The horse's pasture to the East...

Saturday, August 27, 2016


We finished our book together. " I willed myself to stay awake, but the rain was so soft and the room was so warm and his voice was so deep and his knee was so snug that I slept. " Scout, last page of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Mrs. Miniver died in my arms, held up close to my chest. She ended her life quietly, without pain and looking in to my eyes with that same, clear trust that she always gave to me. I'd told her it would be OK, that I would be there with her all the way. John and I spent the afternoon telling her Miniver Stories, letting her know about who might be there to see her through to the next place. 

She wasn't interested in any of that. It was just us humans comforting ourselves. She had no fear. She was ready, quiet, calm, waiting and watching my face. As long as I was there, she was fine. I was the human she had chosen, and not the other way around. She loved that part of our time together. It was always her choosing and not humans making it happen to her. 

It isn't too hard to understand that when the bond goes in two directions and both of us treat the other with respect and kindness, love and devotion without expectations, neither of us wants to walk on without the other. She was always with me, always.

Five years ago, just weeks after my sweet glossy dog, Gypsy had died, I had a dream. In the dream Gypsy came to me, jumped up on the bed, and laid down where she always had before and told me that there was someone waiting for me. All I had to do was go find her. When I woke up the pillow was warm where she had laid next to me in the dream.

That morning, I did my chores and drove in to the animal shelter in Lawrence (Kansas). It was a busy Saturday morning in May, the weather was cool and people were there looking for puppies and kittens. That wasn't necessarily what I was doing. I told the tired looking young woman  that I was there, looking for my next dog. I told her we lived out on a nature preserve. " There are predators so it can't be a small dog. I need one large enough to fend off a coyote or owl."

We spent all day looking. I met nervous dogs, depressed dogs, frightened dogs, busy dogs. I looked at puppies and old dogs, big dogs and small dogs. They were all wonderful, even the ones who were a bit aggressive because they were frightened. I walked dogs, rubbed tummies, scratched behind ears but it still wasn't 'my' dog. And then we came around the last corner to walk down the aisle where the really big dogs were. She told me some of them hadn't been out for a walk in weeks because the volunteers and even the staff were frightened by them, so I might not find who I wanted today. I wanted to look anyway.

And there, in the middle of the last aisle in a room filled with the cacophony of dogs trying to get our attention, was a huge, red, Saint Bernard mix. She was laying at the back of her kennel quietly, no barking. She got up with great dignity and walked to the front of the kennel, sat down next to the door and looked me straight in the eye. No fuss, just a direct inquiry. " Are we going for a walk?"

The girl told me she hadn't been out for the seven weeks she had been there except for the Vet and then with a muzzle on. She never barked. She frightened nearly everyone there. I got down next to her and let her smell my hand. I wasn't listening to the girl at all. I was entranced! " Seven weeks is much too long. Let's go for a walk, shall we?" The young volunteer told me she was supposed to get her out, but she was afraid. She would have to go get a staff member. I didn't hear her when she left.

I opened the door, took the leash down from another kennel. Miniver didn't even have her own leash. And off we went. " Ma'am. Ma'am! You can't do that. She doesn't have her muzzle on. MA'AM!" I never heard him. Miniver and I were out the door and heading for the biggest yard. No one was using it and we were going in for some play time.

Miniver's tail was wagging and she was looking at me with that unadulterated, blazing, bright open smile. " I knew you would come!" We were in our own space by then. Even the young guy with the muzzle hanging from his hand could see that. He was wise enough in the way of dogs and the people they choose to let us be. All we had to do was pass the last test. And then it happened. Instead of running away from me Miniver leaned back against my leg and sat on my foot. All of my dogs have done that. They all choose me by sitting on my foot. Happens every single time, almost like they get coaching from someone. " If she's the one you want all you have to do is lean against her leg and sit on her foot. " And she did it. Miniver sat on my foot and never left me again. I'd found my dog, the one who was waiting for me.

We called her the Water Diva. She was very fussy about her water bowl. If she saw someone, even Apple, drink from it before she did she would stand there and wait, look at me over her shoulder, then very pointedly look at the bowl. " I need a clean bowl and fresh, clear, cold water. Thank you very much!" And that was that. She trained me and John very quickly to keep the water bowls in the house (we have several so no one ever goes without water) clean. It was the same outside too. I keep a bucket my Grandad would have called the Fire Bucket full of water. It's always outside the paddock and within easy reach of either the barn or shed. It's for emergencies but in Miniver's mind it was hers. It was always sparkling clean and full of fresh water. Her standards were very high.

She didn't bark much. When she did it was full throated, a huge boom that would echo across our little valley. She had a job, protect Nancy, protect the herd, protect John and in that order too. If she barked, we paid attention. Apple is a vocal dog, loves to talk all day long. But Miniver was sparing in her barks and growls. She was careful to preserve them and use them only when needed. No one that she barked at ever came down the drive very far and I never invited them to either. She was very discerning and I always appreciated her work ethic. She did her job very well indeed.

Favorite Miniver story, or one of many anyway:   A car load of religious people came up the drive. I can always tell who they are. They come in a group dressed in suits and dresses. The men are always officious and the women look like they're eating lemons. They have bibles and pamphlets tucked under their arms and a determined look on their collective faces. I'd always tried to be polite but polite never works. It becomes an invitation. I do not like being proselytized to or patronized. Not my cup of tea.

Miniver stepped outside with me, stood in front of me with her body cross wise to mine, and gave them 'the look'. It was direct and clear. "Stop. Leave." But, fools that they were, they came ahead. She took exactly three steps away from me, took a deep breath and out of her mouth came this enormous BARK! It echoed and rolled across the valley. I've never seen four people pile back in to a car so fast. It was like one of those games we used to play as teenagers, when you all throw your doors open and run around the car and change places at the stop light. Only these people were knocking each other out of the way to get behind the doors. So much for their religious ideals of charity and putting others before yourself.

And again they drove ahead towards me. They weren't very smart. Miniver walked up to the driver's side, put her head in the open window (yes, she was that big) and let out three more huge booming barks. She was just inches from the driver's arm, which he moved along with his body, right over the lady in the seat next to him. What a wimp! 

The teenager in the back came over the seat in record time and gravel flew as he turned that big, old, ugly Chevy around and left marks down the drive, heading for the road. And that was the last we saw of any religious people ever again. My response? I got down on the ground next to Miniver, threw my arms around her and told her what a wonderful guardian she was. I scratched behind her ears, rubbed down her back and sat on the ground next to my big, wonderful girl. She always had excellent taste in people!

The last weeks of her life she was tired. It was a massive effort on her part to get up. I'd bought a sling to hep lift her and had to teach myself how to leverage her up. She would walk a few steps and then sit or lay down. And if the heat was too bad, sometimes she would simply fall over. Getting all of my chores done was increasingly difficult. She would panic if I wasn't where she could see me and I was loath to leave her. It was my turn to be her caretaker. She'd even lost that booming bark. It was nothing but a loud, expressive snort of air now.

I knew she would tell me when it was time. And she did. It was one of the hardest calls I've ever had to make. I think I probably did more crying on the day I called the Vet's office to make an appointment for a farm call, than I did later. But she had made it very clear to both of us. For the first time John 'heard' her voice. She walked over to the place he had prepared for her, looked at him and said, " I'm tired John. I'm not afraid. " And she told me that morning too, by walking, just a few steps at a time, to the place where she would lay in the ground and looking at me with that clear gaze of hers. She was ready.

Time takes on a strange, fluid quality when the final days are here. Years ago I had told John that I was sorry I'd never had to take care of my Mom or my Grandmothers for a long period. There's something about that process that deepens your strength and inner resolve to live, really live. And it teaches you the value of compassion and love in simple, direct terms. Miniver weighed 180 pounds at the end of her life. She was bigger than me by almost forty pounds, weighed more than John. She was so big that she could stand next to the table with her head resting on it without reaching. She gave me the gift of caring without expecting anything in return. Except she always gave more to me than I did to her. 

At the end, while I read to her from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and cried, she spent her time in my lap comforting me. I'd been bringing her sparkling clean water bowl and food, to her,  for weeks. She could still get up but only by leveraging herself against a wall. Her back legs had sore places where she had rubbed so hard to get herself up so I wouldn't have to. I kept her clean and doctored the sore places. I don't think she could feel them. Her spine was decaying. She walked because the front of her body remembered how to. She would swing herself from one side to the other. " I got this Miss Nancy. Don't you worry. I got this. " She never complained.

We spent our last hours outside laughing about all of the funny things that had happened over the five years we had her. We remembered the raccoon she had treed and then decided to guard because that was her nature. That old raccoon laid on a branch, legs dangling to either side, just above Miniver, and dropped acorns on her head. She watched the raccoon. He watched her. And then some kind of signal passed between them and she got up, stepped back and the raccoon came down the tree. She escorted him to the edge of the woods and off he waddled. Job done. 

She and Lucky, my Alpha horse, had a friendship too. They would touch noses every morning at the gate. " Morning Mrs. M. " and " Morning Big Luck. " It was like two blue collar workers passing while shifts began and ended at the same time. She would pass me off to Lucky and then settle in the shade or go check out the best parts of the compost piles. 

That strange liquid feeling was there all that last day. She had her favorite for breakfast; stinky, greasy tuna fish. She got to have the whole can to herself. And the cookies were unlimited that day, although she mostly just piled them up and looked at them, licking them occasionally. Apple was with her, laying with her head draped over Miniver. The kittens slept between her front paws while I did short spats of chores and tried not to look at the clock. 

When the Vet arrived he was, thankfully, was very patient. We did our last walk together to her place. I sat on the ground and she laid down, putting her head in to my lap the way she always did. When she died, she was looking right at me with that crystal clear gaze. I felt her go. I knew she was gone from her body before the Vet had checked. I sat there and held her for almost an hour. It was so hard to let her go. 

I had her in my life for only five years. She aged quite rapidly although she was only six years old at the end of her life. It was too soon. Her face was grey and her body stiff and unwieldy. She was incontinent and exhausted. It was time. And I felt her go. Just like that she was out of her broken body. And, as usual, she gave me more than I could give to her. At the end she told me she loved me and would see me again. It's OK. It's all OK.

It's too quiet here today. Her massive, dignified presence is gone, leaving a hole in our home. Apple started the night in the bed between us, snugged up close. She hadn't done that for months. She always slept next to Miniver. 

This morning I found Apple laying on one of Miniver's power spots, the one on the mantle in front of the fireplace. She had piled up pillows, shoes and some of the uneaten cookies and was laying draped across them, whimpering. 

We kept Apple inside while the Vet was here but John let her out after Miniver's death and the Vet had left. She knew what had happened. She carefully smelled the place on Miniver's leg where the Vet had used the 'kiss of death'. And she smelled Miniver's face, her nose, her ears and even tried to move her with her paws. Apple licked my tears while I sat crying and holding Miniver and then she sat next to me on the ground, her head draped over Miniver for the last time. 

There's something cathartic about the process of laying someone you love in the ground, doing all of the work yourself. John had already dug the hole, had it prepared for weeks, and then carefully covered it with boards and a tarp. She was a big girl and the hole needed to be deep enough and wide enough to fit her stature. 

We carefully placed her in the ground on a bed of soft, clean hay. We all said our last good bye and then we covered her with the earth. It was hot and the sky was quiet, full of drifting thunderheads, massive and white. Miniver was going out in a blaze of glory while we took care of the last things that needed to be done. It was hard, sweaty, dirty work and we were all glad for it. It was a good time to meditate and feel that passing of time. 

Somewhere, in a place we aren't allowed to know until it's our turn to go, is a big, beautiful, leggy, red-haired dog with a massive booming bark, playing with my other dogs and cats, my ancient first horse Spirit. They're out there, rolling on lovely, stinky scents and running under deep blue skies, waiting.

Miniver's circle is complete. It was perfect and I was a part of it. How lucky am I?! 

I am, ever yours, Miss Nancy, bereft and complete. How lucky am I...

Monday, August 22, 2016

I ASKED MY MOTHER, " WHAT SHOULD I SAY?" , Memories, Hopes and Fears

"Get up sunshine. Rise and shine! The day is ahead and you've got places to go, people to see, things to do. Time's a wasting. " 

I woke up hearing my Mom's voice. That was how she woke me up every morning until I was old enough to set my own alarm clock. Of course I sat up smiling and said, " Be right there Mom!" It was so real! How I miss her. She's been dead for 42 years and I still hear her voice sometimes. This morning I could swear I felt her brush my hair off my forehead, like she did when I was a child. It was always so comforting when she did that. I wish I could call her up and ask her if she wants to spend the day with me. I think she would have truly enjoyed being with horses.

It's funny, the things you will reach for when you need comfort. This morning it was a memory from my past, my Mom's voice. Maybe it was the open windows and the late Summer sounds coming through, the breeze and the light. But there she was, with me to start my day. I even laid there waiting to hear the sound of her penny loafers scuffing around in the kitchen while she made breakfast. 

I have friends who sometimes complain to me about the exhausting process of caring for an aging parent. I always shut that one down immediately. I would have loved to have that honor. But my Mom was gone just months after my oldest son was born. She never had the chance to know her grandsons or to have a relationship with me as an adult. It felt like a cheat when she told me she was sick, terminally ill. And then she did one of the bravest things I've ever seen anyone do. She smiled at me and said, " Let's get cracking. The sun is up and we've got places to go, things to do and people to meet. Time's a wasting. " And she walked in to the kitchen to start a meal. 

She was the embodiment of bravery, true strength. She knew what was coming but she wanted me to see how to deal with fear, how to lead by example. She wanted me to understand that life is fleeting and time is the most valuable commodity that you have. It isn't pretty clothes or jewels, big houses or fancy cars. It's time and how you choose to use what has been given to you.

I've been dealing with a lot of fear and anger issues this past year. I'm worried about the Endowment and the odd choices they're making for renters in the other house, politics, money, all of the usual hoo haa that gets in the way of getting myself up and moving forward. 

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

― Frank HerbertDune

Fear is the mind killer. It's also the time killer and the murderer of creative thought. It gets in the middle of my head and tries to choke me off from the places I want to go to, the things I want to do and the cliffs I want to leap from. She gave me a gift and I never want to walk around or abuse the idea of it. 

She died very quickly. She had a tumor that metastasized . It was over before it was found. She made a conscious choice not to accept treatment except for pain management. She wanted to be here and present and able to spend time with her brand new grandchild and to lead by example. It was 42 years ago and there were very few effective treatments and most of those were so harsh they were more likely to shorten your life rather than extend it. 

And she smiled every day, insisted on helping me with my son. She never complained. She just got up and did what she could with what she had, where she was with the time she had left.

I think I forgot, this past year, what she was trying to teach me. I came to a slamming, screaming halt and tried to hide out. It made me sick. I lost sleep, didn't eat right, forgot who I was. Things felt chaotic. You would think that, as an artist, I would feed on chaos. Not so. My studio is messy but never chaotic. I keep it tidy between projects and make a happy new mess with whatever I'm jumping "off the cliff" in to. I forgot I had a voice. 

So how did I turn it around? I decided to take my own advice and my Mom's . First I cleaned up my act diet wise. No more sugar. None. In fact I've gotten so used to living without sugar that I'm not even using honey anymore. It's amazing how much more energy I have without sugar in my life. Saving lots of money not buying junk food too. (How in the world do people find the money to eat that stuff? It's like buying gooey air. The only habits worse are smoking or drinking and drugs. All a waste of energy and time. Addictions happen, I think, when people are trying to fill a hole that can't be filled.) And I've lost weight in a slow and manageable way. No cravings. Fruit tastes sweeter, vegetables are rich and I've been fitting in to my old jeans. Not too shabby!

Then I began to reorganize my time. I'm still working on that one but at least I'm moving forward again. And my herd is right there, waiting for me too. "Where've you been girlfriend?" Oh, I've been doing chores and small games but I lost my goals, lost my way forward. And I love the Zen of working/playing with horses. It fits seamlessly with my life as an artist. When I let myself get too goal oriented, too forward and predatory, I drive my horses and the relationship they offer away. Finding balance is key. 

It's the same with my painting or illustration, or any other project. Goals are good but play is better. Playtime with horses = playtime in the studio = playtime in the field = playtime in my head. If I'm not having fun, why? What's happened to bring me to a halt? Fear. It's always fear.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.   H. P. Lovecraft

I guess it's time to get cracking. The day is a wasting. I've got places to go, people to see, things to do. and I don't want to waste any of it.

My Mom was here exactly when I needed her, this morning when I have to face the possibility of making more mistakes than achieving goals. She used to tell me it was better to try than to hide. Making mistakes is a good way to learn and frustration is fuel for change. 

Think maybe I'm going to see if I can find some old Doris Day music to add to my list. My Mom loved her. I have the whole day ahead. What a gift! Here I go. Wish me luck!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and hearing my past...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

AROUND AND AROUND AND AROUND WE GO ; Where we stop nobody knows...

I couldn't sleep last night. I kept thinking about circles. I've been watching a series on Youtube (just sections of it there) and on Netflix via disc, titled ART21. It's a series of twenty minute short documentaries, 3 or 4 in each show, about contemporary artists of the 21st Century. It's my own way of getting my inspiration engine going. 

And it's working. I keep thinking about circles. Today, while I did chores inside and out, I kept seeing circles everywhere, thinking about circles and even 'hearing' my Mother's voice telling me about the mathematical properties of the circle. I think maybe I am ready to work on a series now. 

I've been doodling, doing drawings and small paintings, while I waited for the ideas to come. My goal (and for me it always becomes a more concrete reality when I write it down) is to create a series based on an idea that has a universal meaning for me, one that will communicate with others. And it's circles. 

"If you love someone, put their name in a circle. Hearts can be broken but circles never end."

"A circle is the reflection of eternity. It has no beginning and it has no end."

" If people stand in a circle long enough, eventually they begin to dance. " George Carlin

"Protect your space and circle." Pat Parelli

"Keep your circles small."

"If you cut corners you keep going in circles."

"When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout." Cain Mutiny

"We've come full circle."

Proverbs 8:27
"When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,..."

And the list goes on and on, in a circle if you will. When I was a kid I loved spinning in circles until I fell down. It always gave me a different perspective on the world, although I'm sure I wasn't thinking about that when I did it. It was just fun! And when I rode bicycles I was fascinated with the patterns the wheels made when I taped different colored pieces of paper to them. I would spend hours decorating my wheels to see what happened when they spun around. 
Ever hold a glass up and look through the end of it? The world changes, light is bent and images distorted when you look through the bottom. And if you turn it around, it bends in another direction when you look through from the outside. 

It seems that even the 'aliens' are interested in trying to communicate via the perfect circle, an elemental shape used in every form of math. My Mom used to say that math was the true universal language. Maybe she was right in an unexpected, kind of prophetic way!
I doodled circles all night long. Maybe it's time to come to my own full CIRCLE and see where it takes me. More on this as my ideas grow and change. And for now, it's time for evening chores and, perhaps, playing in circles (Circling Game) with the herd!
I am, ever yours, Nancy, twirling and twirling but not dizzy or falling, at least not yet ... and smiling!
PS. In Zen Buddhism, an ensō ( , "circle"?) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.
The ensō symbolizes absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void). It is characterised by a minimalism born of Japanese aesthetics.

Monday, August 15, 2016

PATTERNS AND HOW TO CHANGE THEM, or How I learned to say, "NO."

I see patterns. The natural world is built on patterns. Did you know that there are sixteen separate types of snowflakes? We're told right from the beginning that every snowflake is different, and it is. But there are names for the groups of shapes that occur according to the weather. Are you ready for this? Simple prisms, stellar plates, sectored plates, stellar dendrites, fernlike stellar dendrites, hollow columns, needles, capped columns, double plates, split plates and stars, triangular crystals, 12 sided snowflakes, bullet rosettes, radiating dendrites, rimed crystals, irregular crystals. Whew! And within those types every single flake is measurably different. 

A few years back the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Organization put a learning system out titled, "PATTERNS". I bought it because I understood the idea. It was obvious to me that horses and dogs learn in patterns. Parelli has given the number of four to seven times for a new activity, for your horse to understand and retain it. That doesn't mean your horse responds perfectly in seven days, but it does mean that they know what you're requesting. It's up to the human to be good, better, best. Your horse has it down and will play with you at the level you're at. As you learn more about your timing, how to have light hands, how to be playful and relaxed and how to be provocative without being antagonistic your interactions together go to a higher level and, if you're lucky and specific, you sometimes attain that five minutes of elegance and perfection that makes your heart sing

People learn in patterns too. Some of those behaviors are set in place very early on by our parents, grandparents or guardians. If you are loved unconditionally, comforted when frightened or hurt, encouraged and supported and grow up knowing that you, just as you are, can accomplish the goals you are willing to work for and you're given the attention you need to help you reach those lofty ideas, with honest praise, you will grow up to be a person that gives those same behaviors to your children as they grow. It's a cycle. 

I'm an artist by profession, a trained observer. And one of the things I see over and over are the patterns in the world. They fascinate me! And it's the same with the people around me. I see them repeating behaviors when, I'm fairly sure, they have no idea the circle they're in is one they've been in for years. I do that too. If my behaviors have changed it's because I  set out to make myself react differently so I would not pass on the patterns of behavior I thought were wrong, inappropriate, hurtful and abusive to my children. I made it a goal to give them a foundation more stable than mine was. 

But I still, sometimes, find myself falling back in to a set of interactions, with the people around me, unconsciously. And one of the things I do is allow people to take advantage of me because I love to please. I truly like people. I enjoy all of the messy, smelly, funny, clumsy, angry, anxious, farty, humanity of it. The down side is that I am not doing a good job of protecting my personal time and space. I put myself in a place where I am disappointed over and over. I always say, " No worries. " when someone cancels out an appointment  although I've changed my day around to suit them, done my research to get us where we're going and set my plans to the side to help.

It's a Zen kind of thing for me. I love to help. I believe in the concept of paying it forward. It has to be true generosity given without expectations to be effective. Finding that balance is a challenge all on it's own. I do not want to patronize. I don't like it when people do that to me. I hold a hand out and say, " May I help you?" And if they say," No thank you, I've got it.", I always smile and say , "OK. " And I assume they really do want to figure it out on their own. 

The other half of that coin of yin and yang is understanding when I'm being taken advantage of and treated with a lack of respect. After all these years with horses, you'd think I'd have that one down, wouldn't you? How interesting.

When I am not focused while around my horses, they recognize that. And one of them, usually Apache (my LBE) will try shoulder checking me . Or they will barge in to my space, usually Lucky (my LBI and alpha of the herd). He will step on a rope or pull something out of my pocket. And it makes me laugh because they are much better teachers than I am.  

There's a pattern of behavior I've noticed in the people around me that, over the years, has happened repeatedly. They call and ask for help, usually with their horse or dog, their garden or some design they're working on. Would I be available tomorrow to help.( And it's nearly always tomorrow! How interesting.) 

And I say yes, glad to help. I rearrange my day to be there, setting time in my studio or out in the field painting, drawing or working with my horses (remember, I said I'm an artist by profession. I am, literally, setting aside the job that I have to help people with their hobbies.) to be there for them. And then they cancel the next day. I've lost track of the number of times that's happened. I can tell you that doesn't surprise me anymore. And my reply is always, " No worries. " And, again, I am disappointed. 

I tell myself that I don't want them to feel pressure. But what I'm really doing is NOT setting myself or them up for success, especially if the time spent together was to help with their communication skills with their horse(s). I love being an ambassador for a system I truly believe in. I'm here because I want them to be safe. I truly want people to come away from our time together feeling successful and enjoying it so much they want to try it again. 

This morning I asked my husband, John, for help to change my response. I can't change what other people do. That's their rodeo. I can decide how I want to behave. 

Yet another person canceled on an appointment they initiated yesterday. And, again, I was disappointed. But that's a fruitless kind of anger. There's nothing gained by allowing it to control me. I needed help. I asked John to be my simulated partner so I could practice different approaches.

John became the other person while I figured out how I wanted to address the next person that does this. And then I traded rolls with him. We went back and forth while we did early morning chores, until I had it worked out. 

While we did this I realized we've been here before. This is a pattern of behavior that has happened over and over in my life because I ALLOWED IT. I did not set my ground rules or have my responses worked out ahead of time. I think it's even a possibility I've attracted people like that in to my life. I seek it out because it was part of the pattern set in my childhood. 

That comes forward all of these years later to a set of expected interactions of me bending over until it hurts, to help others. They (and it happens with a majority of my friends interesting!) expect me to be there for them. And I not only allow it, I encourage it. I am not following my own advice. e.g.. Set your personal boundaries and, politely but firmly, teach your horse where that space is. 

Nancy, note to self : SET your boundaries. PROTECT your personal schedule and space. SHOW MYSELF RESPECT by being politely persistent with others and myself. VALUE my work as an artist and horseman and never put it off to please another. The balance to that is to be there in an emergency. If someone or their horse is injured or sick, drop what I'm doing IF I CAN, and be there to help. See the IF I CAN? I need to remember that I sometimes CAN'T.

There is no doubt the same thing will happen again. And now I have a set of skills set in place to change how I react.

I am changing my pattern . And now I'm out the door to work/play. Life is good!

I am, ever yours, Nancy, smiling and shaking my head at the way things go ( and still thinking about the sixteen types of snow flakes. Who knew?!)

Monday, August 8, 2016

TO BE OR NOT TO BE, that is the question... I Choose to Be ME!

Did you know that I'm an artist? I am. Over the years I've designed furniture, made floorcloths, designed and painted murals, worked on gallery paintings, prints, drawings, been an illustrator.  I was an excellent interior designer too. I ran a gallery that would have made it except for the events of 911. At some point I lost track of that. 

I focused on being a 'someone' that people expected me to be. I tried to live up to the expectations of others. And that's a goal that can not be reached because you can never be who you aren't. It's a chasm of disappointment. When I failed big time at being a mortar and brick business person I thought it was my fault. I was mortified. I lost my home, lost my business and nearly lost my family. I don't do failure well. 

It wasn't my fault. Sometimes there are events you can not control. I simply was not on the path meant for me. Notice I didn't say wrong path. There are no wrong paths. But there are times in my life when I fell away from what I really was for the sake of other's expectations. 

I stood up, dusted myself off and began this second journey with the idea of fixing a part of myself that was not broken. I didn't know that. It's taken fifteen years for me to stop banging in to walls to understand that I am fine just the way I am. 

Good things did come from my remade self. I've learned how to do a fair to middling job of using technology. Scary territory. A paint brush and canvas, markers and paper or pastels and the ground I've made for them make more sense to me. Computers, pads and iPhones are science fiction. They beep and blink and feel odd under my hands. Even teaching myself to touch type was a struggle. 

And I've honed my story telling skills, rediscovered the joys of writing letters and essays. Sometimes I publish without editing and make grammatical mistakes that would make my honors professors roll over in their collective graves. Then again I like the raw, unfiltered original drafts too. I like the stumbling around and weird side bars that happen when my mind drifts. That's the right brained self popping out. I haven't killed her with my overwhelming need to fix what never needed to be repaired. 

I've made friends, virtually, with people from all over the world. I Twitter, use Facebook, post on Pinterest and Instagram. I explore new apps and programs that show up every other week. And I observe. 

My Mom would understand that part of me, the person who keeps a running tab on how people react to what I have to say. And, slowly, the artist has come out from hiding. I let the ever loving crap beat me up and kept right on giving and giving and giving. I rediscovered the athlete who loves to run with horses and pull weeds until my hands bleed. I go to my 'Zen' place when I clean the barn until I'm parched, filthy and still driven to get the cobwebs down from that last corner. And here I am again, wandering. And wondering.

This year I've been writing and posting about politics. That's a subject I usually stay away from, along with religion. Most people are already set in their path. I've always thought it was a waste of energy for me to make any statements. But, considering the horrible mess American politics has become, I decided to adhere to the idea that bad things happen when good people are silent. 

I have always been a person in the middle. I follow no particular religion although I am spiritual. I am an independent voter who sometimes casts my vote for a Democrat, sometimes for a Republican and, more often, for an Independent candidate. (And I've been told that "my vote is a waste". No vote is ever a waste. This is supposed to be a democracy. People can vote for whomever they want to. My vote always counts and so does yours! ) I belong to only one organization because they have the best learning system I've found for teaching myself how to be safe with my horses. And I observe, watch, listen, and stir the pot to see how people will react. I read articles about the same event written for different organizations from opposite sides of the bar while I try to find out the truth, unfiltered and unbiased. Not easy to do in a virtual world where everything is an editorial.

I've come to the not too startling conclusion that life is just like high school. People still want me to be in one clique or another. I've been told, "Nancy, you're better than that." How patronizing. I do not need to be corrected or taught by anyone. I refuse to be categorized.

I've been pushed around for my independence by trolls on the internet. And I think it's funny! I could be "helping" someone. I should be "smarter" than that (guess my IQ of 139 doesn't count, or my straight A's or high EQ, the two businesses I've run, and the more than 130 artists I sold work for. Did you know that I was selling more than 260,000 dollars in product a year, more than sixty percent of it fine art? No? Well now you do. And I went on to work as an independent seller for three different galleries while I helped to place some of those artists in other galleries because, for me, running a gallery was a promise that needed to be followed through on. Commitment is my middle name. And I also sold another 124,000 in fine art while I helped to place people. That means I made 112,000 for the artists and expenses only for me. Foolish? Perhaps. But it was my religion for a while. Making money was not the goal.) . I "should be doing more" with my life. I've been told "Glad to see you're doing something with your life". The list goes on and on. I've even been attacked for having raised sons who are strong, independent thinkers and creative problem solvers who don't always agree with me. How odd. Why would anyone think that children should be raised to be adult worker bees who follow my path? "You're not a very good mother." Yeah. I was told that too. I kind of think that's up to my adult children to decide, not some smug, patronizing goof ball who knows nothing about me or my family.

Shall I tell you what all of those statements mean to me? Nada. Zero. Zilch. So why did I bring them up? I've dropped hot potatoes for a year now to see how people react. I post highly reactive, controversial quotes, images and articles from the left and the right as a social experiment. I even told people I was doing that and the emotional reactions still happened. I. Am. Fascinated. And I am deeply saddened too. Most people never evolve past their high school expectations. 

No wonder the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Great Machine has done it's job. It seems that most people, even the well educated, are incapable of exploring the world outside of their own narrow ideal. We've been taught to do that by our education system right up through college, the media and the ever present peer pressure that I allowed myself to be led by. Shame on me. Sometimes my learning curve is huge and cumbersome. 

I am content. I love myself as the Independent that I am. I fit no one's ideals except my own. I do not need to be "better" or "worse", "smarter" or "more compassionate". I like the path I am on and I am fiercely proud of the people I love. I am Miss Nancy. I smile a lot. In fact I laugh more often than not. I am wounded and have ugly scars. I cry. I empathize without filters. I deeply believe in the power of fine art, the written word, music and the independent creative mind. 

And I am off to spend my day being more of who I am and less of who the world thinks I should be. 

I am, ever yours just exactly the way I want to be, Miss Nancy, smiling because I can.