Dating the Talent

I was actually serious with this.

I was actually serious with this.

I was first introduced to the work of Brené Brown when I read her introduction to ‘The Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer. Ms. Brown is a researcher-storyteller who focuses on shame and our inability to connect. Ms. Palmer is a rock musician who lives her life asking and giving and being vulnerable in a way I never could. The theses of both these writers compliment each other and I wanted to learn more.

In a completely unrelated event, with him not privy to any of this information, my boyfriend sent me a link to Brené Brown’s TED talk about the power of vulnerability. We’re on the same page that way.

There’s one important page in our book, however, on which we are on different pages. Different chapters. Nearly different stories.

I have shame. I have vulnerability. I have inability to connect.

And I have no talent. He has it by swollen handfuls. 

At least, these are all things my head tells me. Granted, my head can be a right brutal bastard. Others might not say so about me. They might have nice works and compliments and proof to the contrary. But for me, today, behind the computer, fighting the words, I have no talent.

But if you ain’t got it, you ain’t got it. I can’t sing. Or play any instrument. I can’t paint or draw. Truly. My worst grade my freshman year of high school was in art. You can see why. And aside from doing,  I can’t speak about art or history or art history. I don’t know photographers or understand lighting design concepts.

That’s hard medicine to choke down, no matter how much honey you add to the spoon or how strong a chaser that follows it.

I hate not being talented. That’s obvious to the point of hyperbole. But I really, really hate it because I really, really want it. Again, giant obvious.  We all want talent. To be good at something. To be sought after and seen. To feel contributory and valued.

I love creativity and artistry. I will flock to it and stare. I will flirt with it as much as my social anxiety allows. I once gawked and had absurd and inappropriate romantic thoughts about a dossier at the Corcorn Gallery of Art in D.C, not because of anything he looked like or who he was as a person, but because he spoke with nerd-zeal compassion and authority on Stanley Kubrick’s use of facial distortion as a societal commentary in ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Entrancing.

The gripping attraction is  because I want to be physically near it.  Feel it. Pretend as much as I  wish with my green-tinged little heart that I had it. Not just faking it. Real goods. The talent that takes up space and air as much as another body in the booth next to you. Maybe I just want some of its skin flakes to entangle with me so give me a bit of something. Because up close, seeing how it’s made, makes it even more beautiful.

My lovely boy is talented. Extremely talented. A photographer. A writer of poems and novels and maker of worlds. A painter. A musician and crafter of songs.  He might say I exaggerate. I care about him, so maybe. But maybe not. I don’t have the goods to participate in the art so I try to facilitate. I buy booze. I make food.  I try to help think of the right verb that means ‘to ask strongly’ but isn’t the word ‘ask strongly’. I provide space and distance and understanding. Well, I always provide space and the sundries to allow creation. It’s as close as I get to artistry some days. To my own disappointment, I have struggled with distance and understanding. With enough conversation and openness from him and more trust by me,  I’m getting it. Getting better at being his audience, listener, problem-tinkering lab assistant. But part of me will  still always selfishly wish it was me as creator. 

Maybe I’m just hard on myself. Not appreciating the work I do accomplish in my possible world. 

Why does it bother me?  Why am I not just immediately thrilled when he reaches a watershed word count or does gorgeous shading work on a charcoal portrait? Is is simple jealousy? Why do I immediately reverse and compare that to myself, with strong and hard criticism. Yelling in my mind that I’m not the one writing. I’m always so humbled and thankful that he shares his work with me. That he thinks enough of me and my instincts and opinions to let me have the first look. Because I want to connect. And I love that he makes himself vulnerable to my gaze and giving me permission for deeper dissection. But so often I’m too busy listening to my own thoughts belittling me and my attempts that I can’t give the time and focus that his work deserves. It’s gorgeous work and I am so thankful he brings me into his fantastical worlds and lets me play.

But in real life, why aren’t I  enough? I’m crazy about this man. Why do I feel like if I’m not keeping up with his every creative beat that it’s not enough? It’s not him saying it. He has read my pieces and sat through my plays and offered not only commentary but heaped praise. Not generic lauding. Thoughtful, honest verbal applause when and where it was deserved. It’s an incredible feeling. To have someone you care about, in turn, care about what you love and what you do. Maybe time to do the same, consistently, intentionally, sincerely for him. Less grousing in my anxious brain about how everyone is better than me, especially the unafraid writer in front of me asking me to listen. How about I shut up and get to work. Stopping lamenting how some of my life choices prevent me from writing and use what I do have.  Actually get better at what I love, instead of wishing I could do what he does.  Keep pushing to  give him, and me,  things to look at, not because I want to prove or compete or to silence an inner doubter, but because I just love it. And I want to share that excited ‘look-what-I-did’ with him.

This is my new, big want. Not just to be a better artist, or any artist for that matter. But to be better at trusting. Trusting that being someone’s first, constant audience is necessary art work. That listening and supporting is a vital gift that I can give. Something I can be good at, even if it means being vulnerable or ashamed of my own lack of work or my perception of its lack of quality. That being genuinely proud and excited for his success can only make him and me and us better. I need to work at being a better artist. Always. But right now, I want to work on being better backstage, taking care of the talent.  Because doing that, also takes care of me.

 (Addendum: He read this last night, while I read the latest chapter of his novel. He liked what I wrote and also disagreed with bits.  He told me I’m talented. He  told me some of what I think is bullshit. He reminded me of what I am and what I can do. We talked and listened and shared and,  for a moment, he was dating the talent. Then he told the talent to put her phone down and go to bed. )

Stronger Than


Stronger than the night alone

Stronger than the quiet phone

Moved beyond the likes and votes

Moved beyond the brags and boasts

Willing to sink beneath it all

Willing to leap, willing to fall

Enough to know it doesn’t fit

Enough to know…

…It’s all bullshit.

Okay? All of it. Fine, if you need actual facts (you must not work at the White House), then maybe just most of it. If pressed, you have to grant me at least a goodly 75% or more. A strong and vocal majority. Of bullshit.

So, it’s a day, right? Great.  And then a night? Swell. Some of you got lovely things and/or ate lovely food at lovely places. Some of you watched Netflix all day and cried into cuddly wraps and got snot all over the remote.

Either way, it’s okay. I hope you’re okay. I hope the guy treats you well. I hope the girl treats you well. I hope you treat yourself well. I hope you find another decent series and more hummus after you finish your current intaking. Hope you just get some sleep. Hope it all turns out okay. Sometimes that happens. No. Really.

Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty okay.

I expected the crash, you know? I’ve had a tricky, testing few weeks. And then today and tonight being what they are? I was anticipating the in-bed-alone sads? But no. Not kidding. No bullshit. It’s okay.

The most gawky, awkward thing about being okay or, Juno forbid, happy is that no one really wants to hear it. Ask most bloggers/writers/sex therapists. The good stuff is boring. It’s jealous-making and ain’t no one starring that. They might. But not really. Just a passing-by like. The real traction and buzz comes from the hard, hurting, gut-pulling things. They like you and your stuff better when you’re not okay. Because that makes sense.

It’s hard to admit that I’ve been okay. For like, three days. Totally okay.  It’s tremendously unnerving. I had a bit of a crash today. ( Didn’t we all?) But it was a scratch on a bumper. Something you could buff out in a minute.  I worked through. The bottom never came up to meet me and smash my face. Wow. Still okay.


I mean, how…because it didn’t…I shouldn’t…there’s no way…


What is this, being okay? This waking up without the weight and the pressure and the gnawed raw insides. Who does that? No one I know.

I shouldn’t be okay. I should hate my mind and my giant thighs after eating heart-shaped pizza and climbing into bed alone, except for my computer. )Okay and maybe some pizza into bed too.) Because then, I’m not really alone, am I? Yet, here we are. Me and the pizza and the computer. All okay.

Okay days can happen. Believe me, I’m as surprised as you. But they can. So take them if they are fool enough to come knocking. And I know these okays are fleeting. I can already hear mine putting on their coats and boots in the next room. But I’m so glad they came to visit.  I’d forgotten what they look like, those okay days, with their breezy humor, and unflappable spunk. I’m sad to see them go but I’m sending them off with some left-over pizza.

( Sorry. I just could not resist a post for today that included the phrase ‘unflappable spunk’. I’m such a vulgar goonie.)

I hope you’re okay tonight. If not, that’s okay too. I’ll try my best to send my okay days your way next.

Answer if they knock. They’ll have pizza.