My friend Cathy’s recent blog post reminds me that I have no business to be playing Spider Solitaire when there is life to be lived. Yes, I have been painting all afternoon so I’m done working for now, but there is a Dorothy Sayers novel I’m looking forward to rereading — why am I still here in front of the computer, instead of cozily ensconced in the happy chair?
I’ve written before about my feelings of urgency, of the necessity of producing as much work as quickly as possible, since I don’t know how much time I have left. I’m young and healthy: I could live to my nineties — or my days could be counted in single digits. How can any of us know? In one of our IWL meetings this subject came up with my fellow artists too. I’ve read that artists think more about death than other people; I don’t know if that’s true, but certainly many of us find our mortality frustrating. Even a century seems barely enough time, and if that span should be cut short, well, it only makes us more desperate to produce what we can.
But on the other hand, my days vibrate with the constant tension between that desperate urgency of creation, and everything in life that conspires to make most of our time spin out slowly and without apparent significance. It’s not only that dishes must be washed and food cooked and eaten, but also that creation takes time: time to improve skills and judgment, time to simmer and process. Sometimes I try to jump-start my day’s work by asking myself, “What would I do if this were my last work day ever?” but that is a question without answer. Whatever the legacy I leave after death, it’s not going to happen in a single day… which is both maddening and deeply reassuring.
But I do spend a lot of my time engaged in what looks like nothing, or nothing important, and so I’m always always asking myself if I’m doing the right thing. (It doesn’t help that over in the next room, Erik is always busily programming away… as far as I can tell.) I’ve finally learned to push away from my mind all the myriad other things I “should” be doing, but still, even choosing the one thing is fraught with anxiety. I probably spent three or four hours painting today. It’s vital to log these hours, and yet I look back at my day’s work and ask myself whether this was the best way to spend my time. Probably there is no answer, but I continue to torment myself with the question. This is why, a few days ago when I was in Vegas for my sister’s bachelorette weekend, I was so cranky about having to spend an afternoon browsing the likes of Bulgari and Louis Vuitton. When I put every day of my life under a microscope to decide whether it’s serving my goals, it makes me extra-grumpy at having to spend time in activities not of my choosing!
Dorothy Sayers beckons!