I’ve been trying to meet new people, make new friends, since Steve died. It’s the first thing they tell you to do, right? So, being an artist and artificer, I’ve been trying to make friends that work in the arts, or at least participate in some form of creative hobby on a regular, somewhat serious, basis. I figured we’d have a better chance at understanding and relating to each other, and as a result, each other’s work.
But I’m finding myself reluctant to talk about my work with new people. I’ll share the work, but when someone asks me to explain what’s behind it, I find myself balking, holding back. It’s not that I can’t talk about it; I just know most people don’t want to hear about how my work is a reflection of what I’m dealing with right now, and what I’m dealing with right now is fucking hard.
I’ve learned from silence or subject changes that they’re not actually interested in knowing when it’s that personal and hard, or that they don’t know how to sit with someone else’s discomfort or hurt without taking it on. We’re all looking for happy, and I get it. And I’m not that happy go lucky smooth sailing person you take out for drinks and play around with.
I’m increasingly more appreciative of that. My work wouldn’t have the power it does if I was. My work has it’s roots in trauma and recovery, and the resilience needed to still find the joy in living when you are still standing, in stark contrast to the joy you’re embracing for as long as it lasts, in the middle of some damn dark experiences. It doesn’t bother me much anymore, but the sensation of interpersonal doors slamming when people realize you’ve experienced pain they haven’t is a singular kind of feeling.
(I still test the water with each person, and in tiny drops at a time, before anyone comes and tells me to not give up on people.)
But the thing is? More and more often, I find that it’s me closing the doors now, out of compassion for both. I am not going to invest in a relationship where I make you uncomfortable, and you don’t deserve to be uncomfortable – and neither do I. I don’t want to waste your time, or mine.
I tend to write and think more when I’m actively painting. It’s better self-development and therapy than actual therapy. I work things out and find the words for things I’ve known but didn’t have the words for. I realize what it’s time to let go of.
For a while, after Steve’s death, it felt like there wasn’t much left to me to let go of – and then as the year went on, I realized how much I still had left to let go of. How much doubt, how much insecurity, how much of who I was and what I was capable of that I had refused to see. I realized how much I had been settling because of all of that. How much I had been not trusting myself.
It’s been good trusting myself, and it feels like it shows in my life, writing, and painting. It’s a different kind of fearless. It’s the No is a complete sentence kind of fearless – a handful of brush strokes well placed, and either you understand or you don’t, I’m not going to justify or explain.
If you know, you know, and if you don’t, count yourself lucky.
I am protecting myself better now, and it’s been a good feeling. What I am seeking is seeking me, as my friend Luis Gottardi says, and I am going to take that to mean the people who have the depth, capacity, willingness, and compassion to sit with my work, and me.