It’s the last thing I feel. I am fired up with creative energy, and this is good for an artist. To have no fire means no fuel for the process of creating.
It’s four a.m. or just after. End of the weekend. Not quite the start of the week. I’ve had my fun time, mixed in with dealing with a frozen shoulder that came out of my Canadian adventure home – wtf. And this is supposed to take a year to 18 months to heal? No fucking way. Is this the result of shovelling snow and shrugging my shoulders in the arctic front that plagued us all through the holiday? I’m shrugging as I write this. The body remembers.
I have too much to do. Too much I want to do. Shit to get done. Life feels like that all. the. time. There’s always a pot in the fire, and I want to be active. Living with chronic pain, however, debilitates one’s mind as much as one’s body. And I see others online talking about the same thing: a broken ankle, lingering exhaustion from Covid, arthritis discovered after a fall.
I remember suffering through the first three years after a car accident when I was 21 and at the start of my teaching career. I literally had to learn to accept that when the body needs rest, it does. But when the mind is hungry, what to do? The writer in me may have been fed by that. But so was my anxiety.
I’m older now and know better. Abide and this (difficulty), too, shall pass. But you have to learn that.
So, after physio today I had enough muster to go sit in a cafe called *dose* (“never overdose” is their slogan). Bought a caramel latte, which was pricey at 26 SAR – let’s see, that’s $8.70 CAD / $6.93 USD / £5.07 GBP. Holy crap. I had no idea. All for the privilege of sitting in the sun in a cafe where the cool kids go. Even Starbucks is cheaper, and possibly the coffee is better. The caramel tasted burnt. Maybe the coffee was today.
That’s probably my last visit at *dose*, though maybe for the chair in the sun and view of the Saudis criss-crossing the street along the corniche, and the photo ops and illusion that I am really plugged into this culture here, while sitting there like that, will bring me back. We’ll see. I’m no coffee expert. But I like my cafes to provide good value. Are we paying for the coffee or renting the space? Both. *dose* should do better. Their food is crap, too.
But, god, the views…
Now, on being steady…
This comes up for me because I’m hungry to make art. Why? Because I love to express. Love to write. Love to discover the meaning of life in the doing of those things. I love, also, to scribble and if I’m lucky discover there is a latent visual artist in me. But still it is about reflecting on the outside the inner workings of my mind, memory, etc. I love to create, mess around, play. I love to make the mistakes…oh, hold on a minute there…no, I actually don’t. But they are essential to learning.
Yet, I have restless brain, restless body, and the artistic proclivity to flit about from one thing to the next. This year, I have vowed to myself to write. To write despite the inherent imposter syndrome that creeps in and says, in the nastiest voice: “But what about?” And what is that about?!
I’m navel gazing. I do a lot of that. Navel gazing. Looking at self. Wondering. It may be the absolutely least discovered act of self-recrimination ever. The opposite of self-compassion. But in any case, it’s also the search for understanding. Man’s (woman’s) search for meaning.
This restlessness leads me to do a little of this, a bit of that, move on to that.
Artists need endurance. They need to stay the course, and lock in, patiently abide, try things out, mess about, wade through the weeds, express and question and write, paint, make songs and create things out of every emotion and thought that leads to a spark. Someone once said – ah, a beautiful actress friend of mine who left the business of teaching – follow the sparks. They are the intuition speaking. Spark after spark, with your love – and mine – will lead us to marvellous things that we cannot quite foresee.
Being steady means planting in one place and doing stuff, even if that doing is being. Patiently abiding. I am trying to work this out with my psychotherapist who is helping me to look at ways to help myself move through the various griefs I’m experiencing in my life: I’ve been triggered massively by the loss of my dad…but still there is the loss of nearly $100,000 in 2008 during the banking crisis…and there is the loss of time while I try to recover and set my financial self, and sense of wellbeing, right. Here in Saudi, not living in my creative hub in Canada or the UK where poetry in the streets flourishes (okay, in the pubs and libraries, when lockdowns aren’t happening) and people CREATE…I have not found my creative community in Saudi. I live and am slowly dying, I fear, in a vacuum.
I have to remind myself: many a great artist lived a modest life, one of poverty, one of suffering, in fact, and that includes one of illness, disease and debilitation, and they expressed their way through it and created beauty and meaning for others. Many an artist. Not the least of which was Frida Kahlo or, as my therapist told me, Paul Klee, who had some disease which tightened the skin over his hands and body and hurt him badly until he died. He was one of the defining modern artists.
And of course, there are artists here and wherever you go. One of my best friends is the Saudi art teacher who first allowed me to drive her SUV to the ‘Edge of the World’ outside of Riyadh. After two days together, we were thick as thieves and had overcome the formalities of getting to know one another. I spoke Arabic, had the mindset and knowledge of her culture, and the door unlocked. She welcomed me into her world. OMG – a fellow artist – and a brave one at that. One who had things to say about her private life. Imagine. Her art on the walls of the family home included her own hair, which she cut off and which her mother adores and proudly displays in the inner sanctum of the home, on the other side of the border from the guest sitting room. It is a piece that emerged from this act of…defiance? transformation? meaning making? To have a Saudi share their innermost creative expression with you is a gift of immeasurable value.
So, when I heard my friend was leaving me, leaving this town, last year, my heart stopped. She met me early in the morning, in the winter, six months after her father died, not quite a year after mine had, in a park called Deffi at an outdoor cafe in an expensive part of this town I live in.
She brought us paints, which we would have used, had the skies not opened with a single crack and poured rain upon us, filling the breakfast bowl of humus (Egyptian fava bean dip) with puddles and ruining our thamees bread and plans for a leisurely morning of painting god knows what…the naked and subconscious truths of our lives or something. I probably exaggerate, but really the proof is in what happened next.
Her sister who had come with us threw off her abaya and went running through the grass until she was soaked through and through in the rain, returning with laughter. I recorded or photographed her arrival and then we ran for the vehicles. More pics and laughter as we said goodbye. Now that was a good morning.
The answer is to embrace. it. all. Shit happens. But life can still be beautiful. And if you look hard enough, what you need can be found right beneath your nose. So, even though my friends are now studying abroad, we are connected by a deep love, deep bond and when we need one another, we find one another. These friends, when I craved a writer’s circle, became that and we sneaked away to a different cafe in the city and shared secrets that have yet to be written. So exciting it was and still is. The future is unwritten still.
What steadies us – it is good to know. What is required to stay steady is the will, however, and a dream – I prefer this word to ‘goal’. Dreams come from the heart. Goals seem to come from the head. They are a calculated decision to get somewhere. They work in concert with your resources and actions, but I’m of the mind today that dreaming fuels the fire and the fire is what warms the soul in order for it to settle and unlock into the work, the process, the labor of love.
Steady. See? I sat for less than an hour and wrote this because, well, I wanted to. My vision for 2022 is to write more, reveal more, find more, discover more, be the artist, and lose the artificial aspirations of being seen, though – what the hell? What artist does not crave recognition?
I think we operate blindly in this. I was reminded by a Swiss-Italian sculptor friend (see her remarkable art here) that artists are long never recognized until after they die. So this means we are to create for the sheer love of it with the hopes that we don’t die in obscurity. No wonder artists are frantic about all they do.
Hustlers and charmers is what art makes of us. I exaggerate. But there is a fear underlying the truth that we will not be able to achieve the milestone markers that most if not all adults in life aim to achieve. And what is that?
Success...well. Success is in the eyes of the beholder, and what is ‘success’ to me will not be success to you, and vice versa. Yet, the world sets benchmarks and it seems that being ‘seen’ by others and recognized, approved of, praised by those who ‘matter’ (but who matters?) IS the world’s way of defining success. Those who could die in obscurity are only recognized, even so, once someone holds their work up to the light and says: wow, look at this.
The question is: how does that serve your life today? It doesn’t. Just writing about it makes me realize that this is a futile effort and one that will not bring existential meaning, per say, to a life. Chasing the approval of others, which may only come after one’s death, may provide joy to some…but not to me. I live more in the here and now.
So, I aim to slough off those habits of thinking, and go deeper into my Jungian heart and mind, deeper into the mysteries and mystical, spiritual realms of my being, to tap into my power. There may be nothing steady about the journeys back and forth into past and future, memory and imagination, but there is a beauty to it and that beauty feeds me. It’s an adventure of discovery that gives me steadiness, joy and strength to surrender to the blind wanderings and wondering that go on in a creative person’s – and we are all creative – mind.
For me, that will be enough this year.
So, I’ll write and write more. And I will publish more frequently in this blog and elsewhere, not knowing if anyone will like it, if the readers will keep coming, if others can relate, if this will *do* anything for anyone.
But if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: authenticity is what we all crave. To let loose and let go of critical thought while doing something meaningful to me may very well touch the hearts and minds of other like-minded people. And this would be lovely.
Can a human ask for more than that?