Friday, March 12, 2010

doing the impossible

There are times in my life when I've done the impossible. I look back and can't fathom how I came through in one piece, how I managed to avoid a breakdown (although, very often, I'd been on the verge), how I was able to put things out into the world that resonated and were so much a part of me, the process leaving me beyond spent and empty. While still functioning in the real world.

During periods of outrageous creative output, life doesn't stop. Even though I very often wish it would.

(while trying to write this post, I've already had to stop to make pancakes, circumvent broken router problem with flash drives to email math homework to teacher, survive a meltdown about umbrella colors and missed meetings, and still have 2 people to get out the door)

The first time I had been that stretched beyond rational limits was when putting my portfolio together at School of Visual Arts. That last year all I had was my portfolio class. We'd been warned that alone was a full time job, but I couldn't afford another year in school without working. I got a job, as a design assistant, in the audio department at Harper Collins. Literally 9-5, figuring I'd work on my portfolio during all my spare time. It wasn't like I was working in my living room (upper east side) though, there was getting back and forth to the office (midtown). My anorexia was running full blast and so I had to (HAD TO) be at the gym 6 days a week. I was in therapy and was such a mess that I'd started going 2 times a week, crosstown from where I lived. Another commute added into my day (upper west side). And then, we did a stint, for months, at marriage counseling (Greenwich Village). A different neighborhood entirely. Plus, there was school (Gramercy).

To recap a typical week: work, 5 days. Gym, 6. Therapy, 2. Marriage counseling, 1. Porfolio class, 1. And then there was regular life—cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping. Much of that fell to me as Jon was working at a law firm that required crazy hours.

Teetering on the edge, I got it all done. My portfolio got a 10. I thought that was great until I heard about the 10+ and 10++ people were receiving. I even handled that pretty well. It was my portfolio teacher's note, telling me that instead of working as a designer I should continue in school to be a writer that was my final straw. That, and turning 30 a month after graduation.

There was a period a few years ago, when I had 3 projects going at the same time—the labor support guide, the NYC deck for kids, and the thank you note kit. I got the go-ahead on all the same week in October. All were due the same week in February (each was with a different department in Chronicle). Plus the PTA/kid/home juggle. I ended up in the hospital in December.

Working on FLOW was almost more insane. While I didn't have as many outside time commitments (therapy was over, my gym obsession had waned, I worked at home instead of at an office), the kid part was almost harder. Now instead of having a babysitter and playdates, there were homework issues to grapple with. Afterschool organizing and planning. Older kids are more complicated.

And FLOW was more complicated than anything I'd done before. This was more than a light-hearted romp through social history. There was seriousness, substance, interpretation. It was crafting an idea I'd had into something smart, accessible, tangible. It was pulling endless information from countless sources into a cohesive, appealing whole.

Sometimes, when I skim through the book and rediscover something I hadn't seen in awhile, I'm blown away that it came out of me. FLOW was literally my third birth. My mind thoughtfully shields me from remembering it in technicolor so that perhaps I might be able to dive back in to the unknown and do it again (write a book, not have a baby), but every once in awhile I'm still forced to confront something new, like appearing on national TV and I'm thrown back to that place of uncertainty.

Can I do it again?

I don't know.

I have ideas inside me that should be written. But I haven't been able to tap into that drive, that energy, that flow in a long time. And don't know that I can go there again.

(having said that, I should have a WRINKLE survey up and running next week)

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