An Artist @ Work
Originally uploaded by Lorenzo! (lorenzodom)
Photo taken by Adriana Lira-Oliver; editing by me.
April 22, 2008, New Jersey:
Although I could just as easily have closed my eyes, they were urged open this morning at 6 AM when my father stood towering above me saying, “You want me to facilitate that for you? Do you want me to be your facilitator?”
What I understood that he was saying was “Get up out of bed and back to work”—‘facilitator’ being a euphemism for horsewhip.
As I shook off the slumber and my desire to close my eyes again and go back to sleep, I acknowledged that my father was merely an apparition, a specter in a dream, a phantom in my psyche. However, his message reverberated, because I actually felt an urgent need to “get back to work.”
The compulsion ran deep and thus prompted me to jump out of bed, run downstairs to make a pot of coffee, stretch a little while I waited for it to brew, and then, run back upstairs to jump in the shower (that’s a whole lot of jumping!).
Albeit the desire to get back to work was and is a true and common feeling for me, the dream was so strangely Freudian, that I felt suddenly, somewhat, enlightened.
Last night at 1 AM, I had to force myself to stop working on a new book that I began creating immediately after putting the boys to sleep.
The only reason it was a compulsory shutdown was because I literally couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
Nonetheless and allthemore, five hours later, I was roused awake again by this inherent need to return to work, to make the most of my day, my time, my talents and this solemn night on earth; to seize the day which was being quietly, slowly illuminated by the rising sun; to “get your lazy ass out of bed son,” if only to make my angry father happy.
When I was growing up my childhood inclinations to read or draw or write or obsessively-compulsively organize and clean my room until 2, 3, or 4 AM in the morning, often clashed with my father’s belief that one’s day should always begin early.
Hence, through college and graduate school, and even through my first five years of marriage, whenever my father called his standard phone greeting was “I’m sorry, did I wake you?”
“Did I wake you?”
It would be 3 o’clock in the afternoon here on the East Coast (noon, his time in California) and he’d still rhetorically ask, “Did I wake you?”
It was the most irritating, emotionally grating thing ever. It was only after years of having him saying the same thing to my wife (at the time) and subsequently getting the flack for it, that I had to eventually ask him to cease and desist, once and for all.
Ultimately, he did quit saying it.
Alas, apparently, the message still resonates deeply though.
Hence, even though I didn’t have time to fire up the laptop to continue working on the book this morning as I got ready for work, I did apply myself diligently to the task of doing something meaningful.
For while I got dressed and finished my first cup of coffee; and while I walked to the bus and rode on the bus; I memorized the first stanza of my all-time favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling, If, a piece of verse that I feel I should have committed to memory a long time ago:
If you can keep your head when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
And yet make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, or talk too wise…
… you’ll be a Man my son!
So, apparently, it seems, my soul continues to sing the song that my father taught me a long time ago; one that compels me into a frenzy of labor and anxious time-biding through project upon project upon project with little time or design for repose and rejuvenation.
And although I’m not sure that this compulsion will ever make me more of a “man” per se, I do believe that indeed it has compelled me to create prodigiously, and despite the bleary eyes and the constant bout with exhaustion, I guess that might be a good thing...uh, maybe.
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