Opposing Forces and Dueling Brain Cells

boyfriend

Caroline Winegeart’s newsletter/blog post this week is all about balance between opposing forces, between working on one’s business – growing it, marketing it, making logical decisions born of calculations like ROI and profit margins – and following one’s heart, passion, and creative drive down rabbit holes of inspiration that may not lead anywhere or may not lead anywhere profitable.

Don’t I know all about those rabbit holes of profitless inspiration!

Candle company, fine art photography (oh, the cameras and film, and prints, and mats, and cards, and the old darkroom gear still in the utility room and…), a drawer full of beads, a stack of paintings taking over shelf after shelf, novel with good reviews but slow sales… Oh yeah, let me freshen up my lipstick so you can crown me the queen of creative money-sucks.

With a very small literary collective as my publisher (only one title so far), I’ve spent the past few months wearing a lot of hats trying to promote All the Bridges Burning without chasing people with spammy ads constantly and while also trying to keep up with writing new words, make visual art to relieve the creative pressure that builds up in my head when I just stick to words, and you know,… life.

All the Bridges Burning_cover

When I’m feeling manic or even, well, even, lots of hats isn’t a problem. I tend to need more than a few in order to maintain momentum and interest. Sadly, I’m never going to be an expert at anything because new stuff is just too darn interesting. (I am jonesing to jump into metal clay and play with that because as we can see from the list above, my amount of random craft supplies is short expensive clay.)

When I’m depressed or anxious, one hat feels like too many. Trying to switch between tasks feels like pushing a boulder uphill. And I gotta be honest: this election has me depressed and anxious. The level of hate and animosity and outright cruelty makes my skin crawl, but also keeps making my fists clench involuntarily.

 

Years ago, a woman in one of those touchy-feeling woo-woo groups full of women looking to be better people told me, “you have a very strong sense of justice.” Probably explains why I always get drawn back to crime fiction, but also it makes me want to run around sticking up for all the underdogs who’ve been insulted or diminished in this election. At the same time, the doublestandards, the lies, the demonization? It’s demoralizing. It’s exhausting.

It’s hard to tell yourself all that woo-woo women can be anything, girlpower, and all that when half the country’s willing to believe just about anything to keep from trusting a woman who’s been no less distrustful or corrupt than any of the men in recent history – and in many cases is far more trustworthy and less corrupt. The “trump that bitch” shirts and the effigies in cages and the shockingly large (even for Florida) amount of people who believe she’s a literal demon.

Which, I find myself comparing to how people always took Janet Reno during her days in power. Her death today has led to several retrospectives and summaries online today, and I remember all those. I remember the hate directed toward Reno that was part her actions and part her audacity in taking action at all without asking permission. I also remember the people who derided her appearance as though one needed to be a supermodel to be Attorney General.

Have we really made zero progress in my lifetime?

Is it any wonder I’ve spent the past twenty years waffling between hard and soft, between wearing neckties with button down shirts and flowered dresses, that I’ve wasted so many years fighting with my inner artist because of preconceived notions about income and seriousness? Is it any wonder why not a day goes by without having to convince myself I know things, I’m good at stuff. Imposter Syndrome didn’t come out of nowhere. It’s fed by all those tiny moments when we’re undermined for little things – or dragged out of our thoughts by requests to smile or told we need to wear heels or that we don’t seem friendly enough or that we talk too much as we’re interrupted, – those moments we brush off and ignore and sweep under our mental rug until the damn thing’s got a lump in it the size of a Doberman and we start to think if this many people are saying we’re awful at stuff, we just might be.

Day of the Dead last week, I’d packed myself a pretty flowered dress to wear after I left work since I wouldn’t have time to do anything elaborate like face painting or costumery. I’d packed some espadrilles to wear with it because the cream-colored sandal top went well with the dress and it was still warm enough to wear them. Except, I could not get myself to feel comfortable in the dress. I was too on edge, too angry, to feel “pretty.” I wanted to wear jeans and combat boots and an tank top or a trimmed-down punk tee shirt. I wanted to project “tough,” not “pretty,” because our culture has taught me over and over that it can’t reconcile the two coexisting and I didn’t feel like being tested. I got to the end of the block before I went back to my Jeep and switched to my old cowboy boots and slung my beat-up messenger bag back over my shoulder. That, felt like me.

The culture may not be able to reconcile pretty and tough, but I’m getting over trying to fight the opposing forces. Luckily, the 90s seem to be back and there’s new Green Day, Garbage, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds,… I’ll be over here in the tutu, flannel shirt, and combat boots.

Now, if I could just get the opposing forces in my head on the same page.