I’m settling in a little bit more now. A little more comfortable than when I first got here. I’ve got this ‘productivity monitor’ in my head that seems to go on alert whenever I walk into a coffeeshop. “ARE YOU DOING SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE?” “ARE YOU JUST WASTING AWAY??” “REAL ARTISTS WORK 18 HOURS A DAY!!!” It’s a kind of virus I picked up around the house during my upbringing. Productivity as rebellion against the fear of being ‘dysfunctional’, I suppose. “I can’t be dysfunctional- I’m cleaning the gutters!” So, as long as one is cleaning the gutters or trimming the bushes, they can’t be considered ‘dysfunctional’. The outdoor tasks merit extra notice, because with these, the neighbors can also enjoy your apparent functionality. Not to say gutters never need cleaning, or the bushes can’t use a good trim once and awhile; at my old house, however, I think these tasks were carried out only partially on the basis of their necessity. Because the list of ‘things to do’ never ended, I suspect there must have been some other kind of motivation.
My home was always a difficult place to relax because of this. Doing nothing was a crime punishable by the “can’t you chip in a little bit around here” speech, well known enough to inspire my brother and me to wear our coats in the house during the wintertime, so there was at the least some visual implication that we were on the way out the door- hopefully absolving us from these constant utilitarian raids. Despite my utter consciousness of this, and frequent adolescent rants on the subject, I find that I’ve carried the ‘beat the clock’ mentality with me into my adulthood. I project the neurosis onto my artwork, however, which is why the sickness has gone undetected by me so far… it’s just too close to me. While smirking at people in the rat race, I’ve been beating myself bloody on my own personal kind of ladder. Sisyphean for sure.
While I think this has changed for my younger stepbrothers, my house never was a hang-out place when I was in high school. Some houses have couches you can sit on and talk or watch TV, and bedrooms where you can sit and play cards or video games. My house always seemed to prefer being alone. My house always seemed to say ‘go away.’ One time, some of my friends were playing with a Ouija board across town, and they asked it if there were any places they should not use the board. Needless to say, the thing spelled out “B-I-L-L-S–H-O-U-S-E”. Nice, eh?
So: garden variety dysfunctional household… or crossroads of the four dimensional superhighway? Usually the most appropriate answers lie somewhere in between. Although I’m not quite sure how to apply that here. Slightly annoyed family and two dimensions? That sounds like either a tarot card poker hand or some kind of cosmic plea-bargain. I really can’t say. I think to choose one over the other would be grossly unfair; maybe even dangerous.