“Free” time

(Okay, get ready for a long one.)

I like very much to be kept busy.

Especially being here, in Israel, I feel a strong and consistent desire to engage my foreign surroundings and to learn new things. I came here determined to take advantage of my incredible opportunities, and to grow from them as both a global community member and as an individual artist. Sounds cheesy, I know, but this is really how I feel.

And this has inspired countless adventures in the quiet, but still marvelous city of Ashdod: many in a posse of curious friends, and many just out on my own. It’s also encouraged me to spend weekends traveling around the country, meeting incredible new people in each city, and exploring what these new places have to offer. I love being out and about, and almost always prefer to walk or bike to my local destination (if there is one) to soak it all in. I often feel like I’m on an incredible vacation (it’s no doubt helped by the climate).

But there’s still a busy work-week, and days with volunteering and Hebrew studies make me more of a homebody. I started to spend my free time at home reading, or listening to music. I’ll write quite a bit as well (no hiding that here) and I’ll archive the photos I’ve taken throughout the week. This means I spend more time with my computer than I’d like, but I’ve recently been making the effort to make that time creative or reflective, and to not become a hermit. I’m trying to minimize the social networking site mind-mush, and not fall into the deep, dark rabbit-holes of “funny” internet videos.

On the one hand, I’m grateful for this mentality. As an artist, my dream “career” is to sustain myself and engage others with a fulfilling, creative, and meaningful creative practice. I want my many experiences here to fuel this internal journey, and to help me understand how I want to achieve my goals, now and in the future.

However, I’ve been struggling with applying those creative forces to creative tasks, and the anxiety that it brings is building upon a familiar psychological state. Ever since graduating with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I’ve understood well that no one else is going to make my art but me. Especially now that there are no more professors giving me assignments, and no more grades. I have the power to set out to make anything and everything, and I just need to sit down and try to do it.

But I’m a little stuck at the moment. A case of artist’s block.

And that voice in my head that urges me to be “productive” all the time is getting more and more upset. That makes it more and more frustrating for the physical me, who can’t seem to get the sketchbook doodles to reflect the overwhelming enterprise of living in Israel. The year before my departure, I fretted about the lack of artwork I was producing on a monthly, weekly, daily basis. Any day that I didn’t draw felt like failure. On the days that I did, I often couldn’t make something that I was excited about and then felt even worse, like I was getting even farther from my dream. It feels silly for me to describe that which I love so much as something so stressful, but it was (and still is) so important to me to resolve. I felt affected in everything else I did, scolding myself for leisure activities, and still feeling more and more restless.

Now I’m playing with a new idea, and I think it is helping.

The idea is to be okay with “wasting time.”

Because…is it really wasted time?

For instance: to lie down in the afternoon, without setting an alarm, for the sake of having some quiet time to myself, should be an okay thing. I shouldn’t need to justify it. I don’t need to fill my schedule with activities #1, 2, 3…. just to feel productive and like I’m “experiencing my fellowship.” I am so grateful to have an early work day: it is full of so much interaction with my kids, and then I often have from 1 or 2pm on for the rest of my day. On the one hand, I’m not going to “waste” these hours of my ten months here sitting at home every day. But I’m not going to hurt myself setting too high expectations either.

I spend a lot of time with the other fellows, too, and that is very meaningful to me. We’re all so different, and yet find so much in common in different ways. I don’t doubt that it’s helping me tremendously in sorting out my confusing array of emotions. I would never consider my time with them wasted.

And since I’ve given myself the psychological break, I’ve found myself sliding more easily into times that I actually want to draw. I mean, I always want to draw, but I had built up a fear of what would happen if I did, and that fear is starting to extinguish itself. The drawing is becoming more regular, but not because I’m yelling at myself to do it. And I think it’s getting closer to some ideas and images that I’d like to pursue further. It’s still not a perfect process, but I’m getting back into it, and I think in the right way.

And as far as experiencing Israel and the program…I can see how much I’ve done and learned in just three months, and it’s both gratifying and inspiring. It’s more a matter of continuing to explore my surroundings and building my relationships. I have so much to thank the people here for giving me that, but this blog post is already so long…so let’s leave it for now.

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