Hi all! I intended to start posting the Mandalas for Marinke every day again by now but things have just been so busy with the new pup that I told you about earlier this week! So I wanted to give you an update on her, on the project, and some thoughts on how this actually all does relate to depression awareness, which is a large part of what the Mandalas for Marinke project is all about.
Katara Found the Mandalas
I left Katara alone for a short period of time. There were gates up in the house, and I had put all of the mandala contributions in to my bedroom where I truly, truly thought she couldn’t get them. I got home, and this is what I found.
First let me say that this is not Katara’s fault. She can’t help herself. You have to understand that although she’s two years old, she spent the entire first part of her life in a cage on a meat farm destined for a dinner plate. She was likely never let out of that cage at all ever. When she was rescued, she was sent to SF SPCA. They did super great work with her and really helped her come out of her shell. But it’s not the same as having a house. There are soooooo many more things in this house than she has ever seen before in her life.
It’s actually a really good thing that she did this. I mistakenly thought she was okay alone at the house for very short periods of time because the first couple of times I left her she just sat in her pen and didn’t move until I get back. That was my error. The truth was that in her first few days, she was exhibiting what I now perceive to be a learned apathy; in her cage she never got her needs met so she just learned not to express any. In those first days here, she would just do whatever I said we were doing, and if I didn’t direct her to anything she’d just sit there. It’s SUCH a good sign that she’s now so comfortable in the house that she’s testing boundaries, checking things out, getting into trouble. She comes and gets me now when she needs attention, she walks away when she needs space, she goes to get her food when she needs it, she looks for her toys when she’s bored. This is awesome! It’s huge, huge progress in such a short time (she hasn’t even lived here a week).
So, she’s branching out and I learned that she’s really not ready for me to leave her home alone. (I also learned I need better gates; she totally outsmarted the ones I had.)
The Mandalas are Okay
So there is good news and bad news about the mandalas. First of all, she only got into one bag of them, so most of them were completely untouched. Second, as far as I can tell, all of the mandalas are intact without any damage at all. They all appear totally fine. So far it seems like Katara doesn’t eat things, she just likes tearing them up, and with fabric she just likes throwing it all around and laying on top of it so she doesn’t even tear it up. So that’s all good – mandalas are great!
Oh, and the best news of all, actually is that pup is fine. At first I was so worried that she might have ingested something and would need surgery (because this has happened to other dogs I know) but she didn’t eat anything and she was totally fine.
The less good news is that she might have torn up a couple of the letters. This really makes me sad because everyone worked so hard to share such personal stories with me. I haven’t sorted it all out, yet, so I’ll have to further update you on that when I have the chance to really look if there’s damage. If there is, it’s only to a couple of them.
Additionally, she really mixed up the ones in that bag, so I’m not sure I’m going to be able to tell who contributed what. Here is my plan for that:
- After the busy-ness of the holidays, I’ll go through that whole pile and see exactly what’s there.
- I’ll organize all of the contributions the best that I can.
- If there is still some confusion about who contributed what, I’ll photograph them all and do a post showing what I’ve got and asking the makers to claim them to help me figure out what belongs to whom.
- I’ll also email the people I think they might belong to in order to confirm.
- If there remains any confusion after that, I’ll still post the contributions along with the letters and depression awareness information.
- And of course all mandalas will be included in the art show.
General Update on Mandalas for Marinke Project
So yes, there is going to be an art show. I think I shared this already but just to reiterate, I applied for an artist-in-residency program that would help me put on the show in 2016 if I get accepted. I also just learned about another similar program that I’ll apply to as well. If neither of those happens, I have a list of galleries that may be interested in working with me. So I don’t know the specific place or date but it’s moving forward and it will happen and I’ll keep you updated as it develops.
As for the posts, I did truly intend to start the daily posts again by now. But I’m behind, and it’s the holidays, and it’s really hard having new pup, and now I’m about to leave for ten days (with pup of course) to spend time with my family. Between all of this, the mix-up of some of the mandalas, and the fact that it’s actually really hard now to photograph them because pup is right here with a keen interest in them, made me decide to just give myself a break. The daily posts will resume in early January, once I’ve returned from holidays. Once they resume, they will be back to daily posts, sharing the amazing contributions that continue to touch my heart along with the depression awareness information that helps connect the crochet work to sharing information to help people who struggle like Wink did.
Working Through Guilt, Dealing with Depression
All of this has actually been a perfect lesson for me in working with self-care, gentleness with myself and honoring my own limitations to prevent a depression relapse. Those of you who know my story know that I suffered from chronic depression for about fifteen years before I understood what it was and started to get real help. Because of that long, long history, as well as just the way my brain apparently is, I’m highly prone to relapse. It’s happened several times, and it requires a lot of work and support to not let it overtake my life.
When I first saw the mandalas mess that Katara made, I felt terrible. I felt overwhelmed by the mess and didn’t actually clean it until the next day. I also just felt really guilty. Guilty that I hadn’t blocked it off well enough. Guilty that I’d left Katara too long. Guilty for how she might have felt. Guilty because I treat each of these mandala contributions with the utmost care and attention and now they were all a mess after each contributor had shared her heart and art to make them. Guilty because I’d intended to start posting them daily again and now it was too big of a project to even think about it.
But, thanks to years of therapy work on my own issues, I was able to let go of this guilt fairly quickly. Berating myself for “mistakes” has never been an effective way to make anything better. It only makes things worse. So here’s what I accepted:
- It’s not that bad. Nothing was really damaged. It will all get figured out.
- I didn’t do anything wrong. I thought that Katara would be okay for that short period of time. I thought that the room was secure. I did the best I could do, and I learned that I need to do things differently, and that’s really all I can do.
- I can’t post the daily mandalas for the rest of December. I wish I could. I love photographing and writing up the posts and sharing them with this community. But it’s asking too much of myself with everything else going on. It wouldn’t be peaceful and fun for me to do them and I think if I forced myself that energy would transmit into the posts and they wouldn’t be as good anyway.
Me, Katara and Depression
Plus, you know what? I love, love, love my new pup and I actually have that falling-in-love kind of feeling where I don’t want to do anything at all except be with her. I know from my falling-in-love-with-humans experiences that this period doesn’t last forever, and it should be treasured. I seriously just want to sit here and marvel at her. She’s an amazing, amazing creature. She’s resilient, emotional, strong, beautiful, interesting, cute and so, so funny.
She’s so beautiful. I can’t capture her marvelous coloring well in photos but it’s so unique and stunning. She has kind of a natural ombre, where her face and legs are dark, almost black, and then the rest of her fades into more browns and greys and even some goldens. Wow. And it’s not just because I’m in love; people actually stop us almost every block on our walks to ask about her and say she’s so beautiful. Every day she hears “you are the prettiest dog” from people who aren’t me (and from me) and although she doesn’t know the words, she can understand the loving intention.
I haven’t done much all week outside of being with her. I turn on the TV and don’t see anything that happened on it because I’m just so engaged with her. I take out my crochet and only do two stitches. I’m handling my responsibilities and errands but only to the minimum required. I just want to be with her. To sit with her, to hug her, to be in the same house as her and watch her even when she wants her space, to post her photos on Instagram (@rescuedogkatara) so everyone else knows she’s amazing. The time will come when we live a more regular life, when I tune into her more during some times of day and then do my own things at other times, and that’s fine, but I feel so, so lucky to have this falling in love period together and I don’t want to dilute it with self-imposed things I “have” to do.
This is also good for me and my own ongoing self-care to prevent depression. As most of you know, I think that mindfulness is a really huge benefit to reducing and preventing depression. Crochet has been a major meditation and mindfulness practice for me (and of course will continue to be so). And I’m really allowing Katara to be part of my mindfulness practice, too. Dogs live soooooo in the moment, and if you let yourself, you can live in the moment with them. (There’s some good writing on this in the first couple chapters of the book “Teaming With Your Therapy Dog” by Ann R. Howie.)
This is true of all dogs. They are right here in this present moment. When they eat a treat, the attention is on the treat. When they chase a toy, their attention is on the toy. When they watch a bird, all they see is the bird. And when they come in with wet noses and big tongues giving kisses, their full attention is on those kisses. Yes, they can get distracted (by loud noises, for example) but they orient themselves and then go right back to the moment. Watching any dog do this is a great lesson in learning to live in the moment ourselves.
And for me, it’s even more true or more special somehow with Katara. I heard (via the wonders of Facebook) from a couple of the people who were actually on the ground, at her farm, and rescued her. They remember her. And one (Adam) told me she “was such a sweet girl on the farm but subdued- kind of depressed. I really felt for her. It’s so great to see her joy!” She has adapted so well to her new home and she experiences SOOOOO much joy.
And instead of patting myself on the back for being so good as to give her a home, I just truly, honestly, genuinely feel so grateful that I have her and so humbled to be in the presence of a creature who could endure such trauma and emerge from that experience, a creature who has also experienced her own depression (which I acknowledge may be very different from mine) and who has this amazing capacity to forgive, open her heart to me and the world around us and just be right here in this beautiful moment. How can I be wrapped up in my own mind that causes myself depression when this amazing girl is right in front of me showing me that there’s endless joy right here, right now, together, the two of us?
So that’s where we are, me and her and the mandalas. If we’re a little quiet for the next couple of weeks, understand that’s why (that and holiday things, special family time when my siblings and I get to be together which doesn’t happen nearly enough). And regular posts, including the mandalas, will get going again in the first week or two of the new year.