Contrary to a certain famous Escher drawing, a hand can’t draw the hand that draws it, or at least not without some serious mental and physical entanglement. The self-portrait project I undertook over a year ago continues to explore and defy the accepted reality that one can’t easily simultaneously be both the subject and the creator, in life and in art. Whether things are going badly or well, sometimes simply occupying one’s life takes so much energy and emotion, there’s none left to observe or shape it, and this might not be such a bad thing.
Tangled, such a simple word, the theme prompt next week over at Luminous Traces Collective, and now my top choice for the title of the autobiography I’ll never write, is what anything of sufficient length can become sooner or later, regardless of our best efforts to keep it free, clear and straight. Yarn, hair, feelings, circumstances, lives. If it has a beginning, middle and end, it can get tangled. With itself, with other things, you name it. And once something is tangled, there’s no moving forward, back or sideways until the tangles come loose, by themselves or with help, or are cut loose.
I’ve had a year of feeling tangled. And with it, the sense that all was not lost, and freedom imminent, with just the right amount of subtle maneuvering and patience, as with the many skeins of fiber I have teased out of their seemingly impossible snarls. Resistance is futile in such cases, and in fact often makes matters worse. One must apply gentle pressure, and vigorous faith, and hope for the best. On rare occasions, one must reach for the scissors and literally cut one’s losses.
But so far, much as I have been tempted to cut and run, something has kept me uncharacteristically resigned to being restrained. Instead of struggling against the inner and outer conditions that have been compromising my well-being for so long and in such incredible variety, I stayed put, I made art, I re-drew the scale of my life so that the small space beyond which I was unable to move became a vast landscape within which to expand and roam at will. After a while I didn’t even notice going around in circles like Escher’s hands, or if I did, I didn’t much care.
It’s beginning to look like my time of constraint may be coming to an end. And much as I’ve lamented the losses that have reduced and restrained me, I fear I may miss these hard years that have required all my resourcefulness, resilience and imagination to transcend. Whatever will I do when there are no more ugly knots to untangle, no more suffocating limits to find ways to exist within?
Breathe freely. Live and love beautifully. That’s what.