The ceiling fan had a pleasant sort of vibrating noise if she really, really tuned into it. Most of the time, she just flicked it on and went off to sleep so she didn’t immerse herself in the noise. It was good though, a kind of a buzz that echoed in her mind and made her feel sort of calm and easy. Watching the fan was good too. You’d think it would make her dizzy to watch it but it didn’t really work that way, it just kind of mezmerized her until she let everything else slide right out of her brain. She wasn’t worried about getting her painting done on time, she wasn’t concerned about her mother visiting later this week, she was just all about that fan.
She had always been like this when she was stressed. She would work herself up into some sort of frenzy, be on the edge of some sort of breakdown and just when things were most painful, when her breath was jutting out of her in shards, she would suddenly focus on one small thing and the stress would just melt away. Today it was the fan, but at other times it had been a bird building a nest in the tree outside her childhood room, the front-end loader at a construction site, the water over a pile of rocks in the river at the park. She still had a scar on the back of her thigh from where she had gotten so close to the rocks, listening to the splashing, watching the light tumble, that she had tumbled over backward and landed hard on more rocks behind her.
It would be easier if she could just paint, she knew that. She had the canvas ready, she had the paint prepared, but she couldn’t bring herself to lift the brush. Those first strokes were the beginning of failure and she couldn’t bear to see another painting fall so far short of what she could see in her mind’s eye.
It was ridiculous. She knew that. There was never any way to get her vision directly out in the world, she had to keep trying so she could get closer and closer. They had told her that in art school. Her therapist had echoed it, and her mother tried to coax her through the process every time she saw her. They never talked about the pain of it though, that’s why she didn’t quite believe what they said about how to get past it. They spoke as though it were easy to fail, easy to paint her heart over and over, forgiving herself for not matching her own visions. It hurt more each time. It wasn’t getting easier to fail, it was getting harder to start.
She let the buzz of the fan ease her into a daydream where she worked in an office and she had a straightforward list of things to get done today and her vision could easily match her reality. She would fail at that too, though, because she was not designed for lists and realities, she was made of ideas and colours. So she drifted into another daydream- one with birds’ nests and trickling water.
When she woke, she pulled herself off the bed and right into her studio. As always, the only thing worse than the pain of failing with her art was the pain of not creating it at all.