This has been a good week inside my head. Outside of it as well, but I like that the interior is matching the exterior a bit better.
I’ve carved out time for creativity every day, and it’s given me an enormous feeling of relief. The title of this post refers to the Revelations I have had about once a year for the last three years, where the little voice of my conscience reminds me that, you know, some people make art, some people sell art, but I need it like breath.
Gradually it has been dawning on me that my noble intent to “face reality head on” has led to the most anti-social period of my adult life, a deep depression that was unceasing and wearing me down, and the loss of an outlet that I didn’t know I had until it was gone.
Josh used to tell me that he’d never met anyone as compulsive about creating things as I was. Some people smoke cigarettes, I make stuff. Paper crafts, photos, crochet, weaving, I take whatever is within ten feet of me and I turn it into something else. I used to do it without thinking – I never had the deep television watching habit most kids my age had, if the TV was on and I was sitting near it, I was making something. I didn’t see a whole lot of value in the things I was making, it was the activity, the process that I focused on. The output I considered “experiments” and they either ended up in the trash or in a box or rescued by a friend or relative for their own enjoyment. I always loved that. If I keep the things I make, they will eventually be pillaged for their elemental ingredients to make something else.
As I grew up, I tried to gradually change my attitiude about this compulsion to create. I should care more about what I make. I should focus on a medium or a technique and sell the output. I should call myself an artist, I should go to school, I should I should I should.
So when life got dark there for awhile, I told myself I would just focus on my business, building software and websites, and not “put any pressure” on myself to create. Except, I never did put any pressure on myself about that. Other people did, occasionally, but anyone who’s spent five minutes with me knows that had little effect. I could definitely get twisted up about writing sometimes, and I could angst about web art like a pro, but the wax sculptures, the papercrafting, the painting – that was just stuff I did, I didn’t think about it too much.
And that was the key to my revelation. When I “took the pressure off myself” to not create anything, I was actually pressuring myself to focus only on income bearing activities. I felt a deep responsibility to make our business not only work but be SUCCESSFUL, in all capital letters. I had to grow up. I couldn’t laze around in my studio all day just daydreaming. It wasn’t practical.
After three years of being in a fog, it finally occurred to me that maybe that compulsion, maybe that unconscious act of creation was me feeling things. That when Death came (and it did, and it does, often in my life but far more often in the lives of others who have lost many more loved ones and friends than I have) maybe “facing it head on” was completely wrong for me and how I operate. It made me feel like someone else. It made me unrecognizable, and lost.
My grandpa is dying of cancer. In the last three years, since I lost my mother, I have lost more loved ones to cancer, and I was not surprised, only saddened when I heard he was undergoing chemo. We were very hopeful, but it’s been clear in the last month that there is no longer any treatment. This week, he has stopped recognizing people.
Today, when I got the phone call, I tried to go for a walk, but the dogs wouldn’t stop barking and it made me furious. I tried to eat something but my throat wouldn’t open to swallow. I listened to the song my grandpa used to play for me on his rose-inlaid guitar, even though he and I both knew it would leave me wailing with tears, and after two tears struggled out, the flow stopped. I could feel the hurt and fear and sadness welling up and bottled in and I didn’t know what to do with it, even though I know what grief is, the Universe has kept me practicing it since childhood. There has not been a single year of my life since I was five years old that I did not lose someone precious and important to me, and I keep thinking that each time is a time to practice loving openly so that there are no regrets after, and practice grieving openly so that the feeling of being stifled by loss can’t keep me afraid. I don’t always live up to that.
But I told my grandma what a good job she is doing, I offered the help she would let me give, I will see them both at the hospital tomorrow. I told my grandpa I love him, even though he’s not quite sure who I am. And when the woods didn’t work and the tears didn’t work and I was afraid I might not be able to breathe with everything I was feeling all at once, I started to write.
An hour later, the cloud has passed and I remembered the Revelations. Art is how I feel the big things, the things that can’t be expressed only in words. It is mine and has always been mine, when I was a little girl alone in her room sewing dresses and recording music on a tape deck and painting lavish imitations of the Taj Mahal.
Some people can feel things in public for others to understand, I can only make things and know later that what I felt is there, even if a pair of paper mache earrings or a handsewn bikini don’t immediately seem related to the event that made my hands start to work in the first place.
The compulsion to create never left. I still sit in a room covered with half-finished items, finished items, gifts I’ve made that I’ve never given because they didn’t feel complete. It’s just that now I’m letting it back out without apology. This is who I am. I make stuff. I feel stuff. It’s for me alone, but I’ll tell you about it here because you might be like me, and you might need permission to feel life with your hands and some clay or paper rather than the Seven Stages some book laid out for you to use as your Guide to Feeling.
And if this doesn’t make any sense to you, that’s fine too. It isn’t about you, and these losses of mine aren’t about me. I am here to bear witness to them and look up to the sky and say “These people existed, these places existed, and I loved them the best I could with everything I am, and I grieve them the same way as proof of that existence, mine and theirs.”