Friday, September 30, 2016

Not Quite Cured, but PROUD

The saga continues ...
Today has been difficult on the street. Speaking, even walking only a block set me on edge. Perhaps yesterday seemed to great because I was always in the company of dear and trusted friends: Costin, Dwight and Rob. 
Ah well, onwards. And I am loving the journey because I am so incredibly proud of how the bodice of the dress is coming — in spite of this being plan B.

Cured (enough)!

Well not exactly cured, but I am as good as cured in the company of trusted friends. And I attribute this sudden advancement to an insight I had last week.
In the previous post I referenced having gone to see Dr. Shoja on Wednesday feeling liked “I’d aced the exam.” I don’t want to make you sick with the minutia of my trip through my PTSD crisis, but the following is for friends who’ve been on the journey with me.
My friends all know (too much) about the abuse I endured. They know about it because I could not stop talking about it. One day, my friend Beth told me to shut up and get over it; she likely spoke for all my friends.
At the time of my abuse I was emerging as gay and so I felt I deserved everything that happened (and didn’t happen) to me. I felt guilt and shame for both the abuse and its cause.
I credit Dr. Shoja’s under-the radar comments for helping me to realize that the shame and guilt could be, and should be, addressed. I credit her for guiding me to my insight that my reaction to the abuse was worse than the abuse itself. I am grateful to her for not telling me and allowing me to “discover” that for myself.
But how was I to, as Beth put it, “get over it?” I knew Dr. Shoja wasn’t going to tell me.
Well it happened. Here’s how.
Dr. Shoja mentioned in a recent session that PTSD was an anxiety disorder. I did not know that and when she said it, it resonated with me. I took immediate interest in her casual comment about the “spectrum” of anxiety disorders.
Then, on Labour Day, came my readmission to hospital and there was a lot of talk about psychogenic seizures and the anxiety that causes them.
Anxiety: I’d had migraines and eczema all my life and I’d been told they were caused by stress — another word for anxiety. The word was not new to me.
But suddenly it had no meaning. What is it? And how can I be having all this anxiety without knowing what I am anxious about?
It was by constantly questioning of my responses to stimuli that had me determine what I was anxious about: I am anxious about people, I concluded. And why would I be anxious about people, I asked myself? Because I don’t trust them was my honest and immediate answer to myself.
And then came my Eureka moment: I now define anxiety as a lack of trust. For me, this was a profound insight. When I thought of myself as someone who is fundamentally untrusting of people, I instantly excused myself from culpability. I felt justified in not trusting people given how my birth mother, the Catholic church/orphanage and my adoptive parents — all my caregivers — abused and neglected me.
Suddenly I was free of thinking that my past abuse, and all things bad that happen to me, are my fault.
Did the realization have any effect?
Yesterday at lunch, Dwight remarked at how well I was speaking. It was the second time someone said that last week. Then later in the afternoon, I went to Rob’s place. We did errands together in advance of a small dinner party for some of his clients who’ve become his friends and then stayed for the dinner and I “passed.” I stammered a couple of times, but so slightly I don’t think anyone noticed.
I believe that if I live my life within the perimeter of the comfortable and familiar and with trusted friends, that I am cured.
I am not saying this naively. I realize there will be setbacks and that I still stutter sometimes “out there” in the world. But I just don’t care if I stutter a bit sometimes.
I believe the seizures are over. Now that may be na├»ve, but I have reasons for believing it to be true: I avoid situations that seem likely to induce them and when I feel a mild one coming on, I can will it to stop. I know how to breath and “withdraw” to keep myself calm. 
Cured. Well, cured enough. Yessss!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


The front view has no "eyes;"the side view shows the angle leading to the train.
The back view shows the train that is full of eyes.

I went to see Dr. Shoja Tuesday morning feeling like a student who knew he’d aced the exam.  I’d had a bit of an epiphany about my life/condition that gave me a certain sense of pride.
I came home under a cloudy sky, had a nap and when I awoke the sky a clear bright blue. I was still high on pride so I doffed my casual summer outfit and put on a nice Fall one and took myself to Provence restaurant for lunch. I treated myself to a window seat and had a delicious lunch in a really nice and elegant place — I also treated myself to a dessert.
I often think to do what I did today, but rarely do it. I have trouble taking myself out to dine alone so I took a great New Yorker I was reading that was rich with interesting articles and I had a really nice time.
I did some errands before coming home at a nice leisurely pace. I am going to do that more often.
In the late afternoon I finished the skirt of the peacock dress. (Honestly, the photos do nothing for me at all but the real dress looks great.) I also made a lot of extra feathers for repairs.
Next: The bodice. And I am really excited about the Fortuny idea I have. I think I can do it. I have a plan that involves an incredible amount of folding and sewing. My plan is to do some testing for the next few days. One nice thing about trying my ambitious plan is the confidence I have from doing all the costumes during winter 2014/15.

Check out the fella on the Queen's right.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Ugly and the Supreme

I loved Lawrence of Arabia. It was the first film I watched more than once and I have watched it often. I love to watch it in winter because all the dessert shots make me feel warm. The worst part of the film for me is when one of the two Arab boys who befriend Lawrence and earn the right to serve him like squires, dies in quicksand.
I was young and I never liked adventure movies. I had rarely seen a quicksand death and it was dreadful to see. Worse was seeing Lawrence’s face (Peter O’Toole) as he watched helplessly as the boy dies.
The scene gutted me and that is how I thought I’d be feeling if I watched last night’s Trump/Clinton debate. I couldn’t watch it; I experienced it through the filter of Andrew Sullivan’s live blogging:
“It’s incredible to me that this ranting, incoherent bigot is actually a nominee of a major party in the U.S.”
“He’s actually doubling down on the war crime of “taking the oil”. Again: no American presidential candidate has ever advocated plunder as a goal in foreign policy. No Western leader has supported such a thing in modern times. The fact that he is still repeating the need for such a war crime is all by itself disqualifying for a Western leader.”
I sewed between refreshes of Andrew’s blog and as I finished the dress, I looked out the window at an absolutely stunning sunset that reminded me of how insignificant and temporary Trump is.
I have not an iota of trust in HRC. She’s a machine to me; a figurehead of a consortium unlike Obama who gives me the impression of being his own man — a true independent thinker and leader.

Meanwhile, on the sewing table… Today I will start my experiments with tissue paper and Fortuny folds. I am also going to look into other papers that have more and longer fibers that I know will be able to hold the folds.
There’s no way I can replicate in paper, the flow of fabric that Fortuny celebrated in his beautiful dresses. Here are some photos of Fortuny dresses. For me, they are the height of elegance still, trumping much of the faux glamour of today's Hollywood.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Peanut Butter

This is a photo of the skirt for the paper peacock
dress I am making. I am still working on the waistband.
(I use ribbon where there has to be structure or strength.)
The one in the photo is held together with pins.
When I finish it, I will do the bodice — or a separate
top that looks like a bodice. These are costumes,
after all, not clothes. 

The soundtrack of so many fantasies contains a declaration of love. Obviously, this orphan adopted by abusers desperately wanted to hear those words — credibly uttered — but I was not expecting how the most sincere expression of love for me would sound.
As we were unpacking our things at a campsite, he said: “I brought peanut butter.” I’d never before, ever, experienced thoughtfulness.
It was 1980. He moved to Vancouver from Seattle and we moved in together. And when I heard him speak others about my work and me I experienced more new feelings: Loyalty, support, defence. I remember thinking, “So this is what it’s all about.” I melted into Steve. 
He and I had a great fourteen years together, but in 1994 we broke up so we went to a mediator. There were no harsh words and no blaming; our friendship never wavered. We only needed the mediator to help us work out how to spit up our money and things. When we signed the deal, we went for a walk together.
He moved to LA and although he has had a partner ever since, we still vacation together alone periodically and we talk every week.
Through it all though, I cannot recall ever hearing the words, “I love you.” But last week, in an email, he wrote: “And remember, I love you.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Learning From a Mistake; Inspired by a Hero

Last summer, I suffered a minor scrape on my leg. I accidently scraped a one-inch by two-inch piece of skin off my shin so I pushed the skin back into place and put on a bandage.
I had to change the dressing often. It would not stop weeping. I had to bathe carefully and at night I had to bandage it with plastic wrapping to keep the blood off my sheets. It took weeks to heal and the new skin is different from the old and so where the wound was is still clearly visible.
Well, on the night of my dinner party (Thursday) I did it again — this time on the other leg. But this time, I knew not to push the skin back; doing so increases the risk of infection. So I pulled it off and yesterday spent the whole day in shorts and indoors so that air would allow the wound to form a scab.
I built an elaborate bandage with which to sleep on Thursday night. I lined the wound with cotton bumpers so that I could loosely wrap my leg in cloth yet not have the bandage touch the wound and by the end of the Friday, when I went to bed, I had a dry wound.
Friday was, therefore, highly productive. I was a homebound feather factory. I have systematized feather making so soon I will be finished with the skirt.
The conundrum of the bodice looms. I have spent more time contemplating how I will build the structure for the Cardinal than I have considered how to make a one-size-fits-all bodice of peacock feathers. I have an idea to “Fortuny” some paper.
Mariano Fortuny is one of two* personal heroes whose ateliers I have visited. My plane landed in Rome so I went to the Vatican where I had a deep emotional experience. (I was raised Catholic.) Then, I went to Venice and to the Fortuny studio where I had another.
Fortuny dresses are perfection; they are seismic triggers of admiration. With his wife’s help — she was a dressmaker — they bound fabric tightly in thin straight folds. They chose fabric that held the folds once the fabric was released from the binding; the released fabric had accordion folds, therefore, that clung to the body of the woman wearing their dresses and that is the ideal one-size-fits-all solution.
I doubt it will work with paper, but I am going to try. I’m hoping I can emulate it by both folding and sewing the paper. Fingers crossed!
* (The other is Luther Burbank).