the loss of solitude
my oh my we are coming upon a year of actively dealing with a global pandemic. one that millions of people - at least here in the US - still seem convinced isn't real and in this defiance won't wear masks, or do the things we need to do to stop this in its tracks. [i do firmly believe that 4-6 weeks of us all wearing N95s - if we could get them - and social distancing as we vaccinate would actually get us over the hump. it's so simple and yet so absolutely unattainable]. instead this purgatory seems to drag on in perpetuity while we wait in line for vaccines that may or may not work as well against the new variants which may or may not cause more illness and death.
in the land of silly trivia related to this - my hair is longer than it's been in 30 years. double masking is the new black, i've started a digital drawing #alphabetflowerproject, and i've managed to figure out how to teach two new classes virtually. there still is no good answer to the oft asked question - HOW DO YOU TEACH ART ONLINE? it just is what it is. zoom fatigue continues to be real and continues to become a sadder and sadder state of being.
the other day i facetimed with a friend who continually inspires me with her ability to find good in places where it seems none exists. and who also doesn't deny the absurdness or pain of our situation and who has in this last year especially been confronting her own privilege in a way i admire. she asked if i was making anything.... i paused.... pregnantly...
it would be a lie to say i'm not doing anything creatively. i am. i wrote a book [due out later this year i think]. i'm working on another color meditation project as a follow up to A Field Guide to Color. i finished [but still need to send off] the quilt for #thechromachronicles. i started a granny square blanket. i'm working on a 30 day sashiko class for creative bug. i completed a knot commission. i'm beginning to work on another soon. i designed a poster for the WPA !! (yes it still exists. yes. it is paying artists for their work. yes. yes.yes.)
NO. i have not made any work. at least it feels to me not really. a project i started is stalled. i still want to do it - which is good. it still feels relevant - well hallelujah. but i can not really work on it. and why is this you ask [and i ask myself]? because i don't have the most underrated, underappreciated, underwhelming commodity. solitude.
there have been countless articles and thoughts about how the pandemic is affecting women. and it does indeed seem trivial to talk about wanting and needing alone time when people are being forced to work in unsafe situations. when people are literally getting sick and dying. when people can't make their rent.
but here i am. i have always been an extroverted introvert. i love my time with my family and with my friends, but i also crave alone time. and not just an hour stolen here or there. chunks of it. these chunks allow me to get my art done. to do the research. to stumble, fail, climb the hill of perpetuity that eventually leads to something to share with other humans. i have come to guard my studio time like the precious commodity it is. i always knew i needed it. i always knew it was how i got things done. and yet there is nothing like the absolute loss of it to have it hit home how much i have been so lucky to have it.
the last time i mourned it was after the birth of my daughter. and i pretty quickly found a way to get at least 4 hours a week of it back. and then as she grew preschool and school bought me more and more of it. but this last year complete solitude for a considerable amount of time has been unattainable. yes, while my daughter is in her classes i have some time to work. to do the enormous amount of work necessary to keep my own classes afloat (it is so much more work to teach this way. please be kind and grateful to the teachers of your children). to write and edit and fulfill the obligations i have committed to. but it isn't really alone time. my kid, while incredibly independent and autonomous still has needs. she's kicked out of zoom. she looses something, she would like someone else to make her a snack - all reasonable things that i want to help her with. but those small interruptions prevent me from really working.
oh yes. i can compartmentalize with the best of them, but i work best when i know i am ALONE. no one else home. no possibility of someone interrupting me. my phone on do not disturb. out in my studio (in which my kiddo sits doing her school as i type this) by myself. it may seem strange to some people. why can't you work when you are basically left alone?? dear reader it is the potential of interruption that is so profoundly altering. because if i am in my work. really IN IT and someone rushes in to ask me a question, or even to do something kind like bring me a treat, i loose that moment. that indescribable moment where everything aligns and some kind of alchemy occurs and things get made. if it's a new or challenging project that moment can't be paused. i can't get it back. maybe it's like being in the zone with sports. i don't really know because i don't play sports but i think this analogy works. where you watch someone who is just unstoppable and scores at will and then as suddenly as it came on - it goes - and they are no longer a magical creature. the mere threat of interruption holds me back. i can't get into the mental space i need to. i can do what i already know how to do. or i can do busy work - the repetitive stuff that is so often a huge part of what i make, but anything that requires that little bit of magic. nope.
and so. i adapt. i do what i can. i mourn the loss of solitude along with the loss of so many other things big and small. important and not that this bizarre historical moment we are living through presents us with. and i share this in case you too are mourning the loss of solitude.