Friday, May 27, 2011

Todays forcast: Stormy

I should have showered by now and be running my errands. Instead, I feel trapped where I sit. My anxiety which has been ever present for almost half a year now is soaring today. I am overcome with the unknowns involved it leaving the house. I have too many things to do, and they all involve me having to drive. I need to pick up some photographs that I sent in for developing. The store is downtown in an area where parking spaces are difficult to find. I am already feeling anxious about all of this.

I don't want to have to walk too far in order to pick up my order. I feel simultaneously nauseous and on the verge of tears. I also need to get a banner and some literature printed and laminated at another store today because next week a committee that I sit on will have a display board up at the legislative building for the provincial access awareness week.

I think that it's ironic that in trying to create better access (to the arts) in our province, that I am going to spend today worrying about how I'm going to do everything that needs to be done. As chairperson, I have tried to delegate. To some degree I have been successful. But in the end it's a sad state of affairs, because I am the least mobile person on the board, the only person with two young children, the only person who drives back and forth to school to pick up or drop off the kids at 9:00 am, 11:30 am and 3:30 pm. I had been the person to take packages to Canada Post offices-always with one or two children with me-which meant an additional struggle to get my youngest into her car seat and buckle her seat belt up. No matter whether it was -25'c outside my mitts had to come off to fiddle with the metal buckles until finally I heard the magical "click" of the buckle locked into the base.

Since becoming the Chair I had all but given up my art practice. I had to quit my french classes that I had been going to for a year and a half and I still hadn't finished my website.

During a meeting with two other artists last month, I said that I was tired of being told that being the chairperson of a network would be great for my CV. I asked in what way it would it be great for my CV when all I wanted to be was an artist. The look of dawning comprehension by my friends was funny. They had assumed that everyone would find the experience useful for future endeavors in order to sit on more boards, or focus on developing other organizations. They aren't as useful when all that I want is to be an artist and all I wasn't being was an artist.

So, why am I on this board? Because I know that there needs to be better understanding of the challenges of artists with disabilities in our province and I have been involved in this group since it's inception three years ago. I don't want to see it fall apart like the first group of artists here who attempted to do the same thing, only to close it's doors because of its core members health issues, their need to work in order to pay the bills, and their inability to work and devote time and energy to a demanding unpaid job, regardless of how important it may be.

So, when our main leader left last summer because of huge financial and personal strain, the boards group was left with only a handful of people. Two of whom worked with us in an arms-length capacity and the other person was too modest to call himself a professional artist and therefore didn't think that it was appropriate for him to be the chairperson. That left me as the only viable candidate. I had walked into our monthly board meeting knowing that I could not take on the role of chairperson. But with no one else left I had no choice but to say "okay, I'll do it".

So, here I am today, overwhelmed and exhausted and telling myself to just get moving, moving (to quote Dori from the movie Finding Nemo.) For the next several months I continued to move towards our first AGM. I continue to work on our blogspot, I pick up packages for one person and deliver them to another, I make phone calls to people with power over money and while it feels as though I am acting in the capacity as team mascot I still represent the group as the chairperson I do what I am told.

On more than one occasion I am called on the phone to fax something somewhere. I don't have a fax machine. I'm a stay at home mom. And who uses fax machines anymore? I scramble to add a few more signatures to documents due at the end of the day. Panicked, sweaty and terrified that I have messed up in missing to sign one page of a grant proposal we may very well lose an opportunity to funding that we desperately need. The opportunity would allow us to receive organizational funds. It would allow us to hire the very same person who created our group and who had had to leave in order to find a job that paid in real money.

Exhausted and feeling unappreciated and misunderstood for my occasional complaints which were always rebuked by the fact that I should appreciate the exposure to work in this capacity despite that abhor administrative type work and feel no passion in this except when there was an opportunity to talk to new people, to bring them a clear understanding of the situation that we as artists with disabilities were in. I could be passionate in my story telling, and it was only in those moments where the real me slipped out uncensored that I felt that I did our group justice. While my fellow board members attempted to soften my edges, and suggest repeatedly that I would do well by learning politically correct terminology and sensitivity I felt that it was a form of censorship. If I could not use real world words then my feeling was that as a society we would remain disconnected within society. In the extreme p.c. terminology distances people from the hard facts of life. However, I continued until I had seen the work through. While I didn't work alone I had sacrificed health  in addition to everything else, but our small network began to gain new and eager bodies.

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