Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Wait

I'm waiting. Waiting to work. Waiting because there is something "other" that I MUST do, that MUST be done before I can attend to what I do. I must listen in on a phone call with my mother, the bank and the nursing home about the Medicaid application. I live 700 miles away from my parents but I must stop what I am doing and assist this ridiculously complicated and stupid bureaucracy. I put off my work again. I love my parents and do wish to help but I am also conflicted about the use of my time. The baggage of others' needs coming before I can attend to mine. My need is to feed my art, to make my work, to indulge my creativity in all forms, from the frenzy to the reflective to the blank moments of incubation. Who makes sure I have this time? Who blocks out those moments for me and respects those fluctuations? Nobody but me.

I learned growing up that thinking for myself, doing for myself was selfish if it didn't serve others. Thank you, Catholic upbringing. I have spent decades awash in that perception of myself, awash in guilt at any action or thought that involved me then rejecting that point of view then deconstructing the whole mechanism and now, trying to come to terms with the conflicting emotions, messages and lessons learned from living for five decades. Yes, it can be tremendously fulfilling to serve others. It can bring great joy and happiness to those served and the server. But not at the expense of the fundamental needs of the individual. Meaning, if you set out to do something for others and you experience not joy and happiness or even a kind neutrality but instead a resentment and nagging feeling that you could be doing something else, then somewhere, you have a need that you are not addressing. It could be something as simple as not getting enough sleep or something as complicated as not understanding some deep-seated fears and anxiety.

Strangely, I had thought I had put much of this childhood baggage to rest but now, as my parents age and need assistance, I feel the tightening of the long, long tether connected from the wrist of a small girl within to the heaps of mental obligations and guilt that were my conclusions about myself when I processed the world around me years ago.

Simply, if I'm playing at my work and using my imagination, if I'm doing the non-linear dance of creativity, if I'm not taking care of someone else's well-being, emotional or otherwise, I am not doing something worthwhile and therefore, that creative activity, mental or physical, must be stopped or postponed, dropped down on the list of priorities.

How was this devaluing of my creative self accomplished? Was a I ridiculed and criticized? Well, not directly. What took place, I feel, I think, I believe, was that subtle rejection of all things creative. I do not come from an art appreciative background. My museum experience came from school and friends, not my family, not my parents. My obsession with drawing started with my love of horses and I drew them constantly. It was not discouraged but neither was it encouraged. Things I was proud of were received with a bland, "That's nice. Can't you draw something else?" Breaking away from traditional representational art as I matured in my teens and was exposed to modern art, abstract expressionism, mediums beyond graphite pencils, dimensions beyond flat canvas, pushed me further into a void at home. I had no one to talk to about the things I experienced so I kept my thoughts to myself, completely insecure about how I felt about the contemporary art I was fascinated by. That lack of confidence about my own perceptions is only now beginning to fall away like a papery snake's skin. But even as I feel more at home about my perceptions about art, creativity and craft, I still have trouble connecting my value as a participant. Particularly at times of crisis when I perceive that others may need me or desire my attention. I place their needs above my own. Awful. Must stop. Has started to stop. 

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