A feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.
Love was meant to be the emotion I dove into after persistence, but this morning I woke to a call from my pre-pandemic employer asking if I could come help. Their business, a frame shop barely a year old, with hundreds of pieces of art thought to be safely stored in a locked and empty showroom had been sitting in water for days.
I used to work as a disaster relief technician, so I have seen my fair share of flooded homes and businesses. The situation is never good. There’s no timing for this sort of thing. It’s never fair or right when it happens. But for this to happen so close to a state-mandated closure seemed especially cruel. I did what I could to help while calls to landlords and insurance agents were made, while tears fell and frustrations flailed. When better-equipped help arrived, I assured the owners they could count on me for anything else they might need, and I left. As I pulled away, I finally felt overwhelmed.
The past couple of years have been pretty sorrowful for me. I’m open to talking about it and will dive further into it in my live show next week, but for the time being, I’ll just innumerate some highlights. I got my heart broken. I lost my art mentor to Parkinson’s, a terrifying notion for an artist. I got denied two artist residencies. I got denied artist funding, multiple times. I didn’t get into the grad school I wanted to go to. I lost the biggest show I’ve attempted. I lost my art studio. I lost a trip to Japan with my best friend. I lost my job.
It’s an odd endeavor to make yourself think about your past pains and sorrows. As a reminder I journeyed back through ll of my social media posts from 2019- I posted daily to help keep myself accountable for this Small Drawings project- and they brought me to tears… of happiness. I cheered myself up! I cheered myself up because as I went back through them, I was reminded of how I fight my own personal sorrow. I strive to put things out into the world that combat it. If I’m having an especially bad day then you can expect my social media to be especially positive, life-affirming, and encouraging. But, since I always strive to put positive content out into the world, you may not be able to tell what kind of mood I’m in.
As I scrolled back through my posts and the attitude I decided to present to the world, I was reminded of several phrases that thunder through my brain frequently-
-“Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values your values become your destiny.” -Mahatma Gandhi
-“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” – Batman
-“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” – Kurt Vonnegut
-“He always assumes he’s going to win. He always knows there’s a way to survive. He just has to go and find it.” – Doctor Who
That’s right, a healthy combination of optimism from both real and fictitious personalities. I want to assure you I am not above asking for help when I really need it, I’m stubborn, but I’m not quite that stubborn. I just try with all my might to, even slightly, offset the sorrow and pain in the world. I choose to do this by putting out optimism, kindness, and positivity and trying to always make sure people know they are not alone.
As a small example of this, my friend Shamika (a wonderful artist and human being) and I have been live-streaming art-making each Monday since the stay-in-place order. It’s just a little something for us to do and hopefully, it’s a little bit fun and entertaining for anyone who “tunes in.” I took it upon myself to employ an over-abundance of yellow in each piece I make for this. Yellow is happy. More happiness right now. However, the thought of “putting on a brave face” after dealing with a destroyed business hung over me most of the day. I wondered if I should give into my sorrow and not participate, or if I should muster up the will to persist- do you know me well enough by now to guess what I chose? I painted a yellow bear.
And I’m so glad I did! Shamika and I talked about some feelings going on and we created silly things. The audience that participated brought laughter and fun. So, this day that I won’t soon forget, which started with such loss and sorrow will forever be etched in my memory. It will be a day that started terribly, which I decided would not keep me from my commitments or doing good. That decision rewarded me. The thing I hope you can take from this is that life is full of sorrow, but you do not have to let it debilitate you- you do not have to experience it alone. Sharing your pain, asking for help, will almost always lighten the load, if not lift it completely.
Co-Founder Atlantis Collective Gallery