Unable to Attain

Until you’ve painted, you cannot legitimately express opinions on the skills of the person holding the brush. I learned that lesson through embarrassing experience. I tried to paint something I thought would be “easy.” I selected an abstract theme, thinking it’s impossible to paint something “wrong” that has no expression in reality. I was wrong. Across the board. And I was chastened to learn that, regardless of how much I wanted to express myself through art, I was not…am not…a natural. I may not be capable of doing what I want to do. And that reality hurts. My inability to transfer what I see in my head to the canvas is actually painful; it causes physical pain, discomfort that seems illegitimate. How could my inability to paint an image translate into physical pain? I don’t have an answer; I just know I have the experience. The reality of being “not remotely good enough” is instructional. It tells me I am not the man I wished I were. It tells me I do not have the innate talents I dreamed I had. It tells me I am more fallible than I wish to be. It’s just disappointing; more disappointing than I could have imagined. I had fantasies of being a late-in-life artistic talent. That isn’t going to happen. I can always return to my writing; I’m not bad at that. But, like the visual arts, I’m not by any means stellar (though maybe more stellar with words than with acrylic). Yet I have to accept that none of my artistic talents is sufficient to warrant calling myself an artist. And I think that is the most painful aspect of coming to this realization. I have always, somewhere deep inside me, wanted to be an artist; that has been my lifelong aspiration. To be a talented artist, regardless of medium, was the dream I never quite allowed myself to articulate. But here it is. That’s what I wanted. And I’ve not reached that goal and have no reasonable expectation of getting there. Knowing this, understanding this, coming to grips with this, is more difficult than I ever imagined. It’s as if the person I hoped I’d be, the person I’d always wanted to uncover after peeling back all the layers, is hopelessly lost. I’m unable to attain the single most important thing. I’m not sure what I feel. What I can say  with certainty is this: it’s not good. Coming to the ugly realization that wishes do not necessarily translate into reality is brutality made real. I guess I’ll get over it, whatever “it” is; but I hate knowing I am incapable of being the man I’ve wished I were. God, what a painful realization. I know I can continue to write, draw, paint, and the like. But I’ve reached the realization that, no matter how I try, I won’t be good at any of them. I might be adequate. But not good. Maybe we’re not all destined to be “good,” if that means anything. But some of us…me, for example…just want to be good at something. It could be anything; fishing lures, sailing, making art, investing in raw land. But none of those things fell into place. And I suppose I’ve not invested the energy and time required to make any of them happen. And, now, I have no energy to invest. I’m just impossibly tired.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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