It's rare, I think, for there to be an actual moment when you know your life has changed - not outwardly, but inside yourself, in your understanding of you and you in the world and the world itself. In January of 2010, I had one of those.
Ok so this may come as a surprise to you, whoever you are, reader of my blog, that I have had in the past a hard time calling myself an "artist".
So perhaps a little background -here's a quick(?) history of me and art:
I've always drawn well, as long as I can remember. Both my brother an I have a natural talent for art, as does our father, where we probably inherited that gene.
So I always wanted to be an artist, or rather, as a child it just seemed a given that that's what I would do with my life: art. Or a librarian. But as I grew older, a combination of self doubt and "reality" altered that "given" into what I should do that would be practical, and make my parents feel justified in spending large amounts of money on my education. They never said I couldn't be an artist, but of course worried about their daughter being able to support herself. My own father gave up any dreams of being an artist for the practical choice of becoming an architect, which could (and did) support his family.
So I chose illustration/graphic design for my degree, which seemed like a fair compromise. I had also stopped believing I was good enough to be an "artist", and was afraid of that lifestyle anyway - all that black clothing and smoking and talking about art - I was most definitely not that cool. It took a far greater degree of confidence than I, at the time, had.
However. I didn't seem to have enough confidence/talent to succeed as an illustrator/designer either. I half-heartedly pursued it, while supporting myself with a myriad of pay-the-bills jobs, without really committing to it, over a period of - ok, a really long time. And it wasn't linear: I'd give up the idea of being an illustrator or a graphic designer and look into other career choices (culinary arts, alternative health, psychology, education, retail business owner, wife and mother - still have the last two), and then swing back to spotty illustration jobs or design work within whatever other job I was doing.
Around 1997, there was a little shift back towards plain ole' art for art's sake: I started doing pastel paintings and fell in love with the medium. At the time I was working a couple of waitress jobs, and both restaurants let me hang my art in them. It was crazy, all of a sudden I had art hanging in a public space like I was an artist or something!
But I still didn't believe it, and had to justify it in some way - for example, one of the pieces was of my ex-boyfriend's dog, Nesta. I drew her as an angel, and it turned out really well. This elicited many requests for dog portraits, and I enthusiastically latched onto this: I was supposed to be a pet portrait illustrator! Until.... I could not bear to paint ANOTHER DOG. EVER. (Except my own. Those turned out super good)
That had been a recurring theme: I did a piece of artwork that was "successful", and then I would decide that THAT was the route I must go! And I would reign in my creative juices and try to funnel them down that one river, where it would quickly dry up into a trickle and then I once again would doubt that I was an artist at all....
So I continued this way, sort of having jobs, sort of doing design and illustration, sort of being an artist, and not committing to any. If I did commit to any of them over the other, I looked for signs of success, which would tell me that I chose correctly. But it didn't happen. Success.
So I decided to pursue design AGAIN as a freelancer...I had finally gained enough confidence in that skill area of my life. So I made a business card and started working on design projects for friends and family. I discovered a real pleasure in designing websites after collaborating on an online boutique with a good friend of mine, and wandered down that path for awhile. Meanwhile, I was still painting, and displaying my artwork at local cafes.
Then I had to give it all up, because Lulu was born. Oh I didn't mention that I had gotten married and pregnant? Yah that happened around that time too.
For a brief moment, I thought perhaps, this is what I am for: motherhood. I don't have to keep wondering what I am going to "be" when I grow up; here it is, my most wonderful beautiful perfect daughter. All else pales besides this visitor, this luminescent being, this all consuming relentless user of all my energy and time. And that is true: that is my number one priority, my biggest most important role of all, Lulu's mommy.
But if I'm going to be a good mommy, I have to do my own stuff. So I continued with some design jobs, and some painting, when I had a spare moment. Then this happened: a stupid, stupid dispute with a printer of a job I was working on. I had no time to paint; arguing with these chuckleheads was what I was working on. And it pissed me off. I wanted to paint. Lightbulb. I wanted to paint!
My daughter had provided me, by limiting my time, with the one thing I never could give myself: permission to give art priority over all else. (That and my husband having a well paid job. Thanks honey!!)
Perhaps you think that is the end to my story: girl decides to be ONLY an artist, finally. But that wasn't the revelation; rather that was the precursor to the revelation.
You see, I still found myself looking for life, people, the world to give me success to prove that I made the right choice. That I am "supposed" to be an artist. I was looking for validation.
I chose illustration/design in order to gain validation from my parents/family, and I looked for validation from the public in all of my other career/life choices. I would tentatively try something and look for confirmation outside myself.
So with art. I kept waiting for the sales and accolades to prove I AM AN ARTIST. When that isn't what defines being an artist. I define it. I am an artist, whether or not these things happen. Realizing that gave me permission to love my art and give it the time and nourishment it deserved.
I finally gave my art the respect it deserved: first I decided on giving it the TIME, and then behind it I gave it the FAITH.
(Cue George Michael singing "I gotta have FAITH FAITH FAITH. Man I love that guy)
Behind my house is an amazing woodlands walk that takes about an hour round trip: perfect for thinking and dreaming and having weird conversations in my head. Today some random thoughts that have been tumbling around separately gelled up into a full blog post, as opposed to a Facebook fragment.
My whole life I have not been very nice to myself. It is in my nature/nurture to avoid confrontation or express anger, so my way to deal with growing up and the trials of that journey was to turn any "bad" feelings onto and into myself. Eventually this coalesced into a general hatred of my body and myself as a woman person, which expressed itself into believing I was fat, unlovable, weak. To battle these demons I dieted, starved, allowed myself to fall into unfortunate relationships, developed a wicked self deprecatory sense of humor.....blah blah blah. Let's just sum up and say I hated on myself, regardless of the loving people and friends around me who did not think badly of me. I had great loving parents who did not make me feel bad about myself, let's just get that out of the way: no blame game here. There were a confluence of details that added up to this but let's not go into a full psych report, it's the usual shite.
The usual shite that is not an uncommon ailment of the feminine psyche these days, unfortunately.
So now that I am officially middle aged (!!!!!), I am happy to report I am MUCH better than I was in my youth. BUT....the hater, she still there, ready to slam me, cut me, shame me. The feeling of not being good enough daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, artist, person, woman (add role here); of judging myself on my weight and appearance; of making fun of myself; bad habits that are a well worn groove in the ole noggin'.
And Lord/Lady, how bored I am with this recording. How tired I am. How sad I am that this has taken up so much airspace in my head for so long. What a waste, all that time and thought energy towards self loathing! What I could have DONE with that energy!
So all we can do, us flawed persons, is continue to start where we are. And start again. And start again. Hopefully every time coming back to a healthier starting place.
So here's my current starting place. Gained some weight over the past year. Not too uncommon. Time for a Cleanse! This is the current trend in "Healthy Land". It's still a diet hidden in a cleanse (clean food GOOD! Unsustainable strictitude.....no worky), which means deprivation. I wasn't depriving myself of necessary nutrients, but there was deprivation of pleasure. And any time I feel deprived, a stubborn part of myself completely sabotages. She stomps in and says, I DESERVE to eat what I want! Don't you tell me what I "should" do! Fuck you! munch munch munch (bag of salty or sweet crunchy things).
Ok. So. Time to get deeper on the analysis about things this time around. WHAT do I want to eat? WHEN do I want to eat? WHY do I want to eat? (WHERE do I want to eat? WHO do I want to eat? hahahhahahhahahah). So now what do I do with this data?
I'll tell you right now: willpower has not been effective.
So let's look at this a leetle differently. Why is any of this....bad?
*Weight gain = hate myself
*Unhealthy eating = bad health/low energy
*Unhealthy eating habits modeling to my daughter
So the only thing that really seems to be important in those three is the last two. Yes, weight gain is "bad" if it is excessive and if you do the whole gain/lose cycle which is hard on your system. But if it's like 10-20 lbs, maybe who gives a fart?
Now recently I’ve been reading some books. And you know what books do: they give you some IDEAS. Dangerous ideas. Ideas that go against the cultural norm kind of ideas.
Here’s what’s penetrated my thick skull:
“Fat” is a word that is associated with weakness, laziness, gluttony, lack of willpower, stupidity, and general worthlessness. It is just about the worst thing you can call a woman in Western Society.
However. This is what I know about the weight I carry: I work as hard (if not harder) when attempting to lose it. And.it.does.not.work. Maybe temporarily, but not for long. My body has set point, and godsdamnit, she is gonna stay there.
I am not weak, lazy, gluttoness, stupid, or worthless.
So. The word “fat”. Maybe I don’t give a shit. Maybe…it doesn’t even look that bad. As an artist, I see beauty EVERYWHERE, including other women of all shapes sizes and ages. There are women I know of who would be considered clinically obese who are absolutely completely heroines of mine, and they are stunning for who they are as a complete package, fat bodies and all. Why can’t I see myself that way?
‘Member how I said I’m super tired of wasting brain energy on how I look? Recently I read a radical essay by Kelly Diels, where she asked - why do I have to hate my body and….(get this!) why do I have to spend time LOVING my body as well? Radical, right?! Her point is, she doesn’t spend time “loving” her mind. She just uses it. Is thankful for it. So how about we take away any directive to do anything about our body that this current patriarchal culture TELLS US TO DO?
Do you need a moment to think about that? I did. Because not only did I swallow whole the message that I was worthless unless I was skinny, but conversely that I was damaged if I didn’t love my body!!! Damned if you do damned if you don’t, right? Sheesh it’s no wonder I am soooooo gooooood and putting myself down, because that sure is the message women are getting NON STOP. It’s RELENTLESS.
I think it’s time for a cultural cock block. I’m done you guys. I don’t want to diet. I don’t want to hate/love my body. You know what I want? A strong body. I want a body that can carry me through the journey of my life, as I raise my daughter, follow my dreams, work hard on my art, play with my friends. I want a healthy body that’s going to give me another 40 years of this glorious life I have. AND I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE THINKING because it crossed my brainwashed brain too: if you are overweight, you are unhealthy. Well I’m not going to go into it but there have been some great studies that “overweight” is not really “over” and that is actually healthier than being TOO skinny minny.
So how to eat like a Goddess. What would a Goddess eat? The best damned thing that she wanted. If she wants chocolate cake, she is going to eat the best fucking cake there is. Because she’s a Goddess. She’s going to eat the best fruits/veg/meats/grains/DESSERTS there are. Because she’s a Goddess. And then she’s going to stride around with her big strong Goddess Body and rule stuff, all benevolent and maybe sometimes with some wrath, I don’t know. So THAT’S what I’m modeling on. Not this weird twisted story of woman that we’re being force fed. I’m not eating that shit. A Goddess wouldn’t.