Monday, October 13, 2008


The leaves look different to me this year, the way they are slowly turning yellow and red. Can't put my finger on it but they definitely strike me as having subtle differences from what I would expect. We've had several rather gusty days in the last two weeks, which have loosed green as well as turned leaves from the branches, another difference. Equal opportunity freedom.

Several of the blogs I frequent have revisited their resolution word for the year, reminding me I hadn't thought of mine for quite a while. The whole idea of the resolution word versus a full resolution sentence is it focuses more on how you get to where you want to be instead of focusing on a specific thing you think you want or should do. And thus would be easier to remember, stick to, be successful in achieving. It was working for me. When I remembered to chant my word, "freedom," I indeed found focus and the drive to do those things I'd been avoiding that once done would give me the freedom I craved.

But in the turmoil that my life became (and I'm not sure exactly when that started), I forgot about my resolution word, forgot about the magic it could bestow, forgot to invoke it, forgot about it altogether. Freedom, apparently, was the last thing on my mind. Living in the moment, enduring, taking the challenges a day at a time, savoring the days that were not a challenge, became my focus. Getting back into the habit of creating also became my focus. My resolution word should have been an integral part of that last bit, but I don't recall I even considered it. I have no idea how I got off track, and little interest in backtracking to figure it out.

Now "freedom" is in the forefront of my mind, and stumbling upon the resolution word again strikes me as ironic. Part of my longing when I chose the word was a desire to be free from responsibility - something I know is not possible, but one can have one's fantasy, right? I don't think I was consciously thinking about my responsibilities of pet owner at the time, but a huge responsibility my dog became as the year progressed. And with her recent passing, I am face to face with how much freedom her exit from my life is giving me beyond the obvious things. Yes, I knew I was curtailing my travel and even some of my social life as her health deteriorated. Her needs came before mine much of the time in planning my daily schedule. I even modified when & what I might be working on creatively based on her needs.

What I hadn't fully realized was how much subconscious energy was being drained away over worry and monitoring of her condition. I think it factored heavily into my inability to work on some projects, ones demanding effort beyond my comfort zone, ones requiring a lot of design decisions. It was more than I could do, dealing with the uncertainty of her condition and the uncertainty in the studio. It made me want to pull the covers over my head and hide so many times. But of course, I didn't, because I am a responsible person and that dog depended on me. And I eventually got back in the studio doing anything I could because I'm a responsible person and I knew my well-being depended on it.

So here I am, with endless dogless days stretching out before me. Free at last to structure my days any way I want, free to pursue things I've been putting on hold, free to sew uninterrupted for hours on end like I did on Saturday (the 6 more string blocks turned into 16 - no need to stop.) Free to feel guilty about the relief I feel that the caregiver part of my life is over for awhile. Actually, the guilt hasn't been a huge factor thankfully, but there are moments. Like when I realized my inability to focus on my work was directly related to what was going on with the dog, and now I'm suddenly looking at those pieces I could not face and thinking, maybe I can really get some work done, get those pieces finished, work at the pace I expected to work after I moved here. Free. Or at least, embarking on the next stage of my life, without a dog, without the distractions. The guilt comes at thinking of her as a distraction and a deterrent, since she enriched my life so and even was responsible for getting me in the studio some days.

Last week I was reading an article about Virginia Snedeker and the American Scene (roughly the 1920's-'40's) in the February issue of American Art Review. I was struck by this observation: "Beyond the professional opportunities available to female artists, life circumstances affected female artists differently than male artists. Marriage and childrearing disrupted women's artistic careers in ways with which men did not have to cope. With less time for their careers, women were unable to maintain the level of work and self-promotion necessary for a successful career. They frequently stopped painting before they had found their unique mature style - the style that art historians label the "true" style of serious artists." The article goes on to state that this scenario played out in Snedeker's career with her only completing a few paintings after her children's birth. Snedeker herself admitted that she had to work in short, interrupted sessions and was unsatisfied with the results.

Nothing new in this, but having just gone through my own series of short, interrupted sessions with unsatisfying results mostly due to caring for this dog, it hit home and put a spotlight on what I've known and struggled with for awhile - the awareness that I needed to be spending more time "doing the work" in order to, not only improve my technique, but also develop my own style. Now, it would seem, I have no excuse keeping me from finding my "unique mature style" but me. A different kind of responsibility. A somewhat scary kind of freedom. Freedom, none the less.



This sounds so heartfelt! You did everything for your dog, and it sounds as if he really took up your time and a lot of brain energy. You can't do anything else though can you? We're at the stage where we daren't stay out too long or go away for the day. Dylan isn't ill, but he's cronky and slow and needs to water the trees a lot! I keep thinking of all the things I could be doing - holidays, travel, visiting etc., but on the whole, I don't mind too much. He does make me laugh!

Anonymous said...

My situation is a little different (no sick dog) but I still understand where you're coming from. If only I could take a month off (a secluded cabin on a lake sounds heavenly) from doing the usual for everyone else-day in and day out-and just do for me.
I feel as if I am losing how to create because so many other things, people and schedules infringe upon my mind and time that there is almost nothing left to create art with.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Anon - yes, sometimes I've felt a little guilty that "all" that's been distracting me is a dog when I know of so many others absolutely deluged with caretaker responsibilities of people. I know it's easier said than done, but try oh try to carve out some time for yourself, even if it's only escaping to a friend's house for some creative play for part or all of a day. And don't give up on your dream of time in that secluded cabin on a lake!