Helping Hands

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This is me, selling my cards, 6 months ago, when I could still use my hands and my leg was trying to make a come-back.

Dear Internets,

Two months ago, my hands stopped working. Over-exhausted by tearing, painting and typing 55,000 cards, they became aching claws, instead of useful digits.

I posted a new blog entry, explaining things to you, Dear Internets. Then I made The Calls of Shame, to my Aunt Judi and Uncle Joel. You might have parents whom you can when you’re feelings like you and the world have broken your contract with each other. I have Judi and Joel.

“You need to get better at receiving!” Judi scolded. “That’s why your hands aren’t working. You need to ask The Universe for what you want and then expect to get it”

“I told you a long time ago” she continued “that Snarky Cards is a success. But now you’ve gotta decide to stop thinking like you have to be poor.” I listened meekly. And promised to start thinking like a middle class artist. When I call Judi, I’m looking for reassurance and approval. Her “receive better” speech seemed bizarre, but she is my mother-figure. And so, I listen to what she says, and then after we hang up, I break open all of her sentences and scrape out all the comfort I can glean from each word.

“Oh. You probably just need some stretching and some rest.” Joel said reasonably. He’s so kind. It doesn’t matter how many times I call him crying. He always sees the best in me. It’s taken me a long time to trust him completely. I want him to be proud of me. I want to be a good daughter to him. “You don’t think I ruined my hands for no good reason?” I whispered. “I think the cards are brilliant.” He reassured me. I could hear him smiling as he said it. “Do you need some money?” he asked before he hung up.

Armed with the approval of both of my fake parents and spurred on by Judi’s “Get over this poor bullshit”  speech (although, she doesn’t swear anymore.), I sent an email plea for help. It said this:

Hey, so I hurt my hands. Hand-making 55,100 Snarky Cards wore them out. I need to start printing Snarky Cards. But I need $130 for the first printing. It’s not much, but since my hands quit working, I haven’t been making money. So, I need your help.

If you could go to http://snarkycards.etsy.com and order a Snarky Card, it will help me make that first printing possible. And therefore Save Snarky Cards!

Please do your part to preserve Brutal Honesty.

Love,

Alisa Starr

PS: You’re getting this email because you and I are friends, or you buy cards for your store. Or you and I met out at a bar. Whatever our connection, thanks for supporting me! And helping me get through the ups and downs of being a professional artist. I couldn’t have done all this without your kindness.

I posted it on FB. And I tried to start communicating to the Universe what I wanted, before I went to bed each night. And, slowly, people started helping me. And they were even nice about it! My friend, Ernesto, even started scolding me when accepting help made me mean.

“I don’t want to get shit from you because of all of the other people who’ve helped you today!” he warned, as he rearranged my computer, printer, and typewriter, so that they were more ergonomic. “I only want you to insult me because of the help I’m giving you.” He shook his finger for emphasis. Between him calling me me on being a bitch when people help me, and Judi’s speech, I started working on my attitude.

My wrists and elbows felt like they were on fire. Sometimes my fingers would go numb. It was hard to hold things in my hands for very long. It was hard to shower. I couldn’t paint, or write. I had to carefully dole out texting time. I traded biting my nails, tetris and doodling for sitting completely still; gloves full of ice, waiting out the pain. I couldn’t physically hold a book. So, I had a lot of time to think. I didn’t have my usual processing tools: writing, painting, instant messaging my friends. So, my thoughts worked a little more slowly. And came out less prettily. But all I could do, was try to soothe my arms, and try to get better at asking for and receiving help. At some point, Ernesto said “OK, the next time you’re feeling bad about something, I want to to pretend you’re me. And say the super-sweet, supportive kind thing that you would say to me, to you.” I rolled my eyes. But a small voice in my brain started asking the question “Hey! Yeah! Why am I soooooooooooo nice to other people, and such a dick to myself?”

So; what I came up with was this:

It all goes back to my shitty childhood (like most of my shit). When I was a kid, my parents would promise me help and then get angry at me when it was time to pony up. All the while, going out of their way to help other people happily.

Sometimes they would skip the fake-out and just get pissed that I was asking for help at all. Which meant that

1. Other people deserve my help.

2. I don’t deserve any kind of help at all.

3. Someone is going to get very angry at me, after I ask for help. Their anger is totally justified. I deserve to be treated like crap because I can’t figure out how to get by without asking for help all the fucking time.

All of these rules suck. Yet another stupid thing, planted in my head by the mean fuckers who raised me, that I have to uproot and re-examine, and undo. But the undoing is getting easier, and the wrong conclusions in my head are becoming fewer and farther between. And when believing that I deserve is too hard, I leaned on my friends’ reassurances.

Kathy from the Trailer Park Mall smiled, when I explained what was going on. She slipped me some food money “We won’t let you perish!” she declared. Her kindness made me well up a little. And her words were so dramatic and sweet, I let them bounce around in my brain for the next month. Reassured the someone would worry about me, if I got to hurt to take care of myself.

When my friend Michael sent me some money I thanked him for not making me feel dumb. And he said:

And you’re not dumb for hurting your hands — we ask artists and athletes to do intense things to their body for their love of their art and to have a small chance of earning a living doing what they love, and no safety net or good caretaking to avoid injury. I’m just glad you have a plan to let you keep doing your thing without further hurt!

It’s nice to learn a horrible life lesson through positive reinforcement. In fact, it’s one of the nicest life lessons I’ve ever learned. I deserve help.

Not being able to use my hands really shook up my sense of myself. The pain made me less funny, and less sharp. There were whole new ways that I couldn’t take care of myself.

Do you know how much shit you use your hands for? Making myself food, taking out my garbage, showering, doing laundry, all things that were hard to do when my leg was broken, were hard all over again, for totally different reasons. Which also stung. I was STILL disabled. Between my broken leg, and my shitty hands, it’s been hard for me to take care of myself for the last year and a half. I stopped feeling like Superalisa. I felt crippled and vulnerable. Some of that has been really hard to shake. When I have a good day, I don’t take it for granted; I let myself sing. Inversely, I don’t trust my body. It’s been too hurt for too long. I try to baby it as much as I can. But the idea of sharing it with another person makes me shudder. Sex sounds like a weird island I visited once, in my 20’s.

pelican finished
This is how the new cards look! As you can see, my paintings are better. Printing frees me up to learn to paint new things!

It’s weird, because while I’ve been feeling less capable, Snarky Cards has been getting better and stronger. My internet plea for help worked. And I was able to start printing the cards. My hands have started healing. So, now I can paint 3 hours a day. My process has drastically changed, I’m allowed to spend as long as I want on each picture. All of sudden, my life is completely different, the emphasis now is on quality, not quantity. I think my art has gotten better. And now, I can supply my stores with cards more quickly, now that all I have to do is paint something I like, scan it and send it off to my wonderful printer: Dan.

Happy Birthday: Not DeadAnd after seeing 7 different Dr.’s, I found a regime that is going to help me figure out how to keep painting and writing without hurting myself. And the App is almost done. So, soon, dear Internets, you’ll be able to text the cards to other people!

See a Dr
I even have enough time to paint old things better! Like this sea turtle.

I hope you like the new cards. I hope you like the new designs. Thanks for being my friends, lovers, customers, and listening to my tales of woe. Now that I have more time, I’ll be reporting in more often. This time I promise!

Love,

Alisa

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