Funny that nowadays it is infinitely easier for me to claim being an artist (which, according to Julia Cameron, Lisa Congdon, and many other creative gurus, is one of the most difficult things to do in this modern world where the measures of success and sanity tend to blacklist the option of being an "artist") than to admit that I want to be in love, in a relationship, and in a happily ever after. It is harder to say I still believe in fairy tales (even if it is nuanced by the wisdom of Jane Austen as interpreted by Elizabeth Kantor and a practical insight into romanticism by Alain de Botton), and that at this point of my life my heart still beats as if it had never been broken.
My whole system of belief about life and love is in itself a minefield, and hence I avoid delving into it except with very, very few trusted kindred spirits. Yet I am writing a little about it now because I will be writing a lot soon about my planned journeys for next year and love comes into it in a big way.
I am not particularly young in years (given the modern world's tendencies to over-glorify youth) but my hope and optimism are nearly as fresh as if I were born yesterday. Most would think this a disadvantage and possibly terribly impractical.
Despite my foray into the shadowy arts when I was just out of college, and went through a period of always being clad in black, and denouncing anything soft and light and brightly pretty, I am at the core an eternal optimist. It turns out that my true spirit burns with a bright colourful light and its form spills over to the fantastical.
Yet being a believer of fairy tales is not an assurance of wise decisions. I have been guilty of sabotaging my own chances, simply because I felt I did not deserve a fairy tale given my disadvantages within the context of the dominating social rules. I had often thought I should be happy and content with whatever I got, even if it meant settling for much less than I had dreamed or hoped. I thought I was being inconsiderate and unreasonable, immature and petty, for even trying to look out for what I needed and what made me happy.
I used to approach love and relationships from a position of lack. That the other was doing me a favour for even noticing me, if at all. I often initiated the expression of liking, which, based so far in the many Japanese stories I've watched, rarely resulted in a favourable outcome, because the leading male character would always go for the girl whom he had pursued, not the one who pursued him. In the movie He's Just not That Into You, Jennifer Connelly's character mentioned that she was the one who proposed to her husband, and at the end of the movie they had separated. I am not saying that it doesn't work when the woman initiates, but that there are inherent weaknesses in that particular formula, and I have had more than a decade of experience along those lines to know what I'm saying.
Here's the clincher. For all my history of so-called daring and bravado (I shall be writing about a few of them in future posts), at the heart of it all, I only recently realised that I didn't want it that way. That what I wanted were courtships and friendships blossoming from a soulful ritual of communication and engagement. I realised I believe less in the sudden inexplicable outburst of passionate attraction (that in stories lately almost always ended up in sex even way early from the first meeting), than in the restrained, careful dance of exploration and discoveries that is more prominent in Japanese and Korean dramas (true, I refer to stories often revolving around teens or young adults but my epiphany here was that I never really experienced that whole first love thing and thus have retained a rather intense curiosity for it, and that I have always been a bit of a prude).
I have been drawn to the stories that echo what I truly dream about, and looking through my books, movie, and TV series collections and viewing histories, I realised I had been living contrary to them. Again because I felt I did not qualify for what I hoped. Also, with the increasing normality and casualness of physical expressions of love and affection, I find myself being the very awkward fish in the pond. I have wished a number of times that I had been born in a slightly older time (I have my own views and beliefs about the whole concept of feminism which is often an argument against the older ways of the world, but I don't wish to provoke any discussion or debate. Let us simply respect and let be.)
My art-making, given life in 2012, I discovered, is all about my pent-up everything about love. I first made the mistake of mistaking it as a substitute for love and being in a relationship itself (and thus I went unconsciously through the process of halamanization, as my friend S put it), but that is not the way I am built at the core.
While art is my lifeline and the cauldron of my life's meanings and mythologies, it is not a person who is also my significant other or my soul mate, or whatever is the serious term for it nowadays. What art did for me, however, was to fill up the blanks in my own life so that I can become a person who is whole instead of one who is lacking. Making art made me, into someone who can now come forward as a deserving equal for an other, a whole who will complement rather than a brokenness hoping to be fixed or completed. Art continues to make me, to grow me, to evolve me, into even better versions of myself, into becoming the self that is according to my own hope for my self.
So late into this turbulent year I was shaken awake from my plant-like state (it was a longish period of dark depression layered over with heavy concerns about money, work, independence, freedom, loneliness, exhaustion, and the like). In that long painful process of clinging to the lip of the abyss, half-wishing I would fall asleep and never wake up, I was saved by a story. An absurd story I would not have paid attention to were I not in such a state of despair. And that story led to another, and another, and then a pattern of a clue began to emerge and make sense to the odd imaginings of my creative mind, as well as stirred the old, old, cast away longings in my heart.
Hence here I am, awoken into a new morning of my life, even while the season of it is closer to autumn than spring. I have risen from the earth of my impossible garden and become myself, and the impossible flowers have become my agents of hope, my symbols, my signs, my magic. I am an artist, and I want to love again, and I dream of a happily ever after.
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I am an artist-in-progress. I started my creative journey in 2012 and have never stopped taking steps since. Always one step at a time. Always moving forward. It has been an increasingly tough and occasionally rewarding road.
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