If I can keep my hands busy, my mind can relax. I don’t know how the human body works. Maybe there is only so much brain power- if the attention is focused on one area, the other gets to take a nap or do the mental equivalent of perusing a People magazine. However it comes about, it is a facet of my personality or chemistry that serves me well.
I am an over-thinker. Long after I post this blog, it will be roaming around in my head- the grammatical mistakes, the things I could have worded better, the parts where I really said something I needed to. It will play over and over, like a record with a skip. My body models this obsession- teeth grinding, insomnia, biting the skin around my nails, picking my zits until they have become a gaping wound that takes weeks to heal (gross). But if occupy myself with making something, for a few minutes or hours, that tension will fall to the wayside. I find peace in the process.
A new acquaintance, Josh, asked me to be part of a 30 day art challenge. Pretty straightforward- make some kind of art every day for 30 days. I accepted the challenge without any real thought (weird how sometimes my brain goes between mind boggling looping to diving right in without asking how deep the pool is).
Looking back, part of accepting the challenge was that I liked seeing Josh’s face pop up on my Facebook feed. He bares a striking resemblance to Chris. I can’t quite articulate it, but I like seeing fresh posts from someone who looks like the brother I miss so much.
I also liked that even though I did not know much about Josh, somehow it has been conveyed to him that I am an “artist.” I am an artist the way a Twinkie is a dessert. It’s tasty. It will do the job when you are craving something sweet. But its nowhere near the caliber of a well made creme brulee.
So I accepted the challenge, and as I began to see the work of the real artists, my mind began to utter the phrase oh fuck over and over again in rapid succession. These guys were legit. I’m not saying that every piece they put out was a show quality painting (some were) but every sketch, tattoo, and doodle screamed technique. They knew what they were doing. They had real talent.
If you are a Project Runway fan, you know one of the worst critiques you can get is when Heidi says “It looks home sewn.” Well,Home Sewn could be the title of my autobiography. In the olden days, I would have been called a “scrapper.” I might not have the most skill, but dammit, I’ve got a lot of heart (queue the Hoosiers soundtrack).
Self deprecating humor aside, I decided to use the challenge to challenge myself. I could produce thirty mediocre doodles and painted rocks, or I could attempt to create some new mediocre things (ok, maybe self loathing not completely aside.)
Looking back over the things I made this month, I am proud of myself. I played with some new mediums, such as paper cutouts and air dry clay, and learned I really enjoyed working with both. I even gave working with acorns a shot.
I attempted to draw actual “things” instead of doodles- something I haven’t played with in years.
Even within the mediums I normally work in, I stretched a bit, trying new techniques.
So today, on day 30, I looked back over what I had done, to reflect on what this experience has brought me. Creating all of these things brought me a bit of happiness each day, a place of peace by just making. The last few months have been hard. Dealing with the loss of Chris has felt nothing short of impossible sometimes. To let go of that for a few minutes each day and just marvel at something colorful or shapely has been a gift.
As if sensing the end of the challenge, my mind has once again begun churning, this time in the form of a song. It’s not a great song, but I can’t get it out of my head. Contemplating the last month, I started piecing together these lyrics about how my hands have been used in all of these ways to try to make sense of missing Chris. I am a terrible singer, I don’t play any instruments, and I have no recording gear, but I sang it anyway. I’m sure Chris would find it hilarious that I honor him by making horrible music, but for whatever reason, I wanted to finish these thirty days doing just that.
The question on my lips
provokes my fingertips
to start moving
to try to keep you near
The chorus all chimes in
He’s waiting, he’s watching
He’ll be there someday
Got my fingers crossed
But what if its not real?
My hands keep on going
color on color
to celebrate this life
I touch your photograph
Talk to your picture
Does it translate?
Can you feel it
on your plane?
The place you now call home.
When will I see you again
When will I see you again
Oh my best friend
Will I see you
Will I see you again?