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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Musing: Art outside the Box: The Voice in the Dark




We all have a voice track in our head that never goes away. It's full of all kinds of nonsense: music that plays in endless loops, the thing we could have said at a bad moment if we'd been more quick on our feet, the arguments, never said,  with friends long lost and gone. The auditory flotsam and jetsam of our lives, scraped out of an old verbal closet that haunt us.

My worst fear is that I will die saying the same cruel things to myself that were said to me as a child. I am in no way alone. If you teach you get to hear exactly what people were told as a child. Because when their blood sugar drops or they get frightened or threatened, they'll start saying it to themselves. It's an agony to listen to. It never should have been said to anyone in the first place. 
"I'm so dumb."
"I'm not an artist."
"I'm not creative."
"I can't draw, see colors, try, find time, find space, do this ............"
The words hardly matter. It's almost always about the tone of cruelty. It's an echo of bullying.

I always shut it down in class. It's like watching someone dig a hole through their heart with a jagged knife. I tell them no one can talk to my students that way. Not even them about themselves.They'll tell it to you in a cold and clinical way at 9:30 in the morning. At 3 PM they're crying about it in the bathroom.

Oddly enough, it's never anything provable or true. Or it's true but utterly harmless. We are all, in our physicality, fat, or skinny, tall or short, and I think it's impossible to be alive and not be funny looking at some point. What gives it weight is not it's accuracy of the statement but the accuracy involved in having chosen that thing to say. No one could have told me I was dumb. It never worked. I knew better. But they told me daily I was the ugliest girl in the school. 

There wasn't exactly a contest. It wasn't like someone proved that.But with the unerring aim of all bullies, they knew that had a sting. Having the normal number of hands, feet, arms legs and heads, I do believe as an adult that I look pretty normal and that this was chosen and said simply for the impact they knew it would have. It was nothing but bullying.

So what happens if we choose different words? What happens if like the video, we choose to define ourselves differently?

I do follow religious seasons and this is the season of Lent. For those of us who do, you usually do what is called a Lenten discipline. This used to be regularly fasting. The current view is that you give up something like chocolate or tv.

But it does me more good to do something rather than to stop doing something. This year, I promised myself to remember my meds and do my face care every day. It sounds like vanity, but it's not. There's a little girl in me who has heard too many ugly words and needs to hear actions rather than words. We're almost at the end of Lent and this time I've held on. A really good Lenten discipline is one you want to continue after Lent for the good it did you.

It's my own anti bullying campaign. It's my beautiful frogs. If they are beautiful, perhaps I am too. It's the ability to listen to that dark inner voice and change the channel. It's the ability to change my world with my words.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Musing: Art outside the Box: Un-entitling Entitlement.

"Every life you lead does you good if you let it, every life you lead. Sometimes it's hard to take your mind off your mind" 
I watched an upload on infertility today on Facebook. I will not link to that upload here. The woman's pain was so raw, and so real. She's in her twenties and just hit the fact that she cannot have a child. 

I don't think she'd like to hear what I need to say about all of this.I remember her agony. My mother was given hormones during her pregnancy (You're over 40. You're not pregnant, this is menopause.) I was told fairly early that  there would be no children. As there was no one to have a child with, and I think that's especially difficult, I simply had to wade it through and wait it out. At 42 I had the inevitable hysterectomy that confirmed it all. I would not make a child. I would never have my baby. Eventually I came to understand that I would never have family in the way others do.

There's this  illusion that the world is fair. That we should all get a certain similar plate, decorated and filled with the same things in equal parts. Wouldn't that be nice? Shouldn't we arrange that? It's almost monstrous to argue otherwise. 


But it's simply not how it works. Life is massively unfair, much of the time. There are those without money, intelligence, education, opportunities, loves, lovers, connections, health and strength. We can legislate some of these factors to a more even place. But much of it is simply what we have. It's the raw material of our lives.

I don't think we get to change that raw material much. As cruel as it is, there are people who I think should not have a child. I'm one of them. My mother had an alcoholic approach to child rearing that I want to make very sure happens to no child around me. The best way to be sure of that is for me to not be the sole person, raising a child.
Could I have said that at 20? 25? 35 when the clock was ticking hard? I'm not sure I could. My body said it for me. And if we wish to discuss what is fair and unfair, did some child deserve me taking that chance?

Oddly enough, I have children. I just didn't make them. I've gone through batches of neighborhood kids, god children, lost lambs, grown up 3 year olds in big bodies and 40 year old ten year olds. All I had to do was open my door. Because they came and went at will, there was a safety there for them and for myself. The things I feared I might do, did not happen. Instead, I got to love the children in front of me.

Life is not fair. It can be right, but it's never fair. Fair is a measure of average. Who of us is ever that?

I go through whiny places about being alone. I'm not someone who does primary relationships well. By the time I was 40, it was pretty clear I'd never pair up or marry. Recently I shared one with a friend who told me to shut up and count my blessings. This is the answer only a real friend can give you.  My world is often very lonely but it is full of imagery, art, creation, space and time for the world of the mind and the imagination. It is not average. It has gifts for me. But the average world of what is fair, does not have space in it for the odd and lovely gifts my loneness hands me and then demands of me. For that is the other edge of it. The gifts life gives us all demand a commitment of time, strength and focus. You can't just hold your child at the photo opportunity. You also need to do that at 3 in the morning when she's crying and scared. You cannot love someone only when they've brought you roses. You need to find your love when they're incomprehensible and terrifying
(and we all are). You aren't just an artist at an opening. You're an artist when it separates you from much of what others do. Life is not fair. It is rich, it is odd and it's mostly our response to the very unaverage person we are.

I love the fairy tales where the fairy give us a cruel and unwanted gift or task that makes us braver, stronger and better. Like the two boys on Christmas,one given everything he wants and the other given a room of manure, it works out differently than we think. There's a pony in there somewhere.

So, to that woman, I want to say, " You can have children, just not in the way you hoped." To myself  I need to say, "All your love is here, it's just not in the form you wished." It's cruel to say " Your art is your child." It's not true. Your art is your creation, but it is never a child who puts their arms around you or rejects you when they hit 17. They are very separate things. Both of them excellent. Perhaps if we can put aside the notion of what is fair, we can see the good in what simply is.


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