This was a tremendously disturbing realisation for me. That my art, at some point in the past weeks or so, almost lost all its heart. It had enough but not to carry me forward into any worthwhile direction. If I had not realised it when I did, I could have spent the next precious months finding it and resurrecting it, for it would have been lost to me.
It would not have been so evident in my recent works but the fact that I was finishing less pieces and at a slower pace were already signs.
This is what happened : I had burdened my art with too much, and forgot to let it be itself, very much like how I have been with not letting myself be myself.
First I burdened it with the responsibility of bringing in income -- fast and in large amounts. Its failure was a frustration, and my expectations poisoned its potential which I suspect further slowed down its own growth. My focus became more about getting rid of my dayjob as soon as possible and less about deepening my art. Because my dayjob was exhausting me too much. I was thinking more about my art in the context of products and promotions, about making sales rather than making meanings. The meanings themselves became selling points, measured by profit instead of passion. I was impatient and constantly disappointed. I began to judge my creative output by its sale potential more than its soul potential.
Second I burdened it with replacing love. And by this I mean I expected it to take the place of any need for connection or intimacy with an other. Whenever I felt lonely, I painted. And when the painting was done I said to myself: There, I am fine. It's been taken care of. I do not need nor am I craving for that fairy tale that used to lift off my life from the mundane. My art is my love now. But guess what, it is not enough. And during my last bout with depression this has been made clear to me, and I was sent emergency intervention through an encounter with a Korean series -- a string of overheard dialogue that simply sliced through my stupor, lines that spoke aloud the exact words with which I discourage and tame myself into the belief that when it comes to love stories and fairy tales, everything is impossible. That's why I turned to art in the first place. Art is possible, even realistic compared to my aspirations about relationships. But those words from inside myself taken out and spoken aloud shook me enough to find out what happens next. And then a chain reaction occurs. And it was that very chain that pulled me out finally and fully from the depths of my despair. (Look out for the post about reclaiming my fairy tale.)
Third I burdened my art with my own fears, doubts, and expectations to the degree that it could not move as well as it should. Just like how writers (and being also a writer I am guilty of the same), would sometimes be over-ridden by their inner editors and censors and stifle the spirit of a story before it even had a chance to be whole -- overthinking and over-correcting and second-guessing and anticipating with anxiety What Others Will Think Or Say. I have been over-sensitive and over-defensive. Constant comparison was my weakness, particularly how and why I was never the chosen one -- a sentiment that echoes a deep-seated ache tracing back to my being repeatedly un-chosen and unrequited when it came to love. I have a long drawn-out struggle about being loved and being enough of a person to be loved. And at the same time I shied away from giving love, or trusting and being open. I dealt with love, and then later on with my art which I substituted for love, clad in full armour. I have been true and honest as much as I could, but I also held back out of fear that I would be depleted, defeated, and disappointed. There is so much waiting to be born on my paper and canvas but I have been rationing how much to show, because it will be showing so much of myself as well, opening myself up, opening myself to rejection and being deemed not enough. Un-chosen, un-preferred. Too odd, too old, too independent, too difficult, too much of what a woman my age and station should be. I have braced myself for the worst even before I began.
I am fixing all of that now. A perfect time as this old year comes to a close. A perfect time as every path of my life flows into a single road that has not yet been taken. In one of the recent stories I have seen, it was said "You have to take a path for it to become a road, and then it will show up in the navigation maps where it was invisible before."
I believe that nearly losing the heart of my art is part of the process. Though difficult it was not wasted time, for the lessons I gained are not only for my art but for my whole life. Love, which I have denied, which I have been ashamed to admit I wanted and needed, is now gathering its scattered pieces from the graveyards of my possibilities.