Responsibility Seesaw

Responsibility Seesaw

A seesaw appears to be a binary. Either you’re up or down. Emotionally it’s easiest to imagine this as you’re happy or you’re unhappy. Stressed or not stressed. I am often stressed by responsibility so naturally I dream of relief. How wonderful it would be to roll the backpack of anxiety off my weary shoulders and shove it deep into the closet, not to be hoisted again until next season. I wish for this so often. I am delusionally imaging a world of equilibrium. I think if I am not stressed about too much to do, I will be in a stasis of happiness.

No. Stasis does not exist, it is merely the briefest moment of passing through the fulcrum from one state of anxiety to the next.

I noticed this last night. I was taking stock and feeling pretty darn good about my week’s accomplishments. I had managed to do so much! And the future was looking a little less hectic. It’s as if I had been stuck in the up position of the seesaw for a month by an elephant of labor who either refused to pump his thick legs up and down or who was just too large for it to be effective. But miraculously, he had shrunk in size and I was slowly floating down. Happiness is just on the other side! Here I come!

I felt total bliss as the board evened out, me and the now skinny elephant smiling across from each other, perfectly aligned, our eyes meeting in joyous anticipation.

How brief was that joy, how fleeting that sense of ease. The skinny elephant suddenly transformed into an emaciated rodent who flew up in the air as my terrified butt whacked the ground. Thrown from the game he scurried away, leaving me unable to go up again. What if I don’t get any more work? What if all the jobs dry up? What if I have nothing to do? All the anxiety was back, just a mirror image.

Too much or too little. Those are always the main course. The hoped-for sense of ease is a momentary movement in between.

I am glad I could see it so clearly. And the metaphor helps. Possibly the thing to do is get off the damn seesaw.


Illustrations by my brilliant husband, Andy Norman.

Stop Telling Him Anything And Just Get To It

Stop Telling Him Anything And Just Get To It

Having ideas for me is easy. Ideas are just thoughts and who know where they come from, but they are impossible to stop. Turning an idea into an actual thing, executing it, manifesting it, that’s very hard. Nothing just comes, everything has to be implemented.

I have a voice in my head that plays devil’s advocate on any idea we are interested in pursuing. This analytical character loves to quickly game out our idea and get right to pointing out potential problems. While we struggle to maintain enthusiasm and even memory for the initial idea, they rapidly innumerate the pitfalls and problems we are likely to experience. Knowing us as well as we know ourselves, they are particularly adept at seeing where our weaknesses are going to come into play and reminding us how ideas didn’t work out in the past due to poor follow through and systemic indecision. There is only one way around this fellow, stop telling him anything and just get to it.

Take any part of the idea and implement something. If you want a blog, create a site on WordPress. If you want to draw, get some paper. Or even better, just draw something. On anything and hang it up where you will see it multiple times a day. Or maybe it’s a much bigger idea like turn Sidewalk Faces into a book, sell prints online, have a show. What do you do then?

The first idea, the initiating big idea, is not really a thing at all, it’s just a trail marker at the beginning of the hike. It signifies that you are at the beginning and should go forward. The good ideas come after you have taken the first action. They are more useful than the ideas the critic was responding to because those ideas were theoretical. The ideas that follow an action are much easier to implement because they are connected to something tangible. If you signed up with WordPress for a blog and then wrote a post it wouldn’t be too difficult to have an idea about a second post. And way less difficult to write it because all you would have to do is log in and go. The trick is to do the idea that has a motor behind it, the one you most truly want to do, not the one you think you should do. Not the one the critic says will add up to something.

I started this blog six years ago, before I had made my first Sidewalk Face. I didn’t know what it was for. I just wanted to write more. I wanted to see what I would write if I gave myself a place to do it. I am almost at one hundred posts! I now know what I like to write about and if I am able to conceptualize a book, I have some written content to play with. As for selling my work, I am so close. Stay tuned! Just don’t tell my inner critic what we are up to!