creative living

i make pretty things

This post was written and published seven years ago. It was a a different lifetime, really. My marriage had ended the year before – grief and shock were still lodged in my bones. With seven years as a stay at home mother away from my home country on a visa that didn't allow me to work –  my financial future was uncertain, at best.

And so I tried to do the sensible thing. The thing everyone said was the very best possible thing to do.  To go back to school. To get a ‘regular' job. Something solid. Secure. Dependable. To do what I needed to do to care for the wee girlies who were and are my focus.

And yet I struggled and fought and pushed back against this future that felt inevitable – with all my might.  In the years since I have gone from supporting myself with my words and my photography, to driving an hour and a half commute and working in a corporate cubical, and back to etching out a living with art once again.

But through it all, one voice has spoken with clarity and force and no small amount of entitlement. She is the artist. She is me. There is no separating the two.

It was the night I wrote of here, stuck in a freezing classroom, attempting to force my brain to understand computer programing – that I found my way to my truth. That truth has never left me, and it never will.

The day after I wrote this post – one of the first ever published here on this blog – I quit school to live my purpose. I didn't have a plan. it was utterly irresponsible – without a doubt.  The years since have been fucking beautiful and fucking hard and fucking everything in between, but not once did I regret listening to this voice- the voice of the artist. Not once did I question her wisdom. Not after this night.

You could say – really – that everything begins here.



The room is too fucking cold. It always is. I forgot to bring my sweater and I’m shivering as the air conditioning blasts away. The instructor is in front of the class, droning on and on in words I don’t understand. I struggle to be attentive but my mind wanders. My fingers are itching to write on the yellow legal pad in front of me, to dive into the words swirling through my brain and make them into something real.

Why am I here?

I feel panic bubbling up inside. I can’t breathe. I don’t belong here; don’t want to learn about programming algorithms and logical coding structure. I’m the only female in a room of guys who have been tinkering with computers for years. They are all eager, excited to learn enough to finally unleash their inner Bill Gates on the world. I am terrified, searching everywhere for an escape route and finding none, so ridiculously out of place that I hear a refrain bubbling up from my subconscious, and I stifle a laugh.

one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

I’m accustomed to feeling intelligent, but here I feel like everyone is fluent in a language I’ve never before encountered. All the rest seem well versed in the dialect of DOWHILE and ENDIF and PSEUDOCODE. I am missing the part of my brain necessary for making sense of all this. I don’t WANT to make sense of all this. My brain feels like the human equivalent of the blue screen of death that keeps appearing on my failing laptop. I am caught in an infinite loop of confusion and self pity, about to freeze up and shut down.

i just want to make pretty things.

It becomes part mantra, part plea – a desperate cycling through my brain in hopes the universe hears.

Please, not this. I just want to make pretty things
.

~~~

It took me a long time to call myself an artist. It takes audacity to hold up a word like that and claim it fori am an artist myself. It is a big, bold, brilliant, terrifying thing. I am an artist. I play with light, bend words to suit, gather inspiration and beauty and scatter it in circles that are ever widening as I learn to step into myself.

I make pretty things. It is what I am here to do. It is what makes me feel alive. It’s not about the medium or the money, it’s about letting the universe flow through me, accepting what I’m given and letting it become what it will. I am so solid and sure of myself, of my path. This is who I am. I create – words or images or communities of people – and it’s as necessary as breathing. I must do this.

This future I’m now staring down –  long days in a cubical somewhere, staring at a characters on a computer screen and trying to force them to do my bidding  – this feels like a direct betrayal of the work I have been put here to do, a slow death of spirit and purpose. I know what my work is, with a clarity that people yearn for their whole life. I know it, and I cannot embrace it. I turn quickly from desperation into a petulant, foot stomping child.

I don’t wanna do it! I don’t wanna do it! I don’t wanna do it!

So my rebellious teenage self steps in, all cocky attitude and larger than life bravado – chain smoking and punked out – way too cool to be owned by anyone's expectations.

Fuck it. Don't get worked up. Just don't do it. They can’t make you. Go underground. Be an illegal alien. Don't waste your time with this messed up system. This is stupid. Nana-nanana…They can’t catch you! Just sit there and put your hands over your ears, ignore the bullshit and make your stuff.

But I'm full of self-pity, an egocentric puddle of woe and the worst part is that I did this. Nobody set this in motion but me, and what is there to do but follow it through? The sense of resistance I have is incredible. I’m digging in my heels hard but being dragged along in spite of myself. The logistics of this situation leave me with few options. I am stuck in a trap of my own making. I’m gearing up for ginormous temper tantrum followed by limb flailing meltdown of epic proportions. I’m almost daring the universe to send me to my room for an indefinite time out.

Out of nowhere another voice fills my head, and she’s irritated. She hauls me up off the floor and drops me roughly on my chair for as stern talking to (with a healthy dose of ridicule thrown in for good measure).

So, you’ve got to go to school to learn to do something you don’t want to do? Oh, poor, poor little baby. You know what, lots of people go to work every single day to do jobs they hate and they make the best of it. That’s life. There are bills to pay and kids to feed and this is just reality so SUCK. IT. UP. SISTAH.  Oh, for gods sake quit that sniveling – it’s pathetic.

And I know she’s right, damn it, but I don’t want to hear it. I want someone to understand why this feels so fucking terrible. I want someone to hold my hand and stroke my hair and tell me that it will all be okay.

please, just tell me it will all be okay…

I’ve fallen off my imaginary time out chair and I’m curled in a ball on the floor now, an oozing, snotty, crying mess – wondering how to pull it together before people notice.

My gently pragmatic self steps in, sits down next to me on the floor and lifts my chin. She’s all Mary Poppins with her spoon full of sugar and spit-spot snap of her fingers making everything tidy again.

You’ll make the best of it dearie. You’ll do what you have to do and it won’t be forever. You never know, you might even like it. Come on, pick yourself up. You’re a strong one, remember. You can do this. You have to do this, so there is no sense in crying about it. Chin up love, chin up.

And I know all those voices are a part of me, and they all have a point. But the only one who speaks in first person is the artist, the one whose soul burns with the fire of creativity.

The one who makes pretty things.

~~~

Class is ending and I’m gathering my things together to walk out. For three hours I’ve sat here so deep in my head that I have no idea what was said. No matter that I’ve turned this around in my head a million times already, I’m still searching for a way out. I get into the car and turn on my iPod, looking for answers the music. I take a deep breath  put the car in drive and head home, because sometimes, there’s nothing to do but keep moving forward, taking the next logical step, and having faith that it will all work out in the end.

I am exactly where I need to be.  I need to be exactly where I am. I am a blessing manifest.

~~~

I'm gonna go home and make some pretty things.

{This is the story of the night my artist voice came and lodged in me. Where I heard her speak and knew her to be mine – for the very first time. And it's true, I believe, that everything that came after hinged here – the way it does sometimes. on these moments that seem perfectly ordinary until lived in retrospect. You could say I owe my creative life to this night. You could stay that it all started right there in that room. And that even now – all of my choices are a way of honoring that.

So here's to making pretty things. To the insensible and the impractical. To the pull to the center and edges. Here is to vast crucible of art and creation. To the swirl of paint and the spill of words and the melody of song and the glorious mess of it all.  May it fill us and break us down and lift us up and make us whole. May it be the very thing that saves us. This is the way of words. This is the way of art. This is the way of life.

Quiet now. Do you hear the the voice of the artist within?  She is waiting for you to listen. She is waiting for you to create.}