Mad skillz…or, trying to order chaos

There are two things I can think of to write about, tonight.

Advocacy for the differently-abled

The heavier topic, I’ll (largely) save for another post; I’m not sure I’m up to doing it, right now, especially with the sensitivity surrounding it (both for me and for others).

But that one essentially has to do with taking action against stigmatization, misunderstanding and fear; instead of stressing over being stigmatized, misunderstood, and feared.  That is, instead of worrying about being put into a stigmatized category, work for the understanding and betterment of people who are already in that category.  Once the stigma is allayed, the anxiety will be purposeless.

This has been spurred off by reading material on Accessibility while on the job (about one in five U.S. residents at any moment are dealing with a mental illness), and realizing that more people than anyone would like are too close to homelessness — a quick Google search turns up the statistic that one in three U.S. residents are one check away.  On top of that — at least my own disability is hidden; my recently deceased family member’s was not.  His death was preventable, and what led up to it is something I have heard related to me as “abuse.”  But I’m going to try not to get into that, now.

Organizing collected art @*#&

The lighter topic, which just flashed through my mind, is my freakin’ need to inventory my art materials, tools, and supplies, because I have more than enough art supplies to do what I want to do, without buying much of anything more.  The issue here is that I’ve had them for so long, that I’ve forgotten that I have them, or what I can do with them.  And they’re mostly stashed away where I don’t look.

Case in point:  a bunch of tiny linoleum blocks which I bought at the beginning of Summer, of which I’ve only carved into one.  I had forgotten about them until I picked up a surprisingly heavy little box (not knowing what was in it), and found them inside.

I’ve already begun a small version of cataloging these things, in setting up an MS Excel file with all the paints I have (or had, in December 2016).  That, in turn, was likely motivated by my experience with setting up a database for the first second time in one of my Library classes.  (The first time I set up a database was likely in 2007, using MS Access 2003, which I no longer…ironically, have access to.)  The second time, we were using a Web-based service which, while simple, is apparently more powerful than Access.  (?!)  I’m not sure about that last one…but it simulated the functionality of an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog).

I just took a moment to do some research on relational databases:  apparently, what I’m thinking of doing, D says, will require months of set-up work.  (Really?)  M has said that companies hire out for that kind of work, which I had wanted to give a good shot.  Well, anyway.  I suppose I can learn it later if I really want to do it…

I was also told that it would be more useful to photograph what I had, where.  My main concern was pulling together records of all my supplies in a central location, so that I could tell what I had, and from that gather ideas of what I could use it for, without digging through everything.  There’s just so much stuff that it’s hard to know on what paper or in what book to put new drawings, for instance; where any given completed drawing is; or what media to use for any given idea.

Marker digression:

I did make a crude but relatively interesting Cubist sketch the other day, trying to capture the idea of a specific kind of “lamp.”  This was done with a (Faber-Castell) Pitt Big Brush pen, which…well, the tip was already blunted, so I didn’t feel too bad about pressing firmly on it.  Different media require different approaches and have different ways of working with ease, which is why I’ve been trying to diversify.

Most markers have a limited shelf life:  they dry out.  This is a reason why I like Tombows (they last longer than most markers I’ve had — I really don’t think I’ve had to throw one out, yet).  Staedtlers are relatively good, too — by that I mean the Mars Graphic 3000 Duo brush pens.  The major issue I have with both are a lack of muted tones, and a suspicion that, like markers generally, they will be prone to fading.

Theoretically, though, both the Mars Graphic 3000 Duo pens and the Tombows are water-based and water-soluble, so they can be blended and drawn out with water.  I just haven’t especially had the will to try it.  However, that would probably be the most straightforward way to get muted tones.  Tombows come in a great prismatic range; the Duo pens are, on the other hand, mostly sold in sets, these days.  (They used to be sold in open stock…they’re really great pens, though — or, they used to be, when I purchased my three, years ago.)

Eh — maybe I should get back to large-format charcoal work and just have at it.  🙂

I guess there’s no reason not to

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Meditation

The heat still radiated out from the walls, although the sun had ceased to blaze about an hour ago.  Lee could feel the sweat sticking to her, evaporating all too slowly.

But how are you going to do it? she thought.

It amused her:  she worked surrounded by books, with the ability every day to take home a new writing, and yet something had stopped her from even opening anything that wasn’t based in reality.

Nearly every day, she tried to write, and even then found herself avoiding what she had once been happy to resign herself to, as life’s work.

Somewhere, buried under mountains of excuses, fears, and projections, lay the reason why.  But she didn’t know it, couldn’t see it.  There was too much in the way.

I have to open up if I want to be creativeWithout it, my work will suffer.

How many generations of artists had lived through eras of their work being constricted by the pressures of the market?  For how many years had Lee lived with the spectre of her own…shall we say…mental irregularities?

She hesitated to call herself “insane.”  Insanity was a legal term.  It meant a person couldn’t tell right from wrong.  She wasn’t insane in that sense.  But her fear,

if I let them see who I am, I’ll just show the world I am insane,

that stopped her.  Over the years it was possible to learn how to blend in, how not to frighten people by being too friendly, how to avoid glares as a reward for eye contact.

Even the word for it — schizophrenic

The vast majority of people, even educated people…even her professors — didn’t know what it meant.  They had a tendency to link the term with multiple personalities, which was not even close to what she meant when she used the term in a clinical (not pejorative) sense.

So she just didn’t use it.

Due to complications, she couldn’t even say, though, that when people did use the term wrongly, based in 19th-century dogma, that they used it inaccurately.  No one’s mind is wholeSo why am I so scared of opening the door to…that?

I’ve stood here, watching you, every day…writing these things out.  Have you forgotten your primary purpose?  Since you have gained to fortitude to begin to live, your fear has overwhelmed you.

Because now my employment depends on…

depends on appearing “normal?”  That’s why you chose the field you did.  You know it is normal within the arts and within letters not to be “normal.”

But I don’t know if I’ll stay,

You are not trapped.  Believe me when I say that I hear you where you fear becoming another like the ones you try to separate yourself from.  But you are not them.  You have not reached the point of spewing diatribes from upturned cartons on the sidewalk.  And I know a thinner line than you would like, divides you from those you smell before you see.  But you have care.  They don’t.

Then what separates us?

Lee looked over her shoulder at the dimming twilight.

I’ve never been hospitalized.  I’ve never been homeless.  I have access to medication and mental health facilities.

I don’t want to be hospitalized.  I don’t want to be homeless.  I don’t want to lose access to medication and mental health facilities.

This world was not made for me.

But you live here.  And if you want to be an artist — no.  If you want to make an impact on the world, you have got to face the idea that people will come to know you.  I know you’ve been hurt in the past, but you’re no longer a child.

I only live among children.

Listen to me.  Which part of you/I/us are you talking from, now?

STOP BEING CONTROLLED BY FEAR AND DO YOUR DUTY.

can you live fearlessly?

“confidential medical information;” unintended impact

Well,

You know, how my last entry was a cryptic hint to myself to look in my hard-copy journals for what I wanted to express?  I got it out on paper last night (or is that two nights ago, now), and …I think it’s relatively OK.  I worked in one of my Art journals…which, by the way, I actually looked through, tonight, and was highly impressed with what I thought was quotidian or uncreative, at the time I made it.

But as regards what I didn’t talk about last time:  this has to do with my recently having had to take a short course on how to avoid outing people who have confidential medical conditions.  This includes accommodations for disabilities.  Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, know that I have an invisible disability, which I have had accommodations for before (at least, until I got capable enough to do what I previously felt I couldn’t).

So I have been on the wrong end of “why isn’t she doing her job,” and people feeling like my supervisor was playing favorites and that this was why I got “special treatment,” when what was actually happening was that I was having difficulties they probably couldn’t fathom, and needed temporary accommodations to avoid major stress.  Stress is actually a really big thing in my life, as it probably is in most people’s lives; the difference with me is that stress can trigger symptoms, which can be severe enough to impact me outside of (and at) work.

I might not have to say this, but my illness is (categorically speaking) relatively severe.  Though I am high-functioning, currently relatively stable, and on medications to control my symptoms, I might not be able to hold a job without those medications.  Without treatment and counseling, there is the possibility I wouldn’t even be around, right now.  Getting needled at work on a daily basis was also one of the things that has caused me to miss work in the past, because I didn’t feel I could handle the stress of abusive co-workers without breaking out into tears or losing control.

In any case, the training had to do with the illegality of discrimination based on medical conditions, and the fact that supervisors are barred from disclosing any information about these conditions to the rest of the workforce.  On top of this, they’re required, where I live, to grant reasonable accommodations if it doesn’t cause an undue hardship.  This creates a little extra pocket of difficulty, though, where it seems to co-workers that the bosses are playing favorites because they aren’t appearing to treat each person “fairly” and can’t disclose that what they are doing is following, “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need.”  (I forget who said that, by the way.)  Then it falls on me to disclose or not — and why would I do that to someone who is hostile to me to begin with?

I’ve been relatively open about my disability status on this blog.  Granted that no one here knows who I actually am.  The issue I had been having last night is whether to be honest or whether to shut down.  I just wasn’t in a place to talk openly, then, though I wanted to.  In particular, it’s kind of an odd place to be in, having a (relatively) invisible disability and knowing that there are tons of people whose disabilities are visible and not apparently “secret.”  The other side of that is that many disabilities which don’t show on the outside are overly stigmatized and feared.

I’ve chosen to be open, at least here, because I recognize that the factor of my illness (which will never go away, so far as this one life is concerned) impacts all parts of my life, right now.  I’m lucky in that I have the skills to be able to express what I can, I have family to support me, and I have a competent team caring for me.  In that, I’m relatively privileged among people who share my condition.  It could easily be much worse.  I am, in effect, positioned to be an advocate.  As a creative, as well:  it’s difficult to utilize one’s full creative capacity when one has certain things one cannot express.

What the training I went through had the effect of expressing to me, though, was the idea that having a disability was a bad thing that no one should talk about openly.  I know this isn’t the case; I have disclosed to co-workers before, but only when I had the need and knew that I was taking a risk…with someone whom I gauged would likely be OK with it.

It feels slightly similar to coming out with any other intensely personal information, like my experiences with harassment in secondary school, or my sexual orientation.  These are things that no one really needs to know, in a work environment, but affect me and my life fairly profoundly.  When items like this are disclosed to safe people at the right time, it can (oddly enough) build rapport as the person who receives the information, feels honored that you trusted them and felt safe enough to disclose.

It doesn’t work this way all the time, however; you have to gauge each disclosure individually, and — just from experience — don’t trust appearances or the hope (or assumption) that you fall into the same category as someone else, to mean that they’re safe.  I have made this mistake far too many times.  Sometimes, someone who has no idea what LGBT means will take a disclosure of being non-straight, better than a person who seems gay-identified, for example.

In essence, though, the difference between writing anonymously in cyberspace and disclosing to people you have to see and work with every day, is major.  My fear, though, and it may be legitimate or not; is that someday I will no longer be anonymous, here; and then what do I do with these postings I have created and the people who have come together around me knowing this about me and accepting it?

I realize that the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed a very long time ago, when one could be fired just for being friends with someone in a wheelchair.  At that time, maybe fear of even being suspected of having a disability was strong; as it could easily affect one’s livelihood, and there was no legal recourse.  Right now the situation is still messy, obviously, but at least there are some protections.  The protections are so recent, though, that while I was in University the first time, my parents feared the legacy impact of my disclosing an illness to my University’s disability resource center.

Of course, though, at the time, they didn’t know that I might need the support, and they didn’t know the profoundity of the impact of this on me.  15 years later, they know much more about how to help me get through life…but that wasn’t without a lot of work, and education, on everyone’s part.