Monday, February 29, 2016

Fear is the Little Death (or "Goals are for Losers")

This is going to get a little personal.  I have tried to avoid a post like this but at the same I have long desired to do it.  Some of these things I have actually posted before but quickly deleted that post.  I think this time I will try to stick with putting this information out to the world.  Maybe it will finally become helpful to me.

If you have followed my work for some time, maybe you noticed a sharp change in my tone.  The last year and a half have been incredibly difficult and there have been many moments when I have questioned everything.  A year and a half ago, my wife of 20 years passed away for a totally senseless reason.  I have been left to care for a young son and put the finishing touches on the upbringing of an older son.  I am left with her dog and a cat she adopted that was supposed to be for me.  I have lost that person who told me when a painting was done.  When she said, "Wow!"  I knew I had accomplished what I wanted.  But now, my studio is haunted by absence.  It offers me no solace or peace.  I cannot see the path to completion and the stack of unfinished work demonstrates that.  Yes, I have made some work in this past year and a half that makes me very proud but there are more over which I anguish and leave me very disappointed.

Over the years, I have become a very methodical painter.  Sessions tend to consist of a good deal of sitting, looking, and thinking.  But now it is becoming extreme.  I sit and stare, practically paralyzed by fear, get up and take a few swipes and then sit back down for 10 or 15 minutes.  It is like this for every aspect of life.  I do not like to see most of our former mutual friends.  Activities I once enjoyed (and still do to some extent) are more like exercises of endurance, chores, than joyful.  It is far easier to sit on the couch and drink than face what lies outside the door.

To add to this, I broke my wrist 7 weeks ago while hiking to a waterfall to paint.  Of course, it was my right wrist and a I am right handed.  I have been painting left handed with some mixed results but that has definitely added to my fear.  I have not exercised much and I now find myself terribly out of shape, both mentally and physically.

I have to find a way to break down these walls.  Maybe my work will change, maybe it has to change.  There are definitely some things I would like to see in it that I have not really ever been able to realize.  One thing I have been able to accomplish in the past year or so that has eluded me before me now is learning a second language.  I have been learning Swedish (though I have no idea why I've chosen to stick with it!!  Will I ever even really use it??) and I know enough to probably get by fairly readily if I ever found myself in Sweden and people spoke slowly to me.  I was recently reading something about what makes someone successful at learning another language and Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, was quoted as saying, "Goals are for losers."  The idea here is that goal driven people are never happy with their work because they go from goal to goal and never feel accomplished.  Given my track record on setting goals for my painting, I can safely say that setting goals has never done anything for me.  As soon as I voice them, I ignore them.  The better approach is to create habits, be it the habit of painting or studying a language.  So, for the month of March, I plan to exorcise the ghosts of indecision which haunt my studio. I will endeavor to work every day, even if it's only cleaning or painting for 10 or 15 minutes, or just sitting there.  If I do anything constructive, I'll take a picture and post it.  This isn't a goal.  If I don't do every day, who cares. The only idea is make sure I go into the studio as often as I possibly can.