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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Zen and the Art of Not Doing A Power Point

Was it only a week ago that I was sitting at Alan's table, at breakfast together over banana sandwiches and tea?  And yet, and yet, so very far apart, in different worlds, on our laptops?  It feels as if it were yesterday.  Oh how nice it feels to be so busy that time really does fly, how good it feels that Oh! I am so busy that I must be important.  I may be very important.  I think that I am, look and see, my diary is full of meetings, painting times, things to do, people to see, it is full of don't stop now things, you are far too busy and you may miss something appointments.  It is full to bursting with important engagements.  My little legs can hardly keep up.

This is what I am working on this week - it is hosted by LOROS, the Leicestershire and Rutland Organisation for the Relief of Suffering.  I am showing A Graceful Death  there for 3 days, and am opening the conference by being the first person to agree to not do a power point presentation.

The Spirit of Caring:  Spirituality and Well-being in End of Life Care

 www.loros.com/hospice/Default.aspx?id=438199



I set this week aside to prepare my talk.  Did I mention the power point?  Well, I bite my thumb at it.  I will do my talk without it, and this may be a good thing.  I will not rely on the computer, though the computer is excellent, I will rely on trying to talk sense from notes that I have made that now fit on a tiny piece of paper.  I have though, put some paintings up on the power point.  I will click onto those at some point and that will be good because there will be no words for people to read and so become distracted and not listen to me forgetting what I was talking about and telling them about my latest holiday instead.

I thought that I would be in a constant state of panic this week.  It is the last week to prepare the talk, finish two paintings, check the exhibition is still where I left it in bits and boxes all around the studio, and to update all the poetry and instructions.  (Instructions such as, take one of these and put some money in the box.  And sit down and listen to this.  And write your story here. And stop fidgeting).  But I am not panicking.  I have moments of anxiety when I want to go to bed and watch 999 What's Your Emergency on the laptop instead of working, but actually I am very calm.  I discovered Zen on Wikipedia this week, and I think I have become Zen. I am able to think quite clearly, and to prepare with a sense of Whatever.  Zen is concerned with what is, not with what I think or feel about what is.  Fine by me.  What is, is that I am not going to do a power point. 

And the exhibition is growing, I have music, film, and writing to add to it.  I have taken the poetry that was created during Penny Hewlett's excellent poetry workshops to a printer and he has made up a very nice little book for me to sell at the exhibitions. The printer, Charlie, has read this blog, and is therefore my new best friend.  I am grateful.  Hello Charlie.

So, I expected to be in a state of meltdown this week.  I am not, and I have not been so. I have found inspiration from all sorts of people and events recently, and I think I know what I am doing.  Good Lord!  Do you really?  You say while steadying yourself by holding onto the nearest firm object.  Do you really?  What, pray, are you doing?  Here is what I am doing.  I reserve the right to change my mind at any point and deny everything.

I am taking A Graceful Death to places that will benefit from the experience.  A Graceful Death is not just an exhibition, it is an experience.  It needs careful handling, the people who come to it need space to reflect, feel sad, and to express themselves in a creative and safe manner, should they wish to do so.  And so, to that end, I am taking the exhibition to conferences, organised events, and private functions.  To help express the emotions that come up during the exhibition, emotions of loss, grief, bereavement, memory, love, joy and recovery, there are Penny Hewlett's poetry workshops, Life Board workshops, musical events by Lizzie Hornby and I am looking into reading plays concerning end of life issues.  There are, in the pipeline, discussions, talks, debates and presentations by all sorts of people.  There are healthcare professionals, there are funeral directors, there are soul midwives, there are therapists, artists, healers, there is even a wise woman who really is wise and, obviously, a woman. This wise woman has much experience as a soul midwife and as someone who listens and gives advice to her community.  She too has agreed to come and work with A Graceful Death.  I am aiming to set up the exhibition next year in Bridport, to encompass all these amazing strands and to introduce Soul Midwifery to everyone.  There is even talk that Felicity Warner, teacher, writer and speaker on Soul Midwifery, may come and speak.  But Felicity has just had her new kitchen done, and may refuse to leave it for the next few years because it is so wonderful.  I am prepared for that.  I may come and set the exhibition up in her kitchen and say, There. You didn't expect that, did you?

I am speaking more on end of life matters.  I am speaking as Antonia, as someone who works in the community and observes.  I speak of the creative and spiritual responses that are needed amongst all of us who work with the dying, how to notice it and to stand your ground.  How not to run away thinking Phew!  Lucky escape.  Nearly showed me up there, nearly discovered I don't know anything.

And then, alongside that, I am still working as a commission artist.  I am still painting Angels for all sorts of occasions.  I am illustrating another book, a lovely and sweet children's book, which will be done by Christmas and published next year.  I would very much like to combine the Angels I paint with the A Graceful Death exhibition, and am looking to add that to the mixing pot. I am also working on a Jesus on the Tube commission to go to the USA.

But enough of that!  Tell me more of the froth in your life, you say!  Well, I am still doing Weight Watchers.  I have lost half the amount I am aiming for, so am half way there.  I am slowing down a bit, because I am slipping in the odd Indian meal and forgetting to tell anyone.  So it has been a loss of half a pound a week recently.  I am looking astonished at weigh ins, saying, it must be the scales.  I can't think why that should be only a half pound lost.  I have been so good.  I am starving myself, honest guv, on my life, I ain't even touched a cream puff.  However, the tyranny of having a big bum will soon be over.  Either I will achieve a nice little bottom and everyone will talk about it and admire me, or I will refuse to play any more, and with a bellow of rage like Obelix in Asterix the Gaul, lock myself in a Pizza factory overnight and refuse to come out even after a week.

My mother is terribly nice.  She asked for some distance healing and phoned me up after to say that she did indeed feel much better and wasn't that a clever thing that I did.  I have been stubbornly healing her daily now, whether she wants it or not.  Do you feel better Mum? I say on the phone.  Mum!  Did you get that?  Did it work?  Mum, are you alright now?  I am going to heal you at 3pm, cancel all your engagements and strap yourself down.  And to each call my dear old Mum, in her 80s, a devout Catholic and no one's fool, says Oh yes dear!  I do believe I am cured!  And, goodness me, aren't you clever.  I can walk!

When I phoned again this afternoon there was no reply.  She wasn't ill, my sharpened healer's instinct told me, she was hiding under the bed.

Time now to go back into the studio and rehearse my talk to myself.  That's the easy part.  I always agree with myself and am very encouraging.  What if I am faced with millions of pairs of eyes next week when I talk, and none of them agree with me?  I know what I will do.  People are always easier to handle when they are stunned.  I will whip out some cake making equipment and say to all, now, ladies and gentlemen, we are all going to make fairy cakes.