Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Anxiety Redux


It's the most wonderful time of the year here, a time when all roads lead to February 16th. My anxiety has worsened appreciably over the last week or so, as has my undercurrent of self-doubt and loathing. On these days, there isn't much to do but keep putting words on paper and paint on canvas and my body on the mat and hope for the best.

I am cheered remarkably in these times by writers and artists who have an absolutely horrible time working for any number of reasons but do it anyway. Chuck Close be damned, sometimes it is hard to just show up and do the work. Don DeLillo has brought me appreciable comfort of late with his acknowledgement of how easy it is to do nothing:

"A writer takes earnest measures to secure his solitude and then finds endless ways to squander it. Looking out the window, reading random entries in the dictionary."

And like Madeline L'Engle, I am trying to get even more comfortable with failure:

"Human beings are the only creatures who are allowed to fail. If an ant fails, it’s dead. But we’re allowed to learn from our mistakes and from our failures. And that’s how I learn, by falling flat on my face and picking myself up and starting all over again. If I’m not free to fail, I will never start another book, I’ll never start a new thing."

But on nights like tonight when I am shaking with anxiety under the covers, two pills and a belt of bourbon in to managing this stifling and maddening attack, it is hard to feel anything but sorry for myself, burdened with taste but not talent, desperately lonely at times like this when all I want is someone to take care of me.

Then I get the text that school is two hours late tomorrow due to cold, and it feels like a reprieve. I get up from the bed and I let the dogs out. The air is frigid and instantly numbs my cheeks, and the city is utterly silent, remarkable in that it is days after snowfall and people are usually out and about, even after dark. The distant hum of JFX is utterly silent. For just a moment I feel anxiety's grip loosen just a bit. Just a bit.

I paint. I pretend for a moment that what I have in my head will be what makes it on to the canvas, but I paint with the knowing that I can erase whatever is there with a violent swath of white when I wake in the morning and see the beautiful mess I made.

I sit down to practice the fullness of my doubts and desire, my fantasies and flaws. Each day I follow them as far as I can bear it, for now. ~Glenn Kurtz~

My flaws will win these next four weeks at least, but I will still practice. I am lucky, I am grateful. Even wracked with anxiety that leaves me breathless and unable to function I realize the gift I have been given.


The moon is full and the air is cold. There is time enough for worry and doubt.

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