Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Sadistic Muse

For the record, here's another post at least started one-handed while nursung the baby...oops! TMI?

Anyway... Mate is engaged in a manly house-fixing ritual....we're down to one bathroom, with the other reduced to house-bones...I've been largely useless in the whole process--partly extended exhaustion from the 2 weeks finishing the book/starting school, partly from being the one to wake with the cave troll after staying awake with the house-ogre, and partly because
I don't care if the order of the day is total destruction, I'm one of those pansy-assed females who is terrified of dirt, wet particle board and breaking stuff that's supposedly already broken. (For the record, when we first discussed this undertaking, I was all for hiring someone who knew what they were doing.) So Mate is engaged in house fixing, and I am working on house cleaning--I can see wide acreage on my kitchen table--for the record, I changed the tablecloth. yippee!!! The only problem is, I'll be done in...well, as much as the kitchen ever IS clean, I am done, and Mate? Mate will be wandering around the house for two weeks, minimum, (I'd put money on this but all our money is in the pile of new bathroom fixtures out in the garage) cursing the work he didn't get done, angry about the quality of work he did get done and pissy because I make him stop banging on the house at 8:30 when the small children go to bed. All of our conversation will be about whether or not he should call my dad to help him drywall or call a plumber or try to do that arc weld himself (No. The answer to that last one is a resounding NO!) and what the time frame is for me to go in and paint. (Painting is the one thing I do. It's colors and decorating--we pansy-assed wimins do good at colors and decorating.) For two weeks he will be a driven man--and when this bathroom is done, we'll wait a year to do the next one.

The muse of the manly house-fixing ritual is as cruel as sandpaper on a burn-blister from an arc-welder.

We all know what cruelty feels like. There are twatsticular prickweenies out there who will make our life miserable for the joy of cruelty, and the fates are just waiting for our lives to take the wrong quickstep into the sinkhole of despair. There are a thousand people, things, and animals that are willing to be cruel, but those are not the things that an artist (of any stamp) fears the most. It is, perhaps, the biggest irony of the arts that the element we love most about our world wields the biggest, highest amped, pointiest most sadistic mental cattle-prod on our tender-bits of any other force in the cosmos.

Take my husband's house-fixing ritual. The only reason the family simply ducks when he stamps through the house ripping the floorboards a new one for daring to squeak under his sneakers when he's fixing the house is that we all know that he's got two speeds on this matter: Full bore, balls out, I'm gonna tear that mother down, turn'er inside out and nail 'er back up and getter done mode, or fetal on the bed watching re-runs of bad '80's movies and pretending our floor isn't rotting mode. When he launches into the project, it becomes as all consuming as the bags under his eyes and his four-letter word vocabulary. I recognize the signs of the muse-monkey on his back--I'm pretty sure I've had them myself for the last month.

When we undertake anything creative, it is not the doing that haunts us--the doing is the joy, the fiery soother that courses our veins, the opiate that puts to rest the demons of tentativeness in our project launch. We love what we do. It rocks. We could do it forever.

But the finishing? Oooooohhh... (Is everybody reading this--all four people--making that face? I know I am...)

The knitting world even has an acronym for it... TOAD. It stands for 'TOtally Abandoned in Disgust'. And most artists fears TOADs.

The fear of TOADs is what keeps the knitter up to dark-thirty a.m. when there is no IT deadline to pursue. The fear of TOADs is what keeps the guy working on his car out drinking beer and tinkering until his wife storms out in her housecoat and screeches at him to get his ass inside. The fear of TOADs is what keeps the (real) housewife up past everyone else's bedtime, folding that last load of laundry. It is this fear that keeps the teacher at school for just 'ten more minutes' correcting papers, and it is this fear that kept me awake, drifting through my life for two weeks, only coherent, only engaged, only truly alert when my creation was looking me in the eyes and speaking our private language that I have taken it upon myself to translate for the world. It is this fear, in fact, that not two minutes ago had me shrieking at my eleven year old daughter who just served as my 6th interuption from the time I resumed this post.

God and Goddess, our vision is so perfect, so pure, and so important to the sinews of our hearts--we must finish it. It must be complete.

And this terrifies me. Because I become completely disengaged during the writing process. I feed the children, bathe the cave-troll, nurse the adorable tiny-sister all in a daze, a disconnected fuzz in which my creation is speaking to me and all other real people are only static noise. This terrifies me. It does not make me a good human being. I know too many people who have not married (not that not marrying is a bad thing--but this is a totally different point) and who spend too many moments of the day listening to nothing but the whispering of their own muse-monkey, screaming obscenities and riding rough and ready from behind (and all that that implies.) They do not recognize that the voices of other people are often as real and as true as their own muse-monkeys, and the don't understand why they are not a part of the human race.

I love the human race--that's why I'm a breeder, a lover, a teacher. It scares me to be disconnected from my heart's blood in order to feed my muse.

Stephen King once wisely said that art is a support system for life, not the other way around. I remember that quote every time I finish a book and swim slowly to the surface of the thick broth that is my inner life to engage in my real life. I'm so glad my real life waited for me. I'm glad that, until my muse-monkey takes his viagra and jumps back on for the wild ride, I'm back in the human saddle again.


Starfish said...

Oh I've been there. We bought a foreclosure that had been abandoned for a while. I was forced out of the squeamish girlie girl role and learned how to tile a kitchen floor. Needless to say, though we are in the house 7 years, we just finished the lower level last year and I was able to tell that muse monkey to go eff himself.

Roxie said...

Omigaaawd can you write! Yes! Yes! That's exactly what it's like!! That's what leaves you hungry and bleary eyed with a swollen bladder while you get just the RIGHT phrase, find the perfect word, somehow bring this scene to a perfect end. I didn't know about toads, but yes, I can clearly identify several of them in my stash. Named is well on the way to being dealt with! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Ha, that's great, it sure as heck isn't boring! I was very confused yet intrigued at the same time.
- your student from 6th period AP.

Lore said...

Uh oh! The children have found you! And I'm so excited to be blog worthy material! That tantrum was embarrassing but necessary. It wasn't so much the work that they were expecting me to take with a nod and a smile that set me off. It was the flippant and dismissive tone of the Mean Man I was talking to that sent me off the edge into hysteria. the pure lack of professionalism and respect was evident right there and I was appalled, but sadly, not surprised. Poor Anthony and the others in your department for having to inherit the mess. I just hope they don't blame my happy ass for it.
I love the TOADs explanation. I had never thought of it like that, but it is that fear that drives much of what I do.