Saturday, July 6, 2019

Gumption, Old Age, Parental Influence, or a Long Blather

When the tutor asked before the class started why we wanted to write memoirs/what we wanted to get out of the class, my answer, as you might have guessed, was "therapy". And I was going to write a post about this public/private-self thing I started to explore but can't remember now because it I didn't write it down right away, and if I forgot where I was going, it must not have been that important even to me. But this post is not entirely unrelated, to the therapy part. And though I haven't typed up the last three old stories I intend to keep, I'm not worried. My priorities are elsewhere. And I'm doing the right thing here.

I've been looking for a mid-to-long-term project with paper/canvas and paint, and though I gaze at Pinterest with that in mind, I'm still not sure what to make. I play around with paint, collage, and paper often enough, hoping that'll help me see, or even become parts I can use later, but so far, nothing. And I still can't stop thinking about "a project". I've lived with this for so long I'm almost comforted by not knowing, but it may come, suddenly or organically, or I may have to delve deeper in experimentation, or abandon it altogether, but I'm not fussed. I know this is the right approach for now.

You know I used to envy those who traveled, but the last few years it's been people with resolve/gumption/stamina to complete what they set out to do, specifically folks who finish (art) projects/series, submit to exhibitions, apply for/win/complete internships, or maintain a healthy stock of woven pieces to sell. I have the desire, (though if I'm not careful even that's been fading,) sometimes enough to look up details, and start thinking about tasks, schedule, cost, but "reasons I can't" take over before I know it. Not fear, but a grayer can't-be-bothered-ness, a mental/emotional lethargy. That is, if I don't forget whatever it was I was looking into just minutes ago. 

I try to stay engaged with making-related skills important to me. In the first instance it is to keep the inertia going so I need less energy to restart. I try to survey where I am, where and when I want to go, what to do when to get to there, and prioritize. I try to practice different skills, although inevitably I do more of what I like or feel good about and not the difficult ones. I'm lucky I don't mind practicing; I hated it as a kid and only ever wanted to play in recitals or big games without the daily grunt, but no longer. Goodness, I often enjoy sampling more than the real deal, and it doesn't matter if what I'm making now doesn't become something. I feel the "living in the moment" thing vividly yet unconsciously when I'm engaged in making/practicing. This is opposite to my previous, default, goal-oriented mindset, but I feel less grandiose and more honest. At the right time, Big Projects are thrilling and exciting, and there's nothing wrong with them, of course, but I feel rather... grown up about not everything I do having to be a Big Project.      

* * * * *

I wrote before that for decades Mom said she wanted to learn more about colors; how maybe a year it dawned on me this was only one item on her un/sub-conscious to-talk-about-with-Meg list, and at least in the last decade she had no intention for action and how I finally told her I was tired of talking unless we/she were going to do something. It may sound mean, but this kind of repetition is soul-destroying for solution-oriented listeners like me.

Of late her talking point is a variation of, "Where do you get your motivation?", "How do you come up with it?", "Where did you learn to think like that?", etc, regarding design. These may sound interesting and worthy of discussion, and I gladly engage every week, but again, she's not serious about leaning/studying. I don't mind Mom forgetting two if I tell her three ways; I don't mind Mom dissing me when an experiment didn't work as long as she tries. But in her hands, or mouth rather, these important-to-me topics are reduced to small talk, for which I never had the patience. She in fact told me when I was 13 to politely walk away from small talks because I became visibly irritated; she didn't know how to teach me that.    

In her weaving, Mom relied on other people; she had/has multiple teachers, and often wove to recipes. She seldom/never sampled, and everything she made turned into something, except when instructed to sample new structures. Lately, I make up drafts and put on warps when I'm home so she can select wefts and weave. She doesn't see the point non-project activities.

Mom forever criticized Dad, to us, for being a talker, by which she meant he was all ideas and no action. And I was/am like him, so I took it as a criticism of me. Dad was a Chemistry prof, so he did a lot of thinking, although in the labs he did a lot of doing/instructing, and I was lucky to witness it more than any other in the family. He also read more than Mom, was innately opinionated, so he opined, although in fairness, he was never as sedate as Mom made him out to be. Mom pushed us to action; Dad instructed us with logic.

One of the funniest times was a few years before I got married. Dad took the family ice-skating to a resort near Mt Fuji. Except for Mom, we're no skaters, but it'd been a while since the family went anywhere together, so at first we indulged him but soon started to have real fun. After a while Dad, not a good skater, got tired so he returned his skates, borrowed a pair of oversized rubber boots, took up prime position at the side of the rink, and began shouting instructions/theory at us. Oh, he knew the theory alright, and he could see how the angle of our blades needed correction and couldn't understand why we simply didn't do as he said.

You'd think we'd be embarrassed, but instead the rest of us burst out laughing because this was the perfect snapshot of our family. Dad instructing us from the sideline in borrowed boots, full of book knowledge; us trying hard to "dance to his beat". The memory is all the more precious because we all had different interpretations on Dad's personality, but this was one of the few instances when we agreed spontaneously, and in a good way.

As I grew older, I increasingly admired Mom's doer quality, of taking up new challenges whatever, whenever, always looking forward. When she was in her 70's, I sincerely hoped to inherit this attitude and Ben and I still remember that conversation.

As I write, I see the reason why I can't quit weaving, or being a weaver, (besides the stash) is because this is the one instance of the conflicting Momness and Dadness in me working in harmony: I like a fresh challenge, the newness of projects, the looking forward to future pieces, but I'm also like to study, prepare, experiment and practice to make something better than the last one, or do it better than the last time. Which is probably why I enjoy every process of weaving most days. (Now if I had Dad's physical dexterity, I could have been a mind-blowingly awesome weaver, but I'm still waiting on that.) For someone whose syllabus never mentioned "feeling comfortable in one's own skin," I say, this is huge.  

What I'm trying to say is, my irritation with Mom these days is multiplied by the fact she was the one who admonished us for talking but not doing. I feel obliged to listen like a good daughter when I know we're going nowhere; I'm supposed to "kikinagasu", (listen and let it flow downstream,) but I missed the lesson on that.

I too am old now, struggling to keep the pace I used to just a few years ago. I'm oh-so-aware of how much she influenced my views, how she hoped I'd be more like her, (to the detriment, I now see, to my relationship with Dad in some ways.) I know the weird shadows her words/problems cast on me without my noticing the last few years; that symbiosis. It's all the more alarming because I never had the kind of parent/child relationship you see in novels and films with either parent, but at least I understood Dad.

Now I'm so aware I'm running out of time to fix whatever.

* * * * *

"Saki-ori" (tear-weaving) is rag weaving in Japanese. Dad used to call Mom an expert "Kuchi-saki-ori" weaver; "kuchi-saki" means "front of your mouth" or words not accompanied by emotions or action. I now see how painful it must have been for Dad, when they were alone in the big house, for Mom to go on about her weaving plans about which Dad may have had only vague ideas and perhaps no interest. He, too, was a solution-oriented listener, and though always ready to help if asked, the endless talk must have been tiresome.

But then he yelled at politicians on the telly until he turned red, so maybe they were a good match after all. 

And I can write these things because Mom doesn't read my blog.

* * * * *

You know we live in a cold house; I told you we've had a cold spell. I went into town on Wednesday for a lunchtime writer's meeting, which itself was nice, meeting new people, etc, except by then I had decided to shelve all writing so I was a real imposter. Anyway he two hours I had to kill before the meeting, I spent in Ben's work library, and the meeting itself was in a lovely pub. I don't know if they were heated excessively or to "normal" indoor temps, but I became light-headed and felt sick, I had to spend the rest of the day in bed. So, although I am feeling the cold a little more than I used to, and I blame old age, I still don't like hot, either.

61 is such a fussy age.

12 comments:

  1. Crikey, this has been an epiphany of sorts. I knew blogging was therapeutic at time, but it's been a while since I came fact to face with it.

    I must add that as a parent, Mom talked the talk about practicing, about the % of talent vs effort etc. The thing I remember well is about "akinai" - it's a homoephone, one word meaning "business", another "to not tire of". Mom's interpretation was, success is more likely to come if you don't get bored and stick with your endeavors.

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  2. Gawd I love your writing, Meg. You haven’t “shelved it!” You inspire me, fascinate me and touch me. I feel a kinship with you when I read the first half of this blog post. And I empathize with you when I read the rest, about your relationship with your mom and dad. Thanks always, for writing honestly.

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    1. Thank you, Maureen. It's interesting how different people think, I seem to do it when I write, in the "first novel" style where everything is laid out, and tighten things up as I edit. I do like the unsaid/unsayable in visual arts, though, like your white space. I came late to the knowledge that not everything can be described in words, at least not accurately, although Japanese does a better job (not) describing those things. It's interesting to observe one's own change of perspective as one ages, by which I mean, accumulate different experiences.

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  3. This is a beautiful piece Meg! You give us both a vivid specific picture and plenty of ideas to think about in a wider sense. Shelve writing? I think not!!! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You've known me for coming up 42 years and words have always spilled out of me, often without my monitoring or even realizing, other times just to fill the space. I'm finally and belatedly appreciating the unsaid. I'd also love to read what you write. Maybe a day set aside for that in Feb??

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  4. I'd like to keep for the record another conversation I'm having with Maureen on Facebook for my record here.

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    1. Maureen: Fascinating, Meg. Can kuchi-saki be used to describe the kind of small talk at a party? Or when one runs into an acquaintance? Something we call chit chat?

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    2. Meg: I'm going to say no to kuchi-saki=chit chat. While the former certainly could describe the latter, it connotes insincerity on the speaker's part, while I take it chit chat is neutral? Gee, you ask an interesting question!!

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    3. Maureen: It's a subtle difference between insincerity and small talk for the sake of small talk. At art openings, there is alot of chit chat going on. Schmoozing one could say. Some of it is sincere, and some is just talk to fill in the spaces. Personally I like alot of white space in my compositions -- whether those are on paper, canvas or measured in human bodies and human voices at an opening. Anyway, thanks for the clarity. Japanese language has so many more subtle variations than English does. I love learning about Japanese phrases because it opens my mind to other ways of thinking.

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    4. Meg: Ah, this is why I don't do openings. One can never see the pieces properly. Alcohol doesn't always go well with proper viewing, either.

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    5. Maureen: You're right. I always encourage people to come back on a quiet day to really be able to appreciate the art. I get exhausted at openings.

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    6. Meg: Yes, Japanese does a good job of "including" the space-in-between. Or even speaking exclusively of the space while pretending to talk about whatever is in front that is easy to see. I think it's telling the space, our "ma" is called "negative space" in English because for us, that and whatever exists, the thing, is equally valued, or sometimes, (especially in silence of a wise person's cadence, music...) more valued than the thing. It's why our poetry can pack a punch even when short. The only instance I can think of immediately where the "ma" is considered in the West is comedic timing, but I'm sure there's more.

      Working in woodblock print, for e.g. is very... revealing?? to me, because we're "working on" that space the whole time to reveal in the end what is "left" of the surface, which when inked becomes the thing we want to show/see. Photograph's negatives are the same but I never had the kind of personal/tactile involvement with them, (i.e. I didn't "make" those shapes, only printed byproducts?? in a dark and stinky space.)

      I'm still not good at looking at the spaces when presented with a painting or print as all my art education was done in the West but I get a hint of it looking at Lautrec of all people. I think one needs quiet and composure, as a person, to see the space, but like most thing, it must be possible to train oneself?

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