Monday, February 18, 2013
It's Sunday morning, and I'm tucked away in the hill country, surrounded by cedar trees in Wimberley, Texas. It was one of those record cedar seasons for me. It was so intense there for awhile that I committed to spending at least half of my time, and all of my time during cedar season, down at the Gulf Coast. I'm happy to report I'll be painting palm trees next Christmas and through January. It's a shift I've been wanting for years, so I'm actually thankful the cedar pollen drove me a little mad this year.
I'm lining up painting lessons, living in an Airstream for awhile, and fishing from piers and kayaks.
Welcome back to the chicken coop!
I haven't been on the blog since last summer, and I've really missed it. I'm feeling the need to restart by backing up before I blast forward into what I am convinced will be my best year so far...
My chicken coop. I started this blog so I could have a place to write about my chickens, my teachers, the different personalities that make up "Jamie." They are the voices in my head, and they bark orders at me, sending me in many different directions, almost daily. It hit me as I was standing in my kitchen about 6 years ago, compulsively cleaning, that I was exhausted from simply being Jamie.
So I stood there and yelled, "It's like I have a bunch of chickens running around in my brain arguing over what I should do next! They're not that smart either!!" And there it was. I had the realization that there might be more to me than just my thoughts. And I might be able to find an easier ride if I learned more about my own thought process, and how to keep those chickens calm and quiet when I needed some peace.
"Your heart has a voice. Listen to it." This one stuck with me years ago. I think it belongs to Rumi, but I remember thinking "Really?? Wonder what mine would say if I could keep my head quiet long enough to hear it?" I didn't feel I had a choice anymore. What was going on in my head everyday wasn't productive or helpful. It was getting louder and more crowded up there, and I was craving some kind of mental rest. It was then that I started calling my brain the "chicken coop." And it was then that I started naming those chickens, giving them their own identities, so I could sort out what was happening in my brain, and most importantly, detach from it.
So here's a recap. These are my Stars. More come out every now and then, but this is the A-Team:
Grace: Codependent little Grace. My "inner child," and I love Grace so much that I call her Grace. She is me, after all. We're growing up together, so that she can enjoy life as I age. She ran my life for many years, stepping in and out of the driver's seat in my brain. When she is the one in charge, I know because I start to feel really needy, insecure, and child like. Grace doesn't like to be alone, but I do, so we compromise a lot. I have lived in Grace for so many years, that I hardly noticed when I would switch back and forth. Now I see her when I make decisions from that child-like place in my mind. I also see her when she gets her feelings hurt, and that happens easily because she is a child. I have to give Grace lots of love, and I hold her hand a lot. She can also throw quite the temper tantrum, and she is hardly graceful in those moments. But again, we're growing. Awareness of Grace has been totally freeing for me.
Patty: My inner-addict. Patty poked her head out while I was in high school. Finding alcohol and drugs was a perfect remedy for my awkward, shy, insecure little girl trying to match up to my idea of what "cool" was. Patty gave Grace a solution here. And she was on a fast track. She is one of my greatest teachers. She led me close to death, so that I could see. My heart stepped in here and told her "No thanks. Go back to your room until I figure out what to do with you, Patty." She used to like anything that altered her state of mind, but in her golden years, she just prefers to put the cork on the wine much sooner than she used to, as opposed to forcing the cork on the wine, or throwing out the wine, or blaming the wine, or whining about the wine. Patty loves drama, and she is a master at creating it when she's unleashed or bored. She spent lots of time at center stage. Now she's in the background, prancing back and forth in her heels that don't fit right, wearing too much makeup, with a cigarette dangling from her beak, and a glass of wine sloshing around in her tiny chicken hand. She's tragically hysterical.
Hank: He's my musical chicken. And I'm not sure why he's a guy, that's just how I saw him. He loves music, and spends hours with tiny headphones on, building play lists and shuffling songs around, adding new ones, deleting old ones as his tastes change. There's always a song in Hank's head - and we all smile really big when Hank nails us with just the right song for the moment. He showed up when I was a child, and was fascinated with 8-track tapes in the mid seventies, then promoted himself to making mix cassette tapes in the 80's, eventually leaving me with book after book of cds, because he spent hours taking the sleeves out and creating them. They were more precious to Hank that any photo album I had. But with the creation of I-Tunes, he dropped his beloved cd books for his own personal library of any song he can think of, adding them at any time.
Octavia: She's my yoga chicken. Yoga certainly lives in my heart, too, but it started in my head, after seeing this graceful, older woman on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, in "tree pose." She was looking peacefully out at the ocean with her dogs sitting on either side of her mat. I knew in that moment, that I was going to experience what yoga might do for me. I have to watch out for Octavia because she can get obsessive with the amount of yoga she's doing, how far she can take a posture, or how many classes she can teach each week. I can easily overdo anything - even something originally intended to lead me to stillness and peacefulness. Octavia took me to Bikram Yoga training. She was named there, too. She's newer to the group, and I have so much fun with her. But she'll do so much yoga, if I let her, that I'm too tired to even shower. For two or three days.
Lil' B: She's my cleaner, my organizer, my purger, my obsessive compulsive little chicken. She's actually smaller than the rest, and has tiny biceps because she moves around a lot. She's happiest when she's in motion. She likes to rearrange furniture and the contents of the refrigerator or the medicine cabinet. She likes to clean out closets and drawers, and throw things out. Purging makes her purr. She wears a headband so her short chicken hair doesn't get in her way. She wears a tiny Ipod on her arm so she can listen to music while she cleans. She loves to sweep, do laundry, clean dishes, scrub floors, set out fresh flowers and table cloths. She's Lil' B, named after my mom, Betty. I love what I got from my mom. I love Lil' B. She can be challenging when I want to be in creative mode, but can't seem to stop cleaning the paint off the easel, trays and jars before I'll allow myself to actually start painting. But damn my house is always clean, so I appreciate Lil' B. And because Lil' B is also my obsessive compulsive chicken, I also think she can be a bit of a misguided over-achiever.
Ruthie: The painter. She wears scarves in her hair. She prefers my feet to be bare, so that I can feel the surface of what I'm standing on. She trusts the creative side of life way more than the analytical. She is wise. She is spunky. She paints what she feels in the moment. She could care less about text messages, FaceBook, phone calls, who's doing what... she loses herself in her art. I love Ruthie. SHE'S FREE. She shows me things in her paintings. She heals me through the act of painting water and sky. She shows me that there is a God, that I am really not in control of anything, and that I can go with the flow that is my life. She lives in the moment. She is my middle name. She is one part of me I am choosing to live from more often, because I do believe we have that choice. I sign all of my paintings "Jamie Ruth," in honor of Ruthie. Thanks, Ruthie. I'm so glad you're here with me.
Tomahawk: I'd call him a Rooster but I refuse to give him that kind of power. He was appropriately named by an ex-boyfriend who saw first hand, and many times, the wrath of Tomahawk. It was at that turning point in my life when most of what I was doing wasn't working anymore, and I had to learn to live life differently. He saw me at my worst, but through that, I got to meet the worst of me. And I am grateful for that.
Lots of people close to me have seen and experienced Tomahawk. Sometimes I think I was the last to see him. I've had people throughout my life walk away from me because they didn't understand this part of me. I get that now. He's my pissed off teenage boy chicken. He is my victim-chicken. The first time I saw him in my head, through meditation, he was in blood-stained bandages. He was so hurt, physically and emotionally, that he barely looked up at me from his tiny cot. And when he did, I remembered his pain. He's been hurting since my childhood. And he can seethe with so much anger, and cut through anyone with such painful words -- I've never come across anyone who could, or would want to, stand up to Tomahawk. He throws words like tiny tomahawks toward loved ones' heads and hearts. He knows these things well: how to live in survival mode. How to retreat. How to force others to leave me. How to get me to leave anyone, at any given time. He is a master of these things. Lately, he has taken up residence in the left side of my chicken coop again. I see him leaning in a corner in the left side of my head, smoking a cigarette, bandages still in place, some of them still freshly stained with blood, some of them dried and falling off. He pridefully keeps them tacked on for the world to see. At different times in my life, I felt he was so powerful that he wouldn't stop until I totally self destructed. But I've been reducing him down some these past few years. Instead of saying "Damn you, go away!" (which is exactly what he was saying to everyone else), I'm now saying.. "Come on out and dance with me, T-Hawk." He is one of my greatest teachers because of the pain he has caused me, and others. Pain is a gateway, you know...
Turtle: Turtle is actually my spirit. My soul. I added her to my A-Team based on a realization I had while near the ocean once, that there is a part of me that's separate from my heart, and my chickens. She wakes up peacefully, moves slowly, breathes deeply. She has nothing to prove, doesn't want or need much, and loves to be quiet and still with and in my projects. Like Ruthie, she also loves to paint and draw. She thinks her dad hung the moon. She watches the world whiz by her at a pace she never felt drawn to keep up with. She doesn't really need anyone to feel complete. She IS complete. She's grounded, trusting, and in love with life and God. She's the low steady drum beat to the song that is me. She's as peaceful as the day she came into this world. She KNOWS. She isn't personality, frustration, or ego. She is wise because she is my soul, and it comes with a few thousand years of past experiences. She lives in the moment because she knows that's all there really is.
She lives by these words, and says them to me as often as I'll listen: All is well, no matter what is happening. Follow what inspires you. You are here to enjoy life. Live in the moment. Trust that you are a part of God, and everything is happening exactly as it should. Trust it to the point that everyday you wake up with joy in your heart. Trust it to the point that you always know where your home is, right here in the center of you, and it will be this way for eternity.
All I have to do is ask Turtle something. She always has a peaceful solution. And once I realized she was there, and accessible at all times, things got much, much easier.
My chickens prefer to dance on a wire in darkness. When engaged, they are relentless about what it is I should be doing next, doing now, not doing... I get confused easily. I am a girl with crazy chickens in her head. I am a woman with a heart that stays as open as I will allow at any given moment. I am a woman with a soul that's as wise and steadfast as the next.
And I am willingly on that wire, sometimes yanking "Patty's" heels off, sometimes holding "Grace" up to God and asking for help, often asking Turtle for advice, and sometimes just balancing perfectly on the tips of my toes, arms outstretched, watching the people dance in the street below me, swaying with soft music and gentle breezes.
All those chickens all lined up around me, wide eyed and wondering if I will jump or fall, dance or float, dream or fail. And they can't wait to talk about it all.
We're going on some wild adventures this year. Now that I've introduced the entire cast of chickens, we can weave some tales and watch what happens.
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor...Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
See you soon. Jamie