Sharks Under the Floorboards

A Big Life: Encouragement for People in the Arts – March 16 2020

At Newport Aquarium, Oregon

Two dogs knocked me down by the side of the road and started eating my back.

“Surely someone will stop to rescue me,” I thought  as a car went right past me without stopping. I realized I needed to get up or die so I threw off the dogs  and stood up, victorious.

Okay, that didn’t really happen to me.  It is something that I dreamed.  But the symbolism is obvious, isn’t it?

Fend for yourself. Don’t count on anyone. Rescue yourself.

Or is that the message? Maybe the people in the car didn’t see me lying on the road.  But what if they did? Some people are just jerks.

On set candid acting at Hug Point for the film “The Beloved”

Living with the uneasiness of life and having a fistful of friends, relatives and professional connections who might love you and then leave you is hard. It’s a balancing act to trust that there will always be someone there who has your back and doesn’t just want to eat it.

My whole life has been filled with dreams like that. Sharks under my house bumping up against the floorboards and threatening to break through. Dinosaurs wrecking havoc on the lower floor of my hotel. The same potential threats and rewards are all around us all the time in waking life. Sometimes I feel safe and sometimes I do not. Yet whether I feel safe or do not feel safe has little bearing on whether or not I really am.  So what’s the answer?

I am not sure I have one.

There are lots of spiritual and psychological practices that help. There are also practical ones to know, like the number of the fraud line at the Department of Justice and even better, the swift action the Attorney General will take if you just pick up the phone. (If you didn’t know that, write that down. I learned it late in life.)

A performance of my original play “Suicide in the Garden” at Fertile Ground 2020

I am still learning to trust the friends I have, to be compassionate with them and yet be willing to stand up to them if things go wrong between us. I used to think, “If there’s a problem, I caused it.” Those days are gone.

The truth is that everyone has a perspective. In the painful year or so since my mother died–something which has been so much harder than I ever thought possible–I have continued to learn and relearn many things. The biggest one continues to be, “What would it mean if the problem wasn’t me?”

My signature rainboots.

As to what this has to do with being an artist, I don’t know. Except that artists need to have perspective. Both in visual art and when creating characters.

And I have to remind myself of my own.

Note: Thanks, friends for bearing with the long wait for a blog post. It doesn’t mean lots of lovely artsy professional things haven’t been happening. It’s just been a difficult time.

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