Hurdles and Data

Today I made a trip to the store for some supplies, and a couple of mediocre sketches. I used to be afraid that I had bipolar disorder, and everybody was just too nice to tell me.

I have a family history, for starters, and these things run in families. Plus, every now and then, I just…crash. 

Over the years, a number of therapists have assured me this is not the case. It turns out, people need a thing called “rest”. What I thought of as “crashing” was really just “needing to take an afternoon and recharge.” Through my fear, it never occurred to me that this is normal.

This week, I’ve done two things: I’ve added a disciplined art practice to my life, and while I don’t have much to show for it yet, I have done lots of planning and organizing so that, come next Saturday, I can actually make this work. I’ve also revisited my workout routine.

The body I was born in, and the brain I was born with, were made to move. I wake up most days and go a billion or so miles per hour. I’m a terrible sleeper, and even worse at making time and space to do nothing. But the last few months have been consumed with obligation, and I’ve fallen off the workout wagon.

Here’s the thing, though: I get sad when I sit still. Not about anything in particular, just a vague sense of existential angst. Life is so beautiful and so short, and I feel like down time is time wasted. I’m working on this.

And I’m also working on accepting that I will always have a tendency to travel at the speed of light. So I started working out again, hard, and it has made a measurable difference in my zest for life. Also, I’m so stiff I can’t move.

And I’m still freaking busy.

I had work today, and I parented kids and did some laundry so I don’t have to be naked this weekend. I had tickets to a conference and a concert tonight. There were many stuffs to do. And I’m walking around like I’m made of wooden planks, with no joints, really, exceptIMG-3458 the wood turns floppy if I need it to support me.

I have a body, but not one that’s nimble and agile today. I have time enough today for creative thinking, but not necessarily for creative doing. Some days, you have to just work with what you’ve got.

So I took a deep breath, and I set a timer for sixty seconds, and I sketched the first thing I saw, which was my phone. And guess what? I haven’t so much as doodled for years, and I’m stiff about that, too. Holding pencils felt foreign, like I was occupying a body that doesn’t exist anymore. It was, at best, a shitty sketch, although I was trying not to judge myself. Still. Objectively. Shitty.

I have forgotten how pencils work, have lost the innate sense for which pencil to grab to achieve which effect. Perspective is clumsy. I drink too much damn coffee, and my hands aren’t the steady tools I’ve known them to be.

It was just a few months ago that a twenty mile bike ride was nothing. It was just a year ago that I could bench my weight. And now, here I am, shaky and stiff and sore.

It is possible that maintenance of skill is not my strong suit.

The insecure little kid in me took one look at that sketch and piped up. Excuse me? You do know that even if you actually follow through with this project, you’ll probably never be good at those things again. You should probably just accept that you’re past your prime, lady. 

In the interest of science, I decided once again to experiment with a new approach. All these ouches, all this clumsiness? I’m choosing to see it as data. Not a moratorium on my skill, just data, telling me where I can grow.

img-3459.jpgSo I set a timer for two minutes and sketched the next thing I saw, which was a water bottle. It’s also not great, but it was a two minute sketch of a complex object, and there was no way I was going to nail it. More importantly, it was better than the phone.


That’s what I want to learn to measure. Today, my workout was stiff and my drawing was stiff and lots of things ache a little bit. But I danced and I watched amazing music and I used a fucking 2B pencil for the first time in a long time, and that’s the opposite of moving backward. In the middle of my narrative about how I’m too busy to make time for myself, I stole three minutes, and in a weird, clumsy, stiff way, I’m sort of proud of that.

I made some sketches today, and some progress. 


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