Digging Out From Under
I started drafting this back in February; I have run into it a couple of times in my drafts, and I look at it, and put it away. So, today, I decided to post it… see if that helps me work through.
I’m trying to dig myself out. I’ve gotten lost, buried under layers of emotional debris. It’s been a rough few years.
This is one of those things where there wasn’t any single definitive moment when things collapsed, but more like the erosion of a steep hillside after a roadway cut, with periods of settling and equilibrium between rock slides. Things got buried, crushed under boulders, damaged and dented. I’m hoping that most of the important things, I’ll be able to dust off and glue back together. My creative soul has been lying in many pieces; I’m trying to grow another one, or breathe some life into the one I have.
I’ve always felt a nagging insecurity when I’m writing articles or teaching classes. When I read descriptions of impostor syndrome, it was like it was based on me, like somebody was describing my personal case. I’ve done huge amounts of reading and study, and I know my stuff… but sometimes I feel like I’m bluffing, just faking it, and everybody’s going to find out. I think part of this is that all my training is informal; I don’t have any degrees or anything official, nothing I can point to as a source of authority, no certificate on the wall that justifies what I say. I have always gotten good reviews on classes and I feel like my writing is sound, but the insidious nagging inner voice can shake my confidence. I can usually hush it up, with good self-talk and inner cheerleading, and I can usually get back to a comfortable, confident place.
When someone external echoes those internal thoughts, it’s harder to refute. If you were to tell me that my parents never loved me and I can’t spell, those would bounce right off, because I’m rock solid certain about those things, but if you tell me that my article was tedious and nobody really respects my weaving work, it would hit me hard, because they’re things I worry about, in the small hours of the night. They’re tender spots.
I had this happen twice within a couple of weeks, back in 2013. First, in the course of one long fight, I heard that nobody likes me, I’m a pathetic loser writing articles that will only matter to other sad weirdos like me, and the whole stupid yarn thing doesn’t matter in the real world, and on and on. They’re the kind of words that you know your loved ones would never say when in their right frame of mind… but they have to be at least a little true, or they wouldn’t hurt so much. They can hit all the spots that are the most vulnerable. I haven’t woven since then, not a stitch. I haven’t made silk. I taught a couple of classes that I had committed to before the emotional train went off the rails, but my creative energy just felt like it had been kicked hard in the gut. Then, I had another person, someone in a position of respect and authority, make a snide remark on an Internet forum – basically implying that I stole my class material from another teacher without giving credit. I was off kilter enough that I just let it stand; later, I finally went through and dug into my sources, and proved to myself that I knew the genealogy of my information and the development of my classes. The one class on that material that I taught between then and now, felt like I was just going through the motions – not anything that felt like fun, or enjoyable, or even pleasant. Talking about my process, and about learning to do these things, was like telling another person’s story – it felt distant, without emotion, detached. I have taught a couple of classes in those years; it felt like I was a substitute teacher, like I was presenting another person’s information.
I’ve loved being a creative person. I’ve learned to dance, and draw, and sing, and weave, and sculpt, and dye – they’re all ways of using that same energy, that creative wellspring. I feel like my spring has just kind of dried and stagnated, like my creative juices have gone bad and just stopped flowing. My dreams have been sad and gray. I’ve had some rough, bad times between then and now, and I’m finally feeling like I’m recovering and might get back out from under. I’m having some brilliant and colorful dreams, I’m getting glimpses of the unicorn disappearing around the corner in the woods. Sometimes I can hear the birds singing.
Along with this, threaded through and around the same emotional and creative crash, a lot of other things happened. I lost two grandparents; neither was a surprise, but it still bit hard. I’ve hit some serious relationship rocks. We’ve been up and down, and things have been amazing and horrible, kind of in turns. We solemnized our fifteen-year relationship with a courthouse wedding, and everything was amazing; we had some screaming fights, and there were some weeks where we didn’t sleep in the same bed. I’ve been everywhere from crying with happiness, to suicidal depression. I had that downward-spiraling emotional cycle where you start out with “I don’t want to get out of bed today,” and you go on to “and then I’d lose my job” and you end up at “I might as well just kill myself and get it over with.” I never injured myself, but I had gotten to the point of ideation and planning, figuring out how much charcoal would be needed to fill a small closet with carbon monoxide, which pills would be nice to help me relax while I waited, and keep me from being revived if somebody found me. Those things are still handy, where I can get to them if I need them. From here, it seems like a long distance from that dark place… but it’s still closer than I’d like. I’ve developed anxiety issues severe enough for four Xanax a day, and there were plenty of days when I needed all four of them to get through. Now, I haven’t taken one in months, but just the knowledge that they’re there helps me feel like I can deal with it if it gets out of hand.
So now, I’m feeling my sap rising. I’m feeling better in a lot of ways… but so much of my spirit is still in mothballs. My studio, which was always cluttered and full of junk, is literally so crammed with hoarder-style miserable crap, that I can’t get to where my loom is, or approach the desk, or open the closet where the beads and threads are. There are so many beautiful things there that I can’t even touch. I cleaned it out twice in the past few years, but I wasn’t using any of it, so there was no reason not to just put a box of stuff on top of the desk, and then one behind the chair, and slowly the room filled up again. In addition, the garden that brings me so much joy is full of weeds, and the plants are so overgrown that I’ll need to do a lot of work with pruners, and in some spots possibly a machete, before I can even get in to hoe up the weeds to plant.
Holy shit, Michael, you’re one of my fiber idols. I think you’re a fiber idol to lots of people. A gardening idol, too, at least to me. I’m sad to see you this unhappy and uncreative, and I wish I could do or say something to help, because yours is CLEARLY a spirit worth appreciating. (Oh, shut up, it is, too.) So, I hope this helps, and I hope you get out of that deep dark ditch.
inch by inch, day by day, smile by smile…come on back! you are one of the most knowledgeable people I know- even though it is online. It’s easy for things to overwhelm. i feel it sometimes too but even if i just go out and trim one plant after my morning coffee it feels better. that flower is amazing! saw it on your FB and wondered if it would grow here. my passion vine incense is rocking it on the back fence- an inspiration from you!
inch by inch, day by day, smile by smile…come on back! you are one of the most knowledgeable people I know- even though it is online. It\’s easy for things to overwhelm. i feel it sometimes too but even if i just go out and trim one plant after my morning coffee it feels better. that flower is amazing! saw it on your FB and wondered if it would grow here. my passion vine incense is rocking it on the back fence- an inspiration from you!
One shovel at a time, repeated, will eventually dig you out. The shovel doesn’t even have to be full. Just keep working at it.
I am sorry to hear you had such a hard time, but I am thrilled to know you are still with us.
Your weaving and photos are a joy to see.
I think time spent in the garden is healing as well as carrying out those bags of garbage that separate you from your creativity.
Unless there is a ventriloquist accompanying you to workshops, then you really are the good teacher you know yourself to be. Keep on keeping on.
Sorry for your pain. I’ve learned so much from you, online, for free. Let me say Thank you! Declutter and create again.
I agree with Lynn – you are one of my fibre idols. I took a class with you in 2015, and it just pumped me! Your teaching method was absolutely fantastic. I went home, made a croissure assembly, found a zakuri and started reeling silk! Then I wove with it! WOW.
This simply could not have happened without your knowledge and willingness to share your knowledge – all which you demonstrated in the class I took. I consider it to be one of the best I have ever taken. It was because of you. I mean that sincerely.
Please take the time to work out from under – but please don’t give up. You have something important to contribute.