The Heroine’s Journey of Ruthie Moccia

What is the best thing that I love about my work? It is fun. What makes it fun is that it allows me to be in “flow” state, it gives me energy, and it refreshes my brain as if I’d been napping. When I finish creating a piece of art, everything inside and outside of me feels in balance. I’ve also noticed that it leaves me open to episodes of synchronicity. When I compare my 42 years in a dual career of art and psychology with my recent retirement from psychology practice it’s clear that constantly switching from flow state to hourly therapy appointments was perhaps the hardest part. I love the opportunity I have now to be in flow state 24/7.

Photo credit: Len Douglas Balke

What is my idea of happiness? I am happy when my heart is peaceful and my mind is energized.

What is my greatest fear? Snakes. Even that tiny neon-green snake gives me a jolt.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? I deplore the times when I cannot make a decision and every path looks inviting to me.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire? I most admire a superb oil painter I know, Brian Mahieu, who had a dream and made it come true. He painted beautiful images of the Missouri River Valley and when he reached the peak of notoriety, he took all of his paints and brushes to his dream island to live out his painting life.

What is my greatest extravagance? My great extravagance is foreign travel. I thrive on novelty and not what is trending. When Iceland was a popular destination, I went to Norway. If everyone is talking about Belize, I make plans to see a rural part of China. I travel alone. I don’t limit myself to popular landmarks in a country, but instead wander to what attracts me and make a friend of whoever is there. I learn more. I see more. I bring it home with me.

On what occasion would I lie? I would lie in order to protect someone who needs protection.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? The thing I dislike most in my work is my need for perfection. There have been absolutely wonderful paintings I have been dissatisfied with, worked to revise them, and thereby made them suitable for burning.

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? When I was experimenting with the photographic self-portrait at the Maine Photographic Workshop the process absorbed my mind, body, and intuition. I created multiple-exposure self-portraits that illustrate psychological dilemas. By appearing two or three times in the same photo as a different character, I can create tension in the piece. The technique has marvelous flow from beginning to end. They became the body of work for my first one-person show. I also paint on these pieces.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I would somehow give myself more courage.

What is my greatest achievement in work? I hope my greatest achievement in this work has not come about. However, I am proud of the way I carried through my commitment to three showings of my work while in treatment for breast cancer (all the while managing my psychotherapy practice). I’m also proud of having been chosen to be the featured artist for a celebration of Amelia Earhart’s 100th birthday in the town where she grew up. The work was focused on photographs of Amelia’s childhood home above the Missouri River, depicting the feeling of flight with paint and feathers, and creating two “Fantasy Flight Jackets” with beads and satin. There was a self-portrait by her bedroom window which opens high above the river. I felt she might have fantasized flying from there. The entire exhibit was later reassembled at the historical museum in my county.

Where would I most like to live? In a cottage by the sea. Any free country will do.

What is my most treasured possession? My father’s watch. I hold it up to my ear to hear the ticking of his rhythm and it brings me joy and energy.

What is my most marked characteristic? I am a good listener.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Well, it’s not exactly in the city. It is about 10 miles west where the Missouri River bridge crosses I-70. You can look far up and down the river, notice how high or low the water stands, and view the wooded limestone bluffs that change with the seasons. I get teary crossing the bridge. It’s not the beauty, essentially, but the way the river separates East from West. I grew up in the East and settled in the Midwest. Crossing the bridge brings back the torn emotions I experienced when I crossed it for the first time. I was both leaving and arriving.

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? Ernie’s Café on Walnut for a breakfast of toast, eggs over-easy, and coffee while gawking at those humans who really can stay up and party all night.

What books influenced my life and how? The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain is a humorous but accurate account of the contrast between men and women. For me it was an educational piece more enjoyable than all that is written in psychology books or women’s/men’s magazines. It helped me understand that, yes, men really are different creatures from me, if not another species entirely. Close to the Bone: Life Threatening Illness as a Soul Journey by Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jungian analyst, helped me normalize my reaction to the maze of medical treatments I went through for breast cancer. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron was essential to expanding into the art field after closing my psychotherapy practice.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Pat Matheny’s Secret Story, especially the first cut, “Above the Tree Tops.” Cambodian children chanting hymns, bird calls, brass bells, and Pat’s acoustic guitar combine for both reverence and joy. There is a sense of satisfaction and anticipation in the music. I want to feel both of those while dying. Satisfied with life, anticipating a next chapter. As soon as I’m dead, however, please switch to Gregorian chants.

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? I will never forget the character Howard Roark, the architect of a high-rise government funded housing complex for the poor that was not built according to plan. Elevators were eliminated; needless add-ons were constructed. His design was bastardized. Before they could be occupied, he blew them up. Roark went to trial and was exonerated. He stands for the right of a creator to his creation.

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? People dedicated to the preservation of the earth. I meet many of them as a volunteer helping to clean the banks of the Missouri River. Missouri River Relief has removed two million pounds of trash in a stretch of river from Yankton, S. Dakota to St. Charles, Missouri.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Actually, I reflect frequently on Stephen Sondheim’s play, Into the Woods. The message “be careful what you wish” is clear. Instead of wishing I prefer to “be here now.” Nothing wrong with wishes; just make sure they are the right ones.

What role play stories in my life and work? You might imagine the thousands of stories I’ve heard as a psychotherapist. I like to use them (anonomously) to help young people make choices.

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me? You create, as well as tell, the story. I am creating my own life story. I love that thought.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? That would be my best friend. Our laughable crimes are all committed in fantasy.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2022? I want to spend more time contributing to local art events such as those supported by my city.

What project, in 2022, am I looking forward to work on? I’d like to complete a series of paintings I started of places on the Missouri River.

Where can you see me or my work in 2022? You can see my work at or come for a tour of the house!

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Those words describe me in that I will never retire from creating.

Which creative professionals should Peter invite to tell their story?

Roos Schuring of the Netherlands

David Spear, Columbia, Missouri

Louis Copt, LeCompton, Kansas

Brian Mahieu, Whidby Island

Chris Canipe, Kansas City, Missouri

Pat Matheny, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Steve Schnarr, Columbia, Missouri

How can you contact me?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s