Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dreams of Inadequacy

Oh, for Chrissakes. Or as Charlie Brown would say, "I can't stand it. I just can't stand it." I keep having these dreams about school. Which is nothing new. And yet...It used to be that I'd dream I didn't really finish my Bachelor's degree because I had this one incomplete on a math class that I never completed and I felt the most horrible perfectionist guilt about it (that part is true), so I'd dream that I had some class I'd forgotten to go to all semester and now it was finals time and I knew I was going to flunk out. Then it was more than one class. Then it just became a hopeless chase in which I couldn't find the rooms or even a piece of paper or pencil to write with when I did go to class.

Now I'm having dreams that I didn't really complete my thesis for my Master's Degree. Which is not true. I completed it with flying colors. My thesis panel even told me I should send it out to publishers, that it was that good. But I'm not doing that, and I haven't felt like going back to that piece of writing, more than 5 years later. It's complicated. I lost a baby just a few weeks before my thesis was due. I was so happy to be pregnant, and it was huge blow to lose that baby. So there's a lot of grief associated with that time. And because of that whole event, I turned in other directions, found other creative outlets. Like knitting, sewing, altered art, and so on. And yet part of me feels guilty that I haven't gone on to publish a novel or a book of poems. I hear my thesis adviser telling me about the responsibility we have as poets not to waste that talent... Is it a waste that I'm spending my energy and time being a mother now? Absolutely not. And doing art instead of writing? Or even doing some writing that isn't what my adviser might have expected of me? It's like I always have to feel inadequate in some way. I always find some authority figure to attach to an expectation, whether or not it's really their expectation or just my perceived expecatation. But even if it is their expectation that I should be doing something else with my life right now, SO WHAT? Why do I have to get so bogged down with other people's expectations of me? When does it end?! What a pain.

I think all artists go through this, and if I didn't have any doubts about my talents then I'd just be an obnoxious boob. But it's hard to find a balance sometimes, to get out from under those demons. The better dreams are the ones where I decide to just take off and fly above it all, and I do literally fly like a bird, above all the chaos below me. But I have to really believe to be able to even get up off the ground, much less rise up to great heights where my body becomes something else entirely, larger, lighter, and more expansive than I could possibly imagine. I have to feel the force, Luke.

1 comment:

Chris said...

This is so relatable. Did I spell that right? Or, correctly? What would my writing instructor(s) say?!

It is an indescribably difficult struggle which you've nonetheless managed to describe really well. I would love to read your book. At the same time, I know that saying that gives a slight twinge of guilt in itself.

When I started arting, I realized that it was entirely possible that I didn't really want to write. If I'd wanted to write, I would have done so. There was a certain degree of relief when I realized that my love of books didn't necessarily have anything to do with what I wanted to spend lonely hours in my own head doing. And now, at my mature age, I have suddenly become aware of how I romanticized the life of writing, and how many of us romanticize the work we aspire to when we are academics. Whether that work be technology, science, art, service, education...we often embue it with a lot of baggage that has nothing to do with really living it.

I constructed a very tightly-bound set of parameters within which I would be fulfilling my 'purpose', and anything outside that wasn't really being a writer or a creative person. Then, when that wasn't working well, I began writing essays and personal journalism, feeling guilty that it was not 'serious enough' to pass as creativity. Then I began a blog which no one read, and I felt that it was all futile, even that my writing must be distasteful or boring to people, so what was the point, anyway? Even if I enjoyed it or even needed it, was I spinning my wheels? It all became so ponderous and heavy and complicated by expectations and my own fear of the act itself, that I gave it all up. I just stopped writing. It was a very dark period. Because I am a writer. I am a venter. And I am a reader.

But gradually, through observation and reflection, and a lessening of the feeling of the 'profound importance of the writing endeavor', I began to see that what my teachers, what my favorite authors, and what my friends and family were expecting was nothing. They had full lives. They were busy focusing on their own neuroses. They were not enriched by my success or my failure. All my suffering was completely irrelevant to their lives.

It was a marvelous revelation. Other people really weren't paying that much attention to me, or thinking much about me during the course of their own days of struggle. I comprised my own judge and jury, and made my own prison. And it did not honor me or the craft of writing. It was just a wasting of my spirit.

Ultimately, if you can find what makes you happy, be it parenting, sewing, blabbing, sacrificing, reading dime novels and eating bonbons, it's no one else's pain, glory, or interest. I try to remind myself of that, especially when I think of my mother, somewhere in the next life, watching me go through my days. Because what she's probably doing is thinking, look what a fabulous daughter! Look! Now I must go back to my gin rummy game!