Kiss5Tigers

The 5 Tigers represent the big things in life. This blog is about facing them.


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Procrastination

I am procrastinating, right now, even as I write this.

What I want to be doing, is working on some watercolor sketches for the focal point of some art I have made. I’m actually not sure if watercolor or acrylic would be the best medium; and if I use watercolor, whether I will apply it directly to the surface or collage another layer. Probably collage.

The point is, I mean to be working on art, not blogging. And here I am, blogging.

I have also started another set of cards for my mailing list. I’ve worked my way from the Z’s up to the C’s. There’s about a page of names, maybe 30, left to send. After this I will start replying to the cards I’ve gotten in return. It will be a lot fewer items, but it will be real letters, not the sort of generic cards I’ve been sending.

None of which is getting my art done.

In a minute dinner will be ready, another cause for procrastination. I love me some chicken wings. Nice and crispy from the oven. So good.

So now the question is, did I procrastinate or just wait until after dinner to avoid getting paint and food mixed up? I think the motivation is to procrastinate. Or is it the lack of motivation?

After food, I plan to get out my pearly watercolors and some sketch paper, and try out making loose flowers. The idea is to lay down general color, then go over them with Pigma pens to sketch outlines and details. Kind of Traci Bautista style but not really.

Dinner is ready so I will go eat now. Food is good. Then art will be good. Then writing cards will be good. Life is good.


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Wonderettes and Prime

Went to the Ennis Public Theater with my roommates. A friend of ours is in a musical called The Marvelous Wonderettes and we were privileged to watch the dress rehearsal. It was a fun night out and the actresses all seemed to enjoy themselves. I mean, it’s community theater, you don’t expect lavish productions and Broadway quality acting. It was as good as any high school play I’ve ever seen and the cast had fun. That’s what I go for. It was a good time.

When I got home, one of the dogs had chewed the padding off my headphones. These are not earbuds but the old fashioned kind of over-the-ear headphones. They keep me from getting too much outside noise when I’m listening, and my content doesn’t disturb the roommates. Because I usually work in the living room with the people around, that’s why. So I went to Amazon to replace them. Of course the same ones were out of stock with no information about when they’d be available again, so I had to order a different pair.

Then I started to think about free shipping. If I spend a certain amount of money, I get free shipping. So I ordered a book called The War of Art and some Dresden trim and Diamond Glaze for making collages. Then I added a data cord for a digital camera I was gifted. Totaled it all up and figured I’d better stop spending. Went to check out and was offered the free 2 day shipping option so I took it.

Well of course it wasn’t because I spent enough — I did, but with different vendors — so it comes with a free trial of Prime. I hope I like their video offerings because I don’t really order that much from Amazon. Of course I can always cancel later if it doesn’t work out.

My new book Ephemera arrived from Uppercase today. I love ephemera. I even love the word. And this book is actually about ephemera itself, not artists who work with it, so it makes my little heart happy.

I also got a batch of postcards that I had made from a picture I took. If you want one, contact me and we’ll figure it out. If you follow the link and email me, be sure to let me know you want a postcard so I don’t ignore you. I get a LOT of junk email, a wicked lot.

Tomorrow is breakfast with the roommates and a support group meeting. I really need those support groups, they give my day structure. I strongly recommend peer support groups as part of a wellness plan. And that’s for everybody! Mine happen to be mental health related, but even a Bible study group or a meet-up gathering provides support and community. Support comes from any number of places.


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So This Happened This Morning

At I-45 and Wintergreen

I didn’t sleep last night and felt like a breakfast sandwich this morning because food balances tiredness. When I left the house, I noticed an oily black cloud along the horizon. Now I live in a fairly industrial area with a lot of warehouses, so I figured the dump was burning tires.

QT is the nearest place to get a snack. I drove to the store and noticed a line of police cars blocking the road. Fortunately they let me get into the gas station. When I got out of my car, I noticed the fire on the median strip. Being tired, I thought maybe they were burning off the dead grass, as some places do.

I went into QT. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have the inexpensive breakfast sandwiches. They had the ones you could order from the counter, but I don’t want to pay $3.49 for something I can usually get for $1.59 so I didn’t get one. I did pick up a coffee for me, and hot dogs and cigarettes for my roommate. I went to the counter and paid.

I asked the young man at the register if he knew what had happened outside. He said no, and the lights went out. Yup, just that fast. I was the last customer that got served. I was glad I didn’t order a breakfast sandwich because there wouldn’t have been enough time to cook it.

I went outside and checked out the fire again. I noticed that it was a burning truck, and gawd only knows what happened for it to catch on fire. I have been alive 50 years and I have seen more vehicles on fire in the last 3 years than in the rest of my life all together. So I took a photo to share and went home.

And for my Yankee friends, the gas price you can’t quite make out is $1.99 per gallon for regular.


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Art and Games

I have made a background that I am very pleased with, but it needs a focal point. I should really paint something on it, but I am unsure of my ability. I think a simple flower in some lovely pearl watercolors I have would be good. I guess I have to practice flowers in my sketchbook.

I have made a few other backgrounds that still need work, but I am generally pleased with how they are coming. I have a painting I’m working on as well. I am doing a little bit every day and I think it’s working out for me. I have some picture frames and some shadow boxes to make too. I feel pretty well settled for art projects. This makes me happy.

I went to a game night at Cafe Brazil with my roommates tonight. I really liked the people I met. They know each other from an online group. If I want to keep going to events, I have to join the group. I almost didn’t go tonight because the group has a participation requirement. I really hate being told I have to post. Sometimes I don’t have anything to say. But I like I said, I like the people so maybe I can live with posting regularly.

We played a game called Red Flags. The idea is, you try to create someone’s perfect date and another person tries to ruin it. So, when it was my turn, the others tried to come up with good qualities of a date for me. Each person in turn picked 2 qualities. So, for example, is a millionaire and has morning breath that smells like fresh baked cookies. Then the person next to them throws in a red flag, like has 12 children with 12 different partners. The person whose turn it is, picks the combination of qualities they are most likely to actually date. So the game is a little different in a group that knows each other. Still, really fun. Recommend the game.


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Mental Health First Aid

Disclaimer: I am going to talk about when I learned. If you’re interested you should take the class, don’t assume I have said everything you need to know. Link is here: Mental Health First Aid

The central acronym is ALGEE. It stands for:

Assess the person for risk of suicide or harm

Listen non-judgmentally

Give encouragement and information

Encourage seeking professional help

Encourage self-help

Now this is a crisis intervention technique for lay people. It is like CPR, just designed to help a person ride out a crisis until professional help is available.

The very first assessment is whether the situation is safe for you to engage with the person in crisis. Someone who is violent, for example, it may be best to simply call 911, explain the situation, and stay until help arrives. Usually this will be law enforcement, hopefully it will include a crisis team or officers who are trained for mental health situations.

After you decide to engage, assess them for risk of suicide or harm. It’s okay to simply ask if they’ve thought of harming or killing themself. If they say yes, you can then ask about whether they have a plan, what the plan is, and if they have the tools to carry it out. If the person is clearly in the midst of an attempt — they have a gun, they say they’ve already taken the pills, they are bleeding — you will call 911 right away. Then focus on keeping them alive and safe until professionals arrive.

In my personal world, most people having mental distress are not suicidal. Depressed, anxious, even psychotic, but not suicidal. Engaging with them is as basic as asking, “How are you feeling today? Is everything alright?” And then listen without judging. Many people just want to be heard and taken seriously. Something about telling your story is cathartic for people.

When it is your turn to speak, provide encouragement and information. Do not give advice. Do not make promises that you can’t keep. Also don’t be too glib. “It will be alright” is not a valid comment for a situation where it clearly isn’t and possibly won’t be alright. It feels patronizing to the person hearing it. And a person in distress might not be able to hear that the feeling will pass.

Encourage professional help and self help. Ask what has helped in the past. Have they seen a therapist before? It might be good to see one now. Provide grounding techniques, going through the exercise with the person. Help them reframe the situation. Suggest peer support groups or other services. Veterans can be referred to the VA, but they might also need AA or other counselling.

Taking this course does not make me a professional. I simply have some tools in my arsenal for situations that could be frightening or unmanageable to other people. No different than CPR. It doesn’t make you a doctor. But now you can help people survive until long term help can be available.


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Failing at Visualization

I missed Recovery International today. I woke up in time if I didn’t need a shower, but I had a job interview in the afternoon so I felt like I needed to be a little more careful with the personal care.

Job interview went well. It was about half an hour. I think they just want to see that you know what it means to dress for an office. I am only looking for temp jobs that are actually temporary so apparently that makes me highly desirable as an employee. Most people are looking for temp-to-hire whereas I have a job, I just need to do some other work while I’m on leave.

I attended a group mentoring session with SARK this evening. She mentioned me by name, which was flattering. It was just a hello but it was like “oooh, someone noticed me”. We worked with Shakti Gawain’s method of creative visualization. I got stuck on the first step. You start by deciding on something you want to manifest. The caveat for us beginners is, pick something you find relatively easy to believe in. Well. The things I want are not so easy for me to believe in.

For example, I would like a boyfriend again. I can be pretty specific about what I’m looking for: Tall, around 6′ to 6’4″. Long hair; this is negotiable, but hair not bald or buzzed. Prefer blue eyes. Good job. Able to pay for things for me; I have had several relationships where I was the high paid one and I am tired of paying for everything. Smart. Gets me. Likes to go places ranging from the museum to Europe to nice restaurants to faires and cons. Likes to drive; I have done a lot of driving for boyfriends in the past. I’m 55 so he should be 45 – 65. Healthy; I am not ready to be a nursemaid to an old man. Adventurous. Maybe an entrepreneur. Likes book stores. Likes cats. See? Darn specific. But I find it hard to believe such a person, if he exists, would be interested in me. I am not pretty or hot. I think I might be a little boring. My worthiness is in question. So I find this hard to believe in.

I would like to manifest a gym membership, and the commitment to follow through with it. I know I have enjoyed working out, but right now it feels like such a hassle. There isn’t a place near home. I don’t want to have to come home to shower so I have to carry toiletries and clean clothes with me. They don’t really offer classes at a time that’s convenient for me. And if I get called for work, I won’t have time or motivation to go. Oh yeah, and if I’m deployed, I need a membership that is good basically nationwide. If I have time to work out while working 12 hour days. Feels like a lot of roadblocks, I don’t really believe in this either.

Education. My own place again. To work in mental health. Leading groups, public speaking. More cats. Buy a house. All kinds of things I want that just don’t feel doable. This isn’t supposed to be the hard part of visualization. Manifesting now that could be difficult, but finding something you believe is possible? That should be cake.

So I will continue working on it. I mean, there has to be something that’s reasonable to visualize. Something that is a stretch but doesn’t seem impossible.


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Working It Out

I am signed up with a group called Succulent Wild World, which is the brainchild of an author called SARK. She teaches about the Inner Wise Self, which many people think of as their Higher Power but for me it is Intuition. One of the activities for this month is to write a letter from your Inner Wise Self and share it. So here I am, sharing.

One piece of backstory so this maybe makes more sense: my parents died when I was 19. My mom had cancer, my dad had a heart attack a month later, and they had been divorced for 7 years at that point. I used to say, “The first thing they do together in years, and I can’t do it with them.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Alive Allison,

You are here and alive. You did not die with the others, stop acting like you did. You deserve to have a life and to live it fully. You are needed just as you are.

Free yourself from fear of failure and survivor’s guilt. You did not kill your parents. Their deaths were the logical conclusions of their lives. It was about them, not you. It wasn’t done to hurt you. It’s normal to outlive your parents.

So take off the shroud and take up your superhero cape. Fly away into love and adventure. Life is available to you, make it a good one.

Now I’m old, it’s been 35 years since they passed. I have done a LOT of grieving and I don’t really need to be overly gentle with myself at this point. I am no longer sad in a daily way that I lost them. It’s still sad, but there is distance from the pain, it’s not visceral any more.

I used to compare it to losing a tooth. Do you remember losing your teeth as a child? At first there is a hole and it is tender and you keep poking it with your tongue even though it feels weird. Then the skin toughens up and you can poke it without getting that tingle. Eventually another tooth takes up the space, and it’s different but it becomes normal. Now obviously with a death you don’t just replace the person you lost, but life has a way of filling in the gap until it isn’t noticeable on a regular basis. If you think of it, you notice it; but you are no longer thinking of it constantly.

So this is the theme for me this week: move past my parents’ deaths. It happened. It’s sad that it happened when I was so young. And yet, I seem to have let it prevent me from doing some things. I wonder if it had anything to do with me breaking up with so many serious boyfriends, though I also wonder if that is a result of being bipolar. I wonder how much of my settling for jobs rather than pursuing a career is out of fear of taking the risks that lead to success.

Fear of taking risks. I heard of a friend’s brother who won $8000 at a casino and lost it all. I though, I’d never lose that much money because when I got to that amount, I’d walk away. Truthfully, I’d never get to that amount, because I wouldn’t bet the amount of money it takes to get there, and I’d probably walk away happily with $100. I wouldn’t take the risk. You don’t win big without betting big, and I need to learn to bet bigger.

Now obviously this is a calculated risk. I can’t afford to lose $8000 so that kind of risk is not for me. However, I can tolerate a little rejection, so taking the risk of, say, showing my art might be reasonable. I can live with not everybody liking my work, and I can even live with the idea that some of my art is just plain bad. I am still learning.

All of which is to say, I need to stop letting fear stop me from doing things I want to do. I may not have a safety net any longer — really, who does at 54? — but I can’t spend the rest of my life standing on the ledge. Sometime I have to grab the trapeze and fly.