Sunday, April 10, 2011

An easel, the key, and a bracelet

Part of my extensive 10-step fundraiser therapy involved finally taking an oil painting class (step #6).  Yep, that's me taking a real grown-up art class at a bona fide art studio with other really nice grown-ups that like art, too.  I'm just so used to only doing art projects with the kids that involve Crayola paints or glitter or toilet paper rolls, so it's beyond refreshing to be doing my own art just for me. 

Now that my art gallery exhibit is opening soon, ha ha ha, I mean, now that I'm feeling kind of art-minded and wanting to soak it up like a sponge (because boy do I feel like a total beginner!), I'm more hyper-aware of art stuff.  Like, the other day I was driving down the road on my way across town to do some shopping, and I see a bright orange "Estate Sale" sign.  I keep driving, but immediately start debating whether or not I should turn around and check it out.  Believe it or not, I've never been to an estate sale, so I am kind of apprehensive.  But, a little voice keeps telling me to go...go because I might discover something really neat, like an old painting or antique jewelry or just something special.  Why not?!

So, I turn around and drive back to the orange sign.  I follow the arrow into an impressive neighborhood, full of meticulously landscaped yards, with white picket fences surrounding well-kept homes on huge lots.  Five more orange signs direct me through the streets until I finally find the “Estate Sale Here” sign.  I can't help but laugh at the irony that the estate sale is at the most rundown and dilapidated home I've seen on my little treasure hunt.  I gather my courage and decide to go in anyway.

It's obvious the house hasn't seen a contractor since it was built in the early 1960's - pebble floor in the entryway, original cabinets with vintage tile in the kitchen, and glass shutters for windows.  I meander through each room and find myself stopped in awe in a back bedroom.  It's full of art - original paintings, piles of prints, small wooden easels, and art books.  Taped on the wall were tons of articles about the artist, Robert Perrin.  According to the flier, “he was a renowned Western artist and also known for drawings of Victorian homes, as well as being a wonderful architectural artist for homes in the San Fernando Valley.” An artist lived here!

(see him standing there next to President Reagan!)
Despite the rather somber but respectful mood in the house as this artist's life is being sold away to strangers, I proudly smile as I buy his aluminum standing easel for $25 that's obviously old and well used, but in great shape.  I wonder how many pictures he drew or painted using this easel?  I tell the older professional estate sale ladies that I’m a beginning art student, and they get all excited and say "Well, now you own an easel by a real artist!" and sincerely wish me the best of luck.  As I drive away with my "new" real artist easel in my car, I am filled with thoughts about the cool synchronicity of my neat find.  I am so glad that I listed to that little (and rarely wrong) voice in my head.

An hour or so later, I buy what I originally set out to buy at Crate & Barrel (I just love that store!), and as I open my driver's side door, I see something laying on the driver’s seat.  It's a large decorative key with a leather string that was once attached to a leather purse I bought several (maybe 4?) years ago.  I recall buying the purse and taking off the key because I didn't like it.  I don't exactly remember what I did with the key, but I definitely know I haven't seen it since. 

And now it's laying there on my seat.
(reenactment photo)
I pick up the key and sit down with a mix of surprise, wonder, puzzlement, delight, and...Robert Perrin.  How in the world did it get there?  I jokingly say out loud "are you trying to tell me something?" and I run through the possible symbolism and meaning, like key to the ...?  Or is he happy I bought his easel?  Am I totally losing my mind?  Hummm...

Now, I'm not above thinking that the key could have easily landed on my seat from a random something or another non-mystical reason.  It's most likely that there's a perfectly good explanation.  But, it's way more special to think that maybe it’s not so random and can’t easily be explained.

I am still thinking about the unusual events of my day as I pick up my kids from school, but my mind quickly switches gears to asking and listening about their day.  When we arrive at home, they grab their backpacks and jump out of the car.  I stay behind to gather my purchases and to look for The Key among the various stuff on the passenger seat.  I want to make sure I wasn't hallucinating.  When I don't see it, I reach down between the driver's seat and the middle console thinking it might've dropped down there.  I feel something metal.  I peer over and down and see a bracelet wrapped around the seat belt clip.  

My beautiful beloved bracelet that I believed to be forever lost six months ago!!!!

I actually mourned the loss of this bracelet when I realized it was missing after a visit to the local mall where I tried on some clothes in different stores (I pictured it on the floor of the dressing room being swooped up by the happy new owner).  Not that the bracelet was particularly valuable or anything, but I bought it many years ago and always loved wearing it.

And now my long lost beloved bracelet that I discovered while looking for the mysterious key was amazingly in my hands again!

I stare at my bracelet for a while, then shake my head in amazement and say "thank you" with a big smile.   

Whether the interesting series of events that happened that day was pure coincidence or a "thank you" from Robert or the Universe trying to tell me something or I'm making way more of a big deal than I should (I’ve been known to do that) simply doesn't matter.  I, the new art student, now owns my first easel and I found my long lost beloved bracelet, oh, and I also now have a great, no, magical story to tell.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fundraiser therapy

Just over a month ago, The BIG School Fundraiser that I co-chaired finally happened after months and months of planning.  The fantastic and fun evening was a huge success and, yes, I am totally proud.  The guests had a great time and the school made lots of much needed money.  We did it and we did it good.

On a personal note, I pushed myself waaaaaaay beyond my usual comfort zone, set higher expectations for my work and achieved them, kept my cool during the really difficult and awful stuff (the hardest part by far!), embraced my creative side (the best part by far!), and stepped up to the plate when needed.  I did it and I did it good.

But, once the money was collected and counted, the auction items mailed, the post-event meeting finished, and the hoopla dwindled away, I was left feeling wrecked.  Weeks later, I was still in fight-or-flight mode with a clinched jaw, blown out back, unsettling eye twitches, and an agonizing feeling of tense nerves and not myself at all.  The way I was feeling was foreign and weird and I consciously did everything I could think of to make it better.  I wanted to be myself again, dammit! 

So, here is my attempt at post-fundraiser therapy and recovery...( worked!)

1. Reach out and talk it out

I reached out to people that care, especially those that I neglected during my stressful planning frenzy, honestly telling them that I'm not doing so well and why.  The human to human connectedness reminds me that I'm not alone in all this and how I am surrounded but great people.  Even if I'm not myself, they still care and love me anyway.  It isn't always easy for me to express that I'm struggling (have to be strong and steady like people expect!), but it's worth it.  Very worth it.

2. Visit my chiropractor

Heavy emotional stress is horrible for the body and I certainly felt firsthand how devastating it can be.  My chiropractor confirmed what I already knew - I was a complete mess.  My body screamed out how UNHAPPY IT WAS WITH ME!!! from all of that neglect.

According to Dr. David, the body doesn't know the difference between being chased by a jaguar or being under an intense deadline.  Tremendous stress releases bad chemicals in the body and without proper care, they just build and build and build until the body, or in my case, my upper back, shuts down (and causes tremendous pain!).  When we sweat, out body releases those awful chemicals and replaces them with endorphins and good chemicals, offsetting the stress and helping us cope and feel better.  I didn't do any of that in the months leading up to the fundraiser - I just gritted my teeth and clinched my jaw and functioned in survival mode, crouching in the bushes, hiding from the jaguar - waiting for it all to be over.  

So, I returned to Dr. David several times, got reacquainted with the gym, I took some good sweaty walks, I worked in my garden, down-dogged in my yoga classes, and got back to taking care of my body...and in return, my soul.  
3.  The beach

I've got this casual and neat hobby - collecting sea glass.  It combines one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, the ocean with treasure hunting.  Lucky for me, March in Southern California is perfectly lovely for indulgent beach excursions.  I've ventured to the beach twice since the fundraiser ended, once by myself while the kids were in school, and another time on the weekend with a dear friend of mine and fellow sea glass collector (her extensive collection is amazing!).  That day with her, I not only found my first piece of cobalt blue glass that I always long for, but I also found a lucky penny.  Was that a good sign or what!?  There is nothing like walking along the sparkling shore, talking about life (see #1), breathing in the salty fresh air, and finding that little desirable piece of ocean tumbled glass.  Awesome!

4.  Family bonding time away
Two weeks after the fundraiser, my family took to our annual trip to the snow in the local mountains of Big Bear.  We stay at the same cabin that we always stay at, go to the same quiet sledding spot away from the crowds, buy chocolate from the same sweet store, and eat at the same yummy restaurant on our last day.  While some might think that's beyond boring, I find our simple traditions positively comforting.  I don't have to think much - just relax and enjoy the beauty in the surroundings, happy giggly kids, and quality family time.

5.  Food, glorious food!

Normally, I am rather conscious about what I eat - calories, protein, organic, fats, chemicals, etc., etc.  This last month?  I ate with wild abandon.  Whoooo hooooo!!  I savored whatever food I felt like eating and indulged without guilt or worry.  Not great for the hips but completely liberating.

6.  Oil painting class 

My mom gifted me a month of art classes, uh humm, last April for my birthday, and I never cashed in the certificate until now.  I felt totally guilty about this all year, like I was this ungrateful daughter who was missing out on this great opportunity.

Well, I started my first class the week after the fundraiser and definitely plan on renewing after my initial four classes end.  The first two classes weren't easy - uncomfortable, doubtful, and unsure.  But, once I came back from the emotional wreck that I was, I walked into my third class this week with my head held high - confident and full of joy about being there.  Sometimes timing is everything - I just wasn't meant to take the classes until right now when I was truly ready.

The class is filled with older women who have been taking painting classes together for many many years.  They are talented and kind and supporting and funny and I feel right at home.  Fulfilling my long time desire to take an adult painting class and being surrounded by these wonderful women is exactly what I needed.
7.  Hair salon

My roots were scary - no wonder I wanted to hide in the bushes!  But, my fabulous hair lady set me right with new highlights, the latest gossip magazines to read, and a wise and empathetic listening ear.  Nothing like a girly day of pampering to make a lady feel better.

8.  Gardening

I've always loved gardening, going back to my very early years when my family raised chickens (fresh eggs...yummm!) and lots of vegetables (yep, my parents were rather earthy).  Now that I'm a grown up with my own family, I love gardening in my own backyard.  A year or so ago, I made the decision to take out my existing garden bed since it was too close to the house and never did very well.  Did I immediately replace it in another location?  Well, sadly no, and I've missed and craved it ever since.

So, the weekend after the fundraiser, I said to my husband, "Husband, it's time to build a new garden bed" and sure enough, we did it.  I literally felt the urge to get grounded - to dig in the soil and plant some new beginnings.  I know...corny but sooooo good for the soul.
9.  Make an appointment with my hypnotherapist

I'm lucky enough to know an incredible hypnotherapist that I visit every once in a while when I need help working through something.  I love going to her because not only is she a wonderful person, but always helps me discover something new about myself.  I appreciate that she never tells me what to do, but guides me on my own journey into my revealing subconscious.  This time, just the act of making the appointment with her set in motion the final important key to my recovery.  I won't go into detail about my session, but I will say that the phrase "compassion for myself" came to light.  What a profound and powerful concept...self compassion.  Life changing, really...

10.  My tar vision

I don't like sounding cryptic, but my "tar vision" was a HUGE breakthrough and a life changer and I will never forget it.  I hope to write about it soon after doing some research and...when I'm ready to share.

I am beyond relieved that after my valuable "10-step therapy work", I'm finally and happily myself again.  Man, was that ordeal rough!  Thank goodness I didn't stay "wrecked" for too long.

It's funny thing, though, as much as I feel like myself again, I feel different, too, but in a good way.  I am stronger, wiser, more self-aware, and ready (and rather excited) for what's next.

In beautiful synchronicity, I saw this quote a few days after my major breakthrough and think it sums up my experience perfectly:

"It is when the clay is put in the kiln that it grows strong. It is through heat and pounding that the sword is shaped. It is through adversity that you become more than the sum of your parts. When a challenge appears, and it will, be grateful for the opportunity to grow. You could even be fascinated by the way the Universe chooses to challenge you." ... Ayamanatara