Monday, November 17, 2008

A Declaration Of Independence

For the past few months, a lot of things haven't gone well for me. Carefully brokered business deals went bad. Clients affected by the economic downturn pulled out of long-promised commissions. Transport companies damaged works consigned for safe delivery, causing significant delays. A handful of people close to me – people on whom I thought I could rely in the toughest of clinches – let me down. My family refused to help.
Everyone goes through bad times. How one deals with them is the knife-edged difference between make or break.
I didn't break. Instead, I learned to fight my corner, to persist in finding a way, even when things looked impossibly bleak. I also learned to deal better with relentless pressure and stress – sometimes it's just better to ignore it.
On the worst of the worst days, I sat down and sorted through every option. The only one that would surely destroy everything I'd worked for was to lose hope, to give up. As a good friend of mine tried to explain to me, a few years ago, giving up is the one option that makes a good outcome irretrievable. It took a real-life, do-or-die whiff of total defeat for me to understand what he was talking about. It made me determined to fight back.
I'm through the worst now and I've had some time to think about what I went through. I realise just how hard I'm prepared to fight to keep making a living from my art. During the good, comfortable and easy times, it's impossible to know. People always make big boasts about what they would – or wouldn't – do if push comes to shove. Now I know for sure that I haven't, after all, become soft or weak because of a few years of material success. I'm still willing to sacrifice whatever's necessary in order to work as an artist on my own terms.
The bad times aren't over for me yet. They're not over for a lot of us. At least I can see the end of them. I feel stronger. I'm also better prepared for whatever bad luck or trouble comes my way in the future. I'm braver and more capable than I'd thought. Ironically, I think I've even acquired a taste for the fight.
One thing's for sure: I won't ever again make the mistake of thinking so-called friends – or my family – have my back.


Anonymous said...

Our house/studio burned down (by someone else) and we thought our family/friends would help us at what was a very overwhelming time. Nothing really major, perhaps a floor to crash on for a week at the most and some help with the basics of life.

Nope. It was very educational. And angering. Everyone was so into themselves and worried that we'd permanently move in or something (artists don't work you see. Good enough to be seen with but not deserving of help).

They did try to give us garbage. Literal garbage, worn out clothes and broken/out of date junk as "charity." They wanted to give us worthless stuff, instead of a few hours of time. Maybe because "stuff" was all their lives contained? Or valued?

Perhaps it's a sign of our society. The small-minded greed has taken over and "helping" people is now a bad thing. Certainly, too much to ask of anyone.

I am happy things are going better for you. It is a shame you had to be let down though. That kind of betrayal can really be tough.

Lauren Odell Usher said...

I do believe that someone's true character and priorities come out during times of strife.

Anthony said...

In the US army, there's these things called AAR, or 'after action reports.' They are sort of a chronicle of what happened, who did what, what went down, when everybody got to go home, etc. They are supposed to provide accountability for the mission, but a part of me thinks that they are really there to make the jugheads actually think about what happened in the off chance that they learn something.

I'm not in the army myself, but if I were I think I'd give an AAR after every piss, shit, and rifle cleaning... sometimes I beg the world for the chance to learn something.

From the post, it looks like you have... so as far as your AAR goes... good on you.

Just be glad you live a life that lends itself to AARs where you learn something.

Anonymous said...

There is no doubt in my mind,
you are a tough one!

artcanyell said...

Hazel, perhaps your family and friends failed to understand your situation properly. Your problem may have felt too hard to deal with and people sometimes in self defence go into denial. We don't know the details and can only speculate. Its great that you are strong enough to cope and work it out and maybe even divine enough to forgive those that failed you.

Jennie said...

it's sometimes great to know that we are tougher than we thought. it's a ray of light in the darkness but sometimes you do have to wonder why me? the struggles do define us and often help our work as artists - but why did there have to be so many? for what it's worth I think a lot of people here, myself included, have your back. well done for facing this and fighting it and continuing to be you, good luck with pushing through it all :)

d.edlen said...

What's Pausch's comment about trials and tribulations? Something about wall being there to keep the people out who don't want it enough.


Sheree Rensel said...

It isn't only how you react to bad times; it also has to do with the magnitude of the BAD. You know, I do understand your distress. Things you mention are not good. However, you have to put things in perspective. Try to be an single parent, artist with a baby who is ill and you have no money to pay for a doctor. Try standing in line at a metro free clinic and scream "Yes, I know I have a M.F.A., but I don't have health insurance!!" Try to eat government cheese. Try living hand to mouth for a few years with NO FAMILY or friend support.

Just try it. Then get back to me about your declaration. All things can be weighed against each other. Sometimes bad isn't really all that bad because we haven't felt what AWFUL feels like yet.
I know what it feels like. This is why I count my blessings everyday of my art life.

Anonymous said...

As much as one has to be sympathetic to Sheree, one can't help feeling that she is falling victim to the same sense of insulated struggle that she is accusing Dooney of: in other words, there's ALWAYS someone whose situation is worse than yours (imagine a single mother begging for food and aid for her sick dying child under a threatening gun in Darfur!). One presumes that being a mother was a choice Sheree made even if the situations that has created for her were not of her choosing. As the saying goes, make no judgments of another until you've walked a hundred miles in their shoes.