Xoterica 33: The Edge

Artemis Sere Xoterica 33 The Edge

““Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. — To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up.““ (Bruce Lee)

I'm not typically one that pushes life to the brink. I lived a charmed life for a long time, and forgot what the edge looked like.

Until recently.

I went from six figure lifestyle with stability and upward mobility, to a skin of my teeth scrape for survival, bouncing off social programs and onto roads I never expected to traverse again.

This blog is a thank you to those people in my orbit that have kept me from sliding over the edge over the course of the last year and into an abyss. For privacy purposes, I won't reveal names, and since these amazing, gracious, selfless humans aided the human behind this artistic mask, I will keep the specifics of individual help secret.

But you know who you are. The empowering comments, cards, and messages of belief and encouragement as I struggled to stand. Reaching out when I seemed to have drifted away for too long. The active displays of genuine concern, like long distance hugs, offering me work or a loan to get by during this difficult time, or checking in on how I'm doing. The compassion. The trust. The love.

Love keeps us from reaching the cliff; care keeps our lives from careening out of control into a freefall with an inevitable crash.

All around me, I see the survivors of such a fall. Broken, irreparable lives. Doomed finances and futures.

Diminished and regressed existence.

Squalor and compromise.

The decay of the present day is palpable. Millions of people have been pushed to the edge by circumstances beyond their control, by choices that had catastrophic outcomes, and by breaks and fractures that don't heal without focused help, support and patience. Millions go to work every day while sick in order to maintain financial survival - not just stability, but income that keeps their lives from sliding into tragic decisions. Millions have put survival over proper health discipline due to lack of insurance, stability options, and/or healthy opportunities (including me). Millions sacrifice more than we can ever truly understand, and stress more than we can comprehend.

2020 has brought me as close to the edge as I have in the last two decades.

At the end of June, I suffered an accident while on the job that brought me centimeters away from tragedy. While using a table saw to rip trim for a new flooring job, the glove of my right thumb got pulled into a spinning saw blade. Before I knew it, the teeth ripped through my right glove and into my flesh, almost severing the tip of my primary thumb. The cut was deep enough that I could see the tip of my right thumb bone, though the angle of the cut kept the tip of my thumb from coming off completely.

See the photos at the end of this blog for graphic detail. I apologize for the quality of some of the images; it was difficult to do anything with my right hand for a few months, including take photos with my left hand. One-handed phone use proved difficult. 

Given that it was my first major injury since I was a kid, I think I handled it as well as someone could without health insurance. I was calm, cool, collected, and focused to heal my own wound, even though my co-worker said what followed from my injury "looked like a murder scene". I took a dive from champion for worker safety into the bloody pool of those injured on the job.

Accidents happen, and my injury was truly an accident. I was watching what I was doing, and I wasn't distracted. I just happened to miss when the blade caught my glove and pulled it into the blade. Life is like that - you feel safe until that quick second that chaos pulls you into the saw. My quick reaction saved the tip of my thumb from being completely severed off.

It was not the first time I cut wood with a saw, and it won't be the last. I don't fear the edge of the blade, but I am more respectful of the power of chaos, of the possibility of doing everything you can to protect yourself from the edge of the cliff or the apex of the spinning blade and still falling victim to the unexpected. Precaution and focus are always necessary when dancing with danger, and any slip can lead you faltering off the precipice and into tragedy. 

Today's danger will bleed you dry faster than you can properly transfuse. I suppose my previous experience with the edge gave me the confidence and patience to live through my present turbulence while maintaining my sanity.

I can only hope the rest of those helpless people on the edge right now have a chance at and the strength for stability like I have.

Four months later, my chopped thumb is mostly healed (by my own attention to healing), and the bloody event served as a pivot in my professional direction and artistic legacy. Instead of focusing on finding a vocation where I can use my hands and stay active, I've returned to my Marketer roots and am exploring what can grow out of those dismissed skills. Instead of working in an industry that varies based on the season and on your ability to survive the elements, I'm working from home and with my head. Instead of facing a future as an artist (and human) without an operable right thumb, I have a second chance to breathe life into my art.

Instead of disabled, I have become refreshingly enabled.

But I was lucky.

In order to survive over the last few months, I took jobs that put me out in the public and into the thick of the decay. Out of social distance and isolation and into the faces of people that couldn't be bothered with masks. Out of protective spaces and into covid-possible crowds. As an Uber and Domino's driver, I've visited abandoned houses, destitute families, places strained by lack of resources, and burned husks of buildings trashed by riots and protesters. I've smiled through hundreds of rides and deliveries that resulted in zero tips. I have seen the diversity of the urban landscape around me like no time in my life before.

I exchanged a charmed life for a complex, complicated road. I swapped upward mobility and unshakeable stability for struggle and wisdom. I traded an existence of suburban, closed comfort for brutal reality and recognition of the edge.

Backing away from the brink is a constant work in progress. It has taken me swallowing my pride and asking for help in ways that I've never done in my past. It has been humbling and tear-jerking. It has been difficult and stressful. It has been inspirational and empowering.

But most of all, it has been renewing.  What doesn't kill you truly does makes you stronger.

As long as you don't tumble completely off the edge. To those of you who have helped me from discovering what that fall looks like,

thank you.

#xoterica

Artemis Sere Xoterica 33 The Edge
Artemis Sere "Dissecting Halos" Original 16 x 20 Acrylic + Art Resin

Seretic Studios Arts & Crafts & Etc Yard Sale

Seretic Studios Arts & Crafts & Etc Yard Sale
I'm having my first Seretic Studios Yard Sale. There  may be others in the near future. This weekend features the first.
 
You're invited, regardless of where you are and/or your spiritual or physical distance to me. 
 

Saturday, September 19, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020

9:00 AM - 3:00 PM

851 Algonquin, St. Paul, MN

The Yard Sale will feature reduced-price SereFire Candles; Artemis Sere paintings and works from my collection; DVDs; clothing; and other stuff that I come across.

Walkthroughs of my studio will be available by request.

#maskup, please.

Seretic Studios Arts & Crafts & Etc Yard Sale

SERESTATIC: The Breathing Virus

Artemis Sere Serestatic The Breathing Virus
Sunday, April 5, 2020. 45°. Sunny.
 
"And once the storm is over
You won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive.

You won’t even be sure, in fact, that the storm is over.
But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm,
You won’t be the same person who walked in.
That’s what this storm is all about."

(Murakami)
 
The world has mostly melted now, the seasons have changed dramatically since my last update. Warmer weather and thunderstorms have pushed the frozen world away, and the green of renewal can be seen across the landscape. I can feel the welcome warmth of summer in the air, but it doesn't feel as inspiring and enlivening as it once did.
 
A year ago, I left the cushy, comfortable stability of a global corporate job for an unknown world - a future of grit, struggle and fire. I wanted to be a welder, even though it paid poorly and was a stark turn away from my professional history. My metalmorphosis was about surviving as the workers do, understanding their pain and pathway, and living a life of activity and action centered around my art. And telling the story of it. I thought my network would follow along, that all the great people that once praised my talent, production and creative output would be on the ride with me. I thought the universe would provide and come to my aid, that the successes that I had experienced over the last decade would carry into my new adventure. I listened to the wise therapists that said "live your adventure and take risks".
 
And so I did, and I can truthfully say that I'm now at one of the lowest points in my life. One year removed from my decision, and not a single thing has went as I hoped or planned, apart from having time to focus on my art and art product. I published one of the coolest things I ever have, and the act has felt pointless - far removed from how I thought I'd feel after publishing my 4th book. Yes, the gallery book was developed as a tool to organize my gallery, but it's also a color representation of my gallery, far cheaper than purchasing a piece of my work or spending money to experience multiple individual gallery shows of mine. It is valuable to anyone that cares about my art. I thought the audience I built would appreciate that.
 
I was wrong.
 
Even before the virus hit, my art was fading from view and memory, with only a few wonderful people putting passion behind their praise.
 
Now, I seldom paint. The fires of creativity inside of me have been replaced by worry, regret and frustration at a world that continues to spin and recycle lies. Leaving Facebook and Instagram were good for my soul, as it was a constant reminder of how hollow the praise of people can be. I helped build social media into the beast it is today, through advocacy armies and social strategy and content curation. I trained many on how to use social media, and lauded the benefits of the space. Those trainings and teachings have proved useful to many now that civilization has recessed into caves to dodge the virus.
 
Social media once made me feel valued and valuable.
 
Things will never be the same in our world, and the digital experience has been given new life and new meaning now that we observe forced distance. But social media will never replace the necessity of face-to-face interaction, something that was lost on me during all the years I pushed social media and tried to push my brand to new heights and broader audience. The audience metrics were always sweet, but the engagement metrics were deplorable.
 
I should've recognized that long ago, but there was too much money to be made as part of our current economic engine. We now live by Amazon and remote deliveries. We Happy Hour and meet using Zoom and other digital services. We breathe constant news feeds telling us how bad physical human contact has become, that we should wear masks (if we can find them), stay 6' apart, avoid gatherings and opportunities to spread the disease. Unemployment could hit 20-30%. Companies are freezing jobs and hunkering down. Millions may die, at least hundreds of thousands in the United States. There's a war for ppe, and my former company is on the front lines of criticism by elected officials.
 
"Our country wasn't built for this, our country wasn't built to be shut down".
 
No country is. No civilization is. Modern civilization involves a class and caste system that requires poorly-funded and protected slaves. Our King recently met with the heads of all of the professional Gladiator teams in America, and they whined about how their entertainment products are suffering with the country faltering as it faces the toughest test in our young history. People need the comfort of their overpaid Gladiators, they argue. Culture is more important than caution, they demand.
 
Even grayhairs claim that they'll die for the country, as if they're the only group affected by a bug so viral that you can catch it simply breathing around someone. Our martyrs are those people fighting the bug on the front lines of society - the under-prepared health care workers, delivery people, grocery store workers and caretakers, just to name a few. All else is overhead these days, contributors to an economic engine that cares little for cogs of its wheels.
 
After my divorce in 2001, I remember looking for a job, even while fighting with a dire chronic condition and suffering mightily. I remember sitting in an interview room with Aon Financial when the towers fell, watching the tragedy on the screen with awe and fear. The world felt very unfamiliar then. It's sad to say that it feels like history is repeating, with the great global human society faltering with a simple breath of the virus.
 
The world feels very unfamiliar now. Most of the people that I've met since that time have drifted away, leaving a handful of faithful and interested friends. All of the work experience I've had seems useless in the face of massive human tragedy, and spinning the wheels seems like the last thing I should be looking to do.
 
But I am, and the landscape is more dismal than ever. Few jobs. Few opportunities. No affordable health care. An administration that I don't trust. The rich get richer and the poor get lost in the mix.
 
And we want things to get "back to normal". I say "Fuck normal".
 
My girlfriend is a grocery store worker, working sick and sick of working around dangerous environments. She  learned yesterday that her brother has liver cancer and needs a transplant. The poor guy needs to have chemo treatment, have a major organ transplant, and needs to survive and thrive with a new liver. He's an electrician - not rich, not affluent, not connected - the salt of the earth type of person that I set out on my journey to learn from and try to help.
 
Chances are very good that the process will decimate any financial stability he has, and may require help from many other sources to survive (eg. myself and my girlfriend). Chances are good that he will contract the virus with his compromised system. Care has been inconsistent during the virus, and he has waited months to get the cancer  diagnosis that the affluent can get in days.
 
This is a terrible time to be struggling with a debilitating health condition.
 
When I was suffering from severe ulcerative colitis and the doctors wanted to perform a colostomy on me (incidentally, doctors were never able to pinpoint the cause of why my colitis set in, other than my lifestyle), I felt the same hopelessness. Hopelessness that I would heal. Hopelessness about my survival. Hopelessness that I would have a normal life.
 
Scott will never have "normal" again, thanks to a system that only takes care of those that can afford it. He lived a life of excess, never questioning the ripple effects of living drunk or living unhealthy. He trashed his liver living a life that our culture has encouraged. He is now paying for his poor choices.
 
As I sit here coughing intermittently, with headaches and fever and chills every so often, I know I'll never have a "normal" again either. I'm not asymptomatic; I'm not fully well; and I'm not sure what I have. Unable to have a virus test, I do my best to manage my own health with vitamins and adequate rest, knowing that I have "something" that I could pass onto others. The choices of the last year have jeopardized my professional "career", destroyed my artistic confidence, and put me on a path of self-destruction that has no precedent. The virus has shrunk the world down to my level of desperation.
 
And, like Scott, I'm just tired. Tired of the lies. Tired of the games. Tired of walking a stormy path. Tired of breathing in this bitter virus called "civilization", the system of excess and inequality that is as callous as our leaders. Don't let the self-help bullshit fool you: success is not guaranteed, and the universe will not come to your rescue, should you drift from your afforded comfort.
 
Ultimately, I'm reminded of a great song by a favorite band of mine, Morcheeba. Entitled "Self-Made Man", the song is a good reminder of how we're all connected, how we all have a responsibility to care for each other, and how the system we current live in is broken.
 
Will we ever learn from the flaws in our plans?
 
"There's no such thing
As a self made man
Enjoy the flaws
In the best laid plans"
 
#serestatic
Artemis Sere Serestatic The Breathing Virus