Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hypochondria is overrated

So it's dawned on me recently that I'm a hypochondriac. Sad but true. I see a red mark on my skin, probably from my bra, I immediately think it's skin cancer. I have a canker sore on my tongue. Cancer. I'm pooing dark pink (because I've eaten beets but I only found that out later and in the moment thought my insides were coming out through my butt hole). Must be colon cancer.

The worst possible thing I can do is look that shit up on the Internet. So I do. And it doesn't help. It only feeds into my mania and exacerbates the whole situation. I know they're trying to provide people with useful information but I think it's doing more harm than good to list various symptoms that could indicate any number of ailments on the Internet. Because we are somehow programmed to download the worst possible scenario into our brains and convince ourselves that's our fate.

There's no logic to it, no reasoning. Just this overwhelming sense that our very survival is being threatened, assailed constantly with inexplicable bumps, bruises, marks and strange-looking poo.

I've vowed in the New Year to try and calm the f*ck down, you know, go with the flow. Every time I get any of these minor incidents checked out by a doctor, they turn out to be nothing. I should really learn to take a hint. All this time wasted being worried. Why?

Worry has to be the most useless emotion ever. It doesn't solve anything. It has no healing power. If anything, it just makes things worse because it puts your mind and body under stress. So why do we worry so much? About everything?

Are we so aware of life's fragility that we can't just ease into the flow of our lives? Is it the uncertainty? The not knowing when that final moment will come so we keep tripping ourselves up in the meantime? I get unusually obsessive about my health when I'm happy or under stress. I know, go figure.

If things get too good, if I feel I'm too content, then I have this strange compulsion to find some tiny little bodily flaw (a freckle, a cramp, a dull ache) and, with the amazing power of my imagination, turn it into something potentially fatal. Life is too short to be doing that kind of shit.

Why can't I just BE happy, or just BE stressed without a fabricated doomsday health prognosis hanging over me? I know resolutions don't usually work but I find this one particularly important: go with the flow. Stop fighting life. Because before you know it, it'll be over and you'll have spent most of it worrying about the end instead of actually living.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The melancholic artist

I recently went on vacation for two weeks in rural Maine where it was quite easy to not be distracted. No major urban centres for miles, just quiet and wilderness. I was pretty burned out and thought this was just what I needed. Sensory deprivation. I was very much looking forward to it.

And I did, for the most part, enjoy it. However, this reprieve also gave me an opportunity to realize that my incredibly hectic life was preventing me from fully living it. I was just skimming the surface.

While away, a certain melancholy came over me. I was sad. Sad about the radio silence following some meetings where I pitched a script of mine. They haven't said no, but they haven't said yes. It's like you're in limbo, trying to remain hopeful but finding it increasingly difficult the more time goes by.

As an artist, you learn to develop a thick skin, handle rejection and move on. But I hadn't really allowed myself to feel that sadness. I just tucked it away and kept running from day to day, steeped in busy work or mindless distraction. I wondered how many other emotions were buried within because I wouldn't give myself the time and space to feel them.

There were a few occasions during this vacation when I felt an urgent need to return home, thinking I might be missing something, surrounded by all this serenity and lack of demands on my time. I found the quiet disquieting.

When I returned home, however, I wanted to somehow preserve that spacious mental landscape I'd managed to cultivate, and not clutter it with constant activity and useless information, allowing myself to be bored, to be quiet, to sit with the fact that I'm not really inspired at the moment; I have no clear ideas for a new script. I'm ebbing instead of flowing.

I still feel melancholic but I'm not pushing it away. Sitting still doesn't mean I'm no longer an artist. It does mean dwelling in discomfort, trying to glean satisfaction from other aspects of my life, some of which I consider much less glamorous but no less important.

I guess it can't always be tremendous highs and fits of creative productivity. Sometimes, there's quiet and stillness and uncertainty.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Socializing is hard

Being an introvert can sometimes be challenging. I mean, I like being social and hangin' out with peeps and all but I can't do it continuously, and unlike extroverts who are energized when around people, being social depletes my energy reserves. And if I don't get regular periods of downtime, I start to lose my shit. As in locking myself in the bathroom for a while because it's quiet. A solitary confinement of sorts.

Chaos is my enemy. I know, sometimes I need to allow for spontaneity but chaos drives me a bit bonkers. Noise, people, unplanned events, etc... it all rattles my cage.

I sense introverts are not really celebrated or understood. Let's face it, it's an extrovert's paradise out there. People don't get people who would rather be quiet or alone for a while. It makes no sense to them.

I even get tired of socializing on Facebook and Twitter. I've got social media fatigue. At one point, I just need to shut off that constant bombardment of information, even if it's about people I care about. It's like an assault on my senses, and I must retreat to sensory deprivation.

I've got a copy of Susan Cain's book Quiet, which is dedicated to introverts, but have yet to read it. I've actually got a whole library of unread books which will probably take me a lifetime to get through. But I digress.

I'm actually tired now. Tired of writing. Tired of worrying. Tired of thinking. Must learn to do nothing.  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The space in between

You know when you get to that point, as an artist, where you have to let go and let the Universe do its bit? Where you need to relax after an intensely creative period but you're not sure how? It's like allowing yourself to do nothing is a crime against humanity, so soaked are we in our puritanical work ethic.

I'd like to permit myself to explore the art of doing nothing. Not forever, but for certain periods of time, amid those crazy creative spurts, the space in between. However, it's in those pauses that my fear of doing nothing emerges. If I do nothing, then I must be nothing. Except that being is enough. I don't do enough being. I do too much doing. I need to relax.

Here's a great quote by Paolo Coehlo: "If we are wasting time and enjoying ourselves, we are not wasting time." I wonder how much we miss because we're moving through life at breakneck speed, not stopping to "smell the flowers", as they say. I like to smell flowers.

But I need to train myself to smell flowers. It doesn't seem to come naturally. I used to be really good at doing nothing. I've somehow lost my edge when it comes to sloth. I now have an opportunity to revel in slowness, in frivolously wiling away the hours. If I do nothing, I'm still here so my theory doesn't hold true. By doing nothing, I'm still something. And by doing nothing, I'll be able to do something else, later on.

For us Westerners, doing nothing equates to lack of ambition, that revered quality that we must all possess if we are to be successful. But how do we measure success? Is time spent luxuriating in inactivity considered a shortcoming or a talent? I think it should be considered a talent since it can be quite difficult to truly give oneself over to idleness.

But once you do and drink the sweet nectar of slackness, it's a beautiful thing, a life skill that will come in handy for the rest of your life. Never underestimate the power of stillness, the yin to all our yang activity. (I'm actually trying to convince myself here as well.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

The writer's lament. Translation: pity party

Warning: the following is a writer's lament and therefore may be vomit-enducing. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Apart from blogging, I'm also a playwright, an "emerging" playwright, meaning I haven't gotten that first professional production yet. I'm still plugging away, writing, networking, writing some more, working with some great dramaturgs, etc, etc...

I can go for long stretches where I'm focused, positive and productive. Then, I'll hit a snag. My confidence falters. My expectations aren't quite met. I'm not as brilliant as I thought. The script needs work and I have no idea where to go with it.

Added to this is the feeling that I'm an illegitimate writer until I have that first professional production, and put myself on the theatrical map or until I'm published; basically, until some outside entity says: "Yes, you are a writer".

Pouring hours into a project with an uncertain outcome can be daunting. The script may go nowhere. Or maybe someone will take interest in it a few years from now. You just don't know. But letting go of concrete results is a difficult thing.

And let's face it, artists have egos, and if they aren't fed, well, they don't starve. They gorge themselves on delusions of grandeur, only leading to further disappointment. I try to remind myself to get all The Secret on my ass, you know, visualize what I want, believe I deserve it, and that I'll receive it.

But sometimes, self-doubt creeps in, and it's quite insidious. It would have me believe the worst, that I won't amount to anything, that all this work is leading nowhere, that I'm really not that talented and no one is interested in working with me, or ever will be.

I sure as hell won't quit, because I know, with every fiber of my being, that it's my calling. It's what I was meant to do. It's what I love and what brings me joy. Writing is what puts me in "the zone", where time stands still. And I need to remind myself of those small, daily victories, those fortuitous "coincidences", all leading to one goal. I know the Universe is on my side. I just kinda wish I was.