“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.”
Twelve years ago, over a romantic dinner with my husband, feeling more confident and happier than I had in years, I found myself saying, “I think I’ll have a glass of wine”. I had been sober for 18 years.
I had, over the years, made a mess of my life more than once, almost destroyed our marriage several times, and made some really (really) bad decisions. But I still didn’t consider myself an alcoholic. I was just someone who was better off not drinking.
In a span of six months, I found out that this is one of the most dangerous things an alcoholic can think. I also learned that, yes, in fact, I am an alcoholic, and I can no longer, under any circumstances, play with fire. As gut-wrenching and “sobering” as it was to permanently close the drug and alcohol “escape hatch”, I chose to say goodbye to unconsciousness, self-deceit, and death, and said hellO to hitting bOttOm, again.
Bottoms bring us face-to-face with the things we are hiding from, the impact we are having on those we love, and who we are in this moment. Sometimes it’s a pretty painful and ugly picture. But the best thing to do at this point, no matter how scary, is to just keep looking.
In the looking, and all the hard work that comes with it, bottoms also have the potential to change the trajectory of our lives. They help us hear the wisdom of our hearts, support us to make choices that are life-sustaining, and put us in touch with the yearnings of our soul. In truth, hitting bottom is where real magic can happen.
During the last 4+ years of navigating this chronic illness, I have found myself on my knees many times. It is only recently that I’ve been able to relish the richness of these ‘hitting bottom’ places. I have fought like hell to keep my head above water, but I’m realizing that sometimes being in the murk and mire is the best place to be. Really.
The bottom is not comfortable, pleasant or fun, but there is real wisdom to be found there. We don’t choose to hit bottom. In it’s wisdom, it chooses us. And I’m finding myself more and more grateful for each one. How else would I have begun to find my artist self, my natural pace, my deep desires, or the things that really light me up?
The truth is I feel happier, more alive, more authentic, and stronger than ever before. It’s the kind of strength I’ve wanted my whole life. Strength that comes from the inside out. I never would have guessed it would take being at my weakest, to find true strength.
My dear friend Sharon taught me that life happens in moments. I’m really just beginning to learn what she really meant.
Keep listening, dear friends, to the wisdom of your beautiful hearts. And if you happen to find yourself hitting bottom, in whatever form it may come, know it is a place of rich possibility and great love. Dive in if you dare, and find what is waiting for you there.
P.S. I’ve recently completed 2 orders of my Bottle Bling art. Yes, ironically, I make art for wine bottles. Making them always brings me much jOy, and puts me in touch with what is good and right and true. (Insert eye roll here.)
I’ve realized that is what I have wanted from alcohol all this time. To feel good and right and true (and calm, smart, comfortable, strong.) And this morning, along came these words:
It’s not what’s in the bottle,
it’s what’s in your heart.
Yup, that works for me.
Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love.
It will not lead you astray.
– Jalaluddin Rumi
In May of 2012, just three months into this illness, I decided I would let my hair grow until I was well. I was so sick at the time that getting myself to the salon wasn’t even an option, but making that declaration gave me a little sense of control, which I badly needed at the time.
While I was writing last month’s nO push zOne blog post, I made another declaration. I consciously made an intention that “I will do whatever it takes for me to get well”. Now, you’re likely thinking, “Weren’t you already doing that? And if you weren’t, why the hell not?!”
You see, I know that setting intentions work. Big time. They alert the universe that you are really ready for a change, and it responds by setting in motion things and events to create the opportunity for that change. Amazing, right!? Well, the scary part is, the universe needs us to work in partnership with it, and there is no way to know exactly what will be required of us once the ball gets rolling.
For example, in October of 2000, I stood in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kauai feeling so moved and transformed by the beauty, that I found myself declaring to the universe that I was ready to be “opened up” and healed. Three months later I found myself in emergency surgery in Miami for the first of three surgeries for cervical cancer. Believe me, this was NOT the “opened up” scenario I had in mind. In the end though, it saved not only my physical health, but my marriage, sanity and happiness as well. So, yes, miss wise, powerful and creative universe, I got just what I wanted, but it’s all those steps in between that sometimes scare the hell out of me.
So last month, after four years on this particular journey, feeling really ready to be done with it all, I once again summoned my courage and jumped off the so-called perverbial cliff, and screamed “uncle” into the wind.
To make sure the universe knew I was serious about doing whatever it takes to get well, I followed through on the plan to cut my hair. It was scary, empowering and really quite freeing. Since then, almost every day, my meditations have been deeper, my decisions more important, and my body stronger. I’m ever so grateful to the Great Change Agent who has responded to my screams into the wind. I know there are more opportunities for change to come. And I will keep saying yes.
So, my dear friends, I’m encouraging you to live the life that lights you up. It requires tough decisions, finding a way to not care about what other people think of you (yup, this might be a tough one), saying no even when it scares you, and increasing your capacity to tolerate, feel, and transform your emotions (yes, even anger and grief) into the most amazing energy ever. And you might just discover a whole new level of happy, too.
We are all “lit up” by different things. Take the time to find out what your unique combination might be, and:
Claim your truth.
Follow your intuition.
Don’t judge yourself, or others.
And live the life you were meant to live.
Be brave. Be happy. Be true.
“Evolutionarily, we’re always concerned with what’s not right. That’s what makes gratefulness delightfully subversive.”
– Dale Biron
I may have said a few times before that I am a reluctant student. Don’t get me wrong. I lOve learning. I just don’t like (sometimes hate) having to admit that I don’t know something – well, everything! You know, having to admit you don’t have it all figured out. Yea, kinda funny, right?!
Actually, it’s pretty painful. Painful enough that I’ve decided to accept some help, take a stand on my own behalf, and do it a different way. (My Wellbeing Coach is working hard to teach me that it really is possible to change my mind. Literally!)
What this really means is I’m saying no to shame and embarrassment for not knowing. It means saying no to fear and worry that I might look stupid. It means saying no to beliefs that keep me tight and closed. And, it means saying no to anger and perfectionism as a way to protect myself and my tender heart. Yikes!
Just as importantly, these are the things I’m saying yes to:
- Trust, and the
- Universal Creative Force.
Big stuff for this “know it all and proud of it” girl!
This kind of change requires daily practice. If I stop paying attention, I find myself down the rabbit hole staring into the face of that grinning Cheshire Cat. Not the sweet fuzzy kitten face, but the grin that says “I gotcha again”. Nope, not this time. This time, this “Alice”, is going to create her own Wonderland!
My healing team has expanded and now includes Dr. Bradley Williams, Dr. Stephen Fry, and the above mentioned Wellbeing Extraordinaire, Andrew Miller, PhD. The truth is, I feel better than I have since I got sick. And, as shocking as this is to say – I now see that I got sick to get well – “well” on a whole new level – “well” not only in body, but in mind and sOul, too.
On many days I feel lighter, happier, and freer than ever before. I am still a work in progress, and always will be. I just now know that life is kinder if I’m open, and not clinging so tightly to the thoughts and beliefs that undermine my happiness and wellbeing. Maybe this old dog can learn a few new things.
Here are a few new messages I am giving myself this Summer:
Keep looking for what is right and lovely in your world.
Let jOy in the front door of your sOul hOuse, and relax into the support of the Universe.
Be grateful for those who lOve you, and lOve them back even more.
Release your grip on how you think things should be, and relax into the freedom and beauty of how they really are.
“Do everything with so much lOve in your heart that you would never want to do it any other way.”
– Yogi Amrit Desai
I continue to be overly obsessed with buds and blooms this Spring. They are all so beautiful and miraculous, and continue to give me hOpe that I have the same ability inside me. The same ability to withstand all sorts of storms, and heat, and howling winds, and still have the innate ability to blOom like crazy when it is time. The key phrase being – “when it is time”. Still working on that one : )
Not every cactus blooms every year. Last year, almost every saguaro I saw had hundreds of blooms. Their multiple arms were a brilliant show of white flowers that fed the bees, birds and bats. This year, there are far fewer buds and blooms on the magnificent Sonoran desert saguaros. The question is – Do I lOve them any less? Not a chance!
This got me thinking about how much pressure our culture, and in turn ourselves, place on us to always be in the “blooming brilliantly” season. Crazy unrealistic, no?!
Doesn’t it make sense that we, just like the saguaros, need restorative and growth periods, too? Do you think the miraculous cacti feel shameful when they aren’t blooming like mad? I don’t think so! I imagine they are patiently and lovingly giving themselves time to regenerate so they can keep living long and happy lives. And, isn’t that what we all want, too?
I will continue to be impressed and obsessed by the gorgeous blooms Mother Nature is celebrating with this year, but I’m also honoring and appreciating the “quieter” cacti who are just going about their business of internal growth and preparedness for more blooms to come. Just like me, I guess.
As we move into Summer, my husband and I will be hitting the open road, and heading back to Minnesota for a family wedding. We will also be gathering with friends to celebrate the life our dear friend, Sharon Lunde. I continue to stumble through the darkness of grief, being grateful for everything she taught me, gave me, and saw in me. Mostly, I’m grateful for all the time we had together. I’m a way better person because of it.
All of us who knew and loved Sharon continue to miss her terribly, trying to adjust to life on this planet without her. I get loss and grief like never before, and am humbled by those on the planet who experience loss after loss, and choose to keep loving in spite of it. Just like Sharon did. May there be healing, recovery, and in time, more beautiful blooms for all of us.
No matter what, dear friends, keep choosing lOve. For yourself. For the people who are important to you. For those that are suffering. For those fighting for peace, equality, justice and freedom.
Keep choosing lOve.
Always and forever.
Keep choosing lOve.
Keep breaking Open.
Keep blOssOming. It is all sO wOrth it.
And, when it is yOur time…
“Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.”
For most of January and early February I was terribly scared, concerned, and frantically spinning with fatigue and fear. During those days, I was asking a lot of questions in my head (a dangerous neighborhood to go by oneself, as my dear friend Karla says). Questions like, “How come I’m this sick again?” and “What is wrong with me?”, and sadly, “How can I expect John to stick around if I can’t do anything?” Oh, how quickly I turn on myself.
In retrospect, I realized the biggest error in my ways was in asking all the “wrong” questions. “Wrong” being those things that are out of my control. Focusing on those things will cause you to go crazy, you know.
In response to my turmoil, amidst many tears and much worrying, I have chosen to let go and begin again. And again. Here is what I am choosing to focus on instead:
- My husbands’ love for me, and his ability to keep me smiling and laughing, and his belief that I am getting better and better. I SO believe in us, and so does he!
- An affirmation from Louise Hay (I’m not always big on affirmations, but this one feels good to me right now) – “I am enthusiastic about life and filled with energy.”
- Making really positive morning decisions – meditation, art journaling, drinking water.
- How much stronger I am than I used to be, and what is most helpful physically to me right now.
- How cool it is to be learning so much from the incredible artists/teachers in Life Book 2015. You can still sign up HERE!
- AND, stay really clear about what I value, what brings me joy, and what is most important in my life.
shOw and tell (one of my favorite things as a kid : )
Last June, in my post titled lOve, trust and demOlitiOn, I shared pictures of our condo remodel in progress. During one of my daily visits to Starbucks a few weeks ago, I ran into our contractor Tony, and he reminded me that I never posted the “after” pictures of our project. Now that everything has been completed, including my brand new vickiO art studiO, it’s time for the big reveal!
If you need a great contractor, and live in the Phoenix area, contact Tony Timonte at Accurate Interiors, HERE!
The pictures really don’t do the space justice, but trust me – the colors are bright and comforting and bring us much jOy. We plan to be here for a long time❤️
And now to my studio! For the artists out there, most of what you see was purchased at IKEA for a very reasonable price. A huge thank you to my talented friend, Lisa Shore, who designed the room and took me to the IKEA store in Tempe Arizona to select, pick (literally pick the products off of the warehouse shelves, load them onto a large cart, and wheel them up to the checkout lane) and purchase each piece. We laughed, lugged, and lunched our way around the place, and the result is priceless!
I even held my first one-on-one art class here with a woman from Chicago who saw my work at the November art fair! Loving being vickiO!
And with just a few changes, here it is as a guest room!
It really helps to use carts and shelves with wheels on them for art supplies. While our guests are here, I just move the necessary pieces into our bedroom, and continue to create and paint there.
February 24, 2015
My life changed drastically and shockingly today. My dearest friend, Sharon Lunde, passed away suddenly. She was my mentor, my teacher, my mother, and my Soul Sister for 32 years. We were the true definition of The Mutual Admiration Society.
Silly me, I thought I could prepare myself for this day. At least a little, anyway. Not even remotely possible. Mind-numbing, heart-breaking loss. Unknown territory. Beginning again.
Here are a few things I said in her eulogy:
“Surprisingly, Sharon didn’t think she was an artist, and yet, if you were lucky enough to be one of her students, colleagues or friends, she could take the scattered bits and pieces of your broken heart, and fiercely and lovingly weave it back together again, and make you whole.
And she was willing to do that over and over and over again.
The truth is, I loved everything about her – and luckily, she loved everything about me. There was no way to walk away from our time together and not feel important, or seen, or heard. I don’t know what life will be like without her. Only time will tell. All I know for sure is that her love challenged me, transformed me, and saved me, and I will be forever grateful.”
Sharon would have loved the Celebration of Her Life that took place last Monday. It was touching and real, funny and sad, moving and inspiring, and standing room only. It was all about her – just as it should be, and just as she would have wanted it to be.
Seek comfort for your beautiful heart. Hug those you love. Appreciate the goodness in your world.
Three and a half weeks ago I completed my first 3-day juried art fair. It was truly a dream come true, and one in which I experienced the kiss of grace, love and friendship over and over again.
I thought I’d be able to describe and share my experiences from the weekend by now, but the truth is, I’m still in major “integration phase” over here. I’ve worked my whole life to arrive at this magical and deep place, and I don’t want to rush through the process of discovering all the gifts that lay within. It feels like very sacred ground to me, and I want to take the time to honor it all.
With that being said, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to say thank you to all you beautiful people out there. It feels important to acknowledge the love and support I have received from my friends, family, and customers this past year. Without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and that would be a very sad state of affairs, indeed.
You have touched my life in ways you may never know, and I will cherish each and every special moment for the rest of my life. Just know – kindness really does change the world.
I have more peace, more confidence, and more comfort in my body and soul than at any other time in my life. Every experience, lesson, and hour of therapy over the past 50+ years has brought me here, and I am grateful for it all.
Yes, I’m even grateful for Valley Fever. Not for the disease per se, but for what I have learned, gained, let go of, and embraced. I know jOy like never before. And even though I’m not always happy being careful and thoughtful with my energy, this slower paced life suits me quite well.
So, I will leave you with thoughts of lOve, and grace, and blessings of all kinds. Celebrate your friends and families, sunshine, rain and snow, and the miracles of this year-end season. Most of all, celebrate yourselves. Embrace your beauty, your uniqueness, and the power of your amazing heart.
P.S. You can find me on Thursdays at the Fountain Hills Farmer’s Market and Art On The Avenue.
Come support our local growers and artists‼️
We are on the Avenue of the Fountains from
11am to 5pm every Thursday from now until May.
My health has improved enough that we were able to travel 4,000 miles through 7 states and British Columbia, play 8 rounds of golf, check 2 Major League ballparks off our list, ride 2 ferries and 4 gondolas, hug giant Pacific Northwest trees, take my first hike in 33 months, experience magnificent mountains, visit some family and friends, eat delicious food, walk in the Pacific Ocean, and fall in lOve all over again.
I’ve been struggling with writing this post because I keep running out of words to describe what it really felt like, and what it really means to me to have shared this time together. Then I realized that being able to describe it is not the most important part – being present, being kind, feeling my feelings, being inspired, and letting lOve in is the most important part for me.
So, in lieu of waiting for the ability to describe amazing travel experiences like my gifted writer friend, Lisa Malecha (check her out at Nomadic Narrator), I’ve decided to stick with the words I uttered at least 100 times on the trip – this is crazy gOOd!
For several months now I have been painting hearts. Big hearts, little hearts, hearts with wings, and hearts in all colors of the rainbow. All the while my internal critic has been chattering away telling me I should be painting landscapes, realistic images, and be more of a fine art artist. And, she says, “real artists don’t put words on their paintings!” She is always so bossy and confident that, on many days, I have believed her.
The problem is, I don’t want to paint those things – it’s not fun or inspiring for me, and it sure doesn’t light me up. And if I learned anything on this trip, it’s to do more of what lights me up (these words will probably end up on a painting, too!)
I lOve being outside – in the woods, in the mountains, on the golf course, at the ocean, climbing rocks, and visiting the saguaros. I need to hug trees, dangle my feet in mountain lakes, hike rocky streams, and feel the sun on my face. My heart and soul need these things to be ok, to be healthy, and to feel alive. It has been terribly scary over the last few years without them. As I stood sobbing on the beach in Tofino, BC, I realized that nature puts me in touch with a part of myself and the world that I am unwilling to live without.
My photographs don’t do Mother Nature justice, but they sure help put me back in touch with the jOy I felt enjoying her magical beauty. And it’s that jOy that I will take with me into my studio, and my friendships, and my ongoing healing life.
mOre crazy gOOd life – For the first time ever, I will have a booth at the Fountain Hills Festival of Arts and Crafts in November‼️ It kind of takes my breath away to write that! Over the years I have been to many, many art fairs as a customer, and have always walked away feeling inspired and “lit up” by all the talent and heart offered there. My hope is now to be part of the jOyful and inspiring energy that everyone comes to art fairs for. Here’s to dreams coming true!
One mOre crazy gOOd thing… In 1995, my sister, Julie (Kuebelbeck) Interrante, and I wrote a book titled “Caregiver Therapy” for Abbey Press. The book has since been published in 8 languages, and just last month was published in Italian! How cool is that?! crazy gOOd, I tell yOu, crazy gOOd❤️‼️
So, this very grateful girl will continue to lean into life, take my naps when I need to, and treasure every precious moment there is. Let’s all give our critic the day off, and do more of what lights us up. (Words for my next heart painting for sure : )
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.
All art and photos copyright ©vickiO art.
For most of April and May, as my energy permitted, I was slowly packing up our home, one drawer, one closet, one cabinet at a time. During the last week of May, my husband moved every box, bag and piece of furniture into either our garage or to a generous neighbors garage. We then moved ourselves and our essentials into our close friends house, just a block away, to stay for the next 2 months.
Major 8-week remodel here we come!!
We have lived in our beautiful condo full time for 2 1/2 years – the same amount of time that I have been dealing with Valley Fever. It has been a place of cOmfOrt, lOve and recOvery, and I’ve been grateful every day that we live in such a beautiful place.
Even though we would like a little bit more space (especially for my ever growing art studio needs : ) we love our location, so we decided to stay and do a few upgrades. Seriously, could we really leave our birds eye view of our beautiful fountain? I don’t think so❤️‼️
This major type of remodel (taking down walls, building showers, building a new kitchen, replacing all flooring, and painting almost every surface) is new to me. The closest I have come to this size of a job is watching the Property Brothers on the HGTV channel, and it’s easy to say – I am nO expert! Luckily my husband and our contractor, Tony, are!
The planning and decision making has been fun, challenging and eye-opening. It helped to have Tom Olson, a renowned architect who studied and worked directly with Frank Lloyd Wright, and a highly gifted designer and textile artist, Merle Sykora, walking us through the process. (They are the team that designed and built the house we lived in for 24 years in Minnesota!)
Needless to say, packing and moving was just downright stressful. John had to “pull me off the ledge” a few times, and as my therapist said, “You get 10 extra crazy points during a remodel.” Talk about having to practice letting go of the outcome!
I thought the stress level would just continue to increase as the work began. My mind was working overtime scaring me with thoughts like – “What horrible things are we going to find? What if the existing structure isn’t sound? What if we find bugs and rats and rot, Oh my!?” (Yes, I have earned every one of those extra crazy points!)
Surprisingly, instead of feeling more anxious and stressed out, I am actually enjoying the demolition process. I’m loving seeing our space “stripped down to the studs.” There is something refreshing and comforting to see what is underneath – to see what the foundation is made of – to see the possibilities. I even got to briefly swing a hammer and knock a towel bar off the wall! Thank you, Tony!
After one week of demOlitiOn, the place looks like this:
There is something very familiar and inspiring about this process. It reminds me why I have been dedicated to uncovering, recovering, and healing old beliefs and wounds for most of my adult life. Why would I want to try and build a healthier, stronger “sOul hOuse” on top of a structure that is rotting, infested or outdated? The answer is, I wouldn’t! As hard as it is to see the truth sometimes, it is the only way to a healthier, happier and more creative life.
So, it is refreshing to see the places where our home is strong, and where it is weak. Once it is seen it can fixed, enhanced and made new! This has brought me a level of comfort I wasn’t even aware that I was needing, and encourages me to continue doing my work of healing and recovery. It may not be pretty, but it is worth it!
Is this a man who looks like he knows what he’s doing? Absolutely! If you are in need of a great contractor, Tony Timonte can be found HERE!
I am excited to see the outcome of our remodeling project, but no longer want to hurry through the demOlitiOn process. I’m continuing to learn the value of each small step and the importance of trusting myself to make good decisions with the help from a hand-picked team of experts – for home remodeling and my health!
More updates next month! Until then,
Be gentle. Be brave. Be true.
I lOve taking the time to look back at the year that is ending and claim all the lessons learned, the wisdom gained, and honor all the lOve that came my way. It helps to see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, and how I might do things differently in the coming year. And last but not least, this process helps me to look for the gifts in the ups and downs, and be grateful for it all.
SO, let’s get started!
thank yOu, 2013
Is it possible that Valley Fever is one of the best things to happen to me? I know this is a very radical thought, but the list of gifts it has brought me just keeps growing and growing.
It is actually scary to write them all down, but here goes. Dealing with Valley Fever has brought me:
- Increased self-acceptance (kicking and screaming all the way : )
- Greater capacity for compassion
- A stronger and closer connection with my husband, John (lOve, lOve, lOve this man!)
- An opening to my creative, loving and funny artist self
- An awareness and experience of how loved I am (priceless)
- Greater love and appreciation of my amazing friends and family (I am truly one lucky girl!)
- Greater appreciation for my physical body
- Lessons in how to say yes when help is offered (ok, I’m still working on this one ; )
- Lessons in how to say no when I need to
- Continued learning of the real meaning and value of self-care
- Healthier boundaries (who doesn’t need this?)
- A new and improved golf swing (visualization really does work!)
- Awareness and appreciation of my Brave Girl self
- Patience, patience and more patience
- A slower paced life – slOw dOwn, be happy : )
- Time to heal some old wounds
How can I not be grateful for Valley Fever?
the mOre and less Of 2013:
- More greens, less sugar (my body says thank you)
- More organic, less pesticides (the earth and my body say thank you)
- More water, less soda (my cells say thank you)
- More love, less criticism
- More art, less TV (I still have my favorite shows that I don’t miss!)
- More boundaries, less co-dependency
- More acceptance, less judgement
- More acupuncture, less drugs
- More feeling, less numbing
- More listening, less talking
- More ease, less pushing
- More walking, less fatigue (yay!)
- More laughter, less despair
- More play, less perfection
A few things that made me laugh in 2013:
And, my favorite prayer of the year:
Thank yOu, 2013, fOr all the lessOns, lOve, tears and laughter. I am a better persOn fOr having experienced all of it. SO I bid yOu farewell, trusting I will take with me whatever I may need fOr the cOming year.
My next blog post will be welcoming the new year by choosing my “word of the year”. It is a great practice of looking forward and setting a positive intention for the coming year. What will your word be?
Be Gentle, Be Brave, Be True