Bath time with Frida Kahlo

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I’ve been thumbing through, “The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait,” for the past week or so. It appeals to me that someone can use both writing and drawing at the same time, in the same place, to capture their inner world.

I knew very little about Frida. Just that she had a sweet unibrow. And I could recognize her famous self-portraits like a lot of people. A few months ago I bought a pair of bottle cap earrings with quarter-sized portraits of her painted onto them. I wore them around a music festival I attended with a friend. A lot of people were delighted at the sight of Frida dangling from my earlobes.

All but one of the drawings in this diary I’m reading never made it out. It was her space to make sense of things. I had to read the translated notes because I don’t understand Spanish, but I still found myself examining her multi-colored writing. She wrote in colored pencil and left scratch marks and scribbles, as one would do with a pen. It’s nice to know someone as regarded as she had visible second and third thoughts, could allow herself to stumble on paper.

It turns out she was quite the writer too. Here is one of my favorite letters, one of the many written to her beloved Diego:

Diego,
Truth is, so great, that I
wouldn’t like to speak, or sleep,
or listen, or love.
To feel myself trapped, with no fear
of blood, outside time and magic,
within your own fear,
and your great anguish, and
within the very beating of your heart.
All this madness, if I asked it of you,
I know, in your silence, there would be
only confusion.
I ask you for violence, in the nonsense,
and you, you give me grace, your light and
your warmth.
I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors,
because there are so many, in my
confusion, the tangible form
of my great love.

Frida suffered from a lot of physical ailments throughout her life. She beat polio in her childhood, and in her later years was in a near fatal accident that left her physically impaired for the rest of her life. She had close to 35 operations in her lifetime, and was unable to bear children. Much of her art depicts misplaced body parts, parts outside her body. And a spiritual and sexual longing to reproduce. It’s no wonder she painted so many self-portraits. Despite her immense pain, she found a way to steal her own joy and find love in her life.

Many consider her to be Mexican hero, who appealed to Mexican women and more broadly to the plights of women everywhere, but a lot of her critics thought her work was intensely self-directed and incapable of moving past self.

“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best,” the artist once said.

Essayist Sarah M Lowe wrote, “Her work was deemed so excessively personal and self-referential that it is thought incapable of expressing universal emotions or the human condition. In time, her self-portraits, though they never cease to shock, have overcome some of the prejudices against women painting their own lives.”

I started drawing women in bathtubs a few months ago. I’m not exactly sure of the reasoning behind the choice of vessel. I know that both baths and drawing calm me down when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the weight of things.

And baths are where some of my best ideas have come from.

In a college writing class I wrote a metafictional story about this woman who takes a bath and gets the idea to write the story of her life. There’s a talking shower head that is encouraging her to write and also shouting innuendos.

The woman rockets from the bath in a Eureka-like moment, water spilling all around her and plummeting to the carpet. She runs butt naked into her garage and wrenches out these old, dusty bins filled with her old journals.

She searches one of her journals frantically, dampening the pages with the water falling from her hair. She finds the passage that is supposed to help her define this moment of certainty. She realizes the passage is in fact not the missing piece she needs to solve her life story. She’s frustrated at her younger self for leaving such a poorly constructed record of her life. She scoffs and criticizes every line in that single passage then moves onto mocking some others. Finally, she flings the journal across the room.

Looking back at this piece, I realize it was about my idea process and the frustration I face in creation, particularly writing. When I have an idea, I feel that well-known mania, and I need to write. RIGHT NOW. URGENT HURRY. A lot of times I lose the feeling. Then I over complicate the idea. I rage about the hopelessness of memory. The idea vanishes as quickly as it comes.

Drawing these bathtubs was my way of coping with my issues with writing. I love these hours I spend shading, erasing, coloring. It’s obvious I don’t have formal training, but this doesn’t stop me from getting better and sharing my work. Putting my work out there has only made me feel braver.

For now, the bathtubs seem to be working. Drawing has helped me reunite with writing. I’d like the two to become friends. Like my girl Frida, I’d like a space where I can combine both worlds.

Why I blog

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So it’s been well over four years since I started this blog, and I have a confession to make: I didn’t know where I was going with it, but I’d like to know going forward.

I wrote some poems, some stories, some rants, some day recaps, some reviews. Little of this and that. Not a whole lot of themes or intent, just doing.

I’m okay admitting this. I started this blog not really knowing a whole lot about blogging and just needing an outlet. Maybe I would write things that relate to other people. Maybe not.

I enjoy literary writing, which requires a good deal of time and thought. I’m proud of a lot of those pieces and wanted them to be shared outside my blog in a collection with other strong writing. I have sent a lot of my work to small lit presses. I waited months for a response. Sometimes, I didn’t want to wait and posted on my blog.

Writers and people before me who have a thing to say or two about writing have always said this: write for yourself first. And if anything else, I’m happy that I have been able to do this in my lifetime.

Reasons I write

  1. Emotional release
  2. To know more about myself and what I think, even if it’s hard to articulate
  3. The craft of writing. Because getting better at something I like is fun.
  4. To connect with other people
  5. To create a name for myself

Emotional release

Writing for emotional release and understanding is a well-known use of the trade. Emotions are complex, beautiful beasts and if you don’t spend getting time to know them and how you use them, life can get pretty hazy. Not saying writing is the only way to get intimate with your emotions, but it’s my way of doing so.

To know myself

I want to know what I think and why I think that. Being authentic, no matter how painful it is and what I learn about myself, has always been one of my life goals.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what other people think, especially when we’re connected to each other’s opinions and thoughts more than ever before. This blog was supposed to be a spot where my thoughts could free fall. I say “supposed to” because I think I went through a few big life phases during this blog, but was unable to fully capture this experience openly. Because I was afraid of what other people think about me.

Along the way I also learned about “boundaries” and have grown to appreciate my privacy. I allowed myself to go through these changes on the other side of this blog. I write very personal things, and sometimes I’m not always aware of how this information can open myself up in vulnerable ways that some people may try to take advantage of. People who are not actively trying to understand their emotions tend to do this, and are not always aware of or care about how their emotional responses affect other people.

That being said, I’d like to continue to write what I mean in the best way possible, regardless of how others use their emotions.

The craft

I’ve spent more time and energy on writing than I have on any other passion or skill in my life. Why stop now? I’m not a perfect writer, and I don’t intend to be, but I’m not done learning. Do you see the headings I’m using in this blog? I more recently learned why that’s important for a reading experience. Learning about writing and implementing what I learn is very rewarding to me.

Don’t get me wrong: writing is still pure agony. But then the agony is also plain fun. And maybe that’s sadistic, but there are worse things.

To connect with other people

Notice that “to connect with other people” is fourth. Especially for writers trying to figure out their groove and niches, writing for people before knowing what interests you is not something I and others who write recommend.

That being said, I care about my work being read. A few months ago a woman commented on my blog about combatting anxiety. I appreciated her comment and thought about it a lot.

To make a name for myself

I still struggle with this one just as a lot of writers and people who want to be known for something they put a lot of heart and time into something do. Because I care about the artistic experience, I don’t want to come out with quick, easy material that isn’t accomplishing my emotional and self-awareness needs in writing for the sake of being provocative and being known.

However, marketing myself and being confident about my talents needs to be on this list. I want people to know me, and I think it can be accomplished since I require a lot of honesty with myself.

What I dig

Since starting this blog, here is what I learned that I like to write:

  1. Poetry
  2. What I’m reading or watching
  3. Current events
  4. Travel logs
  5. Stories
  6. First hand accounts

I have always been overwhelmed by my amount of creative interests, which is why I tried not to limit the types of content on this experimental platform I created for myself. I even started putting my sketches on this site, which is another creative interest I tacked onto my interest load.

This has made planning and consistency for this blog highly problematic. The amount of times I overthought form and ended up with no blog at all is very frustrating to me. And looking at this blog as a whole entity is also very interesting and confusing to me.

Blogs you liked the most

Writers are nothing without their readers. And that’s where I’d like to improve this year. I renewed this blog because I’d like to be more consistent, open and aware of my audience.

Here are the blogs you viewed/liked the most:

What this list tells me is that people tend to click and engage with posts about my family, sex, life goals, best tips and relationships the most. This makes sense because they are the most articulate and often openly emotional.

Based off the stats I have on this blog, I also learned that 2015 was my best year. I posted only 15 blogs that year, but received the most amount of views. It would appear that in my case quality over quantity makes a big difference.

I’m sure I could spend a lot longer on analytics. I’m telling you about them because I want you to know that I care about what both you and I like and want to create more of it. In reorganizing this blog and strategizing from this point forward, I will be more consciousness of what content works and doesn’t.

In the end, this stuff does come from the crevices of my heart, so it means a great deal that you would choose to spend time on it. Life is short and your time is important. Thank you for reading!

Peer-to-peer inspiration

I have the privilege to review a screenplay. And it’s really good, too. I won’t talk too much about it. 1. I’m only 10 pages into it. 2. The writer is still at work. Not being sexist, ( let’s be real, most of my favorite writers are pissed off hermit white dudes), but I’m doubly excited because it’s written by a chick. She is someone I would have never thought of approaching in my younger days, but here we are connecting over our craving for writing, connecting over finally connecting to who we are becoming. I’m excited to keep reading.

Taking a long time to warm up to smart people who also inspire me is a pattern with me. But when I do, I’m hard to shake.

My friends and I started a writing group not that long ago. It’s all I want to think about most days. They all have their own thing going — metafiction, fables, a day in the life. I get to live through many eyes and backspacing fingers. I get to see writing planted. We write, it rains, and then there are little buds poking from the soil. I get to see stories alive and growing. I see my friends, and they’re writers in motion. For a lack of prettified language because it’s getting late: it’s freaking fantastic.

Just recently, one of my group members came up with an assignment. We were to make a list of all the things we’ve written thus far. It’s something to see. Everyone has a little list — bits and pieces of ourselves that we’ve shown to each other in different lights. So far I have a quarter of a book, several poems and essays, and three short stories. I had never written a short story prior to joining this group, but now I have nine versions of the same short story. It was better after I made every round of edits, and my group members fixed their beady eyes in between the lines. I’ve gotten really good with criticism. I take most of what people throw at me, but then at times I defend what I really want to savor for my own.

But you know what’s awesome? Finally getting to that point in your life where you can be surrounded by talented people, learn from them, and cheer them on. And in turn, having that come back to you.

“You” who was intimidated by smart, talented people because you didn’t feel like you measured up, that maybe you were just an open mouth, that maybe you were unrefined, classless. That maybe people didn’t want to listen because you spit your gritty words in their faces. But then you changed your tune. You found a way to love through the holes of yourself and reached the other side. You couldn’t see, only feel your way around. Someone was there. Someone reached back. Sometimes loving in the dark overtook you. You were mistaken for fickle, fucked up, emotional, and loose. Sometimes you let yourself believe that you were only these things.

And when I say YOU I mean me, but maybe you can relate.