The Genie is Out of the Bottle

Digital illustration (BW): Grinning Genie 1It would be hard to imagine a person who is less the early adopter than I am. Newness frightens me even under the best of circumstances, and I am intimidated beyond words at the idea of trying to learn anything. Worst possible example for anyone’s edification when it comes to scholarship, growth, adventure, futurism, daring, and tireless commitment to progress of any sort. I’m the one you’ll find huddled somewhere in the shady corner as far back of the starting blocks as I can manage to be, while everyone else is already sprinting gleefully into the turn.

Chalk it up, pretty succinctly, to fear. My self-diagnosis, summing up my own observations and experiences with the insights of better educated therapist and doctor supporters over my lifespan, is that the recipe made by my own ingredients of personality, health, situation and resources tends to combine into a person who’s timid and easily defeated. Add a dollop of laziness to my already potent blend of anxiety, dyslexia and other perceptive and receptive oddities, and my lack of physical strength and grace, not to mention of any sort of courage, and you get an unwillingness, even a very stubborn one, to set foot into new territories, whether actual or metaphorical.

Still.

When I feel I can experiment safely and without anyone else observing me at work, I may occasionally delve into something new with a surprising (to me, at least) sense of play and eagerness. Though I’ve resisted the idea of learning to use any new forms of technology, at least until they’re far from new anymore on a general scale, even these can be both useful and entertaining if and when I finally get up the gumption to try them. So here I am, finally, fiddling around with the iPad as an artistic medium. On our recent week’s jaunt to Puerto Rico, the iPad provided a convenient way to reduce the weight and size of my baggage from the old laptop I have lugged around for the last five years, and while I found it slightly irksome to peck at the tiny integrated keypad on it to write posts, it did work for that, and as long as I used newly made images or ones in my stream of digitally stored photos, I could plug in illustrations as well. Photos taken on my iPad or iPhone do not impress me much, and I find both a bit awkward to use at this point. But with a new set of digital drawing/painting toys, I’m distracted from any such photographic and textual shortcomings by the process of teasing out the secrets of each art-related program.Digital illustration: Grinning Genie 2

Once introduced to this plaything, of course, I loosen up and lose my inhibitions gradually. Knowing that after years of such untutored play with various iterations of Photoshop, I still only use a hundredth of the possible functions and tools it offers—and those, probably, in wildly incorrect and inefficient ways—I can only imagine that there will be exponentially more things I can learn and do, as well as fail to learn and do, with these newer tools and toys. But at least I’ve managed to wiggle my recalcitrant self into trying them, for a start.Digital illustration: Grinning Genie 3

We Wait for Change…

…when we should be agents of change. We wish for rescue when we should be out seeking ways to aid others. We huddle fearfully in the late summer, already conscious that the autumn ahead will lead inevitably to winter’s dormancy or killing frost, when what we could be doing is plotting the way to make use of the transition to position ourselves to take fuller advantage of the ripening and plenitude ahead.digital illustrationWe are, after all, only human. But the exemplary people of generations past have proved, and those of our own time are still showing, that as long as we exist to worry about them the ages and seasons, the events and goings-on do indeed go on, cycle and change, and that if we choose to do so—if we determine to do so and act on it—we can make the changes better and the growth so much the more meaningful and joyful. If we wait for change, it will happen, all right, but it will happen however and whenever the universe or others in it decide. Ours is the calling to engage in the world, no matter how intimidating it is, and move toward what we desire. It may seem like plowing on foot through chin-deep snow, but trusting that there’s a thaw ahead and behind it, renewal, we can stay the course.digital illustrationAt the other end of it is potential that surpasses even our fondest, wildest imaginings, if we dare to move instead of lying waiting.

It’s interesting to me that I wrote the foregoing portions of this post a few weeks ago and set it aside for this very date, not knowing that it would follow immediately on the heels of my publishing my first book, something I’ve longed to do for years but never had the nerve until now. Funny how we sometimes put things in motion without even realizing what we’ve done; it’s a saving grace of our race, I think. O happy day, when we stumble into our dreams because we kept seeking them despite all sense!

Not Just Another Pretty Face

At some level, most of us—no matter how disdainfully we might pretend to look upon those Others who obsess over appearances—wish to be thought beautiful. We want to fit in with others, to belong in the pack, to be loved.photoOf course, we know that even those who do fit in do so if and as the hierarchy of the pack allows. We are put in our places and told who we are, where we belong, what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we should accept that fate as though it were a natural law. After all, we tend to believe that nature is fact-driven and therefore we, who are mere specks in its vastness, must play our little roles as prescribed in the absolutes of existence. We sit here and take it. In many ways, that’s a useful approach to life, because, well, nature does drive a lot of what is and what happens, and bucking that can be counterproductive or even quite dangerous. And worse, perhaps, such refusal to accept the norms others have agreed upon as right and correct and natural puts us on the fringes and at risk of rejection. Someone along the way is sure to reject the rebel or misfit. Someone will think I’m unfit or, yes, Ugly.photoIt’s a wonderful thing to remember that besides all of the weird and dangerous and unpleasant and otherwise negative possibilities in stepping outside of the normal and expected course of events or refusing to be other than myself in order to seem to fit in better where I really don’t, there are also a vast array of glorious and splendid maybes waiting out there for me to dare to reach for them. Much of what is good and beautifully new in the world happens because one person dared to think, do, and exist differently from the pack, the mass of ordinary people, and brought about an increment of change. How wonderful if I can shed my fears, my need for conformity borne of desire for universal acceptance, and become ever so slightly more notable, one little nth more dazzling, than I was when I was only hoping to be like all the other creatures that I knew.

Look Both Ways Before Crossing

 

digital illustrationI know that it’s always wise to be observant, especially when I might be walking directly into the teeth of danger. But trouble is hardly limited to the known and the seen. How sorry I’ll be for my foolishness if I get so obsessively focused on what I fear most that I fail to notice something equally important–or perhaps more imminently so.digital illustrationWorst of all if I’m so  immobilized by my phobias and fears that I just lose my nerve, my will to forge ahead and past them, and in doing so stay fixed in the very place where I’ll forever be the most vulnerable.digital illustration

Crawling & Leaping

photoDo or Die

I am not brave, not big and strong, and change gives me the creeps,

But when the moment comes along, my crawling turns to leaps,

Because my innate sense of time and self and hope, my drive,

My dreams and aspirations, climb and make me feel alive–photoSo much so that I can’t keep still, must jump right up, arise,

And spring to action, and I will push onward to the skies,

For all that lies ahead is unknown, hid, but what may be

Is great and magical and fun, is grand and wild and free–photoIf I don’t take that daring chance and forge ahead at speed,

How will I, short of happenstance, find anything I need,

Or grow, improve, achieve, emerge? How can my sorrows sleep?

I know I’d best just fight the urge to crawl, and rather, leap!digital illustration from a photo

Super Chicken

mixed media artworkMy superpower, if I could be said to have any, is being supremely ordinary. Yeah, I’m really, really good at that. Now, you may think it’s not impressive that I’m good at being so-so, and you could be forgiven for thinking it. And yet . . .

Besides that it requires massive numbers of us mid-range sorts to keep nature in a sort of balance with the various human outliers at the top (and bottom) of the spectrum, there’s also the comfort and safety of being able to travel under the radar of scrutiny and pressure to which both kinds of exceptional people are exposed.

What on earth does this mean I am good at doing, at being? Why, I do what’s expected. I go to sleep; I wake up. I eat and I walk and I get dressed and undressed, and the world carries right on around me. And though I don’t at the moment have employment outside of our home, my current occupation being Homemaker, I spend myself and my efforts, rather, on doing the small and yet significant things that might not be essential to keeping the world operational but grease the gears, instead. And keeping the cogs working relatively smoothly is as useful in its own way as being the driver, the engineer or a cog myself. I go to meetings and do Projects, too, to be sure, but mostly what I do nowadays is fix a meal, repair a door-jamb, ferry my spouse and a student to a rehearsal. I do laundry; I prune the plantings near the window. Glamorous? Just exactly enough.

Because the luster of the day comes not from being admired and lauded but from being appreciated, even if it’s hardly necessary to hear that announced constantly–after all, the proof of its value is in plain view if the needful things get done. Any reward lies in the belief that I make life that one tiny iota smoother and pleasanter for that one brief instant, even if only for this one other person. It’s borne on the smile of relief worn by him whose sheaf of office paperwork got filed at last when he couldn’t get to it himself, or whose old slippers have been mended by the time he gets home from the office at the end of the day. It’s in the neighbor being glad to have the excess garden supplies or box of art materials I’ve collected to send to school with her. It’s with me when I arrange the chairs alongside the singers before a rehearsal when I come by to listen to their work. It’s mostly in knowing that the stuff needed to keep quotidian action on course is being looked after, bit by little bit. And that I’m the person for the job.

I don’t do this selflessly, of course, because I would hardly keep it up for long if it weren’t so simply and inherently rewarding. And it certainly bespeaks no genius or courage on my part that I do it, for clearly it takes greater skill and ingenuity and bravery to do all of the shiny, showy things for which I provide my atoms of encouragement from the periphery. Maybe a jot of courage only to admit to being a homemaker and loving it. So many who haven’t the privilege of the life seem to disdain it and misconstrue its meaning, especially if it doesn’t have either children or wealth as part of the equation. I am far more fearful of having no sense of purpose than of being thought unimportant by anyone else; I care more about feeling my own worth than having it validated by any outside agents.

So if I seem to anyone to be afraid of taking a larger role in the Real World as they see it, I suppose I ought to admit that in one sense I am. I know that having this Job for a few years has given me new strength and the ability to go out in the wider world for a so-called Real one again when the time comes, yet I do dread leaving this role that has given me a feeling of vocation more than anything else I’ve ever done and risking the dimming of any of the self-worth I’ve garnered or the value I’ve learned to impute to the tasks of being normal and simple and everyday, which I’ve learned to see as so much deeper and richer than they’d seemed until I tried on the role of their custodian myself. I do, at the end of it, think that if I’m a dull, bland or unimportant grease-monkey to the cogs of the world, I’m a damn good one, and if I’m scared of giving up that high honor, then I at least credit myself with being a superior variety of chicken.

Of Frontiers and Pioneers

I stand in perpetual amazement and awe at the courage, will and dedication it takes to live on the cutting edge of things. How is it that people find those first inklings of a new trail and then, also, the nerve and wit to set foot on it, the persistence and bravery to pursue it to its unknown, unforeseeable end? Seems to me that there’s far more than a hint of the miraculous in the whole enterprise: to recognize that there’s something utterly new and unprecedented Out There somewhere is astounding enough, but to have the wherewithal to pursue it with passion or plain doggedness is much more remarkable, in my view.

It’s rather beyond my ken, this intrepid spirit–or willful folly–that moves anyone to go off into the great unknown and sail over the flat edge of the earth in a pipsqueak of a boat, looking for answers, or for adventure. While I know from my own very limited experience that those things in my life I’ve most treasured generally came at the price of a certain amount of risk beyond my usual, I’ve never quite been able to imagine how there can be people who actually seek such danger, who desire huge challenges. My idea of a grand showdown with Fate falls somewhere between going into a different grocery store than my usual ones and putting on pants that were a little too tight last week.

I am sincerely grateful that there are other people on this planet willing to plunge into the unknown and take on its vagueness and vagaries head first, for without them I wouldn’t exist. It’s not simply that I wouldn’t live in my accustomed comfort and safety, but indeed that I wouldn’t know what was safe-vs-poisonous to eat, let alone which of the seemingly available house-caves were already occupied by less than teddy-cuddly bears. On top of all the basics of safety and shelter and health I am glad that there have been explorers and inventors and pioneers of every sort, all out there avidly finding, making, fixing and each in his or her own way advancing the things that make life so livable nowadays for me and for others like me who are equally unprepared to live on the razor’s edge.

And I’m especially happy that so many survived these trips to the borders of reality and came back to tell the tale. It’s pretty swell for the rest of us, and I’ll bet you, too, are glad to be among the surviving heroes–especially if you’re among the handful that eventually came off the high of discovery and achievement and said to yourselves in a faint echo of what I was saying all along: ‘What on earth was I thinking!‘ If you’d like your thanks at your personal high noon or any other time, I’ll be right here in the safe and comfortable reality you bought for me, slinging no guns at Destiny other than those housed in my safe and comfortable internal universe.digitally enhanced drawing