Breathless. Back from the Rabbit Hole

Dang. I almost didn’t make it out. I have things to do—Deadlines, dinner, grading, art practice, big plans to make. So what a dumb time to follow a link I found in Jezebel about Victorian portraits, and the cute trend (should we bring it back?) of putting a blanket over the mother who has to hold her kids during long photo shoots.



An hour later, I had clicked and scanned through all kinds of great sites by women doing very cool things, for instance, “The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things,” which is currently showcasing the same vintage mug shots I showed here some time ago. And then a lady named Mrs. Marvel whose blog on vintage photos, that I just linked to, is called Who Were They? And then I found this great site called The Jealous Curator by a woman who remains nameless, but shares all this juicy visual art which inspires her but makes her cringe (with jealousy), which is where I snagged the awesome piece above by an artist named Amanda Marie. Phew!  I’m all tuckered out with admiring and longing at the same time.

So this is my question: Why does seeing what other people are doing make me feel like whatever I am doing sucks?

I remember a Mad Men episode where Meghan, Don’s hot young wife who wants to be an actor, says she is afraid that if she doesn’t pursue her passion, she won’t even being able to enjoy theater anymore, being so riddled with jealousy and regret. This is how I feel about so much, sadly…not just writers and their books, but people and their lives. Like, wow, they have something going for them that I am just sorely missing….some portal to the creative universe that satisfies them. They are doing what they are meant to do. Even the jealous curator! Who admits, up front, that her whole thing is about being jealous of the people who are making this cool art… least she has a cool site called The Jealous Curator. Here I am, just looking for my chair.

I remember once talking to my old shrink. She was an old-school NYC analyst who I got the name of from some institute. I loved her. Deeply. Deeply. Grace was her name, old-ish, short, Jewish, always wore dresses and short square heels. Dr. Ruth-ish in body, not at all in personality. She kind-eyes-ed me through more despair than I care to recall. But I remember once, talking to her about work (it must have been a light day, a vacation from real problems) and how I had this idea of wanting to be a person who was deeply immersed in my work, which was, at the time (wait, nothing has changed!) student papers. I described looking at all the people at the neighborhood cafe with their piles of stuff that needed them, and the way they concentrated, lost themselves in their work, mindlessly reaching for the cappuccino or corn muffin (which because they were magically transported to a land where all that existed was their work, was calorie-less, which would account for the reason why I, always in the land of anxious here and horrible now, gained weight when I ate such luxurious items, and these, my phantom frenemies, were either thin as a rail or so comfortable with their womanly curves, who cares?).

And I described to Grace my fantasies of being that person who disappears into their important, interesting, compelling, work. I described sitting at my table and just spacing out, watching everyone else, feeling jealous. She asked me what got in the way as I approached the student papers themselves. And I said I was afraid of being overwhelmed.

I remember Grace raised her cute eyebrows at that.

My seeking is still a way, I think, of avoiding total system overwhelm. Settling in (down/for) looks so good, but apparently scares me, too.

Shantideva suggests:

And when you want to fish for praise,

Or criticize and spoil [or envy?] another’s name,

Or use harsh language, sparring for a fight [with yourself?],

It’s then that like a log you should remain.

Log-practice: the opposite of seeking. Not that checking out other people’s work  is a problem, in fact it can be a joy! But when I am doing as a way to move away from the overwhelm of my own life/disappointment/longing/overwhelming work, it is a hopeless, and very self-referential situation. Other people deserve to be seen for what they are, not just through my projections of what I am not.