Art, Transmute, Possibility

I have often thought–and remarked–that the creative process is one of transmuting. An original alchemy, absorbing the pain (or joy) of being alive and transforming it into a piece that not only mitigates the burden of experience but also invites others inside as well.

You are what you consume, what you transform, in creative terms as well as physical or emotional. Which is a maxim of greater or lesser degree–one’s body turns everything to energy, heat, and shit no matter the nutritive “value” of what’s consumed, and one’s emotions have deep internal as well as external wellsprings.

…I’m even qualifying my metaphors today. Let me try again.

I have to confess I have often prided myself on the amount of punishment I can take and turn into art. But even my ability to transmute pain is being severely taxed right now. The constant retraumatization is fucking awful–and I’m in a relatively privileged position so far. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those who don’t share my immunity, and the added load of guilt for being relatively safe while others suffer is crushing.

I have no great shining theme or call to hope today. All I’m after is the ability to get through until I can retreat to bed and escape the burden of consciousness for a few hours, probably assisted by some antihistamines since alcohol gives me hives anymore.

The next stage after hives is anaphylactic shock, but even that isn’t proving the deterrent it could be.

I thought once I’d finished with the recent mini-breakdown it would be easier to get back to work; I thought it was a gauntlet I had to run through and I could skid past the finish line, bloody and battered but still whole. But the hits just keep coming, and even retracting into my shell doesn’t work the way it used to.

One of the few things stopping me from plunging over the railing into the abyss is the fact that I have three paying projects unfinished. People are depending on me, so I have to buckle down and at least turn them in. Then there are the kids, and the dogs. All these considerations are getting thinner and thinner as I stare at the catastrophe unfolding, and that worries me.

It worries me a lot.

Like I said, I have no ringing call to hope today. All I have is brute endurance, which I happen to be kind of good at but which does have its limits. This morass was completely avoidable, but nobody cared enough to listen to the people shouting caution while the ship headed for the rocks.

Be gentle with yourselves today, dear Reader. We might get through this. I don’t see how, but I admit the possibility–which is another function of art. To be able to admit possibilities one doesn’t believe in is a form of alchemy all its own. It’s not quite a superpower, but every time I sit down to write, it lingers behind every word.

The possibility is slim, fragile, and ghostly, but it will have to be enough.

4 thoughts on “Art, Transmute, Possibility”

  1. I live in Madison WI and I am so overtaxed trying to maintain my equilibrium and domestic harmony amidst *waves hand* all this, that I want to quit life and move into a cave. this is not helped by my being on federal jury duty for the past year and hearing/seeing parts of what’s going on that the general public has no idea of.

    I think of one of my dear friends who has been working from home since March, who is afraid to go out at all because he is a 6 foot tall black man. he is experiencing rolling breakdowns, and I don’t know what to do but say “I care” and “let’s go for a walk” because I can be a middle-aged-white-lady shield (but I also don’t know how long that’s going to work either because Kenosha.)

    I can’t do or say anything in the moment that will make it safer for him, and it upsets and infuriates me, since I should be able to use my privilege to do *something*. spouse suggests I stop consuming news via any route but my desire to remain informed is at war with my need to avoid, as you said, retraumatizing myself.

    I want to do something constructive, but I’m at a loss as to what that is anymore.

    that was a lot of words to say “I feel you.” thank you for sharing your stuff so that I know my stuff isn’t an anomaly. *hugs if you want them*

    • Thank you in return; I needed to hear that I wasn’t just shouting into the void. I want to do something constructive too, but I can’t tell what is. it’s just one hit after another these days.

      You’re not alone. I feel you, too. *hugs accepted and returned with vigor*

  2. Neither of you are shouting into the void. Everyone I know is affected by the madness. EVERYONE. I had a long talk four years ago with my husband about reactivating my law license. He said killing myself with stress (which is what nearly happened in 2006) wouldn’t help anyone, but writing stories where the good guys win would help more people in the long run.

    Any and all positivity we put out in the world helps.

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