A good friend frequently asks me why I'm so hard on myself. This is usually after I've gone through a fallow period and I'm berating my general lack of discipline and comparing my lifestyle to what I consider the norm. And if I don't measure up to that norm (which in fact, may not be as much the norm as I convince myself), then I start feeling worthless and insecure. But what does it matter, my friend asks? If I'm not accountable to anyone else (like a boss, or kids or a husband), then what difference does it make if I stay up late, sleep in, only work a few days a week in the studio? I've always found it a bit hard to explain it, or more precisely, put my finger on what in my background has produced this behavior of mine. Why do I get so bothered and start losing self esteem when I have little tangible to show for my days? Why can't I just enjoy life as it comes? I don't know, but I do know that I get very unhappy if I go too long without making something - be it a quilt or some other textile thing fashioned from my hands. It's just the way I am.
So it made me feel much better when I saw part of an interview with recent Nobel Prize winner and author, Doris Lessing. (See complete transcript here.) The interviewer, Bill Moyers, asked, "Do you never stop writing?" Her answer describes exactly how I feel about my quilting:
"No. I'm compulsive. And I deeply think that it has to be something very neurotic. And I'm not joking. It has to be. Because if I've finished a book, and this wonderful release, which I'm now feeling-- it's off, it's in a parcel, it's gone to a publisher. Bliss and happiness.
I don't have to do anything. Nothing. I can just sit around. But, suddenly it starts, you see. This terrible feeling that I am just wasting my life, I'm useless, I'm no good. Now, it's a fact that if I spend a day busy as a little kitten, racing around. I do this, I do that. But I haven't written, so it's a wasted day, and I'm no good. How do you account for that nonsense?"
So I am in good company and should probably quit worrying about this compulsion of mine that leaves me out of sorts and feeling bad about myself when I'm not actively engaged in it. It may be nonsense to act that way, and like Lessing, I can't account for it. But there's no denying, it's the way I am.