Monday, August 20, 2012

Dear Friends...

"Minute Book" Mixed Media Collage by Crystal Neubauer

I am opening up a need to you all and will do so by pasting a copy of a letter I posted to my Facebook wall below. Many of you have already written to ask how you can help aside from the prayers and several people have responded by making purchases of my art. This has been very humbling to have to say yes and to be direct about it, but if ever there was a time for me to do so this would be it. I still have several pieces of my work available on clearance here and many other pieces are available on my website here. If you are in the Chicago area and would like to see my work in person I have several pieces available through Randy Heller Design, she can be contacted here or you can visit her showroom at this location. If you are in the Scotsdale Arizona area Xanadu Gallery is now carrying my work and if you are unable to visit the showroom, those pieces are available at the website here. And finally, many people have written asking for my email address to write me privately. I am deeply touched. My email address is crystal_opf@comcast. com.

"Dear Friends - A little over a month
ago my family moved into a rental that my husband agreed to renovate for
the landlord in exchange for low rent. It sounded like a good way to be
able to pay off some old debt and get our feet on the ground during
continued cutbacks at his job. Unfortunately we discovered that the
house is infested with mold. I have become ill from the exposure and had
to leave a few days ago and one of our
dear cats fell ill as well, this weekend she went into renal failure
and we had to make the heart wrenching decision to have her put to

We will be packing and putting all of our belongings in
storage in the next few days and will each be staying with family or
friends until we figure out where we can go from here (as of last Wednesday I have been staying at various family and friends homes). It has been an
extremely emotionally and financially devastating experience, putting a
strain on the marriage and is very frightening to think of the health
ramifications we may be dealing with still.
I am reaching out to you
to ask for prayers to cover our circumstances. Already since taking
action to deal with the issue God has been providing and I am just
looking to Him each moment to help me to make the wisest decisions for
the next. This community has always been extremely supportive and kind
and I greatly appreciate this. Thank-you."

Thursday, August 02, 2012

On Anne Lamott and the Epiphany of Friendship

"The beams of our house are cedars" : 10" x 10" Collage comes in 20" x 20" shadowbox frame &mat 

 I've been processing a pretty major decision in my life and this morning I think I've had something of an epiphany. Funny how these moments strike - they feel like they are something out of the blue- the Aha! of it- but in actuality they are a sort of symphony that has been slowly building to this climatic moment and only in retrospect am I able to see it. The "epiphany" brings with it a sort of clarity - as a veil has just been lifted and I am able to see all the underneath parts of the decision making process and the moments that have led to this moment.

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I do have to guard against wasting time, but on the love side is being able to glean from people who inspire me. One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamott, who writes lengthy status updates on a fairly regular basis. Little snippets of her life, her views on world events and oftentimes advice to aspiring writers. I love her "voice", her wit, and her overall sense of confidence, which she somehow exudes even when she is pointing out her flaws. In other words, she's a real person and I aspire to be like her. To so unashamedly live from that place of confidence, without concern that not everybody shares my point of view or gets my sense of humor- or sees my jiggly parts.

A few days ago Anne posted this advice to her aspiring writer fans: "I just tweeted something that might be helpful to you writerly types out there, which is that I get mentally arthritic when I "try" to write, or take myself too seriously, and breathe down my own neck. And when I notice that this stuckness, I switch over to pretending that I am just writing my story/memory as a letter to my very dear younger brother. It totally takes the pressure off. It's just my brother, not Mitchiko Kakutani. He is always interested in what matters to me, and is non-judgmental, with a great sense of humor. I thought, Hey, everyone could pretend to write their stories or tell their memories in a letter to my younger brother. So get to work! His name is Stevo."

 Something about that description of Stevo stuck with me and this morning I thought of it as I found myself processing the decision I spoke of earlier. I realized I was blessed to have a few "Stevo's" in my life in the form of friendships. A few very dear friends who love me and accept me in the same non-judgemental way that Anne speaks about her brother. One friend in particular has listened to me wrestle with my life again and again, always in a safe and loving way, totally accepting me just as I am and believing the best for me, even when I am at my worst. And it was a question this friend spoke to me at the start of the wrestling over this particular decision that wound up being the catalyst for this epiphany: "But do you want to do it?"  - not a pep talk on pushing through, or a lofty sermon about handing it over to God, no glossing over of the issue at hand, or some sort of chastisement about my fears or indecision or a shame inducing lecture on responsibilities and not everything being about me. No, a total warm encouraging accepting question "Do you want to....?" 

Do i want's kind of a loaded question. Do we really wrestle over things that we are certain we want to do? Sometimes. Yes.

And so the slow building musical score to my life built its way to the part where the drums of self-condemnation are beating loudly in my ears just before the release of the epiphany. A gentle moment of clarity where I am able to see the fears to which I am in bondage and the number of ways I have given away my power because of those fears.

But the clarity was not in the knowledge of, or acknowledgment of, my fears alone. No, it came in the form of releasing myself from the shame of having those fears in the first place. They are there and they are a part of me, part of my Limbic System with scientific names like Amygdala and Basal Ganglia which have written my emotional auto-pilot gut reactions long before my conscious memories were formed. And in that small, but monumental moment of truth - I see that the only way to overcome them is not by pretending they don't exist or by shaming myself in a faux demonstration of bravery, but simply to befriend them and accept them. To befriend and accept me. Just as Anne's brother Stevo accepts her and just as my dear friends accept me; without judgement for the fears, but with every bit of confidence that as I press into them I will eventually find my way.