long. Edward will mostly be studying for his shelf exam when he’s home until it’s over on Friday so I’m especially grateful for these creativity I’ve been feeling. I hope it lasts for a while.

Labor Day Weekend

Things are looking up, but it might just be because it’s Labor Day weekend and I get Edward home for three days straight! We’ll see how I’m feeling on Tuesday when it’s back to real life. Here are a few more photographs from the safari park Mackenzie & I visited a few weekends back.

Yesterday my mother-in-law visited and we were ALL so happy to see her! Sam & Lena when nuts when she showed up! Also she & Beatrice were instant friends – I started jokingly calling her the cat whisperer because Beatrice took to her so quickly. We went to the Montgomery Art Museum & ate a lot of vegetarian sushi & went to the dog park so she could see what it was like to run around with Sam & 20 other friendly pups. It was a wonderful day. I was sad when she left to go back to Birmingham, I hope she comes back soon. I got to show her Edward & my wedding photos, which was a really wonderful moment become when we first kind of “eloped” she was not thrilled about it. But we’ve been married for almost 2 years now & I think she has grown to love me.

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Finding My Tribe

For a long time now, I’m been wanting a tribe of woman friends – and I feel like I am beginning to have one. They don’t all live in the same city as me – but we all have something in common. Mackenzie & I met on an app while I was living in Birmingham looking for models while going through a fashion photography phase. I was anxious about losing her when we moved to Montgomery in May but she’s come to visit me pretty regularly. Last time she visited we went to Alabama Safari Park. Last time Edward & I went to a Safari park in Georgia (my first time at one) the petting zoo part made me cry because all of the animals seemed so trapped & miserable, but this one was different. There was also a massive aviary with lots of parakeets in in that you could feed. Mackenzie has such a soft spot for animals. She’s a bit wary of cats, even Beatrice, but she loves Sam to pieces. She likes his nickname, Moose, because that was her animal name at summer camp once as a child. Also, how could anyone not love Sam?

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Another woman friend I have in my tribe is Jessica. She was the first friend I made in Birmingham. I haven’t seen her since I moved to Montgomery but we still text sometimes and she always has the best things to tell me. Jessica is my spiritual friend. She recently texted me a book recommendation & we talked about starting a little two person, over the phone book club. She’s a blogger too, which is how we met (at the one & only blogging meet-up either of us ever attended) and spent a ridiculously kind amount of time trying to help me figure out what my blog’s problem was when it was at artistashuman.com and glitching out. She’s wicked smart and also loves animals & plants & has the most beautiful, easy-going style I have ever seen.

I meet them in unexpected places. I met a woman named Jessie at the dog park on Sunday and we hit it off so she & her dog, Pig, came over to our house for like 5 hours yesterday and we just talked & talked & talked while Sam & Pig played. It was amazing! I’ve been so isolated since I moved to Montgomery – I’ve literally said to Edward, “How can I find another woman friend who doesn’t work during the day to spend time with me and is understanding of my anxiety struggles? How do I even begin to look for such a person?” Then appears Jessie. I feel like I almost willed her into being lmao. Her man is in law school (read: busy like Edward), she LOVES dogs & is super intuitive about them, she doesn’t work right now because her anxiety is also through the roof & SHE NEEDS SOMEONE TO HANG OUT WITH DURING THE DAY OR ELSE SHE’S KINDA TRAPPED AT HOME – sound familiar?

We all have mental health struggles in common, all of the women in my little spread out tribe. And a love of animals. There’s something about us that just finds & understands each other because of it I think. There’s some kind of magnetism between those of us who have brains that don’t function quite along the rules they are “supposed to.” Maybe it’s because when the rest of the world is telling you to just “not be” depressed or manic or anxious or “too much” or whatever it is, and you meet someone who knows those feelings & can relate to them instead of trying to just tell you to basically “pull yourself out of it,” you feel seen. We recognize each other. We find each other.

Magpie Anxiety

“There is a time for growing, there is a time for hibernating, there is a time for basking in the sun. Right now, this is a time for making good soil. Allow the things that need to break down to break down. Shake off the dead leaves. Weather the hard knocks that are shaping you. Breathe into the new spaces even though the air is sharp and stings sometimes. It won’t always be like this but right now, it needs to be. I have faith that I am where I need to be. Always on the path, always pulled in the right direction.” Aislin Fall 

I’m a magpie lately, collecting things I hope will help me cope with my anxiety – books, words, inspiration, knit stitches across my bamboo needles, guppies, fresh flowers in the vase once a week, chores, errands… I saw this quote on Instagram the other day & it resonated with me though, so I am sharing it here.

A Room To Be An Artist

After experiencing having my first designated “studio” room as an artist, I don’t think I can ever go back. Having a designated & private place to work & create makes my artistic practices feel more legitimate – it makes me feel more like an artist. Before I had a studio, when I’d just work in bed or on the couch or on the floor, I was always distracted by other things that needed to be done. While I was trying to write a post or edit images or collage or whatever my artistic practice entailed that day, I’d be constantly reminded of the other responsibilities I had. I could see the dirty dishes in the kitchen, the laundry on the floor, the floors that needed to be swept, the bedding that needed to be washed.

I’ve gotten a lot more done creatively since having a studio room in our little rented house. To be fair, I often photograph other places than inside my studio & my recent installation-kinda-art project (“A Universe For Us”) was built in the room next to my studio. Yesterday I was away from my studio for 6 hours because I was shooting for a grant I received recently from Advocates For Youth to be part of their 1-in-3 Photography Project.

But my studio is my home-base. I’ve taken great care in decorating it. I have two fish tanks on my desk – one filled with a rainbow of tetras & guppies, the other home to my beta fish, Ghost, who has to live alone because he is highly aggressive. I have a freckled, dark purple orchid, a succulent that has grown to look like a bonsai tree & a bella palm Beatrice (our cat) took way too much interest in before I moved it up on the shelves. I have shelves that look like honeycomb that hold little paintings, crystals, a book & framed polaroid images. I regularly add new things to the walls. I have a shelf full of photo albums & books (mostly to do with art) that I’ve already read or been meaning to read. I have a monstera plant in a white pot by the french doors that lead out onto the back deck. 

In the morning when I wake up, my studio is the first place I go. I spend most of my days in here when Edward is working at the hospital. I drag Sam’s massive dog bed in so I have even more canine company while I work. 

I often do non-artist things in here like paying bills, listening to a novel while knitting, cleaning my aquariums, watching Sharp Objects on Mondays or another show I’m into when a new episode or season is out. Sometimes I watch movies. Sometimes I accidentally drink too much coffee in here and it makes me jittery & anxious. I change my insulin pump infusion sets in here. I check my blood sugar 2 or 3 times a day. I keep my tripod, my camera equipment & a box that still needs to be unpacked from the move in the corner.

A Universe For Us / A Ritual Completed

We did the recommitment-style ritual in the little “universe” I created for us on Saturday. We repeated our vows from our wedding, we read each other things we’d written for each other about our love, each other, the struggles & surprises our marriage has survived so far – it was all very sweet & full of love & made me so giddy. I wish it had lasted longer.

At the very end Edward put an opal ring on my finger. I still love my original engagement ring but it’s rather delicate & I wanted something sturdier I could wear around without worrying about losing something emotionally irreplaceable if a stone fell out. Here’s what Edward had to say about my idea to use opal as the stone for this new ring:

“Opal is the perfect stone for recommitment because it is ever-changing in different lights and perspectives. Yet there is still a constancy to its appearance. The differences are great enough to be enchanting but minor enough to keep an easily recognizable form. The night sky also changes every night and over time but keeps its recognizable form. So to with the universe itself. String theory predicts that tiny universes are springing forth from all of space every second. Dimensions within dimensions ad infinitum. Before your very eves a new cosmos may be born without your awareness. Within this paradoxic consistent chaos let us create our own universe. We can’t do away with the chaos but we can temper it with our love and commitment. This is my ultra Edward way of saying that your creative mind hit upon a brilliant emblem for our love that my stilted hyper educated mind is still appreciating. As I said, you continue to amaze me.”

Here are some photographs I took of us after the ritual:

“I take you to be no other than yourself.  Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, with respect for your integrity and faith in your love for me.  Through all years and all that life may bring us, I will strive everyday to make our relationship stronger.  My promise to you today is to be your friend, your love and your partner for all the days of our lives – in sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, in anger and in peace, in success and in failure.”

Those were the vows at our wedding. As Edward said during the ritual, the vows of a wedding are, in a way, easier to make than the vows of recommitment because when you get married you don’t really know what’s going to happen. With recommitment vows, you’ve gotten to know each other on a deeper level, the wonderful parts of each other & the less than wonderful parts.

All I can say is I love this man to death & back. I am super lucky to have him & I don’t care what the future brings for him and I, I’ll be wherever he is.