Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Beautiful Blank Page


Christmas is over.

That sound you hear is my sigh of relief. The tree is not actually down, as the opening image suggests. That was a temporary situation that was the end result of a particularly difficult rampage from Bennett, my youngest boy who has Autism. I got the tree up-righted, though it does not look at all like it did when it was first erected. That's OK. As soon as I get a free hour or two where Bennett isn’t here I can take the tree down. I know, I’m supposed to still be full of holiday cheer. Typically though I have holiday anxiety, but let’s save that post for some other time.

This was for me an ordinary Christmas, defined by the new average. The kids got a lot of cool stuff, I had little idea what was in the packages as they opened them. There weren’t any gifts exchanged between my wife and I. There was a gift that she bought for me at the request of my oldest son Carter. A LEGO set that he told her I did not have. I had it. So she’s going to take it back to the store and I ordered myself a lumbar support for my car and a lumbar pillow for my bed. As has become our routine, we did not celebrate our anniversary which occurs two days after Christmas. Nor did we acknowledge it to one another.


Christmas was a Monday. The kids were happy. Bennett was balanced and felt no frustration on Christmas Day and did not feel any need to express that frustration physically. That was the only gift I needed or wanted. For him. For me. For anyone.

My Mom sent me an extremely sweet Christmas card, with some money in it. I wrote a mini-novel on a card that I had planned to send to her and Ken. I didn't send it. I lost my Christmas balls. I wrote some things from the heart that I've always wanted to tell her, and I waffled too long. So I plan to do it here. Not today though. I want more time for that one. The cash gift was awesome... it enabled me to upgrade some art supplies. The most exciting of which are, wait for it...yes, pencils.

You need to know something. It's a deep dark secret about my art I have never shared before. I’ve been using cheap shit pencils, lead holders and mechanical pencils since, well...forever, and I've always wanted to go “pro”. To use what REAL artists use.

I'm about to.


A year or so ago, I had a golden opportunity presented to me by a friend of mine named Steve. I love the guy. That's him in the pic above. Interesting tidbit, Steve and my Mom have dined together. It was a long time ago, but they had a Thanksgiving dinner together back in 2006. This was back when I had a shitload of hope, all of it related to a positive future. Forward in time a decade found me hopeless, drifting, not knowing where I was supposed to go, who I was supposed to be. Steve offered me a chance to draw a page in his Thing Art Book. I said yes, and failed to deliver it.

Excuses? I had a few. That's all they were. I failed him. And myself. Remember the fear I mentioned a couple of posts back? It's paralyzed me in many ways. That's why the transformations I attempt now are so critical for me. I must overcome. I have to climb the mountains ahead. For reasons unknown to me (and you, now, funny how that shit works huh?) I have turned a corner within myself. That's why I have been drawing again. I have to. I need to. I WANT TO. It fills me with joy. Joy. And I haven't felt it in so long I can't tell you how much this simple thing matters.

Of course, not hating all my own work would be MORE joyful...but eh...the tortured mind of artists. Welcome to an all-new double-bladed sword.


Karma is important to me. Or it is becoming so in my life. I asked Steve if I could draw something for him, and I did. An alien xenomorph. It was a quick sketch, something I want to refine for him. It only begins to start down a path of feeling like I have made good for all the ways he has offered a branch toward helping me get a leg up in a career in pure art that I have rejected. I will get there.

I've been exploring mantras. Call it pre-meditative meditation. And something Ghandi once said about mantra has followed me over these past few weeks, and I get tears in my eyes as I feel his words each time I read them or think about them.

"The mantra becomes one's staff of life, and carries one through every ordeal. It is no empty repetition. For each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.”

Art is a form of meditation for me. Buying new supplies, especially supplies that are high quality, is like buying a very nice accessory for meditation.

I've ordered three rOtring products. A lot of folks consider this company's stuff the Mercedes of drawing utensils. I ordered a pair of 2mm lead holders and a .5mm mechanical pencil. I was going to try their very latest product entries for all three of my needs, and would have spent the money but from all the reviews indicate that the newer products have some product design issues to fix. Understand...we're talking about pencils costing over $50.00...EACH. When you are buying something like this, you are buying a tool to use forever. It has to be right.


Why three? I need two identical instruments that hold two different lead types at the ready when I’m sketching. One with a harder lead for basic layouts of shapes and contours, guidelines, etc., the other a softer lead that leaves more graphite on the paper and allows for a more lyrical stroke. I suppose I should say graphite for ALL of this, since none of it is lead anymore. But hey, habits. I want these two tools to be easily distinguishable from the other. The way I’ve done it in the past, with Mister and Miss Cheapie , is with colorized duct tape or stickers on mediocre plastic frames that I eventually crack with pressure from my thumb. Now I will tell them apart by the all-metal construction in chromed silver and matte-finish black.

Oh...Hell...YES.

I love the Internet. I was able to research all kinds of crap about the different types of pencils available, watch people use them...it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon interspersed with some time with Bennett, who is struggling BIG TIME with boredom during the two weeks he is off from “school”.

The Amazon order I placed was thick with these pencils, finished off with a .5mm mechanical, replacing the flimsy plastic ones I have been picking up from various drawers in my house. It is amazing the cheap shit we have around here. The rest of the order contains some high-end graphite, a sketchbook I’m stoked about with a great flex cover, some microfiber cloth to keep my glasses clean all the time and a very highly reviewed lead pointer. Cause...you need a sharp point, right?

Usually we lead holder types who hate using wooden pencils have these wacky rotating pencil lead sharpeners, called “pointers”, that we’ve spent years mastering control over. That is an art form all by itself. The right amount of lead sticking out, gripping the pointer and the holder just right, NOT TOO TIGHT, rotating at JUST THE RIGHT SPEED, for the right amount of time...

It’s mentally exhausting to recall it. How many frustrating, dreary nights did I hear the dull CRACK of my lead snapping in half, like the sickening sound of a broken fibula? Too many.


This Mitsubishi lead pointer is very different. Streamlined, cool, hip, almost sexy. I may want to ask it to sleep with me. And from what I’ve read and watched? The last lead pointer I am ever going to buy. Coincidentally, most of the rOtring holders don’t fit into standard rotary lead pointers...Sadly, I probably would fit just fine. So there's that. This one has me completely covered.

Oh, one other thing. I ordered a Pentel Pocket Brush. Yeah, gonna toss some ink around a bit in 2018. Why not? I used to ink with brushes and crow quills and all kinds of crap. If I had a decent skill I want to see how much I can bone it up. (Hee hee...BONE.) Which reminds me, I forgot to order some fine point pens, a nice Uni starter set before I leap back into Rapidographs if that's the way I decide to go. I better get on that.

Funny thing is, all this is traditional goodies for traditional art-making. And with any luck? By the end of 2018 I don’t wanna be using any of it as much as I wanna be using a stylus and a digital tablet.

2018? You and I have a lot of shit to do together my friend...get ready.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Walking with Yourselves


Eight days ago I up and decided to go for a walk.

Why is this important? Because I haven’t done it in months. A lot of months. Terribly pathetic, but I don’t hide from the truth. Another truth is that I’ve avoided walking because I’ve allowed fear to paralyze me. Not just with exercise. In Life.

I’ve touched on this briefly in this semi-resurgence of writing, and will more. This immobility has fostered what I refer to in therapy as a “Groundhog Day Effect”. I've no idea if this is a real thing, or if it’s just a name I’ve chosen to describe something that someone else has already dissected in a different way. Bottom line is that I've started to see recurring themes, behaviors, patterns, tendencies...all of which lead to a seriously repetitive cycle of living that I've been trying to break free of.

Fear sucks. I hate its guts. Assuming fear has guts. I hope it does. I hate wasting my hate on nuthin. It’s...wasteful.

With the walking, you’ll love this crazy-crazy, I was afraid of the pain I would start to feel when I started going, whether it would linger on with the pain I have every day. Crazy-crazy, yes?

Why not just DO IT and see what happens? See that’s what? I’m guessing this is how all of you normal people think. Not people like me. I circle the drain, over analyze, think way too much about shit. And I despise every minute of it.

See, I have this deep, passionate longing for all of that noise to melt away so I could just BE.


For as long as I can remember it’s all I’ve ever wanted. To BE. For as long as I’ve been writing or journaling, it’s a recurring theme in every chunk of time I've re-read. This book I found while I was going through personal mementos...all old journal pages gathered together. So many other pages in the computer, others still lost to time, unsalvageable from wrecked hard drives and corrupted floppies.

I doubt there are very many people reading this who understand what it feels like to never be able to turn off your brain. To be plagued by second guessing, regret, too much thought.

I am THAT guy. THAT guy that you cringe for. THAT guy who worries about what to say to someone at a party. I’m THAT guy who has made notes to myself before certain functions and secretly kept them in my pocket to help me remember things I should talk about. I’m THAT guy who has a brilliant comeback line to a verbal jab that was just sent my way, but I can’t get it out like I want so I say something stupid and spend the next two days thinking about WHAT I WISHED I COULD HAVE SAID.

Every single day, as I navigate any minefield of social interaction, and it’s been like this every day that I can remember, I’ve felt separated from everything and everyone because of this...whatever you call it.

There have been exceptions.


One exception is whenever I’ve successfully consumed THC in the right dose, without overdoing it. During these periods my mind finds the right peace and affords me the ability to actually CTFO. A fantastic side effect is that it also reduces the amount of physical pain I feel every day. Over the late summer/early fall I was able to get some MMJ and use it as real medicine for a period of weeks.

This extended amount of time was what helped lead me to right here, right now. Isn’t that interesting? While I had it, I was more productive, more engaging, more inspired, more social...and on and on and on. I was also able to quit Oxycodone, for good. I’d been taking that evil shit FOR YEARS for my chronic pain. Now? I don’t.

Only problem is that Ohio is not a legalized MJ state, I don’t have the ability to get what I got regularly, and it’s been a couple of months now. The pain isn’t managed, my mind is a war zone and it’s the same fight inside my head it’s always been.

At least I made progress, and I haven’t lost any ground. Yet. For this? GRATITUDE.

The other exception has been during periods of my life where I’ve been surrounded by the right people. These specific types of personalities have a way of quieting my internal storm to a degree where I’ve experienced some sensation of belonging, even contentment. It’s rare, but there. These fine folks who have reached in and scooped out the very best parts of me? Well, I’ve generally figured out a way to shit all over it somehow.

As for my present daily life, I spend most of my time as a caregiver or alone. I have no reality outside of those two scenarios. While there are people who can and do cut through the noise, it’s different. That’s harder to explain, and would require a longer, different writing.


Suffice it to say that the people who have the best success are those that have a synergy that merges with my neurotic Virgoness. Yeah, I kindasorta believe in that crap, though I do not lay the blame solely at the foot of The Virgin. OK I do think it holds a LOT of insight. But then again? Crazy-crazy, remember? There are some eye-opening things about Astrology that freak me right the Hell Out though. About myself, people in my life...something has to be there. I dunno...maybe something about the way gravitational or magnetic fields affect shit when people are conceived then born.

But what do I know?

All I know with certainty is that I took a walk on the 11th. I was in agony on my ride home from Bennett’s school and I went inside and something inside my head cut through the static and said GO. Don't think. GO.

And I did. The fear, the hesitation, wasn’t there.

As I was walking it hurt, more than I thought it was going to. Not just in my SI joint and piriformis muscle, but I noticed a terrible tightness and pain in my neck. As I walked further and faster I started to realize I could “hear” my bones. Crunching, crunching. And it was difficult to move my head to the left or to the right.

I looked down at my hands. They were tightly clenched into fists.

Waitaminute.

I was doing this to myself. I was rigidly clenching everything. I couldn’t relax anything. My arms weren’t moving well at all. It was so...crazy-crazy? And it felt awful. Every step was like walking through a glass door.


I had to really focus on loosening my upper body, my arms, my chest, my head...breathe, stay loose. I would start to feel better as I took more steps. I couldn’t maintain it. Just as I would begin to think “I got this motherfuckers!!!” I would realize that everything was tight again. The effort required was something I’ve never experienced. I started to think about how this was a mirror pointed at my life, a reflection of how I struggle to find peace and then it slips away.

Before I knew it I started to cry. I couldn’t believe it.

Not a balls out weep job, but tears were coming out of my eyes. It was a walk around my neighborhood! Can I actually be THIS fucked up?

That’s how the rest of the walk went, a fight between trying to uncork my body and the tendency to trip myself up with all of the stress I’m carrying around. Soon I returned to the house. The trip was around a mile and a half.

Physically I felt fine. Mentally? Wiped.

I had a lot to process, and process I did. But walk I did too. A few more times during the week. Also started moving a few things around in the house, trying to get some things arranged for some projects I have been putting off. All week I felt different. Still do. Can't quite explain what it is. Or even why. I'm still depressed. But I'm not. It is the crazy-craziest thing.


So...what have we learned today, kids?

  • When I look at my body of work over the span of my life there is one thing I know to be true. I’m always trying. Successful or not, effort is very important to me. And I’ve given it. Those times when I was the least content were those times when I gave the least effort.
  • I've got to learn some things about how to de-stress. The tensions that I am feeling are calling out to me to fix them. The tightness in the muscles, the spine, all over. I intend to do so.
  • It is OK to be depressed and also be positive at the same time. This makes NO sense to most people who do not live with depression every day. I'm not 100% I understand it fully yet. But I've just decided FUCK IT…depression, anxiety, PTSD, they are a part of me, and always will be. But they do not have to make me SAD. One day I will explain that to you…if I can figure it out first.
  • If I think I have shit figured out, I don't. That isn't how life works. Life is constantly evolving and changing and moving. And so should I.
  • This tendency to over-analyze, to struggle with things internally. It doesn't have to be a bad thing. If self-evaluation and analysis are who I am...accept it. It’s been 50 years and it’s not going to change now. Use it more positively and I’ll have a better outlook overall. I believe that’s what I’m doing now.
  • To be willing to expose my failures, my weaknesses, to talk about them…that is a strength of character that it is time I began giving myself more credit for. Besides, all that shit up top? Who does that? Who lays it all out and tries to work out their crap like an open book? Hmm...book...

It is now Tuesday, the 19th. I started writing this a week ago.

Since then, so many things have hurtled through my brain. Just like they always do. The noise, the chaos, it's all still there, banging away at everything that I do. I haven't let it stop me from moving forward.

The stress has got to be removed. Working on that. An old friend from Palisades named Chad has a wife named Sonya who is Yoda about Yoga…she wrote something to me a couple of weeks ago that rang with a Truth that could not be ignored. So I ignored it. Mainly because I wasn't ready to hear. She said "I can put money on that your piriformis isn’t the only place that you hold on to extreme tightness (every day of your life), it’s just the one that’s screaming the loudest".

Thankfully the message, from her and the one from my ass-cheek, is louder and clearer now. I'm looking into meditation and Yoga, though like most things I am baffled by the deluge that is the World Wide Web. I may need to take some classes in both. Us old folk have a hard time learnin new things! I'm ready now for the meditation. The Yoga? Baby baby baby steps. I need to be real careful. Let's make sure I don't injure myself here. I make sloths look fast at the present time.

On the 9th I had started an Instagram page to focus on my artwork. My goal was to do it that weekend. It was done and it's provided me with some creative focus. Good for my soul, my mind. Set a goal to learn more about the ins and outs of Social Media, crap like that. Mini goals I call them. I set em, I knock em down. Another goal was to draw something new the week after I launched that page. I did it, DESPITE the numbness and pain in my fingers. That was HUGE. On the 12th I kept an appointment for an MRI to get answers about the physical aspects of my brain and the headaches I'd been having and was able to scratch that off my list.

And of course, all week long, I got out and moved as often as I could.


Last night, I even found new resolve to integrate Bennett into one of the walks. He loved it. We even went shopping, I wanted to look for an exercise mat. Didn't find one at the store we went to, but at least we got out. We used to go on walks a lot and not very long ago, until I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by managing aspects of his care. I'm not overwhelmed by those things right now. We are in a different place together. I've been working very hard with him. But he has been working hard too. A lot.

Evolving, changing…moving. Just like Life.

A Beautiful Blank Page

Christmas is over. That sound you hear is my sigh of relief. The tree is not actually down, as the opening image suggests. That was a t...