Some people have the capacity to achieve a Zen-like state of calm and equanimity anytime anywhere, regardless of their circumstances. Our President appears to have that ability, perhaps to a fault. I, however, am not one of those people. I come close sometimes. When I do it usually involves Bach and my iPod. But my attempts at stress management or an effective meditation practice are abysmal. The ability to clear my head has never been my strong suit. It’s something that has eluded me my entire life. What I am able to do is remove myself from – or avoid entirely – situations that I know will aggravate my stress. Hell yeah, I can run and hide with the best of them! But that running and hiding strategy offers no long-term benefits, unfortunately. It’s just a stopgap measure.
My grandmother used to say, “There’s always something”. Not the most eloquent of phrases, but it makes the point. In my head, there is always something – an anxiety, a sadness, an ambivalence, a problem with no foreseeable solution. Between my personal life and sensitive tendencies, and the tumultuous, strife-laden world we live in, there is always something – an issue, a circumstance, an injustice, an unexpected development, or an event that will unnerve and confuse. They move through my head like darts. For me, mental calm is tenuous at best. I get there, but it soon gets rattled by something. Anything. An email, a rude remark, a news story, or a persistent, unfulfilled need inside me. A solid, gratifying day of art modeling and artistic collaboration concludes with me reading an article that sends me reeling. I am jolted out of my meager contentment into a state of profound horror and distress. It then leads to a frantic, bleary-eyed, late night Google search, where I punch in the words “Afghan girl” and “adoption” and “bring afghan girl to US”. And as I scroll through the search results, I cry, feeling panicked and helpless, because I know deep down that my incoherent 2AM Googling is a futile exercise.
Then I try to sleep. But I toss and turn all night without a wink because of that harrowing, heartbreaking article, and I have to be at work again in a few hours. And I will be there, as I always am, sitting perfectly still on the modeling stand, displaying a deceptive illusion of equanimity. But my mind races. The darts come to work with me, the little bastards, and they harass me and jab me while I pose. The dart of those abused Afghan girls. The dart of a hugely annoying family dispute that I’m losing patience with. The dart of a guy I was involved with who contacted me recently out of the blue. More emotions stirred up. More questions. More uncertainties. But I manage to hold still because that is what’s expected of me and what I’m paid to do. Luckily, nobody knows about or detects my internal tug-of-wars. Nor should they. All they need be concerned about are their drawings, their anatomical proportions, their shadings and color values.
But now I’ve gone and published this blog post. Duh! Great. The jig is up. Now everyone will know; the model is human . . .
Here I am curled up fetal-like, mental darts and all. Photo by Fred: