Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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02/16/2006: "Waiting for the other shoe to drop..."

I've been in a weird space recently...teetering on a fine line between a sense of intense well-being...and a sinking sense of dread. I'm not sure where either is coming from. The happiness probably has to do with the sunny weather we've been having and the increased fruits and veggies I've been I've finally signed up for private guitar lessons through the university where I have a tuition waiver.

The dread? Well, my grandpa has been sick for awhile, in and out of the hospital, and I worry about him a lot, as well as my dad. I also worry that I'm a shitty friend and sister, that I'm behind in my work, and about literally thousands of social ills I have absolutely no control over. I hate the fact that escapism is so important to me, even when I'm happy.

Speaking of which, I think Peter Sarsgaard is an incredible actor...and I'm impressed as hell that Zach Braff wrote, directed and starred in Garden State, (with Peter Sarsgaard coincidentally) which was a great film. I hate that there are so many things I want to be great at that will never happen. I lose FOCUS!

Replies: 13 Comments

on Friday, February 17th, Kasia said

Oh, how I understand you! I want to be great at many things, too but I am afraid that I simply can't be perfect. The problem is that I can't decide which path to choose...
And yes I know how it feels when there is not enough time to be a sister, a daughter, a worker, a friend. But what has helped me lately was a book by Beata Pawlikowska (unfortunately in Polish only, but I wish you could read it one day, cause it is one of the wisest books I know) and she said that everyone has a right to be egoistic. We can't save the world. We can' t worry about everybody else ALL the time, because what's left for us? Other popel should be able to take care of themselves. It's hard. But being happy should not mean feeling guilty, because somebody else is sick, or more hardworking, or old.
Of course that does not mean we shold be careless and unsensitive.

on Friday, February 17th, Elise said

Yes Kasia, there is this perpetually growing list in my mind of all the people I owe. Owe letters, or returned email or phone calls or that I owe a night on the town or trip to visit them. The longer the list grows, the more inertia sets in.

I think in these cases maybe the best thing to do is make a list and try to plug away at a few of them at a time rather than look at them as something that has to be done all at once.

Your book sounds good, maybe someday it will be published in English? I worry though, that if too many people decide it's ok to always put their own happiness first, well...I guess it's my belief that we should all try to make an effort...that small sacrifices can add up. You know..."many hands make light work" Of course, what I'm doing (just sitting around feeling bad about everything) doesn't help anyone.

This seems to be a recurring theme for me but I don't know how to quit.

on Friday, February 17th, Kasia said

The book is in French already...and in esperanto.;)

on Friday, February 17th, Elise said

Good ta know!

on Friday, February 17th,">Julie McBrien said

Hi, Elise. I am someone who misses you when you disappear for days, weeks and months at a time. Please don't prepare yourself for a lecture, because that is not my intent. What I want to share with you in this post is a path to happiness that I have found.

Do you remember our last fight? How I said those mean things to you? I apologize for saying them. At the time, I was very self-centered. I couldnít see past my own pain. I didnít see the pain that I caused you. I see it now, though.

Please forgive me. My family lovingly refers to me as their ĎBull in a China Shopí.

At that time, I was very unhappy with my life and my self-respect was at an all-time low. I was at your house so I wouldnít be at mine. I thought that I could find answers by changing my surroundings. Of course, this completely backfired!

At some point I realized that I choose my thoughts. Hell, I can even choose my emotions. I discovered something important in my search to heal. I found that I can put my energy into positive things, or I can put my energy into negative things. Really, itís up to me.

What are positive things? Positive things are things and people that make me feel good about myself. They have a positive return. I feel good after doing them or being with them. What are negative things? (This sounds overly simple, but maybe it is?) Negative things consume energy and they add nothing to my wellbeing. For me, these things tend to be obsessions that upset my peace of mind. An example would be the obsessive worrying that I used to do for my stepchildren, when they were at their motherís house. Sure, worrying = love, but it began to harm my marriage. My self-respect began to suffer. I had to find a way to trust more and worry less.

When I first approached this new idea of mine, I put it to the test right away. I decided to remember the birthdays of my friends and relatives, even if all I did was send a post card wishing them a happy day. I figured that since I can never afford to buy these people gifts at Christmas, I could surprise them on their birthdays. Love is fundamentally important to a healthy self-image, so this seemed like the place to start with my positive energy theory.

Well, I have been doing this for three years now and the most unexpected result have come of it. Happiness. Well, of all things! I donít always get birthday presents in return, in fact, I never do. But that isnít important. That my gifts should be reciprocated misses the point entirely. The point is to take a moment, to dedicate some energy to a loved one, and then to show them that I was thinking about them in a small way.

Please donít misunderstand my little monologue. I am not advocating a choice between art and friendship. I am just trying to share this wonderful thing that I have stumbled onto, in the hope that it will help you. You mentioned that your grandfather has been ill. My little positive method guarantees that I have good memories of my friends and relatives when they are alive. I end up with stronger relationships and a better understanding of important people in my life.

Elise - you are a kick-ass woman. Donít feel guilty about your friendships and definitely donít make friends into chores. That is a guaranteed killjoy, right there. Enjoy that you are exactly as you were meant to be. Nothing about you is bad or a 'mistake', and so nothing needs to be fixed! Remember that your friends want to spend time with you because they like you. You are fun and brilliant and you challenge us with your theories and you ask us to examine our belief systems. Each of your friends and relatives is more alive for knowing you and even though we argue and fight with you, we recognize this and we even crave it.


on Friday, February 17th, Elise said

Sheesh Julie!

I have noticed that you have seemed so much happier these past couple of years...and I have noticed (and been thrilled) by the fact that you've gotten me birthday presents (and not just little tokens either, but really awesome ones) especially since I'm always away for my birthday and because I have not reciprocated (now I feel like an ass again).

Anyway, it *has* meant a lot to me. I hope you don't think that I consider our friendship a "chore" far from it! Take all the nice things you said about me and multiply it times 10 and that's how I feel about you...

The art thing does take me away sometimes, I can't seem to help that...I have tried. But...

I like your suggestions...simple, but you are a testament to their effectiveness. I will try to follow your wise ways.

BTW, let's get together and play guitar sometime soon! There is nothing as theraputic as MUSIC!!!!

on Saturday, February 18th, Julie McBrien said

Hi, Elise. Yeah, I am not sure how my post got so long winded. I simply meant to respond to your comment about making a list of people that you owe and tackling it one at a time. This sounded suspiciously like a chore list to me.

I guess I just wanted to talk about how shifting focus from oneself, even for short periods, can disrupt the cyclical thinking that revolves around analyzing ourselves. For me, taking a small amount of time out my life and devoting it to a loved one tends to mean so much to the person AND it can be fun and restorative to do something kind, thoughtful and unexpected for someone else. Anyway, sorry to ramble so much. I should learn to stay off of the damn soap box.

on Sunday, February 19th, RR said

That's a really nice exchange. Thank you both. There are often wise words to be taken from other people's writing. :rolleyes:

on Sunday, February 19th, berry bowman connell said

"trying to be great?"
It's not so hard, but hardly worth trying to do. An easy example set would be folks who did really stupid things for fame and greatness,....lee harvey oswald comes to mind, but more to the point was the guy who shot John Lennon. what was his name? who cares?
How about the guy who shot Frank James in the back, and just to be great, eh? Don't remember. Don't care to even look it up.
How about someone who did things to do them as best as possible with no thought of fame or greatness at all?
(this gonna be a long one,)
Sister Terresa
Vincent van Gogh
Theodore Roosevelt
Edward Manet
Toulous Latrec
(yeah, I just always wanted to be listed next to Tom)
la Guardia
Achilles (if the movie can be believed)
Berlin brothers
All these folks didn't set out with great in front of them. Most actually hoped they would just get by with something to eat at the end of the day.
You paint a fine picture, and the attention you pay to doing the same is what wil;l propel you into the limelight or not. Fame and greatness are fickle things and have no basis of reality on which to attain, short of causing some destruction, that is.
That sounded pretty confusing. How about this,....the only way to insure at least temporary greatness is by destoying something. It will also incur rath.
(oops. getting political...)
and, of course, it's entirely up to you. The choice is even more confusing, though, when you consider that Dali's purpose was to become well known as an artist. So was Warhol, Picasso, Braque, Gaugin. And, I guess, to some extent, Cezanne, Kennedy, Johns, and even Monet. But, the primary action of the very best of the best will always be found to be, they tried as best they could to do what they did. That will be the Great in your life, also. Course, I don't know you THAT well,....for all I know you might have a printing press in your basement and are at this very moment getting ready to print out your work in the thousands like Dali, and if that's the case, well. Nevermind the ramblings of an old dinosaur.
But I am fairly certain that greatness is not a sufficient goal.
The attainment of it may improve your lot in life, but, it's just too danged fickle to put a finger on and achieve (short of....)

On the other hand, that you teach makes you more great than you even know. Betcha there's dozens of passed (past) students who will remember you everyday of their life for the rest of theirs'.

OK OK This is getting WAY too long, and maybe in jepardy of being collapsed, but, then, that's OK, too. My intent is not fame through your eyes, but rather that you make the best of what you got going, gal.
And from here, it looks like yer already on your way to fame (and fortune, hopefully) already. Just have the right goals in front of ya....

on Sunday, February 19th, berry bowman connell said

Oh yeah. And don't forget focus.
For example, I wandered over here to tell ya I posted the zodiacs and then got carried away....
You actually have two different ones, too, because I didn't feel like the goat/fish thing was "pretty" enough.

But, they were fun! Thanx for the idea!

on Sunday, February 19th, Elise said

Hi RR, haven't heard from you in awhile, hope the new job is still agreeing with you!

And Berry, thanks for such a long and thoughtful post...I guess I should clarify something a little, perhaps it was my choice of words. I said " there are so many things I want to be great *at*" not that I, personally, want to be great and famous. I've actually never craved fame, I don't like being in the spotlight much, I absolutely hate attending my own openings for example.

What I meant is that I have a lot of different interests that seem to prevent me from focusing (and mastering) any one area.

I have become absolutely fixated on:
making movies
playing various instruments
scuba diving
web development
I could continue this list on and on and on...

When I get really into something, I put all of my time energy and financial resources into it. I research, buy equipment, practice, dream about it. Painting is only one of many things and sometimes it takes a back seat to something else. I'm trying really hard to concentrate on one medium for awhile (painting) so I have let movie making fall away, and sometimes something will happen that reminds me of how passionate I still feel about it. But I just can't do so many things and be (ok, really even just good...let alone great) at them.

That's all I was getting at. Anyway, I'm going to go check out your zodiak paintings, I'm sure they look great.

on Sunday, February 19th, berry bowman connell said

Yeah, it figures. I am such a "kneejerk" writer at times.
Thing is, your stuff was so cool, I couldn't see why the negative side.
Guess you'll just have to live to be a couple hundfred years old, eh?

Or, maybe you could make a movie about a landscaper who writes about painting her sailboat while scuba diving, and the music background could be you playing various ceramic jugs (which really does sound cool,) but, whatever you do, please don't come kickbox me fer coming up with such a goof idea.

Maybe just organize better. Paint on Monday, play the euphonium on Tuesday, go sailing on Wednesday with your movie camera. Pottery on Thursday, come look up berry on Friday and kickbox him for doing it again.....

on Monday, February 20th, Elise said

Great suggestions Berry, I'll keep them in mind!