Advice, Book Review, Op Ed, Relationships

The Art of Asking: Part 3

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Never did I quite imagine that Amanda Palmer would be helping me with my relationship, but on two occasions thus far I have flipped to a section of the book and handed it to my boyfriend Scott to read. [I did offer for him to read the book after me, but once he read the first line of the book and saw the word “tampon” he decided it wasn’t for him.]

Amanda Palmer shares a lot about her relationship with Neil Gaiman, how they met, when they started dating, the struggles of being in different places during good times and bad. She shares their intimacy issues, fights, growth, trust. It’s really great to get these little insights throughout the book.

The most recent bit that I shared was a passage where Amanda was yelling and being a bit overdramatic about a situation, then Neil quietly quips to ask if she’s expecting her period, which only proves to further anger Amanda. I chose to show this particular passage to Scott after an F-bomb filled outburst I had to which he looked over and did the “shhh” face and told me in a soothing voice to “calm down.” Of course, as Amanda would later discover in that passage, I’d just started my period.

Amanda also shares little games her and Neil play, a series of questions she would shoot at Neil and then he would in turn ask her. Scott and I are two opposite sides of the brain, so most of the time if I ask him a question, he tries to break it down logically, and ends up asking me at least four or five more questions before he is able to answer my original question. In short, asking games don’t work well for us. I tried anyway, asking him one of the questions Amanda posed to Neil in the book: “What are you most afriad of?” Scott’s answer was: *shrug* I handed him the book and had him read the passage.

I am not saying, by any means that our relationship should be modeled after Amanda and Neil’s, just that she points out the basic things most people in relationships face: distance, trust, money issues, emotional issues, communication, PMS outbursts–stuff most people have been through at some point in their lives. In the very least, even if you haven’t experienced these things, Amanda makes the sharing of these moments interesting enough that the reader gets a bit of a laugh or is touched in someway by reading them.

It’s also comforting to read about her relationships, the snippits of them, prior to Neil. Reading about her experiences makes me feel a little bit better about some of the guys I’d dated in the past, and makes me wish I’d dated more artists!

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The Art of Asking: Part 2

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One of the great things about The Art of Asking, are the peeks into Amanda’s personal life. Especially when she talks about Anthony. I won’t give too much away for those who have not read the book yet, but some of the most poignant pieces of advice that Amanda got from Anthony through the years she passes along to us in the book. One of them is a story you may have heard before about a dog (paraphrasing):

There is a man sitting on his porch. Next to the man was his dog, who was whimpering. I asked the man “Why is your dog whimpering?” The man said, “He’s laying on a nail”. I asked “Laying on a nail? Well, why doesn’t he get up?” The man then replied “It doesn’t hurt bad enough yet.”

In life, you don’t want to be the dog sitting on a nail until it hurts too much for you to stay there. Don’t sit on the nail to start, or get off as soon as you find yourself there!

Sometimes I wait around for life to help me along so I don’t have to make the important and scary decisions myself. My last job at the super corporate call center is a perfect example. I made the move from my previous job because they were cutting my hours, overworking me and paying me barely above minimum wage after working there for 3 years. The call center paid about $4 more an hour and came with a chair and a free soda fountain. Shortly after starting at the call center, I quickly realized that being in a cubicle for 8 hours a day was not for me. Also, customer service was grating on me. I don’t work well under constant pressure, and every call was recorded, timed, and graded. I always constantly got marked off for not being fast enough. I need to be ever faster. I soon found myself having horrible bouts of random deep depression coupled with uncontrollable sobbing. All of the abuse I took over the phones day in and day out over and over and over again was building up in me and would let itself out during really inopportune moments. Not to mention the stress was causing me to get new migraine headaches and other health issues. I didn’t want to seem like a wuss, so I cut back my hours to work 3 days a week, but I was still miserable–I was still sitting on the nail, but it didn’t hurt quite as much, so I stayed there. I started to feel even more miserable as time passed, even less appreciated and I still wasn’t fast enough, the goal kept changing and I couldn’t keep up, but I stuck it out for over 2 years.

I would fantasize that the building would burn down, that there would be a saftey threat (no one would be harmed thankfully, but work would be cancelled), there was this uplifting hopeful period when the lease hadn’t been paid on the office lot property and the landlord threatened to seize the property if payment wasn’t received in full (they coughed up the money on time though *sigh*). I imagined some crazy scenario in which I’d be harassed and forced to leave or an equally rare scenario where I would screw up and finally be fired. Anything that would get me out of the job without me actually having to take control of my life and quit myself. I wouldn’t get up off the nail.

Eventually I had an opportunity present itself that would allow me to show my photography in a gallery in New York City, and I jumped at it, I tried to quit the call center before I went on the trip, but corporate America didn’t want to let me go (they probably had to keep numbers up for HR through the next quarter for payroll or something), so, per the manager and the supervisor’s request I was on temporary leave instead of quitting. After the art show in New York, instead of coming back to work (the thought of which made me physically ill), I quit.

I think we all do it at some point in our lives, we all sit on the nail, whether it be staying in a relationship that isn’t fulfilling us, staying in a job that isn’t serving us, not asking for help if we really need it, or whatever the case may be, staying someplace because it doesn’t hurt enough for us to make the decision to move on. But, we need to move on. We need to let go of our fears, get out of our comfort zones, and do what is best for us. We need to trust that we will make the best decision for ourselves, and even if things don’t work out, at least we got up off the nail and tried. You can dust yourself off and try again. (RIP Aaliyah)

You can find out more about Anthony HERE.

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The Art of Asking: Part 1

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I do not care if you love Amanda Palmer or hate Amanda Palmer. I am reading her book, The Art of Asking, for the second time and have only a few pages left. Reading it stirred up my own personal narrator. It inspired me to start writing again, in books, in journals, on postcards and in letters, on here. I’ve been writing non-stop and reflecting on my own life. This isn’t just a book about crowdfunding, it’s about relationships, it’s about life, it’s a bit like a zine, but in book form.

I’m not sure where to begin on what I’ve learned so far from this book, but one of the common themes is about the give and take between people, between artists and patrons, between lovers, between friends, in life. Sometimes it’s really hard to take the gift someone gives you.

I realized that I have started being very open about asking for help after I quit my day job last year. I made a post on Facebook when bill money was tight, and really just opened myself up, no fucks given as to what others might think of the post. Hoping someone would reply:
I’m in a tight spot right now, I know I’m not the only one, I’m not asking for handouts, but I could really use a few sales. If you need something, want something, let me know.

I do custom work. I bake, cook, sew, paint, draw, photograph, dance, write, I can read tarot cards, pendulums and rune stones, I plan and host events, I model, I have designed cosplay costumes and dresses, I make jewelry, mineral eye shadows, bronzer, bath and body products, I’m a good proof reader and editor, I’m good at selling and working booths, I make greeting cards, zines, collages, inspirational posters. If it’s not listed ask anyway, I may have left it out.

I was contacted by a local comic writer to start doing work on their limited edition covers. His wife came by to give me a demo and drop off the comics and supplies to decorate the comic covers with. While I helped her bring items in from the back of her car, I mentioned being a little embarrassed to be asking on Facebook for work, and she stopped and looked right at me and said “How is the Universe supposed to know what you need if you don’t ask for it?”

Asking is opening yourself up, and trusting that someone will reply with the answer you’re looking for. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. For me, I’m a big giver, so asking was a little backwards for me, but it gets easier with time.

Just this month I had been invited by a friend to The Vagina Monologues. I had never been, and had been increasingly finding myself within circles of women who talked about how great the experience was for them. I posted on Facebook:

Okay guys, I want to go to the Vagina Monologues event this coming Valentines Day. It is $25 for a ticket. I am offering haikus, photographs, zines or sketches for donation towards a ticket. Just send your request, mailing address and donation via PayPal to gothcupcake@gmail.com

One of my friends, his Father is on Facebook and we are friends (he makes amazing tie dye everything, you should check him out, he goes by Splash), I saw the notification pop up that he had sent me money towards a ticket. I shot him a message to thank him and asked if he’d like a haiku or some art and he replied, I’m paraphrasing, “It’s not a sale kiddo, it’s a gift.” I felt like that was solidifying the point of Amanda’s book, being able to accept the gift. Being able to “take the donuts” every now and then. Another friend sent the full amount of the ticket and told me to have a good time. Sometimes, people just want to give, they don’t want to take the flower.

If you haven’t read The Art of Asking I probably seem as if I’m speaking in riddles. I have lots more to say about this book, but I’ll save it for another entry. For now, I’ll leave you with those little nuggets of wisdom and how asking and receiving has been for me lately. I am learning to accept the donuts when they are offered to me and giving back whenever I can! <3

Have you read The Art of Asking? Have you found it helpful? Have you learned to take the donuts? Comment with your stories below!

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A Decade Plus

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I just completed work on my latest zine, one featuring LiveJournal entries from 2004-2005, back when I was 18, 19 years old and angsty. My parents were pretty protective of me and I hadn’t really done much on my own, I was a bit immature and a bit naive. I realized I have changed a lot in the past 10-11 years and I realized how little I have changed in some ways.

I have always had a horrible time expressing myself. It amazes me that in my own journal I wouldn’t just come out and say whatever I was feeling or thinking. I was always so guarded and censoring myself. I still do that.

Despite being secretive about my true feelings and emotions, in many ways I was completely obvious, I have no poker face, I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s like I’m marching down the street in a parade, but there’s no music because I don’t want anyone to know about the parade, even though everyone can see it plainly.

I would feel hurt and wouldn’t say anything. I would feel love and wouldn’t say anything. I would be angry and couldn’t tell why…maybe because I was oppressing all of my expression!

The zine has been a lesson in self reflection, a reminder of things I need to work on, a fun trip down memory lane, a reminder that even if in some of my posts I used phrases like “din din” I also could write eloquent poetry when I felt like it.

I need to stop holding back. My entire life, I feel like I’ve held back who I really am, and how I really feel, and I don’t know why. Creating this zine and publishing it, asking friends for permission to be included in it, it’s pushing my boundaries, it’s getting me out of my comfort zone and I think it’s the first step towards freeing myself.

To quote A.S. King: “Free yourself, have the courage.”

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From Renaissance To Revolution

Photo Credit: Alyssa Leibow

Photo Credit: Alyssa Leibow

This morning Amanda Palmer shared an article on Facebook about whether or not it is still possible to survive as an artist in America. The article references a book by Scott Timberg titled “Culture Clash.” I have yet to read the book, but the article alone was enough to get me riled up to write here. There is too much to say as a Facebook comment and after reading the article I even feel dirty about writing it as an internet blog post instead of shouting it from a soap box in the street.

Society’s love, lust, respect and appreciation of the arts is dying. I’m not even sure they’re dating anymore, maybe they’re friends with benefits, but there is no romance. On the surface it seems that way. On the surface it would seem that iphones have made everyone a photographer and web based magazines and newspapers are slowly killing their printed counterparts, but that is the problem. People aren’t digging deep enough to see what is happening underground.

That’s where the real art seems to happen now, we’ve taken a proverbial page out of the books from the punk era, we can’t be published so instead we publish ourselves. Cutting, pasting, drawing, handwriting, shooting film and photocopying, stapling our words, our art, our well being together. We create zines, we create communities, we have clubs of artists where we pool our ideas together to create something bigger. We play our music in the streets, we paint our murals on walls and abandoned buildings, we sell our zines on the bookshelves of indie bookstores, screaming our souls into microphones at poetry slams. We peddle our work anyway we know how, finding new ways by going back to the old ways.

I was ashamed for being amazed, but this Summer in New York City, I was amazed to see artists on the sidewalks selling their paintings, their songs, their art. I thought it was amazing that such a street arts community still existed. It’s not that way everywhere.

Today being an artist, surviving as an artist, identifying as an artist, is hard. I graduated college with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Rhode Island into an economy recovering from an ongoing war and in an economic nose dive. I moved across the country to Arizona where I worked folding clothes, answering phones and working in the HR office at Target for 3 years. I didn’t draw, I didn’t paint, I didn’t write. It was like the creativity in me had shrivled up and died. I then decided to move on to something that paid better than the $9/hr I was getting at Target. I sold my soul and worked in a tiny cubicle in a giant maze of a gray call center making $11/hr and was completely, utterly, listlessly miserable. Anytime someone asked what my degree was in they would laugh at me. I didn’t go to college to become an artist, I already was one, I went to college for the piece of paper that would make me legitimate to society to teach art. Instead, I’ve found I would have been better off without the student loan debt and without the mocking laughter. I quit my job at the call center to pursue being an artist full time.

Of course, that is the point of the article above, that it is damn near impossible to survive as an artist in today’s world. I haven’t given up yet. In fact, I often push myself, feeling that I haven’t connected all of the dots yet, and there is a way to make it work. There is a balance to creating and living. I think the secret is in the underground. The secret is in letting down barriers, the secret is in collaborating together again, the secret is in the revolution that is going on all around us. There are people everywhere feeling the same way, we need to connect, to come together in a common cause and stand up, to build. We are not individuals, we are a force to be reckoned with. We need to rebuild the centers for art, we need to stop vilifying art and artists, and raise them up.

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Not Valentine’s Day

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You know how sometimes you can have a memory, so clear in your mind, of when or how something happened? I distinctly remember a patch that I had saftey pinned to my tshirt and worn to school about ten years ago. It was a patch I made from a scrap of black fabric and wrote on with a silver Sharpie marker, the final stanza of a poem I had written. In my memory I always thought I had worn the patch on my shirt to school for Valentine’s Day, like a protest of the holiday. It wasn’t until I went back home this past December that I found the notebook I had written the poem in–complete with the date–and the infamous patch.

The poem was not written near Valentine’s Day, but in the fall, October to be exact. I had just told a fellow friend and classmate that I had the hots for him and had been patiently awaiting his reply, misreading signals, and torturing myself over the following weeks. I think part of me knew the answer that was coming, and I wrote a poem:

Bleeding Heart

White flag, I surrender
I give up on it all
I can’t sleep
Frustration beneath the surface
I can’t take not knowing
I can’t handle the tension
I am literally a mess
I can’t let you know
I can’t let you see
Even though you have no clue
That you are even causing this
Conflict is giving me chest pains
Today tears rolled down my cheeks
If this is love, it is a cruel fate
Horrible and wonderful
Creation and destruction
When will I ever learn to feel?
Is this it?
Do I have to suffer for love
Before it can ever be mine?
Before I can know what it means?
I feel like a fool.
I surrender.
I have no weapons
Only wounds
The bullet holes in my chest
Cupid owns a .45

Most of the guys I dug, rarely dug me back. The reply came shortly after the poem was written and it stung. Even though I think part of me expected it, I couldn’t deny that it hurt. I used the last stanza of the poem to make a patch, which I pinned to my shirt, and wore to classes I had with the classmate!

I surrender.
I have no weapons
Only wounds
The bullet holes in my chest
Cupid owns a .45″

He had no idea I had written this poem, nor that it had been written about him, it was tucked safely in the back of a notebook. But, the fact that I wore this patch to school, for him to see, pinned to my chest, was pretty ballsy. I still love the last four lines, and maybe someday I’ll work them into a song. Nothing more raw than teenage angst. I quickly got over it and me and the classmate were friends again, but I can’t believe how crazy I was to do that.

Have any interesting stories of Valentines, crushes or teenage angst you’d like to share? Share them below!

Mary

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LiveJournal Project II

April 3, 2005: “I was so nervous mostly about Gary Richman, because I had seen him personally take students out into the hallway and tell them that they had no talent, and should consider switching majors. But that morning Brandon had told me to fight if they question something lol, so I had a teenie bit of courage in me :p But they didn’t ask me too many questions, only a few things like “Which piece do you think was your biggest chance?” Sort of packs a punch, but apparently I held myself pretty well. Gary’s an eye-contact type of person and I have very good eye-contact, so I think that counts for something. They seemed pretty impressed with my presentation, which surprised me a lot. Then again, Brandon reminded me “you’re your own worst critic.” That’s very true. Overall they said I have a lot of wonderful art courses ahead of me, and that I should become more “sensuous” with the materials I use. :p I’m supposed to receive a letter in a few weeks with all of their comments. I’ll post it when I get it. Though they did tell me that I should do portraits of people I know, to keep as a type of diary, and to help sharpen my talents. I’m gonna draw you!!!!”

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