Valentine’s Day : Lovelinks

The thing I love about stories is how long I carry them with me after I first hear it. I come from a family of story tellers. Each memory is told and retold until it becomes part of the fabric of our very lives. Stories, I think, help us cope with life on many levels. It’s why we love books, film, television, art – they reflect life at it’s most intense, it’s most poignant. The truth behind each one is an underpinning that holds our lives together, weaves them into something bigger than just ourselves.
And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? Stories remind us that truth is real, love is real, humanity is good. A good love story will keep your heart afloat when life overwhelms you.
So here is a list of lovelinks to inspire you and remind you : Hallmark didn’t invent love, but they did give us one more excuse to celebrate it.
Leigh’s blog series : This is How We Met.
Wondering what to say to a broken heart today? Take these sweet suggestions.
Girls : Swoon over the return of the nice guy.

Never waste a rubbish relationship.

“Because what is love? It’s friendship — deep, long-lasting, intimate connection with someone who knows you better than anyone.” The best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Okay, let’s be honest : Valentine’s Day does have some strange origins that have nothing to do with candy hearts or greeting cards.
“Love poetry is the only type of poetry that can be put into practical use” — which is to say, it supposedly results in ‘spirit becoming flesh; words becoming deeds; the two of you hopping into bed.'” – Celebrate the practicality of poetry and put it to good use with a few of these :
“My love has two lives, in order to love you…” Just found this beautiful love poem from Pablo Neruda, and the sentiment of it sort of reminds me of this song that I can’t stop listening to.
A funnier kind of love poem : “You had me at no duh.”
And remember this sweet love letter? Write someone a love note today.
And in case you missed these : my husbanda Zeppelin shirt, and a good date idea.
Xoxo, B.

Inspired By.

I’ve wanted to get my hands on it for a long time, and now I am finally and blissfully engrossed in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It is as good as everyone has insisted, and it’s just what I need right now. I love the imagery in this,

“I wish I had a secret I could let you in on, some formula my father passed on to me in a whisper just before he died, some code word that has enabled me to sit at my desk and land flights of creative inspiration like an air-traffic controller. But I don’t.”

Yes. Exactly.
And today my thoughts are flighty and somewhat incomprehensible and so I’m thankful that this weekend is here, and that I can fly around with them, exploring new ideas, and hopefully capture them on a page somehow.
These are the words and ideas that inspired me this week, the ones that are still floating around in my head, among other things. I hope you find them as delightful as I have.
“We lost the bet and won everything.” A beautiful post on marriage.
Are you a midnight hustler? Ryan Gosling has something to tell you.
Bones and bodies : the mystery of our physical selves.
[Photo : my peace lily. The one living thing in my apartment besides me and husband. I find it fascinating. Also, do you follow me on Instagram? Let’s be photo friends.]

Inspired By.

I feel compelled to say something.
I hope that my posts this week didn’t mislead you.
Let me explain.
I lost my mom less than three weeks ago, and yes, I feel totally different than I anticipated.
I hope that my motivation and my words and my thoughts didn’t lead you to believe anything other than that this grief is real. I’ll be honest with you, I’m getting the “you’re doing so great!” line a lot. Maybe that’s my fault. I’ve been giving the blanket, generic, “I’m doing fine” line, too. And I appreciate the support and encouragement. Really, I do.
Yes, I have newfound motivation for my morning routine when I expected to be unable to get out of bed. Yes, I am writing now more than ever when I expected my words to run dry. Yes, I am focused at work when I expected to be incapable of functioning. Yes, I am making plans and goals for the new year when I expected to be stagnant indefinitely.
But this difference that I feel in my everyday, in my faith, in my self, is downright befuddling. Confusing. Strange. Surreal. It is not a “great” or a “fine” or a word that denotes anything close to easy.
I’ve encountered something, and it has stolen my breath away. I sense the vastness of life, and it feels so much larger and deeper than before. And it is a terrifying magnificence that evokes wonder and awe and worship and shock and fear. Maybe something like the astronauts felt the first time they looked back to earth from the moon. Or how a mother feels at the peel of an infant cry in childbirth. Or how a diver feels when he happens upon the Lions Mane Jellyfish. It is all surreptitiously heartbreaking and beautiful. I feel grief, and also peace.
And I don’t get it.
But I do get it.
But I don’t.
And so really, all I want to tell you, is that should you survive loss, like most of us have to do at some point or other, don’t expect anything. Prepare yourself for the reality of life and death, but try to let nature run it’s course, not just in the person you are losing, but in you. Let life overwhelm you and change you. I hope that you get that part of it, at least.
Meantime, here is some good reading for the weekend.
What makes me feel beautiful : wine and words.
“The real question at the heart of Harry Potter is, Can love win? And it’s answered in Snape, the second cruelest person in the world, next to Voldemort, who is somehow transformed by love.” – Snape is my type of hero.
“Give away everything you know, and more will come back to you.” Sound advice, no? House of Reps, are you reading this?
Oh, and this photo.

Inspired By.

It’s late and I’m exhausted. I am soul tired and bone tired and trying hard to grasp onto the good things and face reality, such as it is. Mom sleeps next to me, here in our own quiet room of a fifth floor oncology wing. For a few hours this evening she was coherent, ate a small bowl of soup and her headache was gone, her fever was down, her levels looked good. A glimmer of hope.

I don’t know what to think about anything. I don’t have a lot of words to say. And for the first time in a month, I don’t have a paintbrush in my hand.

I have memories, good ones. I have prayers. I have a whole host of angels that call, text, tweet, message, and show up live and in person to love on us and ease the pain. And I have these little links of happiness that have made hard days a little brighter. I hope you enjoy them as I have. If you found a good link this week, do share.




Lovers see like artists do.

Unearth your story.

And a random comfy chair I’d love to curl up in right about now.

Insecurity in Art.

Last Tuesday morning as I sat in a cafe chatting with a friend and getting ready to launch my new art shopmy best friend was preparing her culinary midterm project. This is her first term in pastry making, and she was nervous. Ten minutes into the process, she accidentally sliced open her finger as her professor watched, sliced it open badly enough that she had to leave her midterm and go to the emergency room for stitches. The poor girl. Mercifully, her instructor told her she could retake the midterm on Thursday. He knows from experience the nervousness, the danger of being a brand new chef in a kitchen full of fellow brand new chefs.

And this morning was so much like another morning I remember. It was late August, at the very beginning of my sophomore year. I was standing at my easel for the first day of Drawing I. The classroom was warm in the haze of an un-air-conditioned building, but I was scratching away at my sketchpad, glancing back and forth between my page and the prop – a lone orchid on a stool in the middle of our circle. I glanced at the girl next to me. My orchids drooped, clunky with the weight of too much shading, while her feathery petals sloped delicately across the page. I felt suddenly, regrettably faint. My face flushed with anxiety and blackness clouded the corners of my vision. I couldn’t breathe. The professor walked past, and noticed my hand poised motionless over the paper.
“How’s it going?” she asked brightly.
In a shaky voice I asked to sit down. She went and found me a glass of water and let me sit, head between my knees, until I could breathe again. I couldn’t bear to look up and see if the other students were stealing glances at me and my incomplete page. As soon as class was dismissed I rushed back to my room and collapsed in the middle of our floor to the half amusement and concern of my roommates.

There are a hundred more moments like this one built up in my head : the time when, reading aloud in front of my advanced composition class,  I stumbled over the same phrase in my own essay several times before finally reading it right. The time when another art professor walked into the quiet and mostly empty art studio and criticized my painting, even though I wasn’t his student. The time that I cut my own finger while slicing bread with Erica for dinner – I nearly passed out and she had to bandage my finger for me.

These moments pile, one on top of the other, like bricks. My insecurity is the mortar that seals them all together into a thick barrier that separates what I am doing now from what I want to be doing in the future. I become hardened and indifferent to art, believing that there is no place for it in my life. I am not meant for it. It is not mine to enjoy.
But it’s a defense mechanism, this wall. It puts me in a dark place where my blog posts and poetry and sketches stay buried, lest someone finds them lacking and amateur. It’s where all my excuses are born, reasons to keep my cooking and my art and my writing to myself. It helps me hide away my thin skin.
But what joy is there in art unshared? A slip of the knife is an easy mistake. No matter how steady our hands, we are all thin-skinned and fragile, vulnerable and easily exposed. A wall will only bury us and who we really are. There is no joy in that.

I’m working to break down the walls I’ve built around myself, to bare my thin skin and share my art with others, no matter how painful the process, no matter how raw it makes me.

We have to be willing to slice ourselves open, to pour ourselves out onto the page.
Are you in a dark place? What walls have you built around yourself? What painful moments are you holding onto, or rather,

What painful moments are holding you back?

[All images by me, Bethany Suckrow.]