“How can life get harder?” It is an ignorant, selfish question. But I have started keeping a tally, an iridescent mark on an old painting for every day I have wanted to give up. Etching those bright lines fails to produce any relief. But it sufficiently symbolizes *those* days.
Each mark varies a little, but follows the same pattern. Each line seems to take forever while I am making it, but ends as abruptly as it began. Each score is transparent, almost invisible unless it is looked for. But when seen, it reflects light instead of revealing what is beneath the surface.
With each one of those marks, I pretend to be ok. I am a mirage. My doubt and clawing sense of despair glimmer briefly at a distance, but on closer inspection they disappear. Frightened of being seen and frightened of remaining unseen, my self-doubt thrives in this paradox.
Fanciful language aside, I spent a week working ten hour days to try to finish and document painted pendants with the hopes that they might sell and feed my meager confidence and empty pockets. With each step, I scrutinized my progress and struggled to make the result as perfect as could be. At the end of this tangent project, I made a single sale out of twenty-two available items.
In exchange for a week of obsessive work, I made twenty dollars - prior to factoring in tax, the costs of materials, and the cost of shipping. My hopeful little necklaces are now bathed in a crimson aura and I cannot bear to look at them. I hastily stuffed them into a cardboard box and placed them out of sight, on the top shelf of my closet. What once was loved and cherished morphed into an icon of ominous failure.
This evening, after a day of alternating between compulsively checking my phone and trying to avoid it, I finally opened Instagram in an attempt to find mindless relief and within seconds found that several good friends made art sales today. I am truly happy for them because I understand the significance of every sale. But I am also broken.
This occupation should not be a competition, but it is a fertile field for comparisons. And I, for one, am actively failing at the pursuit I have given up my life for. My eyes burn and my head is heavy as I sit here wondering if I will ever feel safe. In truth, the answer may very well be ‘no’ and I must live with that knowledge and push onward, even after all that remained of my hope has waned. Perhaps, someday, all those invisible tally marks will become an icon of their own - an image of my perseverance and unyielding drive to go on.