The Fifty Minute Hour, or Thanks for the Clock, Kasa

I just wrote this piece that is mostly not about Kasa’s clock, but maybe all of it kind of is. She brought the clock to my studio when she was seeing some clients there and left it there and forgot to ask for it back.

The 50 Minute hour. That’s what they used to call it. Now most people do 45 minute therapy sessions. When I started private practice, I did hour long sessions; in art therapy often you take time picking out art materials and settling into the rhythm of the session. At some point I switched to 50 minute sessions, where I am now. 45 or 50 minute sessions, time still works like the Twilight Zone, where it gets stretched out like taffy. You can fit a lot of intense stuff into just 15 minutes.

There are many jobs that involve watching the clock. I can speak for mine that it is a strange aspect of the job. On the surface, any therapist will tell you that the built in boundaries of psychotherapy are an important part of the experience, the earthy reality stuff like price, session times and frequency, even the office itself. I had a client years ago who started with specific requests, it has to be every two weeks, and you have to not judge my alternative approach to romantic relationships. I had someone with a strong reaction to the studio space, saying it felt like a garage full of old paintbrushes and if we could meet in a clean space with comfortable chairs, he’d rather work with me there. He had to accept getting his therapy in a dirty garage. This was before the options of Facetime/video sessions were an option.

When I started private practice, I didn’t think too much about the clocks and placement of them until a client told me she needed to see the clock and be the one who announced the end of a session. When you’ve had a traumatic loss as she had, having control of the time is important. I brought in a second clock and placed it where she could see it. It was back when I still used a digital alarm clock with a loud radio alarm to wake me up. When I worked at a day treatment program and was doing an art group, a client pointed out that in all watch ads, the time is set as 10:10. It makes sense. If it was the visual opposite, 8:20, the hands would look like a sad face. Working at that program, I appreciated the stretching of time and the Twilight Zone of serious chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia, where time is in quicksand. One of my clients spent the whole day in a chair in the big group room. Another one had no complaints sitting in a dentist waiting room for 3 hours not even reading magazines.

Recently my clients and I noticed in the second room of my studio that the clock was not working. It’s an analog on the wall above shelves, meant to be placed for clients to see. I found a new one at Ikea this weekend, that even has Roman numerals. I also had a cool sun ray clock with actual pointy gold rays radiating from it that also stopped working recently.

I have a very small silver clock with the bells on top that I “inherited” from a friend. When she died in 2013, I realized I had her clock. It was so silly and obvious that time had run out for her and I better be enjoying as many minutes as possible myself. It had a loud ticking that one of my clients requested I put it in a drawer. It eventually stopped working, but I have it out on my desk with my stuffed “studio bunny”, a reminder of the well know rabbit with an anxiety disorder where he keeps looking at his pocket watch and freaking out. A little stuffed animal that I had lying around. Years ago a patient brought in her dachshund and the bunny was a great chew toy distraction for him while the client was working on a huge piece on the floor. He got pastel all over the bunny’s white body, and she then really was broken in as a true art studio bunny. As an art therapist I can get away with having a lot of stuffed animals in my office.

My Dad has been into clocks, watches and their workings since childhood. As a kid, really wanted his dad’s clock and got it, nothing fancy and had it a long time. My grandfather knew how to fix clocks. When I was growing up there were antique clocks all over the house that went off on the hour and my dad would take one of those old clock keys and wind them. They are still there. Last I counted there were at least ten antique clocks in their apartment. One’s entirely covered in gold, and has a cupid figure with a bow standing next to the square of the clock part on a pedestal. He has gold wings and is holding fruit over a bowl of fruit on top of the clock. Another one has marble columns and the pendulum is a gold sun. In the library there is a clock with a rooster on top. My favorite is a clock in the dining room, It’s a harp but symmetrical with a gold sun at the top and the clock part is the body of the guitar shaped harp. A few years ago, my Dad gave me his gold Omega watch and a pocket watch. He was giving his watches to his kids, not waiting for death. He used to wear suits with vests where the pocket watch would go, complete with bowtie and hangkerchief. I took the Omega to the guy below my studio who fixes shoes and watches; it’s a shoe repair, barber and make your own nailpolish shop all in one. It turned out the watch did not need a battery and is the kind you actually wind. Growing up I loved watches and my Dad would bring Seiko watches from Japan. I went through a phase as an adult where I stopped wearing watches and just wore watch rings. I collected a whole bunch of different watch rings and found it easy to look at the time without clients realizing because you see your hands more easily than having to move your wrist to check the time. At some point I went back to watches and started collecting watches again. I have a very large square one with a silver band that was the first fancy one that I got. It has Roman numerals on it.

In my own therapy which is five minutes less than the 50 minutes my clients get, I look at the time often. This is the first time I have a therapist like the white rabbit except he is not anxious about arriving late. When he is late, I set my timer to get my exact 45 minutes. One time I was on the way into the subway and he texted that he had to cancel as he wasn’t going to get to his office on time. As some other therapists, I tend to enjoy hearing about other therapists messing up as it makes me feel better about my own mess ups.

Time is also weird for me as an artist. People ask, how long did it take to make that drawing/painting. I now write the date on the back of my work as soon as I start it or restart it to know what date I did it, and I set 15 minute timers for drawing, but I never know exactly how long anything takes to make.

The Mid Life Crisis, Continued. Movies

There have been great movies made about people having a mid life crisis. Too many are about men experiencing one: “American Beauty”, “Lost in Translation”, “Manhattan”, etc.

Are there any good movies about women or other gender identified people having a good old fashioned mid life crisis? Woody Allen made one, “Another Woman”, (1988). It’s a great def fpiction of a woman going through all the aspects of a mid life crisis. There’s the idea of having a sudden break of time, where you’re not doing everything as usual, in this case a sabbatical, then the way things can suddenly appear different and give you a different view of yourself, noticing other people’s perceptions of you not matching your own, the typical suddenly looking at a long marriage and seeing it and yourself and your partner differently. Noticing someone else and it having a big effect on your own self identity and concept of who you are. Big changes happening as a result, some that you don’t engage in as a choice. I found the movie very compelling even when I wasn’t viewing it as a mid life crisis movie.

I can’t really think of or find many movies about women having a mid life crisis. The Huffington Post dug up movies that will make you feel better about your mid life crisis, with women as the protagonist, “Enough Said”, “It’s Complicated”, “The Bridges of Madison County”, “Kramer vs. Kramer”. I draw the line at that one. Just because Meryl Streep is in the movie does not mean it’s a genuine mid life crisis movie. Yes, it has a lot of the ingredients, and she is the character that’s going through a crisis of identity, but she is just too young to make it convincing to me. It feels like she is questioning her life and choices, but it doesn’t have the elements of urgency having to do with a sense of the life span. It’s more like, she’s still young and wants to rewrite her story, but it isn’t that she wakes up and looks back on a long life with many choices and all the other complicated elements of a mid life crisis.

This is movie land, so all the movies you could dig up on this topic are full of the usual drama. There has to be a lot of extreme stuff going on on the outside to portray the big conflicts of mid life that go on inside the character.

In real life, it isn’t always about affairs, divorce, affairs, losing one’s mind, affairs, falling in love with someone really young to gain back one’s youth.

The title “In Search of Lost Time” sums it up well. I haven’t read the book, so it’s the title that appeals to me.

To be continued…

Serially Lost from Day 4: Post 2, National Poetry Month: Loss: Master The Art of Losing!

Trying to find poems about loss that are funny…

Found a great one!
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Here is another:
The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

– Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Another one:
Compendium of Lost Objects
Nicole Cooley

Not the butterfly wing, the semiprecious stones,
the shard of mirror,

not the cabinet of curiosities built with secret drawers
to reveal and conceal its contents,

but the batture, the rope swing, the rusted barge
sunk at the water’s edge

or the park’s Live Oaks you walked through
with the forbidden man

or the pink-shuttered house on the streetcar line
where you were married

or the green shock of land off I-10, road leading
you away from home.

Not any of this
but a cot at the Superdome sunk in a dumpster

and lace valances from a Lakeview kitchen where water
rose six feet high inside

and a refrigerator wrapped in duct tape lying
in the dirt of a once-yard

and a Blue Roof and a house marked 0 and a

kitchen clock stopped at the time the hurricane hit.

Because, look, none of this fits
in a dark wood cabinet for safekeeping.

This is an installation
for dismantling
—never seen again.

This one by Numi Who is a different twist on loss and everyday objects; she says an apology for leaving abandoning the pencil!
Oh Pencil

Oh pencil,
whereforartthouhavebeentheeelsewhile
while I was away, neglecting you,
leaving you forlorn in the dark recesses of a forgotten drawer?

I have been remiss, a wayward ram
that had strayed from the womb of the flock
and was fleeced – and now,
here I return to you, and ask for your forgiveness –
will you forgive me, Pencil?

I have had my fling or two, or three, or four
and I have realized the error of my ways –
and I have found that it is you I need –
your gentle caresses, your smooth yellow skin
unmatched in firm suppleness,
unreserved in sensual touch,
giving without taking, obeying without demand…

If you will not have me back, I will understand –
and know – my head will never again rise,
my heart will never again soar,
and my mind will forever be shrouded in gloomy overcast –

and yet I would wish you such brightness,
and a perpetually sharp point,
in the grip of a large, thick hand
attached to an even thicker narrowly-focused mind
with a walnut-sized heart
as cold as an arctic floe –
for you know as well as I
that is how dismal and distant
your next best choice will be…

It is true I became enthralled with the gel pen –
its wonderfully tactile fluidness;
and with the highlighter –
able to swash instant rainbows across a page;
and the permanent marker –
indelibly recording my every intention…

but only you, Pencil,
can carry me back in time,
back to my very childhood
when the smell of No. 2 Yellows filled the air,
an air already scented with the soft mounds of pencil shavings
and trails eraser crumblings that belied our trysts,
strewn across the nightly waxed classroom tiled floors
upon which our rendezvous’ were made
and the dreams of ‘us’ lay waiting
for mutual steps and racing hearts…

Let me hold you once again,
that is all I ask,
and if the universe does not return us to our beginnings,
then cast me into oblivion –
for I would not wish to exist without thee
wherehaps I would have sharedeth
a long and loving life of literary essences with you.

Writing 101: Day Four: Serially Lost, My Twist: Combine With National Poetry Month

Today’s Prompt: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

What’s important is reflecting on this experience and what it meant for you — how it felt, why it happened, and what changed because of it.

Today’s twist: Make today’s post the first in a three-post series.

Since it is National Poetry Month, I will focus on poems about loss, and quote poems I have found helpful for me that ring true, as well as one or two I’ve written myself.

Between the fall of 2013 and last June 2014, I had some pretty awful losses, and wrote poems about them. I will feature them in this post and then some of the poems by famous poets that I find help the mourning. The other two posts in the series can focus on something more uplifting, maybe still on the subject of loss, but not death…

Kasa where are you
You’re gone
Nowhere.
You ain’t in your grave.
You’re not part of the sun.
I got no religion,
No heaven.
I got nothing.
Not even your voice on a phone…
One year almost:
You don’t even show up in my dreams
My soul is burning, kicked, beat up
Forever
From missing you
And crying
Tears that get no bandaid.

Sort of a poem:
Things were beautiful every day;
we were happy, we played.
No one knew of the sorrow to come.
We were on the monkey bars in rain or sun.
We painted lily pads together.
You shared your love of soft furry animals.

Then one day from nowhere,
we found out you were gone.
You became a brief moment of sunshine,
a physical girl so real, who jumped and played,
a piece of rainbows
such as every 6 year old is mostly made of,
a tall girl in a cupcake shirt
with a big smile and particular eyes
with flecks of this color and that,
eyes that refused to be checked off
in a box marked “blue” or “green” or “hazel”
because they were all of these and none.

How could you be so much here among us,
shining and bright,
a smile to melt the coldest heart,
and suddenly cold yourself,
no longer alive.

Your beautiful soul is gone.
They say you are a star in the sky.
But that won’t do.
We can’t play with you
when you are so far away.
Really you are gone forever,
maybe in the place
where the ones who haven’t even existed yet are,
maybe in another place,
the ground, the earth, gone forever.
What good is it for you to be in our hearts
when we want you back?
what good is it?
It is not good. It will never be so.

A short one:
You left me alone
When you were supposed to stay
I will scream and cry about you anyway.

This one was written about someone else:

The needle beckons.
Once you’ve succumbed,
Are you immortal
Or part of the walking dead?
The sad crowd of beautiful minds
Lost and wandering the earth.
Nothing can pin you down
Sleeping through your own glory
Will the needle take you away forever?
Will you wake up a final time
And join us out of your stupor?
We are lost without you
And losing you to your pain killer.
The sleeping beauties down here
Don’t always wake up.

Last one I wrote a while back:
I can’t comprehend
You are gone.
That you existed so much,
An abundance of existence
The lions and tigers, the giraffes
Most of all the cats
Were all your animals
You
Disappeared
on a Wednesday.

There is no forever in life
But infinitely forever you
Chose to disappear.

You are nowhere anymore
But I look for you everywhere.
Sand falls through my hands
Like memories of you that
Exist no more except in my head.
One day I will be dead too.
But I will never ever see you again.
As much as you were here,
You are completely gone
And I will never know
Why.
My hands sift the sand.

Here are a few written by poets I admire.
There is the famous one called Funeral Blues, that I’ve quoted on other posts, so I won’t quote the whole thing. It starts with “Stop all the clocks” and ends with “For nothing now can come to any good.” I first heard it in the movie, Four Weddings and Funeral.
http://allpoetry.com/Funeral-Blues

Here is a more uplifting one by Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world

Ending with Rumi:

At the twilight, a moon appeared in the sky;
Then it landed on earth to look at me.
Like a hawk stealing a bird at the time of prey;
That moon stole me and rushed back into the sky.
I looked at myself, I did not see me anymore;
For in that moon, my body turned as fine as soul.
The nine spheres disappeared in that moon;
The ship of my existence drowned in that sea

Creative Deed 365 and Random Acts of Kindness Week!

I just discovered that this week, Feb. 9-15, 2015 is “National Random Adts of Kindness week” which jives perfectly with a Facebook artist group I recently jointed focused on Daily Creative Deeds. As usual for me, I didn’t pay close attention tattendtion to the group and what it was about and just checked oit occasionally. I posted a few pictuers befor I realized you post photos of art you’re giving away.

So today I got inspired and startedmaking little mixed media collages. Each one has a heart on it and some piece of wisdom from a yogi tea bag. They were super fun to make, but even more fun to put around the neighborhood. I put them on windshields on cars, in a bank, a telephone booth and tonight in Whole Foods.

What amazed me most about it was how cathartic it was to go give out art for free without my name on it. I just wrote on the back, “I’m Free. take me home.”

Blog post not finished. got to go to bed

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Is There a Right Way to Spell Hanukkah? Chanukah? Hannukah?

happy chanukah! that’s how I spelled it as a kid, when nobody put up menorahs in NYC; times have changed. Spell it however you want! The festival of lights: put a little light in your heart! Put a little love in your heart, whether you celebrate any holiday at all, or none. There is always room for more love to spread around, and it starts with me and you:” put a little love in your heart!” No I am not crazy, just drunk on Bill Murray’s ending monologue in the movie “Scrooged”! This is the first day of the rest of our lives…

The “New” Fairy Tale: “Brave” and “Frozen”, Finally “Feminist”!

A quick post on Disney’s newest princesses.

The movie “Brave” is the older movie that came out in 2012, awhile “Frozen” is on a long run currently still in theaters and has become a big hit with both boys and girls. In both these movies, I was excited to notice that the relationships that are revealed as most important and the ones connected to the main “conflict” of the story, are between the main female characters, mother and daughter in “Brave” and sisters in “Frozen”. Both movies focus on relational conflicts between the two female characters, with the male characters in supporting roles or pushed very much to the side of the action…

One unfortunate part is that in each one you have the stereotypes of the archetypal females, such as “the ice queen”, the “cold” type of woman who doesn’t seem to have “needs”, the very rigid and insensitive mother in “Brave” and the distant rejecting older sister in “Frozen”. The young girl in “Brave” is actually a well fleshed out character with contradictions, but the young girl in “Frozen” is a little too flat, portrayed as “naïve”…. Unfortunately, I ultimately prefer the earlier movie “Brave” because the main character is much more appealing and “full”.

When I saw “Brave”, I was very excited to finally see a princess movie about a princess not wanting to get married. The main driving force of the plot is Princess Merida’s wanting to escape her mother’s rigid enforcement of her getting married and getting married when she the queen wants. The movie turns the princess meets prince and lives happily ever after on its head in many ways. Merida is the antithesis of the typical Disney princess; her hair is neither blond nor black; it is red and wild. She loves archery and horse back riding. She is smart, adventurous, independent, unique, and, well, brave! Her mother is not dead and not an evil stepmother, but nonetheless not very open-minded. Her father is not dead either, but like most of the males in the movie, he is portrayed as rather impotent and does not “do” anything to help his daughter, as his wife is the one in charge. He also is missing one of his legs due to his fight with a bear. All of the “suitors” are also portrayed as rather helpless and hapless. Merida is the best archer and they are also portrayed as rather unintelligent and slow. Even Merida’s little brothers are not very developed; they mostly want to eat sweets. Even though, these are castrating portrayals of males, it seems ok that Disney does this, as forever, we have been subjected to portrayals of females as weak, innocent, and needing a man to complete their identity.

The main conflict in “Brave” is between mother and daughter, who want different things. The mother does not listen to her daughter’s plea to be left alone and not forced to marry, so Merida ends up turning her into a bear. By the end of the movie, the daughter and mother have both changed, grown and evolved; they now appreciate each other and have become closer. The mother “lets down her hair” and opens up, and the daughter, having saved her mother and got her back to being human, mends “the bond” between them. Instead of the movie ending with a wedding, it ends with the mother and daughter riding off on horseback together, with their hair getting swept and swirled by the wind, both having learned a valuable lesson and become closer in the process.

Hair is a big thing in fairy tales and movies based on them, which is why I focused on it in describing “Brave”. The color and kind of hair, the hairdo, all of it is meaningful. In “Brave”, the mother tries to “tame” her daughter’s red locks but they return to their natural state of wildness and the mother’s hair goes from being tightly controlled and “perfect” to loosening up. In the movie “Tangled”, the most recent portrayal of Rapunzel, I noticed that the wicked person looks like a Polish woman with very dark curly hair, and I think some grey streaks, which struck a cord as it looked like my own hair is currently. Of course, the whole fairy tale Rapunzel is centered on her long hair and a whole blog post could be written about that. Anyway, in “Frozen”, hair is again metaphorical and symbolic. Anna, the narrator and main character, has a white streak in her red brown hair from when her older sister almost “froze” her as a young child. Later on in the movie, her hair turns completely white when her sister has frozen part of her heart. Her hair turns back to its regular color at the end of the movie when the conflict between the sisters is resolved.

“Frozen” is also fascinatingly different from typical princess material in so many ways. It makes fun of the main stereotype of most fairy tales, the idea of “true love” being between a prince and princess and that they fall in love at “first sight”, without knowing anything about each other, that they “complete each other’s sentences and complete each other”. The real “true love” in the movie is that between Anna and her older sister Elsa. Elsa does not know how to control her power to “freeze” things, and at first sees it only as dangerous when she gets scared by what she does to her sister. Her keeping alone and distant from her younger sister is done out of love and fear that she might destroy her with her power. The movie is seen from the point of view of the younger vibrant silly, exciting extrovert Anna who does not understand why her sister has always pushed her away, kept her out, left her alone, rejected and been “cold” to her. Elsa by nature stays alone and avoids people, supposedly due to her powers keeping her literally at arms length from everyone. One thing I noticed in reflecting on this relationship was that the whole event of Anna meeting her “suitor” on her sister’s coronation day and believing she had “fallen in love with him” and deciding to marry him really had nothing to do with her actually falling in love with this man or believing she was infatuated with him. The whole impetus to trust this man came from her I think finally going outside the castle and still feeling rejected by her sister. Her act of coming to her sister with this “fait accompli” and introducing him was more about her relationship with Elsa than any desire to marry anybody. She was essentially saying, “You won’t pay attention to me or let me in or be close to me, so I will go find the first man that is nice to me, spend the evening with him and then tell you that I’m going to marry him because if you really care about me at all you will actually tell me you don’t want me to marry him and ALSO be close to me again in the way that I want you to be.” The fake closeness she has with this stranger is more warmth she has experienced since her sister “dumped” her long ago, so of course she is very open to being with anyone who acts loving toward her. Even her interaction with the other guy, the one she meets when looking for her sister seems related to her sister. He is similar to the cold aloof Elsa in that he is a loner, content to do his work with his deer and not interested in interactions with other humans. He is not very friendly either. Perhaps she is drawn to him not only because he knows how to get around in the cold but because he reminds her of Elsa!

Another funny aspect of this movie is the way it portrays the older sister and younger sister relationship; the older sister stops playing with the younger sister and rejects her. She knows things the younger one does not know or understand. She wants to be left alone, while the younger sister craves her attention, is puzzled by the rejection and saddened by the change from playing together to being left to play by herself. How many sisters have experienced this? Of course there are other kinds of relationships between sisters, but the movie portrays one of the main kinds of older versus younger sister dynamics, where the older sister later comes to see that the younger sister is not as naive and ignorant as she once was; the younger sister has “grown up” and the dynamic shifts in adulthood to a different kind of appreciation of each other’s qualities.

Anyway, there is more to be said about these movies and their attempts to turn the stereotypical princess story on its head, but I must say, I am very pleased to see these mainstream Disney princess movies take on more complex and interesting themes, conflicts and plots, shifting from the unrealistic “true love” marriage tale to some more complicated focus on the family dynamic between two females, mother and daughter and sisters, older and younger and reveal two courageous characters who are fighters in every sense of the word… I wish I could have seen these movies when I was around 5 or 6 and thought marriage and having kids was awful!