comfort zone mutations
I recently unearthed a list I made on 11.28.2012 — Social (and other) Support I no longer enjoy (meaning, I no longer have it, not that I wouldn’t like to have it).
- various friendships ended
- being enmeshed with my family of origin [1966–2005]
- taking art classes at the Indianapolis Art Center [c. 1995–2008]
- meeting people through a job [1985–2009]
- Counseling [1978–2010, as needed]
- left ATA [c. 2007–2011]
- no regular haircut person, since 2011
- stopped obsessively watching TV, esp soap operas [1995–2011]
- gave away my stuffed animals, Alfie [1978–2011] & Little Bear [1986–2011]
- gave away my 4 houseplants, Drugelis [1984–2012], Figgy 2 [1991–2012], Fiddle [1997–2012], Estrella [2008–2012]
- dropped LinkedIn connections to 2 former bosses (who had been my best references), because I eventually realized I never wanted to talk to either of them again 
- disbanding of old Slacktivist/Slacktiverse communities ended a place I’d spent 7 years of my life [2005–2012], where I’d made at least 10 friends. None of those relationships are still extant.
- stopped thinking of myself as an optimist [1966–2012]
- would no longer describe myself as a feminist [1971–2012]
- would no longer describe myself as a pacifist [1971–2012]
- stopped thinking of myself as a scientist [1975–2012]
- stopped being an environmentalist [1986–2012]
- stopped being a Pagan [1986–2012]
- broke up with my best woman friend [1994–2012]
- let go of Laiima persona online [2006–2012]
- messy ending to the only relationship I had with any cousin on my father’s side of the family [2008–2012]
- death of the one aunt I still heard from regularly 
- several attempts at volunteering ultimately failed [2000, 2007–2011, 2013]
- more or less excellent health turned into all sorts of health problems, not all of which have been identified [2009–Present]
- I no longer shop as a hobby, and rarely shop at all
- I buy a lot fewer books than I used to
- even when I’m depressed, I don’t allow myself to sleep all the time
Looking over this list, it’s inescapable that I was self-medicating with everything I could think of, although I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing.
If someone had asked me why I did all these things, I probably would have defended them as coping mechanisms, or even said that they were improving my life. And some of them undoubtedly did improve my life from where I started, but . . .
Over the years, Art has always not only been important to me, but has consistently been a huge part of my identity.
Even though I wasn’t doing much of it. The Indianapolis Art Center was a boon for that. The most successful classes I took there were types of art I had no (or minimal) previous experience with — ceramics, weaving, fabric dyeing and painting.
But there were several art forms (media?) — the ones I was most drawn to — which I’d had traumatic experiences with, as a child. And while I was doing the above self-medicating, I was not revisiting painting, garment making, nor poetry.
The 2011 Sketchbook Project got me turned back on to drawing; revisiting the idea of handmade valentines in 2013 finally got me playing with paper, as I’d been longing to do for months.
(There are social aspects to both the travelling sketchbooks and valentines, but only after you are finished with them.)
While I was still tangled up in dangling threads of former versions of myself, there wasn’t any way (I could see) to move forward into being someone new. I didn’t even have a name (that I ever wanted to tell anybody). And I knew my gender was complicated in ways I needed to explore, but I couldn’t when so many parts of my old identities seemed to require me being a woman. Only a woman. Which also circled back to names.
I needed to be a new me, socially, and find my way by doing. Mostly with new people, because they don’t have preconceptions or preferences for how I should be.
This part has been really bumpy.
Bumpiness, though, means that Other Things are possible. That there’s hope for revolutionary changes. I just have to keep going, keep fumbling my way forward.
I wrote 1 poem in 2011. I wrote 5 poems in 2012. 2013 was a banner year for my poetry – 28 poems. In January 2014, I’ve finished 9 poems, and have 5 more in progress.
I’m already considering which poems belong in my first book.
The project I proposed in my application for the 2013 AROHO Gift of Freedom has continued to germinate, and I now have a much better sense of the scope of it, and what I might be able to do with it. Travel, probably solo travel, will be required.
Residencies and fellowships could certainly help me with that, and I have several in mind that I will be applying to in due course.
I have recently found myself doing things with poetry that I had previously only done with prose. Or only knew other people could do with fiction. I need to develop these skills further.
Right now, most of the left side of my mouth throbs in pain. I seem to have multiple dental issues. I’d greatly prefer that none of them necessitate me visiting the dentist before my scheduled appointment in 1 week, but it’s clearly going to be a very long week, no matter what. In any case, the interesting thing to me is . . . I can think, and I can write. Really bad pains started 26 hours ago (although they’ve waxed and waned, not been continuous), and most of yesterday I also had a bad headache, and yet, I still experienced an essential epiphany about my poetry. I did 2 unpleasant chores I’d been putting off. I ran errands. I interacted with people. I photographed.
And even before this physical pain started, I’d been noticing that . . . feeling ignored or marginalized still hurts as much as it ever did. But now I have something I can do with it. I can transmute it into art.
I won’t let myself regret the many years I was self-medicating which consumed the emotional energy I could have used for art. Maybe I needed that buffer of time and space to heal and grow and evolve.
To not be entirely an artist. Or entirely any 1 thing.
I think perhaps a 47 year gestation period may aid me in writing better poetry, and living a more satisfying life (than might’ve happened if I’d started sooner).