My own private purgatory

It is the first gray day in a month. Even though I’m still not feeling well, I am enjoying this morning of soft shadows and rain. The autumn is transforming the trees outside my window into a colorful drama.

I’ve been struggling with anxiety lately. It feels like I am stuck in a personal purgatory, even though I don’t believe in stuff like that, but that’s what it feels like. Everything I want is out of reach. I am in a limbo, a waiting room. It’s so frustrating and I’ve become quite negative, I don’t like it. I need to shake it off, otherwise I am afraid I’ll sink into another depression. There’s just so much pressure right now; I have to get healthy and strong so I can look for a job, otherwise I can’t afford to make new art projects, or starting my own business and moving Johnny from the States to Sweden to live with me. But the pressure makes my health worse and then I don’t feel strong enough to work, because I’ve been burned out for so long. It’s like a vicious circle and I need to break it.

I made a list of everything that’s going on right now (or things refusing to happen until I’ve dealt with other things first) and I have 11 active processes that I’m going through at the same time – each and every one of them demands a deep focus. Some of them are just things I have to go through right now to be able to get to ‘the other side’ [of this purgatory] and the rest of them are just part of life and nothing I can control but nonetheless things I have to deal with.

This is a crappy time of my life but I guess life is really nothing but a cycle of good and bad times. The only good thing about feeling like you are going through a private purgatory – is knowing that better times will eventually come; my future looks like a treasure chest full of everything I have ever dreamed of!

It all just seems so far, far away.

And it’s driving me a little crazy.

“Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”

It’s a sweet morning. White skies. Stillness outside. Nothing but wind. And I’m under the blankets, watching Vanilla Sky on DVD. There are so many good things about that movie. The soundtrack is amazing. And it’s filled with little lines that fits perfectly as a reminder of what life’s all about.

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Vanilla Sky, 2001

The movie focuses on the relationship between actions and consequences. To be mindless and mindful, to make decisions or to live with the consequences of not making them. To be emotionally numb and awake. To feel like life’s owning you and how to own your own life by painting your sky in any tone you want, grey, blue or vanilla.

It is about human vanity and the comfort of buying a lifestyle and the illusion of happiness it creates, “living the dream” – and the discomfort of adapting to the cruelty of reality – being stuck in a nightmare, a spiral of negativity that makes you feel like a victim of life.

But the message is far from negative. we are not victims of our own lives – we are the artist who’s creating it. “Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around”. What a powerful statement.

But all those chances are far away from any comfort zone and doesn’t come with a price tag.

You can’t buy yourself a vanilla sky, you have to paint it. The opposite of being a victim of life is to be a Claude Monet. And here comes the importance of making a decision again. Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around. Now. Now. And now.

Harmony of the core

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I feel so much gratitude for the people close to me. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have so much love and appreciation around me. I’m building a new family of friends and I have Johnny across the ocean who’s looking after me more than any other boyfriend whom I’ve shared my everyday life with, ever did. I’m painting my life with careful brush strokes. Every decision I make has a meaning and is pushing me forward instead of me clinging to what I already know. I’ve wasted so many years, tears, heartbeats and headaches on the wrong things. Stuff without substance. Destructive things that drained me. And unattainable fantasies and ghost hunting. Now I want everything in my life to be real, positive and to unfold naturally. I’m done forcing life in the direction I want, life doesn’t work that way anyway. I am accepting the fact that even if I make decisions and even if I’m leading my life in a non-forced way, life is still full of surprises and occasionally creates little mazes for me to find my way out of. But with acceptance comes a sense of inner peace. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted for myself.

There’s a big difference between being comfortably numb and emotionally paralyzed that I use to feel – and to be at peace. The serenity of the heart and mind has nothing to do with passivity. On the contrary – a vivid inner life of wants and dreams but with the acceptance of circumstances and reality, creates the perfect balance of ambition and stillness – and ultimately finding the harmony of the core. It is very difficult to get here, but once you find this place everything in life unfolds with a sense of ease and simplicity.

A taste of Heaven and Hell

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Yesterday, the hormone storm returned. I’m always unprepared and terrified when it happens. – and I get buried underneath a heavy fog of fear and hopelessness. At times I feel like I don’t want to exist anymore – and that’s not me. But that’s how deeply affected we are by hormonal changes. Some women get anti depressants during these days each month, but I’m skeptical when it comes to medication. I guess it goes in line with the fact that I’m against drugs and alcohol.

But I have new ideas for writing projects and I am starting my new job at the gallery tomorrow. Good things are happening and I’m holding on to those when I feel a little lost. My life is finally starting to look like a real life and not just a pile of a broken pieces. I have love in my life, I am creating art again, I’m making new friends who means a lot to me – and I have a new job. My life looks so different now. I can’t believe how many years I spent in bed, or wearing a robe just because I wasn’t doing anything. My life had lost its purpose and I got lost in the comfort of the everyday life routines. That’s why I can never get too comfortable in my life. I am highly allergic to it. But of course, I don’t want my life to be uncomfortable either – I’ve been living in the sufferings of traumas for almost 20 years and it’s just a living hell. There has to be a balance between the comfortable and the uncomfortable. To not be suffering but not falling asleep and get lost in the security of life.

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Even if I still have days with anxiety and panic attacks, it’s nothing compared to how it used to be. Now, the anxiety only last a day or two. I feel very grateful. And it’s an evidence that all my hard work to overcome the PTSD symptoms have paid off. I am proud of the journey I’ve made. Now, it’s time to continue the journey – and I know it will take me to wonderful places. I’ve been to Hell, perhaps I’ll get a taste of Heaven too. Who knows?

Welcome, reality

Ok, so here it comes – the hangover to all the good changes that are in motion right now. I’m freaking out a little. My world has been so small for such a long period of time –  it’s just been me and my own inner Universe – and now it’s expanding, so fast and with so much intensity and I feel like it’s being invaded by reality. It’s healthy but it makes me feel vulnerable and anxious. I’ve been spoiled with clean hours – hours free from any expectations or pressure from the outside. Those hours used to pass with a slow movement, almost like they never existed inside my apartment, like it was only an illusion just to keep up with the world outside it. Now they feel manipulated and distorted. Cut in half. Speeded up. Attacked. I need to get used to this. It’s just a matter of adjustment. But it still feels strange. I feel a little stressed by it. I haven’t had the time to create anything this week. Hopefully I will find some time tomorrow.

Life has changed its rhythm and I have to accept it. I will even try to embrace it.

Endings and new beginnings

The last scene of Six Feet Under – with music by Sia: “Breathe Me”. A collection of endings.

It’s a new day. Spring is coloring my apartment in a pale blue light. I’m watching the last episode of Six Feet Under. I don’t like endings. Not even in TV series. But even so, endings have always resulted in something very positive in my life. Like the end is the first step into a new world, full of possibilities. I like new beginnings. Clean slates. Which of course goes hand in hand with endings.

After every crashed relationship, I’ve grown and flourished. After friendships gone sour, I’ve found a deeper understanding of how connections work. Letting go of a destructive entanglement with another person is liberating. Cutting off strings attached to a dark energy is healthy. There are so many ways for people to die and still be alive. It could be your own perception of them that dies when they reveal their true colors. They could lose themselves in various ways. To religion, to other people, to self doubt, to hopelessness and depression. They disappear from your heart and from your life.

When I think about the people in my life it’s like I’ve been a train station where people have come and gone in a flow of different energies. The only people who have always stayed with me throughout my whole life are my parents and Nanci, who’s been my best girlfriend for more than 20 years. I still talk to some other childhood friends but we’re not that close. The rest of them are gone in one way or another. Lovers. Friends. Colleagues.

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Me and Nanci.

I’m always moving forward – like the land shark I told you about in an earlier post. I’ve met some amazing people on my journey. And some dark and poisonous souls. I think they have all rubbed off on me – for better or worse. They’ve all helped me shape my inner mythology.

In the last few years I’ve met some of the most beautiful people. I’ve made new friends who feel like they are part of a family somehow. A family I’ve put together myself. New brothers. Sisters. Mentors. Muses. And then I fell in love with my best friend Johnny, who had been there for me throughout other crashed connections and painful mistakes during 3 of the most difficult years of my life. He was always there for me during all my fragile attempts to look for momentarily thrills elsewhere – which always destroyed me somehow. His unconditional love has been a safe haven for me. A place to heal. A place where I am never judged or punished. A place of freedom. Where I am allowed to be myself without feeling awkward and wrong in my most vulnerable moments of fear and freak outs.

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The concept of a lasting connection almost feels foreign to me. I feel vulnerable when I think about it. I know It’s a trust thing. I have to trust myself to surround myself with trustworthy people. I have to trust those people not to hurt me or betray me, something I’m way too used to. I have to trust life to be kind to me from now on. I am looking for lasting connections. I’m looking for things that moves with me instead of me growing out of them. I want a home that doesn’t crumble or falls apart. A home that’s isn’t an illusion of safety. Or an illusion of love. A home without a ghost.

All of those painful endings led me to this place where I am free to build whatever I want for myself. New connections. New boundaries. New rules. A new home. A new life. But I won’t forget the tears that brought me here. After all, water is the birthplace to every new life. Even in my paintings, I’m mixing the colors with water to bring new life to an empty canvas. I am deeply grateful for what I have in my life right now. And it was all born out of something painful that died and got buried in time – which created a space for a new life. To live.

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Just like in the very last scene of Six Feet Under where Claire drives off in her avocado green hearse to start a new life for herself someplace else, after a painful goodbye to her old life and the people in it. Endings are bittersweet. And new beginnings are awfully exciting and scary. And so fucking amazing.

Six feet above

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Another creativity hangover. I’m exhausted and need some rest. I’m so into Six Feet Under right now. It’s one of my favorite TV series to revisit. The theme of Death goes perfectly in line with the recent contemplation about my own mortality. The timing of this obscure theme is not too odd – since the only view from the windows of my apartment is of the old cemetery across the street.

When I think about my existence  – my own life, I feel deeply moved. I am grateful for the love I have in my life. For the people who appreciate my inner worlds and want to be part of them. I have lost many things in my life, loss has been haunting me since I moved out from home as a teenager. But in each and every loss, I have found something really important in its void. Underneath the surface. I’m not saying I am happy it happened, but I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the things I found when something was taken from me. The more I’ve been mentally and emotionally stripped away by other people, the more naked and real I have become to myself. And that is priceless. The more they took from me, the more I found within myself. It’s not important what they took – it’s all about what I was able to achieve in spite of their greed and selfishness. Nobody can ever take THAT away from me.

It’s ironic – when I first met the abusive man I was only 18 and wrote this little poem to him: “Out of the sweetness of our innocence, we will rise and find our true selves.” – he stole my sense of innocence and because of that I have been forced to make a long and painful journey to the person I am today. Above and beyond all the crap he put me through. I am not buried underneath the traumas anymore. I have climbed at least six feet above it – where the view is absolutely spectacular.

So, I am grateful for how my life turned out. Even though it’s been stained with so much pain and grief. But I use the stains in my art – they are important to my artistic expression. The day when they’ll finally bury me six feet under, those stains will still hang on other people’s walls and be cherished and loved – so in a way it all worked out fine.

About white, black and the infinite nothingness

 

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A still from “2001 – A Space Odyssey” directed by Stanley Kubrick (1968)

 

The first thing I do when I start working on a new canvas is to paint it black. The blank, white surface makes me very uncomfortable. It’s almost a compulsive act, to fill the empty space with…something, anything. The black paint is the perfect domination. It forces out the nothingness, eliminates the emptiness, tames the blankness. I always do this. Most of the times I let the black background be part of the painting, sometimes I change it to some other color. But I never let it stay white or pristine. The sterile white creeps me out.

Ever since I watched Kubrick’s “2001 – A Space Odyssey” for the first time, I’ve been convinced that Death is this white sterile room of passivity and helplessness. Most likely I will die in a hospital, surrounded by nurses in white, in a room with white walls, sterility, bright lights or daylight. My last suffering will take place in a white environment, while I’ll find peace in my sleep, with closed eyes – away from all the white.

For me, Death is not a passive continuation of Life. Death is not the eternal silence that follows my last breath, it is in the hours, minutes, seconds before I take my last breath. Then I simply stop existing. There is no Death for me. There is only living or dying – both part of life, not Death. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t belong to any religion and I don’t share the common idea of Death as something mysterious yet tangible or as a concept of rest and eternal non-existance on Earth but a resurrection in some other dimension. When I die, I don’t exist anymore, I’m not resting, I’m not transported to another dimension, I’m not a ghost – I only exist in other people’s memories, through my art and in photographs. To rest or sleep is part of being alive. We can visit other dimensions whenever we want while we are alive – by using our imagination, by asking questions through science, philosophy or art – and by listening to the heartbeats of life itself. It’s all here. It’s all here right now. If we dare to explore it –  because life and love can be overwhelming. Our potentials and the power in our own hearts and minds can be frighting. As soon as we start asking questions about ourselves or to question our lives, we are forced to be responsible of it – to change and lead our own lives. I call this “the conflict of independence”. When we choose to change the course of our lives, when we start to lead it in a new direction, we are faced with loss. Perhaps even loneliness. It is a painful process. But we are rewarded in the end. Nothing feels as good as the inner freedom and to be true to who we are, who we truly are. But to do that, we have to sacrifice a lot. It’s easier to numb our hearts, to let our minds fade into a blank space while we go through the motions, fall into ruts and the endless routines of every day life. To depend on people, to take their company for granted – to allow them to take us for granted. To stay where we don’t belong. To sacrifice or compromise our inner wildness, our curiosity, sexuality, perversions, dreams, desire, magic. Our nature. To accept replacement pleasure. Replacement enjoyment. Replacement everything.

To me, that is the real Death.

I’ve died so many times in my life.

The last time I died was a few years ago. In a time where I denied myself pleasure and happiness. A time when I turned my back on my true nature and replaced it with dependency, a compromised intellect, spiritual castration, denied sexuality, artistic suicide, neglect and passivity. This is also visible in my art from the time. All my digital pieces where so foggy, almost faded out, covered in whiteness, like I was afraid to exist through my art. Like I thought I wasn’t allowed to be loud. To be alive. Like I wasn’t allowed to take up space and demand to be seen.

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Two versions of my digital piece “My Neighborhood”, the lighter version is from 2012 and the darker version from 2014.

When I look at these works, I feel sad. I can see how lost I was. Almost erased in my sense of existence.. I was deeply depressed, lonely even though I was in a relationship, and so lost in myself. I had abandoned myself and my true nature in every way. I remember the mental paralysis that followed as meeting the true Death. Death came in daylight. Death was in the numbness. Death was in the comfort zones – and in the comfort itself. Death was in the suffering. Death was in the lack of choices. In the passing of time. In the waste of dreams. Death was in the isolation. And in the intimacy I had created in myself by accepting a life that didn’t feel like mine; spending my days alone in a house that wasn’t mine, in a relationship with a man who never felt like mine, making art that didn’t feel like it was part of me.

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A selfie from the time I was making the decision to leave

I had turned into a blank canvas. An untold story. An empty space.

It took me about a year from the time I decided that I wanted to change my life and to leave the man, the house and the dead life I had been living for a long time, until I could do it. That’s what numbness does to your ability to change and to break free from destructive things. I know how it feels to die and it doesn’t have anything to do with endings or eternal sleep.

To expect Death to be some kind of extension of Life is a presumptuous idea. It creates this relaxed attitude that Life is not the only opportunity to exist or that life is a passage. Life is incredible and precious. I don’t take it for granted anymore. Life is whatever you make of it. It is also the element of unexpected pain and suffering – but also the treasure chest of magic, love and creativity. Death is simply nothing. Life is everything.

When I am filling the new, white canvas with black paint, I have created a space of shadows that allows the possibility of new life and creativity to be hidden within it. Just like the Universe, the blackness of the paint holds a whole world of dreams and accidental beauty, born out of chaos and creation.

This is what CHANGE looks like

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This is what it looks like when you are in the progress of to changing and building a new life for yourself after years of struggling with PTSD and depressions: making research about how anxiety works so I can deal with it, making research about self esteem, mindfulness, making self-therapy notes about what I need to change – attitudes, strategies, plans, motivation, a practical plan to reach my goals and the strategies that will lead me to future success, keeping a journal just for things that I am grateful for and things that are good about me to boost my self esteem, dissecting my fears so I can get rid of them to be able to reach my dreams and desires, redefining what my art means to me and how I want to use my creativity from now on. This is what it looks like when you take back control of your life!