January 27 2013
When Joel and I decided to make a book about this year in Europe it was because we wanted to make “our” book, not a commissioned one, as have been the 3 we’ve collaborated on so far. We wanted the shared experience of creating an artists’ book free of imposed preconditions. We thought it would be fun to allow ourselves to go beyond the frame, so to speak, and include anything and everything; not only photographs and essays, but drawings, recipes, videos, bits of string, blood stains, inserts and pull-outs.
With these criteria in mind, Joel came up with the idea - before we left New York - of drawing/painting/inking a line a day in a separate book which we will scan, shrink and concertina into the finished book. So every day, starting on January 1st, we have alternately made a line, the only pre-condition being that each line must start where the previous one left off. A linear calendar, you might say, or a one-liner made up of many; each unique, each individual and yet each intentioned and willing to take energy from the one before yet be freely in the moment.
The making of this book is, of course, a gift to ourselves, but we hope it will also be of interest and value to our readers in that it will be a document describing what it’s like to be in your 60’s and 70’s and leave behind all that is familiar and beloved to go live “abroad” for a year – or more – as both a married couple and as two artists working on separate projects as well as the shared one.
To this end we agreed that we would not only let you in on the fun and hilarity, the beauty and the splendor, but also the horrors, disappointments and fears that accompany all of us throughout the course of a year, no matter how old we are, how much we love each other or where we are living. The previous post: “To Paris And Back,” was a fairly good example of the former. In today’s post I will try to have the courage to explore the latter, as it is presently arising.
We’ve noticed since we’ve been away (and note that I write been ‘away’ as opposed to been ‘here.’) that we can just about handle 3 consecutive days of joy and happiness before we resort to negative behavior. For what it’s worth, Joel is a Pisces and I’m a Leo. When I first learned that Joel was a water sign I was somewhat dismayed. I’m fire, and my fear was that he would dampen my spirit. But then an acquaintance remarked, ‘Oh, fire and water: steam.” (And at our best we do indeed make steam.) We each have qualities that are representative of our respective signs. I tend to burst into action, while Joel can retreat like the tide.
What we are now realizing is that we often experience these qualities in each other as defects, which allows us to judge the other instead of looking deeper within. For instance, when my fiery nature is coming from a negative source, it presents as anger, while Joel’s retreat presents as withdrawal. And here’s where what I call the Matrimonial Two-Step turns into the Death Spiral: I get angry when Joel withdraws which makes him retreat more and I get angrier and so on.
But why do we need to be enemies after 3 days of bliss? Is it really so pathetically banal as needing to be in control of the loss of bliss? Or do we need to hate each other just a little every once in a while as a misguided way of maintaining independence? Sorry to leave you hanging, but we don’t have all the answers yet. However, it is all of apiece with the commitment we made on New Year’s Day to heal ourselves and each other in the place of deepest wound: my defensiveness, Joel’s constraint.
My daughter, in a recent text, observed that relationships are complicated. I’ll say. Of course, it is we the people who complicate relationship. Yet isn’t it so incredibly wonderful that we tend to choose partners who will not only bring out the best in us, but also the worst? What a gift it is that we provide each other with the opportunity – over and over again – of working on these painful issues. Yet, oh, how we resent it at the same time. To be reflected back to oneself at one’s ugliest…who wants to see that?
Well, actually, I do. I’m tired of the pursuit of unattainable perfection. Bring on the ugly and let’s have a good look. What Joel reflects back to me is my rage. What I reflect back to him is his cowardice. It doesn’t matter that those qualities are not who we are, but only a part of our humanness. What matters is that when rage and cowardice are abroad, love is absent.
In a little while, I’ll go to the table and look at the line Joel made yesterday. How interesting to note that, if one didn’t know better, one might think I had made it: it’s a highly energized, almost enraged line of thick red acrylic paint. When I saw it yesterday I envied its courage. But more than that I love Joel’s courage. Perhaps I can carry on from where he left off and have the courage to make a line so gentle as to barely leave a trace.
Note: We have heard that some of you have trouble finding the “submit your email "place. You need to go to the Blog-site itself for this. http://joelandmaggie.blogspot.com If you are receiving these posts by email, it will not show up. You will have to click on the Title of the blog. For instance, on this post you click on “Portrait of a Marriage.” Only by doing this and being taken to the website can you “submit your email” or “leave a comment. With love, M + J.