It really got me pondering last night; what had persuaded me to watch a film about Jackie Kennedy (Jackie, 2016) on a sunday evening after an exhausting day? Hardly easy on the nervous system, right before bed and of course it fed my dreams. Yet something in me made me choose it and watch to the very end, graphic and pyschologically raw though it was.
In the morning, in my meditation, my mind threw up how my sticking point in the Gupta process is my inability to visualise my own recovery, a golden future, my aspirations (its true, I’m almost ashamed to admit…me the artist and I can’t paint my own better health). Why is that? I’m a visual thinker, I should be a natural at it…
Just as quickly, I got it. Its because my “visual faculty” has been held in gridlock forever and a day by my left brain as its most useful tool (though maybe it would never admit this), the right-side a serf to the left’s past-and-present-fixated obsessions. Logic can only deal with “what is” and “what has been” (evidence) not what might become or some flight of fancy never dreamed of before. And when you think visually, as-in every thought you have relies on processing itself as a series of images rather than linear mental constructs, your left brain relies on that faculty, leaning into it always being there and making itself readily available. Like the “little woman” behind the “great man” this has been taken for granted inside me forever, and my right brain is more useful and accomplished than she has been allowed to know, but this also means she has no time to go wandering off into meadows of buttercups…not when I have to use my visual thinking faculty everytime I have a thought. In a way, she is chained to the kitchen sink of my thoughts.
So she is always on duty, poised for action, sketching out images of whatever thought comes my way faster than a courtroom artist, making every brief construct graphic, impactful, getting deep into my soul and my body tissues in some seriously long-lasting ways (that stick, lodging trauma where others of a less-visual bent might think about something distateful yet forget it again and recover far quicker than I). Whatever it is, light, dark or middling, this visual faculty of mine will conjure it, making me the thinker who feels and responds, more swiftly, more completely, to everything she thinks, in an endless stream of responses, wearing me out. Oh to turn it off for a while.
Meanwhile, the visualisation trait that should see me flying high on the crest of a creative wave is no more than the wife to a president. She can redecorate the “White House” of my psyche all she wants, curating a beautiful memorial to all that ever was, and is; regathering lost trophies of the past (as JK did) to place stategically “on display” in my mind to make it seem more meaningful and beautiful than it ever was in the grit and grist of reality…but still she is only the wife to the president. Always half expecting to have to pack her bags and leave, handing over her hard efforts to others less appreciative. Always in the shadows. Always expected to turn a blind eye to fatally flawed characeristics and monumental mistakes stuck on repeat all around her. She can strive to “make perfect” what is and what has been all she likes but she’s not ever at liberty to be herself, someone in her own right, using her particular gifts to lead to a brighter future…
This has been “the feminine’s lot” for millenia. Inside of me, it appears to be “the lot” of my visual capacity. “But you’re an artist”, you might say. Well, yes…but I only paint what I see. Without a prop to draw upon, I tremble, I quiver, I just can’t seem to do it; low confidence and fear of my own judgement faculties coming down so hard on my own efforts cloud my visions. Give me a photo to work from and I will make the very best of it. But visualise something plucked from the ether, from “what might be”, made-up, inspired, never experienced before, daring and new and I flounder. Tasked with imagining my best health, I stick in the mud. Too many years with health problems behind me…all I can conjure visually, viscerally, is the imperfect when it comes to me. Where do I even start sensing what that good health would feel like, look like? I have nothing much to draw on relating to synchronised good health, all parts at once. What I construct becomes a sort of Frankenstein of smaller parts built up of fragments of memory of when this bit felt a bit better, when that thing was going easier, or times when my mind wasn’t so caught up in concerns of my health but how to extrapolate that into something real-seeming, continuous, reliable, taking me direct to where I’m already healed, feels impossible; I fall back in frsutration…
Meanwhile JK makes an observation about JFK’s obsession with the musical “Camelot”. She tells the reporter interviewing her throughout the film “Don’t let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was Camelot”. For that perfect moment, a clutch of halcyon days, they created such a world…a perfect compliment of male and female components, when he did what he did and she worked her magic in suport and he appreciated her for what she offered and she felt valued and all was golden; a perfectly spinning, uber-balanced world of beautiful people being their best selves in synergy. In my body, such Camelot moments hint at better days held in potential…harmony “clicks” into being for a moment and I, as it were, fly higher than all of it, as though looking at it all from the ceiling. Those are what I get to draw upon…draw with my mind’s eye.
The agony and the ecstacy of the balanced brain
I consider myself neurodiverse so how does this topic relate? Many people on the spectrum think visually (as do I) yet when you consider someone like Temple Grandin, who brought the tendency into the spotlight through her book “Thinking in Pictures”, we can also be a fairly analytical lot too; in fact its the combination that makes for the gift. Many times, I have thought to myself that if only I could just, truly, get to live in my right brain, I would simply lose myself in my love of art, an ability to spin fantasies to entertain myself and would get somewhere as an artist or writer. Instead, I become intensely fixated with “what is”, wrangling with it endlessly in search of new perspectives (hence this blog) but seldom set myself free enough from this wrestling match to fly off in some wholly new and creative direction.
In fact, its the rub of my psyche that my left and right brain halves are, as it were, held prisoner in the same room for what feels like eternity, forced to learn to muddle along with each other when both are equally dominant and demanding…it would be far easier if one got their own way more often! Yet it is also my growth point, the spark that makes the fire, my evolutionary “rub” as a work-in-progress human being. Our deepest frustrations so-often point at where we are most likely to excel, fuelling the leap.
In order to grow, the cycle has to transform into a spiral. The lockdown has to generate a growth tip that leads to something newer, “higher”, seen as though from a broader perspective; the overview. We all strive for balance, yes? But does it block the ability to grow? Does it end in stalemate or cancellation? Frustration and status quo? Does this kind of uber-balanced processing preclude the ability to develop such a growth point? I have to believe “not” and the key is the ability to see the whole picture, even for a few halcyon seconds now and again, hungering for such moments. Today, I’m catching a glimpse of the more complete picture and it feels important; sharing incase it resonates.
The Halcyon is a bird of Greek legend and the name is now commonly given to the European Kingfisher. The ancients believed that the bird made a floating nest in the Aegean Sea and had the power to calm the waves while brooding her eggs. Fourteen days of calm weather were to be expected when the Halcyon was nesting – around the winter solstice, usually 21st or 22nd of December. The Halcyon days are generally regarded as beginning on the 14th or 15th of December (source).
“Halycon days” was the phrase that occured to me most strongly as I wrote this post (I also thought of Cleopatra’s “salad days”…double-alluding to the fresh-green shoots of possibilty that emerge from such times of heyday; no less potential filled than a clutch of eggs floating on a rarely calm sea). The synchronicity of its origin, as I write this on 13th December, was not at all premeditated but makes me smile with the deep knowing that I have glimpsed a brief vision through the mists.