7/15/12

Am I making sense?

My work/life balance is really suffering lately. It feels crazy to complain about being obsessed with taking pictures when I've written so much about struggling with my "fallow" periods. With apologies to my believing audience I must say I think astrology is pretty much baloney, but given there seems so be no explaining when I happen to be fixated versus when I'm in the doldrums maybe I should chalk it up to the phases of the moon. Generally there seems to be no why or wherefore to my moods, all PMS aside.

I write the above because a bit before last week I was in a fairly stable state of what I like to think of as "elated working mode." Then, bam, I fell down a crevasse into "screaming ego" working mode. What I mean by that is it seems when I'm on the cusp of really getting to the core of a series my ego/gremlin, with its insecurities, superiority complexes and general attempts to distract, roars up. Maybe there's a non-astrological explanation after all...

Being in the core of creativity, really lost in the flow, means the gremlin is often forgotten. I think there's a certain power that comes from finding your voice, feeling the truth of your images, feeling like a tiny corner of the universe has been lifted and time has less authority. And in psychology they always say that when a person is about to have a big breakthrough their ego is afraid it will be exposed and dispensed with, and comes up with every trick it can think of to ensure it isn't buried. As a result a good deal of diversion gets thrown into the mix: obsessions become worse; past hurts feel real and threatening; any compulsions seem impossible to stop. Fear is very present--the fear of being judged or abandoned or misunderstood. It's the easy path in many ways (what James calls "Path A"), chewing over regrets or rejections, a familiar and habitual state to embody.

Conversely, this can also be a motivating thing: within the insecurities is an absolute need to make pictures because a certain fire is burning. It's like a desperation to understand, and the art is the potential key. Or I suppose it can feel like the only way to deal. In particular I find myself turning back to making self-portraits joined with writing like I did for The Ten blog many months ago here.

I'm not sure I'm making any sense--I've read more self-help books than I care to mention--but my overall feeling is essentially that making art is powerful, and power for some people (me) is fucking scary. Obviously we need our egos, and they're not the devil, but they don't always have a place in that deep-down flow of creating.

So back to work/life balance: whether I'm joyfully immersed or making pictures as a way to cope with my OCD I have a hard time focusing on the day-to-day of what needs to be done. I don't empty the dishwasher so then I can't load the dirty dishes. I have piles of laundry waiting to be folded, not to mention put away, so the kids never have underwear in their drawers. I don't answer emails. James picks up the slack and I feel guilty that he's pulling more than his weight. I also play guitar and it's a similar situation: the girls will be fighting, cranky because they need dinner, or it's time to get bedtime rolling, and I'm staring at tabs, ignoring it all. Let's put it this way: they're watching way too much TV and eating way too much macaroni and cheese and mom is seriously distracted.

Look, I recognize that I'm sounding quite victimy here. My complaints are, I don't know, fairly self-indulgent and also potentially humble-braggy. I'm afraid to hit the "publish" button. Honestly I'm not entirely sure what I'm trying to say except that writing is another part of this whole puzzle, and I feel compelled to get it all out there, to type away in my robe at 12:25 PM when I should be showering and getting my act together. But you know what I really need to remember? Time is not my enemy and it will all get done, it always does. And feeling nuts never lasts forever.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

I know this is an old post, but you've struck a cord with me! I think all artists struggle with this subtle balance game of the creative that drives them (to obsession) and the life that keeps going on around them. Your work is a beautiful way to restore that balance! thanks for your honesty. I feel normal now! :)

Elizabeth Fleming said...

Hi Sarah--thanks for your comment. Happy to know you feel the same!