i keep picking the bat card in my medicine card deck. it’s a card of re-birth. before one can be reborn, however, one must die. so i have been trying to meditate one what part of my life i need to let go of. what part of me/my life just needs to go ahead and die already. i meditated/napped on it yesterday and kept thinking that i needed to let die all the things that i never got from people. all the things that i wanted, but never got. in relationships. i just kept thinking about burning away the things “you” never gave me. “you” started as one past relationship…then became two of my past relationships…then ended up including my parents as well. all the love i never got. i’m letting go of that. i’m burning it away on a funeral pyre. and while i’m at it, i’m letting go of all the things i will never be.
i was going to do this piece the way i usually do, on white paper…but! as i was looking for any paper i could find to do it on, i stumbled across this pad of black paper. i love the way it turned out. i want to do more on black paper. or other colors of paper. but first, i need y’all to buy some of my art or books or something because i currently have no money to buy art supplies. so….
i’m not sure if i’m going to sell this piece. for one thing, the paper is drawing paper so it is not very thick & i’m not sure how i would safely mail it. also, i have it hanging up to remind me. but if someone really wants it, it is 12×18, pencil & pastels on drawing paper.
so saturn moved into pisces and apparently big things are going to happen to us humble water signs over the next couple years maybe that’s why i’m feeling extra inspired? i went on a hike and obsessed over a friend’s instagram post so i started writing more pages of notta not-a-boy
i signed up to present art and books at the rivers & ridges book festival at the end of april in viroqua so i started working on the art for that (prompt: cover to a book you want to write)
as well as my next novel and the (graphic?) novel to come after that one
i’m also working on some commissioned greeting cards and should i do more children’s books? i am hoping i am not going in too many directions at once i don’t want to compromise my focus, but i do like staying busy…. hmmm
as soon as i graduated high school, i started leaving people. the week i graduated, i packed a bag and left behind all the people who i figured didn’t care anyway. who would be sad to see me go? it was not something that ever occurred to me would happen much less was it something i would worry about.
four years later i did it again. i left behind everyone i knew without a second thought. i mean, i wrote down their addresses (it was the nineties) and later checked on them in social media when that became a thing, but i once again left assuming no one would miss me.
i don’t even know how many times i did it throughout the nineties and into the next century. i would pack up a car with all my stuff and maybe a dog or two and just take off. to kentucky. to georgia. to texas. to colorado. to illinois. and finally to wisconsin. i would write down addresses and phone numbers and have some drinks and. just. go.
no second thoughts. these boots are made for walking. born to run. i didn’t believe i had made an impact or that there would be any tears shed. i just went forward, no looking back.
i landed in viroqua by accident even though she lived there. i met her while i was in madison and she was visiting. i must’ve given her my phone number because she kept in touch after she went back to chicago. she kept in touch as i went from madison to manitowoc to illinois. she would call me up and i would listen to her rants while wondering why she was calling me.
i never really trusted her.
i never really trusted anyone who seemed to like me.
to paraphrase groucho marx, it was difficult for me to trust any club that would have me as a member.
then i got kicked out of illinois and needed a new place to land.
i tried to go anywhere but viroqua.
i’m not sure why i had such a block against living near her, but i did. maybe i was afraid of commitment. maybe i still wondered what she wanted from me. maybe i just did not understand what friendship was and dreaded swimming in those treacherous waters.
but fate intervened, and i landed in viroqua.
where i became a reluctant friend.
i kept pushing her away. even though we spent so much time together that we joked we were a blended family, i was often phoning in my friendship. i kept a laundry list of why i didn’t want to be friends with her. i kept score of all the mistakes she made while i reluctantly admitted ways she was there for me. i seemed to delight in any new evidence to prove to myself that she was a lousy friend. i couldn’t wait for the day that she tired of viroqua and moved away. like me, she didn’t seem to stay put. unlike me, she didn’t want to make small town wisconsin her home. it was only a matter of time before she left me in peace.
then the scales tipped and i finally had definitive proof that she was a terrible friend. i could justify not only pushing her away, but shoving her—hard—and closing the door behind her.
by the time i decided to give her another chance, she had moved on. she had left me for someone else. not just a new friend, but a boyfriend—one whom i had not lost any love for. the chasm between us grew deeper and longer.
she and the detestable boyfriend started planning to move away from viroqua, and i was all, “good riddance.”
for many years i have been working on healing my damage. this involves, surprise, letting people matter to me. letting people into my heart.
it’s not easy. it’s not like i can just set my heart out to thaw in the warm sunshine.
it’s more like i take my heart out of the freezer, then i start to worry about bacteria and spoiled meat, and what happens if no one is in the mood for heart? so i put it back in the freezer.
it’s been a long process.
despite my fears, my heart has begun to thaw. so now all of a sudden i realize i do want a friend. so now all of a sudden i realize i do love her and value her.
i didn’t think she’d really go.
then she dropped on me, casually, that the house closing is not even two weeks away.
the house closing.
on the house she and the despicable boyfriend bought.
like my dog who got hit by a car right after i learned to love him…she bought a house three states away just when i realized i was able to let a friend into my heart.
just when i admitted to myself that i don’t want her to go.
my newly thawed heart broke.
i guess i should have seen that coming. after so many times of half-assedly thawing it before throwing it back in the freezer, how strong could it be? turns out it’s pretty easy to break a damaged heart.
it’s not like in the movies where i can just admit that i need her and that i don’t her to go…and she stays.
it’s not like she will change her mind and come back to me just because i have realized that i don’t want to lose her. just because i have realized how much she means to me.
she’s not going to leave the deplorable boyfriend at a rest area and run into my arms.
i’m alone again. broken-hearted despite years of trying not to get my heart broken.
isn’t it ironic.
up top: “follow your song” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75
i had a dream this morning that i was being challenged by another mom on my momming choices. i chose a less conventional approach to motherhood, and she was telling me that everyone else did it this other way. but i didn’t care. i was confident that i was doing right in my choices.
when i woke up…this somehow transferred to my artistic choices. as my favorite art instructor asked me, “is this what you really want to be doing?” a question that i now apply to most of my life & ask myself again today about my art & writings while applying the message of my dream… confidence in my dancing down the road less travelled to a beat of my own.
it’s a new moon on monday, y’all. a powerful new moon from what i have read. all new moons are good for fresh starts this one seems even more powerful?
in the spirit of this new moon i present to you my collection of writings & the assurance that i am just getting started…. soon they won’t all fit in one camera shot 🙂
also! more messages from the universe via homemade business cards:
i kinda feel like i’m crawling out of a hole i buried myself in a few years back i kinda feel like i’m waking up from a long nap
i signed up to read, have a table, & display art at viroqua’s ridges to rivers book festival. whoa. just like that. i didn’t think twice. it’s like i believe in myself? crazy. realizing i would have a table, i was all like–i better make some business cards! so i started inking out messages from the universe…& some contact information from me.
as proof to my romantic & painfully…obliviously…optimistic nature: i have always loved valentine’s day it took me many many broken hearts to grow calloused towards the day even yesterday, amidst my angst, i still kept peeking out my front window hoping for flowers from some secret admirer…. i planned to just mope all day but instead my pain came out in my art.
up top: “looking for grubs in all the wrong places” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75 above left: “a fool for love” 8X8 mixed media on watercolor paper…$55 above right: “so what; who cares” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35
here is the before shot as i began my search for messages from the universe in inkstains:
in other news…my wardrobe: suited better for ink? or more exciting with pastels?
my response to chuck klosterman’s book i wear the black hat
am i trying to be a villain or is it just that i really don’t give a fuck?
should i try harder to be the villain?
at best, i am unlikable. maybe i should go for the gold and become loathsome?
i have always wondered if my art and writings would gather a larger audience if i were notorious. infamous. maybe i just need to try harder at being a villain.
why am i unlikable? is it my go fuck yourself attitude? i know i’m not physically unattractive. i have even been called beautiful on occasion. however, i don’t follow the conventional rules for beauty. i don’t wear makeup. i rarely comb my hair. i often shave my head. piercings and tattoos and a wardrobe mostly made up of black. boots instead of shoes. my uniform does not encourage positive attention. it tells the world i just don’t give a fuck.
should i just go ahead and don the black hat?
i often tell myself i’m not doing enough to be a good person. so then i go out and do something like…foster a puppy. i thought, i have experience with fostering animals and am an experienced dog trainer. i should give back to society by fostering a dog.
and seemingly without a second thought, i found a puppy living in my house.
and then i started to slowly lose my mind.
i don’t like taking care of things. anything. my first boyfriend, while laying in a fetal position on the floor, was like, “would you take care of me if i had polio?” and i was all like, “no!!”
i don’t like taking care of things.
yet i think i am supposed to take care of things. because i am a woman? because i am supposed to be nurturing? because i want to make the world a better place? because that’s what good people do?
periodically through my life i would quit my easy restaurant job (that allowed me brain space to still write and do art) to take a caretaking job. nursing home, daycare, homeless shelter, humane society, etc.
and each time i would burn out. i am empathetic to a fault. i care too much, if that is a thing. so caretaking leaves me drained. compassion fatigue, they call it. i become dead on the inside because i have drowned in my own empathy.
that’s not a thing, you might say…but it is the best way for me to explain why i cannot be a caretaker.
i probably never should have had kids.
but i do have kids and taking care of them and taking care of me is all i can do. so why do i keep telling myself i should be doing more? why do i do something like apply to foster dogs when i am already at the very limit of my very limited caretaking ability?
do i really think it makes me a better person?
it does not. i become horrible and brittle. angry and reactive.
how many times a day do i threaten to strangle the puppy. sure, he can’t understand english, but how much is my negative energy harming him? my inability to cuddle and pet him because i just want to throw him out a window?
i would not throw him out a window.
i know this about myself. as horrible as i am, the little voices are just that. voices. they have no control. i just listen to them to the extent of imagining what it would be like to give in to them.
but then i tell myself to knock it that fuck off, and i feed the puppy and try to talk to him in a nice voice.
i heard myself tell an acquaintance in a pubic market that i wanted to strangle the puppy. i thought, oh, maybe i shouldn’t say that out loud, but then i realized i didn’t care what anyone might thing of me.
i’m not going to strangle the puppy.
i’m just frustrated.
frustrated with the dog rescue that offers no support, dropping off a puppy without any resources.
frustrated with myself for once again taking on more than i am capable of doing. yes, physically i can care for a puppy…but mentally and emotionally? nope. too much.
i need to stop trying to prove to myself and the world that i am a good person.
i need to admit that i am not nurturing.
i am not a caretaker.
but does this make me a villain?
chuck klosterman said that a villain knows but doesn’t care. except hitler who cared but didn’t know? (i’m still not clear on that one.)
i know…and i care…but i’m all out of fucks to give.
giving a fuck would surely destroy me.
and that’s probably what makes me a villain.
up top: “roadtrip to oz” 9X12 mixed media on watercolor paper…$75
when i was born, they named me mary jo connell. in my family, i already had a cousin named mary and would soon have another cousin named mary. it is the go-to catholic name for girls. every family needed one apparently. my cousin mary katherine became mary k. my cousin mary theresa became mary t. i was mary jo.
always mary jo.
named for my mom’s best friend. a name not usually found in the midwest and not the usual catholic combo like my cousins’. in the era i was born, the name mary jo would make you think of petticoat junction. during my time as a kid, tv would produce another southern woman named mary jo on the show designing women. i gathered that mary jos were sassy and southern with cute accents.
not like me.
in first grade there was somehow another mary jo (what? seriously?) so my teacher asked me, “do you want to be mary jo or jojo?” why jojo? i still don’t know. but i chose mary jo. changing my name at that junction seemed terrifying…like most of public school did. i figured it was best to stick to the evil i knew. plus jojo was surely not approved by the catholic church.
i wonder about that other mary jo. did she resent me for stealing her name? she didn’t stay at our school long. maybe because of the name conflict? but while she was there she was totally mean to me, ripping up the note i sent greg liles right in front of me (i think you’re funny; do you like me yes or no?). but can i blame her? i was party to the sentencing of her time (or life?) as a jojo.
my bus driver, a farmer who needed winter time income, was the first one to call me mojo. i don’t know why. but i liked that one. too bad mrs. doris didn’t offer me that name. i have used mojo from time to time, but most of my childhood i was mary jo. except for one semester when i thought i should try to be normal and told everyone to call me mary.
i was not a mary. mary’s are good and mild mannered. they are virginal. i am strange and angry. i am offensive. i am prone to rocking the boat when you are sure the storm has passed and it is only smooth sailing ahead.
i was a mary jo.
and then i became an mj. you know, like spiderman’s girlfriend.
expect every pothead ever greeted me with, “mj! maryjane! right on!’
when i was in my early twenties, i played around with pen names. em joe jones was my favorite. kind of a tribute to my favorite supporting actor, m. emmet walsh. i always thought i would be best as a supporting actor, a back up singer. i usually aimed for those low-hanging stars.
mojo jones was another pen name i used. i totally wanted to get rid of that connell. get rid of the catholic. i wanted to be free of dysfunction and abuse and all the chips that lived on my shoulder.
plus i had a theory that the best authors were not found anywhere before the middle of the alphabet.
in my later twenties i would land in kentucky by total accident. in kentucky they loved my name even if they didn’t really get me.
i stayed there longer than i should have…maybe because of my southern name.
while i was there, my boss at a bbq restaurant told me that in the south you either added or subtracted syllables when pronouncing words. he called me merjo.
when i was 28, i eloped with a guy i had known for less than two months. this made it so i could finally leave the beginning of the alphabet and go squat in the middle where i felt i truly belonged. no longer a connell, i became a mccarty. surely everything would go better for me now.
when i divorced my husband a year and a half later by going to the divorce hut in lexington and filling out some papers, i kept the name.
years later he would gloat about this, like it proved i still loved him.
but it was actually for alliterative reasons. mj mccarty.
recently i learned that mongolians valued alliteration above rhyme, and i was like, that just further proves i am genghis khan reincarnated…a theory i have because we both believed we were a punishment sent by god.
i especially love assonance. sometimes just so i can say “nice assonance.”
i also kept the name to avoid being a connell again.
i left kentucky sometime later and moved to wisconsin, where, starting from scratch i told everyone my name was mj. so, barring government workers who still called me mary because that’s what the documents say, i was a solid mj in wisconsin.
then i remarried. i gave up my mccarty to become a walker because i thought that that was what love looked like. you know, sacrificing your identity for someone else.
it sounded too much like tj hooker. plus the asshole govenor of wisconsin was named walker, so…. the minute i divorced my second husband, i took back my mccarty.
“don’t you want to have the same name as your kids?” people tended to ask me.
“look at them,” i answered. “no one is going to doubt they are mine.”
because i gave birth to like four mini-mes.
then my brother died.
i started telling everyone my name was em. because m was the initial of me and my brother. we were the m’s of the family. now i was the only m. i thought about going by just the letter m, you know, like 007’s boss, but i didn’t want to be just one letter. so i spelled it em and told everyone it was for phonetic reasons.
i also added connell back in to show tribute to my brother. most of my family who had fallen away wandered back to catholicism to tribute my brother…which made me wonder if i died tragically, would they become witches? but not willing to be catholic again, i added connell back into my name.
for a brief time i tried on the name em connell mccarty.
but there were problems right away. people assumed the em was short for emily (why not emma?), and I felt being an emily was just as bad if not worse than being a mary.
and the connell was just too bulky. i don’t think i’m a three name person after all, maybe that’s why mary jo had to be shortened to mj in the first place.
while tweaking around with my name, i remembered how much i liked it when a past coworker would try to pronounce mj as a word instead of initials. it sounded to me like it would be spelled emje. so i put the j back in but kept the e and even added another one.
problem now was that no one knew how to pronounce my name when they saw it spelled.
so i gave up and told them it was basically mj.
just spelled funny.
and that is how i became me.
there are several songs about mary. but who sings a song about mary jo?
a. belle & sebastian
b. tony orlando & dawn
c. adam ant (formerly of adam & the ants)
d. all of the above
up top: “lost at sea” 6X6 mixed media on watercolor paper…$35 directly above: “call of the wild” 8X8 mixed media on watercolor paper…$55