10:20am, Sunday April 8; home & tucked into the couch under my fish blanket, with coffee number two.
The paper chaos is less overwhelming; I’m now two thirds of my way through a financial study of what happened last year.
What a time it was. Full of equal parts rage and abundance, despair and deep, welcomed joy. It has changed me beyond reckoning; the woman I was a year ago seems dim and small, from here.
In the interim, I spent a great deal of money on food nourishment. I spent a much larger amount on building a solid foundation for my own autonomy – a cabin, on property I am sole owner of since July, on tools for its maintenance and development, on a chainsaw, both symbolic and practical, since there’s a woodstove.
I bought many many books and read lots of them (still a mountain to go). Because of what Hooks, Solnit, Beard, Maracle, Hess, Hustveldt, Veblen, and so very many authors had to say about the world, I became a feminist.
Change the term if you like; it’s not a religion. Call it ecological theory, and add Abrams, Kumar, Bateson, and more. It’s all. right. there. If you choose to look.
I ate my own rage – not voraciously, but steadily, until I began to understand its’ sources. This cost me a certain extra quantity in beer and wine, though I think mostly as a soft off-switch, and thank the universe this questionable strategy didn’t take me into addiction. This ongoing diet of rage strained my psychological capacities well beyond their old limits. Worth it. I can’t bring to mind an intention better set than this one.
I stopped trying to prove my value as a musician. Also stopped bending to a belief that I must continue to focus my creative energies into the small town I’ve lived and worked in for 25 years. It has been a complex pleasure to do so – both the serving and the release.
Here, I’ve been enriched by excellent music, fine fine friends, the the enduring comfort of interconnectedness with just about everyone. It is a place of truly great beauty and ongoing creative challenge that has shaped me, and will always call me home.
Here I’ve also encountered deep poverty, systemic mysogyny (which is everywhere), an oft-embedded distrust of single, strong women artists (many folk just downright bewildered by this), and men who felt entitled to claim Centre in intimate relationship, thereby marginalizing my own yearnings and directional urges.
I absolutely aided and abetted in the latter, also it’s hard to live with an artist, no matter what.
In the slow process of eating and digesting all my stored up anger, I’ve sorted out that a large part of my chronic relationship pain was the result of direct resistance to old, old patriarchic assumptions. It was less about the men I loved, several who are still good friends of mine – (hello and love if you’re reading this) – than these old, cultural assumptions.
This is a relief to know.
I spent another large chunk on higher education – investment in my own expansion into the world beyond this physical community.
This has given me respectful insight into my own thinking mind, and uncovered a hunger to study still more. I now actively seek a tribe of thinker-artists who are at work to help solve the complex puzzles of right now. Wherever they may be.
I will finish this masters I’m in and find a way go to Glasgow to do another, in visual art. My dad’s parents were born there. I want to touch that place, for them and for me.
After years of real poverty (it’s not just me and my friends – most artists live this way – here’s an excellent CBC article), the abundance of last year made my internal poverties clearer to me, by contrast.
Poverty is limitation. It is the word ‘No.’ , and the word ‘Can’t.’
It begins with the experience of one’s perceived value in the context of family, and the family’s perceived value in society. This perception is rooted in early experience and largely defines how each of us present ourselves in the world. If we do not own who we are as separate from what these early experiences taught us, then more often than not, we present ourselves as having limited value (as our experience has taught), and we get that same response mirrored back to us. It manifests in physical, emotional, psychological – and financial …poverty. There’s so much to be said about this process.
My recently re-read journals are a chronicle from all my teenage and adult years. In some, every third page is a budget, a financial strategy, an income projection; a detailed examination of which debt gets paid first after monthly expenses and before food. Every page is threaded with anxiety, even through joys and exuberances.
No matter how much personal power you may have, poverty can and will eat it all, over time. Add race, gender and class to this, and getting out is nigh impossible without the kind of life-sustaining help that doesn’t end up owning you.
Here’s what MLK has to say about it (a facebook post – write to me if you’re [understandably] not on fb-I’m digging for the original).
I am humbled and grateful to be white, Scots-Canadian and further privileged by a family inheritance which would make a massive difference in the lives of many of my friends. Determined, also, to use what financial, creative, and intellectual power I have in support of a cultural system that includes and empowers rather than sustaining what we know is destructive and abusive.
Full-time artists know what the underside of the poverty line looks like. It gives us, among other things, a kind of street cred. We are a tribe who has learned what day jobs are best for paying rent but not draining creative energy so that studio work can continue. Day jobs are for some a last resort, since jobs like that are hard to find. So we teach, we build projects and programs, we collaborate, we apply for grants, we community fund our cds, exhibitions and tours, we make it so, so that the art work can happen.
We generate far more than just paintings, or songs, or books, or films, or plays.
Last fall, my body stopped me in my tracks, as a bad bow-arm injury resulted in the resurgence of a rotator cuff injury sustained in the building of what is now my ex-husband’s house, the paltry settlement for which also happened last year. Complex, yes?
I’m pretty tough so I let this go on far too long, until the pain was constant and debilitating. Then I surrendered, and stopped generating. At all, for a while.
And I spent some money on time. Time – to savour the moment, to learn the song of my cabin, to dig deeply into school, to write, to think.
More than any of that, to simply Be, for a while.
Of course, this has led me back into the studio.
What the tax people will get is a page of numbers that all add up.
This is the real story.