Apparently, this is the third time that i have written a blog that is entitled overwhelm.
i am not in the least bit shocked, as the problem recurs with some frequency. Lately, it is made worse because of a necessary change of focus.
After nearly twenty years working as an artist and writer (although for many of them i did not have to be obsessed with making my own living) and eight working myself down to a nub running my own business, i have been holding down a regular job since last June.
That sentence still sounds surreal. Art, i used to say, is all i am good for. Well, it is certainly my passion and vocation, but i have discovered that i can develop other skills and learn huge amounts of information in a short period of time. i feel an odd pride in being resilient enough to make such a fundamental change to how my life is structured. However, a tension has developed by these two opposing forces – creativity and the need to survive – and this has lead to a new kind of overwhelm.
The longer i work at this job, and the more i enjoy it, the worse the struggle between the artistic and practical sides of my psyche grows. i work eight or ten hours to come home too exhausted to write or paint or sculpt or throw. Indeed, my health has not been terribly good, so i have to proceed with caution. All the sick time has been used up. This constant fatigue and struggle makes me feel like less of an artist – even though, by any reasonable standard, i am still producing a decent amount of art and verse. Logic be damned, though, my confidence is deeply compromised. i have become excruciatingly vulnerable to criticisms.
Suggest that i am not the artist i thought i was, and i will hang my head in shame. Maybe i am not. After all, i have found some unexpected delights in this job. Would a real artist have been utterly inconsolable? Unable to find joy in other accomplishments?
When my writing is dismissed as irrelevant or harmful because it deals with heavy issues and are not always sparkling with wit, i hang my head and agree. This is not work about trivisl things. Very few poems involve wine or puppies or butterflies. My overriding fascination as an artist – both in visual and written mediums – is the inner workings of the soul. What happens beneath the skin, in this soup of perception, knowledge, bias, inspiration, reaction and emotion, has been the platform from which my creativity launched.
There was a time i could swim in an ocean of story without being worried about the anything else. i can barely remember it. Given the insanity that this country (and world) is facing right now, i feel particularly hoxed. Not only has the wild river of art that flooded from me slowed to a tiny, warbling brook, other tasks of major importance have to be put off. i have had to learn to say no, especially to my own desires. Last weekend, kept drawing protesters, mostly because i was too exhausted and sick to go protesting myself.
Curled up under covers, i remembered fondly attending George Mason University in the late 80s, early 90s, and going to many protests in DC. Getting involved stokes potent hope.
Yet, i have to protect this body (as well as my mental health) first and foremost, because when i am unable both the job and the calling screech to a halt.
Too often, i find myself lamenting the art-obsessed life i used to have like one would a lover. Oh, i remember being in the arms of flow, being ready to pick up a pen at any moment. At the same time, i am proud that no matter what has been going on with anxiety, or my health, or my bills, or that nagging cloud of despair i haven’t been able to shake since i was a child, i am surviving, working the full day, and letting poetry and sketches leak out. Some weekends, in a burst of joy, i throw myself into larger works.
i am still an artist. My sanity continues to be maintained by the written word and the thin ribbons of ink that pour from my pen.
But, this overwhelm brought me low and made me hide. Forgive me for my absence. Pardon me for the awkwardness of this writing. i am still a bit wobbly in my feet. Ignore the loud laughter and thanksgivings, because i am just so ridiculously grateful i made it this far.