Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meanwhile, 3 months later...

"Many symptoms of mental illness are
difficult to recognize from the
"Others can't be seen from the inside
because they're too overwhelming."
My health issues have been becoming more difficult to ignore or hide. It's become impossible to pretend that I can function like a normal human -- that I can function like I used to. It's been 3 years since my health took a major downturn, and while a lot of amazing things have come about because of me being forced to alter the course of my life, it still sucks.

In the last year, I have begun to look into applying for disability. I am disabled. Day after day I wish that I had the energy, the wellness to leave the house and do something "productive", and in the last six months, I've been trying to work part time delivering food and whatnot. Not once in that time have I been able to work enough to pay all of my bills. Sometimes I get closer, but mostly, I get halfway there and call it good enough because I am not physically capable of more.

This. Is. Devastating. There have been times in my life when I have worked less, or made less money because I was goofing off, but this isn't the same. I'm not enjoying life, I'm writhing in pain, asleep, or stoned out of my mind because there's one  thing that does anything to touch my pain. I haven't even really been making art because when I do have energy I'm hustling to make enough money to pay my student loans, credit cards, and phone bill, and when I don't have energy I'm feeling sorry for myself because I don't have enough energy. I'm depressed. I retracted back into my shell, abandoned many cherished social circles, and have drifted away from several important people. I lose track of housework and actual work.

As a result, art projects have been postponed. FibroShark Hungry has been in post-production limbo for months. I'm not making excuses here. I know I wanted to have the book finished and in your wonderful hands by now, but ironically the reason this book is needed is also the reason it's been delayed. This is affecting my already-fragile ego and I continue to try to avoid the project (or even talking about it!) because I'm so ashamed at my inability to finish it on time.

So check it out: I'm sorry this is taking longer to complete than I originally planned. I'm sorry you haven't gotten your rewards yet. No one has hassled me about it, but I know you're waiting and you want your books, plushies, tshirts, and other artwork. I haven't forgotten, and most importantly I haven't given up.

I'm starting to feel like I'm coming back out of my shell, partly because it's essential to analyzing my current circumstances and finding viable solutions. Some NRE is helping me move about more freely in my own head, and I'm no longer actively putting off contacting a lawyer to get started on disability filings.

The other thing I'm no longer actively putting off is re-scanning the original FSH artwork. I've put it in my planner, so that means it'll get done. I've also written this update, which is kind of a big deal. I know that those following my career and supporting it want to know what's going on, and my history of transparency with my health issues means I can just be frank with you: I've been very depressed. I've felt useless, lazy, unworthy, and impossible. I've felt like giving up and just not making art anymore.

But I still have ideas. I still want and need to make art. And I look to my life for fuel and fodder. So, I'm going to make weekly FibroShark cartoons. They'll be posted here and on FibroShark's facebook page. They will address real issues in the lives of spoonies. Some might even be funny.

This week, I offer the above: two observations about the ways one can become trapped inside one's own brain. Sometimes you're trapped because no one can see that you need help; sometimes you're trapped cuz you don't know you need help. These are not mutually exclusive, and they both suck. But I think we all go thru either and both at various times in our battles with mental illness. You're not alone.

Anyway, it's a new day, and I'm feeling marginally adequate...


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trees in New Zealand are huuuuuuge

It's been a little while since I've updated anything, so I'll start by saying, hi, hello, I'm fine. I've been in a bit of a funk for a few months, but I'm slowly getting back out of it & being productive again.

One of the things that has kept me preoccupied was an impending trip to New Zealand. It was amazing! This was my first international trip*, & I'm glad we decided to start my world-travel with a Very Far Away Place. All together, the flight time was about 15 hours -- that part wasn't fun. I hate flying. Flying with a chronic health condition is a nightmare, but we made it & started exploring on day 1 because jet lag is as nothing compared to the fatigue that comes with the above-mentioned chronic health condition.

We went to Albert Park in Aukland on the first day, & I was immediately blown away by these giant, gorgeous trees! They sprawl out from their centers (sorry, centres... centrees?) & grow as tho the humans around them acknowledge their divinity rather than cutting them down to use for fuel or building materials.

I also visited the Aukland Art Gallery. The space there is impeccably curated & takes great pains to adequately represent the work of New Zealand artists from contemporary as well as previous eras. My favorite exhibit was Yuki Kihara's "A Study of a Samoan Savage", which is a contemporary commentary on racism, Western imperialism, & defiance of same. I liked it so much, I bought the wee book about it. I'll probably write about it at length later.

Next was 7 wonderful days in the resort town of Rotorua, which perpetually smells of rotten eggs thanks to an abundance of hot springs -- the entire reason for its popularity. During this portion of our trip we visited Hobbiton & I got to nerd out there; followed by the glowworm caves at Waiotomo -- which was exactly as awe-inspiring as you think it is. We also spent a good deal of time appreciating** the Māori culture that continues to thrive in New Zealand. Seeing how well-respected the pre-colonial indigenous people are in NZ gave me some hope for the future of indigenous peoples in the US. Not much hope... but some.

The next leg of our journey (following a 6 hour bus ride) took us to Wellington, the capital. This was the shopping portion of the trip for me, as Ten was spending time with a friend he only gets to see when they happen to both be in the same foreign country at the same time. I also visited a synagogue (one of two reform congregations in all of New Zealand), & learned that Jewish women are basically the same everywhere, & they will invite you in, make you a cup of tea & it feels exactly like kvetching in your own community at home. (One of my post-trip to-dos is sending them a postcard to let them know I got home okay.)

From Wellington, we took a scenic train ride to wrap things up with a couple more days in the warm, humid, beautiful city of Aukland (where I, of course, spent more time with the giant trees). And let me tell you, a train for 11 hours is much better than an airplane for 9. The highlight of the train trip for me was saying "baAAAaah!" at every little clutch of sheep we saw (at the behest of my best friend, but also because I kind of make animal noises out of habit). I also moo'd at the cows. We saw an ox once too.

We wrapped up our journey with authentic Lebanese food & the best shisha I have ever had in my life. This was an amazing way to remember New Zealand -- and yes, I am one of those people who takes pictures of my food to later brag about it on the internet.

The greatest take-away I have from this trip is learning that there is room for me in the world. Room for me as a woman. Room for me as a mixed-race person. Room for me as a disabled person -- there was a lot of accommodations in the cities, & not once did a stranger ask me why I have a cane; there was also a lot of disabled people out & about without stigma, (their national health system probably helps there). My horizons have been broadened, & while I am in no way excited to fly anywhere ever again***, I do look forward to further globe-trotting.

I haven't quite processed everything on an artistic level yet, but I do have some ideas rattling around in the old brain-pan. Once work begins on that I'll post an update. I am grateful for this opportunity to see a new place, feel the sun from a different angle, & I think the most important lesson I brought home with me is to always look at a place as tho I am seeing it for the first time. Details are important. Wonder is important. People are important. Mexican food is important.

I guess what I'm saying is, there's no place like home.

*I have also been to Canada, but never needed a passport to get there because for the longest time Canada was just America Part II; or at least the bits you can drive to are
**Before the trip I had a dilemma as to whether I wanted a tattoo done using the Māori technique, since they were among the first peoples to use tattooing as a rite of passage. I ended up deciding that, since I didn't put enough thought into a design, research, and working with an artist, that I didn't want to get a Māori tattoo this trip. We still have to see the South Island, so there may yet be an opportunity to do this, but I didn't want to appropriate their culture & just be another white-looking person with a Māori tattoo.
***On our return flight my legs turned into leg-sausages. It was very uncomfortable. Luckily, I am not prone to edema the rest of the time, so the swelling went away within 24 hours & 2 baths.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

News: long time, no post; Arborist at A/NT; FibroShark Hungry in post-production

"Arborist Enlightenment"
I don't think I've posted an update yet in 2016, so here's about 6 weeks of art...

  • Sprites have begun to work their way into the Arborist collection (see fire elemental at right, which may or may not be based on fellow Cornish Alumna Corey Skillman)
  • There are 4 Arborist pieces up at A/NT Gallery in Belltown for the month of February, & I will be hanging out with the art (& my dog) on Friday
  • FibroShark Hungry is in post-production
  • You can find a silly photo series on my Instagram that features the dinosaurs from my Valentine's bouquet
So far 2016 has kinda been a giant steaming pile, & that's affected my health & productivity quite a bit. I'm stable, so don't worry, but life has been getting in the way of my plans -- as it is wont to do -- so art has been taking a backseat to things like... sleeping a lot. But, updates are back on the weekly to-do list, so you can expect to see a bit more from me.


Monday, January 11, 2016


Aladdin Sane was my first vinyl album...
I have barely done anything this year, because this year is 11 days old -- and fucking fired. What follows is my thoughts on the death of one of the greatest artists who has ever blessed this place with his existence...

I'm having a hard time today... The music lives on, but all I can do is lay here in silence.
I want to paint & listen to his music, but I'm not ready yet.
David Bowie changed my entire world. Before I knew about him, my world was all kinda pastel colors, but his influence brought the whole range of color into my world. Especially reds.
He gave me high contrast & taught me not to be afraid, but to laugh into the darkness. He protected me. For years I had a poster of him on the back of my door, & it was kind of a YOU SHALL NOT PASS, & no one who meant me any harm ever got passed him.
He gave me the strength to use my anger productively. He helped me learn that my weirdness is a fucking gift, not a tragedy. He said, "Rachel, you can play normal, but don't ever try to be anything but fully YOU."
In the last 50 years, he produced some of the best music, & worked with some of the best musicians & other artists. He was controversial, and drug use may have made him cruel. He was flawed & made some bad decisions... but he was never boring.
My favorite version of him is the last one. The face that showed age & depth, & the eyes that never let us forget he was a tough sonofabitch who took *all* the consequences of his actions & fed them into the next iteration.
He was neither good nor was he evil. He was complete.
And today, the world is broken without him. But we can all weep together in the light from his Super Nova.