Progress, not Perfection

Hello, I’m Stuart Smalley.

Now, I’ll wait here while you google that reference.

Done?  Mmm’kay.

Still having some dark moments, but overall, feeling somewhat decent.  I’m doing my situps and pushups every day (started at 3o each, now doing 40), reading every day, taking care of my skin each night and, most importantly, I’m painting every day.  Starting to feel better physically and emotionally, though I finally broke down and put in a call to a local psychiatrist in hopes I can get a med check and some talk therapy.

In the meantime….Screen Shot 2014-07-20 at 4.36.22 PM


Not the greatest day

Except for the fact that I have the kickiest of kick-ass husbands, who loves me and tries to make me laugh and usually succeeds in spite of my [unhealthy] desire to hide behind a computer screen. He comes in and pretends to “climb” the screen, or he takes an elevator to the top of it, or pretends he’s an old-fashioned typewriter head moving back and forth over the top of the screen. SUCH. A. DORK.

But I love him. And thankfully, he loves me.

So far,

So good.  I’ve set some small goals for myself and have managed to stick to them. Situps and pushups each day. Painting each day.  Just added “exfoliate” each day. I know that may seem silly, but it helps me to feel better when I look in the mirror.

I’m REALLY pleased with my painting efforts.  Not that I’m creating masterpieces, but that I’m actually just painting.  I have a tendency to avoid trying things I have not fully mastered, at least in the creative fields.  If that makes any sense.  Like I expect to be a full-blown master at something the first time I try it.

This is not the case with less creative endeavors, like I’d find in the safe confines of cubicle hell.  It took me a while, but I eventually became quite confident in my abilities as an administrative assistant, even though I loathed the job. I came to understand that I was viewed by my co-workers as one of the best, if not the best, admins in the office.  I had a professional demeanor and was technically much more than proficient.  This was due to my natural curiosity, and unwillingness to let a challenge go.  If I didn’t know how to do something on the computer, I figured out how.  I ended up sometimes irritated with others who would come to me for help, having not even bothered to hit the F1 key first, which is how *I* initially learned. Google is for everyone, people.

I suppose it’s ridiculous to not approach art the same way.  I would have been mortified to be so lazy as to give up the first time I tried, and failed, to accomplish something on the computer as part of my job. It was a point of pride to me to teach myself.  So why am I so impatient about my art? Maybe I’m hung up on the notion of, you either have talent or you don’t, as if every painter I admire just picked up a brush one day and ‘BAM’, “In Blue” is born.  It takes time, and I’ll never get better if I don’t work at it.

In Blue, by Wassily Kandinsky

In Blue, by Wassily Kandinsky

Waiting, by Audra Arr



…with the idea of combining two blogs into one.  After having just reread all posts from this blog, I can say this one is far darker than that one.  What’s most frightening is the thought of combining the two audiences, knowing who reads which one, and what will they think of the other?  That swings one direction really, from Arr Bazaar to Melancholianation.  I don’t think the readers of Melancholianation will be too shocked by an artist/repurposer’s blog after reading about suicide, addiction, and forced copulation.  But I could be wrong.  “Oil painting!  Bottle lights!  THE HORROR!  THE HORROR!”

The primary impetus behind this notion to merge is that my interests as an artist and my continuing quest to heal my psyche have become more and more intertwined.  As they should.

In the last year I’ve become resigned to the fact that my condition is more than medical, more than physical. IT JUST IS. I am fundamentally unhappy, with the choices I’ve made and the actions I didn’t take, and if I don’t want to end up six feet under prematurely, then changes are required.

Parenthetically, it just occurred to me….I refer to depression as being in a 20 foot hole.  Being dead is referred to as being six feet under. So death is a step up? <shudder>  No, thank you.  I read recently that, while suicide may seem like an end of pain to the one who chooses it, it’s actually just the choice to transfer that pain to those left behind. Having been the recipient of that pain from Josh, I’ll pass. Or, more appropriately, I’ll NOT pass…the pain, that is…on to my loved ones.  Particularly my child.  I will not set her up for a life of pain by leaving her.

So, what to do?  I’ve written before about all the things I’m going to do that will radically change my life and kick ass and fuck yeah.  I think I’ve done maybe three of them.  If that many. The truth is, I’ll have many dark days ahead, and that’s just how it’s gonna be.  But I’ve recently had a significant realization.  At Sea World.  Yikes.

August 28, 2005, I realized I’d hit bottom in terms of my drinking, and quit.  July 2, 2014, I realized I’d hit bottom in terms of my health.

At age 44, I was in a wheelchair at Sea World, unable to walk more than 30 feet without pain.  My back was bothering me a little when I went with hubs down to San Antonio to partake in the celebration for my beloved San Antonio Spurs (WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO!), so I wore a back brace and took my cane…and subsequently spent two weeks in bed, unable to walk at all.  My mother had bought my family some tickets to Sea World via Groupon, and they had to be used by July 3rd, so I had to suck it up and join the family on this sojourn, even though by this time, my physical shortcomings had contributed once again to an even more crippling depression that left me sobbing in the shower on the morning of our planned outing.

I am useless

I am a failure

I am nothing

I barely spoke on the way down to Sea World.  I hid behind my sunglasses and a large hat.  I had initially resisted my mother’s suggestion that I use the wheelchair she had borrowed, for I figured nothing could make me feel worse and more broken than having to use it.  When I got to Sea World, I hadn’t even gotten from the handicap space to the stained glass entrance before realizing I had no choice, and asked my husband to go back to the car to get it.

That’s when I hit bottom.  Nothing will ever change if I don’t change it.  I cannot live life if every action I take is designed to avoid it.  And my body is falling apart from my inaction.

Some realizations:

  • As much as I love my bottle lights, and love the idea of repurposing things and really, truly believe we, as a whole, need to be less wasteful and more creative to sustain our resources, I use my bottle lights/repurposed items, or, more importantly, my attempts to sell them, as a way to avoid what scares me the most, creatively speaking….trying and perhaps (gasp) failing as a painter. The few times in the last year that I’ve sat down (stood up?) to put paint on canvas I’ve experienced a natural high like nothing else. I feel alive and (GASP) happy when I paint. I put on headphones and listen to music and get dirty and love it. Yet my studio is the messiest room in the house.  And not good messy, but, like, I-can’t-even-walk-from-one-end-of-the-room-to-the-other-for-all-the-crap-I’ve-thrown-on-the-floor, messy.
  • I use my weight to hide from life.
  • I’ve probably spent more time numbing my brain and avoiding life using electronic games than I EVER did with alcohol.
  • I feel stupid and uncultured for not being well-read, using a (possibly imagined?) learning disability as an excuse.  Yet I buy book after book and then….nothin’.  I’ve got at least 20 books I’ve started and let languish.
  • I worry and fret about changeable things, yet I make virtually no effort to change them, outside of planning to do so.  I’m a plannin’ fool.  Every day, my Mac shouts at me with reminders…


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Clean your face

How many of these things I actually do, I’m too embarrassed to say. But, if I was really committed to doing them, would I need Steve Jobs to tell me?

So, I sat down and meditated on what I’d do. I loathe myself, and not just for my weight or missed opportunities. I want to be fit and strong, physically. I want to be the strong woman emotionally that so many who love me swear I am (really?  what are they smoking?). I want to be someone I’d want to be friends with.  Funny and warm and kind and, yes, well-read. So I made goals for myself, though I’ve intentionally only implemented one set of goals at the moment.

I’m doing 30 situps and 30 pushups a day.  I know it doesn’t seem like much, but, for me, it’s a big deal.

I’m also coming to terms with the fact that I need to treat sugar and fatty, carb-laden foods like I treated alcohol.

I have to avoid numbing my brain with pointless time killers as can be found in abundance in both the iTunes AND Google Play stores.

If I want to be well-read, I actually have to read.

If I want to be positive, I have to avoid the negative.  No more reading the comment section that accompanies news items of interest.  I realized the reason I read them, even though they infuriate me every time, is that I’m looking to find like voices, someone who reacts to things the way I do.  I’m looking for validation.  From people who resort to name-calling at the drop of a hat.  From people who don’t know the proper use of “we’re, “where”, and “were”.  I also have to avoid the crime reality shows I tend to watch.  I watch programs about Scott Petersen or The Night Stalker because, what, I’m looking for justice in the world, since I didn’t really get any as a child?  That’s ridiculous.  I fill my head with the horrors that people are capable of and expect to be purified?

On that note, I have to stop seeking validation / acceptance from stupid-ass places. The comments section. Responses on Facebook. Pretty much anywhere that exists outside my own mind and that of my higher power.

If I want to help people, even if it’s just to feel good about myself, I actually have to find people to help. Not bursting into tears at the drop of a hat would seem a necessary hurdle to overcome, though. Baby steps.

Meditation and/or prayer helps me to feel calm and peaceful, so why aren’t I doing it more often? I can actually meditate away most headaches, so why can’t I do something for my back / leg pain?

So, in the last few days, I’ve done situps and pushups every day.  My appetite has been somewhat suppressed to due my recent depression, so it’s been easier to avoid crappy food, though I know that won’t always be the case. A few days BEFORE I had my “hit-bottom” moment, I actually bought and READ COMPLETELY a book, “High Rise”, by J.G. Ballard.  Thank Tom Hiddleston for that, as he is filming the adaptation starting this month and I was curious about his new film.  But, having read the book from cover to cover in less than a day, I found myself feeling pretty decent about the fact, even though I found the book disturbing (think “Lord of the Flies”, with grownups).  FYI, knowing the casting of the film helped.  Hiddleston (yummy) as Dr. Laing.  Luke Evans (also yummy) as Wilder.  And Jeremy Irons (decades-long yummy) as Royal, though I realized five chapters in that I was picturing Royal as played by Richard Chamberlain.  Go figure.  But I digress.

I painted last night and was high as a kite for hours as a result.  I immediately pulled my family into the studio (well, two feet into the studio, since it’s still wrecked) and informed them I’d need at least an hour to paint each night and could they support that.  They could.

I am treading carefully, though. I feel as though the path I’m on is no different from that of a newly sober person. I have to be vigilant. Regardless of how good I felt last night, I awoke this morning with a “oh, yeah, same crap life” feeling. I started to sink in mood, until I sat down to write this LONG-ASS-POST, and feel better now. I’ve made my daughter lunch, and will do my situps/pushups with her shortly (she does them for karate homework). Then I’ll work on my studio, trying to make it fully useable again.

One last thought. Yesterday I saw something that hit me hard, and I burst into tears. My husband, in the room at the time, was keen to know what brought about THIS particularly bout.


What would happen if I forgave? I’ve forgiven my brother, but what of my parents, for their shortcomings? What if I forgave the babysitters, and forgave the other family members who abused me? What if I forgave the boys/men who devalued or overlooked me? What if I forgave former friends and associates for their simply being human? I’M the one carrying the pain that comes from hanging on, not them.

I learned at age 18 that if I made a mistake, owning it and apologizing when needed made me strong, not weak. How much better would I feel, how much more productive and useful would I be, if I let these things go? How much more love could I give to others, how much more kindness and beauty could I add to the world, if I let go of the hate that too often drowns me? This one is a doozy, I know, not to be accomplished with a list of goals and mini-steps to be taken. This one will take a lot people, but I need to do it.

So there’s that.

Now, what was I saying about merging blogs?