I’ve spent the last couple of months wrestling with one simple question:
How do I get started again?
I’ve been stalled creatively ever since the pandemic hit and have been unable to get much in the way of writing done. A good friend has passed it off as yet another COVID-19 issue but I’ve been already housebound for the last year or so isolation is old news and I doubt there is a connection. If anything shelter-in-place has been pleasant as it has given me more with my Beautiful Saxon Princess than usually is the case.
Granted, I have a lot going on:
- The spondylitis has gone into the next phase/level/whatever which translates to elevated pain levels – just walking has become much more difficult
- We’re collectively trying to lose weight, not for cosmetic reasons but for the simple fact that all my other medications aren’t very effective. The less I carry around the less pain I have to deal with.
- With sixty-seven years behind me it is a whole hell of a lot harder getting fired up to do anything, especially with the political chaos that surrounds us.
There are some people who would consider my life to be heaven – to be able to just sit around and watch videos all day long – but for me it is a living hell. I’m one of those frustrating people who actually likes to work. I miss the burn I would get after walking for miles and (to quote Tom Bodett) I miss the way my hands would ache after swinging a hammer all day long.
“I WILL NOT QUIT” is still my war cry but at times it sounds hollow. My first task will be internalizing the fact that getting back up to speed is not going to be a rapid process, which brings me full circle to a creative project of mine dating from this time in 1989. It was one of my first efforts combininb 100% brushwork and the “long/skinny format” and I dubbed it “Getting Started” as it captured the essence of the frustration I felt at the onset of just about every painting I’ve ever made
.…which is what I am feeling with life in general right now
I haven’t been writing much lately – on top of the pandemic I’ve been struggling with serious mobility issues, the combination leaving me with an ill-defined feeling of dread similar to that brought on by those ominous usually-written-a-minor-key passages in a movie’s soundtrack that precedes something really scary…
..,but amidst all this ominous foreboding we had a wonderful respite in the form of my daughter’s wedding. It was a very small and informal event, with just enough structure and content to launch a young family into this journey called life.
Living with an autoimmune disease like ankylosing spondylitis has meant living with chronic pain and impaired mobility, but I was surprised, yea alarmed when the muscles in my hand and forearm started to uncontrollably spasm and twist into a claw-like flex. Dark thoughts of tetanus came to mind and at one less-than-lucid moment I wondered if I’d become mind-controlled by the Skeksis from Dark Crystal but good sense returned and I began to research for a solution to my manual woes. It turns out that the flexing and arching and “owwing” is a real thing – it’s known as a carpal spasm and can be brought on by overwork and/or the lack of sufficient calcium or magnesium in my diet. By limiting my time at the drawing board and knocking back an extra yogurt each day I’ve been able to curtail the attacks to a large extent.
…which is just as well.
Since my childhood there has been a dramatic increase in the use of hand gestures as part of human communication far beyond the sign language between cowboy and Commanche that I witnessed each week on television. Simple movements such as an index finger drawn sharply across a larynx (“killed”) or a hand cupped to an ear (“listening”) have been joined by American Sign Language for use by the deaf, gang signs adopted into general street use, and other communicative gestures borrowed from sports and military. The use of nonverbal communication has increased to the point that it is no longer safe to just idly wave your hands. For example while coming to grips with these carpal spasms I have:
- Been slapped by a deaf lady for signing an indecent proposal
- Accidentally called out a gang member
- …and I may have inadvertently flipped off ET
The one time I did try to respond to communicating via hand signals it turned out that the lady in question was just trying to dry her nail polish…which is why despite years of conditioning via the military I now walk about with my hands in my pockets.
While wading my way though my XL5 reboot it has come to me that with all the attention Fireball Junior gets during the series would need it a separate drawing, especially when the nose area in the main ship rendering didn’t work out as well as wanted. If you’ll check the drawing on my XL5 reboot page you’ll see that I went for NASA-style inset windows much like those on the Space:1999 Eagles but at length I’ve concluded that they would give a claustrophobic feel to the control cabin,
…so I compromised between the old and the new, using a bug-like look similar to that on the Navy’s A-6 Intruder
When my sleep cycle gets inverted like this it can often be a week or more before it gets corrected and it becomes easy to slip into depression. I mean it’s already a challenge dealing with the double-barreled contradictory stress of “social distancing” vs. “shelter in place “ without the additional isolation brought on by my inverted rest patterns…
…but then I got to thinking: if I have to adopt the Dracula model of rest and activity I’m in the best situation to do so. I have a comfy bed, good snacks to gnosh (when I AM awake) and my Beautiful Saxon Princess will make sure there are no splinters in my coffin and all the wooden stakes are safely packed away.
It was a sound that brought tears to my eyes.
After tossing and turning for most of the night I struck my colors and made a hasty retreat to the studio with the faint hope that my Beautiful Saxon Princess would get some decent rest once I was gone. I curled up on the old loveseat next to my desk and fired up my MP3 player (yes, they still exist) hoping the companionship of my old musical friends would take the edge off the physical and emotional discomforts depriving me of sleep.
That relief came but not through the music but rather through the sound of the room itself. Without the background accompaniment of CD player, computer, room fans and my grandson’s Hot Wheels re-enactments of NASCAR events my studio manifests a very subtle soundtrack of its own: wind rustling through the trees, the low almost inaudible rumble-hum of the clothes dryer and the moan of the wind through power and phone lines. It’s beautiful sound that I very rarely hear now, a sound that would lull to sleep every night I spent in my attic loft back in Sterling…
…and for just a few minutes I was free of the pain and anxiety that I joust with nightly as I near my sixty-seventh birthday…