Tag: ambition.

poem: i would dance

Oh, i would dance
in the bright sunshine.

Let the cold breeze
lead me
in a scandalous waltz.

i would throw myself
into labors like Hercules,
moving mountains,
transforming the world.

Often,
the hardest thing
is to be quiet,
still,
to let the body
that craves action
and touch
to lie fallow
and heal.

My mind can race
the stars,
but today
these aching muscles
have nowhere
they have to go.

17 november 2015

poem: the easy one to hate

i am the one,
the easy target for hate.
After all, i am alone:
who would defend me?

Divorced,
without the children
which appear to be
the only coin currency
that gives a woman worth,
leaves me devalued
in the eyes of many.

How often do they see
a smartass,
a sarcastic brat,
and even worse,
someone following her heart
despite external logic
that demands surrender.

This entire existence
seems
ridiculous
to the critic’s eyes.

i am so exhausted,
pain brimming
from every limb,
but i am stubborn enough
to hide it,
to wash off the ashes
and change out the sack cloth,
so i present to the unsuspecting
a fiction of success.

But still, fools call me lazy,
point to my fat
and my awkward gait
to justify their cruelty;
they claim i am crazy
because i do not conform
to what they want me to be.

And i find,
i do not care anymore
if they judge me,
or hate me,
or insult me,
for i have you
the sympathetic,
companion in otherness,
the heart willing to read these words

25 september 2015

addiction to art’s flow

IMG_1554Over the years, i have known too many people who struggled with addictions to things like cigarettes or shopping or sex or alcohol or drugs, or some combination of the above.  Watching their struggles, i felt this immense gratitude (along with waves of compassion) that i had not fallen down the same path.

Only, recently, i have realized that i did not escape the gene or the effects of environment that can foster addiction.  In a very real sense, i developed an one of my own – to getting lost in the flow of art.  When i make art, everything else disappears; my entire being seems to dissolve in the way the clay, paint, ink or story moves.  i crave this.  i demand it.  i seek it out, even if i am scribbling on a napkin.  Indeed, i will continue chasing after art even when every speck of evidence tells the sane rational people around me that this is a foolish, self-destructive path.

For the past several weeks, I have been trying very hard to redirect a portion of my effort and energy into finding more freelancing jobs, exploring other options for employment that can coexist beside my current business and obligations. Indeed, i am even preparing myself for the very real possibility that art must be put on hold for awhile, so that i can keep a roof over my head and food in my animals’ bellies. In addition IMG_1545to seeking non-art solutions, i took an amazing small business class to see how to better move through the troubling arena of selling art.  i am doing all i can to put myself in a better position.

i acknowledge that all these chores are necessary things, and good places to put my energy.  After all, financially at the very least, something has to shift quickly.   However, there is a drawback. i do this knowing that the energy to which my body has access is limited. Therefore, devoting a large portion of my effort into these areas has meant that other responsibilities and joys suffered. My dog is shamefully lacking time at the beach to romp and roam.  Except for meditation, my self-care has flown out the window.  The stress is wearing on me; i am letting everyone down while i scramble for better paying jobs and new galleries to sell my art.

As i fill out applications and take tests on my competency in different subjects (discovering that i am happily quiet competent at many tasks), i have been doing the same thing i did during graduate school and undergraduate and nearly every traditional job i have ever held: i am leaking poems and art like blood dripping from my hands.

The more i try to focus on other things, the more the art surfaces. If i swear off art even for a short period, my entire being destabilizes IMG_1547and creativity bleeds into inappropriate places and spaces.  Dialogue for plays murmurs from my lips while i am in the shower. Poetry finds itself scribbled in the margins of notes i take, just like in college.  Drawings swim around in my mind until i have to draw them – not just once, but twice or three times – in order to expunge the image.  Stories that were put aside earlier due to lack of time haunt both my waking and dreaming mind; characters shake me and demand their due.

For six days, an intense, nauseating migraine has been wreaking havoc with my brain, eyes, thoughts and coordination.  My  memory is off; my attention span, worse.  Writing, like i am doing right now, actually hurts as much from the effort of putting one letter after another as from trying to focus through enough visual distortion to make the IMG_1556whole world brighter than a sparkly Twilight vampire.  The one thing that has soothed is art: the flow of ink, experimenting with watercolor, the comfort of line and form.

Even when i am at my worst, i bleed art. If i try to pretend i am a normal person, like the adult that i imagine everyone else to be, then the bleeding becomes a hemorrhage. The compulsion to make it grows irresistible.  It wails within me, disconsolate and brutal, until i give in.  So, i feed the addiction, no longer caring if i am forgetting other things, neglecting important obligations or crumbling into dissolution.  Inside the flow of creating, nothing matters but what pours through me.

And, for that, i thank the entirety of this super-sparkly Creation, every moment, including those dripping with pain.  There are worse fates than being a hopeless artist.  This strange little addiction feeds my soul; it helps to pull me back from despair; it fuels the rest of the struggle to move through this life.

skills

I have been woefully far behind on my writing – blogging and poetry and novel writing.  Neglecting the written word puts me on edge, even when I know other things have to take priority.  More than any other form of creativity, I use writing to keep me sane and balanced.  Despite this, necessity demanded going forward with other work.  Monday and Tuesday I tore apart the studio and moved a lot of it to the house (Thank God for friends that helped!) – I can’t afford to heat two buildings this winter, so painting, clay and glaze have to move – and the non-art-oriented work that I have done in the days since gobbled up a lot of my time and all my energy.  I fell asleep eating dinner two nights ago, surrounded by chaos and upheaval.

Thankfully, at  gallery yesterday I was able dancingbymyselfto make the best of no internet service by drawing eight different pieces, paired with eight new haiku.  It was marvelous to lose myself in the flow of art for the first time in ages.  After a couple of weeks in business attire and wearing a consistent facade of professionalism, being an artist for a few hours felt like coming home.  Art and word will always be my sanctuary – maybe that’s why my drawings have been so wildly joyous, because while I am making them the chaos and instability of life, as well as the things I must do to keep making the art, all seem irrelevant.

At any rate, that was not the point I intended to make!  What I wanted to write about was one of the epiphanies (I had two) during my recent business trip.  I have said over and over again, for years, that I am only good for art.  There is some basis for this assertion: I have this engine driving me to create that cannot be denied, this work gives my life meaning in a way nothing else ever has, and my health stubbornly demands a flexible schedule. (Case in point, I was days recovering from my trip – not because of any fault on the part of my employer or the work load, but because my body seemed angry about being “on” for days on end.)

However, during those days away, I discovered that I actually have skills.  Marketable ones, even.  I knew it, but the realization fell upon me like a sack of bricks – each explanation, each moment I was doing the work that I had been hired to do because my employer did not know how, I thought, “Well, five years in business has taught me some things. I have learned some skills.”

I felt wildly grateful for that knowledge.  Art still feels like it’s all I’m really good for – it is where my bliss lies, after all. bowingratitude But, maybe, just maybe, the things learned during these years of thrashing toil and wildly uneven success trying to make a living on my own have been useful too.  I kept thanking God for this epiphany, for teaching me that there are other ways up the mountain.  These might seem like detours, pulling me off the path I thought I should be hiking, but all this experience and adaption is useful.

poem: leap into the unknown

Fear could conquer
the most determined mood –
the persistent worry
that i am not enough,
that i have gotten too old,
that i wasted all my time.

Persistence comes not from courage
so much as desperation –
this is what i love to do,
anything else would be work.

So, i have no choice.

i leap into the unknown,
trying more with each day
to brace myself with the strength
of self-confidence
and the realization
that no matter what i do,
it involves risk –
what a betrayal it would be
if i stayed motionless
out of anxiety,
when i could have moved mountains.

8 august 2013

poem: creating

The compulsion has not vanished.

All yawning mouth and shining eyes,
it cries out within me,
not just during moments of idleness,
or those spent on the chorus of life,
but even while i feed it
with one form of art.

When i am a poet,
the hunger cries for clay.
While i throw,
paintings flow through my mind,
vivid and clear,
their edges dragging sharpness
across the plane of psyche.
i paint and then watch
as sculptures build themselves
in the back of my skull.
Through it all,
characters from stories
poke at me for attention,
not surrendering their cause
even though their novels
have become unmoored.

Even asleep, the need to explore
either image or tale or form
cannot take a break –
i dream what i do.

The truth of my compulsion
flows from my weary, eager hands.

Even though i collapsed in utter exhaustion,
these words continue to leak out my fingertips.

i am caught up in a river,
it flows through me in tides and torrents,
and i would not stop it if i could.

The urgency can take on calmer tones
when my soul rests in deep stillness –
indeed, it can soften to a whisper –
but the engine remains ready to turn,
to churn until all distractions are consumed.

At least a hundred times
i have asked friends and strangers,
anyone i thought could bring me answers,
why i have no lover,
no family,
why i am so unwillingly solitary
and aching with loneliness.

Tonight,
the clay, the paint,
and these lines
whisper the answer
to my overflowing heart.

8 february 2014

how hard is too hard

Tonight I was supposed to go out and break bread with other artists, but when the meeting was canceled, I continued on the path I had followed all morning and afternoon – taking it easy, editing photos, coding one website, helping another web client, adding products to Houzz, and simply taking time to rest.

Sometimes an unexpected blessing like this forces me to realize how much I need down-time and quiet. A large chunk of this evening passed me by while I napped, my cheek pressed against the pages of the book I had intended to read. When the phone rang, I was so far gone that I could not move a single muscle to answer; almost instantly upon interruption’s cessation, my thoughts wove their way back to dreams.

I know I’ve written about how shocking it is to me that I need quiet stillness beyond daily meditation before, but apparently, I am a remedial student on this subject.  When I was married, living in the city, there were enough natural distractions to keep me from going overboard.  Indeed, watching my energy get pulled in too many directions could make me agitated. That has changed.  My solitude and the business woman in me, who puts the whip to the artist’s back, conspire against fantasies like weekends.

Although, I should not blame the business. The drive to create goes very deep.  The need to work is all but irrepressible and would gladly sacrifice anything on its altar. Obviously, I cannot allow it to drive me to the point of illness and burnout.  However, I am not always intelligent about my limits.

Desperate for some balance between this compulsion and the rest of life, I have been reaching out to others like a fool – hoping that I can be given what I cannot easily provide for myself. Relationships are the one thing that will pull me away from what I ‘ought’ to be doing.  As odd as it sounds, I really enjoy being around other people even if they are not actively socializing with me.  Their noise, watching how they interact with each other, it all soothes me. Only recently, this tactic has not worked either.

Left to my own devices, I keep going until at some point, like the past two days (which are actually supposed to be ‘days off’), I collapse.  Moving the mouse has felt labor intensive.

This afternoon, waves of guilt kept assaulting me, even though I challenged their judgment with the evidence of my unsettling fatigue. ‘Look at what’s going on,’ reason told the emotion washing over me, ‘my mind has grown restless and weary.’  Just after lunch, I realized with a shock that it has been nearly two weeks since I have written anything more substantial than a blog or a poem. Once I was able to stifle the fire to write the book in favor of other deadlines, I have not stepped back into its flames. For me, that is highly irregular and a little alarming. Important and trivial things have been slipping, more so than usual. The stark realization that I have not been doing well physically feels like an excuse, but even with tonight’s rest, I know, I am still in danger. My flesh continues to ache and complain.  I must be careful.

Yet that to-do list makes me tremble, intimidating me with its glowing eyes and fear of abandonment, if I even dare to glance in its direction.

I must be kind to myself.

So, I will do some dishes (the tears of pain will help exorcize those last shreds of guilt) and then tuck myself in bed. As for this blog, I will end with a poem from my collection, ‘a seed of wild kindness,’ that feels wondrously applicable to this particular moment:darwinandandre copy

Quiet has taken over the world,
muting it in tones of gray,
softening the ground
and rocking us to sleep.
The rain caresses,
it plays lullabies,
it delays work
and encourages huddling
under blankets.

This is not a day
to move mountains
or change society –
it is a time to rest,
reach within
until the soul is opened up
to the gentleness
of creation.

and now the whimpering…

Oh, God. I paid the bills.  Well, most of them.  The ones urgently due, in any case. If I ever start feeling prideful and cocky, all I need to do is take the stack of stuff I have to pay in the next two weeks, add to that the amount I ought to spend on clay and glaze and other supplies for the business, and balance them with the amount of income that I know I will get (Ha! That is a sad little joke every artist I know will get! There is no certain income in the arts; people are not forced to buy your work.)  Then, if I still feel a glimmer of inappropriate self-satisfaction, I can either boot up my old laptop and watch it have a seizure trying to run Photoshop or attempt to look at a webpage on my (pristine, perfect condition and yet still utterly obsolete and mostly non-functional) iPad 1, and the whimpering will begin in short order.

reading-alt
the face of someone reading a book she does not like… she is slightly happier than I am paying the bills

If I really need more humbling, I can try to draw on said iPad and watch it commit seppuku rather than open the app.  (I loved drawing on it.  The last successful drawing is to the left. This loss I mourn.)

Honestly, the bills were enough today all on their own.  I comfort myself with digital drawing and the whole seppuku thing made me despondent enough to write a blog.

To a certain degree, this is a seasonal disorder.  March has always been one of the hardest months for these spasms of stress (I know it’s still technically February, but these were the March bills I was paying).  The spring sales have not yet started and whatever money I squirreled away for the first part of the year has vanished.  2014 watched it fly away much faster than normal.  This incredibly harsh winter ate it up through fuel oil and repairs to the house after the ice storm.

So, I whimper.  I stomp around in a puddle of self-pity so deep it pours into my galoshes and soaks my socks.

Thankfully, this angst does not last very long (anymore.)  When I find myself drenched in self-doubt, I am overwhelmed with a compulsion to act. Furiously, I try to shake it off.  I turn to whatever might mitigate the stress and insecurity.  The delight I take in my work helps quite a lot.  The obsessive writing that has dominated the past two days reminds me that this is my calling – whether or not it is lucrative, or wise, or just evidence that I am a fool.

If I am in such a negative mood that I keep insulting the works of my hands, or I am so anxious that I cannot focus properly on making art, I pull out my business plan and comfort myself with whatever might be going better than expected.  If I can’t find anything that meets those criteria, I search the opus for proof that I am better at handling catastrophe than I was when I started this endeavor five years ago.  Running a business did not come naturally to me. Thank God, I am improving, even if progress remains slow and uneven.  With this inspiring me, I adapt my plans, think about how I could improve my situation, vow never to eat out again (even though I know it’s a LIE), shop for deals on iPads so I will be prepared when I sell something big enough to make me think I can afford one… and that all might soothe me.

Yet, if it doesn’t, all is not lost.  The next steps are meditating to regain my inner peace and itemizing the things I’m grateful for – a list that could go on nearly endlessly.  Ah, but if the nervousness has made me too agitated to maintain the discipline required for those tasks, I can still call or text friends and try to distract myself with their triumphs and tribulations.  Maybe I’ll just have them remind me that I’m not a lost cause.

After all that, if I am still morose, I set a timer for twenty minutes and just let myself stew in the dark quiet (not meditation, simply letting myself whimper with abandon).  I get bored of such drama pretty quickly. Usually turning on the lights afterward is enough to get me out of my funk. At some point, in the darkness, I am confronted with one unavoidable truth: I cannot do anything other than what I’m doing.  Even if I’m failing, I’m following my heart.  Even if the worst happens, even if I never make another dime from my art or my writing, even if I lose everything, it does not matter enough to make me deviate from my purpose.  I know deep in my soul that this is what I do – who I am.  The realization doesn’t make me happy, or renew my faith, so much as helps me surrender to the instability of it all.

That epiphany is helped by the other unavoidable realization that comes to me after twenty minutes of motionless self-pity: I don’t seem to be able to sit still for more than fifteen minutes (sadly, this includes meditation) without some form of art starting to poke at me for attention.

Speaking of which, the book I’ve been writing – which was already gently poking me before I decided to write this blog on paying the bills – has now begun to slap me lightly.

I should get back to it before one of the characters thinks to pick up a weapon…

steadfastness

Sometime around the fourth inch of snow of this current snowstorm, I started to lose my resolve. All I wanted was to hide.  Instead of putting on my boots and heading to the studio, I curled up with a good book and the animals, tucked under the blankets, simultaneously overwhelmed and grieved by the amount of work.  Too much of this winter has been spent hiding.

red and white bowls
red and white bowls

Both the list of all I have to do and the absolute mystery of how it will get done quickly with the foul weather and the limits of my two hands keep plaguing me.  The fear that this is what defeat feels like wandered through my heart over and over.  Perhaps, I have been too stubborn to notice it as failure has crept up behind me. How do I stay steadfast to my dreams when I am caught in this cold, lonely, confused insecurity? Even today, I know I should be grateful.  Thank God, most days this question doesn’t plague me.  As I have talked about before, I find myself fortified by art.  When I stand before the wheel, or the easel, it restores me and aligns me with a great feeling of purpose.  The ability to make new and better pots and paintings and poems somewhat insulates me from rejection.  Even when I cannot soothe myself with creating, a certain amount of strength dwells within me.  When confronted by others, I can muster some defiance in the face of predictions of doom. Another’s negativity might effect me, frustrate me or dishearten me, but it rarely unseats me entirely. No, what makes me falter are the churning doubts that echo through my skull when I am alone.  The dark and the cold don’t help. Tomorrow night, they predict another terrible storm. Then another a couple of days later. This huge mount of work that I must do continues to grow larger – for which I am wildly grateful and a bit intimidated. However, even during this snow-drenched day, I have found a comfort beyond these words and the few sketches I have put to paper.  I focus on one sentiment, which I have clung to for the past two days like a mantra: I can only do what I can do.  If I look deep into myself – from how my flesh manages in this moment, to what tenacity and inspiration dwell within my spirit, to how well I can navigate the frozen world outside – and I am doing the most that I can manage, then that is all that matters.  That has to be enough.  If I am being true to what I can do, then the pain of deadlines and pressures and stress becomes self-imposed. I am whipping myself for things I cannot alter and honestly the masochism of self-hatred long ago lost its appeal. So I am letting myself feel rotten without pushing myself to end up feeling even worse.  I sigh with the dog when we go outside for a walk only to crunch and slide on ice and snow.  And, after I am done writing, I will curl up with either Rumi or HG Wells and spend the evening in the embrace of their words. It will all be okay, even if my steadfastness feels like discipline right now rather than emotion.

the engine

the engine

An engine works tirelessly,
tucked deep within me.
Inside my ribs,
it provides a solidness –
the foundation for my heart –
while its churning cogs
reach up through my spine
wildly agitating my mind.

I cannot escape its persistence
for it drives me fiercely,
like a rider in the Pony Express,
filling me to overflowing
with need and inspiration,
caring not one whit
if I am awake or asleep,
able or ill.

If I were to surrender
and attempt another kind of life,
this engine would torture me
for my sin.

As it is, the driving pulse
pulls me up and pushes me hard,
demanding I keep going
even when I stand trembling and naked
before the icy whip of vulnerability,
or when my confidence wears too thin
because it was eroded by cruelty.

No infirmity nor calamity
has managed to turn the engine off
or even damage it severely.
It has amazing gifts at self-repair.

Whether the rest of me
feels ready or not,
it drags me back onto the rails
and starts the wheels of art
turning again.
It refuses to listen to my whining.
It allows for no excuses.

I weep with gratitude
for the relentless,
constant,
blessed
engine
that moves me on and on,
giving form to my days
and reason for my breathing.

— this is a first draft, written today (29 December 2013) when the icy whip of vulnerability is biting me most cruelly. But here I am, in the studio, being consoled by art.