I have started writing this six times, each time I launch into something so personal it makes me uncomfortable to admit, so I erase it. I am tired of putting the gunk in this box and setting it aside for another day, yet I'm not ready to print it to share.
So, I will talk about feeling simultaneously mature and immature as a clerestory window into my darkness. The broad stroke responsibilities of being almost 50 for me are as follows and all equal importance: helping my parents, supporting my kids, keeping my identity's momentum. As an artist by nature, I find it difficult to practice my trade. As the child of a sick parent, I find it difficult to forget the unnecessary unresolved pain from my childhood and the current and unfortunate pain from engaging in a slow, arduous end of life with my dad. And as the mom to four children, I find it more magical than anything else, but it is so full it leaves little space for me to insert any of my bits, needs, or wants. I'm in menopause and was never exceptionally patient before it began, so now I'm even more prone to explosion. There are decisions all day long, and I don't want to burn out, but I get so close at times I just shut down/power off.
I love doing my work. I do care about the result, but I'm most interested in the process of how I get there. This is where I learn how to find my way to emotion. Emotional satisfaction is what I want out of my work. When I get an idea for the formal structure or shape of a piece, I doodle it. When I observe a compelling contact point between two shapes, I write it down. I love re-envisioning a space's layout, removing gravity, and imagining furniture on the walls or trees hanging from clouds. Experimentation with different mediums is empowering. I enjoy discovering that I know more than I think and have enough confidence to go down the unknown road.
I got hit in the eye with a bungee cord last August, in the thick of covid, buying a carpet-cleaning vacuum. The young man trying to help, albeit poorly, was caught off-guard, with no training, to handle an unusual situation. The only thing he had to say as my eye ballooned turning purple was, "Oh Shit." None of his co-workers jumped into action, and nobody shopping came to talk to me. One lady far back in line hollered, "get her some ice'. The young man went quickly to the Starbucks counter, got a handful of ice on a brown decomposing napkin, thrust it into my arms, and retreated. I stood there alone, wondering if I just lost my eye or my vision. It was a low point. It was pretty horrendous. It was an unexpected moment to dig deep.
I hope that I can admit to the things that haunt me someday.
I didn't lose my eye or all of its vision; thank goodness, I need glasses all of the time now. I had two gallery shows scheduled for last fall and winter that were the most difficult of my life. My eye wasn't the same. Things looked different, and my vision was now a thing to manage instead of taking for granted. Making very detailed jewelry wasn't appealing because of my preoccupation with my changed eye. So, I started making ceramic light fixtures. I re-routed to clay, at least for now. I was craving something more forgiving and soft. I rely on my skill of making the best out of a shitty situation. After I get through the what the fuck is going on stage, I swiftly morph into managing and re-directing. I have definite PTSD from the bungee cord experience and won't go anywhere near the store. Still, even in a painful moment, I am reminded that the necessary redirection before spontaneous combustion can be used as momentum for positive change.
My dad has Lewy body dementia, one of the shittiest forms of dementia as it has Parkinson's and Alzheimer's attributes. It's been many years of a slow decline. Like a young child, he needs to be fed; his diaper changed, his emotions unstable. He can't finish a sentence because he has no memory of where it began. He can't lift his feet to walk because his brain is disconnected. I see him often, and I feel lucky for that, but I also feel so much pain seeing him often because I am watching him slowly deteriorate. I see his head shrinking, his body shrinking, his mind dissolving.
He and I never had an admirable relationship, and there will never be any accountability on his part, so the complicated conversation window is closed and won't open ever again. I think about having a front-row seat to his departure, and I don't know what to make of it, so I show up each time and engage, love, and giggle. I show up each time and support, and then I go home and fall apart.
My kids see all of it but are involved in growing their own lives as they should be at this stage. They don't know what menopause is because it's amorphous. It is a mom-thing. I manage it with herbs, and I leave the room when I heat up, but sometimes my fuse is so short all I can do is be impatient. There are absolutely no other options at that moment. But my kids are resilient and powerful. They each have strong identities and express themselves with confidence and fortitude. They have direction and kindness. So, when I am not impatient with them, I am admiring them. I am mostly admiring them. I find great joy in helping facilitate good things for them. I know they inhale my exhaust, but I also know they breathe out joy.
I hope that I can admit to the things that haunt me someday. I hope to continue to weather the nag of menopause and not get osteoporosis or break out in a blinding sweat while riding my bike with my three-year-old in the bike seat. I know that fellow parents will think that I am Wren's grandma when she is a teenager. I know that saying goodbye to my dad will stab me in the heart. I never had any of these thoughts on my mind in my thirties; I was sailing and crashing and then sailing some more. Now I am living and wondering what's around the corner that will demand I re-balance.