The past two days I have been talking to my friend B who is exactly where I was a few years ago, struggling to get through a four year undergrad program, making along daily commute and so plagued with perfectionism that she hardly sleeps… it made me think about that time in my life, how it was simultaneously exciting (because I was learning so much new stuff) and disappointing (because I went back to school expecting it to be filled with people as passionate and flaky as me, and it wasn’t). Anyway, wizzle has been posting about perfectionism too this week, so it seemed serendipitous that all these conversations overlapped. This image is a book I made right about then, its called liminal, I’ve been thinking about that liminal state and transitions this week too, and revisiting my past as a student. I’ve also been thinking about my expectations and where i want to go next. All of which got me in a very discontented state of mind, which always leads me back to an essay I wrote in 2002, so for all you creatives out there, and especially for B, this is for you…
There are days when I despair of being normal, days when I long to abandon my shadowed interior landscape completely in favor of being fully present in the brash, bright, real world. I want to know, on these days, how you have shut fast the door against your inner self, how you move so seamlessly in the present, and never seem to hear the unseen voices on the wind. I envy you because you have left behind your Neverland, you seem to me to have grown up so well. The world you live in, where time moves conveniently in straight lines, only forward, where all meaning stands nakedly revealed, is unreal to me, a passing shade of the true world. My real world lies inside, full of hazy, meandering possibility, where dappled words are powerful and images are laden with potentiality. I can pass for sane as I move in your real dream, but that is only because my cynical shell is polished enough to reflect back to you what you want to see. I marvel with detachment that so many are fooled by its sheen. I hope deep inside you are all hiding too.
Still every afternoon I gaze with a confused mixture of longing and pity at the other mothers. Perhaps I simply lack some essential gene, one that slams shut the avenues to imagination as we walk out of childhood. There are days when I long to hurl myself, anguished against their complacent reverie, to scream through their minivan windows, to ask “is that really enough?” Often I have wanted to walk only here and now, to settle contentedly into a routine where no voices clamour to be spoken aloud. On those days I want a sweater existence, those cute sweaters that reflect the passing seasons, the ones the other mothers wear, alphabets in September, pumpkins, scarecrows, dancing reindeer at Christmas. i want my mind to fall silent, but it never does, because part of me, a small, dark, dirty footed part of me wants to remain where time overlaps moments in an endless raveling of presents that might yet be. This arrogant, willful child despises your cold reality, the bleak necessity of chores and responsibilities. when I hear her siren song fall descant into your world I can only turn away to listen. The melodies pile effortlessly around me, a dancing wraith of slanted sunlight that obscures your real.
In those moments I am at last content, like those stolen moments of childhood when with tangled, bracken hair, lying between the cornrows, I listened to the winds disembodied voice whisper ancient tales to me. When I surrender and hear only that mesmerising cadence, they rise up from the fog where I have endlessly chased an idea. they rise up; the white, gleaming, sculptural bones of an image, picked clean of debris. When I am wrapped in that scarlet and gold leaf-fall of that small child’s wild song time creeps. i forget to eat – I love only the bones of the unseen. It is a hard way to live.
I have tried so many futile times to let her lie, to leave her be, but no matter what baggage I pile against the shaky door, no chemical distraction, no person, or obligation is ever enough. even with the door held shut, the siren song lilts out beneath the sill. temporarily I can walk in this barren, ghost grey winter, but a swift wind sweeps the barricades away. I cannot abandon my unfurling fern green springs for your leathery oak brown world crushed beneath its wordlessness. When I hold the door fast I am not, so it must stand ajar at least. I must balance precariously, one foot wedged either side of the threshold. You can join me perhaps in my madness. I cannot survive in yours.
Now it’s hardly any wonder that I couldn’t find my own kind, I am a selfish, arrogant, introverted, book loving artist who lives in a distracted dream much of the time, and is hopelessly idealistic and devoted to my siren. Who would my kind be for crying out loud?!