My Guide to Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution

Nursing Baby Vee 

Nursing Baby Vee 

1:43am Sun Sept 13th 2015 - Let me get right to it - I haven’t been taking care of myself. I find myself rushing more and more and the aches in my back are returning. I still get in my daily shower but it’s been almost a week since I’ve had a Spa Shower and took my sweet, precious time. I find myself Stress Cleaning + Tidying rather than drawing, painting, writing or darning. If I’m going to be up at 3am after a night feeding, I’d rather make art than clean, though cleaning (i.e. putting things away and sweeping) is extremely satisfying for some part of my brain. I see now how easy it is to not take care of myself. Self care is already challenging and even more so when you have a small mammal creature dressed in human baby clothes to care for - but why? Because they are both work. Work can be fun, work can be a lot of things but it is still work. In the midst of one of my late night/early morning Tidying Sessions, I started this: My Guide to My Personal Self Care and Inner Revolution:

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

Morning exercises to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing!" 

1. In order to maintain my sanity, do my self care and put the work into unconditionally loving myself every single day, I must take my Daily Shower. This is about being immersed in hot water. I get on my hands and knees and become that laboring animal again.

2. When I get out, I use the large orange towel with suns on it, gifted to me by DK. This is the one I labored on in the tub channeling the whales, cats, orangutans and rats and birthing people throughout time, remembering that they're always with me, and reminded each time that they are my only religion.

3. When I wake up and before I go to bed, I do my 3 minute floor exercise (lying on my body pillow with my arms bent and raised at my sides) to strengthen my chest cavity whilst singing along to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and petting the cat-baby. I quickly learned that raising a baby is all about creative multitasking. At night, however, I prefer to listen to whale sounds.

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

Gratitude Postcard for Aijung, Watercolor on cardboard, 4" x 5.5"

4. Put D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does it Feel)” on repeat and write, write, WRITE. Best to write after I’ve been healed by a Spa Shower so the words can flow out though it doesn’t always work that way. My friend, B, coined my style as “Soul Writing” which sounds more complimentary than how I think of it - Mind Vomit.

5. When Vee nurses, paint.

6. When Vee nurses, write.

7. Before dinner, when Vee nurses, COLOR in a coloring book. No thought required.

8. Remember to pee, poop, listen to my body, do not put off having to go to the bathroom when I'm at home especially when I'm feeding Vee or he needs me.

9. Fluids, liquids - drink them!! Especially coconut water and eating watermelon - electrolytes are real and are important!! But don’t ask me what they actually are.

10. Food and eating are important!!

11. No electronics while eating meals together with D.

12. NO (more) STRESS CLEANING. I don't do that shit any more because there are other ways to dismantle my anxiety and give myself the feeling that I have control in my life. I ask myself all the time now Is this a need or a want? Wants, though also important, can wait and only you can do you!

13. Feeding my friendships and relationships through social media, texting, phone calls, emails, postcards, letters, handmade gifts and HANGING OUT IN PERSON.

My local swimming pool.

My local swimming pool.

14. SWIMMING. Lakes are ideal and so is the ocean. I will, however, accept a pool. As of Wednesday, I'm astronautical again. The weightlessness of swimming in water reminds me of space, outer space. A pregnant space traveler not entirely certain of the future. There's excitement and fear. The Fear of the Unknown is powerful but now I know what it can mean to labor and birth. It’s not pleasant though it’s not supposed to be. It's a rite of passage for me, for many women and human beings and creatures of this earth, and out of the fire we step a warrior mother, a parenting warrior survivor.

15. NATURE. We’re going to sit in it today.  

16. Express gratitude through personally written, empathetic responses to people's messages to me, painting Gratitude Postcards (and mailing them) and small paintings on cardboard.

17. Breathing, deep breathing. If pregnancy is a marathon, what is life? Pace yourself! And breathe.

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

Goddess shrine and Little Lentil's memory box. 

18. Cuddling baby, cuddling D and cuddling our cat-baby - sometimes all at the same time!  

19. FORGIVE MYSELF. Forgive myself every day, all throughout the day. Your mind is powerful. Repeat, “Forgiveness is coming to me easily and effortlessly.” (Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain) Eventually, it will. I can also say Compassion is coming to me easily and effortlessly and I do.    

20. RELEASE GUILT through Daily Showers, writing, drawing, painting, ceramics, exercising - whatever feels healing is Releasing Guilt.

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

Our cat-baby knows how to sleep! 

21. Go to SLEEP at 9:30 or 10:30pm with the baby and then...

22. Get up at 6 or 6:30am!  

Sex and masturbation, while vital to happy and contented living, is not on this list. I’m ok and not ok with that. I’m not doing the vast majority of the things on this list though I’m trying. I’m also quite happy with not being pregnant so if Vee acts as some kind of natural birth control I’M OK WITH THAT.

One last thing! I’m in love with this paragraph from Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm: “This chapter is for your pleasure. Your pleasure and peace are the root, rock, and center of what you bring to your family. When you feel rested and replenished, you glow from the core of your being, and this glow spreads warmth and comfort to those around you. When you feel nourished, you are better able to nourish those around you. When your cup is empty, you have little to share; when your cup is full, it runs over to fill those around you. Why nurture yourself? Jennifer Louden puts it well in her guide to women’s nurturing, The Woman's Comfort Book: ‘Because self-nurturing is survival. Women take care of others every day. But how often do we turn our wonderful nurturing ability toward ourselves?...When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of. And they feel renewed, too, instead of guilty. We have something precious to give others when we have been comforting and caring for ourselves and building up self-love.’ And as Rabbi Hillel once said, ‘You have a solemn obligation to take care of yourself because you never know when the world will need you.’“ (P.213) 

And now…on to my day/night of Unconditional Self Love and Celebration!

(Editor's note: The writing, editing and posting of this took over a week because PARENTHOOD.) 

HVAC - Heating, Ventilation + Air Conditioning

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

This week HVAC commenced in our home - that’s Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning. All you need to know is that it’s necessary work that won’t be completely finished until July 1st, with work-folks in and out all day, every day? Most days? Every week? And so I’ve been sleep deprived.

Sunday night I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious that they were coming to start the work so I took a long Spirit Bath and managed to get 15 minutes of sleep. During the day I wasn’t allowed to be in the apartment so we had the cat locked in the bathroom (in a burrow I made for him in the bathtub) and went to David + Al’s house, last minute. I slept about 2 hours there and painted and had long talks and ate and chilled. That was pretty miraculous (Thank you SO MUCH David + Al!). And then the following day I had 4 hours of sleep and then 6 hours and last night was around 5 or 6.

I am so tired.

They arrive at 6:30 or 7 or 7:30am, it changes every day, there’s a lot of work to do to replace the heating/cooling system, remove asbestos (or did they do that back in March?) and replace pipes bla bla bla. And although I made a decision for myself to go to bed at 11:30pm and created a work schedule to include large blocks of time for yoga, baths, painting, eating, meditation, writing and self care, since returning from Miami, I’ve been a hot mess. No sleep will do that to you! I’d love to nap during the day, but all the rooms and potential sleeping spots are occupied with work-folk working.

Last night I told myself that if they were still doing work, I was going to make room in the bathtub for me to nap with Tumble. By mid-morning they were actually finished and won’t be back for another week! But instead of napping, I’ve done 4 loads of laundry, paid the rent and ran house errands as often happens.

There was miscommunication with several of the people about when the work would start again, so that was a tense conversation and it escalated quickly (or felt that way with loud and louder talking). A lot of people are horrible at communicating, doesn’t matter if it’s by email, phone or in person. I really believe that “I don’t know” is always an appropriate response if it’s the truth.

So after that I found myself hungry but in obsessive cleaning mode where I try to control my surroundings and my life by cleaning, sweeping this time. And I’m bawling. The confrontation brought it on but within seconds I realize I’m crying because I lost my baby. I explained to the person very quickly that I had questions about when they'd return because of sleep deprivation and I lost someone recently so I just want to know when I could relax. And saying that - I lost someone - that’s the truth and it’s a hard truth. Because what is a baby? What is a fetus? What is life? Whose life is more important - that of a fetus or that of the mother carrying the fetus? For me the answers are all true. I lost someone and I am still here and I’m alive and my life is important. I cry and cry and wash my face and put on my homemade moisturizer so I don’t break out all over again and then I cry and cry and the cycle repeats. I’m just letting it out, letting it out till it wants to stop, at least for today, till I want to stop. I sob and moan loudly, that helps. It helps me to make loud, awful noises when I am in the depths of this grief. I have no interest in holding back, though when I felt the tears coming on while I was standing in line to buy groceries yesterday, I just didn’t want to deal with a public that couldn't handle the wide spectrum of emotion that we are born with. Thoughts of putting on the pretend-face, masking emotion, re-enter my mind - that’s not who I am or want to be. It’s so hard to be that way.

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

And even though I need and know I need to eat my second breakfast and stop cleaning, I stop to write. I know I need to write - it’s been so difficult with all of life’s interruptions. I need to breathe. I want to breathe. I want to feel peace. I hoped to take a 10:30am yoga class but that time has come and passed - besides I need to bring up the rest of the laundry.

I have been so frustrated - I’m planning a fundraiser for myself on May 22nd for me to attend a Yoga Teacher Training for the month of June and I haven’t had time to fully promote the event the way I wanted to. I have a whole blog post about how and why I came up with this idea and it’s mostly written but editing takes time, and oh the time and oh the sleep, Where’s the sleep? Where’s the time? I’m terrified that no one will come or only 10 people will show up. I hear and see my anxieties taking over me like a separate self that I once knew and meet again. I put on music, my special energy music, that reminds me that I believe in myself, that I am in love with myself, that I can do anything that I dream up, that I am capable and capable of anything, and it’s ok. I know her, that confident person who knows things will work out, who thinks like a sage, who is so in tune with her feelings and has become so skilled at communicating effectively her needs and desires and boundaries. Sometimes we’re different people and I look at her and say Can I be like you? Can I have a little bit of your spark? And I remember I am you and I am her. And I do believe in myself and anything is possible because I believe in myself and I am here for me! I am present fully, I travel these rivers of emotions where they take me, the deepest sorrow, the frightening, shouting, screaming anger, and I am sobbing again because it is so hard for me to talk about and feel anger since I’ve been angry so much of my existence on this planet and the last time I had a therapist, it was for anger management. And here I am, simultaneously experiencing my creative spirit, utter joy at living and connecting with everyone around me, feeling the glowing life of Possibility, baking treats (even though I won’t use egg replacements for vegan brownies again!! Ali says bananas are better), caring for my plant babies and for the adopted Thumbelina Park when I pass by on my bike, spending time with friends, all kinds, and feeling really really really happy that Jennifer, who is my accountant and has become my friend, is coming over in a few hours to sit a radical shiva with me, the 2nd round of shiva, and feel with me because that is what I need and want. She was one of many that I emailed - if she couldn't come during those first two weeks after the miscarriage, to please come next month or the month after that because I’ve been here before, experienced debilitating loss, when my father was killed on his bike 12 years ago and I think that finally this year I’m going to create a ghost bike for him...and she wrote me! She initiated the newest wave of this radical sitting shiva. She remembered that I’m still in pain! She remembered that I still need support! The night before the complete miscarriage on April 1st, she was one of the last people I spoke to. We were talking taxes (duh) but I also told her how I’d been spotting since the Saturday before and how the sonogram showed that the baby was alive but I was still bleeding and we were both worried but hopeful. Now we’re just hopeful but there is still worry.

Today when I was sweeping, I sobbed thinking I would have been pregnant at this point in time, I planned for this, though I hadn’t looked forward to being pregnant during HVAC, it had still been a part of my fantasy. And I think, well, what if we try to get pregnant, get pregnant and I have another miscarriage? So many work so hard at convincing me that pregnancy loss happens so often (and oh I know it!) and that I’ll get pregnant next time or soon or someday. And I think now, what if it doesn’t happen in July? What if it doesn’t happen next year? Or ever? I know what you might be thinking but this is not needlessly worrying. These are questions I ask myself - how can I not? I absolutely know that I cannot be prepared for everything, and control almost nothing, but I am allowed to think these thoughts. They are mine. And all feelings are valid. I believe this but I have to say it almost daily to myself and those around me, sometimes a defense, sometimes an explanation. So these are things I allowed myself to think for the first time today and those thoughts - they’re terrifying to me. I continue to live in the present as I do in the past and the future and I am open to the feelings, to the potentials in life, in my life, and to the questions and the unknowns and my own hopes and dreams and desires and also to the disappointments, because those are inevitable and that’s ok and they help make the joys that much more joyful because I know they are fleeting and they are special and - do you get me?

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

5.9.2014 Friday 11:35am

New Old Friends: Part II

Here is another dedication to new and old friends that I've made (all on Wednesday!):

Diane, the Smithee and professor of graphic novels from Delaware, we discovered after talking about tea, oh Friday afternoon teas at Smith, who is such a delight and who, while not a big fan of the whole alumnae club thing, loves to gather beautiful books in a big fundraiser for scholarships for Smithees (maybe I was a recipient?).

Hehe, vintage tea party time at Smith College, circa 1892 (thanks internet!) ..."'A Memorial of exams, essays, metrical travilations [sic] and the like.' Tea party with Bertha Allen and Helen Lambert, ... " hehehe

Hehe, vintage tea party time at Smith College, circa 1892 (thanks internet!)..."'A Memorial of exams, essays, metrical travilations [sic] and the like.' Tea party with Bertha Allen and Helen Lambert, ..." hehehe

AK Summers, the graphic novelist of Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, who I actually got to meet Wednesday night at her reading/slideshow at Bluestockings Bookstore, for which I rearranged my work schedule to attend because I’m interested in writing a graphic novel about my Radical Miscarriage (and other things) and because her book is probably the only one out there that comes close to the kind of experience I had/was going to have as a person outside of The Heteronormative Mainstream.

Excerpt from AK Summers "Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag," a graphic memoir

Excerpt from AK Summers "Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag," a graphic memoir

Liz Murray, author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, who was standing in line in front of me to speak with AK, had a flyer in her hand for The Business of Being Born, which I watched after a horrible shaming OB bullied me into being “open” and essentially not to use a midwife or do a home birth, and after that first appointment at 5 weeks made me not want to have a baby at all, and then I angrily watched this doc, crying, which made me say, like I said when I first got pregnant, F-yeah I’m doing a home birth (hopefully with this midwife)!

"Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival And My Journey From Homeless to Harvard" by Liz Murray

"Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival And My Journey From Homeless to Harvard" by Liz Murray

Why and how do I meet these amazing people and make these seemingly coincidental connections? By being open, speaking my truth and taking a risk. Be fearless!

Also, thank you Diane, AK & Liz and to all the people I meet every day and for being open to share your stories with me and allowing me to share mine with you.

4.25.2014 Friday 1:11 AM

There is no fear.
— Jessica Wiscovitch, Healer

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!

The Emotions: Anger

4.9.2014 Wednesday 2:11pm

I am searching deep within myself for patience and understanding. Anger is so strong and blinding and I am blind with rage. I’m breathing. I’m singing. That’s important. I want to come back to being a human, but being human is also being angry and being open to all the emotions, even the ones designated as being “shitty” and ones we try our best to suppress and ignore and not have. But I am coming down, coming up, coming back to calm, contemplative, understanding, not being judgmental, thinking before just responding, before allowing The Emotions to determine my next steps and decisions and conversations and fights and screaming and blaming and I am/was so angry. I was angry. And I still love ****. And I want to have a baby. And I want to do this **** and I will. Everything will happen. It’s happening...but other feelings come up too. I feel like if there is a pressure for something to happen at a certain time, I push for it not to happen, because that’s how I am? I don’t know. I’ve been feeling so confident and now I’m not sure. I’m going to continue to be open and talk about everything that is happening with everyone and especially myself and you and me and writing and talking with myself. It’s all ok, all of this even the stuff that doesn’t feel ok to feel or to think. It’s all ok.