Isolation is the dream killer--Barbara Sher
“What are you looking for?” TEG asked me curiously as he saw me spending endless amounts of time online. I shook my head, not quite knowing how to answer that question. I was at loose ends in my life, having just left Cool but Aimless job without a new job or a plan(yeah, won’t be doing THAT again). I looked towards the internet as a way to search for a solution, a new job, direction. So I searched for tips--resume tips, cover letter tips, career search tips. It was a time to be hardnosed, a paragon of practicality.
I didn’t want to admit that I was searching for something more elusive. Inspiration lurking in binary code, perhaps, or encoded in HTML.
During that time, I spent a good deal of my day diligently reading, convincing myself that I would find the Answer, and stuffing any errant creative longings down where they couldn’t be able to hurt me or anyone else.
It was a lonely, isolated time. I didn’t feel like I had anything to contribute to, well, anyone. So I steeped in information, passively, and ignored the way that it made me almost desperately bored. Everyone else’s work was polished to a high sheen, no seams visible.
Moving to California just deepened that sense that I was sitting this round out. Now I was pregnant--moving slower, these strange sensations inside of me making me feel like an alien to myself. And full of foreboding that I wouldn’t be able to be a good mother, not when I had made such a mess of my own life. So the search continued, only this time, I was on the lookout for anything that could help mold me into a Good Mother. And again, everyone else was an expert, and all I could do was be meticulous and take good notes. Surely, I had nothing to say about this experience. My imagination was stymied by the sheer force of the informed opinions around me. I knew nothing.
Madam arrived and I drowned in her. When that tidal wave subsided, however, I was surprised to find that those nagging longings hadn’t gone away; in fact, they had intensified. My surfing became even more fitful, dissatisfied.
I’m not sure why I clicked on that crafty link that day. I’ve never really been interested in any of that, even though I’d had Wish Jar Journals bookmarked for a while. But every time I clicked on it, I felt my throat closing up with envy--she was an Artist, another expert brimming with esoteric knowledge and proud authority.
In hindsight, I guess I was scared to read it too closely.
But that one link led to another, and another. I found a whole community of women making their art a central theme in their life. A paradox--they took their work seriously (something I’ve always been afraid to do) and took themselves less so (allowing themselves to make messes and mistakes and enjoying them--wait, you can do that?). I found mothers mulling about ways to remember ideas and create in the in between times--nap times, bed times. I saw work evolve over time, the dailyness of the “how to be an artist” question being answered everyday. Enthusiasm was everywhere--weekly projects, monthly projects--and insights and praise were shared generously. I learned that knowing nothing was as good a place to start as any.
And for the first time, it felt wrong to stay silent. I couldn’t just sit back and allow myself to be entertained by the Experts anymore. These seams were visible. This work was possible.
So thank you all, for practically forcing my voice out of my strangled throat, for being open and honest with your art, your questions, your answers, your process, for showing me your imperfections. Thank you for dwelling in possibilities.
If TEG were to ask me “What are you looking for?” now, I would have a clear answer.
I was looking for you.
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