I lay in my crib and watched the shadows on the ceiling.
* * *
I'm not sure why I've been moved to write the self-examinations that have appeared here over the course of the past week or so. I suspect the impulse may be related to my feelings about the various interviews I've undergone in recent months--situations in which I never quite feel as if I am answering the questions, never quite feel as if I know what is being asked. I wonder what a stranger might want to figure out about me, what I might want to figure out about myself, what questions exist that no one has asked.
Lately I've been rereading the early chapters of Hilary Spurling's biography of the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett, and I've been thinking about the childhoods of artists. One constant characteristic seems to be an awareness of isolation, of difference, of not fitting into or understanding the workings of the social stream. Yet is this really an artistic commonality? I suspect that most people, artists or not, share a sense of difference, of loneliness, which they have have learned to conceal or nurture, or simply continue to stumble over, throughout the course of their lives. The legacy of individualism manipulates us all.
I grew up with loving but socially paranoid parents, who valued the trappings of intellect--books, music, art--though they had not grown up with those trappings themselves. I had one younger sister, very close in age, who quickly became taller and stronger and more athletic, and who also assumed, in many ways, the functions of the stereotypical elder sibling. She was practical, driven, organized, responsible. I, while bossy about certain things (for instance, I always controlled the games we invented), was messy, lazy, dreamy, and distracted. And yet I was the eldest child, the one who had to cross all of the exterior boundaries first. Always, I struggled with a conviction of error: I was badly dressed and physically awkward, I loved Dickens instead of Kiss, I didn't practice the violin enough, I was afraid to tell the truth.