"The first steps of a creative act are like groping in the dark: random and chaotic, feverish and fearful, a lot of busy-ness with no apparent or definable end in sight...I look like a desperate woman, tortured by the simple message thumping away in my head: "You need an idea"...You can't just dance or paint or write or sculpt. Those are just verbs. You need a tangible idea to get you going. The idea, however minuscule, is what turns the verb into a noun -- paint into a painting, sculpt into sculpture, write into writing, dance into dance. Even though I look desperate, I don't feel desperate, because I have a habitual routine to keep me going. I call it scratching. You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you've won? That's what I'm doing when I begin a piece. I'm digging through everything to find something." - Twyla Tharp, The Creative Habit
I'm home in the Bay Area now.
I say, "home" though it doesn't really feel like my home anymore, though it is a beautiful place, a familiar place, a place that I love, appreciate and enjoy...
And one that gives me anxiety attacks of unexpected memories around every single corner.
As I began the drive from SFO to Walnut Creek, just the act of being in the driver's seat and turning onto the freeway onramp, I was reminded of the hundreds of times I had done that very same thing years ago...only...back then the person in the passenger's seat was my ex-boyfriend...the one I thought I was going to marry and spend the rest of my life with.
"Yeah. That guy, Virginia. Remember him?"
The memories of our 6 years in a relationship together flooded back all at once.
What the heck was happening to me!?
I couldn't breathe.
My heart was pounding in my chest.
My hands were sweating and gripping the steering wheel for dear life.
Adrenaline pumping through my veins.
I gasped loudly with surprise, so much so that my friends and creative collaborators Matt and Stan (unlucky passengers in my vehicle) turned to me to see what had happened.
Nothing had happened...well, not in this moment...But EVERYTHING had happened...years ago. And now, I was OVERWHELMED with the memories of a life that I had once lived, and if I had made different choices back then...I could be living a VERY different life right now...probably still in the Bay Area and probably still with him.
Whew! INTENSE...and very surprising.
I didn't come here with the intention of reflecting on HIM...I came here to think about my family and be with THEM!
"What in the world is my brain doing to me? Why am I thinking about him? Why can't I seem to control it?"
I do NOT like this feeling.
I went from "totally fine"...to "emotionally distressed and missing him terribly," (like I haven't felt in YEARS) in about 0.2 seconds.
I don't think of my ex-boyfriend very often in my current New York reality and there are very few physical landmarks there to trigger my memories of him.
"Well...this is what you wanted, Virginia. To come here and see what happens...Well, guess what? You are having painful memories of a past relationship that ended. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING. So don't resist it."
So I started telling Matt and Stan all about the source of my powerful gasp for air and my memories of heartbreak and thoughts of woulda-coulda-shoulda.
And it sparked a great discussion between the three of us...with Matt and Stan sharing their personal stories and similar feelings.
We were all sharing our nostalgia and longing for a time when you used to be able to open your heart with reckless abandon, before your heart had been wounded, before mistakes had been made, before you became jaded and closed-off to the simple beauty and tender romance of youth. When had our views of love become so utilitarian, practical and pragmatic? Was all-consuming love even possible for us in our 30s? Or was that something that we'd never be able to experience again? Would any of us even want to?
(Any thoughts, feelings or stories you'd care to share in our discussion? The comments section of this blog is always available to you, if you so desire.)
I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of these kinds of fantastic discussions, sparked by unexpected realizations and surprising visceral reactions to seemingly innocuous things.
Inspiration is everywhere...even in the painful moments...maybe...ESPECIALLY in the painful moments.
And that's my method of "scratching," I suppose (as Twyla describes above).
The pain, the emotion, the strong reaction...means that there is something THERE...something underneath the surface, and if I just scratch a little deeper...perhaps we can find something there...a story...reflecting an authentic human experience...and that by sharing that story we can create connections between us. And bring us all closer...and spark some empathy in this world of separateness...some compassion in this world of judgement.
But I'm getting a head of myself.
For now...let's just take a breath and get to Walnut Creek...in one piece.
"VULNERABLE is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we've made. When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked in front of the person we've given the fit of our art to. We have no excuses, no manual to point to, no standard operating procedure to protect us. And that is part of our gift." - Seth Godin, V is for Vulnerable: Life Outside the Comfort Zone