For the last few days I have been locked in the age-old confusion every human being has dealt with since the beginning of time, wondering who I am and what I’m supposed to do. I think our inability to answer these questions (although some people seem born with a certainty) is what corporate America preys on. Most of us end up falling into jobs that do not inspire, do not resonate in our souls, do nothing to help us answer these questions, because we simply don’t know what else to do.
I wrote a post when I was in the depths of despair (see previous post Who Am I?) that didn’t get a great response from you all (I always watch that little “like” button at the top of a post to see if it’s resonating with you and this one didn’t). However, reader Terry Litton wrote a very sensitive response to the piece, which not only asked the question that has inspired this post, but it also offered me a lifeline back to myself. Thank you, Terry, truly.
Let me begin today’s post with Terry’s comments:
“I have to say I was surprised by today’s post. Are you feeling like it’s time to open a new chapter? When I consider your life, and your journey as I know it from the Blog, (and I may be waaay off base here) to me, it feels like you are living your truth, and I might add, enriching the lives of SO many others by sharing your gifts, your art and your writing and the fabulous photos that make it all so “real.” It’s because of your insightful posts that I have come to experience a heightened awareness of my own surroundings. I just plain notice more and I find beauty and gratitude in the everyday. As I read your post today, I thought of how generous you are to be so honest and open, and vulnerable. And in each post you seem to serve up a lesson, big or small, it is there, and I’m not even sure that is your intent.
But how presumptuous of me to think that your current path is your forever path. I have no doubt in my mind that you will continue to grow and evolve. It is who you are. This I know for sure.”
Jeane here: I answered some of Terry’s questions in a response on the actual post (Who Am I?). This is my expanded answer:
Welcome to the Struggle: What Artists Don’t Talk About
Some of my artist friends have been concerned that I tell only one side of the artist’s story on this blog–that I write more about the joy and don’t give equal attention to the struggle. There has been some criticism that the blog is lop-sided and shallow, one-dimensional, even superficial—that I’m sketching a flat caricature of reality. And, on some levels, I think what they say is true. It is certainly easier to write about inspiration than angst. And, although I have frequently written that being an artist is not for the faint of heart, that it takes faith, that we must “believe” in the face of not knowing, those are rather vague, flowery statements meant to convey, while still not saying, that there is real strife in walking this path. So in the midst of my own personal and very real struggle–something I don’t usually share with our blog community–I decided that this part of an artist’s life is worthy of being written about too.
I just watched a documentary about artists in Paris at the turn of the century–1905 to 1930 specifically–the painters and writers and composers of the time. It is called Paris the Luminous Years: Toward the Making of the Modern. These artists that included Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Igor Stravinsky, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, Jean Cocteau, Gertrude Stein, Vaslav Nijinsky and Aaron Copland, among numerous others, “… revolutionized the direction of the modern arts.”
Watching this stunning piece of history I felt jealous, wishing I’d been a part of such a seething, brilliant and creative time. I had to be reminded that, of course, the film was idealizing the lives and times. But, even so, it described these greats, the people who some say created modern art, as living and working in studios that were freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer. They had no electricity, no water, no heat. They went to the cafes to get warm and to bathe. This was the way they lived not because it was somehow arty and Bohemian, but because they were poor and it was all they could afford. It may sound romantic but I doubt very much that it was. These artists sacrificed their comforts in order to make the art that we all enjoy today.
So, yes, Terry, just like these great artists and most of the unsung artists down through the centuries, I am compelled to pursue my art. I do believe I’m walking my path, living my truth as you say. And it is precious to me, more so than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life. My one great and overriding fear is that I may lose this artist’s life I am privileged, now, to live because I can no longer afford it. In fact one of the most challenging things about being an artist, unless one is independently wealthy as some are, even here in Truchas, is the need to earn money. As I watch my savings account dwindle, which it is doing all the time, no matter how many sales I may stow there, it gets harder and harder to “believe,” harder to manage the fear.
Here is an important truth that seems somehow forgotten in this day and age: If we want art we must support artists. It’s as simple as that.
It’s why there used to be patrons—people who sustained certain artists for parts of, or the whole of, their lives. It still happens today but not like it did in the time of the Medici. A friend of mine worked within the comfort of a patronage until he died. It gave him sustained peace and freedom to create what was in his heart to do. Because he didn’t have to worry about money, he also didn’t have to consider the market. So he didn’t ever concern himself with what was in fashion, what would sell. Great art can be born of that.
And, Terry, I realize that when we read something, we don’t necessarily get the tone the writer is trying to convey. I see, now, that the ending of that post, saying, “But what now, Spirit? What now? Show me,” could easily be taken as an expression of excitement at the “opening of a new chapter” as you say. But, no, it was meant to be read as a question; one that shows a willingness to let go of any attachment to who and what I’ve believed myself to be; one I’ve been putting to the universe for over 17 years now–ever since I first took the leap from a corporate job into that of a working artist–whenever I am facing what looks like an end; when it seems I can’t financially sustain myself much longer doing what I’ve felt guided to do. In these times, although it can be quite scary, I empty myself of all preconceived notions and ask, what now, Spirit? Show me.
And then I watch for the signs. That you, Terry, feel my blog is enriching the lives of others, and that something in my posts has heightened your awareness, keeps me going. Truly. In fact, notes like yours, especially in times of crisis, are what I take as signs that I AM still on my right path.
Joseph Campbell’s famous thinking, that if I follow my bliss doors will open where I didn’t know they were going to be, has sustained me and I’ve fervently believed it’s true. In fact I’ve built a life on it.
I am reminded, now, of John Burroughs’ simple and perfect call to action: “Leap and the net will appear.”
Well, Spirit, I’m mid-leap.
Love to you all,