Posts in Category: struggle

New Work

scan.jpgI have been struggling lately with depression.  I see things at my job in the psychiatric hospital that have impacted me emotionally more than I let myself realize.  Some people knew and prayed for me, but I have not been able to paint as much as I would have liked.  I have started again, with a notable change resulting.

New Light

smiling-chinese-woman.jpgIt has been some time since I have written anything.  I have been working on getting a piece ready for the Chinese Cultural Center of San Francisco.  I shipped out 6 pieces for their exhibition “Afterlife” and finished printing a block print for my church’s production of “God’s Trombones” which we will be putting on this spring. 

I have been struggling with feeling depressed again, and these overwhelming feelings have been draining me.  To distract myself, I have been learning about making African drums and finding the topic quite interesting.  My father and I are making a few Ashiko drums and possibly will be making a number of other conical, cylindrical, and compound conical drums in the next few months.  I am hoping to use these drums to facilitate a number of drum circles in my community, bringing drums that people can play.  Drum circles remind me so much of grace … a gift of rhythm that cannot be possessed and only grows if it  is added to by joining with others.  Rhythm is a gift that is freely given to everyone who listens to the beating of their own heart.

I have been trying to figure out again what it means for me to pursue art making in a humble, little way – a way that gets away from the kinds of rewards that society tells us that we need to have to measure our worth.  I am coming back to this.

 I heard a friend this weekend who plays in a gospel-rock-blues band who is doing a two-week tour this summer of homeless shelters between Denver and Grand Rapids.  I have never heard of such a thing – people who want to play music specifically for the homeless … and it seemed like the kind of thing that would make God smile. 

I want to make art in a similar spirit.

 God, move me.

Weary

a-chinese-vehicle1.pngOnce, someone told me not to continue working as a social worker because they thought I was “too sensative” to deal with all the pain that I would encounter in this line of work.  They thought that it would destroy my art.  Well, this person is right and wrong.  I am still creating art, but I have to say that I do lug around a pretty thick crust of defensiveness at times to protect myself from feeling “too deeply” the pain of the people whom I work with.

But lately, though, I have been pretty burdened by the kinds of problems that I am encountering here in the hospital.  More homeless people who are suicidal and have no place to go.  People who can’t get their psychiatric medications becuase their counties have no more indigent funds to pay for the medications these people need to stay psychiatrically stable.  People who drink and drug themselves to numb the pain of their problems, and end up wishing that they were dead when they clear. 

So, I walk among people who have these kinds of problems for 8 hours every weekday.  With the economy at 10.6% unemployment, the resources I need to help people are becomming scarce.  I can’t depend on the social service system to help me get resources to people like it did before.  It breaks my heart.  I ask myself every day that I am here if I will be able to help people … and this kind of dispair seems to hang over me. 

I sometimes worry that I am getting depressed … and it is possible that I am.  Making art, playing with my kids and talking with my wife are the things that give me temporary distraction from the burden of watching people suffer.  I feel like the waters of a flood are backing up to the door of our hospital … and it is slowly squeezing out my breath.  I paint, I drum, I play and I pray for the people who would gladly change places with me because they are worried that they will drown under the waters as opposed to being a spectator.

I have been working for the past two weeks on a large painting again.  This piece is about resurrection, and I am thinking about calling it “Lotus Resurrection”, but I am not sure yet.  As I paint it, I am becomming saddened by the fact that I hope that the suffering on this earth will end soon and that things will get better.  My fear is that they will not.

At this point, discontinuing my role as a social worker would only be like poking out my eyes or turning my head – it would not actually end poverty and helplessness.  No, being aware is necessary, I only need to find a way to continue to release my own pain to God so that I can enter the flood each day and try to pull more people from the storm.

I am trying to pray Psalm 13 this week.  I often pray this when I feel so distant from God like I do right now:

“How long, O LORD?  Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and every day have sorrow in my heart? …

… But I trust, in your unfailing love.”