Filing the festering

I have been tearing pages out of last year’s notebooks with the idea that sketches will get sorted with similar sketches. (I find lately I’ll be working on something and think, haven’t I tried that solution already?).

Just trying to implement a new filing system, you could say.

This is what an illustrator means by 'implement a new filing system'.
This is what an illustrator means by ‘implement a new filing system’.

It’s been interesting skimming over last year — the tattered horror of last year — and seeing how much of it failed to really stick into my memory. At most I have mentally bracketed 2014 as: a series of terrible things that happened. I haven’t ventured to look much closer than I briefly did just now. 

The actual play-by-play is not something I will outline here — because everything relative, and what seemed overwhelming to me may not seem overwhelming to you — nor indeed to me, in years to come.

Chiefly I can only say this: what was unbearable to me was how many things happened last year. And how close together. It was an incredibly exhausting experience — and one that I continue to recover from. 

I take great pride in being generally optimistic and happy, and I think — more than I’d realized — I put a lot of importance on it. Dare I say: I identify with it? It’s been humbling to realize how dangerous it is to place your whole identity on something as ephemeral as a feeling. Because after a while just BEING unhappy itself was a weight, a tiny little block atop the pyramid of discontent. I’d never felt this way before, for so long. 

Looking back through the sketchbooks also made me realize how often I was called to put my game face back on — sometimes only hours after what WebMD refers to as a “major life stresser.”

100% fine. Really. No worries here. Honest.
100% fine. Really. No worries here. Honest.

I knew there was a sense of soldiering on, but I hadn’t remembered how extreme it was at times. Flying to visit the in-laws barely 18 hours after the worst of the cat pee nightmare ended, for instance. Necessitating the addition of medication instructions on the pet sitter’s list, asking her to text us pictures of the cat’s pee clumps. (Really). Leaving a number for the vet in case she might have to hurry him to the vet to Make A Difficult Decision. 

This darting between:





invariably led to putting off the much-needed coping work. And maybe that’s what lead me to tearing pages out of this notebook.

Removed from the chronology — the massive tidal wave of emotion — and instead clipped together with similar ideas, they are somehow easier to sort out in my brain. Because they are flavors of things everybody faces, and as such are relatable, manageable, and probably even useful — fodder for future work. 


I’ve been going back and forth on whether to even mention this stuff here — I’ve been nervous about holding forth with the same abandon as I have on previous blogs, partly because of how crisp and clean this layout is. (It’s just so…FORMAL looking. It really doesn’t seem conducive to the messy ramblings I would do before. I’ll have to tinker with it.)

My agenda with blogging is a little different now than it has been. Primarily I enjoy chronicling interesting things I see in my day-to-day life, and — cultural appetites notwithstanding (I read the other day that blogs are “antiquated”. Well, so are books and my wristwatch, so I can’t let that trouble me,) — I’d like to get back to doing that.

Before, I would also occasionally lament about behind-the-scenes career things, but I don’t think:

a.) that it’s all that productive to complain generally,

b.) that it’s all that professional to complain about your momentum anxieties in the very same place you are trying to look your best to prospective clients (somehow that was easier on blogspot, even that separation of a single click felt safer,)

c.) that anybody really cares or benefits from those lamentations except me, and then only in a looking-back kind of way — as a way of confirming that worry isn’t all that useful and distance really does heal many wounds. 

It is for this reason I still do write about the blooming and unfurling tendrils of my career, but in a personal log on my computer. That’s really where that stuff belongs: with me.

I still enjoy blogging though, and am of that weird generation that had the option to grow up writing in the semi-public even as the venues for such writing (and the appetite for consuming it) were emerging, evolving, changing. I miss it when I’m not doing it, and feel there’s still a place for long-form introspection and noodling around. 

The removal of a particular form of self-scrutiny (which, let’s be real: won’t be absent, but will hopefully be less excruciating) meant that for a while I wasn’t altogether sure what to write ABOUT — particularly since I decided to do this last year, a difficult time to resist devolving into whining. (What is it about stumbling blocks that makes people compelled to over share? I suppose it’s just the social creatures we are.) (But given that, shouldn’t I be socializing with humans, rather than a blank screen? I have no answers.) 

Regardless. I felt like it warranted explanation, because I see it informing a change in my work and my approach to working. (Tearing sketches out of sketchbooks, for instance.) This categorizing things thematically — allowing the sketches inspired by what happens to me personally exist as things outside the personal narrative — allows me to side step the narrative entirely, and let them become useful things rather than something strictly autobiographical. For me, it means they hold much more weight. The applicability to others’ lives is higher. (Hopefully.)

And if nothing else, it gets me out of my own frett-y head and gives me something a bit more concrete to work on.