Semi-Annual Identity Crisis

It seems to be that time again.  The season of self-doubt. The half-year hemming and hawing. The ominous questioning of everything I do. Being an artist. Being single. A mother. A former Taiko player of questionable skill.

Let’s examine these issues one at a time in the hopes that some revelation will spring forth. But I’m warning you, I’m feeling dark and twisty, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

Being an artist. I love being an artist. I love the lifestyle, I love keeping my own hours, following my inspiration, working with my hands, or in my pajamas if I want to. I am my own boss. But it is hard. It’s physically demanding and financially challenging. Because I am my own boss. There is no corporate structure to support bonuses, promotions, paid vacations, or give me new ideas.  No underling to carry 25-lb bags of clay for me.

In addition to making art, right now I have a part-time job at a non-profit, which provides me with some of that kind of support (still looking for the underling), and I am grateful. It’s a business environment complete with officey things such as composite wood-grain surfaces and a shared refrigerator, but at least I get to do the occasional creative thing. For example, this project in 2010. I was asked to come up with the name, logo, and tag line for a new daycare center we were sponsoring. My shining moment in branding and ID.

Being an artist, or making a living as an artist, has become a little more difficult lately. Why? Because the lamenuts at Etsy suddenly shut down one of my online stores, Paper Turtle (linked to our new store on WePay), where for two years I sold the papier-mache sculptures made by my partners in Haiti. Why? Good question. Because they are upcycled underpants-wearing idiots. A 25-email exchange with a member of Etsy’s “Integrity Team” has generated no useful information.

Team Integrity seems to think that I’m a “reseller,” a buyer of commercially produced items that I mark-up and retail, instead of a member of a collaborative shop (permitted under published Terms of Use). Despite providing the names and stories of our artisans, the structure of our profit-sharing, written and photo documentation of my role in designing/finishing the artwork, our shop remains disabled for violation of Terms. Granted, more than one of the photos I sent demonstrating my process looked like this

but still. That was after countless hours, much frustration, and Etsy’s continued refusal to answer these very simple questions:  a. Which specific Terms of Use does our shop violate?  b. Where on Etsy can I find those Terms? 

Apparently, Etsy can close a shop for any reason, at any time, without justification or explanation, for violation of phantom ToU. I don’t think that’s even legal. It’s entirely random and discriminatory. So, while this shop and this and hundreds like them continue to flourish, our handmade sculpture has been banned. Beware artists, this could happen to you. And our shop is not only closed to the public, but I’m locked out, too–unable to access my customers, images, or written content. Two years of hard work, and one of my reliable income streams, cut off at the knees. Thanks, Etsy. You suck.

Haitian Vodou sculpture. Here in New Mexico, we have similar Dia de los Muertos death figures. But they typically are not composed of real human bones.

Being single. It’s hard to meet people while working alone in a studio all day, or making snake art in an office. How about online dating? I always get stuck on the Profile questions.

Am I Slender? Or Average? Athletic? Happy? Compared to what? 

Why would a man post a picture of  himself in his underwear, even if he is holding a big fish? The fact that he is holding a big fish in his living room in his underwear does not make it any better. 

Does excessive use of LOL and smiley faces by people over the age of 25 point to infantile tendencies?

Should screen names containing the words Lonely, Lonesome, RejectMeNot, Desperado, etc., be automatically deleted?

I don’t have the patience for online dating because I can’t get past the questions.

The season of the Semi-Annual Identity Crisis is also occasion for me to reconsider the notion of going Victorian: marrying for financial/social stability. Our repressed forebears’ brilliant strategy for maintaining the cultural fabric and family structure of their time. Affairs were expected. My friends frown on this alternative and I’m not thoroughly convinced, either. So I wait.

Being a mother.  Isabella needs me less and less these days. I can feel it. I guess this should make me happy–she’s maturing, making good choices, ready for independence–but it also scares me. The thought of her driving. Having boyfriends. Inhabiting the world without me by her side to save her from the lessons I know she needs to learn, swat away bad friends and indifferent lovers, walk the coals so she doesn’t have to.  I know she’s feeling the impending loss, too, not of each other, but of our life as it’s been for 14 years.

Last month she completely cleaned out and re-arranged her room, to “cleanse my life of middle school.”  I think she’s creating room in her room (and life) for things un-mom. Un-childhood. It makes us both a little sad. So, we argue. We hike. We watch bad movies and get on each other’s nerves, trying not to think about the great undoing of the Frick & Frack that we are.

No more pink little girl room.

Unrealized Career.  You may be surprised to learn that four years ago, I enjoyed a brief but illustrious membership in a local Taiko (Japanese drumming) group. It was more fun that I can even describe. Giant drums, body-penetrating sound, a great workout in what’s considered the lowest of the martial arts. I had no choice but to quit when the group broke in two, my friends scattered, and only the creepy members of the group remained.  But the experience left a permanent impression on me. Professional Taiko Player is my fantasy career, the thing I would have tried had art not claimed me first. A different passion with different people, different place, maybe I would have been good enough. What if…

I don’t have a picture of me playing Taiko, so instead, I’ll end with one of my favorite pictures from Haiti. These fishermen in their colorful boat, happy on the endless grey-blue water.

Sometimes I’m in that boat. And other times, I’m back on the beach.

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25 thoughts on “Semi-Annual Identity Crisis

  1. ACK! Your crazy and nosy co-worker here! Knowing you, you will continue to RAISE hell about this. hmmmm my wheels are turning ………… I will think of something to help you. Still think the “Little Viper Daycare” is the BEST!

    • Yes Phyllis, the Etsy hell-raising is continuing, behind the scenes… and I’m so sad that my daycare idea wasn’t chosen! Poo on smiley faces and pastel colors! 😉

  2. Getting naked (well at least partially…) adds a new dimension to your prose. Heartfelt and understated, I love it.

    Roggie

  3. When those gremlins jump up and down, sometimes there’s no getting rid of ’em – except to acknowledge their presence as you so beautifully did. I think once we stare them down, they begin to shrink and go back to wherever they belong. I hope yours leave soon, for you have so much talent, a daughter that is coming into her own while shouting all the way that she needs you all the more and a gift that people would hate to be denied

    • Great words of encouragement, thank you. Yes, gremlins… like that terrifying one tearing up the airplane wing in the Gremlins movie. Just when you think you’re safely flyinghigh above the earth… your words are always so helpful. [smile]

  4. Great Post. Liz and I were talking about the “single” dilemma. She is back on Match. Uncle Dick says that he’s got all of your Etsy Material, but hasn’t been able to do anything yet. I’ll see you at dinner. You are fabulous and so is Isabella Rosy.

    • Oh, thanks garlic breath. You are my biggest fan, supporter, and the reason I can do what I do. See you at dinner and we’ll gossip about Lizzy.

    • Thanks, Emily. Yeah, after doing some of my own research, I learned that I’m certainly not alone in this–being shut down for no legitimate reason. I appreciate your commiseration…

  5. Lovely post, Laura. Molly and I were talking yesterday about your Etsy dilemma. Can we write them to support your side? Will they even listen? So sad about it all. If you have an independent website for Paper Turtles, we are happy to make a link for it on our website. Hang in there!
    -Kei

    • Oh, thanks so much, Kei. Especially for the offer to help–but no, I don’t think a letter will make a difference. I have found others who’ve had the same thing happen. It seems that legal action is the only thing that makes a difference to Etsy, so I’m actually looking into that. Meanwhile, we have a new shop – wepay.com/shop/paperturtle, in addition to our regular site (paperturtle.com). Thanks for the link, we appreciate it!

  6. I love love love love this post, Laura. Maybe you, me, and Cristy need a semi-annual identity crisis retreat. In Napa. You’ve been missed as you’ve pondered all of the above. Glad you’re back.

    • *thank you* Wow, I’d manufacture an identity crisis just to meet the two of you in Napa! That would truly be spectacular. I really appreciate being missed within this wonderful bloggie community, and especially by my BB. Makes me smile and work a little harder to keep on keepin’. Cheers–

  7. WordPress really does need a LOVE button. This is so good on so many levels. How good?

    1) I had to pee while reading the entire post, but I held my pee because I didn’t want to stop reading. This is a great compliment. I take peeing very seriously.

    2) I’m still chuckling over that daycare center logo. Holy shit! You could take that in so many directions.

    3) I’m now conflicted about Etsy because my mom is an artist and I’ve been trying to convince her to join and post photos of her sculptures. Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps we need to sign a petition and send it to Etsy?

    4) Fathead Follies also discussed the issue of mother-daughter separation in her post today. Though her daughter is much younger and she’s experiencing the very first throes of “I like my friend better than my mommy,” I’ll tell you what I told her. She’ll come back. It may not be until she’s settled into her career and partnered up, but one day, she’ll start calling you every day just to chat. One day, you’ll become the best friend she wants to spend time with. Until then, enjoy your friends (especially the awesome ones you know in the blogosphere) and focus on being the best you that you can be.

    Again, wonderful blog, dear friend!

    • Oh, Miss C… I’m breaking out in a sweat of honor reading your comment *blush*. (Also, I have to pee but I’m holding it, in acknowledgement of the sacrifice you’ve made on my behalf.) Wow. You have really made my day. Very special.

      Datycare daycare… unfortunately, they ended up choosing something very conventional, like “Helpful Hands” or something, with handprints everywhere. Hmf. But my boss still likes mine best. Maybe I can retain the rights and open my own center one of these days if this artist thing runs its course? Exhausted parents and their disturbed children will never stop thanking me.

      Etsy sucks, but it continues to be the largest and most well-known marketplace for creative stuff. Well, and manufactured in China stuff. It’s a bit of work setting up, but your mom might have a better experience than me. Then again, wepay.com charges less and doesn’t hold you to “adjustable” ToU.

      I will check out FF. Thanks for the referral. And thanks again, as always, for your bloggie bestie support, encouragement, and superior use of foul language. No wonder you have 1.2 million followers. I remain honored, humbled, and looking forward to maybe meeting up sometime for some serious fun. XX

  8. Laura, Laura, I read this some days ago (right when you posted) and have been thinking of you a great deal. I didn’t comment immediately as I was feeling lost in myself – definitely dark and twisty, as you say – which description I love! – and I just couldn’t formulate words – you mean too much for a make-do – no way was that gonna happen here! Firstly, your ‘hello friend’ the other day! What a sweet, simple way of conveying so much – and how heartfelt it was for me – thank you. I too feel that resonance you speak of. (softly sighed) ahhhhh! You know I’m a bit of a loner, a bit of a hermit, and to feel you out there gives me a place of being recognised and received outside of my small sphere. And now to your ‘season of self-doubt’ – yep, I know that one! And it’s interesting you speak of the difficulties of being an artist from the practical perspective of making a living, as well as of being solitary, of always you, you must make your direction. I get you. And Etsy need a blast up their bums, for sure! Pigs. On ‘being single’ – you make the dilema wonderfully humourous – and, crikey, meeting someone is tricky; your ‘being a mother’ is touching –I get the feeling you’re quite some special mum, you are; ‘and unrealised career’! what if… I know that feeling… thank you for your honesty and bravery and you-ness. Ps. Little Vipers – very funny! – oout-rageous – a fantastic side of you. pps. I love your pots! x

    • Lovey, this comment brought an almost-weepy smile to my face. Thank you. Heartfelt and thoughtful, indeed. And I really appreciate it. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling, to be ‘connected’ to people through writing (on a blog, even!). Nothing more and nothing less. It’s very satisfying to feel that words, my words, are taking root in other people, inspiring thought or laughter or other words. Or art! There is always art… I have read your latest and am still in the contemplation phase, before commenting. I can’t get the tiny Barbiepants image out of my mind– see you soon over there…

  9. Yes, to feel connected through writing – our writing – those deep parts of ourselves honoured in the doing and the receiving. If it’s not too much to say, and I NEVER could have imagined this – some part of you – via words and art – has taken root in my heart. Me too, I feel that weepy smile. Somehow, you and I, we have a way of communicating that speaks directly to the heart. Bleedin’ blogs, what a quiet gift! And you were in my dream last night! You made a kind of magazine art project which was beautiful – and I met up with you at Tate Britain in London at a private view and… can’t remember any more, but it was nice! (Can I just say I feel shy to be so intimate because it scares me a little – I don’t want to scare you away – is that stupid? – I’m only a woman miles and miles away on a blog…Turns out, I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat when it comes to relationship! And I’m a bit of a sucker for sweetness and integrity, with which you shine. Splurge!)

  10. If you are still going through identity crisis, try this one on: Cool lady who forges her own path.
    At lest,, that’s how it looks from here. Can’t think of a better role model for your daughter as she starts growing into her own woman.
    And once the dust settles (teenager-dom), I bet you and her will be even closer…

    • Aw, thank you Guap. Yours is a good perspective. When i first read your comment, I saw “forges” as “forgets”, which would also apply in a strange way. Reminding me to be open to the unplanned. I appreciate your confidence in me as a role model for Isabella! I’m lucky to have her–You have your Best Girl and I have mine 🙂

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

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