“I always thought it would happen to you.”

March 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was pumping gas at the co-op a couple days ago when an old friend named Steve drove up beside me in his big rusty black truck.  Steve’s had dreads for as long as I can remember and lives on a dreamy old white fishing boat in the Burgoyne harbour with his dog.  He, like everyone these days, asked me what I’m up to.   I fumbled for an explanation as I often do: “I’ve got cheap rent, I’m developing new projects…”  

Steve took this as exciting news.  “You a starving artist now or something?” he asked. 

“You know, I never thought this would happen to me, and then it did.” 

“I always thought it would happen to you.” 

“Thanks. I guess I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“You should.”

The truth is that I grew up with artists, and I’ve been surrounded by them, admired them, felt intimidated by them, mystified by, and attracted to them my whole life.  More importantly, perhaps, is that I’ve recently taken a hard look at the amount of support and encouragement I’ve poured towards others and their crafts, making money for some (who gladly took what they could get), while sharing my ideas, time, and dedicated support to others I’ve admired over the years.  I never really thought of myself as “one of them” however. 

So perhaps this was one of the reasons why when “it happened to me”, by virtue of an unexpectedly successful documentary film project, it was so difficult.  I didn’t know how to handle it, present it, or allow it. 

I love the scene in The Kings Speech when  King George VI breaks down.  He’s a stutterer and can’t get his words out, can’t command his country: “I’m not a king, I’m not a king,” he cries.  All the fear and shame he carries with him into his new role, one he is absolutely capable of, is the real tragedy of the story, not the fact that he stammers.  

What does it mean, when “it happens” to you?  It means that at a certain point in every artists’ life there is a decision to be made, and that is the decision to put your creativity at the forefront of your days, because other options no longer feel possible.  

I’ve had more than one ex-boyfriend look me squarely in the eyes and tell me with a admission that can only lead to disappointment: “I’m an artist.”   What a heavy statement of fact, delivered like a cancer diagnosis.  It’s never really good news to hear that from someone you love or depend on, is it.   Truthfully, it’s never really good news to hear it from yourself either. But what is beautiful about this bitter-sweet revelation is the act of getting in alignment with what is real, to stop pretending, to get really honest and close with what is happening, with what appears to be your nature and your experience of life.  

The thing I love about true artists is the authenticity with which they live, and the seriously amazing courage it takes, and the beauty that can be created from fearless focus and honesty.   True authentic creation is the soul of the world and probably the closest expression of who we really are. 

So, one of the thoughts I’ve had recently is that art is a holy communion with life that ultimately gives back to the world.   And, surprisingly, I’ve noticed that even my accountant is one of the most dedicated artists I know, because his authenticity is just so obvious, and it’s just so clear that he is living in alignment with something purposeful and honest and incredibly creative and kind.  I adore his creative mind and how he gives to the world. 

Another thing I’ve noticed along the way: Art, by its nature is non-exploitative, something that moves through you, inspired by life, but never, ever, stolen from it.  

I’m dumbfounded that all it took for me to be seen as the person I’ve striven to prove myself to be all these years, was just to arrive frustrated and lost on a remote island, shack up in a chilly cabin, and be spotted pumping gas on a dreary afternoon.  That was so easy!

Now I am off to write an Arts Council Grant. 

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