On a day like this one

On a day like this one, what should a mother do? On a day like today what would I want my mother to do? Sometimes I feel that I will never recover from this realization that someone who gave me life does not care about how I feel and what I do. She just doesn't care. There is no connection and after exposing this face to face I had to admit the truth that I am not loved by her. It is difficult not to fall into “eternity” thinking, for example: “I will never feel complete without her love, care and acceptance.”  But then by just trusting the process of CPTSD healing, I acknowledge this negative “eternity” thinking and shift into focusing on what is upsetting me right now. And right now is that there is no communication about how I might feel today. Why today is so important? There was yet another terrorist explosion in Russia today and this time it was in St. Petersburg, the photographs are pretty gruesome. Even though I no longer live in Russia, I feel that I am still affected by its unrest. I witnessed an aftermath of an explosion back in 2000 and might I say I am mentally injured by that. Currently I am trying to put it into a visual sequence for my graphic novel, and my PTSD connected to that is just beginning to heal. The kind of healing where I take two steps forward and one step back. This drawing was the first one I had done and it doesn't contain any harsh gory memories (safe for work). I am still deciding what details to include in my explosion story and how to portray dead bodies and body parts without triggering and re-hurting myself.

So on a day like today, if I had a daughter who suffered PTSD from witnessing a terrible, devastating event, I would write to her and ask her how is she doing. I would reassure her that she is safe and I would give her all my attention. I would let her know that she can heal with my help. So, today is a good self parenting day.... I fell back one step by feeling the devastation and upset and neglect once again, and I am upset that I am related to an uncaring parent. However I am growing to acknowledge my needs and I am taking care. Instead of replaying those scenes from my memory, I will let myself mourn and be sad, but I will also shower, eat and read a science fiction novel. And I will allow myself to draw a happy scene of when I was taking a walk with my dad. That is my favorite memory so far. That story will be about trying to put on paper a feeling of lost dad, who loved me without expecting much and who could make me laugh by tickling my hand.

Exotic or not?

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Even though one might say that our views and perceptions are merely a product of our environment. And that we are bound by our nationalities, cultures and genes. I don't believe it. Yes, those factors might have an influence, but isn't a little restricting? Isn't it very restricting? What if one has a choice and a burning desire to be free and to choose their own environment? As long as I can remember I didn't identify with my birth place and people at all... nor did I identify with history.... However fascinating it can be. I don't feel proud. Why should I? I didn't participate in any of that... I was just born in a place where they had Tsars, Communists, space travel, corruption, balalaikas, oppression of natives, uber cold places, Ukraine domination, sexism, great poetry, xenophobia, great art, homophobia, fascinating language, oppressive family construct and cake-shaped churches. As long as I can remember I was just curious to learn and explore more and more about the world. I hoped (is it hopeless?) that there is a place on Earth where it doesn't matter what place you come from. So there... to anyone who says "Ooh isn't exotic to be you?! It must be sooo exotic. It must be so mysterious and fascinating to be Russian...". My answer would be "How the hell would I know if it is exotic to be me. I am me and you are you. And my "running away/ traveling" history is not of a typical Russian. I don't even know what it's like to be one. All I know is that I wanted to leave since I was 4 (basically as long as I can remember). I also know that air, sky, water, earth and space behave in similar ways in various parts of this planet and it is simply ridiculous to tie your identity to basic physical laws. Pardon me for not being nationalistic, to my heart and soul it would be death. So maybe it is exotic to be me, but only because I don't think that it means anything serious to be born in some place. In that case exotic should be normal. Can a culture be celebrated without domination, murder and fake superiority? It is only a human construct anyway and it is so momentary."

Do not be mistaken in assuming that one "betrays" their heritage and humanity by not being nationalistic. In my experience one can gain more by elevating out of socio-cultural restrictions and relate to others by accepting them on a deeper "all is one" level.

No politics post

Hey crowd,

In case you are tired of politics. Here is a breath video for you. Even if you don't meditate. Its worth listening to. We are dealing with basic elements of life here like breath and emotions and just being smart about upset and worry. Enjoy!

Finding meaning

Its not every day that you meet political prisoners (now released), who survived a 2-year sentence in a Russian prison. Yesterday I went to the Lensic theater (Santa Fe, NM) to see and hopefully talk to members "Pussy Riot". It was a two hour-event which brought a lot of things to light. The two band members Masha and Sasha were incredible.

Apart from being brave artists and rebels they are also just sweet young women who want to help other victims of Putin's political regime. The theater was packed and I suspect the recent U.S. elections have something to do with it. What I loved about their presentation is that they showed information about an ongoing resistance movement against Putin. And while it was just beyond inspiring, it was also heartbreaking to  hear what they have to deal with. They also shared work by a Russian activist and artist, Pyotr Pavlensky, who set fire to Moscow's FSB HQ (ex-KGB).

Image source: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russian-artist-activist-pyotr-pavlensky-arrested-after-setting-fire-moscows-fsb-hq-1527885#

Image source: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russian-artist-activist-pyotr-pavlensky-arrested-after-setting-fire-moscows-fsb-hq-1527885#

Before I left Russia, I felt completely alone in my views and I absolutely had no idea that there was a resistance. I witnessed various unpleasant things which reinforced my decision to leave that place completely. Right now, to be honest, I am experiencing an element of survivors guilt, which I will have to work with. And I am using my graphic novel to not only bring to light what had happened Soviet/Post Soviet times, but also to share my journey as a bilingual, dual citizen, immigrant, who isn't ashamed to admit that my choice was to leave.

With Masha (left) and Sasha (right)

With Masha (left) and Sasha (right)

During Pussy Riot's Q&A there were questions about Trump's connection to Putin and the band members called their relationship a "bromance," which sadly seems to be the truth. There were also questions about what to do about the current political situation, if there is any advice they can give. And the women replied that as imperfect as it is, America still has democracy. People have more rights here than in Russia and many other countries, and we can act without fear of being imprisoned for simply speaking out and making a stand.  I couldn't agree more, but also I would add that education and coordination are key. The more people know what their Constitution means, and the more people know about the struggles of Native Americans and other minorities, about social and economic inequality, and about environmental issues, the more refined and informed their actions will be.

Amazingly, one of the members of Pussy Riot, Masha, was actually able to win three out of four court cases which she brought against the prison for mistreatment - while she was still in the prison!  If she can defend her rights in such a seemingly hopeless situation, so can we. 

I was happy that I had a chance to ask a question at the event and to give Pussy Riot a present - two t-shirts which I designed right before the show. I call them "Pussy grabs back". I am sure this idea has come to many other artists. Nevertheless I had to do it! For me, the best recipe for difficult times is art, yoga, soul searching, and fundraising for human rights. If you are interested in buying this t-shirt, it will soon be available on my website or in person.  All proceeds will go to the ACLU - American Civil Liberties Union.

Copyright: Viktoria Shushan, 2016

Copyright: Viktoria Shushan, 2016

Copyright: Viktoria Shushan, 2016

Copyright: Viktoria Shushan, 2016