A good thing disguised as a not so good thing happened yesterday. Someone crossed the finish line in my chosen field while I am still lacing up my kicks. I work with writers and for writers. Talented and established writers, talented and emerging writers. Working with and for people that are stronger than me is a benefit I enjoy and feel comfortable with, a confidence I credit to all those years booking major hot models for fashion shows. Hating on someone isn't going to make me smarter or skinnier, but reading+writing and not eating doughnuts will. Being around people that have something special going on is a reminder to remain focused on craft, not competition.
So when I saw this piece of information, my neck broke out in a rash and I started stuttering. It affected me in a way I'm embarrassed to admit. I've been on the other end of the hater stick and it feels nasty. There is a voice tone people get when they pretend to be happy for you, the timbre of a restrained "You? You got that?" psychically broadcasts their interior thoughts. There are also a million decibels of truth in silence. These are things that can't be concealed and are instinctually detected. In other words, if you are pissed off that someone is making progress, they know it.
Recognizing that the demon was in me, I engaged it for a minute by saying obscene things in my head, then I put a leash on its neck and took it for a walk. We ate some chicken then went to LACMA. That evening, Aimee Bender was reading stories by her and Sra. Leonora Carrington in the middle of the In Wonderland exhibit. She interspersed the reading with snippets of Breton's Surrealist Manifesto. Sra. Carrington's story was about a hyena eating a face off a maid and wearing it as a mask to attend a fancy ball. Paintings and photographs by the master artistas surrounded the small group of attendees. We were seated in little fold-up chairs and the author was seated in front of a painting by my favorite artist, Remedios Varo.
My sister is the one who introduced me to Aimee Bender's books; she introduces me to all the best writers. I trust her more than book reviewers and coffee-shop talk. She moved away and is now working in a Texas library introducing great books to a whole other batch of people who need her. And when I found Remedios Varo, my whole world changed. I was a senior in high school and couldn't believe someone that amazing ever lived. Her friendship with Leonora Carrington was powerful, its nucleus raw creative energy. They were incredible and I wanted to be like them. Paint was too expensive, I stuck to writing.
Listening to the author that ties me to my sister read the work of Sra. Carrington in front of a Remedios Varo cuadro, calmed my demon into a gentle lizard. He then skittered across my garden head space instead of fucking everything up with his claws and fire. At that moment, if my seventeen-year-old self saw me, she would be so happy that I honored her enough to stay on the course we plotted for us. I did what I said I would do and could finally see Varo's brush strokes and listen to a great author read from the Manifesto.
I've so been intensely focused on getting to the next place, the next deadline, the next project. No breaks in-between to question myself, just GO. Now that it is all out of my hands and in the hands of admissions committees and selection panels and agents, I have become shaky and insecure about my fate as a writer. Seeing those paintings and conjuring the memories of my sister and her stolen shopping cart filled with books, our cat tea parties, the way acrylic feels on fingertips as it dries, it all reminded me that my fate as published author or an MFA candidate or a travel fellowship recipient are out of my hands, but my fate as an hacedora is solely in mine.
This is the painting that was in the backdrop of the reading:
It's titled, aptly, "Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst"