Tag: Job

overwhelm


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?

she has no message, because i could not go

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.

 

 

a day of nothing

I wanted a day of nothing today – even though I know it is almost a sin to take time off when my to-do list is taller than Everest.  But, when I awoke my guts were in knots, my foot still throbbed, my head ached hideously, rick-rack filled my vision, my breathing was off and more clearly than I have known anything in a long time, I knew I needed some rest.IMG_3173

And I managed to get a couple of hours of indolence squeezed in, between typing in handwritten manuscripts, working with web clients, cleaning up more mouse corpses and writing new poems.  The dog even cuddled with me for awhile, although I think he found it embarrassing.  Now, at 11:42 at night, still typing in poems written over the past month, I realized that there is something broken in my psyche.  I cannot just be still and quiet and idle, unless I am actually unconscious or meditating.

Even a day of nothing isn’t a day without work.  It just means that I’m toiling away on the couch, with the television on, rather than going to the studio for the heavy lifting of pottery or glazing.  Maybe someday, I’ll figure out how to take a day off – or a vacation.  I wonder what one of those would be like….

 

changes

IMG_3617I am awake, willingly, and ready to go at 7:15 am.  My computer is on, I am dressed in business attire, complete with makeup and the boots of power.

The only poems I wrote yesterday were haiku and I failed in my goal of making a piece of art a day – having brought my pen and inks for just that purpose – even as I work on these other projects.  Still, I met wonderful people, spent some time with a dear friend and started to get some work done for which I will be paid.

If I weren’t inside this skin, I wouldn’t recognize myself this morning!  Although, keeping me down to earth is the strong and powerful desire to strip off the suit, put back on my normal uniform (clay-stained yoga pants and a sweater) and start getting muddy or covered with clay and ink.  I was dreaming my novel, the characters harassing me about their fate.  So I am still here, underneath the different attire and habits.

And, I know, that time will come again.  This job is very good for many more reasons other than just financial – most importantly, because it’s making me hungry for art.

Pieces of Loneliness – Job

Another chapter from Pieces of Loneliness

Job

Suffering in silence has never been my forte.  Of course, I have managed it a few times when no one was around to hear my complaining, but give me someone within earshot and the complaints will flow forth from me faster than they can run away.  Thankfully I learned to put pen to paper and thus expand the audience for my sorrows.  It simultaneously saved the few friends I have by spreading the burden to an inanimate object and keeping the worst, most judgmental of my whining in print.

If I am not a descendent of Job, I should be.  Although I have to say, my suffering is not as profound as his.  One cannot lose children one never had.  And, my body is blessedly free of boils, for which I give thanks.  But, a common thread between my suffering and his remains.  We both remain steadfast that this pain is undeserved.  When I read the book of Job, I was most struck by how alone he felt.  Granted, he had suffered terrible losses and was steeped on mourning, but the self-rightousness of his friends made him feel utterly alone.  I know the feeling.  Platitudes and rejection have met many of my darkest moments.

Suffering in itself brings on a sense of isolation.  Being confronted with all the ways in which the pain is deserved makes it worse.

Still, though, I can comfort myself with the realization that my suffering is not as terrible as it could be.  I have a home.  Most of the time, I have enough to eat.  My solitude does not wound me as it might someone else, for I live with myself well.  Yet, even as I write these words, the issues that weigh heavily on my heart shift themselves, making me doubt the wild faith I usually have in my purpose.  Magical thinking, delusional faith – whatever you would call it – usually makes my movement through this world fairly certain.  I have a Calling.  I have experienced miracles that led me to believe that I have a vocation.  Not just that I write because my own internal drives make me, but that the whole pull of creativity is what I should be doing.

But that journey – to do what I have felt called to do – has been complicated.  Perhaps I misunderstood the divine encouragement that came my way.  It could be that I thought “write” actually meant the broader mandate to “create.”  Or, I could be suffering the reversals that any artist ought to expect.  Unfortunately, I lack the confidence to know which is true.  I could have careened off the path so many times – in fact, I have – perhaps whatever divine sanction I had was forfeit.

Ah, I am not a true Job.  I am always too ready to blame myself for my situation.  From my personal failings to the lack of talent I perceive in myself, I am constantly committing the sin of hopelessness.  As much as I can believe in my purpose, I continually doubt that I possess the strength, talent and wisdom to pull it off.  These reversals chisel away at my heart.  I grow despondent and withdraw.  The time that I ought to use to dig myself out of my problems winds up being spent crying and whining.

I wonder what Job did when his troubles started. By the time he was boil covered and homeless, he knew that there was nothing he could do to fix is life but in the beginning, when it was his livestock and livelihood, did he scramble to fix things?  Did he beg his neighbor for a loan of some sheep?  Did he try to sell off some of his land?  Did he start grumbling to God then?

I do not know of a single person who is doing well right now.  There are millions, probably billions, of people who have problems graver and more intractable than my own.  The things I whine about – loneliness, insecurity, instability – none of them are as terrible as they feel in my heart.  The blessings of my life far outweigh the sorrows.  Just a few weeks ago, I was sick enough I thought I was dying.  During those moments that I danced with death, I felt awesome peace and love.  Forgiveness reigned in my soul.  Absolutely no Jobness dwelt within me when I thought I was leaving this world.

Living is so much harder.  Drowning can seem preferable to treading water endlessly.  The former implies eventual rest; the latter, perpetual exhaustion.

Still, I have been deep in whining since the tiniest shreds of decent health have been coming back to me.  It is almost as though the more capable I am of solving my problems, or at least adapting to whatever blockade has been plopped into my life, the more terrifying and impossible it all seems.  Placing one foot in front of another can wear me down beyond my ability to express – but when all movement was denied to me, I found some measure of peace inside my powerlessness.

This is a time of wild, mind-boggling change.  I have shed a lover, a tenant, my illusions of family.  My dreams have fallen – some breaking into bits, others struggling forward, perpetually transforming.

Cry out like Job.  Why, God, have you cost me so much?  Why do you demand that I move forward alone?  Why do you stay silent, when before you gave me such loving answers?

Then I come to my senses a bit, and realize that the wonder of this ink snaking across the page, creating forms intelligible to other people, the desire and need in our souls to connect with each other, the bliss of having these pages to turn to even in the worst of times –

all of this is my answer.

I have been given such gifts that they will save me.  Even if I lose everything, I have been given this time of words and form and images and creating.

Thank God.

Even in my loneliness, I am no longer complaining.  Despite my utter vulnerability, I feel at peace.  And, I came to this point by listing my complaints and realizing that they were nothing next to my joys.