writing

How to Get Unstuck

The comfort zone is a nest of stagnation. Change, growth, evolution is each person’s birthright and mission. You’re not supposed to stay in the same place, same thinking pattern, doing the same things. Yes there is power in repetition, but the kind of repetition that creates waves of progress through steady improvement, not doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Movement isn’t always progress and sometimes it looks like nothing. Sometimes it doesn’t go according to plan or match our preferences, but that doesn’t mean like life isn’t working for us. This is a bullet point list designed to help me and others who may feel like me at the moment.

  • Identify blockages, obstacles, negative habits. If you don’t have clearly defined goals, it may be because something that stands in direct opposition of your desires is taking up your time, energy and money. Habits reveal priorities, there is no secret that behavior does not reveal. If you feel stuck in life, that means you are admitting that something that you are doing is not working. Something is draining your energy, blocking a stream of motivation. You know what it is! It may be more than one thing, start with the easiest thing to quit. Know your temptations and limits. Set new limits. Wage war against your distractions. Weakness and laziness towards your negative programming will slowly destroy your life.
  • Dig deep within. Why is it so hard to overcome these things that feel good but are no good for us? How is the gratification too irresistible to delay into a reward that we will feel better about later? What happened to you, that shrunk the bigger picture and stole the hope out of your future? Seems contradictory, but doing what we desire can be a challenge if you don’t feel deserving. Trace the habit or pattern down to where it started. Addictions and survival tactics occur when a person is trying to escape or fix a problem, long after the problem is over. Trauma has no expiration date and can grip a person’s mind and self-concept into a static time capsule, in which the person who holds the memories, recreates the same storyline because they are afraid to let it go, afraid to become greater than what the past showed them. How did your negative pattern or habit start? Who influenced you? Were they correct? Does it serve you? Does it honor your highest potential? Once you shed the origins of the negative, you can in the opposite direction to find the positive. Surface-level bandaging won’t help. Sometimes you have to dig to pull, don’t be afraid to confront the dirty skeletons. Then, you can clearly define your goals and purpose.
  • Take massive action. This is a phrase Tony Robbins loves to say. Take massive action, get into your body, motion creates emotions. Nothing will happen if you just sit there. Bring your physical body into it, to make it real, to feel it and make it tangible. Once you align your thoughts with your intentions, you can align behaviors with your intentions. There are certain goals that you won’t be able to achieve without purifying and building up the physical body. Build the body required for the lifestyle you seek. The physical body is a vehicle that requires constant nourishment, movement and rest.  You live inside of it until you die. In the meantime, make it count and use it, don’t abuse it.
  • Allow yourself to enjoy. Have fun. You can take your life seriously without being serious. Purpose should not be compromised at the expense of personal happiness, but both should remain together. If you’re successful and miserable, are you really successful? Laughter, comfort, pleasure and a sense of lightness does not have to deter from work but actually make it easier. Also, happiness is magnetic. No one wants to be around someone with a bad attitude or a negative outlook. Good customer service and effective relationships will require you to manage your emotions. No matter what is going out outside, around you, no matter what anyone is doing or has done to you, your sense of happiness is your sole responsibility. Life is hard and unfair to everyone but meant be enjoyed as much as possible.
  • Be grateful. The tireless cliché of thankfulness is tried and true because it works. Gratitude solves most existential woes. Gratitude is taking inventory for what you have, what you want, and attracts more of what makes you feel good. It keeps you humble and makes you deserving. It closes the holes in which the illusion of loss may seep. Loss is an illusion because they are a result of expectation. Expectation for what has not happened yet or did not happen the way you wanted to, causes suffering because the person is attached to a reality that is not there. Everyone is led my delusions to an extent. Why not subscribe to an empowering delusion, one that claims that goodness and glory are on the way? Our delusions create self-fulfilling prophecies because life is happening for us, not to us, in ways we cannot fathom.
  • Help someone else. To teach is to learn twice, to give is to multiply joy. It’s important to not confuse service with empty generosity. I’m not talking about the kind of energy that wants to help and critiques everyone else without looking at themselves, or gives to receive and constantly brings up what they gave, in order to get. True generosity asks for nothing and good service is a pleasure and privilege to both. It creates value through recognizing value in others. I think God designed humans in such a way that one has a problem while another has a solution. And the one with the solution has a problem that another person has the solution to. My point is, we are stronger together. Personalities widen perspective. Competition can be constructive. Dissolve pettiness, don’t keep score but be honest with yourself about how other people make you feel. Are you building resentment through unrealistic expectation? To give is its own reward. Helping others feels good because it reflects the nature of abundance. It takes you out of your own head and minimizes the weight of your own burdens. To have much is a responsibility, but it doesn’t have to be a dreadful obligation but a wise advantage in bringing balance into your world. Do you believe the world is safe enough to trust others? What relationships are important to you? How can you improve your relationships?
  • Do something different. Surrender to the beginner’s mind. Look to the past to see what you have done before, and prove the exception to your own standard. Explore and let yourself be wrong. Go away from your usual environment or setting. Deviate. Take risks. Study your own patterns and invert them. Use a different color, redraw your logo, forget the past. Don’t hold onto mistakes because everyone has them, learn from them. Live as if you have an old life you refuse to go back to. This way, those lessons were not learned in vain.
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personal, writing

root / work

“They called her a witch because she could heal herself”

is how the saying goes. With that in mind, I once said “A witch is only as good as her ability to heal herself” to a sniffling sister while bringing her a steaming cup of antibiotic tea. Boil a cup of water with some chopped ginger, add apple cider vinegar, honey, fresh squeezed lemon, turmeric, cayenne pepper. Surprisingly sweet and tart from the lemon and honey. The spice from the pepper drowns out the vinegar and turmeric without taking away the apple. It tastes like a lot of things at once, earthy, spice, sweet, citrus. If the mucus is heavy, add garlic with the ginger.

On the 29th of october, I popped my calf muscle from jumping up too fast to answer the door. Limping hard for days but healing quickly, I slept a lot and was frustrated by my lack of mobility. I couldn’t put any weight on the ball of my foot for two weeks. and I walk A LOT. I know the quickest route to get anywhere downtown. Hopping along, I did things to ease the pain like massage it and put ice on it but only so much could be done to speed up the healing process. I ate a lot of plant protein and things with vitamin C, after reading that is how the body produces collagen. I left a lot of things on the floor. Everything felt like an excruciating task. Time felt like it stood still for me while rushing fast for everyone else. After all, it was a torn muscle and muscles don’t grow back overnight, not as easy as blasting cold symptoms out your system with a hot mug of roots and spices.

The root chakra deals with survival, identity, the fight or flight mechanism, reproductive organs, lower half of the body. It is located at the base of the pelvis, its color is red. If the sacral chakra was Mars, the root would be the Sun. The root chakra contains the source of the kundalini energy that travels upwards. It develops from birth to the age of one. The first of the seven major chakras in the body, it sits at the bottom of the spine and top of the upper body: the very center of the human anatomy. The foundation for the second floor and the roof for the basement, where we carry most of our weight and get rid of waste.

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I operate from the belief that all things physical stem from nonmaterial thought and intention, and that there is no such thing as coincidence. The small thing explains the larger thing. Physical illness or injury is spiritual first, since the body is the temporary home for your soul. So depending on the body part, system, or condition, there is some symbolic meaning or corresponding significance relating to your life journey that your body is forcing you to pay attention to. You are where and how you need to be, in whatever condition you are in, and it is your sole responsibility to manage the physical health and wellbeing of your vehicle. The big picture is made up of smaller versions of itself repeating unto infinity. The past and future is made of millions of nows.

So somewhere in this time-space-continuum despite my time-sensitive demands, my leg popped. Universe wanted me to sit the fuck down. At first I was in denial about it and still moving and grooving, limping and hopping through my errands. Rikki told me I need to take a bath so I did, threw in a bunch of drops of essential oils, a bundle of dried chamomile, a pinch of activated charcoal, pink himalayan salt. Can’t believe I don’t have any epsom salt. Anyway, it relaxed my muscles to the point the pressure I had been putting on it caught up to me and I couldn’t walk the next day or two.

With the right intention and level of surrender, medicine is everywhere. Water, heat, time. The time it takes to heat water. Relaxation. Touch. Rest. These are the things that some injuries require, not constant picking or stitches or casts or crutches. Also I could have used a crutch, but I didn’t want to go to the hospital.

The root chakra governs the lower half of the body. So a leg injury would most affect and be affected by the root chakra, root chakra work is what would be required to heal the leg. If my calf muscle didn’t strain, I would not have had the time to slow down, sit down, scrub off the dead skin and get right within before upscaling, turning my attention to my surroundings and not my innermost being.

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At the same time I was was trying to tend to business while limping hard, I ran into a guy I kicked it and hit it off with before, at a friends place. Enthusiastic about what I was working on, excited to have crossed paths with him, disregarding the shooting pain in my right leg, we exchanged numbers. I hopped along.

The root chakra rules the reproductive organs. He seems to be attracted to me for physical and nonphysical reasons. He can tell I’m smart and likes how I think. He pays attention to what I say I want. I like him, and I like being liked by him, I want to know him better while allowing him to do the same.

First impression made him like how I think, but the more we talked, what became clear was what I think about. I surprised myself with how much I talked about past loves, failed relationships, life-altering traumas. Not all of them, not in great length or detail, but enough to portray myself fraught with issues and baggage. Blame it on Venus retrograde or being a Taurus, I sure know how to hold onto things.

For so long I have felt defined by my capacity to love, I didn’t realize how much it made me emotionally and psychologically dependent on the memories of those who significantly changed how I love, whether through pain or ease. I want to be more than what I’ve survived. Perhaps there is some wisdom in using mistakes as a manual.

The root chakra deals with survival. To balance it, enables you to let go of what you do not need.

I know I have this thinking pattern of self-deprecation. Sometimes it’s as blatant as my sense of humor or as subconscious as self-sabotage. Why is my response to his attraction, to display aspects of myself that may make me unattractive, despite how true? I want to find out if it’s real so I give him the real. But what’s real doesn’t always have to be brutal, and flaw doesn’t make anything more real. I think my real self is somewhere between the perfection of outside projection, and the bad bags I carry. These memories in my shelf have no expiration date but are useless in recipes. Maybe not totally, since it’s still being served. It’s almost as if I take his interest as a challenge, to demystify myself. He finds me intriguing, so I maybe I murder that intrigue, because it puts me on a pedestal that could turn into a cage? It’s not about him. It’s narcissistic. It’s me recalling things I’ve survived while he learns the survivor.

Working with the root chakra comes in handy when one is feeling insecure, frightened, disconnected from your body or the world around you. physical or psychological paralysis can be mended by tending to this chakra.

Why do I resurrect the ghosts I’ve worked so hard to banish and get away from? I endured and survived toxic relationships and I’m not there anymore, I won. What did I win, if those hollow trophies take up space? And how can I be both winner and victim? Winning victim? Yes these things happened, sure they are a part of my story, but I am shaped because of the pieces of me that have been chipped away, or am I the ice or clay or wood or stone that is retained? I perhaps need to create a separate sculpture entirely, to satisfy myself into the new identity of someone who made something of it, since a mere retelling of story won’t satisfy it. some sort of kinesthetic conquering through creativity. I don’t want to be the bitter storm that dampens a sweet sky, even if it is all just air, heat, water.

To some extent, that’s how life is, we are shaped by our traumas and tragedies, assigned our personal demons to slay, with challenges to not become them despite how dirty the fight is. Perhaps it’s just a part of getting to know someone, specifically me. The process of dis-identification comes with maturity and evolution, like a shed reptile skin. Eventually you just push yourself out without knowing how it’s going to look when you do. The triggers that don’t trigger you anymore. Once fully processed, you don’t need to tell the stories of the shots that set the triggers happened in the first place. What you share, and when, is so much a part of intimacy that it’s damn near the whole point.

The positive emotions associated with the root chakra are security, loyalty, sense of community, while its negative emotions are fear, prejudice, blind faith.

Even if I tell these stories, I don’t want to introduce myself with them, I don’t want these experiences to define me, not anymore. My baggage does not make me interesting, I am interesting despite my baggage, not because of. It’s like I am trying to sabotage his interest while at the same time enjoying it, testing him. I need to know that the interest is real, and if it can be spoiled through finding out the worst parts of me, so let it be. I don’t want him to function under a delusion or illusion. Nor do I want to delude myself with a script that needs to be retired, and characters that have moved on. I have forgiven, but have I detached?

The base of the spine contains untapped infinite energy potential.

These emotional issues may be the underlying reason why I feel stuck in life, at least right now. My attachment to the script is the termite colony underneath the foundation. Sure I stay busy but am I progressing? I don’t know what confronting and releasing the negative thoughts I have inherited is going to look like, what that sculpture will be, what that recipe will taste like. In the meantime, I’m eating squash and potatoes and beets and carrots, meditating on the bright red orb between my hips, pushing upward, opening and closing, while my limp inevitably fades away. My intention is to achieve balance and alignment with my desires, get to a place where I perceive the world as a place safe enough to not wear scars as badges, and abundant enough to not have to carry old things. And even when I do revisit, I won’t feel shame around it. Through time, relaxation and touch, the tender sores of emotional loss become not numb but a part of the body, carrying energy from one part to another. You’ll limp until you walk.

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books, tattoo

making your creative mark

I finished reading a book today, which sounds way more productive than it was, because i was on the last chapter. It’s an easy read but i read it very slowly, not out of laziness but quite the opposite: practice and process, application and integration. Making Your Creative Mark: Nine Keys To Achieving Your Artistic Goals by Eric Maisel. The book is written sort of like a workbook, asking questions after each chapter, starting at the most basic and internal: the mind key, the confidence key, passion key. Then more philosophical and emotional pursuits like the freedom key, the stress key, the empathy key. The last few relate to the larger global community, the relationship key, the identity key and lastly, the societal key.

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Each chapter, or key, has lists of tips, tons of insight and plenty of example scenarios from the author’s experiences as a creative coach. Books like this help me a lot because even if the artist mentioned is not the same type of artist, the same struggles and principles apply and can save time on energy by cutting down on unproductive patterns and instead trying out alternative methods in producing more or at least feeling better about yourself when you’re not, from people who deal with the same lifestyle and profession more or less.

I spent the most time on the last couple of chapters, the identity key and the societal key. These keys explored and suggested a great deal of self-awareness and consideration for the world you live in and communities you occupy. very year-of-the-dog type themes. the identity key calls into question which aspects of ourselves are hardwired into us, versus what characteristics we inherit from happenstance or affinity. This chapter emphasizes “artist” as an identity, suggests to ask yourself questions and do things that this artist would do, creating opportunities for it and checking in with its development. The chapter before it was the relationship key, which covered networking and ethical business practices and the chapter after it is the societal key, which explores the role of the artist, and different types of artists, providing examples like: the classical, medieval, renaissance, court, society, revolutionary, bohemian, modern, contemporary global, mass-market, small-business, postmodern, etc. all of these artist stereotypes and their associated values and principles that shape their purpose and art operations.

these last two chapters asked who are you, beyond being an artist, beyond making art, what do you believe in, who is your art for, who or what does it represent? although digesting these big questions aren’t necessary to create, i do think that pondering these things absolutely can improve art, make the relationship between the creation, creator and audience smoother and the process more purposeful.

So beyond artist, who am I? What do I do? The words that applied to me were: small-business owner. a visual and lifestyle brand. although the internet made these things corny: a witch and a healer. a writer and sortapoet. a designer. a connector who knows much and many. a craftswoman. an innovator. a risk-taker. a foreseer and soothsayer.

the last chapter said to check in with these aspects of yourself daily, do to things that express these roles. it also had a segment about alienation and methods of going about it. many artists exist in excessive solitude or on the fringes of society but that doesn’t mean the experience should be insufferable or involuntary. i still have days where i get burnt out on social interaction, i get a healthy balance.

i strained my calf muscle last week so i’ve been limpingaround the city and now rolling around in an office chair inside. cleaned and organized supplies with dale yesterday, did three tattoo drawings and got started on the forth. still have two other projects to finish. made candles today, handled some paperwork. currently in the process of getting business license. so far it’s like i’ve been tattooing out of my house but now thanks to a lifeless hater i have the impetus to level up.

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writing

the end of october

matter botattica is my life. i don’t have the free time it seems, since i take my hobbies very seriously. even leisure is productive. reading and listening to books and whatnot. taking care of my health and body is key. the morning ritual affects so much. a lot depends on relationships which depends on character and mindset. being a business owner has changed my life, forced me to grow in ways i would not have otherwise. it’s been almost two years now. i didn’t start working part time until i worked completely for myself. it feels like i’m doing a nice thing for my art, by not demanding that it cover my living expenses, it can breathe deeper and be more honest and move on its own time, because a rushed pace is not required. i’ve become more flexible in the ways i allow myself to show up. flexible meaning listening to my needs, checking in with aspects of my identity that need to be watered to thrive and share.

ever so often it’s good to switch up the time management schedule just like with exercise, muscle confusion invigorates new parts of your body, bringing excitement and making things feel new. the beginner’s mind is hopeful and confident, not brow-beaten and bitter.

i don’t claim seasonal depression anymore, we broke up last year. i lost a lot of fat in 2017 from jogging, eating less, being more active. if i can use my legs to turn any sidewalk into a track, i can alter my internal physiology to shift my external circumstances. i can heat my body up, no excuse. time doesn’t stop just when it’s hard to get out of bed. that’s the kind of body confusion that jolts your bones and muscles awake.

i only need seven hours of sleep, so to wake up at 6am requires me to go to sleep at 11pm. if i stay up until 2am i can still get up around 9. ever so often, i go to bed but can’t sleep. usually 5mg of melatonin and a binaural frequency will do the trick, other times it still won’t do. even when i can’t get sleep, i’ll still get rest, not checking the clock, not opening my eyes, stubbornly playing sleep until i get there. i wake up, not remembering when i fell asleep.

i love mondays because it’s full of possibility and potential, it is the quiet morning of the whole week. halloween hasn’t past although people wore their costumes and did their partying and potlucking over the weekend. last night i carved a pumpkin and brought out a skull and candles for the window display.

the place only feels inviting if you’re invited. lots of people pass by, looking in the windows but i don’t mind if they don’t come in, i’m busy working and although it’s functional as a store front, it’s not there yet. i don’t have a register set-up or price tags or have the inventory displayed properly. i’ve been using the front counters for storage more than display.

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october is the april of autumn, the spring of the cold, the beginning of the holiday season, starting with death. all hollow’s eve, samhaim, dia de los muertos, all these different cultures know that the veil between worlds is the thinnest around this time.

i think of my dead homies, friends who i knew in their lifetime but are no longer in the physical: icky, samba, hassan, mike. i think of my relatives that lived and passed oceans away from where i grew up, i see the face and hands and smile of my grandmother.

i ask the spirits to bring warmth and sweetness and good health to my family and friends, i thank them for allowing me the space to hold others space.

harvest season: virgo, libra, scorpio.
service, assessment. benefits, association. focus, transformation.

this week i have to: design flyers, cancel a shop account and switch platforms, make signs, draw some tattoos, finish a illustration for a book cover, work on window display for isaac down the street.

i’m going to start posting every monday and thursday, and maybe another day in between, even when i feel like i have nothing to share because i know i always do, just overthinking it. truth is, i have more to share than i know what to do with, just got to do it.

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ntozake shange’s passing is making me think of how language can be utilized, inspiring me to honor the power in poem. this unchained undulating dialectic tone, the same letters forming words the way you hear them, so they are not just terms on a page but living descriptions of noise used in a world that needs to say more with less.

my favorite poem i know of hers: “my father is a retired magician”

My Father Is a Retired Magician

Ntozake Shange1948 – 2018

(for ifa, p.t., & bisa)

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets
are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits
or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958

my daddy retired from magic & took
up another trade cuz this friend of mine
from the 3rd grade asked to be made white 
on the spot

what cd any self-respectin colored american magician
do wit such a outlandish request/ cept
put all them razzamatazz hocus pocus zippity-do-dah
thingamajigs away	cuz
colored chirren believin in magic
waz becomin politically dangerous for the race
& waznt nobody gonna be made white
on the spot      just
from a clap of my daddy’s hands

& the reason i’m so peculiar’s 
cuz i been studyin up on my daddy’s technique
& everythin i do is magic these days
& it’s very colored
very now you see it/ now you
dont mess wit me
                 i come from a family of retired
sorcerers/ active houngans & pennyante fortune tellers
wit 41 million spirits critturs & celestial bodies  
on our side
              i’ll listen to yr problems
              help wit yr career     yr lover     yr wanderin spouse
              make yr grandma’s stay in heaven more gratifyin
              ease yr mother thru menopause & show yr son
              how to clean his room

YES YES YES		     3 wishes is all you get
     scarlet ribbons for yr hair
        benwa balls via hong kong
           a miniature of machu picchu

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you     white
        i mean
	       this is blk magic
you lookin at
	         & i’m fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
& you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/

Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People

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future developments, store, writing

late update

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i haven’t updated this thing in months, and of course much has changed, grown, evolved since, in spite of lack of update. one of the best compliments someone can tell me, besides that the place looks organized and pretty, is that things have changed. most people stop by once every other month or so. this time frame is long enough for things to be rearranged, an old project completed, a new project started.

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still configuring my domains.
behind curtain building.
products available soon.

the weather is getting cooler. it’s harvest season, time to pick and pluck the fruit and petals of what was planted in the spring and thrived in the summer.

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store, writing

the death of death

her first tattoo would signify the last time she would consider death.

walking home one afternoon after finishing a shift, i come across a table where two girls are sitting with tarot cards and gemstones. her name is maria, like me. she uses the thoth deck, designed by aleister crowley. i have this deck too, i think it’s one of the most elaborately decorated tarot decks, ripe with symbolism and surrealism, with corresponding hebrew characters, a word for each card in the lower arcana. instead of “9 of wands”, it says “strength”. the usual card for “strength” says “lust”. instead of “10 of discs” it says “wealth”. the card for “temperance” says “art”. each image is incredibly detailed.

“is there anything in particular you’d like to know about?” she asks.
i ask her if i should or shouldn’t hex a surrounding business or two. i know it’s not the right thing to do, that’s why i haven’t done it, but the thought persists. i believe i can do whatever i put my mind to, but i believe in karma too.

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i can’t recall all the cards i pulled, or their exact order. this reading happened in late june, the week of an upcoming full moon. a few cards came out reversed. she pulled the cards swiftly and deliberately, talking and eloquently. “do NOT do that shit.” she affirms. “especially with the full moon in capricorn coming up, that deals with karma. it’s not you. what you have going on, what you have inside of you is so great that if you focus on yourself, mind your business, it will eliminate whatever sense of competition or intrusion you feel. using your energy to diminish someone else outside of you is only distracting you from your standing in your power, you will ruin yourself trying to ruin someone else”. i thanked her deeply, embarrassed that i had the wicked inclination to begin with, and promised that i would never act on the urge or entertain the thought again. it gave me closure, as if a hole in my self-belief actually closed. sometimes you need a stranger for that type of thing. they don’t know you, have no bias, are only pulling from what they see and hear from you. plus, her name is my name too. we exchanged cards, business cards this time, and i went about my day, feeling uplifted and aligned.

before you jump to conclusions about me tempted to hex, my reasoning is this: the area is changing, the demographic is shifting, i feel like i’m being colonized. i’ve worked here, tattooing since 2010 but am a new business owner. i feel like i’m slowly being put out through invisible forces and i have no one to blame but my own laziness or maybe not laziness but some sort of blockage. perhaps a limiting belief dwelling in my subconscious, causing me to self-sabotage, is aching to be exposed.

downtown: it feels like gentrify or be gentrified. for me, there are no sides to take because both occur simultaneously. i am not one or the other but both and neither, i lose myself and win another self, at times i stand stalemate. there are no sides as clear as the street itself, just external demands to transform from the inside. some days it feels like my deep blue sea is shrinking into a fish tank with no reef to hide in. why do i want to hide anyway? what am i hiding, and who am i hiding from? i know that my love for work surpasses my fear of failure but if i stare outside too long, i can lose sight of that. i know it’s a big deal, that i have my own storefront on main street. the botattica is still just a baby, but it’s my baby and i see my traits coming out as she grows. i am in the neighborhood but not of it. the way the neighborhood is changing, encourages me, swells me with inspiration and direction, knowing that i am standing in my purpose, but on bad days i feel discouraged and dull, wondering what’s next? what’s the five year plan? how am i going to live after this? how long will i live like this? what do i need to do the get to the next step? i probably just need a vacation, to expand my horizon and come back to it with fresh eyes.

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i have tattooed on this street since i was 19, it was a different block then. i know who’s been here as long as me. the amount of new faces increases along with the rent, especially weekend nights. more and more, bars and restaurants open while some close or move location. i often feel highly visible and invisible here, like i have no privacy yet no one really cares. i feel both invaded and ignored while slowly getting priced out by newcomers. i can’t let myself go extinct, i’m already a rare species. this type of tension calls for a perspective shift. instead of wishing and hoping and contemplating hexes, i tenaciously arise to the challenge of my own betterment, personal and business. the foot traffic is not an adversary but a lottery. i’m going to earn my vacation. i’m not going out of business no time soon.

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it’s empowering but lonely. it’s lonely but intentional. intentional but multi-faceted. multi-faceted but focused. i have my own space / studio / storefront, but no privacy. the front door opens to a busy street that is often loud, you can hear everything from inside. i watch people look into my window and stare at the tattoo photos and paintings but they can’t see me unless i want them to. it’s too obvious that i live here, i be standing outside in my inside clothes sometimes, especially early in the morning or late at night. for the first 10 months, the front room looked like a living room. now i have display counters and hung the art higher so it looks way more like a storefront boutique. a couple people stop by almost daily throughout the week, most stop by once a month or so. everyone says that the place looks different and better every time they stop by. i don’t have regular business hours. i’m here when i’m here and when i’m not, it’s closed. often times, i am here and the place looks closed, but friends and clients arrange time through appointment.

what’s wrong with this picture? more foot traffic means more customers, more business opportunity, more success. so why am i shutting myself out? my customer service was better when i worked for someone else, it seems. now, at times i act like i don’t want to be bothered or have nothing to share, or perhaps my inaccessibility gives a charm and mystery that can’t be contrived or imitated. i remind myself that i’m still building: building confidence, building presentation, building business. it’s always going to be like this, at different levels.

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a week and some change after the tarot reading, my life felt like it was falling apart, which was making me feel suicidal. it was the end of june and the beginning of july, the midpoint of cancer season. all this stuff started happening and i wasn’t dealing with none of it well. a new guy i had been seeing got robbed, then stole something from me. me and my brother got into an argument and he kicked in the glass of my front door when i wouldn’t open it. my “ex” who also punched out that same glass a couple months ago, popped up on me late that same night, drunk as hell, talking that “i-know-things-were-fucked-up-but-i-miss-you” shit. i ended up gently closing the foot on his door while he was in mid-sloppy-sentence. it felt like my personal life was overflowing with personal problems and it was interfering with the business and it made me feel incompetent, incapable, like my existence was a burden that required more than i was equipped to offer. i felt like my life was happening out of my control, so i guess that’s why i felt like taking my life, to gain some sort of control.

cancer season is usually rough for me. it digs up old wounds and makes me feel sentimental without solution. something in the sorrow is sweet and tender, the vulnerability that makes you strong, the pain that shapes priority. the soft inside that holds up the hard shell of the crab. i’m certain i have seasonal depression, although next winter may be different. cold weather keeps me sad but when the sun moves into cancer in the middle of summer it’s like the universe laughs and says “oh bitch you thought you only get like this when it’s cold? haaaa”. the cold is where things go to die. yet during summer, in cancer season, the corpses wash up.

when i think about suicide, i imagine myself jumping off one of the bridges over the ohio river like my friend did years ago, RIP Raiyah. one heavy night, i walked to the river like i do when i feel heavy, not the bridge but the shore. the river shows me what i need to see, and that night, the water was so calm and serene, it was the opposite of treacherous, it looked harmless and impossible to die in. as if i could easily swim across to kentucky (although i wouldn’t because that water is nasty.)
i took this photo of big white fish i found washed up ashore:

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in tarot, the “death” card does not mean literal death, although it can. it’s not a bad or ominous card, it means ending or transformation. the card itself is not bleak but that of transition, celebration even. something has ended and will never again, be. there are other cards that are worse: the three of hearts is heartbreak, the five of pentacles is poverty and strife. the death card represents change, transformation, a new beginning out of a final end. in the thoth deck, the death card has a fish holding a snake in it’s mouth, a scorpion, a femur turning into a harp turning into a stringed double helix apparatus with swirled silhouettes of spirits in the background.

after the rough week i had, maria texts me on thursday, july 5. she says she wants me to do a tattoo for her and wants to know when she should come to the shop. she stops by later that evening, to tell me what she wants. the death card.

she explains how the death card isn’t bad, shows me a sharpie doodle of the skeleton that she has on her keychain. she doesn’t want the whole thing, she wants it to be small and simple. she shares with me her struggle with depression and how she has often considered suicide, but is making a commitment to herself that she never will again. her first tattoo would signify the last time she would consider death.

she had no idea what kind of week i had, how badly i wanted to die, how much i did not want to continue living. i’m no stranger to the feeling. i usually talk myself out of it, i have people i confide in when i’m feeling this way. i don’t see suicide the same way as most do. i don’t think it’s selfish, i think it’s a decision, and i respect peoples’ decisions. people often say suicide is a “permanent solution to a temporary problem” but to a suicidal mind, i can see how life feels like a permanent problem in which death is the only and inevitable solution. it all comes from putting too much pressure on yourself. i don’t threaten people with it, saying that i will kill myself if x y z happens or if someone does woowoowoo to me. honestly i think every human has these thoughts at times, when things aren’t going their way and circumstances seem hopeless, or even when great things are happening and you don’t feel like you deserve it. i’ve talked myself, and others, out of it enough to be confident that i never will. after the slump passes, i feel rejuvenated and gracious, on top of the world, capable of anything, happy to be alive, to be able to live this precious life. the depth of the low creates momentum for the upswing of the high. how can one decide to never contemplate suicide again? it’s like saying you’ll never have a bad day again. shit happens. some things are out of your control. suicide is a choice, but depression is involuntary. well, that day, this other maria made a different decision: to get a tattoo, to get death tattooed on her.

i liked the idea of quitting suicidal ideation, but i wasn’t there yet. i was just coming out of a depressive episode.

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i have a lot of legitimate reasons why suicide seems like the answer. my art would increase in value. no one would be able to say that they killed me. so many different people would come together. i’d be free. i would never feel unbelonging or misunderstood again, i would belong to the dirt and air. a lot of people do it, maybe i’m meant to be one of them. wouldn’t be better to combust than fade away? some say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem, on the third time i tried to finish my degree, i came up with the thesis that all death is suicide. our lifestyle is our deathstyle, we curate our transition through personal decisions that each shape the next. that’s back when i believed in free will through and through. my god complex was out of this world back then.

i believe in destiny now, at least that i have one. you can write but some things are written for you and will happen eventually no matter what you do to slow it down or speed it up. maria and i talked for a while before doing the tattoo.

she asks me what i believe in, she says she believes in yahweh. i say Isis.
she asks me to describe Isis, what that means for me.

Isis is the holy mother. she gave birth to god. She has high standards, is very strict and demanding but merciful and compassionate. She can get rid of anything as well as put broken things back together. The wife of Osiris and the sister of Nephythys. She is the goddess of magic, nature, fertility, a friend to sinners, the goddess of goddesses. Being the goddess of goddesses, she rules over and makes space for other goddesses. This means that wherever she lives, is also a home to other goddesses, not just in the Egyptian pantheon but every goddess imaginable, not just Ma’at but Yemonja, Oshun, Artemis,
Demeter, Venus, Hecate, Kali, Yemonja, Athena, Aphrodite, Laksmi, Saraswati, Virgin Mary, all of them. All women of reverence are esteemed through Isis. Isis is all things and all things are Isis.

She says “Okay. All of those things that you mentioned, all the ways that you described her, that’s how you have to be, with yourself and your space. You must embody those same qualities that you worship in her. How she is to you, be that way with your life, if she is what you believe in.”

“When you learn things, learn them to a root. There’s so much information out there, don’t just collect and hoard it on a surface level, learn and study until the knowledge grounds you. Knowledge and wisdom should make you more secure, not drive you crazy or have you out here floating questioning what you believe in. Learn things all the way through, to the root.”

Maria continues, explaining something that made me believe in her tattoo, and why she will never think about killing herself again.

She says, “If you kill yourself, you’re going to face your creator. They won’t be pleased to see you. You won’t be accepted into the kingdom, because you did not allow them the task of bringing you home. They gave you life, and one day they will take it. It is their right and will to do so, not yours. You are robbing your god of their duty. What do you think happens to you when you die? If you are spiritual, you know you have a soul, and that death is not the end. If you take your own life, you are overstepping the divine right of your god. It won’t happen the way you think it will.”

I believe in God so much. I’ve heard a lot of ridiculous rumors about myself, they don’t bother me if they are true. The worst, most inaccurate thing you could say about me is that I worship the devil, or deal with devil worship. I love God so much, I wouldn’t be alive if I didn’t. Despite the strength of my faith, up until that point, I thought that suicide was a normal ideation to have. but just because it is common does not mean I have to accept it, anymore anyway. I never thought about it the way she explained, that my God is so almighty that one day they will take me, and it is their decision to do so, not mine. Tarot cards can read the future but the future only reveals itself at the rate in which you can change. There is always a future greater than the one you can fathom. To commit suicide is to relinquish your future, or fall into disbelief, thinking you don’t have a future, or are afraid of your future, or think that the fullness of your future cannot override the present temporary suffering. I won’t try to rationalize it or come up with a theory to detour back into it.

Her first tattoo would signify the last time she would consider death. And so,
my idea of death itself, died.

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