The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to see if the ceiling fan was still spinning. It was and that is a good thing; it means the electricity has not yet been shut off. I am behind on all my utilities, I have called and pushed the bills in hope of somehow getting some money in so I can pay them. The gas bill is due on Monday, phones on the 19th, internet…I don’t remember, but any day now, I guess…I don’t even bother with the debt collector letters I get these days…

How I dream of a life that isn’t so unforgiving, so challenging, so harsh. I know I am better than this, but I feel like there is this core around me that I can’t really break out of.  We’ve struggled for so long now, my wife and I, that all we know now is the battle. Life as a beautiful journey is not available anymore and it hasn’t been for almost a decade now. It’s all struggle.

Recently, my wife and I were on a road trip and we were talking as we drove through the amazing landscape; that long straight stretch going from Buena Vista towards Alamosa; Moffat, Hooper, the great Sand Dunes…we were talking about life and how to appreciate life for what it is and enjoy the moments, the little things…you know; all those clichés…and then suddenly I realized something;

As long as I remember, I have been unable to really feel happy about things when things are going well. When I was a celebrated musician,  I never stopped to fully embrace the success as it was happening. Whenever I released an album and the positive reviews were pouring in,  all I could think of was; “How am I going to make the next album as good as this one…?” At concerts, when there were hundreds and sometimes thousands of people cheering and loving my music, I still couldn’t feel it, really feel it in my heart. I was always thinking that it would end, that I had to live up to and be even better…and then it dawned on me where this all came from;

When I was 23 my mother committed suicide. She was sick for many years before her days ended and during all that time, all of us; my brothers and my step father were always expecting the worst; that anytime life could change and she would be gone. I guess we were all walking around with that feeling in the back of our heads, but never before, until a couple of weeks ago, when my wife and I were driving on CO-17, that long never ending straight stretch, had I ever made the connection that maybe that’s where all that came from. Maybe my inability to feel happiness and enjoy the moment came from that constant uncertainty of never knowing when it all would end. As we were talking about it, it sort of just fell over me and it all made sense. Of course that’s what it is! How did I never realize that before?

After my mother passed, I started writing songs about her and I always felt that I cleared out all my ghosts in that process, but now I’m not so sure. Remnants linger from those days of uncertainty and they are mirrored in our current life now as my wife is struggling with an illness that just seem impossible to beat. Our daily struggle to make ends meet and to be able to pay our bills and buy all the medicines, supplements and probiotic my wife needs to get by is always looming over us.

A hundred dollars in and two hundred out.

One good thing and ten bad ones.

I struggle to keep up my creativity, I always said that the day I stop being creative, I will be really scared. I wonder if that day has come? I haven’t been doing any art in almost a month. I can’t focus on it when everything is falling apart around me.

I have a responsibility to provide for my wife and I fail every day.

I feel inadequate.

I feel that I have reached the end of my abilities and it is a scary, scary feeling.

Sometimes I fantasize about being the subject of a TV show rescue mission, you know; the fab 5 will storm into our lives and help us re shape, rebuild our self esteem and take control of our lives again… but of course that is all just a ridiculous fantasy, a desperate escape into something to take the edge of reality…but that’s where I am. I open my eyes in the morning to make sure the ceiling fan is still spinning, a sign that we are still here, not yet lost in the ocean of debt and stress that comes with this chronic illness. We are surfing the wake of a sinking ship and I can only dream of some divine intervention, because nobody is coming to save us. No friends around, no family, no social interactions, no dining out, no going to the movies, no buying new clothes, no nothing, just a never ending uphill climb. This is the tallest mountain and we have no gear and no oxygen, no tents and no chopper coming to bring us home when the storm gets too intense.

https://www.gofundme.com/2bbs9xfq

 

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9/11/2016

OltorfLamar

Oltorf/South Lamar, 9/11/2016. Color pencil on paper, 2018

I don’t remember where I had been or what I had done, but I had a photo on my iphone camera from the corner of Oltorf/South Lamar in Austin, TX. I had stopped at a red light and took a picture through the window. I recently found that photo and made this drawing.

There’s something so very American about this image; the old pickup truck, the fast food billboard, the election banner…and then that evening sunlight covering everything in a golden shimmer, instantly turning it into something like a memory…

I have a weakness for these ragged spots, forgotten somehow, but still right there. Spots that we drive by and don’t think much about. They speak to me, always have, always will. I don’t care much for the polished, the correct, the “nice”. I like the forgotten, the outcast, the derelict…

 

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Burnt Out Yet, Are You?

Because I don’t have any friends or family to talk to in my life, I sometimes go on facebook to complain about the absolute nightmare of a life my wife and I are stuck in; due to her chronic illness and inability to work , we have been sinking ever deeper into a swamp of debt and isolation and it seems no matter how we try to get out, we just sink deeper down.
Most, no all of my airings of grievances, go unanswered, ignored if you will.
The few friends I had seem to have lost interest.
Nobody is in touch anymore.
And I understand.
Nobody wants to hear a story that never seems to get any better.

My wife and I have been struggling for a very long time; we have been through setback after setback and we have banged our heads against the wall for years, trying to get somewhere.
We moved to the US to start a new life.
We moved from Austin, the city we loved, because it got so expensive and crowded that we could no longer enjoy or survive there.
We came to Santa Fe and I started a new job at a lower salary but with so many more options to climb and advance than I ever could at my old job.

In 2013, our cat got sick and died. At the same time my wife’s father was diagnosed with cancer and she had an injury at work and had to leave.

Then we got mold in the bathroom. Our landlord wouldn’t fix it, so we had to move.
We moved into an awesome apartment with great neighbors, but only 6 months in, we got a new neighbor upstairs and she was an absolute nightmare; drunk, loud, constant parties, abusive…shortly before she moved in, my wife’s father passed away. Due to this new situation with our abusive neighbor and the fact that my wife had started treatment for her chronic illness, she was never able to mourn her father’s passing.

A few years ago, we rescued a dog, Nina. She went through training and certification to become my wife’s service dog. She went with her everywhere; to the store, to the IV infusions that my wife went through for six months, 5 days/week, when I couldn’t be there because I had to work. And by the way; due to a blood clotting disease, my wife went through this IV treatment without a port or picc line. She was poked and stung with needles every day for the duration of this.
Nina was the only one by her side.
Then Nina blew out her ACL and we took out a credit card to fix it. When she had healed, she blew out the other one. We fixed that too and she’s a healthy dog now, but she no longer works as a service dog.

So we came to Santa Fe and I have been working hard at advancing at work. So far I have been doing well for myself, the problem is that every time I get a raise, some other benefit is taken from us; last time I got a $1.00 increase in pay, our food stamps were cut from $135/m to $75.
Stuff like this happens all the time, so no matter how you try you can’t get out of the poverty trap.
My wife has Medicaid and she is also added to my insurance through work, but it seems like it doesn’t really cover much of anything. I am paying hundreds and hundreds every month for medications she needs to stay alive, such as Thyroid medications…

If you don’t live our life and you can’t see the chain of events happening to us, then, yeah, maybe we come off as being whiny or negative…

I saw someone’s post the other day on facebook about being burnt out. Comment after comment followed, likes and encouraging cheers from friends and family…
Burnt out, are you?
I can say 100% that I am definitely burnt out. But what good will that do me?
I am burnt out and my only option is to just keep going.
So I do.
Day after day, year after year, my wife and I keep going.
There are no options.
If we give up there is no help to get. Nobody is coming to “rescue us”.

A part of me still believe that we will get through all this and one day be able to live a normal life, but that part of me is shrinking and little by little it’s been replaced with apathy and hopelessness and I don’t like myself when I let things slip, when my procrastination gets the better of me because I am drained.

Burnt out?
Yes.

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Is It Too Late (for kindness)?

After my wife and I moved up to Santa Fe, NM, we both joined a facebook community group; a page where locals could share events and stories, reach out to each other and  communicate about our city and surroundings.

In the beginning it seemed like a good place to be to get in touch and connect with people. I have shared the fundraiser for my wife there a couple of times and I have shared my artwork there and gotten a lot of positive feedback.

Over the past year however, the comment section of this page has gotten more and more hateful and negative; every post is followed by an onslaught of negatives, personal attacks and spiteful, mean behavior.

Yesterday I decided to leave the group.

Somebody had posted an article about a criminal that had been found dead in jail. Some sad wreckage of a man who had killed and raped repeatedly had been jailed and found dead under pretty shady circumstances and in the comment section I read comment after comment about what a piece of shit he was, how they wanted to burn him, make him suffer and torment him, torture him before killing him slowly… I said I thought it was sad to read all these hateful ,angry comments and that, like it or not, every person has a story and a reason as to why they become who they become. After this, I was jumped by a bunch of strangers, regular people with public facebook profiles, jobs and families mocking me for my softness, saying I was an idiot, that I should just shut up and remove myself from the group.

Which I did.

I cannot understand how much hate people have in their hearts. I find it hard to hate even the cruelest criminal.

I hate unfairness.

I hate people that hurt animals.

I hate how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in a world that has the potential to provide a life an abundance for everyone, if we wanted to.

These things I hate.

If you have just an ounce of empathy and clear mindedness, it’s easy to see that a person is not born evil, but shaped by his or her surroundings. I don’t know anything about this particular criminal, but I am certain his life was not a happy one and it breaks my heart and quite frankly, it scares me that this is what we’ve come to; the reactions of regular people on social media scares me more than the possibility of getting murdered by some random killer.

Being mocked for having empathy for a tortured soul, that scares me.

Is this behavior caused by the ability to speak out and still remain anonymous – an ability provided to us by the internet? Have we become desensitized by facebook and other internet platforms, or where humans always this cruel?

I don’t know the answer to these questions.  I hope that there is more kindness and empathy out there in the world than what we see online, because the online world seems to have turned into one angry, hateful, screwed up mess…

Are you out there, empathic people?

 

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What Doesn’t Kill You…Hardens You.

When you live under a lot of stress for a very long time, you start to change.

Slowly, bit by bit, part of your old self starts wearing off. You may not notice it first, it may take a long time before you do, but after a while you realize there are things about you that are gone. You don’t make silly jokes anymore. You don’t laugh at things as easily as you used to. You may not stretch out your hand to stroke your loved one’s cheek… I say “you” but I mean “I”.

These are things I have noticed about myself, things that made me sad when I realized it. I think I have gone into a sort of survival mode in order to cope with the seemingly never ending troubles coming our way; financial and health.

The only way for me to handle it all is to dive into my creativity and I have always said that the day I no longer feel like being creative is the day I will be very worried about my mental health. If my creativity no longer feels enticing, I think I’m in trouble.
So I try to stay busy; constantly working on a new drawing, or like I have been doing lately; framing my “left over” drawings, those that were not part of my recent show at Downtown Subscription here in Santa Fe, and not part of the pop up art show I did in my garage a little over a week ago. I have a lot of drawings that I would like to frame, but as always I am out of money to get the stuff I need to frame them..like large frames, glass and matting…

Some of the newly framed “leftover” drawings of mine…

 

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Pop Up Art Show

Tomorrow, Saturday 4/14, I am hosting a pop up art show / fundraiser event in my garage in hopes pf raising a few dollars towards my wife’s medical bills.

I don’t expect a big turnout but I felt the need to do something creative out of a really stressful and difficult situation, so I have cleaned up the garage, put some lights up, and hung all the already framed pieces I recently showed at Downtown Subscription here in Santa Fe.

Doing an event like this is, in some way, also a political act; the fact that anyone in the richest country on earth should have to have a fundraiser to pay for medical bills is shameful.
But this is reality and you have to roll with the punches and do what you can. In some perverted way, the system leads to creative solutions, innovation and thinking outside the box.

If you are in Santa Fe – come on over!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1630982957022279/

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Where Does this Road Lead?

Snow Trail

Untitled. 18X24″. Color pencil on paper, 2018.

I’ve never been much for inspirational quotes, those cheerful, quasi philosophical quotes people like to throw out there to motivate themselves. Or others.

I was going through a really hard time once and I had a yoga teacher that kept saying I needed to smile at myself in the mirror. I refused for the longest time, then one day I tried and it made me really hate myself because I looked like a fucking idiot; a smiling, crying clown. I didn’t feel it, to say the least. It made me feel worse about everything, trying to cover it up instead of letting it out.

And why is it that we are always told to “cheer up” when we really need to let it out, to take out the trash, the weights inside ourselves, that dark matter, whatever it may be, that is holding us down?

I’ve been walking down some very dark roads in my time and I have a way of being that may seem strange to a lot of people.

I am not a “go getter” but I am driven in my own way.

I am not a person to give up, but I certainly procrastinate.

I don’t force my beliefs on others, but I feel strongly about a lot of things. I just don’t feel the need to project it onto others. I am true to myself, I believe, and I am very loyal to those close to me, although those close to me seem to be fewer and fewer as the years go by…

I often feel the urge to just pack some necessities, get in the car and drive off to somewhere, away from all the troubles, all the bills, the reality that is just pushing its ugly face up against mine, park somewhere with a magnificent view and just put everything on hold for a while. Breathe. Shut down. Zone out, or more like it; zone in.

I have a dream to one day buy a small school bus and renovate it and travel across the country. There’s so much to see here… I realize of course that it is just a dream and won’t become reality just yet.

For about three years I had a picture of a Stella scooter taped up by the side of my computer at work. I wanted one so badly and I tried to visualize it and make it real, but in the end I just took it down and tried to forget about it. Life as I have come to know it over the past decade or so, is a life of trials and tribulations. As long as my wife is sick and unable to work, we will struggle. Two people, one salary = struggle.

But then again – who knows, maybe some day something good and positive will happen that makes reality shift for the better?

Where the road leads me, I don’t know, all I can do is keep walking.

And I refuse to smile if I don’t feel like it.

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