There have been a few times in my life when anxiety attacks have changed the direction of my life. I think now, that I’m probably not the only one. I’ve learned, that if you are doing something, and wind up having a massive anxiety attack, that your whole being can react viscerally to that thing in the future. Kind of Pavlov’s dog, but instead of drooling, you just flee (not flea- hahaha).
Showing art is one such thing for me.
Many years ago, when I lived in NYC and had my first solo show in a gallery on the lower East Side —The Emerging Collector, run by a lovely Parisian woman named Christine —I fell apart, and left art.
So many friends came, so many strangers came, so much smoking was done (yeah, it was 1996, you could still smoke in public spaces), and everyone was nice …. but, I freaked out. No one knew it, of course. I had learned how to turn on “waitress face,” which enabled me to move through the crowd and answer questions with a pleasant/fake smile. What I didn’t realize, was that the nature of my work, and the questions thrown at me were so deeply personal that it made me feel violated. And that gave me a major, lingering anxiety attack.
I was only 26 at the time, and clueless about how to navigate situations that require a little “buffer” between me and everyone else. Or at a minimum, a slip of film between my soul and the outside world.
As I get older, I realize that no one has to answer every question posed them, and that no one has to “go there” just because someone else is probing their soul. Maybe one can keep a bit of protective veneer up, a bit of “showmanship,” a bit of fakery even, if prone to deep feelings and anxiety storms.
Maybe this is why some famous folk surround themselves with an entourage, or have professional names? I wonder if there are other useful ways to make a buffer between SELF and everything else? I wonder how this jives with my admiration for “authenticity”? I wonder which is ultimately more important: honesty or survival.
I have my answer.
How about you?