Making the Impossible, Possible: The Journey to Triumph

Re-Visions Event in NYC

Creating the Tree of Spectacle Triumph has been a journey from start to finish. Just like life creating the sculpture wasn’t easy by any means. Creating this beautiful tree tested my patience, stamina and will. I jumped through hoops and didn’t let roadblocks prevent me from pushing forward. That’s the message in my story is to persevere regardless of what is thrown at you.

This journeyEdit_IMGL3627 started last fall when I entered my rose sculpture in ArtPrize, an international art competition in Grand Rapids, MI. When registration started for ArtPrize I debated entering due to the registration fee. I kept getting messages that doors would open. The messages started off as a whisper but eventually turned into a roar. I really feel my Mom was behind the messages. Even after I registered I kept getting the same message. A month after ArtPrize ended I received an email about a possible commission for an eyewear manufacturer in New York using eyewear material in the piece.

treeoflifeupdatedWhen thinking about a proposal I thought about what I wanted to create. At first I struggled. Then I thought about this tree I first started to create over ten years ago. It started off as an oil painting where half the tree was alive and the other half was dead. It represented the best parts of ourselves and the pain that we endure. The living part was the phoenix that rose from the ashes. It’s taken me many years to realize that I’m not my pain or troubles. The Tree of Triumph is my best, true self.

The inspiration for the original tree was a lilac bush that grew next to my family home. It was my pride and joy. In the spring the sweet fragrance would float throughout my home. I loved that lilac bush. Next to the lilac bush was an old corncrib. One day my father decided he was going to tear the corncrib down. Not only did he tear it down he set it ablaze. The flame was so hot that it bubbled the paint on the siding of the house. You could feel the heat inside the house. The flames were higher than our house.

Once the flames had dissipated all that was left of the lilac bush was a charred out skeleton of what use to be a beautiful, vibrant living creature. I was devastated. My father on the other hand acted like it wasn’t a big deal. It was just a bush to him, not important. He just brushed off my tears like it was nothing.

I thought all was lost. Spring wasn’t the same without those purple, fragrant blooms. The blackened skeleton was a reminder of the hurt my father caused. What I couldn’t see were the roots deep within the ground. Years later they arose from the ashes and life had sprouted again. It took some time but eventually the lilac bush grew to four times the size of its former self. It took a big portion of my adult life to realize the moral of the story.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You can destroy my branches. You can knock me to the ground but you’ll never reach my roots. The roots represented my heart, soul and spirit. It was the first time I regained the power that I allowed others to take. No amount of hurt or pain will reach my soul. So it’s significant that the heart of the tree is surrounded by the roots.

I submitted my proposal and patiently waited for an answer. The date given passed and still no word. I had started to think I wasn’t selected. Another few weeks went by and finally I received word that I was one of seven artists selected. I was beyond ecstatic. My sculpture was going to be displayed during an art show in New York City. It was a dream come true. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to me.

Creating a sculpture using unconventional materials is a complicated, challenging process. It was my first sculpture of this size. The final sculpture was over four feet tall and four feet long. The next six months pushed me to my limit and tested my will. Creating the bark was a very tedious process of hot gluing small piece of frame onto the skeleton which was pvc. This wasn’t your typical glue gun. It was a professional glue gun that carpenters use with temperatures going past 400 degrees. Due to the intricate aspect of the branches, the quick harden time of the glue and the small frame pieces I had to use my hands to attach the pieces. So you probably can guess what occurred fairly frequently. I’m surprised I still have feelings in my hands.

Creating sculptures out of unconventional materials is very physically demanding and the tree was no different. There were times that my hands, arms and legs were covered in burns, scratches and cuts. It looked like I had been a fight with a cat and lost. Towards the end I had so many cuts on my hand that it became very painful to use my hands but I pushed through. Reaching through the branches felt like I was reaching through a briar patch.branches

There were aspects to the tree that were very tedious. Creating the bark was a very lengthy process. At times it felt like I was never finish it. Imagine gluing small pieces of frame to a large area. It was so tedious that it gave me panic attacks. Creating the leaves were also very tedious process due to the number of lenses needed to fill the space. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would take over 3,000 lenses. Most of these were treated and hand painted. I then had to hang each one to the branches and that part took forever.

Creating the Tree of Triumph meant bringing my inner demons into the light. The tree represented my best self and the darkness was ruthless in trying to stop me. There were times I couldn’t even look at the sculpture because there were parts of me that still believed that I didn’t deserved it. I faced the darkness and once again pushed through.

The tough part of creating a sculpture out of unconventional material is that for a big portion of the time creating it there isn’t a clear defined picture of what the final picture will be. It’s not until the end that you start to see the picture. It wasn’t until I started to add the leaves that I was finally able to see what I had envisioned. It’s amazing how quickly the final picture comes to the surface. It’s like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon.

The art that I create is very time consuming. I like to create little biodomes. My specialty is creating creatures out of the unconventional materials. A part of the design included a little girl swinging from the tree which was based off my seven year old niece. I also included one of the creatures (the frog) from my rose sculpture. It was my way to honor where the tree came from. If it wasn’t for the rose I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity.

Connie 236The creation of the tree was a family event. My nieces and nephew helped me paint lenses. My seven year old niece was quite the helper. She would come down frequently asking if I needed any help. My sister was my sounding board. Many of the decisions like not painting the bark came from her.  My brother in law was my technical expert and made sure the sculpture was secure during the long trip in a Uhaul to NYC. I couldn’t have created the sculpture without their help so it was really important to make them a part of tree. I had them each sign a lense and put it on the tree. It was my way of honoring their contributions and support. While they couldn’t be there with me in NYC they were definitely there in spirit.

Original Sculpture

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During this whole experience I have felt a strong connection to my Mom to the point where I would turn around thinking she was there. She was one of the person I turned to as a sounding board and I found myself physically turning to her thinking she was there. I strongly believed she brought me this opportunity.

I thought that challenging aspect was done but boy was I ever wrong. Originally it was my understanding that the sculpture would be crated. With over 3,000 lenses the sculpture was extremely heavy, at least over 200 pounds. The shipper just wanted to bubble wrap it and cover it with a furniture pad, and throw it on the truck.

cocoontreeI had spent the past six months (over 1500 hours) in creating this beautiful creature and I wasn’t about to let it get broken. I put my heart and soul into this tree. It had became a part of me because the tree represented me. I became a part of this tree and it a part of me. When I had the idea of driving it to New York City it never dawned on me how rough of a ride a Uhaul moving van is. Thankfully my brother in law came up with a system that would keep the sculpture secure in the back of the Uhaul. He attached it to a pallet and then boxed it in between the wheel wells. Finally he secured it by attaching a 2×4 to each side.

The trip was only suppose to take 10.5 hours. The client wanted it at their location at 5pm. I made sure to leave enough time for stops, etc. I had tried to fall asleep the night before but with the nerves and excitement I wasn’t able to. So I left for NYC with only 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I left at 4am. About 5 hours into my trip I started to become very sleepy to the point where I struggled to keep my eyes open. I did everything possible to stay awake including blaring the music and turning the air on full blast. Anyone who’s driven on highway 80 through Pennsylvania knows that the terrain is very hilly and rough. Imagine driving on it when you’re majorly sleep deprived. On top of all the hills there are many drop offs. It got to the point where I couldn’t even look at them as they made me seasick.DSCF8390

Around the fifth hour I was pulled over by a cop. He said I had went over the white line and wanted to make sure I was okay. He ended up being really cool but it just added to the nerves of the trip. Anyone who has ever driven a Uhaul knows it’s like driving a boat.

I had downed a red bull, a Starbucks cold drink and several Mountain Dews in the hopes that it would keep me awake. About into the seventh hour I went into this sleep deprived state where I felt like everything around me was warped. It was like I was on this major trip. It felt like the mountains were coming at me both in fast forward and slow motion all at once.

Towards to what I thought was the end of the trip I started to count down the hours. I counted down the hours to help comfort me. The last two hours I started to become so tired I wasn’t sure I could make it but I knew they were expecting me and I couldn’t let them down. So I continued to push through.

Eye of the Tiger came on the radio and it helped give me the steam needed to finish the trip. I finally got to New Jersey during rush hour mind you. At this point I was so tired that I was wired. I continued to count down the time until Manhatten came into sight.

Finally I could see the city. I wasn’t ever so happy to see a city landscape. It was around 5pm when I drove into the city limits, so you can imagine how crazy it was. The traffic went from a slow pace to a crawl. I was stuck in a traffic jam. I was only 15 minutes away from my destination and only one mile from my next exit which was the Lincoln tunnel. What I didn’t know that there was an accident up ahead.lincoln+tunnel+traffic

It took over ten minutes to move .05 of a mile, if that. Anyone that’s driven in a major city knows that traffic jams are inevitable. About an hour into the traffic jam I started to lose hope in getting to my destination in a timely matter. I had already missed my time to drop off the sculpture. At this point I just wanted to get to the dinner that evening with all the artists but as the time crept by I realized there was no way I was going to make it. All of a sudden I hear this bang. Someone rear ended me. I was like great how can this day get any worse. Thankfully there was no damage to the Uhaul and the only damage to his vehicle was to his license plate which was bent in half on the ground. How does one hit a huge moving truck with the brake lights on and stopped???

Finally after four hours in the traffic jam I was back on track. At this point I thought the plan was for me to go to the hotel and drop off the sculpture in the morning but when I contacted the client I was told that it needed to be delivered tonight. I was told if it wasn’t delivered tonight it wouldn’t be in the show. The next thirty minutes I pretty much circled time square over and over in a Uhaul. I was starting to panic. Imagine driving a huge truck at 11pm at night in Time Square. I was sure I was going to hit something or someone. There were people all over. They crossed the streets in mobs like ants out of a ant hill. Eventually I said heck with it and started driving like a mad man.time-squares-at-night-wallpaper-2

I finally made it. I should have known the night wasn’t going to get any easier. Earlier I had a bad feeling. There was one point during the traffic jam where I almost turned around to head home. When I opened the back of the truck the first thing said was it’s not going to fit. I could also tell they really didn’t want to have to move the sculpture. I have always been upfront with them on the size and weight.

We get the sculpture into the main lobby and I’m dumbfounded when I see the elevator. The door was extremely narrow. I honestly never saw an elevator so small. There was some discussion about getting the sculpture into the elevator. Someone suggested leaving it in the lobby. I wish I had pushed for that. I was informed that they learned the day before that the freight elevator was broken.

My sculpture was at least four feet tall and four feet across. The elevator door couldn’t been bigger than three feet across. I suggested angling the sculpture into the elevator. They got the sculpture in the elevator but getting it out was another story. I couldn’t watch them try to get it out. I honestly was done with the whole situation so I sat in the conference room knowing something bad was going to happen. Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine what I would walk into…

Every branch was broken and lying at the base of the sculpture. They had tried to fix it by shoving branches into the wrong holes. They basically decapitated the tree. It was like they dropped it from the top of the building. I was in complete shock. In just a matter of minutes they had destroyed something that took 1500 hours to complete. Until you see the pictures of the demolished piece you can’t begin to understand how badly it was broken. In a sculpture that size a strong foundation and structure is crucial in securing the piece. Individually plastic lenses don’t weigh that much but when you use thousands of them they become very heavy.

Broken Sculpture

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On top of them destroying something I put my heart and soul into I wasn’t treated very well. One of the employees started to take his frustrations out on me, accusing me of lying about being stuck in the traffic jam. I was dumbfounded by the whole situation. If I wasn’t so out of it and delirious I would have never let them put it in that small elevator. After spending over twenty hours in a Uhaul my night ended with them doing the worst thing you can do to an artist. I was told that they could fix it. I didn’t have a lot of faith. We agreed to come back the next day which was the day of the event.

I didn’t get checked into my hotel until 1am. Thankfully my good friend lives in New York City and came over to my hotel. I don’t think anyone would have questioned if I did have a meltdown but I was surprisingly calm. I obviously was upset but I didn’t let it destroy me. Prior to my Mom passing away I would have totally turned into Chicken Little. I posted on Facebook that the breaking of my sculpture didn’t even make my top ten list of bad things that had happened to me. When my friend left I had accepted that my sculpture was destroyed. I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to show a broken piece.

After I had dropped the Uhaul off in the Bronx I headed to the office. I wasn’t sure what I was going to walk into. I had four hours to salvage my piece. The event started at 7pm. Thankfully one of the employees was experienced with construction and offered to help me put it back together. I had used pvc to build the structure. When they broke the piece they not only broke apart the branches they broke the connecting pieces. So you couldn’t just connect pieces anymore because there was big chunks missing.

Thankfully I had packed my glue gun and brought a lot of supplies just in case. If I hadn’t brought my glue gun I’m not sure we could have put it back together because we used the glue to connect the pieces together. After a few hours he was able to rebuild the structure the best he could. There were still three main branches that we couldn’t put back together which left a lot of holes. I had put a lot of effort in creating the shape of the tree.

When I finished the sculpture I was relieved to be done. I had very little energy left in me. I felt accomplished for finishing it but I was also relieved to not have to work on it again. So once again I was forced to give more than I had and rebuild something that took countless hours to create. I got on the floor and began to work my magic which again meant burning myself with that boiling hot glue.

I worked on the sculpture until the very last minute. I did what I could to rebuild it. Most everything on the sculpture had something wrong with it. The wire butterflies were bent out of shape. The iris was broken, so was the dragonfly and girl. Thankfully the damages to the creatures were minor and I was able to fix them.

We had done the impossible and was able to put back together the broken pieces. The salvaged sculpture was a lot more rough and exposed than before. The shape of the tree was also drastically altered. I was relieved to have a finished piece to show. There wasn’t anything else I could do.

Salvaged Sculpture

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The event was amazing. I met so many wonderful people, many who had no idea that earlier that day it was a broken mess. I wove the whole experience into the theme of the piece. It’s not coincidental that of all the pieces that were broken the roots weren’t touched. I was able to weave what happened into the story of the piece which many of the guests at the event were able to connect to. I talked to many people who themselves also had moments in their life when they felt broken. Without the sculpture breaking I’m not sure the impact would have been as strong.

It was very symbolic that the sculpture was broken. The theme of the piece is resiliency, rising above the difficult times in our lives. There have been times in my life that I have felt just like that broken sculpture. When something traumatic happens we are forced to pick up the broken pieces.brokentree14

While I wouldn’t want to relive this experience ever again there is a part of me that is glad that it happened. It was a major confidence boost. I could have given up. I could have thrown a fit. I could have went home with my tail between my legs but I didn’t. I pushed forward and didn’t let anyone stand in my way of getting what I wanted and deserved. There have been many times I have cowered down in defeat. This wasn’t one of those moments. This was my moment of triumph.

Like the tree I was strong. Stronger than anything that ever happened to me. You can cut my branches. You can cut my bark. You can even knock me to the ground. You’ll never reach my roots and I will always rise from the ashes.

I’m not alone. There are so many people out in the world who themselves feel broken. After my Mom died I wasn’t sure I could go on. It felt so broken that I didn’t believe I could be put back together. That’s why my sculpture breaking wasn’t really a big deal because I had already gone through something a million times worse. This was nothing. It was also out of my control. I couldn’t bring my Mom back, neither could I undo my sculpture breaking.

The sculpture breaking just added to the depth of the piece. It multiplied the strength of the piece exponentially. The Tree of Triumph is confirmation that the impossible is possible. We are never truly broken as our soul always remains in tact. No power or force will ever reach that. So say what you want to me, it won’t hurt or affect me.

So many people have been apart of this journey. This has been the best part of this experience. I have received so much love and support it’s lifted me up from depression and my troubles. It has proved that I deserve so much more. Losing sight of your dreams makes for a very dreary world. This journey has proved that our dreams can come true. Just keep moving forward. Even at a snail’s pace you’ll reach your destination. Our trials and tribulations make us into who we are today. I wouldn’t have been able to handle this journey if I walked down an easy road.

Check out my new artist website:  http://www.derekstephens.net

Progress Pictures

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Re-Visions of Art Show in NYC

Last year I was in ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is an international art competition. About a month after the art show had ended I was contacted about a potential commision. I had to submit a proposal of my idea. My design was one of eight selected.

My sculpture named The Tree of Life will be displayed at an art show August 5th in New York City. I’m very excited at the opportunity to show one of my works of art.

I also have a new website for my art. You can view my art and purchase my art.

http://www.derekstephens.net

MarchonFlyerHere is my proposal.treeoflifeupdated

My Guitar Rose showing at ArtPrize Grand Rapids, Mi

I’m very excited in two weeks I will have my first showing of a piece of art at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI Sept 24 – Oct 12!

My guitar rose took over four weeks to complete. I am in the process of adding to the piece by adding a guitar body as the base. I also am recreating the bug creatures because I put them with my Mom when she passed away two years ago. I’m also making a pedestal for the showing as well.

Please help make my dreams come true by helping me fund the finishing of this project. The funds raised will cover the supplies of all the additions, including any travel and installation costs. Below is the link to my kickstarter page, as well as the rewards for funding levels.

Rewards

$5- Postcard with a personal thank you!
$5- Postcard with a personal thank you!

 

$20 Professional quality 5x7 photo signed
$20 Professional quality 5×7 photo signed

 

$30- Ladybug from a guitar tuner key!
$30- Ladybug from a guitar tuner key!

 

$50- Your chose of butterfly or dragon fly replica.
$50- Your chose of butterfly or dragon fly replica.

 

$75- Paper rose (size of a real rose) with a wire/guitar string stem. Color of your chose!
$75- Paper rose (size of a real rose) with a wire/guitar string stem. Color of your chose!

 

$125- Oil painting of Rose
$125- Oil painting of Rose

 

$250- A smaller replica of the rose sculpture with two bug creatures of your choosing in a small flower pot!
$250- A smaller replica of the rose sculpture with two bug creatures of your choosing in a small flower pot!
  • Vote For My Skull Flower Design on Threadless

    I’ve recently started to focus my energy on my art. My dream has always to have a career where I am able to use my creativity. Threadless is a tshirt company where all the tshirts are design by artists from all over the world.

    My Skull Flower design which I created for the Tattoo design challenge on Threadless will be up for voting for the next seven days. Help get my design printed by scoring a 5 on my design.

    https://www.threadless.com/designs/skull-flower-3

    Please give my design a 5 scored. Thanks

    Please give my design a 5 score. Thanks

    Vulnerability and Shame

    Shame isn’t a new topic for me. As a sexual abuse survivor it is a feeling that I am all too familiar with. For many years I felt an immense amount of shame over what had happened to me, as if I were some how responsible for the action. I worked hard to no longer feel the same level of shame as I once did though I am sure I still have remnants left deep down inside.

    I hadn’t really thought about shame until I watched a motivational speech by Brenè Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

    One of the messages in her speech was this idea that shame was the unspoken reason behind people not connecting to others. Brown had extensively studied shame by interviewing hundreds of people. She found a distinctive difference between those who had as strong sense of love and belonging, and those who struggled with it. The only variable she found was that those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

    She goes on to say that the fear of not being worthy of connection, keeps us from connecting to others. That if others see or know our vulnerabilities and imperfections deep inside us then we won’t be worthy of connection.

    Those who fully embrace vulnerability are the ones who able to live their lives more whole heatedly.

    The group that Dr. Brown studied that lived their lives with a sense of belonging had three main attributes; Courage, Compassion and Connection.

    They had the courage to tell their story of who they are with their whole heart. They had the courage to be imperfect. They also had the compassion to be kind to themselves first, then to others next. Finally they had connection. They are able to connect due in part to their own authenticity.  They have been able to let go who they think they should be and be their authentic selves.

    Brenè Brown also stated that vulnerability is at the core of shame, fear and struggle for worthiness… As well as the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity and love…

    Those try to deflect the vulnerability do so by numbing out the feelings, which is something I am very familiar with. She went on to say that when you numb all the unwanted feelings and vulnerability, you also numb out all the good feelings like joy, happiness, love, etc. You can’t selectively numb feelings. Eventually numbing out vulnerability turns into a very dangerous cycle.

    During her speech she talks about finding out why and how we numb?

    She also talked about the persistent need to make everything that is uncertain certain. Another thing I can relate to. The unknown has always scared me. Rather than face it head on, I usually avoid it like the plague. I pretend that it does not exist. Almost always the avoidance comes back to haunt me, even bigger and scarier than ever before. To the point where I don’t have a choice but to deal with it.

    I have repeated the same cycle so many times that my the wheels on my stationary bike have blown, causing me to catapult off the stand and crash into the nearby wall. You can only repeat the same thing over so many times before even you get tired of the repetitiveness.

    Hearing Brenè Brown speak really resonated with me deeply on many different levels and issues. So much that millions of little light bulbs kept igniting as I watch her speech on my phone and ever since then my mind has been in gear thinking deeply about shame, vulnerability  being seen and everything else in between.

    All of these topics are core issues that I have dealt with most of my life, certainly all my adult life. Connection is something I yearn for but it is also something that I am most fearful of.

    There was a time when I didn’t believe that I was worthy of love and belonging. These feelings were so deep and torturous that the negativity seeped out into my personal life. Probably the happiest I have ever been was when I lived in Chicago from 2004-2oo5. All my life I had been searching for deep connection and I finally found it.

    It was also the first time I started look at the core of the sexual and spiritual abuse. These two years were some of the best and worst times in my life.

    I finally had the group of friends that I was able to connect with on a spiritual level. I had the most friends I had ever had. I was living the life I had always dreamed of.  I also had a great job with the most wonderful boss ever. Someone who saw me for who I was and the strengths I possessed. On top of that I had an amazing therapist who was more like a mentor to me. I was able to see a glimpse of happiness and who I was meant to be but it was all too much.

    I let fear and shame take a hold of me causing me to run. I ran like the wind, fast and far. Ever since then I would take small steps into the light to only get scared back into the dark. I couldn’t handle the vulnerability because I didn’t realize that they were actually my strengths.

    All this time I believed the opposite of what was true. The biggest lie was that I didn’t deserve love or happiness. I internalized the abuse and took it on, and became it. I thought there was a reason why someone like me who had a pure heart would get abused/hurt. In my head I had convinced myself that someone who is good/pure wouldn’t be abused. That only bad children are sexually and spiritually abused. I didn’t realize that bad things happen to good children all the time. Early on I developed this belief that I wasn’t worthy of love, care or belonging. All I was worthy of was abuse, pain and hate.

    Vulnerability scares me, frightens me to the core. Getting hurt leaves you very vulnerable. When you have it happen a number of times you start to fear vulnerability. You do everything you can to avoid getting hurt, even if it means not finding happiness. It is better to go without, then potentially get hurt right? That is what I thought for years. For years I lived in fear. Stayed in isolation over the fear of getting hurt again. It felt like one more heart break would send me over the edge. What I didn’t realize that living a life without risk also kept me from the one thing I needed, and that being love.

    So granted I wasn’t getting hurt anymore but I found myself just as miserable, if not even more.

    The problem is that I have been running for over 18 years from city to city. I have stopped running but I am left with very little. I have very little to my name. I have friends all over the country and over 300 Facebook friends but very few that I see frequently in person. I miss the connection.

    Losing my Mama has taught me how fragile life is and not to take anything for-granted. I still am fearful and isolating but I want to change. A dear friend of mine who I met during my Mom’s struggle with Cancer recently was hospitalized. I found myself in this frozen fearful state. I was so afraid of losing her.

    Other than my close immediate family I haven’t gotten close to many people because I am so afraid of losing them. I still fear that, especially after my Mama dying. I now realize that staying away for that reason only leaves you with regret when something does happen and they are physically taken away by death.

    I am learning to embrace vulnerability and am coming to realize that its apart of life. I am also realizing that vulnerability will not kill me like I previously had felt. Vulnerability is also something that can’t be controlled.

    Sharing my story on this blog makes me feel very vulnerable but I know that it is important to share my heart with the world. I know what it is like to experience what I have and to feel you are alone. I know that there are so many who continue to go through what I have. I can bring something good to my bad experiences. Being my authentic self will help liberate others by having the courage to do so as well.

    Like Brown says, vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity and love…

    It really is. I have lived over twenty years of not being the real me. I can’t do it anymore. I have to let my wings out and fly free. I finally realize that I have a bright light within, that was meant to shine… not hide in a box buried deep within…

    I recently formed this friendship with this wonderful caring man. He has brought me great joy the past few months of getting to know him. He intellectually stimulates me deeply. It has been very refreshing to have someone of the same sex find you interesting and not have it related to sex at all… I know that he sees me for who I am on the inside, and not the outside. I wonder if he realize how much a gift that is to me? For someone who is a sexual abuse survivor it is huge to have a man that sees my heart… It has also been really nice to form a deep friendship with someone and not have my mind go right to sex. When we are together we can talk for hours. Whenever he leaves, I have this feeling that I don’t want him to leave… That is how much I enjoy his company. I can’t remember the last time a man made me feel this way.

    Yes, this new friendship has brought up a lot of vulnerabilities. A few we have actually talked about. I was for sure that he would run for the hills but he didn’t.

    I am learning to just live in the moment and enjoy my time with him.

    That is another thing I have learned by losing my Mama. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff… That is why the grieving process has been so difficult because I want nothing to go out into the world and live life… but I still find myself so frozen in fear.

    The difference is I am allowing myself to feel the vulnerable. I am trying hard to not numb out my feelings. Granted I do still occasionally do so with food but I am learning to overcome even that. I keep moving forward, even if it is one small step at a time.

    I am letting people in. I am also reaching out to people as well. I am allowing myself to be seen. These are just a few of the recent changes for me.

    Being a sexual abuse survivor being seen can be quite the terrifying experience. Dissociating from difficult situations became a coping skill early on and I find myself dissociating from difficult situations in the present. There have been times that I needed to be seen but felt invisible… and then times I wanted to be invisible when I had no place to hide. As an adult I need to realize that I am no longer in that unhealthy situation. I no longer have to hide. I think part of the reason why I hide in the darkness because it was when I was in the light that I was hurt so deeply.

    It is very easy to get chained down by your past. No matter how hard you try to out run it or hide, it always seems to find you. I haven’t been able to move on because I haven’t allowed my time to process it. I just kept on running. I finally have realized that my problems always follow me wherever I go. I didn’t allow my wounds to heal, I just covered them up with a bunch of weight. I must open my wounds back up, and allow the pain to seep out. Only then will I be able to finally heal and move on. I have to stick around and bear the uncomfortable, and all the vulnerable feelings that surface. Granted there are days I just want to run, I realize that I have to stick it out…

    Which is what I am doing with the grieving process. While the past two months have been filled full of crippling grief, I still have hope.

    During our time in Nashville we encountered so many amazing people. My eyes were opened up to see that there are caring people left in this world. I have a place in this world.

    For the longest time I didn’t feel I could show people my gifts and abilities, over the fear they would be scared. I also have stopped believing that my strengths are weaknesses.

    Yes in life there is a lot of things that are uncertain. Losing my Mama didn’t help with that but I realize these are things that I can’t control. There are no guarantees in life, so we have no other choice but to live our lives to the fullest.

    I am learning to do that one moment at a time while embracing the many vulnerabilities and imperfections that life has to offer.

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Marianne Williamson

    I have played small due to the insecurities of others around me, and have learned the hard way that it doesn’t serve anyone. Ms. Williamson is correct that it is my light that frightens me the most. We are all children of God. We are all meant to shine. I have been liberated by others who let their lights shine so courageously. Who are you not to be fabulous, talented, brilliant, gorgeous and everything wonderful that life has to offer?

    And as Walt Disney said:

    I am going to (We) keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

    Frankenmom

    Cut into, tumor removed

    Virus a hold of her body

    Constant beeps, ticks and noises

    Tubes here, tubes there, tubes everywhere

    There lies the woman I once knew

    Peacefully asleep

    Bandaged, bruised and bleeding

    I await for the day when she awakes

    Where is the switch

    That will bring my frankenmom back to life

    A lighting bolt is all it will take

    But all I keep hearing are those beeps going beep beep beep…

    Afib, bp, and oxygenation

    Have all become common terms

    Fevers become the constant norm

    Doctors speak, as I nod and stare blankly in return

    I hear what they are saying

    But can’t comprehend a single word

    Constantly riding a roller coaster

    Where you just wait for the bottom to fall out

    Wandering the hallways, they all look the same

    Feeling out of your mind

    Floating in midair

    When they cut out the cancer,

    They cut out my heart

    Trapped in a hospital room

    Watching in fear

    Surrounded by strangers

    Who toss my mom around

    Like she is a ragdoll

    Poking and prodding my frankenmom

    Like she is a guinea pig

    During which my frankenmom can’t say a word

    She can’t yell or scream, or tell them to stop

    and neither can I…

    Frozen I watch her body wither

    Frail and weakened by time

    While a machine pumps her full of air

    Like she’s a hot air balloon

    How I wish we both could just float away

    To a place where there were no beeps, sickness or pain

    But there we both lie paralyzed

    They tell me there is no hope

    That she will surely die

    All I can see is the woman I love

    Not the body that lays battered and torn

    Filled full of tubes and IV’s

    Covered in bed sores

    This can’t be my Mother

    A woman once so full vibrant and full of life

    Then who is this shell of a woman?

    Her hair matted down

    No longer the way she loved her hair styled

    Her skin pale and puffy

    With her fingernails bare

    A tube down her throat

    Her eyes in a blank stare

    I lay at her bedside

    Holding her cold hands

    Instantly transformed into her little boy again

    So scared and looking for comfort

    I look in her eyes

    and there is my Mother

    Finally I am able to look past all the tubes, doctors and machines

    If only I was Superman

    But alas I don’t have the power to save her

    My frankenmom’s body is tired and ready to rest

    No amount of lightning will be able to bring her back to life

    Paralyzed by sorrow

    Deep in shock

    They tell me she’s dying

    Slowly her heart stops to beat

    As her organs give out

    While her tubes are removed

    And the machines are turned off

    Her body lays still

    Her lungs don’t make a sound

    Silence is in the air

    As a downpour of tears falls upon her body

    I hold onto the shell of my Mother

    With all dear might

    I pray this is all just some horrible nightmare

    That I will surely awake

    But my eyes are wide open

    And this is my new reality…

    A hole in my heart

    Spirit has cracked

    Shaken and battered

    Falling apart

    I still hear the beep, beep, beep

    Pick up the pieces

    Sew them back together

    One stitch at a time

    Now I am the frankenson

    Awaiting for my bolt of lightning

    That will bring me back to life…

    Bullying… It won’t stop until adults stop doing it!

    So I have a love/hate relationship with RuPaul’s Drag Race…  I love all things Drag but after watching the first episode of  the All Star edition it reminded me of all the things about the show I dislike… I know it is TV but I find myself asking myself, REALLY???

    If I personally hadn’t dabbled in drag for about six months I wouldn’t have the insight that I do about many things. In that short time I learned A LOT about the Drag community. Honestly the show is very much real life. You have the heathers (the ones who think they are better than everyone else)… You have the clowns (the comedy/camp queens), the ones that everyone makes fun… You have the beauty queens (the pageant queens). The misfits (Sharon Needles, Tammie Brown, etc). I mean it all just like High School, even with teachers who also do their own bullying… SANTINO!!!

    This week episode confirms quite a few things about the show and the queens in it…  It reminded me how as adults we bully each other just as much as kids bully other kids, if not more… Where do you think they learn it from? Their family, friends, media, etc… I know that drag has a level of reading, but there is a line.

    I think many of the queens miss out on the real prize and it isn’t the $100,000 grand prize or the fame. It is the experience they have and what they learn from it. RuPaul is notorious for saying “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” This goes both ways and it isn’t just for romantic love. An ego can be confused for love as well.

    During the Untucked episode (which is all the behind the scene footage)  most of the drags (over 10) bullied one of the drag queens, some very viciously. I know it is tv, and it makes for good television but what message are you sending the world? For me, it takes away not only the illusion but the art of drag itself.

    What I see is a bunch of broken individuals who feel the only way they can get the spotlight is by extinguishing someone else’s light. I found this own during my own time as Puddin Pie. Some drag queens were so desperate to get into the spotlight they didn’t care whoever they walked all over. All they wanted was the fame and attention.

    Another problem I have had with RPDR in general is this idea of what real drag is. Anyone who has watched the show can see it is obvious what they feel is acceptable and normal. I am honestly shocked ( well maybe not really) that Sharon Needles won… but again she wasn’t a comedy/camp queen either. That is the genre of drag that I feel they really stick their noses down at. Just look at any critiques, especially from Santino… I am sorry but the whole stick with a comedy queen is not high fashion, that is not who they are… Again Santino was knocking Pandora Boxx down for her clothing. People go to see these queens not for what they where, they go for their personalities and what they present on stage. Honestly I think people are intimidated by comedy queens because it takes a lot of nerve and talent to do what they do. They don’t just rely on pretty, and honestly with makeup… ANYBODY CAN BE PRETTY!!!

    Not everyone can be funny.

    Even how they gave Pandora and Mimi their group name “Mandora” set them up…

    The other thing I have found interesting about RPDR is that they judge a lot of the show on superficial things. The only time you see them perform is when they lip sync for their lives. Rarely do you get to see them perform live. Isn’t stage presence an important part of being a drag queen? But this isn’t really what my blog post is about…

    Sure RuPaul is probably one of the most famous drag queens but she is about the only one of her genre of drag who was famous, other than comedy queens prior to RPDR. What do Varla, Lady Bunny, Jackie Beat, Lily Savage, Coco, Dame Edna, and Divine all have in common? Comedy… They became famous for their acts not for being on some reality competition.

    Watching that show last night made me angry, I am still fuming!!!

    Even during Mimi’s lip sync versus Chad Michaels, Chad didn’t even compare. Mimi out performed Chad hands down, she even changed outfits during the number. She gave personality that I didn’t see with Chad. Yet her and Pandora was the one sent home. I mean did I miss something? I believe it boils down to styles of drag, and it is obvious they don’t like Pandora or Mimi’s style. The biggest question why have them on there??? Like RuPaul says she has the ultimate say… I have to wonder how big of an ego RuPaul has… That is another topic for another day…

    Even the queens I had come to love like Latrice, JuJu, Pandora, etc I was disgusted with. Sure some weren’t as vocal in the bullying but they certainly didn’t stand up. All they appeared to me to be were a bunch of children preying on the weakest link. Not to mention Pandora’s attitude being paired with Mimi…

    I left the show not caring to ever watch it again. I have also unliked all these so called queens facebook pages.

    I find it ironic that what they were berating Mimi for, was the exact same thing they were doing. I also love this whole we are sisters crap, yeah maybe wicked step sisters like Cinderella had. You can’t pick and chose the parts of family you believe in. Let’s be clear most of them see it as a competition and will do WHATEVER it takes to win. Even if it means making someone cry.

    Which reminds me of the season of the HEATHERS. Which embodies this whole nose turning down thing. How low do you have to feel to be like this? Anyone who is in drag knows of the term booger queen. What makes anyone the ultimate queen of what is and isn’t acceptable drag??? Plus everyone starts somewhere. If you look at a lot of these polished queens they weren’t always like that. Rather than constantly beat others down, why don’t we try to build them up???

    I guess watching RPDR really turns me off towards drag, and that is a shame. I know I am not alone. I almost think there RuPaul is her own genre… She/he doesn’t speak for everyone, nor is he the end all of Drag… I just think with all the bullying going on and the teenagers killing themselves over it we have a responsibility as the gay peers of the community. Whether they want it or not, they are in the limelight and they could do so much good for the world, yet they choose not to. They are totally missing the mark…

    Even drag queens like Latrice Royale who spent time in prison didn’t treat Mimi with the same kind of compassion. I wonder how that is? If anyone should know what it is like to overcome a bad choice it should be him!!! People make mistakes, it is apart of life. Sure Mimi picking up her competitor during their lip sync for their life was wrong but she got kicked off for it. A lot of the queens were like Mimi shouldn’t be here… yada, yada, yada…. What is it to them? They are their and if they believe that she isn’t on their level, it just means one less spot to the 100k! The only reason they point it out, is for face. Just to cause drama.

    Then I think of the concept of the All Stars being paired with another queen for the rest of the show, and both being kicked off. If they were in pursuit of the best All Star they would never do this. For one, each queen has their different style and two if one queen doesn’t perform to par the other goes down with the ship. Lets be real, you knew that none of those queens would have picked Mimi or Pandora… Okay!!!! So they might as well set them up… If RuPaul was all about lifting people up, why would he set them up to fail??? There are flaws there… cracks in her makeup if you might say…

    Even queens like JuJu who wasn’t the most fashion forward or popular to the judges the first time around, now all of a sudden was best friends with Raven? Raven isn’t known for her niceness. It reminds me of in high school when those who team up with the bullies in order to not get bullied themselves.

    With all the bullying and teen suicides happening don’t we as a community have a responsibility to them? Kids learn what they see and not just from their family. RuPaul and her show has put a famous face to the gay community. I guess this whole philosophy that Ru has doesn’t fit into line with the concept of the show because a lot of what goes on has nothing to do with love. It is about tearing down someone else.

    I am angry, FUCKING angry. I think partially because it reminds me of my own experience and how others in the past have made me feel for being different. So now when I see injustices I just want to SCREAM!!! I want to say wake the fuck up people.

    I think what if a gay youth happens to see the show? What will they think??? I don’t think they will feel good about their own personal experiences.

    If they really want to be true superstars not only do they have to have talent and charisma but they have to have heart. Honestly I don’t see much of that on RPDR. Just a bunch of mimi-rupaul wannabes… and those feeling left out because they don’t fit into that mold…

    That is when you step out of that mold and realize that you will never fit into their realities because not only is it built for them but often times it is skewed.

    And during that whole incident with Mimi, not one person stood up and said enough is enough… Not one person!!! Which reminds me of what happens when a kid is bullied, that happens all the time. All it takes is one person to step up, just one… Kids have an excuse, they are young and impressionable. Adults on the other hand, DO NOT!!!

    I will not be watching another episode of All Stars and I am considering not watching the new season of the regular edition. It has become to difficult to stomach. So I will take a stand and say enough is enough. The only shade I find comforting is under a big old tree during a hot sunny day.

    A star is a light that is meant to shine brightly. It is meant to bring light to the world, not burn those they encounter…