When I showed Jon this piece yesterday, he asked me what made me think to make it. I told him I didn’t think, I just made it. This piece came from a part of me that I didn’t know existed. It’s like she was buried alive and has been slowly clawing her way back into existence and yesterday, she broke through the final layer like a whale breaching for air. Her big eyes, wide open like they can finally see again. All those eyes, wide open.
At some point in elementary school I had a dream. And that dream evolved into fantasies that would last until I was in my forties. I don’t want to get into the details of it, but yesterday, talking to Jon, I finally understood what they were all about. That they were a way for me to try and understand the abuse that happened to me. An abuse of shame and humiliation, that I replayed in my mind again and again for over 30 years. I had mostly forgotten about the fantasies, they ended years ago, when I got divorced and changed my life. But for a few different reasons, they came to mind again yesterday morning. And suddenly, understanding, I couldn’t keep my secret any more. I had to say the words out loud. And Jon was there to lovingly hear me.
It’s that thing about shame, it can’t thrive once it’s shared.
I needed to process what I had experienced, so I went to my studio and lit some candles and incense. I still don’t know why I did it, but I opened the tin with Frieda’s ashes and suddenly, seeing them in the plastic bag seemed wrong. So I opened the bag and emptied it into the tin. Then I took some of the ashes and rubbed them into my hands. I had never before thought to do such a thing, and if someone told me they did that, I’d find it really strange. And right now some (or all) of you may be thinking the same or worse. But at them moment, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. And I’m not ashamed of it, (a bit nervous to be writing it maybe) because something powerful was happening, I know I was tapping into something ancient even if I don’t know what it is.
Then I sat at my machine and started to “draw”, as I told Jon, without thinking. And the first thing I saw was those big wide open eyes. I put the egg from my alter in the palm of her hand then I took some of Chloe’s mane, that was hanging outside for the birds to use in their nests, and stitched it into the piece. I had no idea at the time why I wrote the words I’m Alive, in yellow, or why I used yellow beads for her nipples. But now I see they both speak of life.
Now, I feel lighter. Like a part of me that was kept down, is able to live again. And I feel like I like myself a little more. And I can see the beauty in not only my body, but other people bodies too. Something I knew intellectually, but never embodied. And I’m still feeling some of the shame, but I can see where it comes from and that it’s not my fault. That I haven’t done anything to be ashamed of. And that I don’t have to feel guilty about living my life the way I choose.
That Goddess Woman, who made herself visible to me in this piece, is not ashamed of her body or her sexuality, ever. She lives inside all of us, whether we know she’s there or not.
I’m Alive is sold.
16 thoughts on “I’m Alive, Eyes Wide Open”
She is Woman. Hear her roar.
Maria, you are a hero to a lot of us who suffered abuse as a child. You are lucky to have such a caring man in your life like Jon. Besides your new Border Collie puppy which has awakened maternal instincts within your being. Chloe, a mare will also respond in ways to aid you as you explore some of this. I have seen riding stable plaques with this quote, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man…(or woman in your case)..” Some think Winston Churchill made that statement but nobody really knows who said it. It is a true statement. I like what Herman Melville said, No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.” Definitely dogs and horses are there to guide us and heal us.
Touching ashes from a loved one or loved animal seems like part of the essence of the circle of life. So many earth elements in those ashes, so many memories when they are touched. Circle together. You may enjoy the book: The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd. The story of her own “dance.” Amazing artwork and as always, thank you for sharing!
Powerful and beautiful. Thank you for sharing, and therefore, helping others.
This is such a beautifully written post… Raw, full of vulnerability and also strength. I love it.
Maria, this wild and extrodinary. It made me cry. She’s brave, she’s strong, She’s got this. Namaste.
This is such a deep and beautiful piece, Maria. Thank you for sharing. Your work and your writing enrich and inspire me.
Thank you, thank you, thank you…..for your are & your words. It took me a great while to notice this piece even had a border around it for I was drawn into it so deeply! You are a magnificent spirit exactly as you are and you inspire me to honor my own spirit as well. Blessings to you.
Maria, this is a powerful piece of art, and a powerful story behind it. Thanks for being courageous enough to tell it.
Maria, you continue to be a power of example to me. There is something special and unique about you that I feel has somehow woven it’s way into my heart.
Brene Brown writes and talks beautifully about shame. I think you’d enjoy her interview on Krista Tippett’s radio show, On Being. You can stream it from the show’s website.
I’ve heard it Trish, thanks for saying it again though, always a good reminder, it did stick with me.
I am also an abuse survivor, although I have trouble remembering the details. The shame lives on, but your posts are helping me deal with it. Thank you.
Susan, it is the sharing that helps release the shame. thanks for sharing.
I am so amazed at the strength it took to not only write this, but to let it fly. I forget to read your postings and shouldn’t. They are a gift.
Thank you Wendy. It’s so good to know that what I’m doing it good for others as well as me.