The Happy Wall


I feel anxiety and fear today, a deep pressing knee into my chest, partly from a long week of sleepless exhaustion, problem solving, beginning school, my mind in endless chatter, the emotions raw and hungry, ready to spill blood or tears over a missing black sharpie, an obvious sign a dramatic meltdown is coming, the meter guy at the door you know isn’t leaving unless you address him. The only safe solution, besides sticking a tube of red wine in my vein and investing in one of those helmets used for smoking weed, is to clean my room, light a candle, sit down, and just write.

When I started this blog, its kinda funny, ironic funny, that I was going through a long dark period of depression, uncertainty of my purpose, healing from deep family issues, and I lost my laugh, the sign of true hopelessness.

I weep, dread, love and lose, but when I stop laughing, the world spins madly out of sight, and when I stop being funny and finding funny, my joy, the best part of me, disappears along with my will, my fire, my drive to evolve.

So, I asked myself, when did I remember being the happiest, filled with joy, and one image floated to my mind right at the end of the question.

It was in Charleston, with my girls, during college, and I had invented the “Happy Wall.”
It was sheets and sheets of paper where anyone who entered our house, which was made up of a group of traveling Circus characters, otherwise my 6 soul friends, a couple of live in boyfriends, and a party or two a week, all had to write a statement every day of what made them happy.

Of course, it started out beautiful and sweet, with rainbows, the smell of coffee, tulips, and as the days turned into night, the happy wall got drunker and more hilarious by the hour, people jumping to write the extreme, newcomers standing and reading, laughing till their sides hurt, walls filled with lined signatures of total strangers making their mark, and it made me laugh on the spot in remembering it, a sweet missing piece of me returned for a second, reminding me of how much I had been missing my joy.

I was missing me.

So, I had a plan. I started removing all my furniture, placing it in the garage, took down all my photographs and pictures, removed my door, my drill steady, my mind open and excited, a moment above me, something I refer to as, “in the zone.”

The only people who know me in the zone are those who have lived with me, and if I am writing, painting, my eyes fixed and intense, they know to leave me alone, that I am about to create something.

It is pretty strange I suppose now I write of it, to have a mother removing all her furniture and door, and no one ask or hesitate while I do my thing, a familiarity Divorcee knows like the back of his hand. Once, all the furniture and shelves and door were missing, I called up Clyde first and told him I was about to make a “Happy Wall,” but this time with real sharpies, and did he know where I could find big fat ones?

He responded with hesitation, asking me if I should not just get a dry erase board, which makes me laugh, so I ignored him, put the girls in the car on a mission to start the process of finding my joy again.

It was strange at first, the white big empty walls of nothing felt very similar to what was inside of me, and I would look at them outside of myself, falling asleep into the void, my sadness a big container I floated inside of.

Then, it got awesome.

The girls and I went crazy, writing on the walls in all colors the things that made us so happy, stories, and pictures, words, and quotes. I demanded it from Divorcee, and all visitors, to come and write, Lola and Kat each excited to come home and post updates daily.

The first words to go on the Happy Wall were,

“Pain is not here to kill me. Pain is here to free me.”

Then, it got crazier. I decided we needed a Shadow wall, a place all the dark thoughts go, the ones we don’t want to examine, the thoughts that come up or the words said that wound, and the Shadow wall became even more popular than the Happy Wall, a place people stuck quotes that after awhile, were hysterical. You are only allowed to use Black and some of the following are a few to give you an idea.

“You Look Amazing! The last time I saw you I thought you were getting chunky, but now you look great!”

“Dude. I’m happy your dead, but not in a mean way or anything.”

“It’s normal to be afraid of your parents, right?”

“She is NOT going in to porn for seeing a Pee Pee in 2nd grade.”

“Maybe he has aids, but no, he is too fat.”

“Girl, he is 21 and wanted to go out in the parking lot? Its kind of an accomplishment.”

“I stopped getting high when it took 45 minutes to get to McDonalds.”

“Who has a blog? Only fifth graders write blogs.”

“Remember in Australia when those girls held me down to pluck my unibrow?”

“The girls at school said my chips are weird.”

Every night and day, the walls reflected back to me gratitude, colorful art of my girls, hilarious statements of drunk sad people, and I loved it, and now, many months later, my life is transformed, and I am in intense boot camp graduate school for photography, but there is this just one thing, you see, I don’t even own a camera.

I pursued it with the help of Clyde, certain I would not get in, shocked when I did, got the loans and the grants to pay for the school, but needed 8000 dollars of equipment, and without a cosigner, did not get approved.

As any one would do, I went straight into denial, until last week, at Orientation, when I realized that this was going to be the most intense time of my life, with no room to fail or procrastinate, my time and energy had to run like a well oiled machine, and all the students around me were as terrified as me, but they had big expensive cameras and lenses, Photoshop, and a tripod, and I sat out of my body, aware I was out of my ever living mind.
I asked my Professor why I got in the program, and that it had to have been a mistake. He asked me if I were a creative genius, and I hesitated, stuttered a yes I think, and he replied, “Put your fear on the shelf and show up for class.” So, I did.

The passion and love and fire came whipping back faster than I had been smashed by a car going 90 miles an hour, and so here I am, trying to beg, borrow, cry, ask, bleed for equipment, my pride nowhere in sight. People stared at me blankly, probably wondering if I were kidding, having to stand up to talk about ourselves and our camera equipment, I said,

“Hello, I am Katie. I am willing to donate Ovaries if you will give me a Tripod.”
I thought of failing miserably, unable to meet the demands and deadlines, struggling just to find the money for gas. The ability to just be a sponge amongst such creative genius, to above all express art is a dream, not a job, so of course, the first assignment given is received with excitement and dread, my professor rubbing his chin.
“I need you learn what you guys are all about,” he says.

My heart beats fast, realizing all these creative talents will be reviewing, critiquing, and commenting for the first time the work assigned.

My heart beats faster, I wait, and this comes out of his mouth. “I want fifty shots of your room so come prepared.”

Seriously? Really? I am full aware I am a nut job, but I just thought it would be nice to ease people into it, the realization that kindergarten paintings and black bold sharpie statements such as “My finger smelt like burnt crickets afterward” is going to be my first impression, and so just like I do with this blog full of similar painful realities, I throw my hands up in defeat, thinking I may just give it up now and own it, while I offer sexual favors for flash meters. Kidding of course, people.
I am grateful for Clyde for telling me to eat it, own it, and pump this as loud as the stereo can go.

3 thoughts on “The Happy Wall

  1. you make me smile. i see authentic life. real life. meaningful life. i love it. i don’t think you’re ever going to do neat family portraiture photography. i think your photography, if it is in any way like your words or life or soul – it would be exquisite art!

  2. No, I have made my peace with the khaki matching picture families. I needed that comment tonight! It is beautiful when you forget your not just exercising your demons but someone reaches out to you, an energy exchange I can’t be grateful enough for. I would love to photograph one day in studio my anonymous followers, posting them as my fans!

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