I’ve got a friend who likes to tell me that I’m a fighter. He means it as a compliment and I take it as one. I am a fighter. Shit, I’ll fight you right now. Bring your ass on over. I ain’t scared!
As much as it is one of the things about myself that I am most proud of, its also one of my greatest downfalls. Even if there is nothing to fight, I am always on guard with my dukes up, ready to rumble. I am always on the defense. I am always waiting for the rug to get pulled out from underneath me or the other shoe to drop. I am always expecting something to happen where I need to start swinging and I’m ready for it.
As much as I take it as a compliment, in all honesty, I am tired of fighting. The constant expectation of a fight is wearing me down and I don’t like how it makes me feel anymore.
The last few weeks I have been teaching a friend how to throw pottery on a potter’s wheel. It took me about two and half years to feel comfortable throwing pottery and I still suck at it. It’s a true skill and I have mad respect for people who do it well because it is one of the most challenging art forms I have ever undertaken. It breaks all the laws of gravity and physics. There are all kinds of elements you have to be aware of. The clay has to have the right moisture content, your hands have to be wet, but you have to keep the clay dry at the same time, the speed of the wheel is crucial but the most important element to throwing pots is that you can’t fight the clay. It will go against every instinct you have, but you cannot fight the clay.
That is the whole key to it. If you fight it, you will loose the pot every time. You have to become stable. You don’t move the clay, you stay centered and the clay will move around you. It’s all about stability. The moment that you try to force it or push it, it will collapse. It’s like skidding in an ice storm. Your instinct is to hit the brakes and swerve out of, it but that just makes it worse. The second that pot starts to wobble or move, your instinct is to grab it and push it back in place, but you can’t. If you do, it will come completely undone and can’t be recovered. You have to get grounded and hold still and know that the clay will eventually find its way back to the center if you just stay stable.
One of my favorite parts about pottery is that as stubborn as the clay is, it is also completely forgiving. No matter how badly you fuck it up, if you set it off to the side and give it some air and some time and then put a little elbow grease into it, you can wedge it back up, put it back on the wheel and start over like it never fell apart to begin with.
Today I went to the studio and threw some cups that I need to finish and while I was standing there, holding still and feeling totally stable, I realized that I need to start treating my life like its the clay. I need to stop fighting all the time. I need to find some stability if I’m ever really going to feel safe enough to put down my tiny fists of fury.
I had coffee with a client and friend recently and we chatted a little about this blog. He wanted to know what my inspiration was for it and why I started it in the first place. He wondered if it was all about just my physical transformation or if I was trying to say something else. I told him it all started with the idea of perception. Of course that covered my physical self but really I was trying to figure out how other people see me and more importantly, how I see myself.
We talked about how he perceived himself and how he was fully aware that his perception of himself was not at all what the mirror revealed. We talked about how ironic that was. We see ourselves in a mirror everyday. We brush our teeth and wash our hands or put on make up, shave, and do something with our hair everyday, sometimes several times a day. We think we see ourselves, but you have never really seen yourself through a mirror. The only thing you see in a mirror is a reversed image of yourself. What you see is actually the exact opposite of what the world sees. That part on the right side of your hair is on the left for everyone else.
Strange concept if you really think about it. We have an idea of who we are and we present a certain person to the world based on that, but what people see when we walk out that door is entirely up to them.
I can’t help but find it poetic that the only time you really get to see yourself is in a photograph. The wonderful thing and the tragic thing about photographs is that how you look in any given picture is completely out of your control. It is entirely up to the person hitting the shutter as to how you will convey when that shot happens. What camera or lens did they use? How was it lit? Is it sharp or out of focus? Was it captured from your best angle? What else and with whom do you share the frame with?
All of those things are entirely up to someone else. You can primp all day long and you can work on creating an image to present to the world, but when it comes down to brass tacks, we have no control over how other people perceive us. All we can do is surround ourselves with people who take all of that into consideration and hopefully want to show us in our best light.
I’ve had a rough few weeks emotionally. There are some stress factors in my life right now that have been bleeding me dry a little bit and when my nerves are on high alert, I definitely go into fight mode. I’ve picked fights where there weren’t any and at the very least I have certainly created conflict where none existed.
That’s’ the trouble with being a fighter; when you feel like you are backed into a corner you just start swinging. You don’t pay much attention to who or what you are swinging at, you just know that it is easiest to win if you throw the first punch. You’ve got to knock them down before they have the chance to sucker punch you first. Destroy it before it can destroy you. ~ I don’t want to be that kind of fighter anymore. No matter who goes down first, you are still going to walk away with scars.
When I think of my life as an artist, it’s like seeing my reflection. My art embodies the opposite of that side me. The only thing I want to create with my photography or my pottery is something beautiful, delicate, and fragile and sometimes, funny just for the hell of it. I am an artist and at my core, the art that I create is who I am. That art isn’t angry or afraid or ugly.
I don’t want to just be a photographer who puts her clients in their best light and focuses on their best attributes; I want to be that person too. I want to be that friend. And I want to surround myself with the same kind of people. I want people around me who can make me shine as well.
I haven’t learned much on this spinning marble, but I have learned that life really is a lot like clay. It is forgiving. When you fuck up and wreck something, even if it is yourself, you get to try again. You may have to give it some time and some air and then you might have work it a little, you might even have to really put some muscle into it if you’ve really fucked it up, but every day is a chance to wedge it back up and start over.
I’m proud of my life as a fighter. I will never be ashamed of the battles I have taken on and won. Ask me to show you my scars and I will. I’m not ashamed of them. But my perception of myself is starting to change. I’m starting to see a more beautiful, delicate, fragile and sometimes just plain funny version of myself taking shape and I like her a whole lot more than that scared, frightened little girl with her back against the wall and the gloves on.
Shit like that doesn’t happen overnight. It sure as fuck isn’t going to happen for me overnight. I can promise you, it will be a while before I feel safe enough to really put the gloves away. It’s like being back on dry land when you’ve been in a boat for a few hours. It takes a minute to really feel stable, but I need to start getting comfortable in my center. I need to stop going into full panic mode as soon as anything changes or gets uncomfortable. I need to find a way to trust in my own stability so that life can start to move around me rather than me constantly fighting it and then wondering why it fell apart to begin with.
At the end of the day, I just want to take beautiful pictures and make pretty cups. And at the end of this blog, I want to stop perceiving myself as a fighter and start seeing myself for the person I am right now. I have enough scars to prove that I am not weak and I know that I will always fight if I have to, but I’m going to try to lay down the gloves for a minute and just be fragile; at least for a moment. I can’t control how anyone else perceives me, but I can change how I perceive myself, and that is the only place I know to start.