The air is “unhealthy” today.  There is a fire in the foothills, it’s over 102 degrees with 25% humidity, and basically?  Who needs fire-flavored gum, we’ve got the air!   It’s so bad that Squish and Zoomboy didn’t get an outside recess.  My eyes are burning from inside the house, and the idea of cooking is physically repulsive.

I’m not sure if Mate is going to call practice today– he’s the head coach, and his boys are getting old enough for the the competition to be pretty fierce.  They played an exhibition game and got slaughtered this weekend, but it does have me wondering about that line– that line between “pushing yourself to be good” and “pushing yourself past your limits”.

If you look at famous artists throughout history, well… the the record isn’t pretty.  For every Longfellow, who loved well and long, there was the same Longfellow who loved tragically and short.  In fact, there were three or five or seven of them.  You really only can have one mistress, one thing that controls your life, one burning passion.

Does everybody remember Rick Moranis?  Of course you do!  He’s a gifted comic actor, and he pretty much defined the 90’s, right?  Does everyone remember what happened to him?

Not really.  His wife died, and he was heart broken.  He devoted himself to his children, and when he came up for air, he realized that he didn’t miss the Hollywood life enough to go back to it, and he did something else.  So the masses of us were deprived of his genius, but his children will love him forever.   He will be happy, and he will live a small life, and not miss the cumbersome weight of the world’s expectations hanging on his limbs.

And who can blame him?  It’s just such a terrible paradox.  The people with the sensitivity to embrace the human condition, or with the talent and drive to hone their bodies or their skills to the point of spectacular achievements, are, very often, the ones just fragile enough not to sustain the heat and the friction of their journey through the particulate atmosphere of critics, deadlines, bills, and marketing that is the truth behind making a living off of your talent.

History is full of people killing themselves–or their loved ones– for their art.

Van Gough?  Of course.  Poe?  Absolutely.  Keats?  Well, it’s a fine line– reports were, he pushed himself so that he could write those final verses, but tuberculosis was definitely not self-inflicted.  But Byron died for glory and Shelley drowned for poetic symmetry and Coleridge was an opium addict and don’t even get me started on Judy Garland, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, John Bonham, River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Cory Monteith and…

The list is just too long and depressing to finish.  In fact, there is no end to a list like that.  There will always be another headline, another young person, another brilliant talent that pushed too far, too fast and burnt out, a vanishing star on the horizon.

There is a precarious balance between pushing yourself to your human limits and pushing yourself beyond your human limits.  It’s like that line from Gattaca.  “This!  This is how I did it!  I didn’t save anything for the way back!”  Artists, musicians, poets, athletes– they don’t save anything for the way back.  That leaves the people who love them scrambling for purchase, trying to hold on to a tiny, personal part of their beloved, just so they can have something, anything, that the world didn’t own, something to claim this bright shining meteor lighting the sky above the human condition was really a flesh and blood person, and this person was theirs.

See, I started a story– it was supposed to be lighthearted and happy.  A twenty-something dancer meets a newly twenty techie and sparks fly and BOOM!  Happy wholesome sex with a bang, right?

But the conflict inherent in the coupling– the dancer, wanting to dance the last few years of his career– it just hits too close to home.  My messy, unappealing home, actually.  It flares into bass relief the hours I spent behind the computer instead of keeping a home for my family.  The times I’ve said “Let me just finish…” and I lose out on hugs my kids maybe really needed.  My own neglected body, which gets its aqua aerobics but not nearly enough veggies and water, and which walks the fine-line between self-inflicted diabetes and self-medication with chocolate and caffeine.

I’m not Poe or Keats by any stretch of the imagination, but that idea, of where to draw the line, teases at the thread of my brain on an almost daily basis.  Visit a friend or work?  Work.  Sit on the couch with my children or work?  Sometimes, it’s work.  Cook dinner or work and order out?  Work and order out.  Because my work isn’t just my work, it’s my passion, my talent, the one thing I can do that nobody else can, the one gift that I and I alone can give to my tiny corner of the world.  No one would write this book the way I would.  No one.  Therefor I must work on it.  I must work on it.  I must work on it, why aren’t I working on it, dammit why am I sitting, knitting, walking, cooking, cleaning should I not be working on my book?  

It’s a compulsion.  An addiction.  A drive.  A need.

A job.

So, in spite of an AQI of 156, Mate is taking the kids to practice soccer.  They want to win and winning doesn’t come easy, and that’s something kids need to learn at an early age.

And me?

I’ll be here.  So intensely invested in a fictional character’s

life, I won’t even know what to cook for dinner until I’m standing in front of the refrigerator, trying to remember how to turn on the stove.

0 thoughts on “Unhealthy”

  1. Donna Lee says:

    I have an anonymous little life and that's perfect enough for me. While I sometimes envy the seemingless ease of the rich and famous, I would hate to have everyone watching what I do all the time. It gives me the creeps.

    What's that quote, "no one ever said "I wish I'd spent more time at the office" on their death bed".
    I'm glad I don't feel the passion you do for any of my hobbies. I LIKE sitting still and staring out the window with knitting in my hands.

  2. Unknown says:

    As another multi-talented artist said, keep it between the navigational beacons.

  3. Unknown says:

    This is so true. We put pressure as an audience on the talent we follow, to always have that next project out, we want to see them, or read them, or listen to them. So, they have the creative pressure of wanting to perform or write, and be perfect, coupled with the fan pressure of when is something new coming out. No wonder so many entertainers have addiction problems. They are either trying to cope with 'overnight' success or craving the addiction of the adulation or whatever, that they need to fill it and do with alcohol or drugs, or sex, or gambling; anything to keep that high. And, anything to keep that publicity going, in some cases. Celebrities don't necessarily get jobs because they are good for the part, they get jobs because the powers that be know that their name will draw the people in.

  4. roxie says:

    The wife of an old fisherman once told me, "It has nothing to do with what he catches. It's the FISHING that has him hooked." You are a writer, and in the incredibly tiny percentile of writers who are actually getting PAID for what you do. You live with a teenager, two youngsters, and an easy-going husband. The house will NEVER be clean, the laundry will NEVER be done and as for food, you could do much worse. You might consider hiring one of those companies that comes to your home, prepares and freezes a month's worth of dinner. It would be a comforting back-up. Then you will find the family whining, "Why don't we ever eat KC Chicken anymore?"

    I forbid you to fall into drugs, alcohol or gambling. Sex with the mate is acceptable.

    There must be depressants in that smoke. Can you leave town for the weekend?

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