The Aging Artist

29 05 2017

Weather.: Oh it’s been a rollercoaster. Cooler spring than expected, with more rain than anticipated. May is heading for the door and June looks to be mild. 

So. Glances at the date and winces.  

I’d make excuses or give reasons for my lack of blog activity, but the truth is I just haven’t had the energy or coherency to write lately. The political garbage fire kind of sucked me in and I have been spending way too much time refreshing my Twitter feed rather than looking out the window or thinking about creating. The righteous anger I felt at the start of this year has turned into a low burning seething fire in my belly. I’ve been productive in the studio, but my new work hours have somewhat curtailed the time I’ve spent there.

Wildly random update: The husbeast and I took a financial planning class which has actually helped us get back on track with our economic situation.  Which was good because my little beat up Punk Mobile of a car decided that it was time to self destruct– Rack and pinion broke along with the steering column and struts. In other words: $$$$ of repairs. There was a period of deciding whether it was worth it to put the money into the car, but ultimately we realized that we can’t be a one car  family. (We tried for a month and it was getting very unfeasible.)  So, made an adult decision to hold off on a new car until we could pay mostly cash for it, and got the Punk Mobile fixed.

Also, made another adult decision to get our health back in order and went to see a nutritionist who gave us much more clear and practical ways to eat better and get in healthy shape.

Add in some relatives passing away and having bad things happen…it’s been a rather busy and distracted period of time.

Now. The title is something I’ve been wanting to discuss, but been mulling over how to write it up.  I’m not old, not by any reasonable definition. 50 years old is solid middle aged. But sometimes “aging” is less to do with a number and more to do with the deterioration and decline of certain faculties and body functions.

I have, over the past few years, had an acceleration in vision deterioration, the onset of arthritis in several of my joints and of course, the weight problems I’m  working on as we  speak.

I wear increasingly strong bi-focals to see, and as of recent, I have to wear them all the time because I can’t see shit with them off.  They used to be just for reading. Now I can’t function without them.

The arthritis is hard, mostly because it’s setting into my hands, predominately in my thumb joints. The thumbs are starting to float towards my palm, making it almost impossible for me to flatten my hand out on a level surface. My grip is getting weaker, though I’m doing what I can with exercises and braces to counter it.

The weight issue is fixable, but with age comes more effort necessary to achieve your goals.

It’s obvious how it affects my day to day, but the frustrating part is how it’s affecting my art.

Being a mosaic artist, a lot is depending on my ability to cut tile, stone and glass. I use clippers, glass cutters and even saws to get pieces to the shape I need for whatever the piece requires. With my thumb joints deteriorating, using the clippers for extended periods of time is getting difficult. And trying to hold the tiles as I clip them is increasingly difficult as my thumb-to-index finger grip is getting weaker and has less dexterity. I’ve compensated where I can by using tiles that are smaller and need less customizing, but it’s definitely starting to limit the work I can do.

The way I’ve come to terms with this is accepting that I may have to alter my technique and re-define what kinds of art I want to make. I’m not one that takes these kind of limitations well, but practicality will always win out over my fragile little feelings.

Yes, I’ve spoken to my doctor about this, but the answers are usually to offer exercises to stave off the deterioration a bit longer, but no, there’s no reversing it.

The vision problem will just be relegated to better glasses, hopefully not ending in a point where I just have to accept that I can’t do smaller detailed work anymore.

There is some guilt flagellation going on, because I know that some of this bodily degradation rests solely on my sedentary shoulders. Had I done a better job of staying healthier, I might have not been dealing with these issues  for a few more years. But this is what it is. We adapt to our environment, our new relationships with our surroundings, because we have to.  I will have to adapt to my new reality, where my body may not be working the way it did, but I will find a way to work with the new limitations. Self-inflected wounds aside, I need to stop beating myself up over past lapses and make sure they don’t continue in the future.

I’m 50, not dead. And if watching others have blooming careers in their 60s, 70s and older has taught me anything, you can have the life you want, but you may have to accept that there are different parameters to work within.

So no whining. No lamenting. Just accepting the circumstances, doing what I can to adapt and still work on slowing the deterioration, and making the best of my new reality.

An aging artist is still an artist.  Limitations are merely things to work around.  I won’t be defined or limited by things as simple as sore joints and bad eyesight. I still have a destination, I just need to adjust the path.

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