Thursday, May 3, 2018

The Fractured Chalice Ascending


"The opportunity to rebuild your inner life is a great gift. Regardless of how the glass was broken, to be able to fix it is a great gift, because you can melt it down and reform it however you like."
-Amber Khan (Cancer May 2018)

     A great gift... I think about those words a lot these days.  It reminds me of when you were young and you were given a gift, either for a birthday or for Christmas or whatever holiday that you might receive a gift from a friend or loved one, really. And when you first look at it, your mind pauses in a way; a small shock if you will. This is not because the gift itself is something grotesquely shocking, but it's appearance to you at that time certainly is.  Or it may seem confusing. It was a gift of something you didn't expect. And at the time, you would just think that it is a weird thing to be given to you (like this person has no idea who you are) Otherwise, why would they give you something like this, right?!..  However, over the course of time, this gift, this object (whatever it may have been) begins to become more important in your life, it's purpose begins to reveal itself and manifest a practicality into your life that you would have never expected it to or imagined that it would.   I remember receiving a few gifts like this in my past.


     The past couple of months, personally, have seemed this way. On the surface: like something truly awful, but apparently a gift from the universe. A gift disguised as something else, something that doesn't seem like a gift; a surprise gift.


     Up until now, I haven't really discussed, too much, about my feelings about the ending of my nearly 10 year romantic relationship or how, in the aftermath, that it has affected me. I've kept quiet, mostly out of fear, I guess.  Fear of being persecuted for expressing/sharing those feelings.  Also, as a Cancer, I sometimes find it embarrassing to share something so deep and personal.  I feel it may  become a burden for others. This is rather ironic, because I tend to allow others to burden me with their thoughts and troubles. Cancers are the natural healers of the universe. So, I usually want to help others but feel, in some strange way, that I, myself, am not worthy of that kind of help in return. 


     This is the second time that my Ex and I have broken apart.  I remember what it was like that first time, in regards to how I was treated by others that surround him. To be perfectly honest, it was awful and it really sucked to be so disliked and to not know exactly why I was being so disliked by these people. Later, when my Ex and I had gotten back together (with the help of couples therapy, mind you,) he told me that he would tell people about my reactions to things that he did or things that he said to me.  However, he would then omit what it was that provoked my reaction to those things. This would explain it, Everyone has been told about the fallout, but not the cause. These people would see me only as someone being antagonistic and not reactionary or antagonized myself.  In any case, it was awful to live through and I did not want to live through that again.  This time around, this breakup, my Ex is setting up the parameters to do this very same thing again almost like a replay in a sporting event.)  It's the way he did it 2 years previous.  I think he is just waiting for me to do or say something that he could use as fuel to that fire.  I have yet to understand if it's because he doesn't want to be seen in that light (not that anyone wants to be perceived as a villain, but you do need to own up to your part in all of it [which was something that they were never really willing to do]) OR if they are just that type of person that enjoys playing "the Victim."  Even after almost 10 years, I feel like I should know the answer, but (sadly) I don't feel like I do know which person they are (the fruit or the gun; the pearl or the poison.)  


     I'm not going to concentrate too much about that in this post.  I will be updating an old post about an old illustration that I had taken down (in regards to the above mentioned scenario.)   I'll be updating the story behind it as there is now more to the story and there were answers to questions I had back then. That piece, The Heart Warrior, and this illustration that I am writing about today, are akin in that they are pieces I did for therapeutic reasons; my own personal art therapy.  They have both helped me focus and work through my thoughts and feelings about that relationship and how it and it's aftermath have affected me. They both illustrate a similar philosophy: rebuilding yourself in the aftermath of destruction and the destructive forces that work against you. The Fractured Chalice Ascending, in difference to The Heart Warrior, is more about taking this destructive energy and transforming it into something positive and then using that positive energy to move forward. The Heart Warrior was, in a way, more about carrying on and picking up the pieces of what's left. However, there was always an unknown as to what you were in that aftermath of the cataclysm, and unknown as to where you were going next. The Heart Warrior, though strong and resilient, was still very lost and wandering.  That is exactly how I felt when I created that piece, and even though I was chastised by many for what I had written about it, I still stand by that piece.  It was a very honest reflection of me; a self portrait in so many ways.  I am not ashamed of it.  Art is an artists expression of inner feeling and that illustration was truly a vulnerable and irrevocably honest portrait of who I was then. 


     The Fractured Chalice Ascending is more about rebuilding with that energy into a far greater self purpose and self love after the cataclysm. And Amber Khan is right. The opportunity to do that is, truly, a great gift. Another thing she mentions is this phrase "Wandering Psychic." I love that phrase. That in some way Cancers are premonitory about what is about to happen in their lives.  I plan to use that hashtag this year. lol. #WanderingPsychic

     ...But lets go back a bit. 

     I want to discuss where the true nature of the inspiration of this piece comes from. There are 3 factors, really: 1.) A series of dreams I was having in reaction to how my ex has treated me since we broke up and his influence on some other people with how they interact with me now or how they don't interact with me due to my Ex's influence (obviously that bothers me,)  2.) A very wonderful conversation I had with a friend of mine (We will call him AE) about what those dreams meant and what my subconscious is trying to communicate to me, and  3.) A video tarot reading by Amber Khan (The Quietest Revolution) for Cancer May 2018.  


     2 weeks ago, I had this series of two dreams. I'm certain there were more, but these are the only two that I can remember after waking up.  In the first dream, I was in this place, a clustered and congested labyrinth of twisted and connected highways.  This is very akin to "Spaghetti Junction" in Atlanta, Georgia (for those of you who know, you know it.)  However, it was not Atlanta.  It didn't seem to be a city at all unless it was just a city made up of nothing but these highways that were all pretzel-twisted about each other.  I was not in a car.  I was on foot, and I was with a group of other people who were also on foot.  The dream begins in the midst of running on foot from highway to highway because some of them begin to collapse.  Every time the group thinks that we have reached safety we begin to feel the ground beneath us literally quake.  We must run again as the road beneath us begins to collapse and disintegrate into a void of nothingness.  It is sunset, but the sky is venomously purple and red.  The worst part was the horror of watching others fall into the abyss as the roads crumble away and not being able to do anything about it. 

     I was discussing with my friend, AE, about these dreams and what they mean.  He is very good at dream interpretation, and helped me to clarify what my subconscious was trying to tell me.  Roads often represent life choices or our paths in life. The fact that there were many intersecting and tangled highways means that this was a crossroads.  In my own life, it meant the time I am living through right now; this interim that I have here before moving across country and starting a new life.  Cars often represent our movement down our life path.  Since I was not in a car (I was on foot,) I'm guessing it means about the same thing but perhaps a more dexterous way of "moving" down my life path. The crumbling and disintegration of these roads represent my fear of being trapped here, and not being able to move on. I do have a deep seeded fear of being trapped, not in a claustrophobic sort of way, but trapped somewhere you don't want to be and can't get out of or away from.  I'm not going to go into how Freudian that fear is for me, but, suffice to say, it has very deep roots.  I think I am afraid of getting stuck where I am now since there is so much time between now and when I have planned to go. I'm afraid things may go wrong or something might happen within that span of time that will prevent me from leaving.  To be honest, that terrifies me to the core.  The group of people that were on foot with me represent my very Cancerian need to protect those that I love and care about.  In the very extreme scenario of my dream, I am not able to protect them from the ground that is literally falling out from beneath of them.  My friend says that this is more than likely a visual manifestation of my not being able to protect myself within my broken relationship.  I wasn't able to protect myself or keep that relationship from falling apart.  To be quite honest, I was never able to defend myself without this overbearing and constant threat of it "being over." It was always so irritating to me how he would be so willing to give up so easily over literally "anything."  This was one way I was manipulated in that relationship. 


     The second dream that I had took place in My mother's house. It was her house, in the dream, but my mother doesn't have her own home, in real life.  The house I dreamt of is one that I have never seen before nor have I ever lived in. There was a group of people that were gathered there that I neither knew nor could remember.  They had no connection to my mother nor I.  Also, why were they even at my mother's house to begin with?!  Loafing Bitches! lol.  What I do remember was that I had just gotten back from working a wedding as a wedding photographer.  It was my Ex's wedding to some person that he dated after he and I had broken up.  I remember being irritated that the only reason that I was invited to the wedding at all was to work the wedding.  I wasn't invited as a guest.  Also, I remember my mother chiding me about it. As if to say, for some reason that I deserved to be treated that way.  Also, the group of people there were also chiding me... Very very irritating and antagonizing.  So I couldn't remember anything that happened at the wedding and I recall telling my mother that I would have to look at the photos I took in order to tell her what happened, because I couldn't remember.  But I think that was the point.  It wasn't important who he married or what happened at the wedding.  The point was that I was a servant and not a person to him.  Also, in real life, he is the photographer (professionally) not I.  He's not a wedding photographer, but I don't think that really matters (tomato, toemahtoe).  It was just anther way for my subconscious to communicate the links between the two wounds.


     My friend and I discussed about how both of these dreams were telling me that I needed to come to terms with things that I previously was not wanting to accept or acknowledge about this relationship.  Ultimately, I may have been nothing more than just a "role" or a "position" to be filled in their life.  It's like a job that you would apply for or hold for a certain amount of time. The role has a list of duties and requirements and you either fulfill them or you're fired and replaced. It's a horrible thought/theory that I have not wanted to accept, but the more I talk to him after this second break up (which isn't much at all, really), the more I realize that after 10 years, he doesn't really know who I am. The things he is afraid that I would do, or that he accuses me of doing. or the things that he implies that he believes me capable of, just make me realize that he doesn't know what kind of person I am, either. Is it even remotely possible to know someone for 10 years and not know them? It would seem that he didn't bother to get to know me.  Maybe he doesn't care to know who I am. I was just some person that cooked and cleaned and took care of  him with nothing reciprocated.  I hate to admit that to myself because that means that I did this to myself.  I chose to put myself through it not only once but twice. Who chooses to be treated that way?  Someone who was treated that way before. That's who chooses such a thing.  This dream took place at my mother's home because of the deep wound inflicted by both of my parents in the way that they treated me growing up.  Unfortunately, people who were abused have a tendency to choose other's who will abuse them in the same way. This also terrifies me, that I might continue to choose someone that is just like my parents.  I've spent a long time running from them and from that life only to fall, in some ways, back into it.  Again the dreams are showing me my deepest fears manifested.  I don't like to discuss my parents much nor the ways that they hurt me. However, my Ex did know all of that and chose to use it as a way to hurt or "get back" at me for breaking up with him. Yeah, it's petty, and it's so not cool, but it's what he did. I have to accept/acknowledge that I can't change him or what has transpired and move on. This dream connects those wounds and brings to light aspects of my relationship that I was wanting to ignore. Because ignoring them meant they weren't true. Ignoring them meant I didn't have to accept responsibility for choosing that again and again.

     So there is all this anger and resentment boiling deep down that I haven't expressed or allowed myself to process; again, for the fear of being persecuted for doing so.  Anger at him, anger at m,e anger at the situation, and the fear of being stuck in it.  I'm constantly cycling the fear, the pain, the anger, and the anxiety over and over and over again. It's created a very brooding, and a very negative environment. It's left me drained and exhausted in a lot of ways; exhausted in a time that I really need to be focusing on getting things together and being more "together," for that matter. 


     So over the course of this conversation about these dreams, AE sends me this video and says that I really need to watch it.  Everything we discussed made him think about the video reading he had just recently watched by Amber Khan.  Ms. Khan is a gifted and intuitive astrologer who leads "The Quietest Revolution;" A revolution, in her words, "about clearing yourself of emotional blocks, releasing old patterns and rewiring the brain through introspection and self-love." She is amazing, and if you are not already following her on YouTube, Instagram or Facebook, you should rectify that egregious oversight in your life STAT. If you click on her photo above, it will link you to her website. I urge you all to check her out. 


     So AE urges me to watch that video (above) and I do. It was like being God-Smacked by the universe. The reading resonated so heavily to what was going on with me with the exception that the situation revolved around my relationship with B than something that happened at work (which was very busy at the time but was going very good) So no problems with work but problems in my personal life outside of work.  I was definitely feeling that things were "devastatingly" against me,  that they were connected to B (who I felt was lying about me to other people,) and just resentment toward him for the way he was handling everything.  I was having my "ass handed to me" by the universe, it felt like.  This was giving me doubts as to whether I had made the right choice.  My mind and heart both say "yes you made the right decision to break it off," but I admit that I was having some retroactive fear that I might have been wrong. Sending out that fear, obviously, was cycling itself back into a greater and even more menacing monster with each revolution that I sent that fear back out... Like a big snowball in a cartoon that eventually runs you over. I felt this way,regardless of how sure and certain I was that breaking-off was definitely the right thing to do at the time... Living in this strange brooding space in the aftermath makes me constantly reflect on it.  It is constantly, more or less, being placed, again and again, in front of me; either with direct contact from B (that results in a negative exchange or feeling afterward,) or an interaction with someone else that was influenced by something he did or said to them about me. 


     One example: two particular people that were pretending to be my friends. However, their intentions were anything but being friendly with me. They were more his friends (which is cool) but they shouldn't have been two faced. They should have just been honest if they felt the need to "pick a side," as it were.  Which "picking a side" is definitely NOT what I wanted or expected anyone to do.  I had mentioned, previously, in my post about the FatMan Sun Bather, that living here in the aftermath of the end of this relationship is like living in a haunted house.  Running into situations like this one, randomly and without warning, are contributing factors to that perception of being haunted that I have of living here.  This town really does feel too small for the both of us sometimes.  I'll be glad to move on to living in a large city.  I'm certain they will feel relieved as well.

     ...SO Lets discuss the art shall we? I apologize for all this conjecture, but I assure you, it does bear relevance in the "Whys" and "Whats" behind this illustration.

     The illustration Friday topic that same week that I had the dreams was TRANSFORMATION.  Before I had the dream interpretation discussion with AE, I was mulling over and debating possible ideas for that illustration topic.  I hadn't been participating in Illustration Friday recently, and (in a lot of ways) I wasn't participating in a lot of things (for obvious reasons that I mentioned above.)  I felt my emotional state of mind was blocking my ability to create.  I knew that I didn't want to just draw the usual visual cliches with transformation: i.e. butterflies, cocoons, a phoenix. Well...  Let me back that statement up some: I did want to draw those things but in a way that meant something more personal, something that I could use to work out what I was feeling at the time. 


     I had my moment of inspiration watching Amber Khan's reading for Cancer. She tends to put cards up to the camera as she discusses them, or as they are pulled, or (at times) they just jump right out of her deck as she shuffles them. I have always loved the illustrations used on tarot decks of all kinds. Also, there was a lot of imagery that Amber was using in her description/explanation of certain things during the reading.  This imagery began to echo in my mind.  It came to me then that what I needed to do was to illustrate a tarot card; a personal one of my very own creation, and that is infused with personal symbolism. 


     This brings us to the quote that I began the post with...  Amber says that it doesn't matter how the glass got broken or who is to blame for it breaking. The point is what do you intend to do with it now?  It boils down to a simple decision:  Either continue to wallow in this cycle of fear, anger, hurt and misery OR use that energy to transform; turn it into something positive. Let it be your fuel to move forward or perish within the fire. 

     "The problem with imprinting and being able to imprint so well on the Collective, is that if you imprint the destructive repetitive pattern, it can destroy it's maker."


     Another way that this illustration is like The Heart Warrior is its reference to the Japanese philosophy of Kintsuji. When things break into pieces, they are mended back with gold. They believe that you should honor the history of the object. That all it's experiences are important and should not be hidden or forgotten.  It is what makes the object beautiful. It's a beautiful and powerful sentiment: I break. I shatter. I put myself back together. I am whole. I am changed. I am stronger than I was before I broke. When Amber talked about the broken glass, cup, chalice. This is what I thought of. You must decide to stay broken or to mend yourself. There is a chip missing from the Chalice. This is meant to represent that you are never the same as you were once before. You never are the same again, really. 


     A quick aside: I did say something recently to someone else that was hurting and in need of kind words. I'm uncertain where the words came from, but I really like them. Not only because they seemed to console this other person but I found myself comforted and enlightened by them. I told them that sometimes we have to be our own light houses, our own beacons of light. Sometimes the only safe harbor from the storms around us are ourselves. I find this to be true most of the time. I also like advice that is explained with a nautical theme; messages in a bottle.

     I began to make a series of notes about what this tarot card would be. I already knew what I wanted the title to be: The Fractured Chalice Ascending.  It is ascending because it is in the upright position. If it were in the reverse position all of it's normal meaning would be the opposite. Those who study tarot are familiar with the meanings of all the cards in both their upright and reverse positions. I thought it important to add this to the title not only to indicate that it's meaning is meant to be its normal meaning, but also to reference, once more, the origin of its inspiration. 

     Lets start at the bottom and work our way up:
     The bottom of the illustration shows the broken and crumbling highways, obviously taken from the dream that I had about them. These represent the paths in your life that you may have seen for yourself that are now closed or no longer available to you. From the crumbling and decayed highway rises a shattered chalice that has been fused back together with gold (Kintsuji.) This is you pulling yourself out of that bad situation that you were in and beginning to move forward toward a new path. A path of new love, new prosperity and happiness. 


     I have felt this way this time that I have now.  It's the time I'm using to prepare to move across country (financially, physically, mentally.) I'm also working on all new work for a new portfolio. It's a lot to do in such a brief time and all this other interference with that (due to my environment and the wake of the end of that 10 year relationship,) and it feels like a test; a trial by fire.  Amber even mentions this in the reading. "The road to a new way of being and a new way of loving and being loved is available, but it will test the most delicate parts of your nature. It will not let you be stubborn.


     Amber also talks about how this situation is being held like "a pain."  You can either use that energy, bring it into yourself, andslowly kill yourself with the poison of the destructive cycle of hurt and pain OR you can use that energy, take it into yourself, work with it and mold it and transmute/transform it into the pearl. This makes me think back, again, to Stephen King's Duma Key. There is a part of the book where the main character is describing this sound he is hearing underneath the house that he has rented on Duma Key. Its the sound of thousands of seashells rubbing against each other as the tide flows in and out. He refers to this sound as a conversation that the shells are having and in many places in the novel the seashells begin to chant mantras, "The Fruit. The Gun. The Fruit. The Gun."  If you haven't read the novel yet (which you should,) then this sounds like gibberish.  It is unless you know the context.  It refers to a decision another character in the novel must make. I'ts a decision of life and death. So when Amber talked about this choice that Cancer's need to make this month, in my mind, all I could hear were the voices of those seashells chanting "The Poison. The Pearl. The Poison. The Pearl."  And that is precisely the choice that I illustrate in the card. You either choose the Poison, and continue down the road of repetitive fear OR you can choose the Pearl, and use that energy to focus it into a more positive path and direction. If you notice, in the card, the wrapped figure has her head turned toward the pearl signifying that your choices will lead to this new rebirth, new love, new prosperity and happiness. 


     The figure has many arms that represent the zodiac sign Cancer. I have arranged the arms in such away as to echo most visual depictions of the Cancerean Crab. She is wrapped/mummified in bands. This, again, represents the current bondage that I have found myself in currently. The bands descend down into her "hips" but they also resemble a cocoon. She is engulfed in fire to represent not only the tests/trails that the figure must endure in order to transform. It is also the source that you will pull that energy from in order to transform inside that cocoon. 
The symbol on the back of her "robe" also indicates this. The scorpion (Scorpio energy) below transforming into the mythical Phoenix; rising from the ashes of tragedy and despair with strength and prosperity.  The "energy" that is radiating out of the figure/fire is in a pattern based on the markings of the Monarch Butterfly. This obviously symbolizes the transformation after the trail/cocoon.  It is the new path that is chosen.  The number is, of course, the Roman Numeral for 2018.  Many tarot cards bear a roman numeral at the top of them so I decided to have one on mine.  


     Lastly I want to discuss my decision of aesthetics.  I was really intrigued by the illustration on the specific deck that Amber uses. It is the Rider Waite tarot deck.  I wanted my card to feel as if it came for that same deck. The Rider Waite deck was originally published 1910 and is one of the most popular tarot decks in use today in the English-speaking world.  The cards were drawn by illustrator Pamela Colman Smith from the instructions of academic and mystic A. E. Waite. The deck has a fascinating history and you can read more about it by clicking on the The Magician above.  



     Overall, this project came together very quickly. The morning after I made my list of notes for the illustration, I had drawn a thumbnail of the basic composition. I drew the sketch and inked it within 6 hours that same day.  The next couple of days were spent making a color guide (color comp).  I debated over the color of many of the elements within the illustration quite a bit.  I don't think the color comp took more than 2 days.  I did the final illustration in the 2 days following the color comp completion.  I employed my digital collage technique but only used a certain set of scanned in colored paper.  I really wanted the illustration to feel very tactile, like the tarot cards themselves.  I wanted the viewer to feel like they could actually touch it if they tried to.


     This project has been a rather quick yet enlightening journey.  Introspection and self reflection always is; enlightening I mean. It isn't necessarily fast and I'd venture to say that it never is fast at all, but anything worth anything is worth effort and time. So this is where I leave you, friends. I hope I was able to shed some light on what this illustration is about and what it means to me, personally.  I also encourage you all to spend some time this next week to self-reflect. It's healthy and helpful. 

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.
Cheers,
LEWIS