Stained Through

Since I’ve been back from assisting my friend Corbett with her book launch (Fading Scars) I have been trying to catch my breath, trying to catch my heart.

Coming home, a family member was in the hospital and my family was in crisis. Then the massacre in Charleston happened. The anniversary of Olmstead came and went and Goodwill still is paying Disabled people 22 cents an hour for work. None of these things are in competition with each other, they each land squarely on my heart.

I’ve read so much this week. Articles, blogs, poetry. All these words, I keep hunting for comfort, for the vessel where when I peer inside, I can see my rage and pain reflected back in perfect symmetry. Instead, I find myself distracted by memories of the morning when the mass-shooting happened here in Tucson. When my family told me that they were planning that morning to go to the store where the shooting happened.  The energy that permeated the city. A desperate desire to connect, fear, anger. The hungry silence that nothing seemed to fill.  

All this just leaves me with questions. Questions’ demanding not answers, but truth. I turn to words and devour them in hope that they may satiate the question’s hungry mouths. Until nothing satisfies. “No more words.” I tell myself.

I take a break from words and turn to painting. I paint to re-find the center of myself. When words aren’t enough and understanding must come through touch, breath and a “doing” expression of pain. Painting for me is useful, beautiful, something that feeds the body and the heart.

Glass jar holds an upside-down paint brush, bristles stained blueA family member calls and we discuss my plans to be at their house to support the recovery of the loved one. Crisis doesn’t end, it just transforms into the everyday attending. One more thing to add to plate. One more way to express the deepest of loves. One more color to add to the palate.

Washing my brushes, I notice how it doesn’t matter how long I soak the bristles or how much I scrub, the color stain remains.

I struggle with the exposure to the pain of the whole of my world. Collective media-sharing, the raw truth in an instant. My individual reality, only being held in a moment, in a breath. I sat in the hospital last week listening to the beeps of machines. Pausing for breaks scrolling through the posts and updates brought to me by another machine. We rely on these machines for life, for news, for connection. And yet, all I, my body, has is the moment. The moment the loved one opened their eyes and smiled. The moments of conversations to and from the hospital around the terror happening a country-length away. 

All I have is the way my spirit is stained with these moments of truth. The color stays even as I let the emotion flow through. This color is with me wherever I go.

Putting the brushes away, I turn to write, following through on the rituals I have created for myself. Coffee. The burning and blessings of Copal. I am spending years writing about all the layers of self-care and this week I am desperately trying to embody what I have learned. I think about earlier, standing at the sink, patiently washing off the built up color on my brush, like the experience of painting itself, energetic flow to the emotion I hold. Allowing emotion and pain to move through me is not a forgetting, it is a strengthening. My heart is stained with what I have witnessed, felt and learned, but clearer and ready.      

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