Have you ever gone outside and wondered if you’d remembered to get dressed? This became a real concern one memorable summer day when I was immersed in painting the inner world. (Excerpt from a work-in-progress.)
One Monday that summer when I left the house at noon to go to the office, I stood outside, key in hand, about to lock the door, and suddenly wondered if I had remembered to put on a skirt.
I knew I was wearing a blouse. I could see the puffy white sleeves from the corner of my eye. I hoped I might have least remembered a slip, but all I felt against my legs was the breeze.
A moment of panic ensued while I gathered the courage to look down. Yes. There it was. The white cotton eyelet skirt that matched my blouse. I was presentable. Ready to face the outside world. I breathed a sigh of relief as I locked the door and dropped the keys into my bag. But what a turn I had given myself. The fear that I had come out of the house only half dressed. It was unnerving. I mustn’t let it happen again. I came down the steps and closed the little black iron gate behind me. How strange not to remember if one was dressed! As I walked to the corner and turned left on Utica, I reminded myself to act like a normal person.
I had been painting that weekend. Perhaps I had stayed up most of Sunday night painting, showering and getting dressed late Monday morning, and that was why I had trouble orienting myself for life outside the studio. When I was working I forgot everything else. I was in my own world. Coming out again could be tricky. I reminded myself to be more careful next time. To take into consideration the transition. Acknowledge it. Give it the attention it deserved. All would be well if I could just remember to do that one thing.
But I had felt so bare walking out the door. Maybe I had been painting figures without any clothes again, and that was why I felt my own self bare. Yet it was more a question of vulnerability than clothes or the lack of them. Stripping myself emotionally. Being willing to go beneath the surface. It was alright when I was alone in my studio. But going outdoors again, facing the regular world, required an inner adjustment as well as a change of wardrobe.
Maybe I was spending too much time alone. I once had a painting marathon that lasted four whole days. Four whole days cut off from the outer world and its business. A world that didn’t concern me until I had to venture out for food, or go to my little job in the city. Four days, unless I was too ill to go out, was the longest time I had spent working by myself.
But going outside would have broken the mood. I might come back a different person. I might have had different thoughts in my head when I returned. Or what if my muse slipped away while I was gone. Certainly a trip outside would have changed things. The work tended to come in fits and starts. I dreaded having to put down my brushes when everything was flowing along nicely. Better to stay inside as long as I could until the picture was finished. Let time slip by and dawn and dusk go unnoticed. I couldn’t afford to let my reality be anything other than that of the picture.
There was a vast difference between relating to the outer world I shared with others, and the inner, invisible world which only I could see. Going outside again after an intense bout of painting, seeing no one, having little or no interaction with the outside world, would continue to unsettle me.