Four years

For the longest time, I didn’t believe alcoholism was a disease. I thought it was a moral failing and a choice. But experience has shown me otherwise. Those that I judged when I was younger because I thought they were out of control or morally inept were struggling with something far more real than I ever imagined. For the past four years, I’ve stayed sober. After years of emotional suffering and excessive wine drinking, I took responsibility for my alcoholism and asked for help from people who knew better than me. I am grateful that I didn’t have to experience huge consequences to see the truth of my ailment. Some people never get the gift of self reflection. It is not their fault. They may not have the psychological make up or be at the point where they can honestly look at themselves. Let’s be patient with them (that’s really really hard to do). I want to help create the kind of world where it’s OK to say I’m an alcoholic without being judged, scorned or stigmatized. (That’s really hard for society to do, too.) It can happen. It is happening. If you or someone you know is struggling, take heart. There is help. We do recover.

IMAGE.JPG

The dam at Still Waters Pond. 

Integration of an evening

On March 6, at Hartford ArtSpace Gallery, I officially launched my book, Finding Still Waters: The Art of Conscious Recovery, alongside author and public speaker Chris Grosso, who launched his third book, Dead Set On Living. Here are some event photos. 

As I reflect and absorb all the energy around the evening, I realize what a gift it is that I’m able to bring my creativity into the world. I really want encourage everyone to create. Let it rise up and you being a release it into the world. Do not hesitate. Do not hold back. Life is short and you are a beautiful expression of the universe. Please don’t waste it.  

FullSizeRender.jpg

talking about the book 

FullSizeRender.jpg

author Q & A with Chris Grosso and me, with emcee Benn Grippo 

IMG_3571.JPG

Chris Grosso, author of Dead Set on Living 

IMAGE.JPG

Pre-event mingling  

IMAGE.JPG

The beautiful musicians: Luna & The Lost souls featuring Klokwize. great tunes! 

IMG_3582.JPG

We are author friends. Thrilled to share space and co-launch with Chris Grosso.

Book Launch Event

I'm humbly honored and simultaneously excited to formally announce that Finding Still Waters: The Art of Conscious Recovery is releasing in early March at this special event with Chris Grosso! Chris is releasing his third title, Dead Set on Living, published by Simon & Schuster. Chris wrote the foreword to my book and I'm stoked that he and I are co-creating this special night for friends in the Hartford area. This FREE event will be at Hartford ArtSpace Gallery, and all are welcome! Live music by Luna & The Lost Souls featuring KLOKWIZE, author readings, and books will be available for purchase and signing. The evening will be emceed by Benjamin Grippo. Click the event page for more information. Hope to see many friends there. Thank you for supporting local arts in its beautiful and varied forms. 

Here's a link to the event page on Facebook. 

MARCH 6, 2018. 6 to 9 pm
Hartford ArtSpace Gallery, 555 Asylum Street, Hartford
Chris Grosso/Amy LaBossiere Co-Launch Party and Book Signing

Let's Go ARTS use this one.jpg

The Vulnerability of Brand

Modern day marketing advice says that I need to create or hone my personal brand. Pull in my tribe! Build my audience. Oh no! I don’t want to do that. Do I have to wear something uncomfortable or be someone I’m not? It feels so crafted. Posed. Inauthentic. Yuck.  

Can’t I just share and anyone who wants to pay attention can? Isn’t that what’s really happening here? 

I understand the rules. I’ve worked in marketing, public relations and advertising for most of my career.  Since I’ve been self-employed for the past decade, I’ve consistently marketed our small companies. My brain thinks in marketing ways.  Many times I’ll make suggestions to friends and colleagues how they can market their brands and products. I appreciate the process and think it’s exciting.

That being said, I’d much rather rely on attraction rather than promotion when it comes to what I have to offer. Whenever I sell a piece of artwork, it’s important to me that whoever buys it really wants it. It isn’t  about them getting a great deal or me being a good salesperson or anything like that. I want the art to resonate with them, truly and honestly. So please, don’t make me click you in my sales funnel. 

I am being a little bit like a bratty child, stomping her feet and not wanting to do what I’m told. If you know me a little then you are aware that I’ve written a book, I’m re-launching my bed and breakfast retreat center, and my husband has amazing art and art services to sell. So I have to market it all, right? Yeah, I have to market it all right. But I really don’t want to.  Not in the marketing-machine way they do it now. I’d rather build things slow, know who I’m sharing with, and create real connections. 

The conundrum here is unless someone knows me, how will they ever find me?  There is the necessary marketing piece.  So what am I to do if I don’t want to pull you into my pipeline or click you in to my sales funnel? How would I even start to break through anyone’s life noise? Why would I want to? 

I suppose all I can do is be honest about who I am and what I have to offer. That means sometimes you’ll see a blog post that seems random and maybe too heartfelt, but it’s actually a part of me and my life. Or I’ll put something on the Still Waters Insta that might’ve been better off on my personal Facebook page. That’s what I do. All the aspects of my life are interwoven. For me, they are not comparmentalized into hard-line distinctions. They melt into one big pile that is the soul of my life. 

A savvy, polished marketing person at a top firm might wag their finger and tell me I’m doing it all wrong. But that’s OK. I’m doing it my way. 

Maybe being nothing short of honest and bumbling in my marketing will work out just fine. People that want what I have to offer will find me organically. I can certainly try. If I fail miserably, I can use that to write my next book, “How to fail consistently with authenticity.”

 

Create it anyway

Who wants to be vulnerable? "Me, pick me," said no one, ever. Unless you're Brené Brown. 

Seriously, it takes courage to step out into the light — especially with our creativity and honest expression. When I was creating visual art, I had to set aside my nature to hide. Even if it wasn't "good enough" or like any kind of fine art my husband was creating. It was mine. 

I am driven to create art, write from the heart, cook kitchen experiments, work as an actor, and most importantly — foster connections. I love to connect people. Many of my friends hear me say "Oh, I have to introduce you to so-and-so. You should know each other."

Within our creativity is sharing and connectivity. We each have a unique message to share, something we can use that might help someone else. So please don't wait with your gifts. Just create it anyway. Don't let your insecurities stop you. 

If I waited, I'd never make that art, write that book or plan that retreat

Not everyone will like what we do. Some will but many won't. It doesn't matter. It should not stop us. 

I don't expect to be a famous artist, author or actor. In fact, I'd rather not because I'm pretty much a private person and would like to maintain my privacy. However, I am responsible to help others and be of service. I can do this through what I create.

So there you go and here you go. Have at it. Go make something! 

Here I am creating a fiberglass sculpture for a competition -- a shark covered in shredded cards. This is the base sculpture. Did I know what I was doing? No. Did I let it stop me? No. Got some technical advice from my husband on the fiberglass piece, then created it anyway. 

Here I am creating a fiberglass sculpture for a competition -- a shark covered in shredded cards. This is the base sculpture. Did I know what I was doing? No. Did I let it stop me? No. Got some technical advice from my husband on the fiberglass piece, then created it anyway. 

Card Shark sculpture by Amy LaBossiere. ©2007 all rights reserved. A 5-ft. shark covered in shredded playing cards with obsidian stone eyes and hand-sculpted clay teeth. Sold at auction to benefit an arts organization in New Haven, CT

Card Shark sculpture by Amy LaBossiere. ©2007 all rights reserved. A 5-ft. shark covered in shredded playing cards with obsidian stone eyes and hand-sculpted clay teeth. Sold at auction to benefit an arts organization in New Haven, CT

The tender spots

This morning I cried. For a couple of minutes, I felt my world closing in on itself. In my soul a deep sadness welled up. There is lingering pain from childhood loss coupled with my current life overwhelmed.  This too shall pass. All the change that comes also goes. There is comfort in the difference. In these moments, I want to hug the world. I want to be like Amma. If I can bring selfless love and compassion into my soul, then the pain will lessen. It is the lesson. The answer is to feel it and live in love. 

Still Waters Autumn.jpg

More change

My mind is a chatterbox in the morning. Racing thoughts, tasks and feelings fill my cranium as soon as my eyes open. After several post-wake-up rituals, I chase my creativity. 

I sit here on the couch, cup of organic coffee and plain black seltzer on the side table. I settle down and breathe. I try to get to the couch, desk or chair as quickly as I can, before the day gets hold of me. “Ass in seat,” a writing mentor once told me. Even though my book is nearing completion, this is not a stopping point for my writing. I want to keep my creativity flowing so the pipes don’t rust and my channel doesn’t get clogged.

My creativity is where healing lives. It’s what I do to heal myself. Writing has become the primary form. I can deal with emerging issues and inner turmoil by expressing it in words. It makes me vulnerable because I am sharing my truth with anyone who stumbles on this purposely or at random. But who cares? This is one life, one time to express, one moment to be a true expressive form for all that is. Today is a day where I need to let it out. 

My 92-year-old father-in-law Paul is on the move again. We are taking him out of his assisted living facility, bringing him to Still Waters for the afternoon, then he’s going to California. His daughter and son-in-law flew in early Friday morning and are ready to host him out there. His room is ready, supplies are ordered and doctor’s appointments are made. Oxygen for transport is set up. Here we go.

Everything is changing again as it always does when caring for a high-age elder. These past three years have been intense, helping him in various ways but making sure his life is good and he is safe. 

I will miss him but I am ready to let him go for a better experience. I think he has the chance for joy and laughter with his daughter’s family, more so than in a facility. The assisted living community, while it is the absolute best in our area, did not click for him. Paul didn’t care much about the other residents or activities. He was too focused on his own physical limitations than the opportunity that surrounded him to connect with others and participate. He became too frail to engage based on who he is and how he thinks. That was unexpected. I thought he’d be fully immersed and happy on his new chapter of life. It didn’t work. It was okay but it wasn’t the satisfying experience I was trying to create for him. 

Imagining him in his new California life, I see him sitting around the dinner table with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and their three boys, Paul’s grandsons. Bronson, who is eight years old and just about as cute as a little boy could ever be, tells a story about a leprechaun looking for gold that makes Paul laugh and smile. I imagine Paul having countless moments like this — little smiles adding up to a new part of life that is fun and happy. He will be part of something greater than himself if he will allow it. 

Time will tell. This chapter is not closing, it is changing and shifting again. 

IMAGE.JPG

Still Waters Pond, October 2017.  

Finding moments of serenity

We are up to our eyeballs in projects. Some people say it’s so good to be busy, yet I am constantly trying to find the balance. Some days I can dig in and work unstoppably. Other days I fumble around bewildered. Today I will try to go easy on myself. Work, pause, work some more. Maybe I will hook myself into a project and become immersed in a task. Maybe my brain will trail off into some random thoughts. Either way it’s OK. I’m rolling with it. 

FullSizeRender.jpg

Misty coffee morning on Still Waters Pond sunrise yoga platform

Control

I try hard to practice surrender  but it’s not an easy process. I want to be able to control what is happening. In business, they say to predict and control are two important factors for success. Then why is it that life requires so much surrender? 

I look around Still Waters and I see all the work that needs to be done before we can reopen. It is daunting and sometimes paralyzing. We plug away, one task at a time. Some days it feels great and productive. Other days it feels like we are Sisyphus pushing a stone up a mountain.  

I’m praying for courage and strength to do the work and let it all unfold in perfect timing. This is my work in the world after all.

I don’t have a “job” anymore. There is no paycheck. There is work and more work in building something. It is so different than my previous life in the advertising world. 

As I take a break to write this, I sip my coffee as I sit on the sunrise yoga platform. The leaves are turning bright red and soft orange.  It is raining lightly. The air smells like subtle pine, fresh and clean.  “Can I do this?” I think. Yes. Keep going. 

Still Waters Pond, October 9, 2017

Still Waters Pond, October 9, 2017

Hanging up

Yesterday, my 92-year-old father-in-law Paul called me unexpectedly from his assisted living facility and demanded to know about the status of his finances.

“I need you to give me the number of who to call to discuss my money,” Paul said. I could hear desperation and his voice. “This helper that’s living with me is costing too much.”

”There is no number to call Dad.” I tried to remove the frustration from my voice. “I manage your finances now. There’s nothing for you to do in that regard.”  

We have had this same conversation many times over the past year. Losing control when you’re older it’s not easy. I see him grasping to an earlier age when he could manage his own finances — when he kept those matters private from the rest of the family.

Paul’s health started declining three years ago when he fell and broke his hip. He went from living independently to needing more and more help. Now he can’t add two complex numbers together. He needs help dialing the telephone, and can’t use a calculator.  He is unable to manage his own life. 

Paul has to let go because there is no choice. He has to have a 24-7 helper per doctor’s orders. There’s nothing that can be done right now. He’s too ill to change his situation and this is the status quo.  

I tried to help him with assurances that I’m supporting him based on his wishes. And I acknowledge his frustration. But I wish we didn’t have to have these uncomfortable conversations.  

In his assisted living facility, all of his needs are being met and activities are there for him to enjoy. It’s a great facility. But Paul still hangs onto the life he had in the past  and is unaware of his incapabilities. He still worries about money and the future. Especially as his care needs intensify.

I did not want to feel those feelings on the phone yesterday. I wanted to hang up but I didn’t; I stayed with the uncomfortableness. I tried to work through it with him, change and fix it. I helped a little but not much. He’s got to come to a place of acceptance. So do I. Tough one. 

Eleven Hours

Yesterday I woke up a little before 4 o'clock in morning. I had received an email from Kim, one of my editors. She was making an additional suggestion of changing some of the book content. Wow, she struck a chord.  I knew this was the right move for the book and had to work on it.  I worked all day. Took a break to walk the dogs and chat for a few minutes with my friend Beth from Boston who was in town and working in my kitchen. Other than a couple of bathroom and coffee breaks, I kept my head down at the computer and worked all day. 11 hours later I was done. I got through all the re-ordering, rewording, adding sections and responding to my inner voice editing inspirations during the process. It was amazing!  That was the longest chunk of time I've spent writing since I started on this book journey.  It's pretty amazing to work on something for 11 hours. Especially when it's your own creativity. Three to five hours is a normal time chunk for me on any given project when I'm very intense on it. This work would not let me go. 

IMG_1829.JPG

BeeBe, my rescue mini poodle, snoozed while I worked. 

When things turn

Caring for someone who is 92 years old brings the ultimate in unexpected.

Years ago, before the fire at Still Waters, before I started helping Paul, I was in my mid 40s. I was meeting with Shawn, the publisher of a local alternative health magazine.  

I asked him, "what's the most important lesson you ever learned in business?"

I was trying to soak up information and get lessons delivered to me faster than life was delivering them.

"Expect the unexpected," Shawn said.  That blew my mind. It fits every aspect of the uncertainty of life. It shakes me to my core. It makes my inner control freak tremble with mad delusions. 

Yesterday I got a call from the assisted-living nurse that dad had to get into the doctor right away about an issue with his lungs.   so we rearranged his appointments scheduled for today. I will go meet him and the doctor later this morning.

I have a feeling that this is the beginning of another one of those roller coaster episodes. It's all been one giant roller coaster episode.

I will expect the unexpected, I will still try to plan for every scenario so that I can respond instead of react.

My attempts at predicting in controlling what happens in every aspect of my life can be exhausting. I suppose that's why some people say wear life like a loose garment. Don't take things too seriously. Lighten up. Let go.

All this clinging makes me anxious.  It doesn't do anything to help change things. 

 

a moment of peace from the previous evening

IMG_1798.JPG

Praying for everything

I just prayed. Really prayed. It's part of my practice now. It's so interesting because it's not what I understand as prayer in a religious sense, not that I know too much about that. But it's more about communicating with an energy that I do not fully understand.

This morning, I asked Tao if I could read aloud to him a third step prayer. I told him I wanted to practice it and so I shared it. 

"God direct my thinking today so that it be divorced of self pity, dishonesty, self-will, self-seeking and fear. God inspire my thinking, decisions and intuitions. Help me to relax and take it easy. Free me from doubt and indecision. Guide me through this day and show me my next step. God give me what I need to take care of any problems. I ask all these things that I may be of maximum service to you and my fellow man. AMEN"

(p. 86, Alcoholics Anonymous)

I love this prayer because it takes the pressure off of me and turns my life over to a power greater than myself.  Takes me off the hook for my thoughts. It's not my fault what comes into my head, but it's my choice as to how I react. 

When I think about the concept of God, it is a creative intelligence. I said to Tao this morning, "It's crazy because when I'm praying I don't know who or what I'm praying too. I try to know what the energy looks like, the energy of God. But then I just realized, it's everything. Everything is God." 

I have never been a religious person. I don't plan to be in the future but who knows. For now, I can learn from other religions and be inspired by them, but I have my own spiritual connectivity to the universe. 

I don't pretend to have all the answers. I doubt I ever will. But I have found a way of living that feels comfortable in my soul and connected to the universe.

Perhaps this path will connect me further to my fellow humans. I'm still working on that. Understanding the whole of humanity and why some people do what they do--that's a perplexing task. In the meantime, I practice, pray and meditate for answers. 

IMG_1799.JPG

The trap of authenticity

I really don't want you to judge me unless it's going to be favorable. I can say I don't give a shit what you think but I do. So go easy. 

Many people say "be authentic." I need to be true to myself and live my real-life. Be who I am! Yes, this is true, but it's also a trap. 

If I've set your expectation of who I am, how do I change? I need for you to hold space for me to change. I need to hold space for you to change. 

At one point of my life, I was a wine freak. I drank and drank. I pre-gamed. For those who don't know, that means drinking a glass or two before going to whatever event, party, or reception was in store for the night. I post-gamed. You can figure out what that means. Alcohol was the way I dealt with and enjoyed social situations. If there was no wine at an event, I wasn't there for very long. I was mired in an alcoholic mind. 

One day, I got sober. I had reached some super dark places in my soul and couldn't go there anymore. I had surrendered and sought help. I was beginning to change. This was an authentic life experience. It was me being authentic. 

Luckily for me, I have some amazing friends and family that hold space for me to change. So my authenticity is supported. But what about people that don't have that?

My friend Mary was trying to get sober. She said to me, "They keep asking me to drink, telling me it's okay to have a couple of beers at a party. But I know if I have one sip I will be off to the races. Why don't they understand that? I can't believe they won't let me change. Ugh." 

I feel for Mary. She needs new friends if her old ones can't understand or even undermine her efforts. You know what? She found some. She stopped hanging out at those parties while she's new in sobriety. She started going to sober places and found new sober friends. She had to let go of the old faces and circumstances to grow into her authentic self. It took some time but she stuck with it. Change is hard. Growing takes work. 

The trap is to watch out for the trap. First we have to be able to see it. Then, just step over it. 

Letting You In

Yesterday, I had one of those stellar, productive days. I sat at my desk by 7:00 am and cranked on my latest round of self-inflicted book edits. I planned to go to a 10 am meeting, but chose instead to hunker down and complete what was in front of me. My manuscript was ready by noon to send to what I think will be my final edit. 

When I first started writing my book, I wasn't going to tell anyone. I said to my friend Brandi who is also writing a book, "Yeah, I think I'll just quietly self-publish this thing and not tell a soul. I'll just see if anyone notices." 

Brandi looked at me quizzically. Um, no. That's not how we do things. 

I know. I'm a marketer by trade. I have years of advertising, marketing, and public relations experience. I know how to get the word out. There are always new tactics brewing in the world, but for the most part, you find your target audience, and you get them the information. Marketing 101. I love marketing. It wasn't the marketing that was bothering me. 

It's vulnerability. My memoir, Finding Still Waters: The Art of Conscious Recovery, is my story in early recovery. I write about my childhood, my first marriage and divorce. I write about pain and learning and art making. I bare my soul. So part of me wants to hide out. Why the hell would I want to show anyone? Because I'm called to, from inside my soul. 

Vulnerability comes with creating artwork. Whether I create a mixed media work of art, publish a blog post or write a book, I am inviting others to have a conversation, either out loud or psychically. I am asking you to let me take you on a trip somewhere, and here you are, along for the ride. Thank you for joining me.

When we take this trip together, surfing on the wave of my creativity, you're going to judge the shit out of it. It's not your fault; that's what humans do. That's where vulnerability comes in. I have to be okay with putting this out there no matter what you think. 

Remember The Gong Show? If you watched TV in the late '70s — you saw the tuxedo-clad host, Chuck Berry, bring out quirky and ridiculous performers. When they were awful, and many times they were, the guest celebrity judges would bang the gong, and the artists were pulled off the stage, humiliated. They were all having a blast, even when rejected. I'll keep that in mind! 

At this point, I don't know where we are going. But there will be art, food, sobriety, some higher power stuff, and love. Maybe some sadness, anger and shadow work, too. Because this is life and it's messy. It's not all unicorns and rainbows. Thank God for that. Unicorns and rainbows are a bit irritating. 

Let's go for frogs and kombucha. 

An Emotional Rollercoaster

It's interesting how if we can stay in observation mode, will we dip into our periods of seeming darkness, and we will come out on the other side. When my father-in-law had to go to the hospital for a fall last week, it threw me for a loop. I thought he was stable at his new assisted-living facility; he only moved in two weeks prior. But then the fall happened, and I felt powerless. 

Tao and I were out at Still Waters, preparing for a long weekend of work. We planned on painting and cleaning construction areas of the main house to help move the restoration along. We were still at least a couple of months out from opening the center. Exhausted, we were binge-watching Netflix and snoozing as the rain poured outside Cottage Duality. My phone rang. I ignored it. It rang again, and I answered. 

The assisted living facility nurse said everything was alright, but Tao’s dad fell. The nurse said he was having some pain. She called as part of their protocol to notify the family, and she stated that everything was okay. She called me back three hours later. 

This time, he wasn’t fine. He couldn’t get out of bed. They were calling an ambulance. When a resident cannot ambulate to the bathroom, the jig is up. 

Immediately I was upset. Breathing into the moments of anguish, I set to calm myself down. We gathered our things, plans disrupted. We drove for an hour to the art studio and took showers. We settled the dogs and went to the hospital. 

Dad was in a private room. He was happy to see us and wondered why he couldn’t take a Tylenol and go home. The doctors and nurses spent the next two days doing tests. There were Fall Risk signs posted all around.  

They didn’t get Dad up on his feet much. In two days, he got so weak that he couldn’t transfer. One of my friends told me an older adult loses 5% of their muscle mass in one day from inactivity. That makes me want to work out right now. 

I was back on the elder care rollercoaster. Anyone who cares for an elder knows what I mean. Would he get admitted? Yes. Would he stay for a few days and qualify for coverage at an inpatient rehab? No. Luckily, he was able to return to his Assisted Living apartment but now needs oxygen and 24/7 care. His strength declined significantly. 

The night he got home from the hospital, he was moving from a wheelchair to his bed. He moved slowly and laboriously. He was frail and extremely weak. I had not seen his strength be that little since his open heart surgery last year. So he must begin to get strong again. 

Caring for my elderly father-in-law is emotionally exhausting. I know I must be his advocate because it is what is in front of me right now. If not me, then who? I have to ask the questions, keep the records, do the planning, set things in the right direction. It is the perfect balance between my desire for tidy control and my allowing of the universe. However, when things go awry and not according to plan, I get miffed and thrown off center. 

I just want to control the situation and get everything the way I want it to be. But unfortunately, a bit of surrender and acceptance is important in this scenario. Luckily I was able to get to a 12-step meeting, reach out to people that know me well and find support. I also allowed the experts to do what they do best. 

Things always turn out better when I surrender. In the meantime, while I'm going through trying times, I need to slow down, reflect, relax, pray, meditate, and hold my pain tenderly. I don't have to push it away. Just be with it and eventually, things start to change. As long as I don't stuff my feelings, it will work itself out.