To get inspired, or to be inspired? That's the question, and the difference.
Inspiration has never been hard to come by for me, really. It sounds stupid, but of my earliest memories, one of the most memorable for me was this time I was on my mom's lap, maybe 2 or 3 years old back in our Lord Street era. I had mumbled some gibberish words and wondered if I had said something in a foreign language, Chinese on my brain I believe. How foolish, yea, that a child mumbles something and thinks it could really be valid. Or, would it be foolish to be a child that couldn't imagine the possibility of speaking Chinese?
This was in the late 80's. Culture and an "outside world" was through movies and cable television. I loved all things karate, but particularly the Ninja Turtles (second blog mention to date). In 1991 our new home became my step dad's house and I was blessed with an encyclopedia set he had on hand, along with a wildlife single volume encyclopedia. The wildlife publication was full of various size animal images, and I know I skimmed it front to back many times thinking it should be longer, there were more animals. Notice I say skim, because my anxiety has been with me as long as I can remember and it makes for an impatient reader in me. As far as the encyclopedia set, I would scour through various volumes for the illustrations. I wish I would have read more, I even remember noting to myself then, but it was the pictures that took me to new places quickly, particularly this one picture of a train, my favorite. Even though I didn't know what I was looking for, I felt like there was something more.
I've spoken to my dad once on the phone since I got his information. I've called more than that, actually, but it's back to land line style with him, so the timing seems to be off. In our one conversation it was essentially him asking me life questions, and me holding myself together long enough to recite my answers in short, forced bursts, taking a break, and then readying myself for the next sentence. This only lasted for so long before he asks, "Do you have a cold?" I said "no" and I broke. I'm sobbing like they always said a man isn't suppose to and I'm explaining that this
is really hard for me. I couldn't bring myself to complete the thought by saying "because you were the one I was suppose to be able to call all those times I was ready for the rope." I had taken enough time before calling him to understand that he was in my shoes, new to me just the same, and I didn't want to place any sort of guilt on him. From information that's been passed to me, and from the conversation, he seems to be a simple man and impressed with the things he's learning about me. I've carried myself through my trenches with the inputs and influence of others, and I've become a unique man nonetheless through the will of my own hands and feet. I stand for something.
I have this poem from 2012 somewhere where I begin saying "I hope the words I've spoken to you don't just pass you by.." doing my best to express that I'm another human with another story who's doing my best to work it out, and if nothing else you have to feel my energy and relate. More often than not being one of few white people in the creative space, but this time a feature performer for a black sorority. I wanted them to see past my skin and feel my bones. I said "I fell in love with my absent father. If it wasn't for his imaginative existence I may not have approach life with such relentless persistence."
I remember fairly well the walks that would occur with my mom, myself, brother, and one of my two sisters.
Our most common walk was to church, where we were always one of the families that arrived without a father. My sister's dad - mother's husband - was dead for nearly 10 years at this point, and my mom had yet to find another long term relationship. Hearing and seeing dads with their kids, my classmates, the other church kids, and around town, I always wondered what that was like. We were often questioned about our last name, me especially by carrying a whole separate name.
In all seriousness, no usual sarcasm at all, I feel gratitude for all this while looking back. It was painful, but my tattoos were also. Navy boot camp was an emotional roller coaster and physically trying, but I came out stronger in every sense along with the understanding of words like accountability and courage. My marriage and divorce was an overall disaster, but it directed me in what I want for myself and in a wife.
I was 8 years old when state-ordered blood tests came back on my last name. I vividly remember going to my room that evening and sobbing like a bitch for what was at least a couple hours or more, it seemed. I remember how my bed was positioned in my room, the head to the north, feet to the south, and the square box of Kleenex I was reaching for on the northwest corner nightstand to dry my face. It was either my mom or sister that came in at one point to try to calm me, neither a man, and that's what I needed then and in the years to come.
I've been suicidal since, yet I'm still here. A local Kansas City artist bumped into me in the smoking section at a show while I was having a conversation on suicide with an associate. She explained how in a certain culture, to contemplate suicide is the ultimate strength; to weigh life and death. It's ironic that the same fact that spurred my habitual contemplation of death would serve as one of my greatest sources of inspiration. I've been filling my father's void with my creations and the things that attract my eccentric personality for years. Family and friends, forgive yourself, if you can't find ways within yourself to understand this.
I love art - being creative - like I would have loved my dad. I take pride in doing something unique the best I can with what I have, like I would have done things to make him proud. Rap, rock, R & B, and country musicians were my dad's voice. And Bob Ross! Photography has always allowed me to savor a moment rather than be anxious for the future that was sure to pass. Notice I said "was?" Slow down... Culinary art is dear to me as a colorful, fresh plate brings joy to my eyes and pleasure to my stomach and nose. Painted canvas and print on my apartment walls are like the seasoned, colorful vegetables on my plate. I think about travel in my sleep and when I'm awake, because I know the greatness that awaits me in these new places, these foreign vibrations, less tainted by our American Daze. I sort my surroundings and plans to suit the colors and motions in my mind.
From my life story - feeling marginalized regardless of my color, fighting chronic depression and anxiety since a young age, the lack of dental insurance and toothaches - the feelings of loss, void, and desertion will always be the foundation of my blue eyes' sight. I can't see that changing, ever. I'm no victim at all, because
art has continued to set me free and keep me in [God's] light rather than the world's darkness. It's so easy to be dark, almost an addiction. I don't think of suicide the way I use to, but it'll always be in my rear view, and a potential for spells of depression will continue to ride with me for now. I've survived all of this, and I'm here at 1 am to put it in words for you.
Sometimes we have an experience that gets us inspired. A concert, an art gallery, a hike or vacation, learning new things, or an arrangement of colors, and yet as high as the inspiration may have taken us, we crash back down into our status quo norm. To be inspired, that is the objective. I don't know how to get there, but I know you have to find a way to be it, or it will leave you. It seems it was given to me; it rarely goes away. If it's inspiration that you truly want, I believe that is what you will get. Slow down, open yourself, address your pain and intrinsic potholes, and decide what will be the best filler? Find your balance and surround yourself in what lifts your spirit. Spend time alone and see what wakes you. What will best stitch your wounds? What supplies and tools do you have, and how will you use them? Rope is better to display creative works on your walls or on a mixed media canvas, rather than to be twisted up into a noose. If you don't feel anything else I've said, just know that last sentence is true.
When I could have just went without, art gave me life, just like you, Dad. Thank you.
* A special thank you to Donnie Dunkin (RIP) for teaching me baseball and making me an all star, Rob Jones for teaching me how to take a hand off for a few 3rd and 4th grade touchdowns, Jamie Baker for encouraging my enthusiasm for performance and music, Bill (RIP) for the knowledge of growing food, Uncle Danny for teaching me how to use my hands and how to dress like a man, Bradley for being a friend, and Pops for being the most humble man who's ever graced my life.