Years ago I heard an anthropologist make a statement that left a lasting impression on me because of the simple truth of it. He said "People need human contact to realize that they are alive." I have thought about it over the years and I have mentally added a bit onto that statement. People also need human contact to realize that they are human. Artists tend to lead solitary lives despite having people in their houses and their social circles. It's the nature of the beast. As a result we can't always get out of our head and see ourselves for what we are, and we sometimes forget that we aren't so strange.
This afternoon my friend was having a little nap so I decided to sneak down to the computer and check my e-mail. While I was at it I had a little peek at my blog. I thought possibly I might have one or two comments from yesterday's post. I figured most likely they would be from someone telling me to suck it up and get over it. Especially since people in Haiti have lost their homes, all their possessions and more importantly their loved ones in these recent earthquakes. So who was I to be whining over the loss of my ratty old quilt that I freely gave away?
Instead not only did I find human contact reaching out to me across the internet in the form of people who understood how I felt, but you had compassion for what I was feeling. After reading every word you wrote (Yes Heather I actually did mean the last line to be a tad humorous to lighten it up!) the dam finally broke and I had a little cry. Sure, it might seem silly, but it was cathartic and I am not sure if my cry was for the loss of the quilt or the kindness of people...or maybe the realization that I am not some odd monster with two heads and six eyes.
What I learned through your comments was another simple truth...that I wasn't being foolish or superficial or selfish...I was being human. Some days I forget that I don't have to be the Rock of Gibraltar every minute, I can be frail and human and lament silly things and it's ok to feel what I do, even when others have it far worse off than I do because it doesn't diminish anything for us to do that. It doesn't mean I care any less about my friend, or all the people suffering on a small island that has been struck by tragedy. It doesn't mean I am a bad person. It just means that like all other people on the planet, I have weaknesses and things that make me feel lost when they are taken away. So I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind comments. I didn't expect to receive them, but you gave them freely and they meant more to me than you can possibly imagine.
However, as usual my mind had a hold of a new bone to chew on and after I dried my eyes and blew my nose, I realized another simple truth. Regardless who we are or what our circumstances are we all have our "security blanket." Yours might not be an actual blanket, but it's something familiar and comforting. It doesn't even have to be something genuinely old or covered in battle scars, it can just be the idea of something familiar to us. But here is the part that surprised me the most for not making the connection sooner; it's that concept that my entire career is based on. What is more familiar and comforting to so many than a teddy bear? I have always said that my job is to evoke memories of a childhood past, or simply wished for when describing my business. At shows people have always told me the bears feel so wonderful because of the way I stuff them. They like to hug them close, and they tell me it's "comforting." So how can I beat myself up for feeling the same thing that my customers feel all the time from what I make.
That led me to a final simple truth...what I do for a living isn't foolish or superficial either. It's not a fluff job that we artists have. Over the years I, like so many others, have done a lot for charities through what I do, I have helped others and I will again. It's no less important than being a doctor or lawyer or anything else, because we all need something to hang on to...whether it's an old quilt, a teddy bear, or simply the hope that someone cares and the comfort of knowing we are not as alone as we sometimes think we are.