Infertility and Humility and Art
Here is a question I answered in an (very well put together, seriously great questions Tiffay!) interview not long ago. I like how the interviewer acknowledges that we have to create a spiritual space inside of ourselves to be safe in our creativity. Its such an honest evaluation of how hard it is to show our deepest selves in our art, and in our lives. It made me think about living honestly and fully and of course that led me to think about humility and empathy. I really do want to help people who are afraid to show their work but its a deeper issue than being afraid to show your art. Its about being afraid to be yourself, and maybe even afraid to see yourself at all. Does that make sense? I have talked before about how focusing on being a source of positivity for others actually makes is much easier to be open about yourself (code for showing your art if thats what your goal is) because your focus is not on yourself, or your ego or your image, but on a meaningful interaction with another person. Is it so wrong to say that when you do that, you find many times that the other person you are having a meaningful interaction with is someone who's perspective, or values are not in line with yours? I think that its ok to acknowledge that, take their opinion with a grain of salt, and move on. (code for not give a fly fuck). I say this in the most respectful sense of course (sarcastic but not really). I talk about infertility here because showing my art has honestly never been hard for me, but talking about infertility was hard for me, so it makes me more empathetic toward the many who have asked for advice about being open about art, which is really about showing our true selves to the world.
Lets talk about when others are rude to you.
I can tell you that when I was talking about my infertility and struggles with that, I encountered some rudeness that I was floored by. But for the most part it was unintentional rudeness. I mean to say that it came from a person who was so self absorbed that they didn't even know that turning my problem around and putting their judgmental spin on it was hurtful or selfish of them. Perfect example: I was telling the mother of a friend at a party about my struggle and a new mom overheard me and came to say, loudly, in front of everyone at the party that I didn't really want to get pregnant anyway. That she had been sick, and fat, and in pain for nine months and it was terrible...Then I guess she felt guilty b/c she said she would do it all over again for her sweet baby....I must have had a really blank look on my face b/c she stared at me for a moment and then my friends mom gave me a hug. (Insert open mouthed speechlessness here) She is telling a woman who would give anything, and has given more of herself than she thought she had just for the chance to be fat, sick and pregnant. How could she know about the thousands of dollars I spent, the anxiety, the fact that I had already been living with the pain of Endometriosis for years and years. I wanted to kick her in her vagina. But it made me realize this:
People offer advice when you feel down b/c they want to be the one who fixes you. They want to insert themselves into your problem and be victorious in offering the solution or the perspective that will make you better, or happier. That kind of advice is motivated by selfishness, not humility or empathy. (although I still give the benefit of the doubt and think its just a lesson not yet learned and not coming from a malicious place.) Mostly in our culture living in sadness is not ok, you must always prove you are feeling better, or you must always fix other's to make them feel better. Thats our duty! I could write a whole post about etiquette for infertility in our culture, and maybe I will! But I learned that is ok to live in sadness, and that I don't have a responsibility to make others feel better about my sadness. I also learned that I can't control the negative energy that will be hurled at me when I open up, but I can control my reaction, and I can learn from it how to be better to other people. (I am not sad anymore, btw, I get over stuff fast, lucky me.)
This leads me to think of a moment when I realized that the opinions of others don't have to mean anything to me: I remember talking to one such "friend" and seeing the look in their eyes as they reacted to me saying that I didn't want to pursue IVF and I would rather adopt (this is getting heavy y'all). She was disgusted and in that moment I realized that I didn't need her to agree with me, or to empathize with me because I sensed that she wasn't strong enough to put herself aside for me and support me. And thats ok, I took her judgment and I totally disregarded it, now when I see her face in my minds eye it makes me chuckle, no feelings are evoked. Right then and there I knew that I didn't care one shit floating in space what her opinion was. It was liberating! I wish I could burn this feeling into everyone so they could realize that expressing a deep part of yourself (like when you show your art or your creations) is for you and to just feel confident in your choices regardless of the noise of judgment from sources you disagree with anyway! Also this proves that practice makes perfect. Get judged a couple of times, and get past it!
I like you more and more with each post! That must have been a hard one to write! I want to be like you when I grow up! ;-)ReplyDelete
You are so funny :) Thanks for the encouragement.Delete
I really love the part you wrote about not caring about the opinions of others... that moment must've been liberating. Definitely gives food for thought. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
Oh and the part about the insensitivity of others being related to their own selfishness is SPOT ON. It makes me aware of my own response to others in my effort to be more empathetic, more caring, more selfless. Thanks again.ReplyDelete
Its just one of those things you learn as you get older I think! I know that I have also been insensitive to grieving people as well, makes me cringe to think of it!Delete
I love this post so much. I do struggle with putting my work out there for people to see. Even though I know the opinions of others shouldn't matter, and that not everyone will like your art (duh!), I still find that I let it hold me back sometimes. I think a big part of it is trying to fit into and maintain the image that other people have of me. And I totally agree that this is really about being okay with being yourself. I don't think I've thought about it like that before, so thank you! This post really made me think.ReplyDelete
Also, the things you wrote about it not being okay to live in sadness in our culture are so true. I think we're taught to hide away the so-called "negative" emotions, and so when we're faced with someone who is experiencing sadness or grief, we sometimes panic because we are so uncomfortable with those feelings and we don't know what to do. I think that's when we sometimes say things that are unintentionally hurtful, because we're trying to make the feeling of discomfort go away. I appreciate reading your story. I'm sure I've said some stupid things to people in the past, (unintentionally) and I'm always striving to grow and be a better person/listener/friend.
Thanks a lot for this post! Loved it and really appreciate your perspective and encouragement. I wish you all the best!
I am so glad that you maybe saw a different perspective from this post, about accepting yourself and maybe it will help you be braver about showing your art! Thanks for your comment! I love hearing from you.Delete
Great post! Thank you for your honesty and openness. I know it is very hard. While reading this I was reminded of this post I read last year: http://ginazeidler.com/2013/06/11/how-to-bless-your-friends-going-through-infertility/. I thought you might enjoy the read. All my best!ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing that blog post with me! So insightful! I loved it.Delete
Love the sincerity of your post and your entire blog for that matter. That's what drew me to make your blog a daily stop! I struggle daily with fear and now that I look back have for most of my life. I think you read enough self help books and get old enough you just start to tell yourself - screw it. Life is to short, get on with it. Follow your heart and anything can be possible. Also, taking care of your self (working out - eating right) can defog the brain and emotions. That has helped more than I ever thought it would.ReplyDelete
You are so right about reading enough self help books, and getting older and saying who cares! Life is short, so short. Isn't it amazing how much it helps to live a healthy lifestyle! Its amazing, for me personally, juicing has changed my brain for the better soooo much!Delete
When people pass on their judgement, especially at art shows ie.'my nephew/son/mother does the same thing! they should be in this show! what does it cost to be in it? how do they apply?' ...I let it piss me off for a couple minutes (ie. want to kick them in the vagina - that gave me a good laugh, thx!) and then I let it go. The letting go part has gotten a lot easier, I remind myself of all the people who love my work, and that I most importantly loved it enough to hang it on that wall.ReplyDelete
Ouch, that sounds like a pain in the ass to have people tell you that. I would have a very hard time keeping the "fuck y'all" look out of my eyes personally :) In all honesty. But you are right, it does get easier to brush it off, its like working out! ha!Delete
You just blew my mind!! I think creatives have a deep need to understand the world around them,and more importantly what motivates it. You just saved me some thinking time.ReplyDelete
I find myself trying to offer advice frequently, and you are right it is a selfish need to be the fixer. Gonna be the listener next time.
You are every bit as lovely as your paintings. You WILL be an amazing mother!!
Katy, your comment is so insightful and thoughtful. You are right! I never put my need to make order out of the world and my creative brain together, duh. Totally makes sense. Did you watch the video I linked about empathy? Its has great advice about being the listener. Thanks for your sweet comment, I appreciate the confidence in me! I will take it!Delete
Always enjoy your posts, mostly for their authenticity. And, of course, for the beauty of your paintings, which I now understand are just an outward reflection of your inner beauty. Duh. Keep writing, oh wise and funny one.ReplyDelete
Love and hot pockets,
Thank you for your sweet comment Amy! So glad we got to meet that one time, and I will always think of you when I see hot pockets for sure.Delete
I love your blog, your words and your art. I am almost 60! And I am so on board ( finally) with being so over all the bullshit. On a personal note, our daughter has Stage 4 Endometriosis and suffers terribly. It's so hard for her and I just want to say the right thing and be there. I am so sorry for all the woman who suffer with Endometriosis.
Michelle, long-time admirer of your art, first-time poster. I just wanted to chime in to say that my husband and I struggled with infertility for about 10 years before we finally adopted our son, and I hear you, it's the suck suck suckiest. And the things people say are just so baffling - "ugh, we have been trying to get pregnant for SO LONG." Really? 4 months? That's pretty long, I guess. Just like you said - unintentional but still pretty rude given the audience.ReplyDelete
When we were waiting to find out if our baby would really end up being our baby, I was terrified and a bit of a wreck and so many of my dear friends and family told me they knew it would be fine and not to worry. The ones who really touched my heart, who finally helped me calm down, were the ones who said, "yeah, it might not work out and if not it's gonna hurt like hell. I'm sorry." Not trying to cure the sadness or the worry; just acknowledging the truth of the situation made so much of a difference to me. I guess I don't have anything beautiful and deep to say, the ladies above have done a fine job, I just wanted to comment in solidarity and say, "yeah, things probably aren't working out the way you hoped, and it hurts like hell, I know. I'm sorry."
Reading this post is just what I needed today, it was like medicine for my soul, much appreciated (-:ReplyDelete
I am an admirer of your work and now I am an exhibiting artist at Gregg Irby Fine Art as well...so many great artists! I am excited about coming across your blog.
Reading your post was like looking in the mirror...I suffer from stage 4 endometriosis and infertility. The comments I receive are sometimes appalling. This has been an interesting journey to take-it has changed the path of my life, overall outlook and art...some for the better, others I am still working on. The art criticism and infertility/endo comments are parallel...it is a vulnerable state that you open and share with others and when they respond in a negative way-ouch! I appreciate your post and need to remember your words of wisdom when confronted with these same comments. Good luck with everything! Can't wait to see what you create next. -Cherlyn