Sunday, October 21, 2012

At Least You Get to be an Artist

In 10 days I'll be sweating my way up and down stairs, carrying lofty furniture and a few backpacks full of clothes. I've moved a ton in the past decade. It's the nature of the times. But this feels different. Like I'm moving into myself. And somehow, strangely enough, it feels like the most scary of territories. What are my real limits? Where are my true edges? Who am I when left to my own devices? 

I'm a boarder-free kinda gal, so it's easy to scare the shit out of myself. Few things feel off-limits, bad or dangerous. (Sorry, Ma. I know I drive you up the wall). 

Which brings me to being an artist: 

In August, I challenged myself to writing a poem a day. What resulted was a total undressing. A deluge of rhythms and lines. A river I could not dam up--not now, not anymore. I dug up ten thousand buried moments--past, present, future. I let what was just below the surface bubble to the top, boil over, burn. And burn, indeed, I did. All the way to the bone.

Life has been feeling as unruly as a dancing fire. Where will the next flame wisp? It's impossible to know. There is no pattern to fire. It's free. It's transitional.

And I hate to say it, like it may be true, but perhaps what I'm really moving into is a life that is unprotected, fully lived, felt to the edges with nothing left to do but write about it. Immortalize it. Somehow find its beauty.

It's like my pond mutated into an ocean in a moments time, but my body stayed the same size. I'm strong, a good swimmer, but where am I going? To the edge? Must I always seek the edge? Or could I just let myself float where I am for a while, enjoying the sun on my face, not worrying about where I am? Letting the fire die in the water, if only for a day.

And then there's gratitude. Some of my very closest friends are in immense grief right now, coping with things no one ever imagines will actually happen to them. I can feel empathy swelling in me, as I sit face-forward with their cracked open lives. I know how it feels to be tied to the bed, fucked, trying to find any morsel of pleasure possible, in such harrowing circumstances. 

And I think maybe this is what art is for: framing the unimaginable truth, honoring the tiniest reflections, making sense out of the insane. Staying awake when you just want to sleep, numb, smoke cigarrettes to hell and back.

Because there is nothing sturdy about living. Even when we build stone castles as homes, the troops eventually march in. The catapults fire. It all burns. And this moment is as good as it gets for now. With everything twirling and spiraling in a craze, with no guarantees for the story you'd like to call your own--at least you still get this: to be an artist. 

You get to move into yourself, and travel to the edges you never knew lived inside of you. You get to appreciate the backroads at sunset and curse the traffic jams of your soul. You get to have it all in there, in that crazy self of yours. Again and again, living in paradox--powerless and powerful beyond belief--you get to dance the artists' dance, sweating, pounding, occasionally resting off-beat. You get to make something, as your final shout at life. 

This is the life of an artist. Dam-free. Flowing. Teetering between float and swim. It all pours out, it all comes in. And you are vulnerable. The occasional sink is bound to creep in. But alive, you are. You are living. And while sometimes it's delayed, put off for those late nights clicking away at the keyboard, you are feeling, deeply. You are asked, really, one thing only: to dive all the way in. To get drenched. To show us. Or if not us, yourself.

Because it's really about you, isn't it? Becoming. Becoming the person who's needed in order to live the life that's arrived. Inventing. Surrendering. Playing. Trying shit on until something actually fits your new, unfamiliar size and shape.

There's a lot that I'm showing myself, as a beginning. Writing in private. Experimenting like a 13 year old whose trying to find her sense of style. This book is terrifying me. It's the most fun I've had since my senior year of college when I'd paint for 8 hours straight, leaving the studio as the sun was coming up, forgetting where I was or what was next on my agenda. It's forcing me to stay awake, in a time when I'd be oh-so-tempted to just fall away, asleep, crashed inside an aimless car of fear.

Art. It's saving me. It's making me brave.

And you? What's your artist up to these days? Has she saved you lately? Is she seeking to come out and make something beautiful from your crazy, magical life? Are you letting her?? Do tell. I'd love to hear.

crazy raw + glad,

1 comment:

Cherie Murray said...

Yes! This weekend I was bit, hard, by the creative bug & made a bunch of necklaces. I forgot to eat even I got so wrapped up in what I was doing. That is amazing & awesome & thrilling & terrifying. I have been feeling that 'traffic jam of the soul' thing lately as well. Living the paradox is intense.