Posts Tagged ‘success’

Tsukuru Tazaki and Me.

August 11, 2015

two stories

two stories

From Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgramage by Haruki Murakami. . .

One day his four closest friends, the friends he’d known for a long time, announced that they did not want to see him, or talk with him, ever again. It was a sudden, decisive declaration, with no room for compromise. They gave no explanation, not a word, for this harsh pronouncement.

In 1987, the year after I moved from New York City to Cranston, RI, something like this happened to me. When I moved here I wanted to get away from my life in New York. I felt like I could never become myself  because everything was familiar to me, and all the people I knew, knew me so well. My parents, my oldest friends from childhood, my best college friend who also moved to NY. I didn’t think I could become the artist I was supposed to be. I felt trapped. I thought if I moved to a place where no one knew me at all, I could reinvent myself and finally be exactly what I imagined, with no one to tell me otherwise.

In Rhode Island I was working as a artist’s model mostly at the RI School of Design, but also for a few teachers and acquaintances. I still knew hardly anyone. To be an artist I thought I should be solitary.

Of course I did eventually make some friends. The best friend I had was J.J.. I met her because she was an artist in a group that met each Saturday to draw from life. I was that life. She was friends with two of my friends, and through them I got to know her.

I adored her. I thought she was beautiful. She is taller than me and has straight brown hair (does every Jewish woman find straight hair dazzling? I did). I admired nearly every drawing she made. Her drawings were large, in charcoal and had confidence and maturity. She spoke fluent Portuguese from when she lived with her husband in Brazil. She was married and had a young son I hardly remember.  She could cook and she lived in a big gorgeous house in Edgewood. She was grown up. I lived in a small, under furnished apartment in Washington Park, only a mile from her but in a different world. She, and her husband took me under their wings. I was floundering and she seemed put in my path to help me find my destiny.

She wanted to help me find a man and become a full time artist. She thought I should move into a smaller place so that I could pay less rent. She thought I should have an affair with a married teacher for whom I worked all summer, when there was very little work at RISD. Things got strange. I was oblivious and never asked myself, or her, what sort of game we were playing. She imagined that I would be in a couple with this married artist and she would have an affair with a young man in our small circle of artist friends.

As I write this I can tell you that I can hardly believe I am writing about me. I am married and I have a child and the mere thought of those stupid plans makes me feel ashamed, mortified. But at the time I thought it was fun. I was lonely and wanted distraction from the fact that I wasn’t doing much art, making much money and life in RI was as much of a mess as life in NY had been, in a different way. At any rate, I did make a half hearted attempt to seduce this artist guy which was a complete failure, to my relief both then and now. But that young guy J.J. wanted to have an affair with, M.,…he became my friend. Just my friend. We were running buddies. I was not romantically interested in him, ever. I don’t think he was ever interested in me. But we did run together, miles in fact. And we drew together. And we talked. I didn’t think he knew that J.J. was interested in him. But I was unseeing about those things. I was mature in some ways, but I was so in my own head that I often missed social clues.

One night when I was being an artist, not a model, the three of us plus one, planned a night of drawing. The model did not show, so I volunteered to sit for my friends. At the end of that night J.J. ended our friendship. In my diary this is what I wrote:

March 1, 1987

I am still in shock over this business with J. I guess our friendship is over. I called her after work. She was icy. She told me she never wanted to hear from me again. She told me I was awful, that I’d done everything I could do to make M. like me. I told her I had no interest in M., that she was my closest friend. She said she had never had a friend like me, someone who had gone out of their way to hurt her.

I didn’t become suicidal like Tsukuru Tazaki. But I was shaken. The few friends I had in RI knew each other and I worried that she would call all of them to say that I was a horrible person, and that they would believe her. I was struggling in every way. I started to doubt everything about myself. My very being. I even worried that my old friends might find out that I was as awful as she said I was, and shun me. But none of that came to be. My core of friends remained friends, except for M. and for the artist teacher. We drifted apart as people often do. Still, that event was part of my history, and though I mixed up some of the time frame and conversations the feeling I had was always a painful memory. The worst part is that I never found out what really happened to make her go from loving me, to hating me. I know a few things. I know that she did find out I had no interest in M. because she did eventually have an affair with him.

She moved far away. She got a divorce from her husband. Once I sent her a message on facebook, but I never heard back. But just about two months ago she came to RI for a visit, and asked to meet one of our original friends, R. I am still friends with R. In fact, he is like family. R. wanted to see her too. They met for lunch. She did not ask to see me. He said she asked about me. She was wonderful, she was funny, she was still beautiful. Her son was grown.

Unlike Tsukuru Tazaki I am not going to travel to her new home out west to ask her what happened. I was able to move forward. My hole, unlike his, was filled. I also don’t believe she would answer me truthfully. But when I read this novel I felt a surge of deep emotion. I was glad that such a skilled, beautiful writer was telling this story because I had never really been able to tell it myself. I read it after her visit with R. I wish she had asked to see me. I wish that in life we can have all of our questions answered. I am pretty sure many people have some mystery in their lives. Some friendship that went awry, or some mysterious event. Maybe not. But it happened to me. And it happened to Tsukuru Tazaki, and that is why that book went straight into my heart.


Every Day

June 20, 2015



a customary or regular course of procedure.

commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity:

the routine of an office.

regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.
My daily routine:
Wake at 9.
Walk Alice.
Make coffee.
Work. Drink wine. Work.
Go to bed.
     I am drawn to books and movies about people who have routines and who sometimes become the notable person they are because of them. Some find the idea of doing the same thing each and every day depressing and limiting. But I see a romance in it.
I like quiet stories of transformation by people who are extremely disciplined and evolve into a zen master of their lives.
     An example is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murikami. He was already a brilliant success. But I loved reading his account of going from a jazz club owner with a terrible smoking habit and a soft belly to a writer who runs nearly every day in every sort of weather. In his short, beautiful memoir he writes about starting by just jogging a few steps each day, and how difficult it was to do even that. He would put his sneakers by his bed each night, so that he would not have a moment to think about doing something else.
I loved reading about Edith Wharton, who wrote each day from 6:00 a.m. until noon, leaving the rest of her days free to live life.    I love reading about the long difficult days of nuns and monks and ballet dancers.
     I remember a novel about a college bound boy in India. He realizes one morning that he has nearly destroyed his chance of going to college by avoiding all the work he should have been doing during the past three years. One morning, so anxious he can barely breathe, he creates a chart mapping out on a neat grid every paper he must write, every book he must read, every test he has to pass, and how many hours he must study in order to set things right. His family is poor so he has to figure out how to do all of this in addition to his chores and family obligations.    He does it. I read that book when I was in my 20’s. It had an ugly blue cover with poorly designed black type and I can’t remember the title. But I’ve never forgotten reading about that boy and feeling like no matter how far off course I’d gotten in my own life I could find my way back if I created a careful plan and worked at it each day.
     My favorite part of  Orange is the New Black (the book, not the television show) is when Piper utilizes the old, neglected race track at the prison,  and during her sad time paying for her crime she runs round and round and round thinking about everything from her own misdeeds to the injustice of prisons in America.
sleeping Alice.
     Sometimes I think that if I could just wake at 5:00 a.m. and leave sleeping Alice next to sleeping Andy on our bed, make my coffee and head to my studio to work for a few hours, I might become the success I think I should be by now. I imagine looking out my studio window at the dark or the light, depending on the time of year, and sitting down to work. I imagine this discipline would carry over into other parts of my life. Like Mr. Murikami and Piper I would also become fit by running each day a little more and a little more.
     The closest I have ever come to putting this plan into action was when I created my Ulysses Gloves. I set about copying all of Ulysses onto Rubber gloves. I worked on it all the time, bringing the Gloves and the book with me when I had to be away from my studio. I wrote on the Gloves at my son’s voice and dance lessons, in airports, at my mother’s home in Brooklyn until I finished. I had an exhibit, and by all measures the finished work is a success. But it did not transform me.  What is it that I want? Do I need to see my name in Art in America? Do I need to have a big award under my belt? None of the people I so admire did the things they did for glory or fame.
     My drawings are often made by repeating a line again and again until a large portion of a page is covered. Even my Boston dealer, who has known me for more than a decade seems surprised at the commitment I have to spending so much time on so detailed and dense, so tedious an artwork. But making these small drawings brings me close to that feeling I seek.  I feel like I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Sometimes doubt enters my mind and I slow down, or stop. I wonder if the drawing is worth the time after all. It’s a terrible feeling. Most often, when that happens I step away and go back to work later. But every now and then a drawing is a failure, and in spite of days of line making there is nothing left to do but throw the work into my trash bin.
IMG_0852     In addition to my drawings I am currently working on a stitching project that is an homage to my mother, as my Ulysses Glove project was an homage to my dad. I feel completely unsure of this project and it will take years to complete. I worry all the time that the project does not merit the time I’ll put into it. But does that matter? Is my dedication that is the point? I don’t know.
     I’ll keep blogging however inconsistently for my dozen or so followers (and for myself). I’ll keep working on my drawings and my crazy Mona project. Other than that, and walking Alice every day, I’m not sure what to put into my daily routine so that I can morph into the artist I think I should be by now, if it isn’t too late.