Fear of Exposing Oneself

Shifting towards summer now. Three weeks of classroom teaching left, a week of meetings – then a wedding to kick off seven weeks of vacation.

I haven’t worked on the wasp project for two weeks now. It is in my head, but I have not put in the work. Today I will pick up some parchment for the flexagon poems, though. Tomorrow, I will make the paper for the corsets and hives.

Last week on Instagram I saw something freakishly similar to what I am working on. It was well-executed, too. It has taken me a while to remind myself that there is nothing new under the sun and that the existence of something similar out there doesn’t discount the authenticity of what I am doing. I might keep my head down a while. I have a feeling if I go looking for it, I will find more similar work. And really, that is a good thing, right? It means there is something – if not universal – then relatable. Something that is a successful expression of human experience. So what?

Too often I am my own gatekeeper. That little voice. That bird with the sharp beak that keeps wounds open and blood flowing out of habit.

Not working is not humility. This assumption, belief, and self-deception that eventually I will turn out something stunningly, unequivocally unique is a kind of arrogance.

When I read Bastard out of Carolina, I wondered if I had ever met Dorothy Allison. If I’d drunkenly told her my stories. I felt seen/exposed/plundered/included all at once. I was grateful/angry.

We think the minutia of our lives is so singular. While simultaneously praising the “universal” that reveals truths. There is a tension in the arts that has to do with this contradiction.

I am not going to try to speak for a universal – or for anyone else. But I will say this tension is the tension of being a woman viewing a painting of a nude. Artemisia’s “Susanna and the Elders”, for example. Because there is also the tension of knowing the story of the artist who created that painting. Who dared to expose herself through the same motif that nearly every painter of the era was using.

Not arrogance. Not humility. But overcoming the fear of exposing oneself and trusting the power of the truth of a singular perspective.

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