Chicago

Artist’s Way, Week 7-Almost tossing in the towel

There have so far been two times I almost tossed in the towel during the Artist’s Way. The first time was the second week in, because I simply didn’t have the energy to wake up early enough to both workout and write morning pages. I had only just started my workout routine and resented being thrown off that path so soon and replace it with morning pages. I prioritized writing over exercise as usual though, and now I’m glad I made that decision. It is insane how after two months, my entire lifestyle has now changed, and I’ve been able to work both these things in addition to sleeping meditation.

A little more than halfway, I wanted to give up again, this time because it was the second week in a row where things felt so rushed that I wasn’t able to enoy the fruits of reflection that the exercises had to offer.

Believe it or not, I did not get much out of the collage, which from what I’ve been seeing on the Facebook, is several people’s favorite part. I managed to scrounge together a little under ten magazines, and she only gave us twenty minutes to flip through quickly and pick images that fir our life or interests. The thing is, she also wanted us to have twenty images, and in order to get that many, I had to stretch my time into thirty minutes. It struck me how appropriate one of my magazines was for this collage, and how one of them I didn’t cut a single thing. And of course being a perfectionist, even though I don’t really refer to the magazines anymore, I hate the idea of devaluing them by cutting into them, or what a person would think if I lent it to them, or if I accidentally cut out a part of an article that mattered to me. In any case, I ended up with a mostly cliched collage-love, working out, travel, excitement…the one thing I was very surprised by was how many phrases I found that matched the idea of growth (a quarter of the images surrounded just that). I was also pleasantly surprised I found things surrounding natural healing and healthy eating habits–something I’ve been working at for years.

Thanks to the exercises, I also wound up in a Buddhist temple, got to light incense in honor of what the Buddha represented, and got invited to join in a class. I was out of town on Sunday, otherwise I would have attended their Sunday service just to see what it was like. I still intend to this upcoming weekend. It’s funny because I was sad that I missed the Chicago Architectural Tour where they opened all these amazing buildings to the public for the weekend–and this temple was one of them. It’s funny because I’ve considered myself spiritual but not religious. For a while in college I was looking for a religion that fit me, and although Buddhism appealed to me (Both because I had friends who followed it and I liked that it dealt with enlightenment more than an omnipotent power. Additionally they seemed non-judgmental of other religions and more accepting overall). However when I tried to follow it in college I just felt pretentious, mainly because most of the people at my school seemed to use it as an intellectual/spiritual superiority over us uninformed non-Biddhists. I really didn’t want to join in on this or “fake it ’til I made it.” How ironic that after three years of practicing nonreligious spirituality, that circumstances would lead me back to Buddhism. It’s funny because everyone has been recommending meditation and rhis would be a supportive network to start doing that.

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Crammed into a Tight Space (Artist’s Way, Week Six)

I am now officially halfway through the Artist’s Way. I am technically on the third day of week seven, but I’d like to  recap week six here. The theme was recovering a sense of abundance. This week was actually the most challenging to complete all the activities by far. Everything felt so rushed and doing it for the sake of doing it that the activities had lost their magic. For example, I had to collect five leaves and five pretty rocks. Had I been in the suburbs in my house growing up, it would have been an exploratory process of my front and backyard much like my childhood years,and I would have been able to choose. Instead, I ended up picking five leaves during my morning jog of five different shapes, some that were a bit dirty and wet. It felt more like rushing to complete homework for science. Since I am in the city, nowhere around me seemed to have rocks. I finally found five tiny grey rocks that were about as romantic as the pavement. Again, this felt like just taking the only rocks I saw, for homework.

Clearing went a little better. Surprisingly, I was able to get rid of three articles of clothing (okay, underwear, but still). I felt a little thrilled and rebellious to throw out something that was once my favorite, even though there were no holes in them. I don’t know why Julia Cameron keeps specifying articles of clothing. Living in a studio, I have minimized a lot of my wardrobe already. I did set aside a few articles of clothing to give away, but I won’t be able to until I see my friend or go to a donation center. I also cleared out some of my kitchen pantry and give away some teas I never used.

Creation-I’ve been making sweet potatoes pretty regularly for the last two weeks, so I didn’t feel like this would count as my baking activity. I decided to finally bake some spaghetti squash that I had received as a birthday present from my team lead last month (woops! I swear it was still good). However, even this felt more like a part of my regular life and responsibilities than a fun creative dessert like the kind I would make in my childhood, where I would pick a recipe from my grandmother’s cookbook and discover all the spices and ingredients my mom already had in the house.

Communication-I was actually already intending to send postcards to my friends (last month I bought them off Etsy), but I am glad the Artist’s Way prompted me to actually go through with it. Maybe next time I’ll do five different people. I did this on the airplane on my way to Minnesota, and gave myself the most time to do this activity, so I will say that this one activity felt special to me.

Of course I forgot to do the Artist’s Prayer and read page three every day. Week two was the only week I was on point with doing daily affirmations and reading page three. All other weeks where I was supposed to do daily activities, I just did on the days I managed to remember. I did manage to track all my expenses for the week however.The tracking made me behave better unintentionally, even though we’re not supposed to police.

Making changes to my home environment-I ended up double dipping this activity with my homework for the “Source Course” I have now just enrolled in. I added onto my preexisting altar, and started a new one specifically for the Source Course. I challenged myself to pick things that had never been on an altar. I picked the eucalyptus Nan-a friend I made on the train-had given me, which is especially appropriate as a symbol of healing. Next I chose a Gustav Klimt postcard of a woman in red holding a snake wrapped around her arm–symbolic of the Magician in my Gustav Klimt tarot deck. Finally, I chose the butterfly shadow box that said “Let the Miracle Happen.” I remember when I saw it in Minnesota, I was torn up about whether to get it or not, and my best friend Fatima convinced me to indulge a little. Ironically, it ended up being on sale any ways. I didn’t get to add posters to my walls like I wanted, and there wasn’t much else to change since my studio is pretty much all set.

Week seven is off to a much better start-I’ll tune you in once that’s done!

 

 

 

 

Night at the Green Mill

Last Sunday evening, I was rushing to find an artist’s date for the week. Luckily I remembered while looking for ideas the weekend before, that the Green Mill had a slam poetry night that Sunday. I checked to see if it was a regular thing, and sure enough, it was! I’d always meant to go since I moved to Uptown, and it was only a ten minute walk for me.

When I first walked in, I didn’t know what to expect. My focus was initially on the dim lighting, the hum of conversations from the booths, the people seated at the bar. I circled the bar and became frantic as I realized all the seats were taken. I gave a sigh of relief as I found folding chairs leaning against one of the tables, and sat myself at the end of the bar. Now, I was able to focus on the nostalgic feel of a bar from another era, the walls in faded golds like an old movie theater. I could truly see myself in the 1940’s. A waitress interrupted me to let me know I was blocking the waitress area, and seated me at the end of the front row tables. I got a clear view of the front stage, where a jazz band was playing beneath a “Green Mill” sign in green light up cursive letters. My heart skipped at the thought that maybe I had come at the wrong night, that the website had been outdated and this was actually jazz night. As a precaution, I asked the woman next to me if this was in fact slam poetry night. I’m glad I did, because not only did she reassure me, but she also introduced me to the scene. It turns out Julia was one of the organizers, and that this week’s theme was the “French Connection.” People from France actually flew in to participate in poetry night! I was in awe. It was nice to make a friend to talk to and laugh with, and who welcomed me to the community. Julia is a woman in her forties, with short layered hair and a smile that lights up her whole face. Her laugh is infectious, and she reaches out to touch your shoulder when she gets excited and wants to tell you something.

It was interesting because I was sitting so close to the guy next to me that I couldn’t reach into my pocket without bumping into him. I apologized and got embarrassed, and after that I could tell that he kept wanting to talk to me throughout the show. I overheard him speak french, and thought he might be a part of the French Connection. It wasn’t until the second intermission that he did. He sat down next to me and segued smoothly into conversation, which was good because I felt awkward. I found out he was a French Brazilian who had lived here in Chicago for four years, and saw him in a different light. He had side-swept hair, glasses, and a trace of a mustache on his upper lip. He also had a bit of an accent. He wants to move to a different country, and since he has a lot of friends in Africa, he thinks he will go to Tanzania and some other places. I wish I could so easily say that I was moving to a different country. After finding out I came here alone, he also added me on Facebook to let me know if he and his friends were going to any more shows, as he used to go alone too. He mentioned being nervous about his poem about the CTA, and hoping the judges were from Chicago or it might not make sense. I was confused before I realized that he was participating in a slam poetry contest.

People here were friendly in general, as during the first intermission, when the seats cleared between us, one of the girls from the open mic slid over next to me and introduced herself. She had short poofy sand colored hair, a red infinity scarf, and a lovely smile. She said she was born in France and “moved over here when I was just a tadpole.” I remember her poem was something about pink flamingos rising from the grass with their consumer farts. It was fascinating to me how many new people I was drawing in simply for existing, not ever for doing a reading. It did seem like this was a community where old timers knew all the words to the intro songs and the ending songs, and newcomers were welcomed alike.

The night was broken up into three parts: open mic poetry, French and English translation performance groups, and slam poetry contest.

Open mic opened with a “virgin” reader named Samantha. She opted to use the band, which plays along to the beat of the poem, and told them to play something spooky Halloween-y to match her poem that says Trick or Treat a lot in it. Next, a more seasoned older man with a white beard wanted to read about Chicago violence and blood on the streets. “We’re off to a great start,” the host joked. Next was a woman named Emily, also a long timer, who made a poem based on a conversation she had with a French painter who had survived the Holocaust. Among the first timers was also a girl who lived in Seattle, who quit her job and moved to Chicago because she had a dream that told her to come here. There was an African American who read about the current political state and a relationship with girl. There was an old timer Hispanic who was allowed to read two poems, both seeming to revolve around bilingual speech, love and music. There was also a funny Polish guy who asked for gypsy Fleetwood Mac polka music, as his first memory revolved around listening to Fleetwood Mac with his dad. He read about the first memory of his father, who he thought was going to heaven, hell or prison. He was worried about his boy’s first memory, but decided that either way it wouldn’t matter, because they would remember singing to Pantera, the way he had listened to Fleetwood Mac with his father.

Part Two was an overlapping performance of English laced with French, where they spoke lines between and over one another in order to do both language versions of the poem.

Part Three involved the slam poetry contest. The first guy was Zee. His words went very well with the music, as though they had rehearsed, and he spoke about his blue jeans and how “I’m leaving” the girl. Next was Bruno, who read about “Just another day in the CTA.” The third was the winner, an older man with glasses who request French cabaret music in honor of the French guests. His was very comical, about birds love making going “COO COO” and at one point he scared us all when he said he’d shoot them and go “BANG BANG  BANG.” “COO COO.” The next was called the laptop poet, speaking of meditation with an ambient music background, before he got snapped off stage. The last was a stout blonde girl who wanted French war music, as her poem concerned this time period.

In all, I’d say it was a very successful artist’s date!

 

 

Artist’s Way Week Three-Childhood Memories and Girl,Interrupted

This week’s theme was the childhood creativity. As I recalled my childhood room, so many memories came back to me as I filled out the details. These were memories at the deeper recesses of my mind–not lost to me, but certainly not recalled since my teenage years. When we had to write about our five childhood treats–I suddenly remembered something I didn’t even know about myself since I was a child! Apparently I used to eat arroz con platano (rice with bananas), something which I even forgot existed. We were challenged to eat some, so on Friday I ended up going down the cafe, bought a banana for a dollar and was told to take another one. I went to a small Asian restaurant and grabbed a bowl of rice. I reached for my wallet and the lady kept saying it was okay, “Listen to me. You don’t have to pay.” So I got my lunch for a dollar! They probably thought I was low on cash for food or something, but I’m still happy about it! I also manifested a free chai latte earlier that day.

I’ve also been looking at lists of novels with important themes, in this case mental health. One of the titles I looked at was “Girl, Interrupted.” Then yesterday for some reason I was looking at a “shipping” video of Harley Quinn and the Joker, which then led me to looking at a flashback of Jared Leto’s roles over the years–one of which was Girl, Interrupted. At this point I decided I had to watch it. So, after discovering a mini nature trail next to a high school in Andersonville, hearing someone play a ritual drum, going to a Mediterranean bakery, and heading home, I found some short clips on Youtube and then found the movie itself. I was completely mesmerized by Lisa’s performance and then shocked once I realized that was Angelina Jolie. It amazed me how all the big names were in that movie–Winona Ryder, Whoopi Goldberg, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie. I don’t even know if they were household names yet. Although honestly having seen a couple of Jolie’s later films I was actually disappointed seeing just how amazing she was as Lisa (her best performance I think), and then playing flatter characters like Lara Croft or Mrs. Smith. Either way, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. As I expected, the story humanized the girls–however I was pleasantly surprised by their bonds and friendship, and the way they helped and hurt each other. I will definitely have to read the book. After that, I talked to an Afghanistan door man below for a few hours. It was amazing to learn about his life, the country he came from, and his life values. In a way he kind of addressed my inner critic- reminding me to let go of the past, and enjoy life. While I accept that, I am also strangely resistant to that–because if I have no standards, what if I just accept mediocre work and never strive to make it better? But that critic does at some point become detrimental instead of motivational, and I think that’s why some of us get blocked.

Until next week!

Artist’s Way-Week Two

This week was actually far more challenging. I was exhausted after a week of waking up at 5:15 am every day, and I quickly dropped my exercise, instead adding on Louise Hay’s morning meditation.

I used my morning pages much more heavily for dream work, and was having better dreams, possibly because of Louise Hay’s evening meditations. It was both impressive and frustrating that I started to need four or five pages to record my dreams in their entirety. For my second week, I was much more proactive about reading all the activities from the get go, and reading the whole chapter within the first two days. I did as many activities in a row as possible, and set my artist’s date for Thursday at the Art Institute of Chicago to see the Thorne mini rooms.

Though I was proactive on paper, I was feeling very vulnerable underneath. I was going every work lunch to Barnes and Noble since the previous week for “idea shopping,” and thus far had only managed to write a few short paragraphs based on Hozier’s “Like Real People Do.” This of course was better than nothing, but I was becoming frustrated at my lack of inspiration. I thought about Kiki’s Delivery Service and how Kiki had lost the ability to fly a broom but recovered it. This sent me down a nostalgic path of listening to the soundtrack and some of Miyazaki’s other musical pieces. My heart was filled with longing for the initial thrill I had a thirteen year old, to go on the same kind of adventure and coming of age ritual as Kiki had. The only time I really ever felt like that was when I studied abroad in Spain in college. I was inspired to look up the dialogue Kiki had with Ursula, her college artist friend who lived in the forest. It struck me how relevant the passage was. Ursula said that she used to create things without even thinking, until suddenly she couldn’t any more. Then she said she had to find her inspiration, or her reason to create again. It struck me that this was exactly what I needed. Up through high school I just had a spring of ever flooding ideas, was always inspired and stayed up nights and woke up early mornings just to write. College made me doubt my abilities, and from there my inspiration and my passion dwindled. Today, I struggle to think of anything new at all.

The combination of the Artist’s Way and meditations brought small micro-changes to my world. Some of my tweets from 2014-2015 had been rediscovered, liked and shared out of nowhere, with 9 different interactions within nine minutes on a random Wednesday morning. I was getting spots on the train and time opened up for me to draw. We got to play a board game during yesterday’s meeting and get off half an hour early. On Friday, I took on a more proactive approach and decided to go to a stationary store instead of Barnes and Noble. It was the wrong stationary store than the one I had in mind–but it was across the street from a bookstore. And in the bookstore was Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.” She addressed all my fears. That I was not descriptive enough, that I had wasted all my time writing and would continue to do so, that my ideas were not important enough, that my best writing and ideas were behind me, that it was too late, that no one would ever want to read my work, so what was the point? She talked about letting go of daily fears and anxieties of the past and the future, to become receptive to the ideas around us. I did not get any new ideas after reading this, but I got a new excitement about the possibility of having them. Maybe a good idea would find me after all.

I have now drawn for the first time in about a year, and done all my exercises but one: play the guitar. I’m guessing I will do that tonight or tomorrow, and get started on reading Chapter Three!

Children’s Author

One of the activities from week one of the Artist’s Way was imagining 5 different occupations, and emulating one of them for the week. Unfortunately it was the second to last activity, so I only really had two days to do it. It was however a rewarding experience, to challenge myself to edit my children’s book I hadn’t looked at in a year, and to revise another shorter piece by working with my father.

The Artist’s Way- Week One

–I am married to my writing, and the Artist’s Way is my marriage counseling

I bought the Artist’s Way three years ago in an effort to feel like I was doing something about my writing. After visiting a friend a couple weeks ago, I saw she had the same book and put it in her bag to read. It struck me at that moment that this was the motivation I had been waiting for–seeing a friend actually using it when I was not! Thus began my adventure of the Artist’s Way, with half a notebook filled with morning pages.

The first week was actually the easiest to dedicate myself to. I had already been getting up earlier to work out, so I set my alarm clock half an hour back and added in the morning pages. I got used to the flow of waking up, sleeping in ten more minutes, throwing on the lights, and setting pen to paper. I mostly complain about my life, record some dream work, and come up with a couple of good phrases, maybe one paragraph of fiction. Although I only wrote affirmations 2 of the 7 days, and after doing only a few activities earlier in the week, I shredded through most of them on Friday in a hurry. I ended the week with a whimsical “artist’s date” to the park, a place I haven’t been in years. It happened on the best possible day–a  day I was determined to  be sad and stay indoors all day. Instead, the Artist’s Way got me to go out into the sunshine and listen to the laughter of children while I was in a heavy mood about my future. After receiving an encouraging call from my mother, I decided to go on the swing, even though I was clearly too old for it. No one said anything and I had a nice nostalgic sense of rocking my feelings through. I was about to end it here, and decided to walk around the track that encircled the baseball field. I noticed the runners and other walkers like myself, including an old man and a couple of friends.

As I encircled the track, I began to feel a little better. I felt free in a way I never could at work–like I could just walk and walk in the sunshine and no one would say a thing no matter how long I spent. The sun lifted my spirit and I felt I was in a safe haven, as though I was back in my hometown and far from the city. The moments I spend where I don’t feel like I am in the city are my favorite. As I turned round the bend, I decided to go two more times. I discovered a couple of feathers on the ground, and made a wish on a milkweed wisp. I felt adventurous enough to go on a walk and come back. In all, my artist’s day and my walk took two hours. I felt like I accomplished so much more with my day, and still had time to eat, write, and meditate.