I’ve been working on this whole “being kind to yourself through being honest” thing. It’s hard being kind to yourself, we know this. Showing compassion to yourself is something worlds harder than it is to show compassion towards others. If I know eating molasses cookies will make me feel sick later, instead of prior years of rolling my face in it’s sugary goodness thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this, look at me doing it anyway, like a badass!” I will look at the cookie and think, “eh, not interested, my stomach will hurt”. Or, for example, if I know running into a knife will hurt me, I clearly will innately know I have no want to run into the knife.
Okay, so maybe that’s an extreme example.
Let’s rewind: if I know watching a past lover’s performance video will hurt me, I clearly will chose not to watch the video. Sound a little more plausible? Weird, because the outcome of both of those situations feel remarkably similar. Which brings us to present moment.
A go at honesty:
Alright, personal feelings on the internet! But there’s a reason for the public honesty: I think it’s incredibly important that as we as artists move forward with our projects, outlets, relationships, and daily goals, we need to make a distinction for ourselves. That important distinction lies in our personal relationships and our own concept of 1) what it is that simultaneously inspires us to create 2)the actual act of creation and 3) the end result.
It’s a running joke that if you ever plan on dating a writer, you better be alright with knowing that one day you will end up in their novel in some capacity. The fact is, we as humans are consistently being inspired and mused by other people. When it comes to strong emotions such as love, you can have a huge creative influence over another person without even realizing it. Why? Because as artists we search out the details, the wind in their hair, the way they said something or angrily put down their foot.
So when two artists get together? Well, many things can happen good, bad, or otherwise, but certainly you both hold creative influence over the other.
What I have been realizing after this separation of two artists is this is just another leg of slouching towards indifference, which for me has been the hardest leg. When someone else has so heavily held an influence on my artistic inspiration (and I’m going to go out on a limb and say vice versa), and indeed, also similar means of creation (i.e. hours spent alone practicing, sometimes similar places, with similar practice routines) how the f*ck are you to not feel as if there has suddenly been an incredibly harsh divorce of you from your artistic self? At first, you don’t, until you break it down.
What inspires us to create:
All of these feelings I have. Really intense feelings. No, but really. When you love someone, they creep in, and it’s pretty hard to rip them from your work. Try as you might, there may just be a little bit of them hidden in the liner notes. Which is neither good nor bad. It just is. But just because they inspire your work, doesn’t make them your art. What inspires you as an artist, no matter how similar to another person’s, will NEVER, EVER be exactly the same. And that’s awesome, and if anything should (in this time of mourning) help you feel centered, help you to know it has always been YOU turning those bits of inspiration into your art, without anyone else.
The actual act of creation:
I have to say this was the hardest part of separation for me. With an art form as sub-culture driven as hooping, it’s hard to find others who partake in a similar facet in the first place, let alone find someone to date who practices the same art as you, and then, is similarly driven as you in that art. Do I get my best practice in hanging out a spin jam, learning from other people? No. I get my best time in the early hours, alone in Central Park, headphones blaring, for hours at a time, jacked up on coffee and maybe a cheese scone, hoping to not get hit by skate boarders. He, happens to be similar. Do I like to make emotive, story driven performances? Yes, and so does he. Do I almost make myself sick with self expectation for my art? Yes, and so does he. And so we see here that when you’ve finally cut off what Diane di Prima called the emotional “limb”, you get that awful ghost limb syndrome: who will I show this awesome piece I put together? How will I know someone else will care about my accomplishments if they don’t understand how hard I worked to get there? The “who am I”s follow in a deluge.
Lately, I have been realizing that if you have found yourself in this position, it really brings to light exactly who you are as an artist. You find yourself asking yourself questions: do I really need someone to validate my practice? How often do I need approval? Do I need any approval? Why is it important to me to have feedback? Does my signifigant other really need to know how many hours it took me to nail a duck-out (if he still thinks it’s impressive? I mean c’mon, it’s a double duck-out, how is that not impressive)? It also brings into question what we find important to us in a mate, in our friends, in our community. To what degree do we seek others watchful eye in a way that seeks approval, or support, or just give love? Everyone’s opinion is and should be different, but I am of the volition that while it would be nice for my significant other to really understand the dynamic of the hoop, it isn’t like I’m ever going to fully understand it’s magic and why it holds such a weight in my life. It’s also nice to know that their are huge geeks about other things like film, drawing, and Star Trek who sit around for hours happily doing the same thing we do in a different capacity. For me, I think a companion just needs to be someone who understands that firey need to create, respects my way of doing so and at the end occasionally tells me his opinion, and hopefully, “that’s totally rad,” or some other non-nineties indication that he’s also proud of what I do.
Finally, the end result:
So you’ve tirelessly spent hours putting together your hoop workshop and you’re about ready to fall on the floor, but there it is: your curriculum and dammit are you proud. You’ve told a bunch of people about it, they all said it’s totally rad, and now it’s just you and: your own approval. The fact is, that’s the hardest approval you ever seek and you usually don’t even know you seek it. Neil Gaiman writes a lot about how every time he publishes a book, while it’s toted as a grand achievement and he’s happy he gets the chances to do so, he also stresses that every thing achieved in life should just be considered another book for your shelf of accomplishments; you will always have to wake up the next day after your biggest and best break (should the fates allow) and learn to move on with your life. So if that’s the case, then a practice in being kind to yourself should also include learning to accept not just your failures with a lightness of heart, but also your accomplishments. Accept that you’ve achieved something and no one else did it but you! No other artist did it but you. But at the end of the day, accept it as another book for your shelf because the reason you do it is to create because you feel the drive to do so.
So this is where I am at, these days, when I see little pieces of him float across the internet. My thirteen-year-old-self crosses her arms and says, “I will never separate emotions from talent” and then I see how well he does during a performance and I still feel a tinge of being proud. Because his artistic self is kin to mine, and no heartbreak or bad situation can ever shake that. Whenever a true love leaves our life in one means or another, a piece of them will always stay with you. For me, that includes the little piece of him that was a muse, an inspiration, and a work partner. But even when it isn’t meant to be and you’ve started to move on towards other things and other people in life it’s good to keep in mind that you’ve ALWAYS been alone in that regard. All of your accomplishments and the way you do things have always been your own. I’ve been learning how to love my own process, for and by myself. It’s been a crazy journey, but one that I’ve found new life in now that it only involves, well, me. That’s something you never separate from.