With anxiety, an opportunity is not good fortune. An opening or chance at something is blood to the shark that is anxiety. Imagine the famous Jaws theme had the words, "What if..what if..what if..what if.what if.what if..."
Challenging The Narrative
I continue to nurture self-love. Finding joy in who I am verses what I have accomplished is an hourly challenge. Art has helped me cultivate these new and foreign feelings toward myself. The pieces I create come from the enjoyment of the process. The final artwork is a manifestation of the emotions I felt during the creative process. I was essentially in the moment. Me. The person I am was there.
I struggle constantly to keep that performative part of me obsessed with accomplishments at bay. What if I could sell my art? How can I make art that will sell? The people pleaser inside of me wants to go out there and sell hand painted, watercolor cards and worry stones that I have carved and polished. What if nobody is interested? Fear is triggered in these curious thoughts.
On one hand, selling art could be one of those mythical "do what you love" things. On the other hand, will I enjoy the process of being in the moment if I am trying to fill orders or making the same thing over and over again because it sells? See, I don't believe people will buy things that I create for me because I have spent 40+ years not loving me and the things I 'accomplish.'
Some of the people I absolutely respect, like Daniel J. Hogan, Adriean Koleric, or even Jessica Abel somehow manage to create amazing works of art and keep a day job. They pursue their passions and pay the bills. However, I am terrified of this idea. I had big ideas before my breakdown. While I was working I was going to make a number of video projects. I never did. I focused on my career and accomplishments. I worked plenty of nights. When I wasn't working, I was too exhausted to do much of anything.
I suppose that was a different me. That version of Chris was unaware of the all the pain I have suffered since. Yet, there is a pattern in my past equating my self-worth to what I am doing, not who I am. The fear that nobody would be interested in buying my artwork is rooted in this sense of accomplishment. I personally benefited from the process of creating the pieces already. Why should I care that they are piled up here in the corner and not selling? Unless, I am afraid that they will be rejected.
I've written it before, but people at parties and social gatherings never ask you what your passions are. We always start new interactions with "What do you do for a living?" Even when I had a career, I was intimidated by that question. Call it imposter syndrome, insecurity or whatever. In fact, I think those closest to me would say I still have a career as a writer now. My "even when I had a career" comment was another jab at myself.
My self-worth has always been tied to my accomplishments. The personal bar, or goal for myself was always unattainable. Somehow in my recovery, I have found art as a small thing that I can do and not mentally abuse myself. Sometimes I try to explain it away, "Maybe I like watercolor painting because I cannot fully control the water and have to accept it for what it is." Of course, I have learned a lot in the last few years and that theory doesn't hold a lot of water, pun intended. I've gotten better at my craft. Moreover, many people can do excellent photorealistic work in watercolor. My friend Heather L Gilbraith's Bouguereau Women or the work of a new acquaintance Larry Kapitzke are fantastic examples. Creating art from within myself is not an accomplishment. It just is.
"Money makes the world go 'round." Could I work a job, slinging packages on a delivery truck, being a cashier, or making license plates and pursue my passion? Not a full-on career, but a means for living as I create art on my time? I've asked the question of myself before. I want to say 'yes.' I feel like I should say 'yes,' because what kind of pretentious ass am I if I say, 'no.' What would people think of me. What would my family think of me.
Could I combine my passion and making money? Perhaps commissions, gallery shows, teaching what I do? Well, I feel like I wrestled with this thought above. I don't know that I can enjoy the process if the goal is a product at the end. Again, it sounds pretentious, privileged. I would guess it is fear talking. I am afraid of failing. Could the venture ruin art as a potential recovery tool?
Reality is that money pays the bills, not my mental health. This is where the past Chris would bottle all this horse shit of emotion and thought up and tuck it deep within. I would use all these words as exhibits of what a loser I am in the court of Chris. Your honor, each and every person around us goes to work, pays their bills and lives in this system. Some, even find time to pursue things outside of work. Clearly, the problem is within us.
While that critical voice has caused me so much suffering, the truth is that its role is to protect me. the criticism is a very overprotective agent trying to save me from myself. In this case, is the voice is attempting to save me from harming a my relationship with art as a recovery tool? Or is the voice trying to stop me from taking on too much too fast? Is the voice completely misguided or only somewhat overprotective?
I am privileged to even debate these things. That is a factual thought that promotes that familiar guilt and shame within me. I suppose that may have contributed to me stepping away from writing this for a day or two. I wanted to collect and process my thoughts because there is a job opportunity on the horizon. I was moments away from physically shuddering after writing about reality above. I felt tears nestled behind my eyes, ready to leap forward.
I am terrified. I fear letting down those around me. the ones who continue to support me and those that say they see my improvement. I am scared of potential co-workers and employers being disappointed in me. I dread the day that I have to tell my partner that I couldn't do it. I quit. I failed. It's all there, in my head, that part of me who knows I am not enough. These thoughts are the manifestation of that core belief. Most of my days are spent in anxiety waiting for others to realize what I know.
Here I sit with these thoughts because I applied for a full time job and have an interview scheduled. In my recovery journey I have learned the importance of mindfulness and being in the moment. Ruminating about the past is a way to trap ourselves into wishing things were different. Wishes and time travel are not possible and thus the exercise fuels pain. All the Jawstheme 'what-ifs' are related to the endless number of futures that are possible. Being in the present is a super power.
Right now, I am frightened. That fear is based in my history of perceived failure. It is fueled by the potential ways I will screw up in the future. Anxiety assumes every decision is world ending. Starvation, divorce, homelessness and catastrophe are one decision away. Are you sure you want to go to sleep now? There's more you can do.
Reality and anxiety are not friends. Does the planet get vaporized by a black hole if I screw up my interview? Will a deity rain destruction on humankind if I am offered the job and refuse? Could a plague decimate all life on Earth if I accept the job and decide a few months later that I do not want it? I would be disappointed in myself by any of those personal outcomes, but I think the galaxy would be fine. Perhaps those outlandish results are wishful thoughts. The idea of the world ending coincidentally with a personal failure means I do not have to sit with my pain and disappointment. Hmm.
I do not know how to handle the pain of failure, disappointment and self-criticism. Unfortunately, I will never learn if I do not try. If I stay suspended in fear, frozen in indecision I remain unable to cope and tortured by 'what ifs.'