Friday, April 23, 2010

What's in a Name

Flotilla, Drozda 2001
18x24 inches
mixed on recycled wood

Several days ago Alyson asking me to address my blog name Merci 33.
Here's what has come to share.

Once upon a time 3 miscreants set me up in an entrapment situation, traumatized me severely and left me for dead. You can connect with the storyline where I created a graphic memoir last summer and posted it here on the blog from June through August. A post can be found here. You can imagine how physically, emotionally and psychically bereft the experience left me. One aspect of my recovery involved working diligently for 16 years to move beyond debilitating Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I lived in relative solitude for much of that time and devoted every day to inner repair working in studio and garden. It took time to learn to trust that life wouldn't brutally harm me again. I learned, and continue to enlist, unbroken focus; taking active measures to reclaim and rebirth myself, to walk in balance.

Alyson was curious and interested to know where the name Merci33 comes from and if I had ever explained that to my readers. In a follow-up email she went further and suggested that I tell the story of Donna Iona Drozda.

I'll be brief.

I love how the words we use and the way we communicate sends energy out into the world. Pain/pleasure, gain/loss, praise/blame, fame/disgrace. The list goes on and on. Some words help us feel hopeful and uplifted other words suck our lifeforce away and break our spirit.

Since 1991 the Lifecycle department of my studio outreach has been devoted to assisting us in walking in creative balance. The mantra for Lifecycle is paraphrased from Thoreau and states 'To affect the quality of the day is the highest of arts.' For Lifecycle I enlist a variety of well developed tools. I have a love affair with the work of walking through the world in a state of balance.

Merci 33: of course Merci means thank you. Thank you for every blessed moment. And 33 is an auspicious number that relates to 'All is Well'.
Therefore Merci 33 is a code for my life that reminds me 'Thank you. All is well.'

my plates remind me daily

My given name is Donna Jean Drozda. When I was violently attacked I could have been lost to myself for all time. However very quickly an artist/mentor came into my life and her lifestyle served as an example and helped me to immerse in the study of first Raja yoga and when my mind was able to calm a bit Hatha yoga. I was simultaneoulsy introduced to the Tao Te Ching. I have studied these daily for decades.

As part of the ongoing healing process I opened my studio to monthly 'Creativity Salons'. The monthly Salons were like protected circles, a gathering of artists who also shared like-minded souls. A core group of twelve of us engaged in a kind of 'collective creating' using the phases of the moon to circumnavigate the year. For more than five years we invested in the Salon environment where we were free to creatively invent ourselves anew.

We were a very playful group and one of the first things we did was give ourselves permission to choose a 'name for the day'. Instinctively I knew I needed my true  'Artist Name' own soul name. A name that belonged to me. What came is Iona. As in I own a Drozda...I own myself. Iona. No one anywhere, under any circumstance, has the power to take me from me. Not ever. It's been tested. It's been proven.

The Fields of Dewachen, Drozda 2001
30x30 inches
Acrylic on canvas

I feel very fortunate that circumstances came together to form a scar tissue that has made me stronger and more flexible as a result of what I have endured. I am a bona fide member of the 'Scar Clan' as outlined in the magnificent book Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

I am well aware that we are each stronger than we can ever possibly imagine. Often it is not until, or unless, we find ourselves faced with a true test of our inner strengths and resources that we discover just how Merci 33 life truly is.

So there you have it Alyson, in short form.

 Thank you so much for stopping by... may you always in all ways:
~Sing the day


  1. Iona, I was deeply moved by the strength and courage you displayed in this post. I loved hearing the story of your name and how you took back your life. Like you, I experienced trauma earlier in my life. I found strength in many places, but mostly from within myself. Yes, part of the "scar clan", too. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and I can wait to read your graphic memoir. I've been thinking of doing one myself. You are an inspiration!

  2. Iona - thank you for sharing such a powerful story. Like Julie, I was struck by your courage and strength. It's true that we are made stronger through our challenges - I don't know how many people are courageous enough to expose the source of that as beautifully as you have here.

    Also, I really admire the mindfulness of 'merci33'...and I love your licence plates!

    Blessings, Tracey.

  3. Beautiful explanation, Donna. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. This is a wonderful and very moving post. Thank you for sharing it with us. No matter what ever happens to us the only thing we can ever control is how we react and deal with a situation. You have show that you have dealt with your misfortune with great courage and risen well above it.

  5. I had wondered about the name also, thought we might have shared a birthday 3/3. I also felt, because of your art and writing, that you had somehow reached a higher level of existence than most--you have--and can claim membership in the scar clan. I will try to remember "all is well" when I write 3/3 on every form.

    Thank you. Every time I visit I learn from you.

  6. I am very sorry, and very moved to read your story-- how you found the strength and inspiration to move on and find peace and love with your life is testimony to the creative spirit within you..

  7. Last night I read all your posts from last summer. You have the makings of a powerful book/memoir. Have you thought about taking it to that level? You had just the right amount of detail, not too much. As a reader, I was brought to tears. I couldn't stop reading it.

  8. Last night I read your posts from last summer - all of them. You have the makings of a book/memoir. Have you thought about that? Very powerful stuff with just the right amount of detail - not too much, but all the emotion. I was brought to tears, but I couldn't stop reading. After reading, I couldn't stop thinking about what I had read.

  9. Sorry for the double post. I thought the first one didn't work. I'm still new to commenting!

  10. This post has moved me beyond all reason. I am left incredibly awed, and somehow wondering if I shouldn't take some time to explore the spiritual side of my life on a more intimate basis, just as you have.
    To know that you faced such adversity and - well, terror - and to have come out on the other side as a stronger, illuminated person and artist - humbles me and shakes me to my roots.
    I would love to see you explore this experience further and agree with Julie that you have the makings of a book in your hands.

  11. Iona,

    This post has left me awestruck and moved by the strength of your soul and spirit. How amazing that such a mentor appeared when you needed them. How fortunate also that you had art on your side. I remember when Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book came out. I took so much heart in the stories she told and continue to call them up to this day. Many thanks for sharing so generously of yourself. Merci beaucoup.

  12. Thanks All for coming by.
    Julie, I so appreciate your comments and I am so glad to know that scar tissue is stronger than the original skin. I honor that strength deeply. Also you are so kind to take the time to visit the graphic memoir posts. Thank you.

    Tracey...I know you've got it going on living in the elements the way that you share with us...courage and strength make themselves known in countless ways. Thanks! I love my plates too:-)
    Merci Sharmon.

    Susanne, to your comment I can hear my mom saying "Truer words were never spoken."

    Happy Belated Birthday Hallie...enjoy the code.

    Thanks Donna...I love the way it has all turned out.

    Hi Deb, yes I am very blessed and incredibly fortunate that doors opened to help me seek solitude and deep inner work as a result of slipping into this horrifying snare. Life is amazing how it shows us the way out of the maze...and turns the path into a labyrinth.

    Hannah...thank Alyson :-) She was curious about Merci33 and confused between Donna and Iona so she asked me to share the name story with my readers. mentor literally, without any knowledge of my situation, demonstrated sanity and focus to balance...her story... which I didn't learn until 26 years later... made our meeting all the more miraculous and serendipitous. Life clearly works.

  13. Iona, Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. On Friday night after I read this post I went back to June and wanted to read the whole thing word for word. I did, all the way to September. What a powerful story! I could not take my eyes of the computer. It brought me to tears as well. You are a survivor. You kept going, and never gave up! You have that ability to write and tell this story in a way that captivated me.
    Now I want to know more...

    Thank you for your openness!

  14. 'Merci33' Dora.
    Thank you so much.

  15. Thank you for is true that what doesn't kill us makes us of the things I tell my daughter is that hard experiences bring wisdom and strength that we women share and pass down...
    I will be back to read your posts from last summer...When I was 25 I was beaten and raped...I'm a member of the Scar Clan too.
    I love the idea of your creativity group...what a gift.
    hug, hug

  16. Thank you Iona for sharing your moving story. So many of us have been wounded, but have not moved beyond it as you did. It took me most of my life. I applaud your courage and creativity.

  17. Dearest Iona, So brave of you to walk the path of the wounded healer. Those of us who have been touched by your magic, even in a small way—you left a beautiful, encouraging comment for me at just the right moment—thank you for your generosity and spirit.

  18. Om Shanti, Iona. Many Thank You's :)

  19. Wow! That is so powerful, Iona. You have spoken the truth and capture our attention. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story with us.

  20. Thank you for sharing your explanation with such depth and feel. I am always so struck by the way our creative spirit gives such strength in healing. The shattered becomes whole, in a way that was not available before. Thanks again, huge hug!

  21. Iona,
    Wow, what a story and so bravely told. Your courage and resiliency in life and art is a great model for us all.
    Thanks for sharing so much of your deep and wonderful self!

  22. Well-told and moving story, Iona! Many people could benefit from reading this. I'll be sure to pass it on.

  23. I think everyone else has already said it all Iona - you are an amazing woman. It is a measure of your healing and generosity of spirit that you have shared your incredible journey thru life with us. Thankyou for such deep and heart felt sharing . Blessings.

  24. Dear Iona,
    I am so grateful that Alyson asked you about Merci33. My heart is rejoicing in your strength and the strength of those who helped you.
    Now, you help others. Thank you for sharing your journeys.

  25. Iona, thank you for sharing your story with us! It is very powerful and moving.

    Two things really made me stop and think, one being the quote from Thoreau- 'To affect the quality of the day is the highest of arts.' I affect each day but I never have looked at it as an artform. I'm going to post this quote where I can read it every day. I can see that it is very true and hope it changes my view of every moment.

    Secondly, you stated " I own myself. Iona. No one anywhere, under any circumstance, has the power to take me from me. Not ever. It's been tested. It's been proven." Very powerful! Yes, you are you, and no one can change that fact. Be who you are, and not what someone else wants you to be.

  26. Thank you Julie. Your daughter is fortunate to have a wise woman and scar clan member as her mother...may she pass it on. hugs back.

    Eva, thnak you. It was the model of my artist/mentor that provided me with a life line that I stay focused upon.

    Jennifer, merci to thee, as you can tell your post inspired me.

    Indigo...back atcha ;-)

    Alyson...and thank you for asking 'What's in a name?'

    Karen, I love what you state regarding 'the shattered becomes whole' wouldn't it be a different world if this teaching was part of our educational process. We'd have far fewer walking wounded.

    Cynthia, courage and resiliency is what was modeled for me by my mentor. I did everything in my power to emulate her path: art, yoga, gardening + love of life.

    Lynn thank you.

    Kadira, Merci, blessings back to you

    Theresa Thanks! yes rejoicing in the strength, and the strength of those who help us through, is what it's all about!

    Valerie...I have adored this Thoreau quote for decades, it has given me a way to look beyond the studio to see every aspect of every engagement as the Art Life. And to be who we truly are involves others, interdependency, but how terrific and healing it is when we come together as whole beings willing to share
    our gifts.

    Thank you all so deeply...I'm sending out cyber hugs and joy.

  27. Thank you for being so open , your story is very moving and very inspiring. I really love the license plates. see you in class

  28. Thank you dear, dear Iona for sharing your story with courage, honesty, strength...we are all walking wounded (or rolling) through out our lives and in continuous states of healing, breaking, healing stronger, deeper...hopefully becoming more compassionate and loving on the journey.

    Thank you for touching my soul today.

    gentle steps

  29. I was very sorry to hear your one should have to go through such horrible and senseless physical and emotional trauma. I have always felt your strength and deep convictions and love for all of life and now understand a little about where that comes from.

  30. Sharing this story must have taken a huge amount of courage, Iona! There are some stories I think about posting, but I end up writing something else a little less intense. The next time I feel like chickening out, I will think about you and this post. Thank you. I hope you continue to grow stronger.

  31. Thank you all...Amy, Laura, Kay and Hannah. I see that strength is a very gentle, flexible... and as you say, Laura,... ability to "roll" sort of thing...loving life is the best gift to share.

    Yes there is shadow, and there are shadowy dark elements in us (admit it) and around us, yet as artists we know well that it's the chiaroscuro, the contrast, that makes a piece come to life.

    Don't sputter and extinguish...
    ~Shine on~

  32. What a beautiful story Donna - of resilience, perseverance and the healing power of art.

  33. Wow...that is am amazing, moving story. I'm so glad that I realized I had completely missed Lesson 8. I just went back and read the comments. Thank you for sharing your story.

  34. When someone has faced down a "demon" there remains an energy in their life that reaches out to heal and touch others.

    You and those you work with are caring of our human journey.

    There is a gentle energy in your words that touches me. It is real. You offer something of substance. I know it.

    I am searching for a way to come back to a meaning for life. Recently retired, unprepared financially, divorced and depressed.

    My energy is zapped...

    Hope is what we need, what I need.

    Again, thank you for the signposts. :)

  35. We never know about the lives of others and how it effects their art unless they tell us. Though there is much pain, your new life now dominates over it.

    Thank you for sharing a vital piece of history that is you.

  36. thank you so much for your reflections Wild Magnolia...I trust that life works for us even when we cannot see that for ourselves, perhaps that's why we need that we remember and welcome that we are not alone.

    Thanks Egmont for coming by speaking your wise words...they're much appreciated...and embraced.

  37. I am just catching up. You are an amazingly strong and courageous woman who I greatly admire.

  38. Great article! We are linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.


Thanks for stopping '-)