Picasso was right

In the fall of 1980 New York City’s Museum of Modern Art hosted a Picasso retrospective displaying more than 1,000 pieces of his works. The exhibit was designed chronologically, starting with his work when he was a boy up until the work created in the last days if his life. He died in 1973. He was 91.

Picasso was staggeringly prolific and courageous on the creative front. I’ll get to that in a moment. I went to the MOMA exhibit twice. There was no way I could absorb all of his work in one visit. Two was not enough either. MOMA had moved virtually all its other art into storage and perhaps lent some to other exhibits in order to make room for the Spaniard’s work. As I made my way through one section of the exhibit to another I recalled an interview with Picasso in which the interviewer told him that some complained that he kept changing his style. I don’t remember Picasso’s response word for word, but the gist of it was (and I agree), Style! What’s style?! Why would I want to do the same thing over and over again?! The hell with style! The man was not shy nor soft-spoken and, I suspect had we met, I probably wouldn’t have liked him very much. Nevertheless, I love his work and admire his work ethic immensely.

Back to his courage. There came a moment during my second visit when I was looking at an abstract nude. It suddenly occurred to me that if he had for one second worried about what someone was going to think of his work he wouldn’t have done it, in this case, painted it. It was the first time another artist (outside the world of dance where I was instinctively fearless, it never dawned on me to be otherwise) taught me that in order to paint, write, sculpt, compose, act, conduct, sing, choreograph, and so on, you have to be fearless and, given that there is, I believe, no such thing as fearless in the pure sense of the word, you have to be willing to endure the fear and create anyway. Relieve it of its decision-making power if you will.

We are always, it seems to me, faced with change in one way or another. Change can be, as I suspect you already know, scary. The TV character Monk (a favorite of mine) put it very well when he said, “I don’t mind change, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Well, if your task is to create, and create to the best of your ability, you have to be there when it happens. This, of course, is where the courage comes in.

I am engaged in some writing now that requires courage and while the task is not always pleasant, I will not flinch from it. I will set the words down as clear and crisp as I can, and deal with the at times painful feelings I’ll be required to go through to get the writing done. After all, if there is one thing I don’t at all fear, it’s saying this:  I am a writer, and no person, place or thing has the power (or will ever have the power) to change that. Not now. Not ever.

I’m Tired of Goodbyes

All of us deal with loss in life. Loss of loved ones whether through death or people going separate ways. We deal with loss of jobs, loss of physical or cognitive functioning for all kinds of reasons and so forth, loss of friends or, more often than not, people who said they were your friends and turn out to be, well, full of shit, even though you meant it.  Anyway, you get my point. 

Loss and the threat of loss has many faces. I have en ex-wife who deals with a rough medical condition that threatens her life. Knowing she is in this fight upsets my heart and soul so deeply there have been time I have cried my eyes swollen.  While our marriage ended, I will always love this woman for who she is. She has perhaps the most widely creative mind I’ve ever know and has a sense of humor that can shame many a comedian. I asked her once if she could find a way to let me know when we had entered the handful of days in the month when it was clear she was the shining image of perfection and I was all that was wrong with the world. She smiled and said she’d try and think of something. Not long after this I was sitting in bed reading one night. She came into the room carrying a huge carving knife, looked at me with a twinkle in her eyes, and said, “Still awake? I’ll be back.” The two of us burst into laughter.

I can’t speak for you but there are people who will always be deeply important to me. The woman I just talked about is one of them. Always she will be family in my heart.

Having said all this I should add that I have dealt with my fair share of loss. I think the singular biggest barrage of loss for me occurred in 1969 when my aunt, grandmother and father died in a matter of months and weeks after my father’s death I was placed in reform school and disowned by the family. Having been adopted, which along with the gift of a loving family, if you actually wind up in a family that loves you and shows it, leaves you with an abandonment button the size of Wyoming, the loss of my second family shattered my universe and ability to feel safe in it.  And so, today, I don’t take kindly to fly-by-night friendships and cast a wary eye on those who say they will always be my friend or always be there for me.

However, I find I have added a new layer of self-protection that I suppose is both poignant and humorous. My affection for fictional characters and the difficult I have when faced with losing them. I am, for instance, broken hearted that this is the last season of Monk. I love the man and will miss him. Recently I began watching and a series on Netflix called “Monarch of the Glen”.  I love this series and I am early in season two. But, like the complete ass I am more than capable of being, I went on the web to learn about the series and its upcoming seasons. To my horror, I learned that some cast members leave the series and new ones join the series. That’s all well in good but some of the characters that are leaving I love. Richard Briers plays the older laird and his character is so deliciously delightful he’d fit right in with Pickwick’s mates. Now that I know some are going to leave the show, I can’t get myself to keep watching. I don’t want to go through the loss.

And then there is this amazing detective series out of England called “Foyle’s War.” I am swept up in sadness now knowing I have watched all the episodes. In fact, I put off watching the last episode for weeks just to avoid having to say goodbye. I’m tired of goodbyes.

I must apologize to you, my reader, because this is a rather self-absorbed essay. Let me just tell you that if you say you love someone, mean it, and don’t flitter off like a speck of dust in a strong breeze the minute something doesn’t go your way. If you are thinking of adopting a child I think that is wonderful. Being adopted is how I met my father, the greatest gift life has ever given me. But don’t adopt a child unless you are rock solid sure of two things: that you will love the child and be loving too the child. Not being able or willing to express the love you have for a child inevitably translates into tragic results.

One last thing, I would appreciate it if you would get Monk to stay, Richard Brier to return to “Monarch of the Glen” and “Foyle’s War” to come up with more episodes.  Oh, and keep my ex-wife in your prayers. She is always in mine.