As you’ve heard me say before, I am usually over-caffeinated and impatient. I imagined that once I had declared my intention to leave my job, served out my notice, packed my duffel bag and buckled myself into the Virgin America seat, the rest would be smooth sailing. I’d scarcely be off the plane before I’d be happily and successfully doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.
Two months later, I am in the garage. I am surrounded by piles of drawings, library books, art supplies, paint-spattered Ikea furniture and two dogs with dead geranium heads in their fur. I have most of my manuscript done, I have all of my presentations for Amsterdam polished and rehearsed, I have several large and more or less finished paintings leaning against the wall, my redesigned website is launched, and I have pages and pages of some sort of ideas scribbled in ink, sweat, and mustard (homemade sandwiches sustain me through most of my days, these days).
My journey, however, is not completed. I am still at that point in the ride when your feet are off the ground, you are whimpering/screaming, and glued into your seat by some magical force I forget to pay attention to in Mr Kriben’s physics class. I have clearly left the last station. It is two months in the rear view. I no longer dream about conference calls and I am starting to forget the names of people I nodded to everyday in the hall.
But my instruments however are wildly fluctuating. Let me up my metaphor. If you’ve seen Gravity([spoiler alert], you’ll know that I have passed the point where I thought I was going to suffer George’s Clooney’s fate and drift off endlessly into the void and am more or less in Sandra Bullock’s place through most of the movie, somewhere between the exhilaration of an adventurous dream come true and trying to decipher Chinese instrument panels as the flames shoot past the windows.
In short, I’m not sure where I’m going exactly but I think I’m headed in the right direction. I don’t have much better advice for myself than hang on, stay loose, and enjoy the ride.
There are days that are heaven. Listening to NPR, dogs slumbering on the studio floor, barefoot, making stuff, working till the moths activate the motion detectors to turn on the lights. I am an artist.
And there have been nights when I have awoken to the shrill monkey’s voice: “What are you doing? Where is this going? Who cares about this crap? Why’d you walk away?” I am a loser.
The good thing is the nights are short and the days, even though it’s mid-November, are still lovely and long.
So I am still vulnerable and gelatinous some of the time — but that time is lessening. I am seeing more clearly through the clouds and am excited about the landscape coming up. I finally have a sense of what it I want to do and be (you have no idea how hard it is, even for a man of my advanced years, to figure out what you want to be when you grow up). I think I have finally gone through at least 720 degrees of torment and figured out how to make an online class that seems right. I think I know how I feel about teaching workshops and what to do about that. I know what book I want to do after this one. And I am itching to make some videos again.
But most importantly I am getting clearer about the okayness of not being clear, that fuzziness and ambiguity are an inevitable part of change and of the creative process. In the end, that’s probably the best indication I have that I am doing things right and really metamorphosing, the fact that I am shaken up, that nothing is familiar or solid ground.
I don’t regret this trip for a minute, but I sure could use some Dramamine.
20 thoughts on “Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”
Hi Danny. I love that you can put your emotions down so smoothly and succintly. You know you are not alone, it feels like it, but no. With every breath we are in flux, we think we know what’s going to happen, predicting our days, years, and careers. It’s about showing up, the being there, in the moment, being the ar-tist.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiently… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Continue daring . . .
This is so good!
I get it, I live in my garage painting silk, I have taught classes and would love to do on-line classes and cant figure that out yet………..there is a community of people all over I bet, in their individual garages, working, creating making art. Here to put to words what we all collectively feel 🙂 SO COOL, we are all connected!
Yes, I do know how hard, even for a woman of……. I’ve concluded that the growing up thing is perhaps the biggest should of all and wonder if I can be of better service releasing that and simply being the best this moment holds. All my life I have been this or that, often many things that defined me for others and myself. I hope I can learn to be without definition. Wish me luck!
*I am getting clearer about the okayness of not being clear*…
i wish i could say the same. i’m not there yet.
Thank you for sharing Danny. xox
I watched John Cleese in Clockwise the other night. This wonderful quote sticks in my mind: It’s not the despair I can’t stand. I can handle the despair. It’s the hope.
I love your openness, Danny. Thank you.
At 65 I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up Danny, so I just keep exploring and work to retain a childlike curiosity . . . my granddaughters are my mentors.
What I want to be though? That, I know with certainty . . . I simply want to be content with what I have and enjoy sharing my little corner of the world.
Thanks again for sharing all this!!!…is incredible to find out how much is matching my way of thinking and if so far I was always harsh with myself …now after reading this …how nice it is to know Danny Gregory feels like that too…not sure if I make much sense…feeling like Theo sipping coffee and reading your letters.
It’s comforting to read your posts. I feel the emotions you write about… and it’s so nice to know others are going through the same things. I have worked my entire life… deadlines to meet, bottom lines to balance, projects to start… and finish, kids to raise, and more. Retirement has brought an entirely new set of issues… as in ‘What do I want to be when I grow up’?
Thanks for sharing!
Danny…once again you’ve been a mirror for my own emotions. I wake up pretty much every morning wondering, “Is this it? Is this all there is to my life? Isn’t there supposed to be some identifiable purpose to my still being on this planet?” Certainly, I have intellectual answers to those questions…they point to things like “father, grandfather, son, brother, church member, employee, etc. etc.” But the emotions are another story…they tend to bring on the big-picture questioning. My guess is, there really aren’t very many people who actually DO figure out “what they want to be”…at least not within the “creative community”. All I DO know is…I am born to make things, draw things, think, play music, love…be alive…just for today…just for right now. That’ll have to do until something better comes along. Thanks for sharing, as always.
I loved the way you ended your post… “I am born to make things… etc”. The proverbial light bulb glowed intensely over my foggy head. YES! I to was born to create… and create I shall!
Thanks so much for enlightening me!
fabulous – some of the same questions my art group grapples with all the time – thank god we have each other so no one goes to far out in the deep end, at least not alone!! F*ing A, keep on rollin’!
I have really enjoyed each and everyone of your posts since your retirement. I’ve read your blog for years, but the last couple of months have been stellar! Your writing has been super and your humor like a catapult of grace. I love your garage, and your dogs, and your sandwiches!
Was in NYC recently and can easily get how that pace and vitality put to rest would need something really big to fill the void. I think you are filling it up just fine. You might be needing some hard rock music instead of NPR though. (Just a thought!)
Purge much? LOL! You are detoxing from years of racing the clock in that rat race. Your inner critic (ego) is screaming at the change in self-defeating monkey chatter. I love the way you write this all down. I have the exact same feelings each day when I do my own creative stuff. At least you’re making money selling books and doing your artwork. I haven’t made more than 100 dollars. LOL! Not that it’s the reason for doing it, but we all gotta eat, right? You are on the right path. You are having the same feelings everyone one of us here has had over and over. One day you’re enlightened, the next day, you’re cosmic goo. California is not regimented like New York. In NYC or Northeast, it’s always an organized race. On this side of the country, it’s meandering about, race, meander, race, and stall. LOL! It’s all good. I think it’s awesome you’re ;icing out of your comfort zone. I don’t care how sunny it is on this side, the hustle and bustle of the Northeast is an addiction. I like overcast days and rain too. Here in Arizona, we don’t get much of either. Still, I have noticed I am so much more in the moment. I am totally embracing the experience, the good and the bad. Acceptance is key. Cheers, and thanks for the awesome posy, Danny. You always nail it.
Hi Danny! I’m in a similar metamorphic place. I know the station I have left and I know my destination station. It’s the in between part that’s hard… it’s hard maintaining faith that somehow I will make it, made worse by knowing all the riches that wait for me at the next station! So near yet so far. Thank you for your blog! I’ve been a long time reader!
This is really a wonderful hopeful post. I can’t imagine your bravery!
Wish you would do some more video interviews with the artists in your newest book Illustrated Journey, love hearing them tell more about their work, materials, reasons for sketching, etc.
Me too. Suzann. I’ll add it to my list!
I’ve been in this same place of not knowing, also along in life. What made it especially bad was thinking I was the only one this was happening to. So it’s so good, Danny, that you are sharing your story.
From my own experience, I can say without a doubt that the mere quest of purpose assures its ultimate satisfaction. What it means, this drive to know, is that the journey is under way. It’s unnecessary for me to say, “Keep going; don’t stop,” because that’s built into the process. If there’s a word of encouragement I would offer, it would be the one that has worked best for me: relax! If you can truly relax, let go of expectations, shoulds, regrets, and worry, you will find your inherent creative nature filling in the blanks.
All you have described, I have felt myself. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being in the place where I am now: knowing who I am, what I’m doing, and why I’m here. It doesn’t matter how long it takes, when the journey starts (consciously), or what happens along the way. Because ultimately–inevitably–you get to a place of placid authenticity and the comfort that comes with that as you express who you are, your highest self, along the Journey of your Destiny. It’s not so much about doing as it is about being.
And in taking this journey, you make the world a better, brighter place. Thank you!
Lovely, wise, and useful thoughts, Peter. Thanks so much.
You are certainly not alone, there are many of us that nod are heads in agreement with you on the wild journey of life! You always make me smile!