December 5, 2022 Repository 234: Start Close In Posted In: community, education, perspective, social critique

Untitled collage, Catherine Haley Epstein, 2020

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

– Buckmeister Fuller

It has been two years since I posted on my beloved Mindmarrow blog. When I should have celebrated 10 years of writing and commitment to an invisible and caring art loving community, I took a grand pause. The collective and my private life forced me to pivot to listening mode. I observed the systems thankfully imploding, the voices that were rising, and the fog that had been residing between my conscious mind and my true self lifted. 

My exile was not like a Trappist monk, where I contemplated the hidden grace of the ordinary world without ego. No, these years were full of jobs, writing gigs, projects, assignments, appointments, family rearing and calming, scholarship and the general mishigas of life. I’ve lost and gained friends, I’ve lost and gained chosen family. I’ve lost and gained a fundamental understanding of myself. I’ve been disciplined in my media consumption, where I barely know pop stars and celebrity gossip and only once two months ago heard a live utterance of an appalling professional politician (a serious feat for these past three years). I refuse to let the media shape my reality and elevate certain voices that are sub-par versions of humans. 

Over the past three years I have had a private beef with big media where certain authors have stolen my book titles, stolen my words from this blog and to no public attribution (both older White males working with big publishing houses). I sought legal help, but to no avail – titles are not copyrightable unless your title is related to products or services you provide. I could have screamed louder, though realized that would have been pointless. My book continues to be read by many to this day where I receive “fan mails” otherwise known as DMs on social media, where readers are delighted to read and get inspired. Small is good, and I refuse to publicly comment directly in social media forums where comment sections look like hell in the “Garden of Earthly Delights”, or the writing on the walls in high school bathrooms. I refuse to partake. 

I have not rearranged the furniture in my house these past few years, I’ve utterly transformed it. For this I am proud, though still reeling from. Last week I completed a graduate degree that stole my focus and forced me to write academically which was painful. The degree is a tool for me to continue my interdisciplinary work in the arts. As a polymath I continue to mind the gap: as such I draw attention to the knowledge that is disappearing in the spaces between disciplines as they are currently organized (art and theories of mind).

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”- Joseph Campbell

While it is needed more than ever, psychotherapy has not been moving needles in healing in major ways, so this too needs dismantling. It is rooted in old, White males, a lot of mother shaming and blaming, and is often blind to the unique systemic challenges that BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent communities face. Speaking of which, I am proudly neurodivergent and plan to continue work doing affirming care for the neurodivergent community and removing stigma ADHD’ers and autistic people face. I’m continually looking for personal and practical ways to protect and support the people who’ve been left wounded, fearful, and vulnerable from the systems that oppress, especially womyn, who now must fear that misogyny has received official approval here in the United States.

One cannot break the rules until they have mastered the rules. This is foundational in my art practice and now my therapy practice. I’m graduating with a 4.0 GPA this week from Northwestern University and plan to keep this masters level qualification in my toolbox as I ethically advocate for better/different care, affirmative care and changes to systems so that there may be more access for all and assumptions removed around standard-based care.

In the brief time that I have been in the field, I have seen quite a range of quality of care which give color to the reputation that therapy has created for itself. While I am equally to blame for mesearch alongside research, there are many practitioners that hold tightly to the “wounded healer” trope, and stay doggedly attached to outdated or inappropriate modalities. There are also incredible practitioners who inspire me with their erudition and unconditional positive regard for their clients. The public is not educated well on the difference between an LPC, LMHC, PsD, PhD, SW, LMFT etc., or for what modalities may help. It’s all alphabet soup unless you are part of the landscape. And no, most companies and agencies don’t always pay therapists well which leads to inevitable burnout and lower quality of care.

My Capstone will be the foundation for my next project, which in the past I would have shared on this platform, however I now must be more covert. Suffice to say you will learn about it, and it indeed is about art and our minds. I continue to make drawings, paintings, scents and sculpture in the studio alongside the research I am doing clinically for filling in the aforementioned gaps between disciplines. The deep dives I am doing will not likely be popularly endorsed, though I remain committed to a sober and careful analysis of the human condition through the lens of art, and I look forward to sharing with you dear reader.

With gratitude and love – C

* Here is the beautiful poem that speaks to those necessary moments of quiet, movement and personal transformation. I hope it inspires you:

Start Close In, by David Whyte

Start close in,
don’t take the second step 
or the third, 
start with the first thing 
close in,
the step you don’t want to take. 

Start with the ground you know,
the pale ground beneath your feet,
your own way to begin the conversation. 

Start with your own question,
give up on other people’s questions,
don’t let them smother something simple. 

To hear another’s voice,
follow your own voice,
wait until that voice becomes a private ear
that can really listen to another.

Start right now
take a small step you can call your own
don’t follow someone else’s heroics, 
be humble and focused,
start close in
don’t mistake that other for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step 
or the third,
start with the first thing 
close in,
the step you don’t want to take. 


  1. Linda Fairchild • December 5, 2022

    You are always in my heart! Such a thrill to read your latest post. So many of your thoughts resonate with what is going on in my life. Sending you love and inspiration for all new journeys in 2023. Reply

    • Catherine Haley Epstein • December 6, 2022

      Aw!! Right back at you Linda - think if you often as well. Wishing you an inspired and beautiful 2023! xo Reply

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