I’ll admit it; I love a good old Adam West Batman KAPOW! I wear red patent shoes, and love the thrill of boarding a plane with my passport in hand. I can’t deny having a crush on excitement and new things.
Still, for every pair of hot shoes, I have stretchy black yoga pants and a ubiquitous Gap T shirt. For every exotic day, I have 200 days of laundry and phone calls. An average day in my life is a lot more like the Persian film Secret Ballot (a day in life of an Iranian woman traveling around to remote rural areas to collect ballots for an election) than Batman.
Last summer I came home from vacation in a “groove.” Feverishly painting from the moment I kissed my children into their beds, until 1:30am when I’d force down my still frantic paintbrush so as to avoid a next day painting hangover, I churned out eight paintings in a new series in five days. Then, as suddenly as the creativity had burst into my life, it was gone. Two nights later my husband rolled over to me in bed. “What’s bothering you? You seem pensive.” Hmph! Pensive indeed. That amazing creative energy had dissipated and left me back to the normal monotony of the day, and it was depressing. I wanted exciting back!
Sometimes I feel rather saturated in the restless, unexciting portions of life, in those in-between spaces. For every epiphany and “Eureka!” light bulb moment there seems to be interminable spaces of un-“eureka!”s. For every groove there is a funk. There is lot of irresolution, ambivalence, normalcy, and uninspired moments. For those 30 seconds of a rollercoaster ride, there is the interminable hour of standing in line with colorful characters in the oppressive sweaty heat.
The seemingly unsavory reality is that life has a lot of lateral movement, meandering, a lot of “filler spaces.” Last year, I read “Spiral Jetty,” an essay by Lance Larsen. As I discussed it with friends, it resonated with me, the sort of meanderings, the lateral movement, the lack of quick resolutions, the hanging of presence and expectation. It reminded me that we think of life as events rather than journeys; in this we often fail to find the meaning in the lulls, the in-between spaces. As a self-labeled accomplishment junkie, I am trying to be more content and embrace discovery in those times of seemingly lateral life.
In art, we tend to focus on positive space, but an essential element is the negative space. It highlights the forms, it gives balance to a piece; it’s often the unappreciated element that makes the composition. When I look back on that high school trip to Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, I remember far more the Red Hot Chili Peppers song that piped through the speakers, as we stood there for an hour and a half. I remember how we observed gum collection and made silly jokes as we swung on the rails that corralled us into serpentine lines–and yet, I remember nothing of the actual ride.
What have you learned from the ebb and flow of life? How have you gained appreciation for the filler spaces?