WEDNESDAY, 19 JUNE, 4:18 PM
Here are the notes from my City Year talk that I referenced in my last entry. I wandered off the text and elaborated at times, but you can get the gist of the talk from these notes.
CITY YEAR Commencement, 18 June 2002
Thanks for the introduction and thanks to Kristin for inviting me. I'm honored and humbled to be here. As the Mayor said, he got a call from City Year nine years ago. I was the guy who called City Year and asked them to call the Mayor!! I think that's why Ive been invited here on the eve of City Year Rhode Island's tenth year! It's exciting and humbling to know that seeds you've planted, fires you've lit have established lives of their own.
So, ten years of city year: WHY WAS YOUTH SERVICE IMPORTANT TO US ten years ago? For me, there are several reasons.
1. We live in a capitalist society. Capitalism created vast new wealth for us, allowed us to live in ways unimaginable to past generations, but it's also given us he means to live more privately than every. (Expand a bit.) The changes we are experiencing are not a crisis, they are trends that we simply need to face and engage.
2. Youth service is a way to invite individuals into public life / a shared community life -- that's been eroded by our wealth, technology
3. It's a way to let people know that they have talents that society needs -- it erodes the cynics who say no one can make a difference. You have all made a difference this year.
4. It's a way to break down barriers that exist in our society -- a way for people of different races, ages, incomes, educational levels, sexual orientations, genders to learn to work together to build a shared public life.
5. It creates an intentional space where individuals can learn the skills and competencies of democratic participation.
Graduations are beginnings so I want to talk with you tonight about what's next.
The question in front of me as I prepared for this talk is how can you use your national service experience to build a good life for yourself and your community.
I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer it.
It's a funny question to me. First, because a good life means so many different things. But, second, it's funny that it's a question I'm so often asked. My answer has to be that I don't know how YOU create a good life. I can share a little of my experience trying to create a good life.
The first thing that is clear to me is that you never CREATE a good life. You are always in the process of creating it. As an artist I would say it's always a work in progress. Remember when the work is over so are you. You're either literally dead or your interior life will be deadening. I am reminded of what my mother used to say to me as a kid when I wanted to sleep late on a Saturday morning. She'd say, "You're dead a long time." Don't waste the time that you have living by letting others deaden you; least of all, don't deaden yourself.
The best advice I can give you is to FOLLOW THE PATH AS IT UNFOLDS IN FRONT OF YOU.
Talk about HIGHLANDER --
By this I mean: Don't make too many plans that are etched in stone. Be flexible when you think about whom you want to become. I couldn't imagine my current job even existed when I was in school
Look for any opportunity to do things for which you feel real passion. Let your intuition guide you. You know more about your life than anyone else does.
Don't let the expectations of other define who you are going to be.
Similarly, use the past as a foundation for your future but not as something that defines your future.
belle hooks inspires me when she says each day is the opportunity for re-invention.
By this I mean creating your life is the most authentically creative thing any of us do in our lives. Re-creation, re-invention is possible each day when we wake up. If we can't change ourselves we can't change anything.
THEORY AND PRACTICE
Think about what you've learned at CY. As a philosophy professor I would say that you've just completed an applied course in theory and practice.
By this I mean you have learned how to take a concern / problem / hope / dream and translate it into action. The space between ideas and action, theory and practice is potent ground. It's where change occurs. It's also very hard.
The theory of working with kids after school is great. Learning how to put that idea into action is hard.
You've also learned that service is about relationships.
Ten years ago, when I first became the director off the Swearer Center, I commissioned a report on the theory and the practice of the SC. I asked the consultant to look at what we said we did and what we were actually accomplishing. I wanted to know whether we were, as some friends say, walking the talk.
When the report was given to me, the consultant said to me, "you think youre in the service e business, but youre not." I paused and thought, "What do you mean? Im the director of the Center for Public SERVICE." She went on to say, "You think youre in the service business, but youre really in the relationship business."
From that, Ive developed my practice as a service educator, aware at all times that what I am teaching, and learning, is how relationships are formed, how they fail, how they can be mended, where they are possible, where they are not, and where real labor has to be applied to make relationships possible. Most of all, Ive learned that relationships begin with me and my willingness, ability to first meet the person, group, institution on their terms. My goals must fit in relation to others; else the relationship will fail. Once trust is established, I can insert my own agenda, I can ask my partners to consider my terms, too.
When you think about the future, I hope that you will start by THINKING ABOUT YOURSELF. I don't mean this in a SELF-CENTERED WAY. I mean that you have power in the world. The choice is yours as to whether your power will be used to affect others in positive or negative ways. You have the power to change lives, but YOU CAN'T POSITIVELY CHANGE LIVES IF YOU ARE NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU OWN.
When you think about the future, LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD. Cultivate your creativity, use your voice. Think about who you want to be.
Finally, do the work. Imagination is useless if you are not willing to put the labor into making your aspirations real.
Talk about being an artist Inhibited by fears about talent, desire for fame cause inhibitions to working. Work for yourself -- explore the world to learn as much as you can, to have fun, to understand what you experience. It has it's own reward.
It doesn't matter if I want to be Picasso -- or you want to be a successful businessperson, actor, singer, athlete, plumber, or poet -- if you don't do he work, it's not going to happen.
In closing I want to tell you about one of my favorite organizations in town: New Urban Arts.
Last week I was fortunate enough to be recognized by New urban Arts for my ten years of service as the chair of their board of directors. I was given he Sandra Olson Award.
Ms. Olson is a friend of NUA who sends the organization $2 every Friday. While this may not seem much, over a year she provides the funds for one student to participate in the program each year. She does it because she wished that an organization like NUA existed when she was a girl. She sees that she can affect the world and offer someone else something she values.
The award is inscribed with the motto of NUA which is actually the thought that I hope you will leave with tonight. It says, "Be the change that you want to see in the world."
WEDNESDAY, 19 JUNE, 7:37 AM
Graduations are weird. I was invited to give the keynote at City Year RI's graduation last night. There's this real sense of accomplishment, a palpable belief of the ho[e of the future, etc, etc. Yet, there's also this sense that no one listens, no one really makes sense of the moment.
For me, it was also weird because it cut through my cynicism and I foundmyself giving an optimistic, hope-filled talk. In the middle of it I wondered if people just thought me to be an idealistic and cliched old fool.
Speaking of old, when did I muster the authority to talk at graduations? This is my second one in two weeks. God, my life and all the fires that I've set are catching up with me.
On the nice side of this, I suppose, people are recognizing all the various mischief I've gotten into over the past 15 years. But listening to them, I fear that I've become iconic and lost my radical edge... Yikes. I'm not ready to be an authority.
That's why re-invention is good.
At least I think that people liked the talk. A friend who's a preacher asked for a copy of it (but aren't preachers REQUIRED to be supportive?) And I was able to keep the rapt attention of 70 Americorps members.
I'll post my notes from the talk when I get a free minute at work. You can be the judge.
SATURDAY, 15 JUNE, 12:36 PM
Can't quite get into the painting groove this morning / afternoon, so I decided to catch up on a few other things.
Just changed the front image to the site. It's new to the site, but an old painting. I dug it out to give as a birthday present to my pal Kurt.
This is the big weekend, the final push toward pulling the show together. Yesterday was a great painting day and I'm hoping for more of the same today. Luckily it's crappy outside so the impulse to play will be easily avoided.
It is PRIDE weekend in PVD, though, and I feel somewhat guilty about skipping out on it. Somehow, PRIDE seemed more urgent ten years ago and today it seems WAY too commercial. It's even held in the park next to the mall. Now, that's co-locating!
Off to the studio....
TUESDAY, 11 JUNE, 10:16 AM
I recently found some old slides and had them printed. I've added two "old school" shots to the files.
Have I always been dour?
MONDAY, 10 JUNE, 8:25 PM
After eleven productive days in the studio, I think I've done it. I think I have a respectable body of work for the upcoming show. It was a relief to look at the 13 paintings and realize that I still have time to add to the work and I have the safety of being completely ready should I have to hang the show tomorrow.
I spent today listening to Depech Mode, painting, cleaning the studio, and considering what the last week's meant to me. It's been an interesting experiment in being a "full-time" painter. There are certainly things I like about it. The intensity helped me to learn some new things about color, space, representation, composition, so I'm pretty happy with the experience. I also have to admit some feeling of isolation and loneliness. It's something to think about because those feelings led me to go out most nights kind of doing double duty as a vacation and as a working artist.
Going out was, of course, fun. It's funny who you meet on random nights and the trouble into which one can get when one isn't required to start the day at 7 AM. Last night I met someone who was intent on taking me home, to Cranston, and introducing me to his double headed dildo. On Friday, I met a guy who was fascinated with the biological father project (yes, we actually talked about substantial matters). He followed up with the admission that he had a thing for his father and spent a good part of puberty prancing his woody around so daddy could see him growing. His seduction involved asking whether I'd like to drink his piss out of a baby bottle. So, would I take these guys up on their offers? Your guess is as good as mine.
Thats a conceit, though, and I have to admit a certain trepidation about the fetishistic nature of the propositions I've been receiving. I think it has something to do with the new beard. It's been garnering a lot of attention -- from those I see everyday as well as from strangers who use it as a way to break the ice. The attention is nice and it's flattering to be seen as attractive, but it seems to inspire a certain interpretation of who I am and what I want.
It's funny to admit that what I really want is simply to be in a relationship with a man. I want someone with whom I can share the evenings, someone who will be at my side when I sleep, and someone with whom I can make plans for the future. After a few years of pretty actively avoiding or sabotaging any possibility of this, it's strange to admit that it's what I want.
SUNDAY, 9 JUNE, 1:15 AM
The film hasn't been released, but I've already developed a huge crush on Shaggy.
8 JUNE, 12:53 PM
This name analysis is eeriely spot-on....
Your first name of Peter creates individuality, independence, self-confidence, initiative, and an inclination to physical activity. You are not inclined to merge your opinions and viewpoints with others, to accept compromise, or to work in a subservient position against your will. Your expression is invariably quite direct and candid, and lacks the moderating tone of tact, diplomacy, and friendliness. Others find it difficult to accept your domineering and, at times, argumentative manner. Your circle of friends is restricted to those of like nature. Once friendship is established, you are very loyal and steadfast and do not tolerate gossip or criticism. In your close associations and family life, there is little demonstration of sentiment, appreciation, sympathy, or encouragement. It is difficult for you to find the right words for such circumstances. Weaknesses in the health caused by this name centre in the head.
THURSDAY, 6 JUNE, 8:46 AM
I got a really insightful email about the site yesterday. I responded but the message bounced bacK. Thank you, hotmail... Anyway, the writer asked some interesting questions about the site, etc and I thought I'd post the core of my response. So, Jaime, if you're reading, I'm not ignoring you, but hotmail MAY be!
"So, I'll start in the middle and work my way to the edges. Indeed, the site isn't me. Clearly I'm choosing the facets of my life that I feel safe about globally broadcasting. More than that, I've tried to be thoughtful about not compromising people who are close to me. One of the things that I've learned by making the site is how deeply I'm defined by my relationships. Since those relationships are largely absent from the site, it does seem that I'm more lonely than I think I am. I've been told by people that my "correspondence voice" is quite different from my "site voice." You can be the judge.
"I suppose I shouldn't dodge your observations about the site being a costume. Yes, I am representing myself as I want to be perceived and trying on different identities, too. The daily photos are probably the best (most easy) place to see this. I think my blog voice is honest -- if not fully faceted. The cowboy get up is really just a costume -- cowboys aren't even a fetish for me. Sigh.
"Finally, I also have a belief that if someone wants to know me, they have to do some work, too. I like corresponding with people, learning about them. I've been told, and will admit, that the site is in many ways "bait" to get into conversation with people. When folks just want to swap neked pics or jump into bed with me it's not very interesting or life-affirming. When someone engages with me, we both have the opportunity to learn something.
With regards to the "junk of life," I'm not sure how to answer. I guess I do have a fascination with the little things in life. I wonder why I've never written about them?? Anyway, I hate to vacuum. I love to cook and host a weekly dinner party. I love TV and am a serious bibliophile. I buy more books than I could ever read... I think others are better suited to identifying my quirks...although I hate to fly, like to grocery shop alone, and sleep with music on. I guess that's pretty quirky?"
IN OTHER NEWS, painting is going well. FINALLY, I am getting into the groove. Let's hope the mojo made it through the night!
WEDNESDAY, 5 JUNE, 9:07 AM
I've been bad at blogging lately. First it was the end of the academic year, now it's the impending show...
I've been working like a madman this week, trying to get the RIGHT ten paintings together for my July show. It's so much harder than I thought it would be. I mean, I LOVE painting, but I feel such pressure to SAY something. Shit, the new paintings seem contrived and I'm quite sure that I'm not engaging the work well enough to actaully say something.
So, now I'll wander to the studio with this in mind. I need to remember that i can't be afraid to engage the work, that engagement will bring meaning and that I can't make mistakes. Afterall, serendipity brings genius and anything too appalling can be scraped out!
FRIDAY, 31 MAY, 7:41 AM
Today is the first of eleven days of vacation! I am so looking forward to spending some amazing time in the studio. Maybe I can get a better handle on this new show...? Maybe I can catch up with the correspondence that's been piling up? Maybe I can ....relax???
TUESDAY, 28 MAY, 9:58 PM
27 MAY, 6:05 PM
Just got through with commencement weekend at Brown. Whew! It's such a mixed bag. On the one hand, it's an amazing celebration of the accomplishments of very smart people. This is especially true in my line of work. Reviewing the accomplishments of the kids who graduated from the Swearer Center I am amazed. On the other hand, it's such a display of the complete corruption of wealth and power. I don't know how people live in Manhattan everyday...
Anyway, before I make dinner for Kurt, Phoebe, and Gina, I've posted some new work here and here .
Yes, I am desperately trying to complete my last packet of the semester.
21 MAY, 9:56 PM
I feel tired and old. yuck.
The good news is that I sent off slides for the invitation to my show in July. It's a weight off my shoulders, but daunting nevertheless.
Now, I just need to get the ten paintings completed.
20 MAY, 8:11 AM
Last night I remembered that it was the two-year anniversary of breaking it off with Bill. Thinking about him must have stuck in my subconscious because all night I had dreams about him.
They were funny dreams. The premise of all of them was that he was "visiting" and wouldnt go home to his boyfriend (who, oddly enough, in my fantasy life is played by Arnie from LA Law). He kept popping up in my life everywhere I turned -- at the gas station, in my bed, in my grandmother's house There was sexual tension, but no sex. Even in my dreams I'm sexually contolled. Sigh.
I'm finishing my packet today. Although it's not due for another week, I can't do it over the weekend due to Brown commencement. Also, if I get it off my plate, the semester will be done and I can focus on my show.
That's been the hardest thing about the past few weeks -- working toward this show. I could balance the full-time job and school, but add working artist to the mix and I'm a mess. So, in addition to the packet, I have to put a few hours in the studio today. Not that it'll be a drag to paint, but there is pressure to produce right now. I'm not sure whether I like it. It is making me focus my work.
14 MAY, 7:34 PM
New painting . It's old school. Thank God for allegories....
13 MAY, 10:12 AM
So, I crashed and burned this morning. I woke up feeling like shit, re-arranged my day and am home trying to put the pieces back together. I think some stream of consciousness writing might be helpful (okay, not really stream of consciousness -- but it will be emotionally spewing!)
I know Im feeling messy -- both physically and emotionally -- because I've got WAY too much on my plate. I am trying to direct a center that's in transition, complete a graduate degree, have a life, and pull together a show of new work. I've always worked to the edge of my capacity, but I think I may have pushed the line for too long and am now feeling the long-term affects of the stress thats built up.
I think about life and what I want from it and I find that a lot is missing. Life is all about products -- making the art, getting people the resources they want and need, or just getting an excellent dinner made for friends -- and its lost the wonder of ebb and flow. I'm performing constantly and always thinking about when the curtain will fall and when I can just relax. It's fucked, really. Im working for an imaginary moment when I'll be able to reap what Ive sown. There's no sense in my daily life that I enjoy the task of performance. I simply feel judged.
This may be a by-product of Brown. The analytical skills of the people with whom I work and teach are awesome, but there is virtually no room for being human for saying, "hey, we could refine these ideas more, but this is good enough." Im as big a problem as anyone in this regard, but, shit, the impulse to complicate things and to make them bigger than they need to be is everywhere around me.
After a few weeks of thinking about this, I've come to realize that it's not so much that I'm depressed as I am overwhelmed. I think a lot of people are.
I need to find a way to slow everything down.
8 MAY, 7:29 AM
I've posted a first draft of an artist statement. It's for my thesis and it's ROUGH. If you're up to it, I'd love feedback.
The arguments aren't fully formed, some are circular -- by design -- and at the heart of things, I'm trying to chart spaces between ideas, spaces in which new ideas, new insight might arise. That's my thesis.
1 MAY, 7:02 AM
I dreamed of former lovers last night. One I saw with her husband through a mirror. The second was in my bed when I stumbled home tired and drunk. He left at dawn and I awoke with a sense that I had lost out on something great. Omens to ponder on this May Day.
Oh yeah, rabbit, rabbit....
30 APRIL, 7:41 PM
I feel like Susan Powder and just want to scream, "Stop the Insanity!" There's a lot happening inside me. I feel like I'm on the precipice of real change, but don't know how to focus what I'm feeling.
I spent the day in the studio and accomplished some good work. I have a hunch that part of what I'm doing with my work is conjuring a new life. I'm not sure if it's the healthiest thing, though. With the biological father, I'm developing a fictional history. With the allegorical paintings I'm sorting through my past. In both cases I think I'm looking for a new way of being. Call it the "painting cure" with due apologies to Freud, but it seems that I'm intent on understanding those things that have defined me. Ain't catharsis grand?
The new work is seeking to explore my sense of isolation both when I'm alone and when I'm in relationships. It seems that I have a hard time connecting with people in genuine ways. The funny thing is that I'm really good at this in bounded circumstances -- like in correspondence or when I'm "advising." I just can't seem to do it when I'm off the clock
Michael reminds me that I seem to talk and write about everything. I remind him that I'm "living out loud" on the web and that it's hard to give weight to statements. Each statement seems equally urgent or equally mundane. Is this only a limitation to the written word or a limitation of my skill? Perhaps, in time, my writing style will get good enough that I can better nuance my thoughts.
In many ways I have an enviable life. This makes my sense of dissatisfaction more troubling. I use the word "dissatisfaction" rather than "unhappiness" or, as I inferred yesterday "depression," because I think I may be over-emphasizing my current feelings. Nevertheless, my dissatisfaction is easily discounted because of the privileges that define my life. I have a great job, I live in a great house, I have wonderful friends and I'm working as an artist. These are all things to which I aspired. The trouble is that I want more.
I also am aware that my art practice is making me more sensitive to the nuances of my life. Reflection is allowing me to see the gaps and sadness that must punctuate any life. It's also allowing me to tap into the shame that has been ingrained in me. I'm wrestling with the conventions of our society and bringing to bear the enormous sense of privilege that I already have. Is it a surprise that I want more? It's the consumerist society intersecting with the Puritanical foundations of my psyche. The work is about disentangling the mess that forms this intersection. It's difficult living in the tension this creates.
When one is told that one has an enviable life it is difficult to articulate ones desire for change. How do you tell people that you want to be different from who you are? How do you refine for yourself the parameters of the change that you want to create? It's partly an Emersonian desire for transformation and partly the unhealthy programming that urges me toward a kind of superhuman quest for perfection. This is partly the shame element. It's hard for me to admit that there are things that I can't do that there are limitations to my abilities. It's tied into our society's insane belief that "we can be anything we put our mind to." So, I want to be someone different, but I don't know how to put my mind to it.
On the optimistic side, I have changed and grown considerably in the past couple of years. I see things better, I am able to reflect on life more intensely, and I can paint. I've faced some of my fears and the chip on my shoulder is considerably smaller. It's a good start.
So, this is not a "cry for help." It is an honest interrogation of the past few years of my life. It will be an on going and, I hope important thread of my thought. Response and engagement from anyone reading this is welcome, sympathy is not.
Yesterday, I bought a book called Queer Blues: The Lesbian and Gay Guide to Overcoming Depression. I bought it because I've had a vague feeling that something's not right with my mood and thought that it might help me to sort through some things. I took the diagnostic in the book and realized that I was scoring a lot higher than I anticipated. This gave me pause and I'm starting to consider the various facets of what it means. It's funny; recognition of this state of being has helped lift my mood considerably. It's helping me to think differently and see some things that had been obscured. Knowledge, if, indeed, it is power, sometimes can allow us to transcend that which we can name.
For example, as I was driving to Luis' birthday party last night, I was thinking that it might be a predictable, lonely-in-a-crowd kind of night. In my mind, I reviewed my belief that I'll never find a life partner, that I'm destined to be alone, blah, blah, blah. Then I thought, "Why do I think this way? Why can't I conceive of being in a tight and mutually supportive relationship -- or set of relationships? Why do I think of myself as flawed and under-developed?" These thoughts led me to another recognition -- that some people actually respect and admire what I've accomplished and who I am. While I immediately followed that thought with the self-defeating rejoinder, "They must REALLY be idiots." I was able to catch myself and re-think something or at least ask a different question: With all my accomplishments and hard work, why do I envision myself as an unformed person?
For a while I've been thinking that a facet of my queerness is wrapped in the "Peter Pan syndrome" and that I've extended some significant parts of my adolescent development -- namely that I'm conducting my affectional life like a 16 year old. This is certainly related to all the work I'm doing on adoption, too. In that sphere, my theory is that the "abandoned" child can't conceive of being wanted in an unconditional way. Indeed, all of my relationships seem to be prescribed by a belief in the conditional nature of relationships. When I'm really reflective I can even acknowledge and own the fact that my significant relationships with men have been designed by me (or, at least, chosen) in part to re-inscribe the likelihood of this conditioning. It's the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy.
Although it was bracing to realize that psychotherapists reading my symptomology might consider that I've been depressed for the past several years, I think I've known it for some time. I don't think the term "clinically depressed" fits. "Functionally depressed" seems better to me because I have been able to work and move through the world. I'm just not moving as well, as joyfully, or as powerfully as I can remember doing in the past. Indeed, it's more that the world has gotten emotionally murkier as I've moved ahead and I am having a hard time connecting my hopes and dreams with my actions. I can rationalize; I just haven't been able to change certain patterns.
I'll be writing about this for a bit, and don't think I can get all this down today -- even if I tried. I don't think the changes that I want to make can happen at once and that this is the beginning of a process of revealing (to myself and to others) how I perceive these questions and how I see myself. More importantly, it's a moment of considering and declaiming my answers to the jarring question, "how is it that I want to live?"
28 APRIL, 12:56 PM
I've been feeling cranky all weekend because I haven't had a "space" to work in the studio. I was at a conference yesterday and I'm about to head out for a University committee meeting which will take the afternoon.
When I started Goddard I cleared my calendar of these sort of obligations and made myself a promise to say "no" to anything that took me away from my own agenda. Now I find myself saying "yes" to all sorts of things. Don't get me wrong, it's gratifying to be invited to work with other people on important work -- the conferecne was on peace and justice after 9-11 and the committee meeting is about spiritual life at tthe University -- but, still, I find myself being pulled away from my own work. I've had a theory for a long time that conferences and meetings are a strategy for keeping people from making real change. The trick is that some meetings actually facilitate change / real work. I think we go to meetings with the hope that "this one" might be "the one." After all, yesterday's conference taught me a tremendous amount about the social dimensions of hip-hop.
The question remains, though, when will I find the time to push my work forward? It's correlary, of course, is am I being too hard on myself?
28 PRIL, 10:29 AM
I agreed to be part of this thing called "chain reaction" as part of the Gay Pride festivities. Essentially, I received a piece of art on Thursday and had to respond to it in about 24 hours. It's like a game of "telephone." It's hard to do when you don't know the artist before you and don't know how hard you can push. I think it could be fun to do with folks with whom you've some developed trust and understanding. Anyone game?
Anyway, if you are so inclined, my piece is here
I know, I know, it's didactic...
23 APRIL, 10:13 PM
I just got home after a long day. It was punctuated by a great conversation between queer students and faculty of which I am gratified to have been part.
One point of particular interest was made by a colleague who does ethnography in rural areas of Brazil. He pointed out that there is a construction of queer identity in areas that are insulated from the Queer As Folk media frenzy that now passes for queer culture. I need to explore this phenomenon as it's related to the core of my own work.
Participating in this panel discussion also underscored the many ways in which I have insulated myself from the politics of my institution; indeed, the ways that I have hidden myself away. I need to articulate a new activist agenda!
22 APRIL, 6:26 PM
I realized as I was walking to lunch that I haven't written in a while. I mean, I have some fine correspondences, but I haven't written to explore my own ideas, nor have I written to try to synthesize the various conversations in which I'm engaged.
There's a lot churning in me right now. None of it seems coherent. There's a lot that I want to do, a lot that I want to construct, but I'm having a hard time articulating. It's true with words and in the studio. In some ways its easier to explain in regard to the studio, because I have some existing metaphors for defining the studio block. My work is generally going well, but I have doubts and a lack of energy when it comes to the biological father (again). Of course, the answer is to walk away for a while and to engage some other projects. This always works, but the problem right now is that there don't seem to be exciting "other projects" at the surface right now. I have a few clues (the male Venus figures, walker in the city, etc) but I haven't been able to pin them down. It could just be a case of being too hard on myself (again)
I'm having several conversations about spirituality right now, which is interesting. Given that I'm not a spiritually practicing person, I'm intrigued that I get pulled into spiritual conversations as often as I do. Some of these conversations are of my provocation as I think Im trying to figure this stuff out. One of these conversations has to do with the nature of being and Michael is asking a provocative question about whether my thoughts about identity are relevant. Indeed, he's asking whether my so-called sexual orientation is an identity or a dimension of "soul." I am suspicious of this conversation because it might simply be replacing one identity for another. Indeed, the soul is as constructed as queer. Its certainly more over-wrought!
Beyond identity construction, the conversations are also inferring something about "control," and asking whether we really have any control. This is an important issue for me as I'm struggling to understand the nature of control and authority in my life. I'm willing to allow those around me a lot of room to be human; I dont seem eager to offer myself that same space.
20 APRIL, 7:06 AM
I'm not sure whether it's spring fever, the Star Trek marathon last night (you go, Jean-Luc), or just general randy-ness, but I shaved my head again last night. Anyone following the daily pix could see the trajectory that I was on, so it shouldn't be a big surprise.
I've come to an interesting conclusion about my self-image. I dont mind being bald. I dont even think I'd be so upset if all the hair on top fell out. What I don't like having is a receding hairline. There's something about it that's a daily reminder of the progression of age and time. With a shaved or buzzed head, I have the sense of a plateau -- or at least of level ground. Theres a sense that I can exist within this moment of my life without worrying about or being constantly reminded of the inevitable. Thats a lot of psychic mojo to ascribe to a receding hairline, but
Besides, it's refreshingly bracing in the early morning air of this fine spring day!
19 April, 10:05 PM
Ugh! I think I'm getting old. I went out to dinner tonight with the full expectation of making a night of it. You know the drill, bar-hopping, etc, etc. By 9:30, even after expresso, I knew that I couldn't make it through. My mood is sour and I wouldnt be very good company if I went out. With that on my horizon, I decided that I didn't want to be that guy. You know the one, propped against the wall with a beer, scowling. So, I'm home, watching a Star Trek the Next Generation marathon and writing to the blog.
I did have a long day in the studio, with some good results. I'm working on a body image thing, after being jarred into thinking about these matters by Pam's survey and my broadcast of my answers! We'll see where it goes.
Anyway, since I'm home early and have decided to skip carousing, I'm looking forward to a full day in the studio tomorrow.
17 APRIL, 7:03 AM
So, mentioning the "break up" has generated a lot of sympathetic notes. That wasnt my purpose in making the notes. Indeed, Ive tried to balance the process of noting a significant occurrence in my life, of referencing some feelings with actually talking about the subject of my break up. Ive also talked about process and not about the "content" of the break up. Suffice it to say, I feel fine. Im interested, though, in the way this subject strikes a note with people how being "dumped" is something to which we all relate / understand and the way that making notes on the web "intensifies" statements, makes them absolute.
Im not sure whether its the freakishly warm weather were experiencing or if its something else, but I feel better than I have in months. In fact I didnt realize how "down" Id been feeling until I started to feel "up" again! Wow. In fact, I think Ive gotten more done in the last week than I did in the previous month. Maybe its just perspective or shifting energy, but its great to be back.
15 APRIL, 9:35 AM
I think that this hits my current dilemma on the head:
CAPRICORN (by astrocenter.com)
You may be driving yourself crazy by trying to be someone who you are not, dear Capricorn. Perhaps you were inspired a long time ago to do something or be someone specific. The reality has finally hit that this is not what you are fated to do or become. Dealing with the truth of the situation may be difficult for you to handle. Perhaps your whole self-identity was wrapped up in this particular concept. You must now rebuild the structure of who you are. It is better to do it now rather than later.
14 APRIL, 5:53 PM
So, on Friday night Ben and I had the face to face discussion about ending our relationship. Im still not sure why we met. He didnt seem to have anything he wanted to talk about.
I have to admit that I left the conversation feeling a little exposed. When he didnt articulate why he wanted to talk I decided to open up a little; probably feeling like I owed him some greater depth of honesty than Id previously given.
Its funny to think about my location to intimacy in relationships. I can be frank and honest about my foibles and weaknesses in my writing (and in my intellectual life) but I find it incredibly hard to do the same thing in individual relationships. I think it has to do with my ability to trust love.
Its not that I dont know that people in my life love me, its more that I dont trust that they will love me if they really get to know me. Psychologists who work with adopted adults say that this is a common phenomenon, which makes me feel like a happy statistic. My first impulse is to resist my membership in this cohort, but I think I need to consider whether there might be some truth in it. Its called something like the "primal wound."
Adopted kids tend to fall into two groups: the best little kids in the worlds and the self-destructive rebel. I think I was the best little boy and now Im developing some rebellious characteristics. If not that, I think Im living in the ground between these poles.
Anyway, Im beginning to understand the ways that I dont show myself to people out of fear that they wont accept me if they know who I am. Its the adult equivalent of being the best little boy. Its just that I dont do it very well. When I try to please people Im not being honest about what I want and need and then the little rebel comes out. Its called passive aggressive. Yikes.
So, if I want to have a decent relationship, I think I need to attend to these things or, as Ben says, folks wont feel a "bond."
I need to get through this because its really dragging me down.
So, the waning moon was out to teach me some humility. On Thursday, I accidentally sent a completed survey on body image to about thirty-five of my male friends. On Friday I tripped and twisted my ankle. On Friday evening, I had the face to face with Ben about our break up and on Saturday I woke up with a migraine.
To the first point, sending a completed survey to people, I really shouldnt be that concerned with friends knowing that I am touchy about my receding hair line or that I like my hairy chest. After all, I just broadcast the information. And, in writing a letter to Michael, I wrote this:
"I think the question of identity pervades my work and that I'm using myself as the research subject. I truly am fascinated with the ways that identities form -- the list of labels is endless -- and the way that we both claim and are claimed by them. I think I will be preoccupied by these ideas for a long time.
"Your questions regarding aging, death wishes and the future of queer lives are also really interesting to me. I'm not sure that I have a death wish -- although I viscerally understand the substance and trajectory of your question. I really do fear growing old alone. Having been dumped this week (by the first guy I've dated in a year) I'm especially wondering whether I (and any gay men) are capable of forming those sort of sustaining relationships. But, then I think about some of the really ground breaking community work that men in San Francisco, members of radical faerie groups, et al are doing to try to create models for living, growing old and dying with dignity and I am relieved.
"I have a corollary to your question about aging and death wishes. My thought is that many queer men can't give up being boys, can't move into the new stages of being that age demands. As a theorist, I can make all sorts of pronouncements and formulate all sorts of plans for how gay men might live together, support one another, live inter-generationally, but in the real world of being face to face with my queer friends I haven't the wherewithal to pull it all together. I occasionally have queer men live with me, but I am essentially a single man living in a house by myself. It's a state of isolation that I've cultivated and am becoming singularly dissatisfied with! I think I've a lot to learn, still, about investing in others and understanding what I might need. Straight people (although they've not figured all this out) live in structures that anticipate their decline even if they don't. Queer men have to anticipate for what culture hasn't.
"It's funny, a lot of my queer friends are starting to get older -- in their 50s -- and are having to think about these things in urgent ways. These are people who have done all the right things -- HIV care, social change work, etc -- but also held onto a certain adolescence. Perhaps, it wasn't a death wish that they suffered from, but a fatalism? I remember this from my younger days; a certainty that I would die from AIDS. Now it's switched to a certainty that it'll be cancer. Damned cigarettes.
"I don't think I fear getting older anymore. I used to, I used to think a lot about it -- worrying that I wouldn't find love, be loved because of the decline of my "looks." I've turned a corner in that I've started to see the aging body as erotic and I've started to like my aging body better than I liked (or had the capacity to like) my younger body. I like the receding hairline (although I liked having long hair, too!), I like the beer gut and graying hair. More importantly, I like the way history is written on he bodies of other men, too. I suppose this line of thinking is tied to the shamanistic elements of tattoos and piercing, too!
"I do worry about whether I'm accomplishing enough given the time that I have. I'm plagued with questions about whether I've painted enough, whether my intellectual / work life is rigorous enough. In my more thoughtful moments I know that I've done good work, which I suppose brings me o your second work. Thanks for the feedback about the "done-ness" of my paintings. It's all a process to me and I'm never really fulfilled by a painting. I suppose that I always want to get onto the next idea. I fear sometimes that I'm not working enough on individual pieces, that I'm not rigorous enough in the actual work I am completing. I know that as I work more and my "voice" gets more sure, my hand and eye better aligned that I can say things more quickly and clearly.
"I'm intrigued by your notion that the site creates a kind of dynamic of painter as rock star. Of course, I really like this idea, but I'm also a little apprehensive about it. Not sure that I'd make a very good rock star. Porn star maybe, rock star? LOL."
Now, thats revealing.
9 APRIL, 6:31 AM
New packet and new paintings. Also, new biological father iterations
8 APRIL, 9:27 PM
Dumped. Its not so bad, though. I learned a lot from the relationship.
Im also thinking that Ive retreated from the world a lot over the past few years and this relationship reminded me that I now live a more interior life. I think it started with Bill when the logistics of the relationship required that I scale back my community engagement. Now, I spend more time in my office, my studio than I do in the world. I spend more time thinking than I do talking with people. I need to change the balance. I need to reengage. Thats the new challenge.
In other words, Im back.
1 APRIL, 8:31 AM
Is it that time of the month again?
28 MARCH, 5:50 PM
I have a painting in this show. If youre able, you should come to the opening.
curated by the elusive Prof. Josiah Carberry
opening on Friday, 5 April, 6-8 PM
Sarah Doyle Gallery at Brown University
26 Benevolent Street
25 MARCH, 6:23 PM
It's been a weird few weeks when it comes to my art life. That's probably why I haven't been writing here very much. If you want to read about it, there's a packet that describes the whole sorid deal.
The good news is that I have gotten through the darkest of the days by setting aside the biological father project and re-committing myself to the business of painting.