THE RETURN

 

I don’t know how I let it happen but it did. One moment I was happily painting away, enjoying my life as an art student, effortlessly being creative and looking forward to a fulfilling career and next, after just a few years of working, that flowing energy had come to a halt!

How did I allow my childlike curiosity for everything around me to fade? My unstoppable desire to express myself, to act, to dance and to paint to waste away? How, in the midst of a profession that demanded creativity, had I reduced myself to be just finishing off somebody else’s artwork?

Gradually I was becoming spent, utterly miserable and wild outbursts of rage against my partner in business and mentor became more frequent (when he wasn’t present!). I blamed him for not giving me enough creative space and chances of expressing myself (which he didn’t and I didn’t take) and as a consequence my confidence was sinking at a fast rate. When your creative energy is blocked off you are thrown off centre and start doubting yourself.

Something had to be done and quickly. So I decided to get away and as far as possible, somewhere at the edge of Europe (I had initially thought of North Africa but at that time I was longing for rain). Perhaps I could go to a place surrounded by waters where nobody knew me and where I could start anew? I needed it to be an adventure and an island felt just the right place to go to, not too big, like Africa and not too small, like the town I was
running away from. I chose Ireland.

It was obvious to me at the time that the only solution was to embark on an open ended journey where my quest was the recovery of the creative flow I had lost and to bring it back from wherever it had disappeared. To start with I didn’t give myself a deadline, for in my new dreamland-island I was willing to go along with whatever was coming my way and deal with it a step at a time.

At the beginning  my days brought endless surprises and fun but the nights were filled with dreams of being trapped in my former place and even worst, not being able to return to my island. This recurrent nightmare almost materialised, when once it took three days to get back to a fog-bound Ireland as our plane was being diverted from one airport to the next and from country to country. In my imagination, this island had become a sort of Avalon shrouded in mist, floating further and further away into the Atlantic Ocean, forever unreachable.

Other challenges, like the everyday tasks of getting work and making a living, got in the way of the much needed time and space for search and study. The mind also kept blocking my best efforts, telling me my quest was too hard and that I was being too ambitious. And what did I need all this creativity for?

Well, I was determined to succeed and to do it in my own and in my own terms. I didn’t want another mentor that might do more damage than good, I had become a lone wanderer suspicious of any methodology that could turn out to be too prescriptive or formulaic. I wanted to work outside the box, take meandering paths and, if possible the less travelled road.

Looking back though I have to acknowledge that I had many mentors, little helpers lining the path and showing the way. The many hours spent observing children create was my study and search; it enabled me to slowly create a map by which I could return to the source, while encouraging others to do the same. As this map is being re-drawn I now see that there is also a way back to my native place, where I can be once more free and at ease.
In time, I have come to appreciate my country for what it is, stupendously beautiful in places and tremendously hard in others, but, provided I am always able to return to my island, I am quite content to live with one foot in both places.