Writing 101 Assignments: Serially Lost, Serially Found: Lost and Found in Neverland

I physically lost a blog post a week ago because it was in my journal! It was already a post about losing and finding, so I will start with typing out that post. This is part of the second “series” of posts. The first series for the class that inspired me was the series for Loss. This is a series about the “lost and found” we all have in our hearts, as well as losing important items in the physical world…

Lost and Found in Neverland

I lost my Hello Kitty hat
on a cold day in October 2013.
That hat was a happy pill.
A gift to everyone on the streets or subway
Who saw it and smiled.
The white knit hat with cat ears
and pearlescent sequined glasses
(did you know Hello Kitty is nearsighted.)
Even the neon orange whiskers
were on that hat.
And an orange bow.

I must have left it on a crosstown bus.
Hello Kitty is good for crossing over,
transitions, goodbyes.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to that happy hat.
I felt like a Mad Hatter in it.
The night sky was on
when I realized i lost the hat.
I was so torn apart
and frustrated with myself
I may have even cried.

I felt like a happy child with it on my head.
For under 20$ I got a hat with magic powers,
transformer powers.
I felt great waves of longing for it to come
back to me.

Suddenly a lightbulb split my hatless unhappy head open wide.
Yes I missed that hat, but I knew I could hunt it down on Ebay
If I wanted to replace it with another one.
But my friend who died the month before was gone
forever.
And not coming back.
There is no Ebay for lost beloved friends.
She is somewhere in a Neverland, stuck in the Lost and Found box.
Not the Neverland of Peter Pan.
The Neverland of dead people
who left too soon
and did what we never wanted them to do
to get there.

I got that Happy Hat back, or at least
one that looked exactly the same
and it still had the magic powers
to stop people on the street
and bring a smile to a grey day.

My friend is gone in that Neverland.
I wanted her to never go there,
But she did anyway.
we all have that choice.

That lost and found bin is in your heart,
the permanent place the love for K.
will always be found.

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

Poetry Assignment: Fog, Elegy, Metaphor

Untitled

“The fog comes on little cat feet”
is one of my favorite lines.

For you, the fog was a tiger.

You left on Sept. 18, 2013
It’s a foggy death you chose.
You knew you wanted to die.

I have a fantasy of fog:
That I am walking towards the water
in a thick fog
and you emerge.

You say words, explain, convince…
Death was not a fog for you
and all the others who chose it.
It was a sharp knife to cut the pain.

I see you all together.
The suicides under the sea
that we cannot see.

I beat my head on the fog
No comfort.
You can’t hit fog, you can’t swallow fog.
Death swallowed you up that day.
I wait for it to spit you out
So I can see you again as you once were.

Re Blogging for World Suicide Prevention Day 2014

I am reblogging this great post for Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week and World Suicide Prevention Day by Pride In Madness. The post is both personal and more broadly takes on the topic of how to talk frankly about suicidal ideation and plans. Silence is not an option; people need to have language for talking about this serious and grave topic. Many mental illnesses/substance abuse issues and combinations of these biological diseases are deadly. The most common cause of suicide is some kind of mental illness combined with substance dependence issues that are not being addressed and treated…

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

Reblogging a great blog’s post quoting another person but it’s an interesting point of view; though on vacation, I have thought of Robin Williams’ life and death, but I have been avoiding Facebook and newspapers and Internet not to mention TV, so it has been good to have an excuse to stay out of the frenzy of opinions on suicide, mental illness/substance issues as well as celebrities… This commentary is great food for thought.

Bipolar Lessons

This is such a realistic and compassionate point of view on Robin William’s suicide that I just have to share it. Be warned that this may be triggering for some people.

From the Patheos blog Camels With Hammers

Robin Williams’s Verdict on Life

View original post 763 more words

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Death and Legos

On Feb.2, 2014, (James Joyce’s Birthday), Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an overdose. On that same day in the United States, about 99 other people also died of drug overdose.

This week in my practice, I had quite a few intense sessions with people, the kind of sessions that feel like they are of an existential matter, or an existential crisis. Talking people from the ledge, not necessarily people about to end their life immediately or go overdose, but people questioning their own life and its possible meaninglessness, feeling a lot of self loathing and worthlessness, or destroying their creative spirit with judgments, comparisons and criticisms. In about 9 sessions yesterday, I think Philip Hoffman’s death came up somehow in about 8 out of them and the morning before also in another session. What does his death represent besides a reminder of the deadliness of drug addiction and polysubstance and heroin abuse? It’s about recovery and finding yourself at a crossroads in your life, your shadow is beckoning you to eternal emotional pain and despair and a small shred of hope, a light in the distance, is still also there calling you away from the darkness. It’s about the work in most therapy, the goal being for the person to come to like him or herself more and hate him or herself less…

Some of these sessions went to a very blunt place where I pointed out, we all have what I see as 3 choices when faced with existential angst and self destructive thoughts about life being meaningless or ourselves being failures, worthless, whatever we make is not good, and being told positive things about ourselves makes us feel worse instead of better. So your choice is to end it now and be done with the endless suffering — what the BUddhists refer to as suffering due to addiction, attachment and delusion. The other is to kill yourself off symbolically and destroy your creative spirit and continue living the life of a deadened person; this choice involves giving up on yourself but continuing to appear to be alive but to be dead inside. Many have made this choice, a kind of circle of hell on earth, an acceptance of depression as part of everyday life. The other choice is the hardest for people who have been to the darkest part of their psyche and lived through it: the choice to awaken and emerge from the traps of addiction, delusion and attachment. All humans are at times addicted, deluded or attached. People wake up everyday and live through the day in such a state of mind. Addiction is not just to substances or gambling, sex, love, shopping, food or work, money, success, approval, anger, etc.

Delusion is not limited to humans wandering around in psychotic states. We are in delusion quite often in everyday life, when we do not observe what is really going on and enter a kind of state of ignorance.
“In the Mahayana tradition, two levels of ignorance (avidya) are identified. Dzigar Kongtrul explains:
There are two levels of ignorance: ignorance of the absolute, or the essential nature of phenomena, and the ignorance that prevents us from taking an accurate reading of the relative world. These two kinds of ignorance are like two kinds of thread: When they are tightly woven together, they are not easy to identify, yet they make up the fabric of delusion.
As a result of the first type of ignorance, we lack wisdom. Lacking an understanding of our true nature, we perceive that which is illusory and spacious to be solid and real. The second type of ignorance is the inability to clearly understand the laws of karma and interdependence, which then results in an inaccurate relationship to the world.” From Wikipedia

Carl Jung referred to this type of ignorance in terms of “attitudes”. When a person does not see clearly what is real, they take on an attitude or attach a kind of power to something that then renders it not real and the person continues to see it that way. We see this all the time with various kinds of simple realities. Your “boss” at work becomes more than a “boss”. A boss is someone who has the role of directing people who work for him or her and defining the tasks and roles of the people who work for him or her, but for many they attach more power to their boss and their boss becomes too powerful or their parent instead of simply their boss. We do this with all kinds of things. As an artist I have done this with a gallery or exhibition. My work gets rejected and for a while I live in a delusional state of mind in which this particular gallery and the “juror” who picked the work to go in the show and the work that was not admitted to the show become more than what they really are. I give them some kind of power to decide that I am a “bad artist”, “not good enough”, a “failure”. The gallery is one of probably millions and it is simply a place that payed someone to look through images of work submitted by artists and decide which to put in a particular show that would take place for about 30 days. When I let go of my delusions and attachments to this delusional idea of the gallery and juror of the show, I see the reality, and go back to doing what an artist does whether s/he gets in a show or not, creates art on a daily basis.

In reality, the gallery’s juror did not want any of ten images I emailed them to be in some show of theirs. I know these are ten of countless pieces I will continue to make. When I am not attached to my work being seen or to this gallery’s show, or even to a particular art work being good or bad or craving attention for my work or addicted to approval from the outside, I can be a relatively happy being who engages in the creative process for the sake of the process and my happiness is derived from the engagement with the materials and the process not with any product or result of a product. Because I have survived many of these rejections, each time I am quicker to be able to return to reality. Reality is always much simpler than the delusional or attached or addicted version of reality. In reality a glass of wine or a new dress is a material thing to enjoy but it does not have more power than that. Having a book published or a painting in a show or an award for a movie is a part of reality but cannot define a person. Exhibit A: Philip Seymour Hoffman, human who, given 46 years on earth, achieved a level of success, reknown, acclaim and material riches, as well as a family, and promise of more opportunities to hone his craft, gain more reknown and more enjoyment from his creativity as well as further fame and money, perhaps the joy of watching his children grow, that few ever come close to, he, who with all of thi,s was not able to escape the suffering that addiction brings to all who succomb.

Bringing us back to the choices and the therapeutic session sometimes taking on the conversation of existential dilemmas nobody escapes. Challenge is: can you wake up tomorrow and show up for life whatever it brings and be awake, not living in the past or some fantasy of the future moment? If you can do that, you will escape your own attachments to some definition of who you are, who you are supposed to be, who you expect yourself to be, your addictions to anything that seems like it will fill an empty hole, your delusions about your own reality and the people and other beings you encounter throughout your day. It’s an invitation to let go of your beliefs, your assumptions, your cravings, your attachments to outcomes and goals. As Marsha Linehan wrote: “The fundamental nature of reality is change and process rather than content or structure.” I found this quote, wrote it in my journal and shared it with about 4 patients in the course of my day, as I need to constantly remind myself of this truth; armed with this one small bit of wisdom about reality, you may save yourself from the terrible fate of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the 99 other unknowns who died on Feb.2, 2014 in the USA of the same cause… as well as the countless people walking the earth, who have no awareness of their own suffering in the form of addiction, delusion or attachment…

The philosophy of playing legos, contributed by a five year old, to be explored in another post.

Quick Post: Too Good for this World

Maybe this is offensive, but I don’t like it when people say “She was too good for this world.” After a young or not old person dies.
This is an odd stereotype. It sets up a dichotomy between “Angel People” who are seen as more pure and idealized for traits like kindness and sensitivity and even “living life to the fullest.” The song “Only the Good Die Young” is ironically about loss if virginity, not loss of life but he does imply that society views that by dying young, even a virgin, a person remains pure in some way. I’m not sure at what age you have to give up on this idea…
In some cases the persons life is frozen. S/he doesn’t get more time on earth to make more mistakes, be mediocre, not special, flawed, etc. if you die young there are recognitions of the amazing things you would have done. Luckily all these people are very dead and can avoid feeling pressured to live up to an unrealistic ideal of a human.
Because it is so awful when a young person dies at the beginning of their journey on life’s road, people comfort themselves with the idea that the person was not only too good for this world but “not of this world”. It can become almost an explanation as to why the person died, which does not really ale any sense.
This idealization also separates the rest of us average humans from the really superhuman almost Buddha like humans.
Also what does it mean to be alive and just trucking along and then when dead described in this manner. What if this person had continued living. Would s/ he suddenly join the rest of us humans?
In addition when a person struggled with mental illness and rated issues, they are struggling mightily just to exist in this world. That doesn’t mean thru are too good for this world but that their painful inner world and difficulties with the outside world can collapse on the person.
I know of many long lived people who are pretty “good ” and have made good use of their time on earth to make the world a better place. Unfortunately if your life gets cut off too early you don’t get more chances to use your goodness.
So perhaps a loss of a good and caring person is indeed a loss for the world, but most of all that persons loss of being cheated out of many of life’s joys.., This is not the same as being “different”, not of this world, ethereal, etc.

Death and Neckaces

Ok. I started a very long post a few days ago and it got erased!  Then I spent a lot of time finishing the post and part of that got erased! Major frustration!!! I’m feeling blog post guilt for not posting in so long!

I thought of calling this post “Death or Necklaces”, but, as is the way of blog writing, I know there will turn out to be some connection between the two topics. Already they are connected, as the main topics related to art therapy and psychology that came up while I was on vacation in the woods upstate.

On my vacation, I brought only several books with me all of which were related to therapy; luckily I was reading “Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass” out loud to my daughter every night to offset the fact that I didn’t bring any “vacation” books, such as novels. (Note: good rule for next vacation and for other therapists, only bring books unrelated to our profession when going on vacation or staycation.) The main book that had a huge effect on me was Yalom’s “Staring at The Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death”. I started reading it the first night and couldn’t stop myself from reading it every night, until about page 248, when I had to stop, as it had become too overwhelming. I think this happened somewhere in the middle of vacation. I found myself thinking too much about death, dying, death anxiety, and loss. I know the book brought me to the point of tears, but oddly I can’t remember what it was that I was reading in it that did that. I’m also not sure what I was reading about when I put the book down. I had already read his chapter about his own experiences with death and death anxiety…

Oddly enough, a long vacation already has an element of loss and awareness of how the present slips into the past and how the future is limited, as the “longer than a week” vacation has a beginning, middle and end. Having about 18 days away afforded me the kind of reflection about the vacation itself that was due to its length and my being hyper aware of the vacation’s having an end date, the “death” or “expiration date” of the vacation… For, in contrast, with a short week’s vacation, one barely has time to get used to it before it is over. So this book topic oddly resonated with my having my first long vacation as a therapist, and as an adult actually, as I never before took such a long vacation,at least in the past 15 or 20 years…

I spent most of that time in the woods with my family, on a small pond populated mostly by frogs and a few crayfish. The frogs were a highlight of our stay at our friends’ “Froggy Pond Cabin”. A daily activity involved going out in the paddle boat and spotting frogs. As they are well camouflaged both day and night, it was very exciting to find a frog at the edge of the pond, and then just sitting and watching a frog, as, surprisingly, many of them sit quietly in the same place not moving at all, even hearing us talk to them and about them or at night shining a flashlight on them. Each evening as the sun set, the place was filled with a chorus of frogs croaking, calling to each other. At times I could also hear frogs in some other nearby pond. Their voices were wondrous and strangely had no connection whatsoever to the “ribbit” frog talk in the English language. (At least “moo” is a close enough approximation to a cow’s real sound!)

I mention the frogs to start the topic of being far away from the city in nature and strangely, very close to death all around us. The first night we were there I was not that surprised to find the corpses of 2 dead mice in the house, which had decayed to such a point that their skeletons were viewable. Last year, staying at the same place, I had found a mouse newly dead and seen some live mice, so I was very aware that I would likely encounter a dead mouse. I have seen many dead mice in my lifetime but nothing like these two. They looked like they could soon become fossils. Somehow the extra time of their being dead, the idea that they had died long before we got there, to discover them like that was very strange and the eerie feeling it brought up stayed with me as the vacation continued. They were under a bed, and I developed an irrational fear of seeing them again, as well as guilt at the edge of my mind that I wanted to clean up this mess, but couldn’t bring myself to do it as they seemed enmeshed with the carpet. There was something very spooky about accidentally spotting them with my flashlight at bedtime with my daughter, who may have even asked to look at them. It was also strange as Alice in Wonderland encounters a live talking mouse soon after arriving at the bottom of the rabbit hole. The aliveness of the creatures in that book was even more interesting as we encountered some out in real life, both alive and dead. We saw live moving caterpillars and dead ones, all sorts of spiders, mostly alive, and many other insects including some creepy variety I was unable to recognize, as well as one dead frog found at the end of vacation, which was saddest of all, as we had become so friendly with the frogs.

I go on about dead animals as well as live ones and fictional talking ones because dead creatures of other species are all around us, and usually we remain unaware of them. Of course every time you enter a supermarket, no matter what you eat, there are dead animals there… The first night when I began the book with his introduction to the concept of death anxiety, I had a premonition that I would have a dream about death, and I did.

I dreamed about having a dog that was only 2 and dying of cancer. I was talking to the vet who was telling me it was over and I had a hard time believing her because the dog was so young. The dog was the same kind of unusual dog my close friend had and recently lost in a very traumatic sudden manner a few weeks prior. Also, in the dream, my own dog, who died in 2009, was there in the background, a kind of ghostly presence. It was a very sad and emotional dream and very vivid.  The dream resonated on many levels. The obvious one was that it was about a recent loss my friend experienced that touched me, and about my own loss of my dog. What did not occur to me until now while writing about it is the idea of the dream being about my own death anxiety, if I look a little deeper or apply the idea that everyone in the dream is me. Perhaps I was telling myself to live as though I had very little time to live. A few days later, when I told my daughter about the dream because she was curious, I was struck by her saying, “Oh you had that dream because you are do sad about Claude (my friend’s dog who died suddenly and traumatically), and you think about it a lot.” She was right in terms of the vivid urgency of the dream and seemed more aware than I about the effect of Claude’s death upon me. Her short life experience of death is of my own dog’s death, so she senses a lot about my own sensitivity to dogs. She remembers him and learned a lot about death because of it. My own experiences of death that I remember, besides having turtles and a hamster, happened when I was much older and lost my first beloved grandmother at about age 13, though I am sure I thought a lot about how strange death is and what happens when you die, and other typical childhood wonders about being put in a box in the ground, etc. Being a native New Yorker, I have more vivid memories about my concern with garbage and where it is dumped. (Recycling did not exist.) I remember spending a lot of time being freaked out by the idea that there is a limit to the space on earth, and how do we manage to keep generating garbage, where does it go, and why does it not overpower us because of the constant continuance of it. What will we do when we have no more room to put the garbage? I think this coincided with my wondering about dead bodies accumulating and a limited amount of space for them. It still bewilders me that at some point there will be no more space for cemeteries…

What struck me about this book was the author’s philosophical approach to death and death anxiety. He is a therapist, but quoted a lot of philosophies to his patients and discussed philosophers and philosophy a lot in the book, as they deal a lot with the subject of death and human existence. Questions arose about what makes a life meaningful, how do we deal with the fact that many years from now even our most famous authors and philosophers may not survive? Our art will likely be eventually destroyed, millions of years from now, so even the idea of living on through what we make is ultimately an illusion and delusion. The only thing that can save us from the anxiety of nothingness and not being or even being remembered is his idea of the concept of “rippling” like water in a pond, our effects upon others in our relationships, whether as friend or mentor, that is, to, in life, have a meaningful effect upon others. I agree with Yalom that when we die we cease to exist. That’s it. Concepts of reincarnation or after life are just false comforts for death anxiety. To really deal with our death anxiety we have to face our mortality and accept that we will disappear completely. Although unlike Yalom, I believe in synchronicity and unconscious connections and sometimes maybe in some idea of fate or that things happen for a reason, ultimately I have to agree that death just happens and that’s that. There is no explanation for babies and children dying. Or our pets dying too young or dying at all. It doesn’t happen for a reason. The only way to deal with the fact of death and our own mortality is to live as much as possible in the present moment. It’s why we are drawn to dogs, cats and children. They bring us into the present moment so we can indeed be here now. Sex functions the same way. I have seen countless movies where people seem to be inexplicably drawn to having sex after a funeral, for the obvious reason that it is a way to move away from thinking about dying and that our lives will end like blowing out a candle.

“Staring at the Sun”, Yalom calls this book because we really can’t do it for too long, or we get blinded. We need to be aware of our own anxiety about our own death, but we can’t be too preoccupied with it, or we will cease to live. The only unanswered questions I felt he did not address were about suicide and suicide fantasies. Those people who fly straight into the sun and have their wings melted, what about them, the people who deal with death anxiety by trying to control death and take their own lives? He does not grapple with that subject, though he has plenty to say about his experiences of working with people who know their time is limited and that they will die soon, and how much he has learned from these very awake people. I was also just curious about other aspects of suicidal ideation, such as people who fantasize about being dead and at peace as well as the phenomenon of a person failing at a suicide and reporting that in the middle of it, s/he changed his/her mind about it. Did  death anxiety save such a person, or the desire to have more life? Probably these two ideas are tied together.

We all fantasize about peeking in at our own funerals. What would people be saying about me? we think. Another useful fantasy is to imagine that you are told you have a month or a week left to live. What would you do differently? If your answers look very different from your life right now, you know you have urgent work to do in therapy and in your life. If your answers are close to your present life, you are living more fully, but there are always changes to make and ways to awaken yourself more now here while you are still breathing. In my family we have a goodbye ritual when any of us are leaving the house, that, though a quick one, serves as a way to ensure that even if tension was in the air about something, we know we acknowledged our bond before the possibility of ultimate separation. As I not only live in NYC but close to Ground Zero, I am hyper aware of the concept of leaving the house or someone else leaving and never seeing each other again…

Bringing me to the topic of necklaces… On my vacation I made a lot of art with and without my 4 year old, so my art was very influenced by the materials we used as is usual. The one different thing for me was a sudden desire to use beads and make necklaces. It probably started before vacation when I took my daughter to Beads of Paradise in New York City, and we picked out beads and made necklaces. I had thought of it as a fun activity to do wuth her, but when I got home, I hunted out my beads that I bought years ago on a trip to new Mexico and made another necklace. It was then that I had that “aha” moment when you do something without thinking about it, and suddenly you really like it. So on vacation I brought those beads with me and got obsessed with not only making necklaces but getting more beads and sorting the beads by color and starting a kind of collection of beads. It became my alone meditative time at the cabin because my daughter did not show interest in beading.

Sitting outside and putting beads on a string was a discovery similar to my discovery of knitting many years ago. I didn’t take jewelry making of any kind or beads too seriously when I started learning about art therapy. I had the usual bias that somehow it wasn’t as creative as drawing, painting, sculpture and collage. That bias disappeared over the years as I witnessed the therapeutic effect of working with beads and other media traditionally thought of as “crafts” rather than “art”.

In any case, I had a few stray thoughts about beading as a process and what makes it so enjoyable and therapeutic. For one thing, it is like origami in that it is shown in the moment. While origami can be a performance akin to a magic trick, the necklace is also “finished” and has a definite end point. Wearing your own art can be empowering, and I’m sure it’s a part of what inspires people to become jewelry designers. Making a necklace out of colored beads also has the feeling of taking part in folk art and traditionally thought of as “woman” folk art activities such as quilting. The necklace, like the vacation and the life span, has a beginning, middle and end. I was making long necklaces so the middle became the focal point where I had the most fun picking out the extender and the special beads to put on it, and then continuing up the other side, carefully trying to copy whatever pattern I had invented for the first half of the necklace. (Note: this is where my writing got erased, so I’m not sure I remember everything I said on this topic…

For some reason, making these necklaces (see below for some photos of some of the ones I made), reminded me of the three fates in Greek Mythology. Definitely one of them is spinning something that has an end to it and is meant to represent the individual’s fate, life span, etc. Interestingly, the three fates are older unattractive women:

The Moirai were described as ugly old women, sometimes lame. They were severe, inflexible and stern. Clotho carries a spindle or a roll (the book of fate), Lachesis a staff with which she points to the horoscope on a globe, and Atropos (Aisa) a scroll, a wax tablet, a sundial, a pair of scales, or a cutting instrument. At other times the three were shown with staffs or sceptres, the symbols of dominion, and sometimes even with crowns. At the birth of each man they appeared spinning, measuring, and cutting the thread of life. (Quote lifted from Wikipedia.)

Besides the meditative quality of the repetitious action of beading, there is the linear quality to it, with one following another. When I made mistakes I had to take out all the beads up to the mistake and start again. Of course now I think I had some profound thoughts connecting death awareness to necklace making, and I have no idea what they were… Another interesting point Yalom makes in his book is that we often live with a false presumption of immortality or of death always being far into the future. He uses the example of starting to write a book with the assumption that one will be alive to finish it. I would even venture to say that some procrastination connected to writing or finishing a written work may be related to an underlying death anxiety. Anyway, making these necklaces is not quite the same process as they do not take so long to make. Another interesting point is the accidental dropping of beads and sudden loss of a pattern.

Ultimately there are many connections between actual death, death anxiety, separation and loss, hyperconciousness, forgetting the fact of one’s own death, the living dead, etc. One thing that struck me as sad is the difference between a memory, which in some ways represents a lost moment in the past, that one can never have back, and the gaps in memory of one’s own life story; for some reason, I get sadder at the idea that so much of my life involves moments and episodes of living that I have no memory of. Having a dim memory or an awareness that the memory may not be factual is not quite as bad as the “blackout” of moments of life. However, memory and time could be a whole topic on their own…

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