Have you ever heard a song that you immediately loved? From the first time you heard the first few chords you just knew that this song was meant for you to sing it. And I mean belt-it-out-windows-down-even-if-you-are-at-a-stoplight sing it. Every time you turn the radio on you want it to be playing, and if it isn’t you play it on your phone instead? Create a playlist for it in Youtube so you can repeat the playlist and listen to the song with no end in sight?
No? Well, I tend to get a bit obsessed with things. I jump into things with both feet. I try to push back any fear, I count to three, and I leap. It’s all I can talk about, all I can think about, all I can create.
I used to have a storyline I would play out any time I was having a hard time falling asleep. It was a short scene or two of an unfinished daydream, and I would roll it whenever it was needed. Again and Again and Again.
I could never really add to the story. The scene had come to me so completely pure, it had manifested and no matter my attempts to broaden it or change it or flesh it out it remained an only partially sketched in idea. Eventually I knew all of the nuances of it, I understood every spoken or unspoken moment. I had searched my way into the corners and seen all of the shadows. And the next night when I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep I began to play the scene. Only this time, it was stale. It didn’t resonate with me. It was flat.
The problem with my slightly obsessive personality is that there is never an in-between. I’m not a Laodicean. I leap all the way in or I don’t ever leave the house. As soon as I’ve had my fill of the water, I get out and I don’t even really feel like looking in the vague direction of the water. Like Jay-Z I am on to the next one, on to the next thing, another obsession. I play the song until I hate it, and then I cold turkey it. I find a new song, I come across a new scene.
I’m sitting out on my deck while I write these words, watching the birds go under my car and vaguely worrying that they will find their way into the muffler. I’ve never worried about that before. I keep getting distracted. Distracted from writing this, distracted from the 400 other things that I really should be doing . I’m distracted by the way the flag is flying across the street. I’m distracted by the sound of the wind moving through the trees, by the stark contrast of all of this green against all this sky, by the spider webs and the people who keep going in and out of the apartment. I’m distracted by a different blog post that says something else entirely. It talks about things that are stable and unchanging. I’m distracted by yet another blog post that instead talks about the subjectivity of worth and the weight of that obligation. I’m so distracted by my brain trying to make plans and then continuously changing these plans and rewriting them and rewriting them, trying to write out a map when it hasn’t even seen the road or the way of transportation yet.
I went to the art museum today. I didn’t have much reason other then I just wanted to be around it. I wanted to walk through a hushed stone building and look at the amazing things people created hundreds of years ago. I wanted to think about beauty and pain and bowls of fruit and continuously try to hash out motivations and reasons. I did not go to navigate my way through large groups who congregated around my favorite pieces and laughed loudly in rooms that echoed. I did not go to discover that Snapchat filters can work with 18th century portraits. I did not go to sit on the steps outside and watch people taking photographs. But our plans rarely work out perfectly, and even while sacrilegiously using the puppy dog feature on Herod’s daughter I still got what I came for. I still was able to run my hand along the marble and stone, I still got distracted by the sculptures, I still wondered about motivations and reasons.
I did stumble upon one piece in the hallway outside one of the galleries. It was a portrait of someone. I remember neither the artist nor the subject, but I stood before it for a good while. Its framing was ornate to match the expectation of the art. The top half of it was beautifully done, detailed and rich. The rest of it was an outline. It was hastily drawn in with a line or two and never completed. There was a dollop of color on the left shoulder that was probably the intended color of the jacket. The info card talked about getting to see the process of the artist, being able to see how the work was formed.
I didn’t appreciate it for the process, I appreciated it for how hilariously the hands were sketched in. I appreciated it for how close to home it struck me. I’m not the only one who gets distracted and does not finish things. I’m not the only one who puts in so much work and detail and struggle into something to only get bored with it and wander away.
I think this probably fits into the narrative I’ve been trying to articulate for the past 4 months about worth, but that attempt remains half-finished and I’m not at the point of just throwing a frame on it and calling it good quite yet. I’ll get there soon. But I do think what I can formulate from all of this rambling, from all of the scribbled paragraphs of stand-alone dialogue, from the spectrum of uninterested to obsessed, from the hard time I have in finishing things, from the constant hop-scotching nature of my thoughts is that I’m not the only person in this boat. The clear skies quickly cloud over, the dead trees spout leaves, the flowers bloom and die and bloom and fall. It’s all a quest towards something. And sometimes if the only thing you find are questions about beauty and humanity and art or observations of how the wind still rustles the leaves on the trees that have been disfigured for their proximity to power lines, that’s an okay place to be.
I may need to go a few weeks without even looking at the water, but I always come back to it. I always end up leaping in, feet first, with my nose pinched shut. I always play that song again and dance in the car. I always wind up with my head in some day-dream, my notebooks full of moments, my mind full of unanswered thoughts. But, after all, the cookie dough is often the best part of baking.