Monday, March 28, 2016

Project Tomorrow (Or, The Battle Between Art and Medication)

EPCOT (the enormous theme park in Walt Disney World in Florida) inspires me.

Don’t get me wrong, the kid in me will always love the Magic Kingdom. It is the happy place for dreamers from all over the world.

But I will never forget first visiting EPCOT as an eleven year old girl, when it was brand new.

It ignited something in my imagination (and not just because of the One Little Spark song Figment the dragon sings) that remains unique to the place. It’s something I’ve never found anywhere else, and when I’m especially low or uninspired, EPCOT beckons me home.

Right now I find my creative reserves are at what I’d call an all-time low. The events of the past few years have all caught up with me (as life tends to do when you try to outrun it) and my brain is working overtime trying to process it all: emotions, thoughts, impressions, losses and dreams now come and gone.

So I’m going inside my head today and I’m thinking back to my last trip to EPCOT, which was at the beginning of March, for the start of the annual Flower and Garden Festival.

This was but the latest example of me ‘running away from home’ as it were; planning the trip the day before I left. I was desperate to escape the snow and cold; desperate to walk and see how far my legs could go (which didn’t turn out to be as far as I’d have liked. I wrote about that in another post.) Desperate to escape the walls closing in around me.

On my last day there, I drove my rented scooter past a sign I’ve seen hundreds of times in my life; and it really struck me.

This is the sign:

I found myself wondering what my own personal “Project Tomorrow” will be. Lately I’ve been asking myself if writing (and thinking of myself as primarily a writer) hasn’t just been a really long phase I’ve been going through.

Okay, so a forty year phase, but still, a phase nonetheless.

I’ve been writing all my life, but with singular focus for about twenty years now, and I find myself wondering, as I approach my 45th birthday in six weeks or so, what I’ll do for an encore.

I’m at the point of total frustration and misery with writing itself; especially when I even think about trying to write another novel. The reason for that is clear to me: it’s that I haven’t been grabbed by THE idea yet; the one that will take hold of me and refuse to let go the way that GODSPEED did. The way that WISHING CROSS STATION did.

As much as I love my other books (and I do, each has a special place in my heart) those two are what I consider the beginning and the end of what I am able to do as a writer; the best I know how to do.

I know it’s a learning process. I know that it’s supposed to always continue, a writer honing their craft and going on and on and on with it, chasing, as it’s been said, inspiration with a club.

That’s just not the way my brain works.

Though the honest truth is, my brain hasn’t been working well at much of anything lately. More med adjustments are still being, well, adjusted to, and I find myself lost, looking for that project tomorrow.

Do I get out the old Yamaha keyboard and go back to trying to make music? Do I get out the pen and paper and just write whatever poetry pops into my head, lock it away, and call it a day? Do I try to paint even though the canvas seems to erase every stroke I make with my brush as I make it, then twist it into something I hadn’t intended at all?

When do I figure out how to blog about anything besides my artistic struggles?

Maybe I should only blog when I figure out how to talk about something other than my artistic struggles.

You don’t want to hear me talk about marketing (and goodness knows I don’t want to hear me talk about marketing anymore either) and I don’t have any new creative material to offer at the moment.

Maybe I’m just trying to work it all through in my head by sharing this, and maybe I’m trying to let someone else who may be struggling out there know they’re not alone.

I’m not sure what the purpose of this post is, besides the idea that there has to be some kind of project tomorrow in my life.

There has to be something I can still contribute, creatively.

Though I wonder, sometimes. I seriously wonder.

I've often said that I’d give up all my artistic pursuits and accept treatment for Bipolar, if it could make me “normal”.

Almost five years later, I’m asking myself, is this normal?

Is this what a normal, non-creative life feels like?

It feels like trying to wear a dress several sizes too small. I feel like it is cutting off my circulation, my ability to breathe, and all I can think to do is tear at it until the zipper breaks and the fabric falls away and I’m free of it again at last.

(Maybe this is why so many creatives live in Yoga pants. Not sure. Fear of confining clothing?)

Anyway, I think of the movie Tangled and Flynn Ryder’s advice to Rapunzel that if her dreams came true (which mine did, I’ve been published as a poet, a novelist, and an artist) then it was time to find a new dream.

A new dream.

Project Tomorrow.

There has to be some inspiration left, some small spark of creative life left in me yet. Otherwise, I don’t know how I’ll cope.

This is what has become the constant struggle: between accepting what treatment for Bipolar does to me vs. what it gives to the people in my life, and the protection from myself that it gives me.

Because of Bipolar I have the ability to be my own worst enemy, and the greatest danger to my existence.

When I take the meds like I’m supposed to, that gets better, or, at least is numbed down into a manageable thing, a lot of the time.

Even if it leaves me feeling empty, at least I’m still here to feel empty. Do you see what I’m saying?

Maybe, in the end, that’s what this post is really about. It’s about grieving for the loss of absolute creative freedom and inspiration that a life before meds offered me. It’s about accepting the fact that I have to find a new normal with every adjustment of my neuro-chemistry.

I’ve been through so many meds, so many dose adjustments. So. Much.

It’s no wonder that I’m tired.

They say you can’t pour from an empty vessel. Maybe that’s my Project Tomorrow: to fill myself back up until I spill over; onto the canvas, onto the written page, into song.

Maybe the way to find my new dream is by taking the pressure off to have a dream at all for a while, and just allow myself to exist in the now that is.

To read. To listen to music. To think. To daydream.

To imagine that I will find my creative self again, somewhere, buried beneath the layers of medicines and psychosis and vicious Bipolar 1 cycles.

To try to find out if, after all this time and all that’s happened, I’m still me, after all.

Only time will tell.