She awoke, like usual, with her head resting on two pillows. A side-to-side neck stretch causes her to moan quietly in response to the loud pressure release “pop.” Her mind fog is thick and she feels a panic within because she’s not sure what day it is. There is a flicker of hope that it’s Saturday or Sunday morning. Those days gift her the ability to get out of the haze slowly and avoid the jolting Monday through Friday hustle. Then the familiar pangs of fear that it is not a Saturday or Sunday rush through her. She feels heavy and cemented to her mattress.
She is surrounded by the luxurious comforts of her bed, but she’s too disoriented to grasp onto that comfort. This seemingly simple question as to what day it is, should be easily determined, without stress or frustration. But for now, it’s panic and anxiety producing. Within her left arm’s reach is her phone. It’s such a small container, yet it holds so much information and misinformation, overwhelming possibilities, sadness and happiness, truths and lies and everything in between. It can certainly answer this question for her and many more, but certainly not all.
To discover what day it is, all she has to do is pick up the phone and simply press her thumb on the button below the screen. But she leaves it alone. Further digging in the device may take her to all the major news events that have taken place overnight. She doesn’t usually do that. If she were to look at anything at all on her phone right now, she would more likely scroll through her Instagram feed and see what those connected to her account have shared.
In that art-filled space she easily grabs on to beauty; the light and the dark and all the shades of what people have created. Most of all, she appreciates how people turn something dark or sad into something with their artistic vision. Yes, that really lifts her up, and inspires her. She needs to do that too. In contrast, news and information from conventional outlets just drags her down, and makes her feel so overwhelmed and helpless. Of course, she doesn’t condone ignorance, inaction, or feeling helpless. (And let’s face it, she will find out the news sooner or later anyway, and though she may be an extreme introvert, she does not live under a rock, a bit of a bubble maybe, but not a rock.) It just that she decides not to pursue unhappiness. For her, that means making choices that don’t add stones or boulders to the mountaintop of that given depression. Sad news swirls around her mind like melancholy tunnel echoes that can’t find an exit. You see, it’s just where her nature started out and where it has stayed. This is precisely why she has to stay close to beauty, and why she needs to get out of bed sooner rather than later, or her body will get stuck in bed along with her mind. Because she knows, she knows, it doesn’t help anyone if she’s down in the trenches of sadness and isolation. She should be grateful she has learned how to dig herself out, but she still doubts the process and worries that one of these times when she falls in, she will remain trapped. To ease her mind from that terrifying scenario, she likens this artistic process that frees her, to something mundane, something she has done so many times she couldn’t possibly forget how to do it. So she tells herself it’s kind of like making a sandwich when she’s hungry. Being that it is just as necessary for her to eat that sandwich when she is hungry, as it is to create an exit for the swirls of sadness. Both sustain her and prevent her from wilting. But in reality, it’s not an exact metaphor. Channeling sadness into something that leads to happiness requires considerably more time and energy than making a sandwich. Therefore, she cannot, rather, she should not, seek out negativity on her own… she can only make so many sandwiches before running out of bread.
Staring at the white-page-blankness of the ceiling and feeling sewn to her sheets, she wonders if the “notes” she wrote in her phone from the previous night still resonate enough for her to find value in them. If so, might they resonate with others…maybe? To make one person feel connected, inspired in some way, or to be responsible for a single smile, just by creating something would be quite a lot. She knows what it feels like when others do that for her, but can she have a similar effect on others? We all seek understanding and connection, and if we land in a place where we can be immersed in that, we thrive and it feels wonderful. But how do we land there?
She won’t let all this “not knowing business” stop her process, because she does know that the process helps her. She has to believe that if it helps her, then she can better help others even if there is no direct response to her art. Right? Her words and photographs are about her life: love and loved ones, her visions, her experiences, how she feels and what she thinks. It occurs to to her often, her life must be so mundane, uninspiring, too true to life to be considered art. But what other honest place is there for her to pull from and create? Maybe her writing is just self-indulgent blabbering bullshit. But it’s hers and hers to do with whatever she wants. And her photographs could certainly be seen as a mess of confusion…at least they are all over the place in genre (despite a lot of advice along the way to pick and stick to it, she just can’t be shackled to one genre). She just wants to take photographs of what speaks to her and leave it at that. It could be a flower, a look a child gives her, a self-portrait with her middle finger. She wants to pull power from that refusal, and use it to break down boundaries. To show herself thoroughly through her lens and words, even if (particularly if!) it disrupts notions of compatibility, vulnerability, and what is socially acceptable. She is a loving mother and wife, but she is also, to name a few others: ugly, beautiful, scared, brave, punky, boring, silly, serious, a lover, a fighter, sexy, frumpy, hungry, full, complicated, simple, weird, normal, energetic, weary, a rebel, a peacemaker, a giver, a taker, strong, vulnerable, happy and sad. She is a woman and she can’t pick only one or two defining traits, she needs all of the ones that make her feel like her.
She wonders what her contribution to this day (whatever day it is), and for that matter, to this life in general should be, and does it even need to be shared? And if so, with who and how? Do we make a difference by sharing with others what is of value to us, finding a connection? Love…time…smiles…hugs…kisses…
Is it enough…any of it, she wonders? What she is doing, that is. She tries to break down by slowing down the mind wheels… the better we know people, the better equipped we are to help them. With her family, and her friends, she can better gauge when they need help, how to help, and what they need. But other realms are much harder to navigate. There are so many people she doesn’t know, has never met, never seen, that are in need. How responsible can she be to those people who don’t know her or know she exists? How can she find connection there? She cares, sometimes it makes her really ache, and that is all she knows about that.
Ahhhh…what fucking day is it? Does it even matter? The days of the week repeat and circle all about, whatever day it is, it will change soon, and then it will come right back. And these days probably don’t even know what day they are, they were just given names and told when they start and stop. We don’t permit them the power to refuse. And dammit, if she only drank coffee to fight the brain fog, maybe she would just “know.” Then her first thought might be going downstairs to get coffee instead of worrying about what goddamn day it was straight away.
Right on cue for the moment presenting in her thoughts, her husband walks in the the bedroom with his mug full of coffee, black. She asks him what day it is, still avoiding her phone. He laughs. She knows its a laugh of endearment but it still feels like a failure on her part, the not knowing, the confusion. So she says to him, “I’m sorry….I am soooo slow.” He responds raising his mug a bit, smiling, “Oh, darlin’ you’re not slow. You are a sports car in a world of mini-vans.” That makes her laugh……vrooom vrooom! She could certainly relate to feeling like a sports car spinning out in that moment, though that’s probably not what he meant. But the spinning…why the spinning out this morning and so many others? Perhaps, the more embedded you become in your dreams, the harder the simple and most basic parts of “real life” become. Maybe that is why, she did just come out of hours of dreams after all (if it was a good night sleep, that is). Or maybe it’s the nearly 37 years of trying to find answers, loops of searching and searching, for things that don’t have answers has worn out her conscious mind, and it just wants to go back to sleep. Where others have found peace, perhaps she has not. Yet. Could it be that? After all, life goes on Monday to Monday, while we live in loops within loops, within much greater loops, and it’s easy to get caught in them. Maybe today (whatever day it is!) is the day she will find peace outside the not-so-gentle loops that are throwing her all around.
And what bloody time is it now anyway? How long has she been thinking about what day it is? The sun is up. The dog is not. He’s at her feet at the bottom of the bed, but that’s typical of any day. The kids are downstairs happily eating waffles and fruit, and drinking water. There is routine in her house, but her nature is to resist routine. From the day she was born, she was up with the moon and down with the sun. It’s true. Her parents will attest to her being a hyperactive night owl of a child since her mid-October birth, whose first words were “Here’s Johnny,” staying up to watch The Late Show….and staying up until six in the morning watching Sesame Street before passing out next her her exhausted mother lying on the couch. She begins to realize, though really she already knew, that coffee isn’t the solution. This requires a bigger fix than what a caffeinated beverage can provide. Besides, it usually just makes her wildly bouncy; perhaps very annoying with too many internal exclamation points. And god knows it would only speed up that perpetual inner dialog and not slow it down to the point of clarity.
She hears the chatter of her children downstairs. She curses herself for being a mother so wrapped up in her own mind that she’s not fully present in some of these morning moments. But she is aware enough to know the moments are unfolding and that they are the most important, and very fleeting….slipping away. It feels like knowing and not growing according to what she knows, and that’s highly frustrating for anyone.
A few years earlier, in a different home, a different life stage, she would have been surrounded by beautiful morning light and photographed the scene -yet be engaged, she remembers being engaged. She’d hold on to that happiness, and be able to do it again the next day and the next. It doesn’t usually work that way any more though. So she has to find alternative ways to connect to her art, her visions. Her children are older and so is she. She still cleaves to the same instruments, the Canon she calls “Velouria” and iPhone “Lola,” but the scene is different, the light comes in differently in her current house which faces North-South instead of East-West like her previous house. But her vision can’t leave her because it is her and evolves with her. Her children are taller, wiser, more mature, but they are still her children and always will be. And she can always find the light, even when it’s not finding her. She thinks it’s all so different, but really the differences are not as substantial as they seem if she were to break it all down. Quite possibly, there’s a lot of nostalgia based resistance to the evolving human soul, and that nostalgia is an escape or excuse to not fully embrace all the other moments.
Within this continual shift in her and by extension, her art, she adds more words and expands on thoughts, adding a deeper meaning to the visuals, hopefully? Or maybe not. Jesus christ, she’s forever-fucking-skeptical of herself. Th
About the Artist:
Upon completing this short story, she made a sandwich. Then she ate the sandwich. The sandwich was delicious.
Natalie and Lola (lady of sorrows).