Sometimes the Best Laid Plans…
Life has a way of throwing curve balls sometimes. At least, that’s how it feels when they happen, then on closer examination you realize that the plot twist was actually set up at the very beginning of the story.
I started writing this on a train to London. It’s 5PM on a Thursday and I’m surrounded by luggage and commuters, all of us absorbed in those things we do to pass the time on trains. I’m writing this to make sense of what’s been happening for the last few months, and why it has all resulted in the way it has.
To start things simply, I’ve cut the apprenticeship short and am flying back to Canada – I have to do this because my aging father is quite ill (which has been the case for some time now), and I feel an overpowering need to be closer to both him and my mother. My preoccupation with this has been largely detrimental to my focus in the studio, and has led to much consideration about my performance and progression. Some of the difficulties I’ve mentioned in previous posts have been directly because of this, and I’ve kind of had my head in the sand about it until last weekend – when clarity came after many conversations with family and friends. As you can imagine, there are conflicting forces at work here – uprooting my life in Toronto and moving to a new country to do something completely different, trying to maintain an open mind while learning new ways to work, think and feel – and trying to balance that with maintaining family relationships when they really needed work when I actually lived in Canada.
Let that last one sink in for a moment. Because when I did, it hurt like hell.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a good relationship with my parents, even though there were some long periods between phone calls and visits. But there’s been a barrier between my sister and I since we were young, and she has a whole wad of challenges in her own life that I’ve never really connected with. My extended family – well, let’s just say that I see them every now and then, but I’m not as close to them as some other families I’ve seen. But my parents made sure that I saw as much of my family as I could before I left, much like I ensured that I saw as many of my closest friends and colleagues as I could. And it left an impression, one that suggested that I was falling short in how I maintain those family ties. Laziness? Being busy with other things? More important things? Things that had a skewed sense of value? All of the above, and yet something more – and the seeds of doubt were sown.
But never mind! The adventure was upon me, and I was off to New Hampshire and England to start the next chapter of my life! But the nagging doubts had already started – my parents are in their 70s, and I was suddenly aware of how I was leaving things “back home” in a less than ideal state. I could go on and mope about this, but suffice it to say the homesickness that arose from what I left behind was an unexpected bit of extra baggage that was brought to England. And it made some aspects of what little training I did a lot sharper than expected.
Ford has mentioned in the past about how the work is a mirror, and that if one is fully engaged with the work, it will reflect back only what you put into it – and if you don’t let go of your “stuff” when doing the work, it will also be shown back to you. This is absolutely true, if you haven’t found yourself in such a situation yet. My personal experience, as I’ve mentioned previously, has been like the peeling away of layers. Layers of ego, of misapprehension, of the soul even…until you’re left feeling raw and exposed…and then you have to come back for more. And I have to say that even the scratching of the surface that I did during my time was enough to throw me for a loop, and make it apparent that a lot of reflection was necessary to approach the work honestly and openly.
And that reflection revealed that I was too preoccupied with my dad’s health, and that I couldn’t get to him very quickly if needed. And so here I am on this train. Obviously, there are still many questions about how to proceed from here. I don’t have a studio space at the moment, so will have to downscale significantly to keep doing the work in whatever capacity I decide. But the work will continue, and hopefully the answers are out there…to be found when the stresses and distractions are properly put to bed.
More to come. Meanwhile, here’s to the temperatures in Toronto warming slightly by next week…