What does it mean to truly be accepting of a reality that can't be ignored? I think of the movie title "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can" -- and feel like this is how I have approached things in my life lately. Keep all the balls in the air at once, and make it happen. Tired? Just. Keep. Going. Feeling physically sick? Just. Keep. Going. Stressed out? Just. Keep. Going. Overwhelmed? Just. Keep. Going. Eventually you get through things by putting one foot in front of the other and just making progress.
Have been told since birth by culture that it is possible to do anything and everything, and this has become an internal expectation, to some degree. One of my students commented on their supposed ability to "Go out there and influence the world" in big ways, saying it was a lot of pressure and was an unrealistic expectation to begin with. Wise words from youth! While I know I will never be an NBA star or neurosurgeon, I realize I have placed a lot of expectations on myself to "be" a lot of things in my little world, and while I love all the things, I might have developed very unrealistic expectations along the way. I have so many interests -- passions, really -- and try to learn and do as much as possible with the little life I've been given.
But there are limits.
Looking back at the past few months I see that I have physically hit the wall with an unending RA flare and biologic medications that are not doing much of anything. Every day has been a difficult mix of severe soreness and stiffness, lots of jarring pain, and fatigue. Oh, the fatigue. My response has been to respond to the physical situation only when against the wall, when pushing back has become almost impossible. Have my expectations for myself changed, along with this uptick in disease activity? Nope. Why should they change? We have to have goals, right? Always strive to do better, be better, live better? My strategy has been to fight against the limits, alone and hard, but I think I need a change from that, now.
What has changed is an increase of a feeling of futility, negative thinking, and depression. There, I said it. It has been a rough few months, folks. The "D" word. Maybe it is the RA, maybe it is the weather and time of year. Maybe it is a lot of things. My art space is underused and disorganized. I have about five sketchbooks and writing books underway, and a daily planner that I have abandoned for a month. I have scoured the Internet and voraciously read amazing art books. I have ideas, so many ideas, but the energy, time and space to bring them to fruition just hasn't materialized. It has made me sad.
I feel like my ability to “do it all” has changed. I want to be able to teach more, do more, live more, but just can’t see beyond the next nap I have to take. I am a disappointment to myself, and hate the fact that I am not in control of my own time and physicality. I know it isn't "my fault" that I am not up to snuff physically, but that doesn't change the fact that I am not functioning at 100% right now. That I can not seem to eek out the time and space to create the artwork that I dream about. I feel like that past few months have been a battle between functional survival and the need for sleep. It is hard to think about art when your brain is so, so tired and your body is aching all over, every day. Every day. Think Maslow's hierarchy of needs, here.
The effects of carrying around pain and exhaustion are cumulative and I think I've just hit the wall. It IS depressing to not be able to do what your heart and soul needs to do to be happy. I have seriously thought about giving up all my art stuff -- selling off machines, fabric, beads, everything -- and just starting over as a non-art person. Would there be less stress and less pain? Maybe, for a while. Just focusing on basic daily needs would be enough. For a while.
But I know that can't happen. I am too entangled in my love for threads and artmaking to walk away. It is my support beyond all others. I think that I just need to acknowledge that I've crossed a line with this health thing, and it is starting to get the better of me. If I am not careful, the guilt over not being artistically productive will eat away at my sense of self. It already has, to some degree. I have to let go of the guilt and personal artistic expectations that I've held onto for so long, and realize that getting anything done is an accomplishment, no matter how small. I can't compare what I do now to what I used to do, as the me that is forced to accept limits is not the same person. Who knows...maybe if I lower expectations a bit, more might be accomplished?
The purpose of this post is not to complain or solicit empathy. I just feel the need to explain my lack of productivity, mostly to myself, and this blog is my vehicle for doing that. While it should be showcasing recent artworks on a monthly basis, it feels like one long whine, caused by the friction of looming physical decline.
All of this being said, I am still working - most recently on a series of stitched still life pieces of, of all things, my kitchen knife rack. The irony is not lost on me. I'll be participating in Wakefield's Art and Edibles art show this week and these pieces will be on display. I am not sure they are really "finished" as they are samples for my UK textile art class, but the current form will just have to do.
Like a lot of things, I think. Cheers.