Give More of Yourself

by Kevin

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I have to be honest, this time of year has always been my least favourite – I’ve always caught myself being curmudgeonly and Scrooge-y at some point, and have traditionally needed to really force myself to be at least participatory. It’s so EASY to armour oneself in anti-corporatism and anti-materialism while so many people submit to some level of excess – but this has inevitably led to a certain detachment. A few years ago I decided that I needed to strike some kind of balance – so while I typically don’t do “Christmas shopping”, I’m quite happy to buy a few good bottles of wine and tasty snacks for whatever holiday gathering is happening. It has to be about your relationship with the people you’re spending the holidays with, not whether they’ll appreciate the bauble you’ve spent money on.

Which makes this Christmas especially heartbreaking, and I really didn’t expect it to be so.

Don’t get me wrong, the household I’m spending Christmas in this year couldn’t BE more Christmassy, and the people I’m spending it with are becoming as close friends as I’ve ever had, which takes some of the sting away and I’m incredibly grateful for that. But the simple fact is that right now I’m not able to enjoy a drink with friends that I’ve known for years, share a laugh with my parents, or watch the toddlers and small children in my family trundle around my parents’ living room with their new toys. But here’s the dirty little secret: I’ve been secretly dreading today and tomorrow not because of these things, which are terrible enough. The detachment I mentioned earlier, and the armouring that leads to it has led to a few Christmases not being spent with the people I just mentioned…in some bizarre petulant “statement” made to…nothing and no one in particular. And perhaps not surprisingly, it isn’t the ocean separating me from the people I really want to be with, but the work I’ve been doing that has brought on the dread, and the crushing realization that I could be so absolutely wrong about certain things.

This has been something I’ve been mulling over for the last few weeks, and considering how to put it into writing without making myself feel like I’d been eviscerated. But last night Ford said something that snapped everything into sharp focus while out for my weekly ramble around Torquay today. I’ve lately been working on making a fuchi/kashira set, and developing my filing technique to make a set of scalloped seppa to go with them. Now, this is not just for the sake of learning how, but with the express intent of developing the skills to do these perfectly every time. These are a series of demanding technical exercises that I’m gradually getting the hang of, and quicker at. But at the same time, they can’t just be technical exercises – as an artist, you need to be able to respond to the materials as they speak to you, and develop a sensitivity to the work in order to let yourself BE the work. So when Ford said to me “you need to give more of yourself”, it really got me thinking about everything that has been running through my mind a little differently.

I am easily running the risk of misinterpreting such a statement. Of course, you can’t “just” give more of yourself to whatever it is you’re doing. It’s really easy to take such a thing literally, and for me it’s going to require a lot of consideration on just how to do that as it pertains to the work. Living the work, devoting yourself to the work – I think this is the beginning of the effort I need to put towards this idea. And when I think of those pieces I’m working on, that intuitive connection is just the thing I need to work towards. Although I can’t help but wonder if that intuitive connection, or indeed ANY heightened experience, is just the thing for everything else. You work on the piece and do the practice exercises in order to get everything perfect, you pour everything you’ve got into the endeavour in order to get a bit further and a bit better than you did last time…how is this NOT something one would pursue in their own lives?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve been incredibly homesick during my time in England, in spite of the thrill at doing the work I am. Being away from my friends has been hard, and the realization that I could have been “more” while we were all in the same place compounds that feeling. But what has really surprised me is the longing to be close to my family, and that I could have been more available to them over the last few years. Sure, we talked and visited and all that – but I’ve allowed myself to become more insulated for one reason or another and that leads to a certain drift. It aches now to think about all the things I want to say, and the connection that, while certainly present, could be a lot more.

Give more of yourself.

Fear is one reason not to. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not measuring up, fear of not being what you thought you’d be. Fear is what keeps us insulated from the world, a protective blanket that ensures we don’t take chances or keep on trying. Fear begets anger, which merely obscures the root causes of fear. The question I’ve mentioned in a previous post – when you strip away the ego and all pretense, what’s left? The work, certainly. Or a relationship for what it truly is. Or an honest assessment. But for me, the thing laid bare is fear – fear that I’m merely pretending at all this, that I’ve never really tried to maintain and preserve the relationships that matter, or that I actually give a shit about anything.

Give more of yourself.

I decided last week to write some letters home to people, to actually sit down and write real letters instead of emails or messages in Facebook messenger. Has anyone reading this actually done that lately? I’m genuinely curious because it was another one of the hardest things I’ve done recently. For one thing, they became strange stream-of-consciousness pieces, instead of a reasonably-structured thing like you’re reading (I’m making an assumption on that point – just run with it, dear reader :P). Coupled with the inevitable crossed-out words and handwriting that gets worse as the letter goes on, I’ll be surprised if the people they’re going to don’t message me with something that starts “so, about your letter…”. But I realize that I need give a damn, to use some my time for a more personal touch on a friendship, or anything for that matter. I’ve always been envious of people where that seems to come easily, and yet have done nothing about it. Give more of yourself.

Anyhow, it’s almost 2AM on Christmas morning here in Torquay. Time for bed to rest up for company tomorrow and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, however you choose to spend it. Thank you for reading this blog and following along with the journey, and with any luck I’ll soon have more actual work to show instead of just musings about it. And to everyone back home, I miss and love you all desperately and am looking forward to the day when I can see you all again.