Me But Not Me

What made you take a peek into this post?

Was it the title – Me But Not Me…

If it was the title, why did it appeal to you enough to make you click to read more?

Was it perhaps because you related to what it expressed…

what does it express for you?

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Femme et Oiseau dans la Nuit, 1947.

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For me this simple concept has expressed so many different things over the years since it first introduced itself to me…

when did it do that?

When did – Me but not me – become a thing for me?

Is it a thing… in some ways it is, but in others it is not, it’s a motto, a thought, a reminder, a philosophy of the non-philosopher sort, a … it is almost a living and breathing friend for me, a person who was there to guide me when I was confused… mostly about who I was, about my identity, my self…

especially during those times when who I thought I was conflicted with who others told me that I was or told others that I was when they were using me to define to others who they were… and doing it when I was around but it felt as though I wasn’t actually there because I was being spoken about in such a manner that it made me wonder if I was actually there.

I was there but not there.

Being there but not there is a common experience when you’re the only child floating in a sea of adults, which I often was…

they’re not really sure why you’re there, neither are you, and they’re not certain if they like your intrusion because it… it’s awkward, you’re an awkward presence.

Like a drop of oil in a glass of water.

When your presence makes others feel awkward, you end up feeling as though you are awkward. That is you. Awkward. Even though you may not experience yourself that way, you come to view yourself that way and eventually you too experience yourself that way.

What started out somewhere else becomes a part of you within yourself.

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MBNM

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The above picture is one I took of myself, therefore it is me…

but it’s not really me…

in a variety of ways.

And yet it is always me no matter what.

It’s a case of – Me but not me.

While taking that photo I was both photographer and subject – this dynamic places you both inside and outside of yourself, it puts you in the pose of being photographed and photographing so your conscious awareness of yourself comes from more than one angle of perspective.

Of course I wasn’t actually in two places at once, I don’t have the ability to literally split myself into two people who are doing different things…

no matter how it sometimes feels that way,

or how useful that would be in certain circumstances… like in this one where I would have prefered to be able to see what sort of picture I was taking and be able to tell the ‘model’ what to do to achieve the shot I was aiming for.

When I use myself as a ‘model’ I’m usually trying to capture an idea rather than a person, to express a thought, and I often don’t relate to myself as a person during that time.

I’m an abstract concept trying to make itself a little less abstract.

In this case I wasn’t really aiming for anything other than a bit of fun, dressing up, seeing what emerged… perhaps catching a glimpse of myself in a way that I hadn’t viewed myself before. Hopefully grasping a subtlety that likes to remain elusive.

A bit like when you’re taken out of your comfort zone and discover that another zone which you were certain was not right for you, which felt totally uncomfortable, turns out to be a natural environment… why didn’t you know this before!?!

Because you’d never been there, done that, tried swimming in it… but why!?!

Perhaps someone else told you not to go swimming in those waters because they were dangerous, you’d die, be torn limb from limb… they were afraid and so they made you afraid of the fear they felt, and you became afraid too.

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john-singer-sargent

 

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Part of where – Me but not me – came from was due to growing up the child of an artist

(that should read as ‘artist’ and not ‘narcissist’

for this post anyway…

but… with my dyslexia I’m never sure what I’m reading and writing or hearing and sighting).

My father was a painter of canvas walls.

Upon those walls he created scenes which allowed those who viewed them to cross a threshold into a dream, a fantasy, and sometimes a memory.

One of his collectors said that the pieces which he bought and hung in his house enabled him to commune with a dearly departed whose life had been cut short too soon. He had not been prepared for the parting, had never said goodbye… wouldn’t have wanted to say it even if he knew it was coming. He would sit and stare at the wall, at the colourful wall upon a wall, and a door would open into a world where this loved one still lived and they could spend time together, suspended…

I’ll never forget that conversation as it opened up a window for me into another way of looking at something I had always looked at from my own angle which was often coloured by knowing things which others did not know.

By seeing the colours which weren’t on the canvas, I didn’t always see the ones which were on the canvas.

A regular theme of my life has been trying to cross the bridge between how others viewed my father’s work and how I viewed it.

How others viewed my father and how I viewed him.

Perception… has been a muse that has amused, bemused and caused many a wandering in the world of musings…

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your problem or theirs?

(how I view this and how you view it may be altered by what we are focusing upon and perceiving through our focus. Form which angle are you perceiving it?)

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I’ve seen him create his creations from long before paint actually touched canvas…

I’ve been a part of that before…

a part of his creations, and a creation of his (both figuratively and literally).

My father’s pieces often started from an idea which guided his camera lens…

his paintings were at times collages of images he’d captured while roaming around with a camera.

He could have used a sketchbook, but sketching didn’t capture fleeting moments the way his camera could, the way his eye did. His camera was his eye on the world sometimes… and his pictures helped his eye recall what it had seen, and what he had seen became the inspiration for what he painted.

I was sometimes a subject for his eye…

and his camera

and his paintings…

it could be a very critical eye.

He had a habit of spotting things about you

and then pointing them out…

colouring you with his particular palette.

It could be you but it could also not be you.

His paintings reflected that…

I was once a boy on a bicycle.

That boy went from painting to print and many people bought him because he either reminded them of their youth or of a child they loved who had grown and yet had not grown…

that wasn’t the only time I was mistaken for a boy,

it was another theme in my life which I grew to rather enjoy after trying to fight it… we sometimes end up loving those with whom we fight more than those we immediately like.

I sometimes see myself through that kaleidoscopic lens which my father shared with me…

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MBNMs

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This version of the photograph is a homage to my father’s style of painting.

I’ve actually used one of his paintings as an overlay.

He loved painting in abstract,

perhaps that’s how he saw the world, slashes and splashes of colour, bleeding into each other, defined yet not defined…

however…

he also indulged in impressionism,

he could paint faces precisely,

something for which he sometimes got criticised by the critical eye of others

(apparently if you paint too realistically, you’re not a good painter… not sure how that criticism was figured out by those criticising, maybe they found painting faces too easy, therefore anyone who could do it… nope, still can’t figure this one out).

He refused to paint portraits,

no matter how much people sometimes longed for and begged him to paint their portrait he would not do it… for you,

you would only end up either hating your painted face or hating your actual face because of it,

because,

we rarely see ourselves as others see us and they rarely see us as we see ourselves.

This causes problems,

for us,

for them,

and sometimes for all.

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your muse - Frida Kahlo

(if you find yourself being the muse of an artist, remember that the artist is their own muse, and sometimes they are their own muse through you)

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He often obscured faces,

because the face of the subject wasn’t the subject,

something for which he sometimes got criticised by the critical eye of others

(apparently not painting a face precisely where someone expects a precise face to be is cause for critical concern about the talent and ability of an artist… wonder what Picasso would have said about this).

If you’re an artist,

(which you are even when you aren’t)

you need to grow a very thick skin

as what you create will inspire others to share with you what your creation has evoked for them…

and it isn’t always pretty or complimentary because when you stir people,

which you do just by being,

and expressing that being,

even by trying to be nothing,

you can’t always control what gets stirred…

but growing a thick skin can alter the sensitivity of your artistic sensibility.

By the time I knew my father he had so many scars,

which had been repeatedly broken open and healed, and broken and… some of them were the skin of a crocodile which cried without crying,

bled without bleeding,

painted without painting.

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magritte pipe

Magritte

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People can sometimes be very pretentious when it comes to the subject of art,

in whatever form it takes,

they feel the need to put on airs…

and breathe as though oxygen is scarce, and only for the elitist…

artists are sometimes the most pretentious of them all…

but what is pretension?

Is perhaps a wall upon which a picture is being painted for the viewing of the viewer,

or at least what the creator of the view would like the viewer to see,

but they can’t always direct your eyes to what they want you to see…

it is a me but not me.

 

 

54 thoughts on “Me But Not Me

  1. Hello again! Hmm.. how to say this… maybe you are tired of blogging awards… anyways, I couldn’t just let your talent go unnoticed, for my part. So when I was once again nominated for the One Lovely Blog award, I just had to nominate you… πŸ™‚ It is of course voluntary, if you want to participate etc. But I just wanted to acknowledge your great work here on the blog. If you want to check out my blog post on it, it’s here:
    https://survivednarc.wordpress.com/2016/02/16/another-one-lovely-blog-award-nomination/

    Take care, love/ SurvivedNarc

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    1. Hi πŸ˜€

      Congratulations on the award! You have a lovely style of expressing yourself, and blog awards help to encourage a blogger to keep at it. There are moments in blogging when you wonder wtf you’re doing and why, so it is always a great boost to get a blog award.

      I wasn’t particularly gracious (that’s code for I was being a bit of an ass) in how I handled the last award I got, which probably gave the impression that I was tired of them. I was tired when I wrote that post and feeling rather stressed because of it but it had nothing to do with receiving an award nomination, that’s just where it leaked out. In fact after reading your lovely post about your previous award I had a bit of a discussion with myself about how I’d handled things with mine. You reminded me of something I’d forgotten, and inspired me with your enthusiasm and grace.

      Thank you very much πŸ™‚ I’m really grateful for the nomination, for the compliment, for the gift you’ve given me, and the opportunity to handle things differently.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! And – you’re welcome. Isn’t it odd to think that things that we sit in our own room and type on a computer screen, can seep into the minds of people across the world and perhaps change their perspective on something.. I find that so wonderful, hopeful, in a way…. but then again, people nowadays just seem to take that for granted, well at least those who are a bit younger than me… (I am 36)…

        So, I grew up with Nintendo 8 bytes (bits?whatever😁) and cassette tapes, etc… so that may be part of the reason for my fascination about the whole blogging phenomenon… anyway I have no idea how I even started talking about all of this!
        I think it must be because I have been so inspired by your blogging style, with your wonderful thought process and ability to make associations…. πŸ™‚

        Take care and see you around. πŸ™‚

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  2. Just a quick word, am on my lunch break; I love the photos of you! Both of them. It seems your father had a great talent… and so do you… “how much of you comes from your father?” and how much is “purely you”, was a thought I had when reading this… what I am thinking is, we inherit so much from our parents… Sometimes I want to peeled away “the bad parts” of that, and just keep the good sides for myself… like peeling an orange! πŸ™‚ But I guess we can’t.. or can we? I try, sometimes…. hugs and thanks for sharing beautiful thoughts that inspire. You brightened up a rather boring work day over here…. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you πŸ™‚ Hope you have some surprises which lighten the heavy of a Monday!

      How much is ours and how much of what we see as ours comes from others? – this is one of those questions which I think we all struggle with trying to answer.

      Just when you think you’ve located something which is all yours, some incident comes along and shows you that its roots may lie in someone else, like a parent, and if you look at them you may find those roots go even further back to someone before them, a trait passed down from ancestor to ancestor.

      On a larger scale so many of the things we view as personal are things which others have too and see as personal to them too.

      Take that orange, it is an individual although it may have a similar appearance to other oranges. It once was part of a tree before it decided to break free. That tree was once a seed that came from an orange.

      And when you eat a slice of orange, you’re drinking the juices of droplets of moisture which were drunk by the tree, so it could grow itself and its progeny, and that life giving water passed into it’s fruit, and maybe those droplets of moisture were the children of an ocean or an underground spring, the tears of the earth which nourish the children who grow on this soil.

      I think we may all be too interconnected to ever find a true sense of being separate, but we do seek to find those places where we can experience our individuality on its own. And perhaps all those things which we have inherited from others don’t really belong to others once they pass into us… we blend them in our own way, it tastes different within us, and is expressed with our individual twist – sweet, sour, umami πŸ˜‰

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      1. Wooooow, what a fantastic chain of associations you made from my little thought at lunch…!! Hahahaa this made me laught out loud… cause it is fantastic. And it truly makes me think about our interconnectedness, as you say… And yes, I do believe we have our own “flavour”… mine would be composed of chocolate, grilled mushrooms, mountains and forests! πŸ™‚ see ya around, wonderful artist friend!

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            1. I think we’re all hard to define in a recipe because we keep discovering new ingredients as we explore our world inside and out, however we do have certain flavours which are consistent and unique to us πŸ™‚

              Whatever my dish is, it has lots of salt and butter πŸ˜‰

              Liked by 1 person

  3. i really like when you talk about your father, i think in spite of all you have a deep bond with him. I cringe each time i see people misunderstand the meaning or the very essence of a painting, they float on the surface and the intention of the artist is lost; for instance when i hear them taling about joyful colours in Mark Rothko’s work, when actually he wanted to define tragic and consciousness..But for each perception there is an eye behind and every artist exposes themselves to be at stake. i do not really appreciate when people interfere with an artist process, they are not concerned, they are just onlookers,I can understand your dad being upset with it and trying to oppose his will.After all, whiele doing it, it was entirely his own world.Once you accomplished your painting , you can separate from it and it has its own life.I find the story about his canvas wall as a place for the soul really extraordinary-that is being a real artist, being able to touch people inner’s world. His overlay on your picture is particularly beautiful.he’s kind of present in you, don’t you think?in a positive way I mean.

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    1. Thank you πŸ™‚

      One of my mother’s favourite recriminations against me was – You’re just like your father! – which due to the way she said it made it sound like the worst thing I could be, and I had to listen, from the moment I had ears, to the endless bitching sessions where she listed all the bad things about him and how they made her miserable… poor woman she was beauty in the land of beasts! But he was allowed to be a beast as he was an artist. I was not supposed to be that way, so being like my father became taboo, and spending any time with my father was also seen as something which wasn’t allowed either as it made my mother jealous, often because we were having fun and she was martyring herself by deliberately not joining in the fun.

      I can indulge in the bonds which I have with my father and enjoy them now because he’s no longer around to make me live to regret an opening of the heart to him and remind me of all the things which severed those bonds. Bonding with him while he was alive was too fraught with knives being plunged in backs. We used to play this game when I was very young where he’d pretend that I’d shot him in the heart with an arrow, and I’d do the same. We’d both enact death scenes like in the Westerns we liked to watch together, while saying ‘La freccia, la freccia… mi hai colpito il cuore!’.

      He wanted me to be his apprentice at one point, he thought it would be fun to teach me, pass on his knowledge, as I used to enjoy finger painting on the floor of his studio while he worked, but my mother didn’t like this type of bonding so it had to come to an unpleasant end.

      He is present in my eyes sometimes because he showed me how to look at the world as though it was in the process of being painted πŸ™‚

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      1. A pathological triangulation is a big N red flag to me; my mother also butted in between my father and us.At least, he wanted to share something with you, but alas you mother was jealous,it’s so twisted to be jealous of your parner’s love for your shared child. I am sure he would admire your writing and your way of being an independent observer.

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        1. I don’t think he would have been interested in what I’m doing unless he could use it in some way for some plan he had. Unfortunately that’s how he viewed people, as a means to an end for him for some idea he had in mind. He saw people looking at him that way, using him that way so he felt justified in doing what he did to others, and he wanted to do it to them first, or at least not be the one who didn’t do it. Most of the time, especially in later years, I was simply a tool to use to get back at my mother. They both used me that way which is why I always saw myself as piggy-in-the-middle, as thought of myself that way from an early age.

          We sometimes grab onto those moments where things weren’t or did not seem that way, and see them as small havens in a complex human storm.

          If you look at the bigger picture of human history and history in the making, we’re all rather screwy in how we relate… perhaps we’re meant to be this crazy πŸ™‚

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          1. It’s really painful to realize how exploitative a N can be, especially when we talk about our parents, it is less hurting to acknowledge others’ Machiavelic way of relating.

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            1. I’ve found it helpful to look at my parents less as parents and more as people who have their own stories as I have mine.

              Looking at them as people allows understanding to grow, whereas when I just look at them as parents there’s too much judgment, bias from preconceived ideas of how parents should be, which gets in the way of understanding.

              I can also skirt the other judgment which accompanies the parent/child dynamic, the popular concept that children must love their parents and parents must love their children, when I look at them as people because then I can look at myself as a person too, and this person just didn’t like those particular people and those people didn’t like this person – which is normal and natural, some people just don’t get along and the world is okay with that, doesn’t insist that everyone has to get along with each other, it’s only when you add labels like parent and child that suddenly everyone must get along because we’ve decided that different rules apply depending on labels we attach to relationships.

              It’s funny how a slight shift in perception can shift a mountain of blockage out of the way sometimes πŸ™‚

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              1. you are right, as far as understanding is concerned, it is a more objective way to look at it and also to realize our values are not theirs.But for me it’s almost unbearable to admit my parents were people i don’t feel respect for and i am their offspring, as if the mad grain had been passed down to me in my blood. Sorry, it’s probably a childhood thought.Yesterday in the session an horrible image came to my mind: they used to despise me where nobody was around but they praised me for the same reasons in front of guests at dinner.It is very confusing for a child, a sort of minor folly.

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                1. That habit of criticising you for something in private then complimenting you for the same thing in public is common with narc parents. What it shows you is that it’s all about them and not about you. They don’t despise you personally, they despise themselves through you. They hate what they’ve decided you represent which has nothing to do with your as a person. They may be hating someone else through you, but that someone else is still eventually themselves. You’re not an individual for them, you’re an extension of them, a projection, a receptacle for their tears, screams, and other stuff they disown. BUT none of that is clear when you’re a child and by the time you figure it out the damage is done, and it’s hard to untangle yourself from the ties which bind and have a strangle-hold on you.

                  What we can do is view things from a perspective that is beyond the one they gave us. Their view was narrow, ours does not have to be. πŸ™‚

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                    1. I don’t know. Being brought up by narcissist parents definitely causes conflicting beliefs to take root in the mind of a child. The only consistent thing with narcissists is their inconsistencies. One minute black is black and the next minute black is white, and then it’s black again but a different black from the other black, then it’s white again but this white is an off-white. So one minute who you are is good, then it’s bad, then it’s good but a bad-good, then it’s bad again but a good-bad as opposed to a bad-good, or a bad-bad, etc. You’re in a constant state of limbo, confused seeking clarity but clarity is confusing too because it often requires rewiring your entire brain and you’re used to how things are already wired even if your lights flicker and you regularly shock yourself turning on lights and plugging things in.

                      One of the difficulties faced by children of narcissists is that the reality outside of their narcissist parents’ reality is just as conflicted as the narcissists’. It’s not as simple as getting out of crazytown and finding that everywhere else is sane. Sometimes you escape one crazytown and end up in another.

                      There are times when the insanity of my parents makes more sense than that of others. In some ways that’s why I stayed so long in narcville. The other realities on offer weren’t any better than the one I was in, and a few seemed even crazier. When someone tells you that you have to love your parents just because they’re your parents and it doesn’t matter that they treat you like shit, but you don’t have to love a stranger if that stranger treats you like shit, in fact if a stranger treated you the way your parents do then that someone telling you to love your parents would tell you to get the hell away from that stranger…

                      I think it’s called being human πŸ™‚

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                    2. It’s true what you say.i am expericencing a retroactive fright- i am scared now of what I have gone through but at the time I didn’t realize I was living in crazytown.It’s a sort of an invisible prison i am struggling hard to free myself from.Sometimes i wonder I lack Something essential as I can’t get out of it.
                      Thank you for explaining and sharing your experience, it’s an invaluable gift.

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                    3. Have you ever considered that perhaps it’s not a lack of something essential but an abundance of it which you have, and that it is not you who lacks anything but those who made you think that all you have within you is not enough. Your parents did not have the inner richness which you have, of heart, soul and mind, so they did what all envious people do, if they couldn’t have it then neither could you, but they couldn’t take it from you so they convinced you that you did not have it, they made you see your wealth as poverty, that your heart of gold was fool’s gold, that your abundance was an empty cupboard.

                      You don’t need to escape the invisible prison, you just need to see that it’s not a prison at all but a palace.

                      β€œMy mother said I broke her heart…but it was my integrity that was important. Is that so selfish? It sells for so little, but it’s all we have left in this place. It is the very last inch of us…but within that inch we are free.” ― Alan Moore

                      Time to break your parents’ hearts and let yourself be loved πŸ™‚

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                    4. Me but not me! I read many times your replies, as your perspectiveis totally new to me. I understood very in my teen ears my mother was jealous but i didn’t know the proportions of all this. I am writing everyday and it makes me feel me,for my art is more complicatated adn there is a lot of friction between me and myself!!Thankyou againxxx.

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                    5. Friction within is often the greatest muse for an artist, all those different sides are like different parts of an orchestra, different paints on a palette, and when they clash it can create the kind of fireworks which can be beautifully inspiring πŸ™‚

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                    6. Has it ever happened to you to be so excited for your writing and thinking ‘I am really happy with it’ one minute and then you stop and you think terrified:what if it’s ridiculous? i mean sometimes when you put pen to paper you don’t hear the sounds of your thoughts, you don’t utter them to anybody, it’s a sort of trance, you have no idea how it really sounds if read by somebody else.Maybe it’s just a nutty thought.

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                    7. There have been quite a few times when I’ve experienced something I’ve written as being pure genius, it’s made me feel as though I have amazing wings, only to later come back to it and think it was complete madness, folly, stupidity, crap. I’ve learned to just keep going and not to think too much about it because it’s all part of the flow and if you want it to keep flowing you need to flow with it whatever form it takes. Doesn’t matter if it’s genius or nonsense. It’ll figure itself out.

                      How it sounds to others… they’ll read/hear it from their own perspective and that’s another story. It is interesting to get feedback and it can be a muse to your inner muse because others may hear something you didn’t in your words. But don’t write worrying about how it sounds to others because then it will start to narrow your own flow. And expressing who we are is a gift we give to ourselves and to others. Sharing our madness, nonsense, is sometimes better than sharing genius, and sometimes it’s the same thing πŸ˜‰

                      Just go with it and see where it goes.

                      It can feel like a trance, the act of creating is a being caught up in the rapture of being.

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                    8. Mmmm..i didn’t think it was a genius’ masterpeice but i was just so happy to have found those thoughts in my mind.Now the notes are tucked away and i don’t want to look at them;What i mean is i have no distance with what i write and i would like to be able to judge how it sounds once you read it.
                      I think it comes from the fact nobody has ever read anything and i am not brave as you are to share it. Maybe it’s just a remedy that keeps me alive. An illusion, a private world. Is there a use in art?I heard a violinist stating once that when you create, you do it for an audience.i don’t quite agree with this, as although it is necessary to write in an understandable way (is it?) when i do it, i do it as my rive pushes me there, as a mysterious pilgrimage to my depths..

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          2. Haha! I am surronded by capricorns reminding me of it! This date scares my crap off me ( i have learnt this lovely expression from you), I’ll turn 47 and I have accomplished nothing in my life. it’s like guillottine day (hey, i live in Paris!), i would like it to be already gone.No one of my N family will call as usual but I have my cat, a man who loves me and my friends. I absolutely adore people’s birthday, I do the full monty, a surprise dinner, a call with the rhyme, a nice present, but i have to confess i loathe mine, I find it very sad and i am mad at my idiotic parents. i only rejoice of that fact that the following day is Michelangelo’s birthday and the day after is my beloved Ravel’s.
            You touched when it hurts (as usual!!) Making a wish?What do you mean by it?
            This is the point, I have no wishes anymore, life tires me so much, the only thing i am left with are my thoughts, and my mind ramblings, which sometimes take form into an unshaped piece of writing or a drawing. i gave up on being like others, i am not and i cherish (secretively) my weirdness although it hurts on the surface as people judge on appearances
            Today i turned down an invitation for a dinner as people, when they don’t know you, ask you an embarassing set of questions as an inventory to classify you to put you in a drawer.I am fed up with it,and i’ll give a go to my anti social drive instead..
            Actually, I have a twisted side as you have your twisted sense of humour:))).the poem you kindly hosted on your honourable blog is the less representative of what i write.Me but not me! Again! i am terrified of showing what i write actually..
            I love being in contact with you, you are so deep in your thinking but you make me laugh.xxx

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            1. I’m 47 and haven’t accomplished anything either other than to make it to 47. That’s something. Perhaps.

              If you would like to share one of your writings on my blog, let me know. πŸ™‚

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              1. Haha! I love it! Hilarious and tragic at once ( at least we are still haning in here). I’ll bear in mind your generous offer.If it happens, it’s a momentous event fro me. xxx

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  4. Sometimes I write about myself… its like painting a portrait of yourself, but with words, yes? But when someone else reads it, the story they tell me is of a person I do not know, and the point they latch on to is not even one I realised I was making…. and totally miss what I thought I was jarringly obvious, I write my words and a stranger’s voice reads them back to me…
    ~B

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    1. Yes, words definitely paint our portrait when we write about ourselves! It’s a great analogy. We prefer certain words as a painter may prefer certain hues, we perhaps have a side of ourselves which we highlight more, maybe leaving the rest in shadow, we have features we like writing about and others that we barely mention.

      And just as if we were actually painting our own portrait what we see of ourselves is influenced by experiencing ourselves from the inside out.

      I think what happens is that like with our faces, we’re on the other side of them and when people look at us they see something we can’t see without the aid of a mirror or a photograph which means we never actually see ourselves as others see us and they can’t see us as we see ourselves. So what may be obvious to us may be in shadow to them, and what is obvious to them may be like the nose on our face which we can’t see except as a blur when we close an eye or catch sight of our reflection or a captured moment of our face, and we rarely look at those without internal bias.

      I’ve also been surprised by what stands out to people when they read what I’ve shared in writing. Occasionally I get a bit frustrated at myself as I feel that I wasn’t able to express the point I wanted to get across which is why others missed it. However most of the time I am fascinated by the contrast between what I think I’ve written about and what someone else thinks I’ve written about. There are times when it shows me what I’ve been missing because I have tunnel vision when I look at myself, and someone else’s take on my words can show me what may be obvious but is a blur to me.

      There is also the side of it where when you paint a portrait of yourself, sometimes you also paint someone else’s portrait because your story and theirs are similar.

      The variations are part of the pleasure of sharing ourselves through a medium like blogging.

      Liked by 1 person

                1. Nice one!

                  What if monks were sitting in a circle playing the ‘come up with a Koan’ game, and when it came to his turn one monk just couldn’t think of anything clever to say but he saw another monk swat the air (he was actually shooing a fly away) and so he quickly said – one hand clapping. Little did he know that this random comment would mystify the world for years and come to signify the ultimate in spiritual understanding.

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  5. Wow. A brilliant post, Ursula. The me but not me – are we what we are inside of ourselves (what we think we are, which may or may not be real) or are we what others think we are or do we wind up with some “not me” combination? Sometimes, when I am just hovering between sleep and wakefulness, I wonder whether the sleeping world is the “real” one. Much of what we experience is completely individual but also not.

    A lot to consider in this post, not the least of which is how your artist father was a narcissist. Was his art more him than him? And, I love your self-portrait. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thank you very much πŸ™‚

      What I know of my father’s relationship with his art, which was a long and complex one:

      1) it started when he was a child and his teacher was so impressed by his doodles (on his homework) that she encouraged him to pursue a path in that direction and helped him to get into art school – which was considered a completely crazy folly and waste of time by his family and his social environment. His mother wanted him to be a bus driver as that was a respectable profession, and even when he made more as an artist than he would have ever done as a bus driver, and looked after her very well due to it, she still never approved of his professional status – his Me was a Not approved by mother Me.

      He never forgot that teacher, and he kept in touch with her to make sure she never wanted for anything.

      2) during WWII as a teenager he made a significant amount of pocket money sketching portraits for GI’s. I once saw one of these as the family of a GI still had it and they made the connection between the teenage sketch artist and the artist my father had become as an adult. His pocket money provided for his family during a hard time. His father spent WWII unable to work regularly so my father stepped into the breach with what he earned from his ‘silly doodles’. His family enjoyed what he gave them but still considered what he was doing to be embarrassing and without a future.

      Two of my cousins are artists.

      3) his professional career as an artist started out in graphic art, he did well with it, never had to get a ‘day job’ and never actually ‘starved’ as an artist. He was a consummate professional and workaholic, passionate about painting and creating, and also making his work available to anyone who loved it – something which in his later career bit him in the ass where art snobs, critics (whom he’d pissed off by telling them he didn’t need their approval), and the business side of the art world were concerned. He’d have loved what so many artists are doing now thanks to the internet, free to market their own work and maintain artistic control and integrity.

      (A law suit he was involved in was later used as part of a case which led to a change in art copyright laws, giving more control to the artist.)

      He pioneered a printing technique after he had a fight with a printer due to quality of the prints – that’s a me but not me example now I come to think about it (I think I may have inherited the whole me but not me thing). He decided to do his own printing so that his prints had the same quality as his paintings – that annoyed the business side of the art world because artists weren’t supposed to be that independent, galleries liked to control the artists they believed that they owned, and also control the output of work. One gallery told him he should only paint a couple of paintings a year to increase their market value. At the time an artist who created the volume of work which my father did got labeled as ‘too commercial’ and this label meant that their work couldn’t be over-hyped and over-priced.

      In his case his narcissism was justified, and healthy for him until it tipped into the unhealthy side. I think artists do need to be narcissistic to pursue that kind of a career. If my father hadn’t been narcissistic he’d have given up on his art before he’d even started and would have become who his family wanted him to be to please them rather than himself. He’d have given in to the pressure to be a Not Me. And the art world itself is a narc shark tank, so you’re not going to survive it if you don’t believe in your own worth and think you’re better than others. My father and his artist friends all thought they were better artists than each other, they were not polite about it and had fun fighting over it.

      I experienced the negative side of his narcissism because by the time I was born his career was no longer as fun and exciting to him as it had been. He was jaded by most of it. Being ‘special’ seemed like a curse. He often referred to himself as a clown (and his self-portraits were of him as a clown) who was expected to perform for others, give them what they wanted but they were never saitisfied and always wanted more of him, another pound of flesh – just do this one more thing for us, and do it this way, our way not your way. It got worse as he got older, and my mother did not help as she, like the art world and his hangers on, wanted to control the hand that did the painting for their own personal reasons. They wanted his Me to be their ME, who they needed him to be for them, and he ended up not liking his Me and his Not Me’s in equal measure because they both caused him pain.

      I think his art offered him a path into an amazing life, to discover this Me of his, and he really loved it, but since his Me was so much a part of his work, and since others could own and collect his shared Me, and because they could there was a certain proprietorial quality to the relationship – who did his art, his Me, belong to? – he grew to hate it as it was no longer a Me that was his, and that Me began to hurt more than it gave pleasure. A bit like that theory that every time a photo is taken of you the image steals a piece of your soul.

      What you said about dreams, I think my father felt that way about creating. Watching him work was seeing someone who was different from who he was when he wasn’t working. He came alive in a way… like flying in a dream. But waking life crept more and more into his dream until there wasn’t a boundary between them and he could no longer escape. And perhaps he wished that he’d been a bus driver. Been that Me instead.

      I sometimes think that there really isn’t a Me or a Not Me. It’s part of as phase atoms go through when they’re learning about perception, or something like that πŸ˜‰

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      1. Thanks for sharing this very interesting story about your father. It was somewhat painful to read because as you tell his story I kept thinking of prospective Ursula in the background, not born yet but whose future is already being shaped, or little Ursula, who, like all children, needs a parent who is capable of leaving his Me behind.

        I think I understand about narcissism almost being a requirement for artistic work. As you say, one needs an absolute faith, an absolute belief in one’s abilities. It’s very sad that this wonderful career deteriorated into what he considered to be a clownish self-portrait. It sounds as if he wallowed inside his head and as a result abdicated his responsibilities as a parent. I might not be getting this right, but did you at one time say that he didn’t want children?

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        1. Sometimes my replies are as long as my posts and just as rambling πŸ˜‰

          Yes, I’ve mentioned that my father didn’t want children quite a few times in my posts about him. I’m not sure if he ever actually confirmed that to me, it was something my mother told me so many times in so many ways that it became the truth whether it was or not. Mind you, going by the way he behaved and some of the things he said to me it was a believable possibility about him.

          His partner for many years told me some interesting stories about how he saw his relationship with me. He’s one of those fathers who saw himself as having been alienated from his child by his spouse, and he apparently claimed that this started when I was a baby. He said that my mother accused him of touching his baby inappropriately, that horrified him and he decided not to interact with his baby after that.

          I’m not sure about that story. His partner is about as reliable as my parents when it comes to stories told. putting all their stories together looks like a paint factory exploded.

          My mother did alienate me from him and him from me, and he did very little to stop it from happening (at least from my angle of perspective). She was the kind of person who kept at you until she got her way. I think in the end we avoided having a relationship with each other because neither of us wanted to deal with her endless interference, nagging and crazy.

          The last time I tried to stay in contact with him, my mother effed it up by once again making it all about her trying to save him from himself. I gave up after that.

          He definitely wallowed. I think he suffered from depression.

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          1. I was certain you had said that your father didn’t want children but then started second guessing myself. It’s something I do sometimes, unfortunately.

            It’s unlikely that you will ever be able to sort out the truth from the bs, but of your parents, I’ve always had the sense that your father was the more self-aware one. It’s unfortunate that your mother interfered so extensively, but in the long run, you may not have wanted to have a relationship with him anyway. At least it would have been your choice, though. Narcissists are so exhausting, and yes, that’s really how they do everything. They just keep at you. Hectoring and nagging until you want to escape and never see them again. My mother never, ever got this at all. It was like a mathematical equation: endless complaining, nagging and whining leads to avoidance.

            As you’ve pointed out before, most narcissists are depressed. My ex-narc experienced several serious bouts of it.

            And btw, I like your “rambling.” πŸ™‚

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            1. Narcissists are exhausting, true dat! Can you imagine what it must feel like to be them, they can’t ever relax, something within them nags away at them and that’s most probably why they nag us. One day they sat on a pin and they’re still sitting on it, passing that kind of pain in the behind on and on and on.

              My father did have insight into himself. He often told people outright that he was manipulative and would mess with their heads and hearts. I think he was looking for those who would challenge him, he enjoyed confrontation and openly played mind games, and was often annoyed when people allowed themselves to be messed with. Nothing irritated him more than when someone believed his lies but didn’t believe him when he was honest about his lying. But of course sometimes his lies were for his own benefit, ones told for him to believe and not confront the truth, and he didn’t like having those challenged.

              My mother was oblivious to her behaviour and saw herself as goldilocks surrounded by meanie bears, an innocent lamb not a home-invader who ate the food of others, broke their furniture, messed up their beds, criticised it all then ran away when confronted by her own behaviour πŸ˜‰

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              1. It’s very interesting to me how narcissists will announce themselves. They want people to get what they are but also not:
                “I’m a complete asshole!”
                “Yes! You are! It’s your defining characteristic!”
                “You’re an asshole! You are!!! You belong in a burning swamp, you asshole piece of work! I wish you a life of assholery, you asshole!”

                πŸ˜‰

                Your description of your mother is very close to home for me. She very much believed she was surrounded by meanie bears.

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                    1. I was a bit hesitant to say something because it’s the sort of saying something which can cause a self-conscious ripple. It just suddenly struck me that there was a slightly different energy in the way you were expressing yourself and that energy had a wonderful zing to it. Like a burden lifted after a long period of being weighed down by it, and you suddenly find your wings again, and it’s a joy to fly free. πŸ™‚

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  6. This post poses a question adjacent to one of my own–of being motivated/driven/consumed by something we can never be; something we’ve never been. In fact, I wonder how often it is that we spend most of our lives in this particular space. The photo is a derivative of the author. This is not the same as something she can never be. But many of what we may call instincts or urges may not be like this. Ursala, idealizes the space between me-not-me. Plato was similarly fond of ideal forms. How do we come to know these? Is it by shifting between the proximal varieties of our selves? Does our me-not-me shift as we age? For me, the pull of seeking to become something I can never be, but imagine as better than I am, is living constantly outside my comfort zone, painting away feverishly, at the not-me.

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    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      Lots of food for thought in your observations.

      I’m not sure if I idealise the space between me and not me, that’s something I need to ponder while standing on a bridge between two sides of a river.

      I really like the image of your muse – “the pull of seeking to become something I can never be” – I can visualise how that inspires feverish painting. Sometimes being outside of the comfort zone is a source of comfort, the rub may be soothing to a creative soul.

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