Why are we here?: On Purpose, Artistic Expression & Fear

I’ve got a problem and my mother summed it up correctly:  “Something’s got you stuck.”

As I sat in her living room yesterday, even my body spoke of the heavy, languid place I am in.  Slouching, holding my head which by the end of the day had become a migraine with nausea and halos, I was sinking; mired in body and spirit.

Earlier this week, my shrink really pissed me off.  I’m sure he did it purposefully and that makes him good.  As I see him monthly, this schedule makes it obvious that I’m stuck, afraid to move on with my photography.

For months, and months, I’ve been allowing everything under the sun, every good thing, to get in the way.  I found myself saying to him, “I know, I know!  I don’t want to become my mother!  In my 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s resenting and regretting all the “sacrifices” I made for everyone else.”  I don’t think she regrets them completely, actually.  Nor is she bitter, amazingly.  But I watched as she gave up so many of her aspirations and dreams for others, mostly my father.

Why am I stuck? …  What is it that I fear or is it even fear?

I am a lover of words (a wordie).  And I will travel down every rabbit trail of language’s meaning, fascinated by each manifestation.  It makes me interesting in a Bible Study group, and fairly annoying I think as a blogger, but just look at this list on words related to fear.

“Fear, as a noun, denotes the agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.

Fear is the most general term: “Fear is the parent of cruelty” (J.A. Froude).

Fright is sudden, usually momentary, great fear.

Dread is strong fear, especially of what one is powerless to avoid.

Terror is intense, overpowering fear.

Horror is a combination of fear and aversion or repugnance.

Panic is sudden frantic fear, often groundless.

Alarm is fright aroused by the first realization of danger.

Dismay robs one of courage or the power to act effectively.

Consternation is often paralyzing, characterized by confusion and helplessness.

Trepidation is dread characteristically marked by trembling or hesitancy. (www.education.yahoo.com)

Or is it something else entirely, inertia?  Don’t worry, enough about words.

Kafka was wrong when he said: “It is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen. Do not even listen, only wait. Do not even wait, be wholly still and alone. The world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet. ”

It’s definitely lined with excuses whatever it is that is keeping me from doing something, anything with my photography.

I don’t have time to have an opinion on all the things I have an opinion on. I don’t have time to express all the things I want to express.  I don’t have time to learn all the things I want to learn, to create all I want to create,  to do all I want to do  …..  choices, blessed choices!

I think THIS is the midlife crisis I have been colliding into!  I can hear that big clock ticking ….  this is the funk I am in.  It is a little bit fear but it’s mostly inertia, dismay and consternation all rolled into one and I cannot visualize what I want for myself so I cannot go after it.

What does it mean to be successful at my photography?  The business aspect, say the bottom-line?  The artistic expression? The public accolades?

And so, as I put sarcastically to a friend yesterday, “I have been trying to know as little as possible about how to take pictures, and expect hardly anything as an outcome.”  I am sooo funny.  Sooo pathetic more like it.

What makes what I do worthwhile? Is it simply because I make it and I like it?? Or do others need to value it to make it of value? How do I determine what is worth pursuing artistically? Is it about listening to others cues or simply allowing my inner vision to grow and the world can stuff it?

Rosanne Cash said in an NPR interview that she isn’t a performer if she doesn’t get out there and perform. The music cannot stay private.

And yet, so much of art is how you market it, market yourself, the glossy package of your website, studio, groups you join.  If that’s the case I’m in trouble: My office is in my junky basement, my gear is okay, and I have no slick studio. I haven’t gotten around to making a website or …. all the other  elements of “Making your photography Business a Success.”   So what? How much of it is perception and how much reality.

And if you have some ability you can take dynamic, compelling images no matter what your gear.  That I really do believe.

I think what’s more important is what’s the message?  What’s the story? Does your art have to have a message and story to be ‘good.’  I lean that way and then can think of tons of art that is simply pleasing to look at, esoteric, full of mood, just makes me feel good ….

Here’s a question for you:  If you don’t know what the “rules” of art are (e.g. no classical training, art school etc. ) and you break them, can you make good art?  And who decides?  Should art have outcomes?  I don’t know.  And, I don’t know how or when I will be out of this stupid funk. And I’m starting to feel some fright!

The good news, it’s not depression (and if you know my story at all you know that is major).  It really is not turning into that, but rather, more of a Why am I here?  What are my days for?  How do I serve others?  Can I serve with my artistic talent?  If so, how?  Do I have to be paid money, written up in the New York Times, recieve critical acclaim in order to prove myself.  And who is it that I’m trying to prove myself to, besides my father who’s dead.  To whom do I owe ultimate justification of my exsistance?  If god real, what is really expected of me as an artist?  Starting from the belief that god is real, how does that change my actions, deeds, what I create.

My kingdom for a magic eight ball that actually worked…

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