Seven-year itch

Joey Garcia

For seven years, I have worked two low-paying jobs six days a week so I can moonlight as an artist. After a year of this schedule, any job saps my energy. I get angry and quit. Sometimes I move. Three recent shoestring trips abroad provided time to live fully, and I realized the world needs big-picture thinkers like me. My new paintings feel like the only authentic things I have ever created. When painting or preparing for it (sketching or people watching) I feel expansive, integrated and humbled by this vast world. But I am drained by my jobs. I rarely take time for myself. My sketchbooks bulge with ideas that it seems I will never create. I am overwhelmed, and I often cry because I have so little time for painting or my wonderful partner. I’m 29 and in debt from years of low pay and scrimping. What should I do?

Rest in faith, not fear. Your thoughts—not your jobs—cause stress. The cycle of starting a job, resenting the pay and hours required and then quitting the job keeps you treading water financially. Still, you’re drowning beneath the weighty belief that work distracts you from painting. Work is a privilege. And we don’t have the right to expect that our avocation or gifts will generate income or support our material needs. In his book How to be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving, David Richo writes, “Entitlement can take the form of expectations, overreaction to being taken advantage of, a sense of being owed something, or a belief that we are being cheated.”

Entitlement is a form of ego inflation. It often appears in creative people or those beginning the spiritual path as thoughts like “I’m special” or “I won’t survive as an individual person if I have to live like everyone else” or “I want what is promised to me.” The last belief is particularly heinous because it results from a misreading of sacred texts, particularly by New Age religions and philosophies. As Rabbi Harold Kushner says, “God’s promise was never that life would be fair. God’s promise was that we won’t have to confront the pain and unfairness alone. The 23rd Psalm doesn’t say, ‘In the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because … people get what they deserve, and I’m a good person.’ The 23rd Psalm says, ‘I will fear no evil because thou are with me.’ Accepting our vulnerability is the beginning of wisdom.”

Let’s challenge your thoughts. You say you have no time for yourself. The reality is that time spent painting is a date with yourself. You fear that your sketches will not grow up and become paintings. The reality is that you’re 29 years old; you have another 50 years or so to lift the best ideas from your sketchbooks and adapt them to canvas. A focused schedule (two jobs, a partner, etc.) teaches discernment so that you choose only your most inspired ideas. And if you’re in significant debt, you are not living within your means. Shed the victim guise. Adopt discipline. The world awaits your beauty.

Please print one last comment to the woman who considered moving to the South to find a black Christian man. Tell her that God will send her a man no matter where she is.

The concept of a Santa Claus-like God hinders spiritual maturity. Though it’s true that any single person can meet a life partner, there is no guarantee. It helps to be open to possibilities beyond our expectations. We also can savor lessons from the journey. One reader wrote to remind us that the problem “isn’t a black thing.” She also noted that waiting builds patience, compassion, forgiveness and appreciation—all necessary traits for a relationship.

Meditation of the week
According to the Casa Maria Catholic Worker newsletter, the number of children who have died in the Iraq wars and as a result of the economic sanctions against Iraq is higher than the combined death toll of the two atomic bombs in Japan and the ethnic cleansing of the former Yugoslavia. What will your ancestors say when they learn you knew of these killings and did nothing?

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