My friend Teresa is a cellist for the Bronx Opera. I met her through cat rescue a long time ago.
She is giving a concert in a few weeks, one she does every year at the Roerich Museum in Manhattan.
We wee chatting a little about it and she said it is a special performance because she has rearranged her relationship to music.
I said "Artistic transitions are dreadful."
She said yes, and no one really understands it.
They think it is a gift, a blessing.
Most people, non-artists, really have no idea.
I'm not talking about sometimes-hobbyists.
I'm talking about those of us sorry souls who have been thrown into the artist's life from the very start.
Our art, and it doesn't matter what it is- music, dance, painting- it drives and defines us in all ways. It is so central in our existence that it is impossible to separate from it. It drives us and consumes us. We know ourselves and the world around us through it. It is with us whether we are in the process of physically manifesting it or not. It occupies a stupid amount of our mental space and our resources.
Sometimes, the presence of our art is the only consistent thing which has been with us for our entire life.
It isn't something we can just shut off or stop doing. It isn't a choice.
This is what non-artists do not understand.
It isn't a choice.
Our art is linked to our stability or instability- and sometimes both at the same time.
We are constantly seeking it out, even as it seeks us out.
Art takes us to strange places, and makes us do what may appear to others as strange things.
We do go where others don't.
We know strange things, too.
As artists, we do absolutely experience life differently than the non-artist population.
We are very complex internally.
Everything is in relation to our art.
It is present in everything.
We see everything and feel everything through our art- it cannot be separated.
It drives us to strange thoughts and life experiences.
We tend to like other strange souls. Lots of us like cats, for example.
If you come into our home you will see the presence of our art has been given prominent space.
It is central, integrated. It is part of everything. It is so much more than the painting we are painting or the music we are playing.
Every artist has at some point been given Life Advice by a non-artist who thinks they understand their artist friend. We immediately know how wrong that advice is for us, though it might be ok for a non-artist. And we think, "Wow, they don't understand me one bit." And we know it is because this person means well but they are not an artist so they cannot understand.
We have to accept that but it is lonely.
And so we become our own best advisers, or if we are fortunate enough to have another artist friend, we might ask them. We tend to be very self-aware.
Especially for painters, but I think this applies to all true artists, it is a brutally lonely existence.
Not just because we require so much solitary time-- our art is in many ways our primary relationship and it is very demanding-- but because all through life, we do not find people with whom to relate. We are the odd one out. The strange one. The fringe-dweller.
And sometimes it really fucking sucks.