Huntress of the Lens


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Breaking up is hard to do...

We had a seven month relationship, short by most standards. It was a blind date, set up by Mara, but she said that even though he wasn't really a people person I would find that he was just perfect for me. When we had our first date I was a little alarmed at how old he was, I usually prefer someone a little younger and more in touch with the current times, but supposedly he was brilliant and the best guy for me, and I was hopeful that we could somehow find a happy ending together. He validated me, and certainly listened to all my problems, asked a lot of questions and really listened to the answers, I really thought things would work out well with us despite his personality. Then he dumped me, out of the blue. He didn't even do it himself, he had his secretary call me and say that things were over between us and we wouldn't be seeing each other any more. He was my Endocrinologist, and I had such faith in him. Being dumped by him was one of the most devastating break-ups of my entire life.

 After treating me for Graves' Disease for all that time he suddenly said my thyroid levels were "normal" and therefore I was fine now. Except I still feel exactly the way I did when I first sought medical help in January, and the headache that was one of the first symptoms that brought me there has become constant and unrelenting. My left eye is still noticeably larger than my right, which he called "Graves' Eye Disease" the first time we met. I don't know how large the range called "normal" is, but I don't feel good at the spot on the line where I landed. It may be "normal" but it isn't right for me. I am feeling so sorry for myself and bereft of hope, because now I feel just as bad as ever but there's no one who is looking for the cause or the cure now. If I have to feel like this for the rest of my life I will dramatically declare that "I can't go on like this." 

I don't feel suicidal, I don't want to miss the rest of my life because of an early death, but I really do feel like I can't go on like this. It's a contradiction of depression that has me feeling paralyzed and frozen with grief. I'm on a shit-ton of medication, all to treat the symptoms but not address the base problem with my health, which I still believe resides in the glowing butterfly of chaos- my thyroid. It's the eye, that's my best clue.

Depression is a funny thing, like plastic nose glasses with skewed lenses. I know so many things intellectually, but when I look through this particular set of eyes life looks bleak and I feel like what I'm seeing is reality. Now when I'm dealing with a slightly warped funhouse mirror that makes me look really thin I'm completely content to accept that distortion of reality, but the nose glasses make it hard to live my daily life. I start believing that it's just like this for me and I become increasingly doom and dire. If I didn't have Michael to love and support me I would be thinking of jumping off a bridge. Bungee jumping probably, because I really don't want to be dead, but I feel like I need a really dramatic statement about how terrible this is and how hopeless I feel. 

Molly has picked this time to leave here and live with her dad full time, she's being 16 and it's more fun over there. This is probably really good for her, but it triggers every abandonment issue I've ever stored in my awareness. I feel dumped by her as well, and being one of the most important people to me ever it just adds the mustache to the nose glasses to complete the costume. I'm alternately sad and mad, and have cried more over her self-centeredness than many issues that you would think were far more damaging. Like when Dottie married one of my two best friends and then he shot himself in the head five years later. I call him Dead Danny and I've cried far more over Molly than him, even though he's become one with the sea and she is just across town. Oh, and I have no Endocrinologist. That thought is like a black bird with tattered feathers and fire for eyes that circles my head and teases my hair with it's carrion claws. I'm in bad shape at the moment. On a side note, I just love my Kindle! As I was writing this an author came on Good Morning America to promote her book "Mean Mothers and Hurt Daughters." I already have it in my book and can start reading it immediately if I choose. Reading it will not be nearly as profitable as writing it, which I could have done. Oh well.

At the same time I'm fully engaged in every form of art I've ever known, and even learning to sew which is a totally new one for me. Creatively I'm overflowing and making so many beautiful things, and I'm loving my chosen career like a drowning woman loves a lifeboat. The creation of beauty is my meditation and my salvation. I make some really cool shit. I'm sewing the dress for my remarriage to Michael in two weeks, and at the same time I'm feeling all the previous things I've written I am excited and looking forward to two days away with my husband celebrating the one good thing I can count on come hell or high water. Michael and my Big Daddy. That's two things that never falter, this could be the beginning of a gratitude list, but I'm wearing my nose glasses at the moment and I'm having a pity party and I don't feel like feeling better. I want to wallow. How do I even stand myself?

Today is the twenty-sixth anniversary of my marriage to my boys' father. That's a long time, how can that be when inside this older, wrinkling body I'm really only twenty-seven? I'm old and I'm ill and I'll be stuck feeling like this forever. Run that like a CD on repeat and you'll have a look at just one room in my mind, the one where I've been hanging out lately. You do not want to visit me in that room. Come and see me at work or when I'm making art, you'll get a whole different person. Twenty-six years, or is it twenty-seven? Did we get married in '82 or '83? If it's that long ago and we've been divorced for over twice as long as we were married how is it that we can't be friends? He's a really cool guy, not the right husband for me but I still wonder why we're not friends. Bleh.

So that is my self-indulgent rant about how I feel today. My eyelid is twitching and I need a shower. I think I'm falling apart, and should probably buy my shopping cart now so I'll have a really nice one to push my belongings around in when the economy finally reduces us to that. I want hand brakes and a solar panel so I can still plug in my computer and blog from the road. I am ridiculous.

At least he didn't say "It's not you, it's me." 

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I write publicly, so I'm always careful what I write about, or who I allude to, knowing that they might themselves read what I say. When it's a glowing review I have no problem putting it out there, but when it's problematic I sometimes hesitate or my fingers become shy on the keyboard. There are a group of young people in my life, my kids, other kids that I gather to myself, and they are acting normal. My troubles are that "normal" for some people is a danger zone for me. 

Molly's not staying with me at all right now, my house is "annoying" and she can't stand "some people" which could be a whole separate blog. For the most part our relationship these days revolves around money, how I might have some and how she wants it. I'll leave it at that, and when it's not too raw I may write about it sometime. When I say "people" I won't be talking about her, she's the absentee tenant of a still-messy room. I'm having some issues with people all around me though, and in the interest of anonymity I'll just lump them all together and call them that.

There are people in my house who are old enough to drink, and go to bars. They come home smelling like alcohol or a little bumbly, and being in their early twenties this is totally age-appropriate behavior. Completely legal behavior, they don't drive to get here after drinking. I'm an alcoholic. It's sometimes torturous to think that I too want to have just a couple of drinks, but in the 2,133 days I've been sober I have learned to follow that thought all the way to its disastrous conclusions and I don't have the first one. There was a beer in my refrigerator the other night, a yucky brand I never would have even wasted my time on, but a tall-can none the less. I stood there with the ghost of old thinking tapping me on the shoulder; that pasty-white eyeless creature that whispers "do it, do it, doitdoitdoit!" and wondered how that would have worked for me if I had opened that door in an alternate frame of mind. It got poured out, I melded my life forever with someone who is also free of all drugs. I really had no urge to crack the seal and drink it, but I was able to see an alternate future spin out before me.

That took an instant of contemplation, much longer to type it than to experience it. What followed was rage and resentment. How dare any of the people who live here, who love me, leave a time bomb ticking where I could inadvertently stumble over it? In text that would read "OMG WTF SRSLY?" 

Other people are super into smoking pot, my oldest and best loved mind-altering friend. There are medical cards that can be obtained in California that make this totally legal as well, and it's also completely age-appropriate. In my refuge, my cave, my cone of silence from the World I smell it, I know it's here. I sometimes imagine what would happen if the pasty cave-dweller morphed into full-fledged addictive Relapse mode. I would throw respect and privacy to the wind and toss this place like a seasoned burglar until I found it. The "normal" who walk the planet have no idea what kind of monster an addict in full force is capable of. I wear a magic crown that, for today, keeps me safe from that. Knowing that it's here and only nominally hidden (or hidden well, I have no idea, I haven't ever looked) torments me in certain moments. Good marijuana is the one thing that will tell you where it's hidden simply by the smell. It smells like the skunk that Michael rendered homeless by ripping out all those blackberries. It wanders my yard looking for a new home and occasionally I catch a whiff of it through my window. Those two things smell the same. Inviting and intoxicating.

Now I have new information from a baby, new to recovery that others are doing LSD. Ah, I broke up with that lover twenty years ago, it holds no appeal for me now. I have enough stored in the fatty cells of my body to experience flashes of that past at the least opportune moments, it took this many years to find out what the long-term effects of a drug that was invented just before I was born might be. I could look at sheets of it, and vials of it in liquid form, or enough sugar cubes to build a California Mission (which only California natives will recognize as a standard fourth-grade school assignment) and suffer no urges at all. But it's here. It's in my house, whether in it's actual form or riding in the bloodstream of people who walk through the door.

The sweet baby-addict-in-recovery is coming clean, both physically and with stories. Having been one of a small group of people some of the stories are about people I know. Words like "Acid" and "Oxycontin" are in tales of true confession. The circle widens and I just hear "chemicals, chemicals, chemicals" and I realize that the razor-wire fence I've built to protect myself from the behavior of the outside world may only be three-sided. I'm inviting the vampire right in the door. A group is closing ranks and now disclosing that our baby addict is a compulsive liar, and "the one who always wanted to do all the drugs, we tried to stop it but we couldn't." All of a sudden the baby is left out in the cold and the others are in a panic that tales may be believed. 

It's easy to write it all off as the drama of the young, but in every myth there is usually a kernel of truth. I stood and looked some people in the eye yesterday and listened to them steadfastly deny, "We're here to tell you that none of that is true." yet one was angry and defensive and one couldn't stop crying. The tears were a symbol of the betrayal that such wicked lies represent. I think I saw the tears of the desperate who couldn't find a way out of the bramble patch that has its thorns firmly embedded in young flesh. One was cool as ice behind glass, and to be true is most probably the only one who was speaking nearest the truth. None of it stilled the whispers of "chemicals, chemicals, chemicals."

It hit me the other day that any time I walk over the borderline of my own small room I am entering territory that may or may not contain some drug, including alcohol. Almost six years clean and here is where I find myself. These people don't share residence with me because we all want to be one big happy group, it's the economic times that have created this grouping. One room. I'm safe because of my magic crown, I can actually go anywhere and not fall prey to a disease that is cunning, baffling and powerful. It's not the intoxicants that pose danger, it's the state of my own recovery. But still. I may as well be living in a mine field, with all the danger hidden beneath a thin layer of earth. I am not happy about this.

One person is moving out at the end of the month. One rarely stirs at all. One works so much that I rarely catch sight of them. All plant their mines in my field. Add to that the supporting cast-members who circle my home like a flock of birds and there is danger everywhere, if I choose to see it like that. Before you tell me to just take my broom and make a clean sweep, know that I have a million reasons that it's just not that easy. 

I want to live with my husband in a safe and sane refuge, I'll just start there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I saw something on Nightline the other evening that gave me cause for thought. It was in their last segment "Sign of the Times" which is always shorter than the previous stories, and often the topic I find most interesting and wish to know more about. It was about tattoos and regrets, and the booming business of laser tattoo removal.

They had statistics, which I love, forget, and am too lazy to look up now to share with you here. How many people between eighteen and thirty that have tattoos today. How many people over the age  of thirty-five who regret the design they chose way back when, how many are willing to spend the time and money to have them removed. I love a good set of statistics, they lend such validity to any point someone is trying to make if you trust them as a source of percentage. Michael will often say that "Ninety percent of people do such and such." but I know he just means "A lot of people" so I don't tend to give too much weight to it as data. Nightline though, they have whole production and research teams to verify their numbers, they must be for real.

The percentages were high, or at least higher than fifty percent, and anything over half is a lot, right? Their point was that lots of everyone have tattoos, and a startling number of people regret them and don't want them any more. Forgive me Jen, but you are a prime example of this with that side piece that seemed like such a good idea when you got it. It made me feel slightly defensive, and caused me to wonder about my career choice and where I fit into the world. At least I'm doing my part to generate more reportable statistics, not everyone can say that.

I know, even as I draw up the stencil, that many people are going to question their choices later in life when I am asked to do certain tattoos. People get some whack shit, let me tell you. Sometimes I shake my head and think "What are you thinking? You are so going to hate this eventually." even as I calculate how I might cover it later and how much I would charge for that. One guy walked in here the other day with an outline of Bonnie and Clyde, done as Precious Moments characters and wanted me to finish them. I said Shayla would be the perfect artist for that job. It was a time bomb of a practical joke, maybe only I get it. 

Many times I think that designs and what they are meant to convey are extremely cool and well thought-out. Add my artistic ability to express ideas with lines and I think "Now here's something you will love well into your old age, when it's six inches closer to the floor than it is today." Sometimes I say "Nope, not interested in doing that piece." and move on with my day. Often this is due to a combination of the youth of the client and the sheer regretability of their design choice. "I'm not your mother, but I'm somebody's mother, and..." the lecture ensues.

The length of the "name lecture" is proportionate to the age of the perspective client. If they are freshly eighteen it can go on and on, my reasons why getting someone's name tattooed on you are such a bad idea. If they're, let's say thirty, or older it gets progressively shorter, I figure they're adults with enough life experience to make a very bad decision without a lot of input from me. People my own age just get "the look" over the glasses and we proceed. I have stopped many children in their tracks with that over-the-glasses look, most people my own age are impervious to it.

So I'm watching this story on television when I should really be reading my book already and courting my good friend Sleep, and I imagined a strange picture in my head. It was a long line with me at one end, stitching designs into skin, and a plastic surgeon patiently picking them out of the other end of the seam with a laser. For whatever reason, all statistics aside, I am still asked to tattoo people every day, and have been for the last eighteen years. There is a reason I have earned my self-awarded title of Cover-up Queen, I do a booming business in that, and I'm very good at it. There will also be a never-ending story that starts with "Once upon a time, in the land of the very drunk, I let my friend tattoo me because he said he knew how." That alone might provide for my financial needs even if people stopped getting new tattoos. 

I have plenty of tattoos myself that I wish had been done differently, usually I wish they were larger. For years I somehow believed that all tattoos were tiny, and I got a lot of small tattoos. My friend and colleague Jim refers to this as "stickers on a mini-van" and the first time I heard that term I laughed until I almost cried. Some I wish had been done by better artists, and would have been happy had my result simply matched my vision. Jim is covering many of those with a very large lobster and a magnet. It's a long story, don't ask.

Some are on my right arm and I did them myself, and I still don't like them and wish I had approached the project differently. Some, for various reasons I use as teaching aids for clients, showing them what they do not want to do themselves. A good example of this are the pair of chinese characters I wear that were supposed to say "Fire of anger and jealousy/Confident and secure." which was a polarity I was dealing with at the time. When read by someone who is a native of China and not drawing a chart of characters for tattoos, the actual meaning is "Fire Husband." While funny this is not truly tragic, I did marry a red-head after all, but still.

I suppose the gist of the final mini-segment on Nightline that evening was "Don't get tattoos, you'll regret them later." I still want to make a living. I hope the number of people who payed attention was not large, or at least they're not making permanent life-decisions based on television-segment statistical data. The one good thing was I got yet another chance to see a picture of my favorite, horrible, stupid tattoo- The Swayzesaur. That alone can renew my faith in the stupidity and vast imagination of some people, and still makes me laugh until I have to pee.

I would have said no to that one, just for the record.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jump Ring

Today will close a circle a line we three started to draw about a year ago if my memory serves me. Having read some instructional material on how to create a screenplay, and having seen at least twenty-two movies in my lifetime I suppose this is where the music starts to play one of those poignant and heartwarming violin pieces that let you know the tone of the piece has changed and the credits will roll soon.

I'll leave out the prologue, that part's not interesting, or maybe it is, but it's not integral to the rest of the story. Let's just say that there was one character who drew together three women, stirred them up like a hive of angry bees and then exited the scene to leave us to find our own way. This three-way relationship started with armor on, a battle in a pit of words with real sWords, not the blunted toys used for practice. Lest you think of three adults in combat let me remind you that we all acted like teenagers in our thirst for blood. We were angry bees, and swarmed with hive mentality.

We represent three generations; twenties, thirties, forties. We all could have done more research, maybe been kinder, but we weren't. I have the longest life experience, but I think I was the least effectual in scoring damage, and certainly have the most room to be embarrassed about my conduct. Those things are past now.

The players are Jen, who lives here in town where I do, her big sister Jess who lives in New York and me, who you know. Today I get to meet Jess, who has traveled here with her daughter for a family wedding. Not easy to just get together for coffee with someone who lives on the other coast, this is a big event on my calendar.

Jessica was, for the longest time, my secret hero; single mother living in New York, raising her daughter all by herself; using her art not only to lift herself up but to create income and start a business that I think will eventually eclipse any job she has needed. Just the simple act of living in New York, a place that is the land of far-away, the big dangerous city of subways and taxis is daunting to me. Trains to get to work, trusting that you can get your child and yourself where you need to be without a car right outside the door to hop in and go, New York seems frightening and impossible.

When Jen and I began our original spat her big sister stepped right up and got in the game. She came flying into the arena with claws out, ready to feed me my own still-beating heart for engaging that way with her little sister. I am singleton, there has never been anyone to defend or stick up for me, and the way she dealt her wounds was also the seed of my admiration for her. I have always been envious that they have each other, and that three thousand miles has done nothing to diminish the closeness they share. Plus, she can write. Word World battles with someone who shares my love of precision, my adoration for stating facts and drawing conclusions, a truly worthy opponent. 

I had my awakening back in the springtime, when things were turning green and the light was shining just a little brighter. I saw the two of them differently. I found it easy, or at least easier to own my part in a silly childish drama that would have, could have, should have never happened. The sisters I've come to love were gracious and daring, willing to set aside all past transgressions and start with a newly plowed field. There were no rocks in it, we had thrown them all- nothing but fertile earth holding the seeds of love and admiration that had been inadvertently scattered along the way. We've had our summer growing season, and these sturdy vines have produced a crop I could never have anticipated. Today we harvest. We three will be together for the first time, and this circle will close. If I changed my camera angle I'm sure I would see it as only one loop in a spiral, but from my current point of view it looks like coming around to where we started.

Jess is here for only a short visit, a family wedding. They have a large family, with so many people to see, and their joyous event to celebrate. I get a tiny slice of that time, and it's like chocolate in World War II, one square is enough to savor and know you've had a taste. I'll also get to meet her daughter Gabby, a girl who I think would be the girl in the mirror for Molly, growing up without all of the spoiling and entitlement, the immediate gratification that my own amazing young woman has become so accustomed to. Mirror girl though, because from every word I've read and every picture I've seen she shares the same independent and unconventional streak, she is no sheep either. She knows how to ride public transportation, Molly just rode the city bus for the first time last week. She told me in amazement "That thing goes everywhere, you can get all over town in it!"as though that were a well-kept secret. Mirror girls. I so look forward to meeting Jess' little becoming-woman as well. 

With Jen it's been more of a gradual thing, we've had the luxury of time and location to make our way slowly into friendship. I have come to love and admire her, in that natural way that two women who spend time and get together when they can do. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, we three will gather around today's cauldron, which looks much like a cup holding coffee, and weave the binding. I have long looked forward to this day. 

In the recent sequence of days and disappointments I've lived, this is a bit of magic that will be healing and completing for me. I will benefit from that right now, because what goes down must come up and I'm ready to change my trajectory. I can feel autumn in the air. Where it is a season of dying and drying, the small death of the year that paves the way for the sleep of winter I have always been invigorated by its arrival. It makes me want to move and expand, to go somewhere I've never been. The smell is intoxicating to me. Autumn is the best season for  beginnings in my opinion, but then again the Moon was in it's last quarter when I was born so that may come as no surprise. For some it's a time to gather what's already been grown, for me it is the time to plant the bulbs that will emerge to be the first bits of color in a white landscape. 

I'm from southern California, and moving to the northern part of the state is as far as I've ever come. If I want snow I have to travel to it, but I beg your indulgence in my metaphor, in Word World all is possible. 

I long to abandon myself to this change of season, to grab the wind like my favorite palette of leaves and be borne far and wide. I was a winter baby, and in the cold I am remade every year. Fall is also a time to close the piece, add the finding that holds the jewelry in place and think about the next project. We three women, the maid, mother and crone will gather at once and start the alchemy. Waxing, full and waning, usually a sequence but today an impossibly intersecting plane. We'll just see what comes next.