There’s a funny story that my mother and I recount about my grandfather trying to convince me to become a mail carrier. After a couple of whiskey highballs, reading glasses sitting crooked on his face, he’d start in on his crusade about the great benefic rewards of working for the government and how I was just too old to be “not do nothing”. He meant well, and even though I have two degrees and had worked in the media and mental health fields, he couldn’t for the life of him understand what I was doing with my life. And he never asked. He was a railroader, laid tracks, and only understood work to be something you did with your hands. Anything else was not real work. I value that rock solid midwest working class attitude and training. The downfall being that the life of the mind, the province of relationships, ideas and creativity are not much supported or valued, nor understood. People can be downright hateful when they think you’re not doing REAL work. The “get a job” attitude. In an uber-materialistic value system, we’re entrained into blaming the shiftless, siphoning individual rather than being critical of the patriarchal systems of oppression and the (mostly) males who control the world’s resources (human and natural) and money flow.
My husband Patrick is also from the midwest and grew up shaped and strengthened by those same working class principles. We’re grateful for all the shit shoveling, ass wiping, fence building, broom pushing, dishwashing, food slinging, housecleaning, child caring, lawn mowing we’ve done in our lives. We know how to work. But that, we all know, in a world where the rate of exchange for hard work, is not even remotely close to parity.
Patrick and I have gotten good at tinting and turning our most desperate times of financial despair and hopelessness into humor. Those digging-for- coins-in-cushions days are among our most cherished and farcical. I would imagine most of the nose-to-the-grindstone’s among us who live with the fear and panic of not knowing how they’re going to make rent or buy food have similar stories. Over the years, colossal dread, immense uncertainty, and shaming by people who don’t have the courage or interest in creating this kind of life have been the catalysts for deepening my commitment to my work; my vocation as an artist, intellectual provocateur, feminist, and writer. I’ve gotten close a few times to going off the rails, that is, abandoning my Self and what I Know to be my work in this life. And always, Patrick has been there to re-orientate me; over a glass of wine we get back on track. No Rebecca, you don’t need to get a job at Sunrise Assisted Living or cashiering at Whole Foods. Or dog walking. Keep writing. Keep working for what you love. Keep feeling all of the feelings.
Patrick is unshakable in his convictions; unfaltering and audacious in his principles of pursuing one’s passion.
He once wrote to the billionaire Warren Buffett proposing an idea about investing in art to support artists. Buffett kindly declined, but had this to say about passion: “I agree with you completely about pursuing your passion-any other course is just marking time throughout life.” Warren Buffett
I’ve come to understand through this journey, re-committing myself over and over again to the life of my passion, radical ideas, creative insurrection, love and the living arts, that it is sometimes necessary to ask people for financial help. We have been gifted with the presence of a few beautiful people in our lives; dear friends and a loyal patron who have been there for us in the hardest of times. Solid in their caring and unyielding belief in our work, our ideas, our art, our madness. One day at a time, through all the emotional shitstorms, financial agony, relationship anguish, descents into the abyss, we have found our way out and forward, resisting to wear (for very long) the parboiled hair cloak of shame and devaluation that is, often, thrust upon those who work in the wilderness of ideas and imagination.
Then the dawn arrives. The mountain lion makes her way down the craggy mountain onto the city streets to deliver her message; in our shared psychic space we emerge from the Persephonic journey and begin to understand where we have been, who we have become, why we are here. And the closer we look, we begin to see a structure there, a form has taken shape; all these years of trudging and laboring, endings and beginnings, collapse and rising-up, a solid foundation has been built with head, heart, and hands.
And a little farther down the path, in her witchy, earthy humor, She, the deliverer of omens and gesticulations, may drop you a wink and a nudge to remind you that you’re not now and never have been alone in all the years of the hard-as-hell, magical-beyond-belief journey.