Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Can't Paint

I have these days. Typically they come after a full day with many accomplishments. Yesterday's accomplishments were many. I painted. I watched the presidential inauguration with tears on my cheeks. I listened to Obama's speech and afterward read the printed text so I wouldn't miss anything of the message that he was making to the American people and the world. I went to the bank. I worked out on the treadmill. I spoke to a friend on the phone for an hour and 41 minutes. I showered. I made love to my husband. I have to be proud because I know that everything I did was to benefit my life, to further its prosperity and happiness, and that the alternative was to lie in bed and do nothing. The illness that I have has weakened my mind. When I am strong I have to recognize it. Celebrate health. And when I am weak I have to forgive myself. My mind now is thick. My will power is low. I move with effort. There is no depression, only, perhaps, an air of unbelievability. What I did yesterday I apparently cannot repeat again today. My hope lies in the fact that I know there is a pattern. If I rest today, tomorrow I will have all the mental tools I need to be productive once more.

After I finish writing this I will watch a Joan Crawford movie. I like to watch strong women. Before the illness I was a strong woman. One important ingredient in a strong woman is persistence. My painting waits for me. I will return to it tomorrow. Perhaps later in the day, after I have laid in bed for many hours, I will feel restless and I can go for a walk and have a cup of coffee at the little popular dive down the street, Mocha Joe's. I am frozen as the day begins, I have hopes that I will thaw. But the narrow opportunity to paint while I am fresh in the morning is passing. I went as far as to put on my two sweaters, turn on the little heater in the unheated art room, and sit in the chair that is in front of my painting. I looked and knew exactly where to begin. I thought about the colors. But then I couldn't touch a tube of paint or lift a paint brush. I turned off the heater. I left the room. I took off one of my sweaters. I returned to bed to pen this. I satisfied myself that if I couldn't paint, perhaps I could write about how I couldn't paint.

Sometimes I dream about what I could accomplish if my illness didn't limit the amount of hours that I can work. I would work for 6 or 8 hours a day instead of 3 or 4. My paintings would grow in size. I would not have to worry about having enough art for a show in a gallery. My skills would leap forward as my experience doubles, and there would be time for experiments in art, pictures which may or may not work, something now I only permit myself to do on the smallest scale, 5"x7" paintings.

I suppose it would be better to dwell on the positive. There are some with my illness who would not be able to concentrate for several hours at all. My friend Rocki, who I talked to on the phone yesterday, views what I have accomplished with envy. She is paranoid schizophrenic and dabbles in creative things. She plays the base guitar, writes short stories and draws horses. I have managed to have what is, in embryonic form, a career. It exists because I am persistent. I can loose the battle, as I have today, but in the future win the war because I will not give up. I suppose being suicidal is giving up. But while I talk about it I don't do it. And always, eventually, the suicidal wish falls away from me. That painting that I cannot work on today will be worked on tomorrow, and eventually, it will be finished and I will buy a frame for it. I am giving myself two years of work before I try to have another show in a gallery, and I swear, my painting will hang somewhere, and eventually it will be sold to someone and have a life outside of my control. That is, in essence, what it is to have a career as an artist. I do not think that Rocki tries, everyday, to do the same creative task. Any career as an artist must begin on this foundation. Every day you try to do the same creative task. Long before there is accomplishment there is intention. I have, in my own way, sworn an oath to the painting I could not paint today. It will get my attention, as soon as my attention returns to me. I loose today the battle with the illness, but I know that I won it yesterday, and if I believe in my dedication, I will win it again tomorrow.

It really should be, once it is finished, a lovely painting. Best suited for a children's room or a grown up who has in their time seriously considered whether or not angels exist, and having asked themselves this question, they have arrived at the certain answer that there is one walking by their side both day and night.

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