I am a fairly driven person and feel a certain hysteria if uprooted from my independence and life. Heaven to me is the freedom to work as many hours a day as possible making little videos to push this web series and me out into the world.
So to be visiting someone, even someone dear, in an assisted-living residence for the better part of a week is not generally at the top of my to-do list. ‘Killing time’ is the order of the day here, the internet access is poor and even my really-scaled-back idea of a work schedule is in shreds.
Searching, yearning for a way to see this experience in a positive light, it suddenly it hit me: I’ve been here before. And the last time, that ‘distraction’ turned out to be the great gift of my life.
At the age of twenty-one, I accepted that as an artist, I’d scrape by with day jobs and keep my expenses low. My plan was to neither marry nor have children in order to devote my whole self to this calling. In 1978 I signed a lease on my first apartment, a studio on Mott St. and Houston for $178.50/mo. I worked at tedious jobs and didn't have a lot left after paying the rent, but I was free. There was no one else to consider so I did whatever I wanted: of course my priority was making art. A little unmentioned detail: my creative block was big as Manhattan. To say I was frustrated is an understatement but I worked whenever I could.
Even though some of the work from this era was acknowledged by the pooh-bahs of the field, from where I stand today, it’s lacking. A lot of it is about the act of making art: it has texture and it even has mystery, but it lacks emotion.
Fewer than five years after moving to Mott Street, I was seized with a mad desire to be a mother. Eventually I met a man, The man. Soon after we married and had children.
I remember six or so months into my first pregnancy, trying to do some yoga. Bending forehead to knee, the clear thought went through me: “I’m finished. My life as an artist is over. How did I get off course??” Well. 'Off course' is putting it mildly: I was in the woods for eighteen solid years. A compulsive mother, and an increasingly blocked artist, I did very little creative work during that period.
For insight and hope, there were tarot card readers and astrologers as often as I could afford them. During one head-scratching reading, Psychic Alex Murray pronounced: “Your children broke your heart open and taught you to love.”
It’s since become obvious that having children was the single greatest boon to my life as an artist. And since the eldest left for college in 2007, I’ve felt like a channel for a creative avalanche.
Could it be that balance is creativity gold? For me as an artist, learning to surrender (to emotional connections, to new experiences, to life) is what has made the difference between competent work and work that’s alive, work that's even sought after, work that people can relate to.
So one minute at a time, I’m trying to remember to open my ears and eyes and heart and to relax and enjoy this difficult experience and the Florida sunshine.