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And It's Personal!
A few weeks ago, my partner Pat and I saw Debra Winger and her husband Arliss Howard, having a conversation on stage about her memoir. It looked nearly effortless. Afterwards, Pat and I approached Arliss Howard because he's the older brother of one of my friends and colleagues from IBM, Joy.
Tonight, I had an experience that reminded me of the same shyness that Joy's brother seemed to exhibit when we said hello to him, following the program; I might understand that "shyness" a bit now, or maybe he didn't feel at all like what I'm about to describe:
My hands were shaking, my voice was stuck in my throat along with tears that made my Adam's apple feel like it could burst. I careened into a wall in the ladies room. I was spent, totally drained. I looked in the mirror. My hair looked better than it had all day. My face, prettier. Still, I was shaken.
Arts Support Group?
Recently, I joined a support group for artists, where we're all there to encourage one another unconditionally, to be exclusively positive. Tonight, all of us were eligible to bring any of our art -- singing, writing, painting, playing an instrument, a short film... -- for 10-15 minutes of display and discussion each.
I brought the blog-posting I wrote on the 23rd, last week, and a painting I did of my father, which I wrote about here a few weeks ago. It was my first time, displaying my art with human beings physically present.
Afterwards, I felt wildly shy. My voice was strong as I read, though I hardly looked up at anyone for the five-minute duration -- and just before I began, the women I knew the best and who were among the artists I respected most all announced they needed to leave right after I spoke, to relieve their babysitters...so there'd be no feedback from any of them. Oh well, too late. I had to go ahead and do my demo. Maybe somebody else would be kind.
In fact, one guy was amazing because he told me how he related -- that he appreciated my honesty about my first kiss, and how he could identify with what I wrote, and also could identify with the painting I did of my father; it reminded him of unresolved stuff with his dad, about how his dad died in poor health, too. I thought, Phew! Someone else who's gay in the room, and who has a dad whose loss he can't get over, too.
And then he sang an original song with his guitar, a really lusty song, about a woman with whom he wanted to be intimate. And I was thrown. And afterwards, another artist with whom I feel especially akin told me he marveled at how I could chronicle my life. "If you ever forget anything, you can just go back to your blog and look it up."
I smiled like I was about to cry and said, "Yeah, I'll be all set if I ever get amnesia."
He said, seeing I was sad, I think, "Well, I better let you go have dinner before you keel over," as a few minutes prior, I had registered my hunger and that I needed to go home and eat dinner.
Descending the stairs, I was full of self-pity, asking myself, Why does my stuff have to be so very personal? Why does the appeal have to be so limited? Why can't I write a best-seller, something that people would delight in, or be utterly moved by.
What if it it's raining? That'll be the finale! How would I get the painting to the car without damaging it?
When I opened the door to the church, it wasn't raining. It was simply getting dark. It was hot and late-twilight and I walked myself to my car, panting a bit, willing the sobbing to come, but it was stuck.
And then I came home and Pat had made gorgeous scallops and we watched a taped episode of "Mad Men," my favorite TV show, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the headline about how much money "Bat Man" took in and thought about this show with its genius writing that I was watching, and again, asked myself the stairway questions.
"It's so personal, and honest," said the lusty singer about my art. I want it to be more than honest. I want it to be appealing. What if the art is the honesty, though? What if that's my differentiator? Why can't I just allow myself to give the gifts I have, rather than wishing I had other gifts?
Please, God, let me appreciate what I contribute to the world and not wish to contribute something fundamentally different. It is good enough, and special in its own way.