Monday, February 25, 2013


Less is more. More kills everything. Think delicacy. Subtlety. Finesse.

I don't know HOW to do less, I think.

But of course, it is too much. Too much sandalwood. Too much patchouli. Too much ylang ylang. I misbehave and leave class and stand in the stairwell with someone talking about healing modalities and spirituality and awakening and protecting one's energy and reading people's auras.

What is going on right there? He points to my chest. I wheeze and cough and mention asthma from thick oils that hang in the aromatherapy class. No, the other thing, in your heart center, the broken part.

And I want to tell him everything that is going on there. The niggling little hurts, meaningless and important, gnawing at me. The gigantic metastasized maladies, hundreds of grey appendices attached to the pulsating green trying to grow through father-pain, boyfriend-pain, seventh grade dance-pain, like ivy choking the living love out of me. My heart center, broken and weeping, radiates for healing. It calls to the shaman in the back of the room. It is this thing I keep explicating and writing and examining three-dimensionally, like a foam core model made with pins, the broken heart of someone who loved without thought of age thirty-nine. And when I turn this poxed heart around, I can see there is something deeply flawed about me. Logically, there must be--to drink the way I drank, to grieve the way I grieved, to misbehave the way I misbehaved. But I cannot pull it out. I cannot find its cause, its source, its origin.

The truthiness of all that he says about my heart center makes me incredibly uncomfortable. I want to blow him off, leave with the broken parts of me jutting out of my chest, poking through skin and weeping infection and heartbreak, pretend it doesn't exist. The vulnerability is nigh-excruciating. I want to run or punch him, but I ground myself and open my heart center even more to his words. This massive ego and very little ego all mixed up in unholy unions in my heart center.

He tells me it is okay, and his name is the same as the baby we lost. He says we are all broken there. That we all seek validation and love and that I can clear it, heal the wounds on myself instead of everyone else around me. And I know what he is suggesting.

Later, I warm my palm chakras and pray for protection and reiki energy drawn up from earth, down from heaven, out my palms, and I lay my hands right between my breasts who feed no children anymore, since a month ago maybe, when Thor just decided that tetita is for babies. I don't miss it. I miss having that one thing that no one else could give them. Boobies and mama cuddles. Now, the children do not notice that I am gone. This weekend with two back-to-back eight hour days of class on aromatherapy. I suppose if I am doing my job right, they should barely know I am here orchestrating every meal and decision and activity and fun time and naptime and diaper change. It just moves swiftly, efficiently, through the day without one thought about what mama is doing, or who she is, or what she is going to have for dinner while the rest of them eat gooey cheesy pasta-y red meat with soy and chocolate and ice cream and bourbon. And I wonder if there is something massively damaged about me and my heart center to want to have someone notice more than my stealthy good mamaing. I hold up that model of my broken heart, and it is all ego, even as I preach about egolessness and hold it as an ideal, or at the very least, the enemy of enlightenment.

Ego. Ego. Ego. Condemned to this life of terribleness, shaking fingers at the eruption of it in conversation, the mention of yourself with more than self-deprecation. When I rant about my lousy, traitorous ego, my sponsor says, "There is a necessary ego when you are an artist. Check it." And that is the part I have been explicating, looking at with my damaged heart center.

Artists have to have a stupid, unconditional, irrational belief in ourselves and our capability. It may be unwarranted to others. They may think, "Who is this person?" Or "That art is not terribly good." And they are welcome to believe such things. Artists cannot concern themselves with that. It's none of their goddamned business honestly, how you engage with their art, or writing. Artists have to embrace that belief in themselves, regardless of what you think. In fact, during the process, I would think that "you" may not even enter their brain. It is a selfish, self-centered, important and necessary self-focused presence.

That doesn't mean artists don't have reservations or insecurities, it just means that there has to be a kind of blind optimism what they are saying is something important and unique. A hope that, in their desperate isolation, the artist belongs to a tribe of people, perhaps not yet known, who will get it, or most of it. That what the artist creates is worth the paper it is created on, or the performance art is more important than that massive ego of theirs. Because this thing the artist creates ceases being theirs the second it is seen, experienced, felt. It is a Zen koan of sorts. The ego must be big so the ego can be small. Another Zen koan of art is, if art is not seen, is it still art?

So, on one hand, there exists this confidence, bravado, arrogance, selfishness, self-centeredness, this large necessary ego. Then the artist releases the work. The same self-consciousness any human being, artist or not, possesses in his or her daily life rises up. More so, now. This thing created without thought of the Other. The entire process strips one bare, raw, open. The experience attaches to your heart center, creates a pock, whispers that you've never been loved enough while at the same time illuminating it. Such a process is the height of vulnerability. Suffering. Then it is a relief. A release from the demands of Muse and creative bedevilments. It forces one to be decisive, done, sure of oneself while embracing that part full of doubt, and fear and insecurity.

There are many things that soothe that self-consciousness--sex, love, conversation, alcohol, drugs, attention from other people, constant need for reassurance that we are worthy through sex, love, conversation, alcohol and drugs. There is no judgment here. No judgment on whether these are good things or bad things, or bad qualities or good qualities. But they work. At least for a little while, and then, your heart is broken wide open, and oozing out into an aromatherapy class for all to absorb and repair. You can rub a little lavender and bergamont. Not too much, just a subtle hint of self-compassion.

What do you think of ego? Artists? Heartbreaks? Is it ever necessary? Or is the ego always out of control?

Friday, February 15, 2013

spring fever

I cut hearts out of paper, and string them together for the children. Parenting is nothing like I thought it would be. Demanding and challenging and alienating and enlightening and lovely. My neighbor asked me if I am sick of staying home yet. I ponder it, spin it around in my head, look at it on all sides. Am I sick of it? It's a valid question, though I'm not. I feel blessed, honored to watch these little babies become adults, and make connections and learn about love. I love hearing their philosophy and their ideas about the way things are. But I have waves of feeling lost in a sea of kid. A lifesaver shaped like NPR floats by and I listen to stories about the Dead Sea Scrolls, or something else VERY MATURE and ARCANE and BORING, though I don't find it any of those things, because I am very mature, arcane, and boring too. I seek pockets of adultness in my day. Away from stickers and play haircuts and baby meditations. A place where I am a woman-artist, a sorceress, a goddess, an anonymous lady listening to music on my iPod and sipping a latte not watching if anyone is about to bump their head. Or a space with another adult where I can talk and walk and drop the f-bomb and laugh.

My body is deflated--breasts without milk, a belly of too much skin from repeatedly being stretched past its maximum capacity, and a soul that feels sexless and unattractive. I wear this motherhood on every inch of me. I greet people at meetings, hug those who have been touched in years, the stinky and unloved, as well as those ones who reap rewards of a life well-examined. It is all I can give of these breasts, arms, belly. A maternal embrace that tells someone they are home now. 

Do not be afraid, I whisper. This is a safe place.

I'll tell you a secret. I worry about being lured from my absolute comfort of everything being okay and fine and really quite contented by someone who makes me feel womanly, beautiful, seductive, sexy, not motherly. A quick glance at my cleavage reminds me of who I once was--sex and youth, abandon and strength. Maybe I am still that person. I keep vigilant, and distanced, but part of me wants to fall in love with love. The crocus that pop up in my front yard much too early. I find them just delightful.

Why, hello, sailor, why don't you come over here?

I am not young enough or old enough to get away with that kind of talk to flowers. I have been on a creative tear, painting and arting and letting the house go to shit. No cleaning, mister. There is art to be done. I buy an album on I-Tunes, an artist I've heard only snippets of. It's jazz and raucous and noise, but something about that feels so much like the Angie before kids and mortgages and daughter-death that I want to bury it deep in my iPod to pull out when I need to feel like me. 

Laundry has been taken down to the machines five days ago, and slowly, I am eeking through dirty leggings and scrubs. But the painting and meditating and laughing and listening to new music has been good for my soul. It trumps the chores. Fuck the market. The sun up early, lasting longer, reminds me of other things that used to happen in the morning light. I sit and watch the backyard change from snowy to greenish. I walked last night in the crisp air, home from class. It felt like a Spring night. The moon hung in the west, a crescent of orange. I found myself enchanted all over again with this life, this night, this world. Something like love opening my anahata, or perhaps more like the randy swadhisthana, or sacral chakra. 

It's just an old case of Spring Fever, I suppose. But God, this world is hunky.

What afflictions are you embracing right now?

Monday, February 11, 2013


There is the physical act of gathering the names. From my email, and FB posts, and forum on Glow. I gather and write them out, with real names and real prayers...For this mother in memory of her son. For that mother in memory of her daughter. 

I light a candle, and sage. Sage the space, and computer, and all of you written on paper. I then select the stones for my grid. Heart chakra stones of pink quartz and green aventurine, some chalcedony, and the Apache tears for grief, hematite and garnet for grounding. I envision the geometric pattern and align them, connecting them with a selenite wand, and activating it with my intentions. Healing, love, comfort, ease, grief, connection. Connect. Heart connection. And then I write out the prayer. It changes every time, but the message is the same.

May you be at peace,
May your heart be open,
May you awaken to the light of your true nature,
May you be healed,
May you be a source of healing for all sentient beings,
May you feel safe,
May you feel happy,
May you feel healthy,
May you be at ease,
May you feel my love and the love of the Divine in all, through all, and for all.

Then I pray and meditate. Sometimes for a little, sometimes for a long time. This one was for about twenty minutes. Breathing in suffering. Breathing out love.

I have given so many jizos away, I sometimes think there is no babylost person left without one. But people join this community every minute of every day. There is not enough meditation to soothe all the hurts, but I keep sitting.

Then I paint and paint and paint, and drink a glass of water, then paint. When their faces come, I smile sometimes.

Who are you? Whose baby do you hide in your sleeve? Tell Lucia that I love her.

Yesterday, I received my Reiki I attunement to go along with my schooling, which is bodywork. But Reiki cleanses the aura, blesses artwork, and I Reiki'ed the painting today. I could see the light in my mind's eye washing over the paintings. My hands created this work, your babies inspired it. I will package them up and ship them off. They were never mine, but they will go into the world, carry this message that  we grieve together.

UPDATED: Requests for paintings are now closed. I do large jizo sittings twice a year--July and around Lucia's birthday in December and January. You are always welcome to purchase a jizo in my Etsy shop, or wait until I do the next sitting. Thank you for understanding.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I cut and pasted my entire blog into Word. Just the cutting and pasting part took a half an hour or so. When I was done, I saved it, and an error popped up. "This document has too many spelling and grammatical errors to display properly. Use the spell check feature to rectify." Or something like that. It was 765 pages long, single spaced with one inch margins. That first year, I could have written fifteen posts a day. I would write them, then save them as drafts. I published nearly every day. I often wrote, then did my duties as a babyloss clicker for Mel's Lost and Found Connections Abound, which meant that I read all the blogs on the blogroll everyday, leaving comments, sending stories to LFCA. That is how I met HereWeGoAJen and I adore her to bits.

I've published 464 posts and 82 unpublished pieces that will probably never see the light of day. still life with circles has documented all of Thor's life, and most of Beezus' life and all of my grief. I began still life 365 as an idea here, and conducted many community projects, like Right Where I Am, and the Spoken Word round-ups. Jess helped me come up with the first community poem, which was started on this blog. I have answered a shitload of questions, and shared my struggles with alcoholism and recovery. I've shared my artwork here, and my Etsy shops, whatever their manifestations. I've talked about nearly everything in my life. I've lost friends after blog posts, and gained many through the comment section of this blog. This past year, I have played some cards closer to my chest, maybe the ones about school and career. Just because I want it to stick, and be in the midst of it, and besides it is all so new. I have to process before I can write about it. Grief hasn't been so demanding these days, and I don't always know how to blend all of these things in a graceful way. I've annoyingly opened up about my spirituality and my psychic experiences, and I know it has driven readers away.

In two weeks, it is my blogoversary--four years writing about grief and art and my family and me. It hasn't always been pretty, or well-written, or interesting, but it has been a kind of discipline in my personal writing that helped me believe I could write a novel or three, even though I haven't quite written three novels. Writing in this public way is so strange, humbling, scary, right-sizing, intimidating and liberation, self-centered, compassionate, supportive, strange. The best word is strange. I often start at nature, or whatever is around me, because I try to write even when I don't know what I'm going to say. And it grounds me in place. Certainly nothing profound is pounding in my head to come out. I just want to keep writing, the momentum of it, the discipline of it, the insistence of it...Write. Write. Write. Write. I pick oracle cards that say WRITE. I hear it from people constantly, "What are you writing?" Write, Angie.

Sometimes I wonder who is reading, yet write for nobody in particular. Does it matter? It doesn't, but I still wonder. Does everyone?  I wonder if anyone cares or relates to anything I write. I wonder where the conversation went, and if this space matters without readers. And yet, I know still life with circles has to change, because I am changing. And in the changing, I just have to write about what I know, which is not always grief.

When I write this is what is happening behind the scenes:
Everyone is in jammies. I drink coffee, and listen to the water gurgling. I stare out the window often, just trying to get inspiration. Thomas asks me to open squeezey yogurt or a granola bar every two minutes, and Beatrice paints piggies, and whatnot. I write and mother, and we laugh and they distract me best they can. I try to write a few times a week, just to still write, because parenting feels lonely some days, and writing makes my soul feel alive.

When the baby died in May, I doubted I could write again. I didn't think I could adequately describe the heartbreak and freedom I felt. Heartbreak at the end of my pregnancy days. Heartbreak at the death of our fourth child together. Heartbreak at the sadness of my children. Heartbreak that I won't shower another child with love and kisses and artwork and music and all of it. Heartbreak for my physical body which seemed so broken and damaged and diseased. Then the freedom to know that I am pouring my being back into my body now. Freedom in release from being a vessel for little beings to come into this world. Freedom in knowing that I am more than boobs and a uterus and warnings about jumping off of furniture and running in socks. Freedom to figure out what the last six years of pregnancy, mothering, wifing, grief, daughtering, sistering, losing, gaining, praying, releasing, resenting will mean. Who am I now? There is a freedom in the not quite knowing, but being sure you are someone better than before.

The part of me that wasn't lost in Lucia's death was drowned in bourbon. I pulled her on shore, and dried her off, and told her she is okay. Maybe even a decent human being. When the baby died in May, I didn't think about drinking, or resenting people. Each call that came in, each email soothed me in a way that I didn't allow when Lucia died. Back then, I just saw the words not said, the gestures not performed. I flush deeply at the thought of how broken I was even before Lucia died. How ill-equipped I was to deal with grief and parenting magnified under the lens of absolute destruction. This blog, beyond all the therapy and steps and talking to friends, this blog gave me the space to work through that, to articulate who I was in a way that helped me figure it out, to be a better person. Sometimes it was through a piece well-received, mostly it was through my mistakes, my hand-gnarling in early morning hours over a bitter blog post, and wanting to run away from my exposed skeletons and broken heart.

The single most important post I wrote here was Reasons. And it was a project I took upon myself during that time of my pregnancy with Thor that I felt most out of control. I wrote down each time I thought, "Don't do that--that is why Lucia died." I wrote them on napkins, in text messages to myself, in emails, in a notepad of my phone. I wrote it on the back of receipts, and on notebooks in my doctor's office.

Now, when I write, I sit at my art desk, light my desk altar candle and incense, I smudge the space, and stare at my inspiration board. It has paintings from Sky's mama, and Rachel and Amy, and Mother Henna, and my friend Saralee, and my daughter. The sacred images flood my heart, remind me of the sacred connection all of us grieving parents share. I have a deep gratitude for this space, for the people who send me emails after their babies die and tell me their story. I have a deep gratitude for all of you who sent me notes and emails after my miscarriage, for Lucia's anniversary, even though I am terrible about remembering anniversaries and birthdays. I have a deep gratitude for any comment. It reminds me that I am not alone, and neither are you.

It's been a long time since I have answered questions on this blog, but please if you have any about any topic, either personal, about some thing you think I might know about, alcoholism/recovery, religions (hey, help me use my major) or about a personal issue you have that you want advice about, post them here in the comment section or email me at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com. I love questions, even if Brooke believes I do not write like Dear Sugar. (Still stung from that comment, Brooke! [I'm just joking. I have no delusions of writing grandeur.]) And the other part is that I have been feeling a deep need to do a tonglen mizuko jizo session to reconnect with my artwork and this community, so if you are interested in a mizuko jizo (free to anyone who asks, even if you have received one), please comment here, or send me an email at the above address. I usually charge $25 for them in my Etsy shop, but here they are free. You can read about mizuko jizo here. And then the other topic I wanted to bring up is this: How many people would be interested in another babyloss retreat? I did this in 2009. Comment here and let me know. I am just putting out feelers. Trying to figure out what kind of space I could find for us. (I'm based in Philadelphia, so I'm thinking an East Coast location.)