AT THE FAIR: Muscle Memory

Sometimes we could–should–listen to our hearts instead of our bodies.

It’s been a long, wonderful week at this year’s League of NH Craftsmen’s Annual Fair up at Mt. Sunapee Resort in Newbury, NH. Busy! So busy the time seems to fly by. Lots of new faces, and familiar ones, tales of happiness and sorrow.

My heart is full when I come home, but my body is racked with pain.

Last night, I had a session with a chiropractor, who, like me, has a martial arts background. I mentioned I was thinking of returning to my practice. The hurdle is this: Usually I return to classes to get in shape. As I age, I should really be in better shape before I attempt to do that.

He said it was a wise choice. I’ve had a lot of injuries and another surgery in the last year, and things–alignment, balance–are out of whack. “If you return now, without letting your body heal, your muscle memory will kick in. Your body will try to do the things you used to do. But you can’t do them right now, and you’ll injure yourself trying.”

Aha! That’s why some of my ‘returns’ have been so short-lived!

That phrase–muscle memory–stuck in my mind, and helped me understand where some of my discomfort at the Fair comes from.

Most people think we artists and craftspeople are like a big family. Well, that’s more true than you know. When I first joined the ranks, I felt like I’d found my tribe, my true heart’s home. It was a shock to realize it really is like a big family. (I have personal experience–I’m the oldest of seven children.)

Some of us don’t speak to each other. Others come to us for support and comfort and inspiration constantly. Professional jealousy rears its ugly head constantly. And there are others who cheer us on with every step.

Set-up is the hardest. One minute you’re offering someone your precious stool, and the next you’re snarling at them to move their junk out of your booth space.

Sometimes too much has passed between you. Then there is no opportunity missed for a caustic remark to be made, even as you win an award. Some cannot even bring themselves to greet you as you pass on your many trips to the bathroom or Fair office (or the bar at the top of the hill.)

For these times, there is muscle memory: Your body, remembering the acts of unkindness, shrinks when you see them, and you cannot bring yourself to even pretend to be polite anymore.

But there is a way out.

Over the years, I’ve learned that, 99% of the time, someone who is causing you anguish, is carrying their own tight anguish inside their heart. In short–it’s not about you. It’s about THEM. You happen to be a convenient target.

And sometimes it’s us. We’ve done somebody wrong, and it’s time to admit that. Take responsibility for it, and say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me. And if you can’t, I understand.”

Then try to live with the fact that we, too, are imperfect people.

I have done things I’ve had to ask forgiveness for. And sweet Jesus, I received it. I have others who have asked forgiveness from me, and I am overwhelmed by their humility–and courage. It takes real courage to apologize. I know. I’ve been there.

In the end, we have to trust the work of our hands, and the work of our hearts. We live in this tribe, in many tribes, actually. We live in this world.

I like to think if we could trust the muscle memory of of hearts and spirits, a little more than the muscle memory of our bodies, just a little….

Then maybe someday we could even have peace in the Middle East.

Okay, that last line is a family joke, and perhaps not even a very good one. (“I hat you” is also a long-standing family joke.)

But that’s what families are for–a place where we can work out our little dramas and big heartaches, and ultimately find a place where we can stand and say, “You’re a poop, but I love you, and yes, I forgive you. Seventy times seven.”

And cross our hearts and hope for the best.

May you be able to forgive, seventy times seven. And may you also be forgiven, at least ten times as much.

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5 Comments

Filed under art, courage, craft, finding your tribe, jealousy, life lessons, LNHC Craftsmen's Fair, martial arts, mental attitude, myths about artists, professional jealousy

5 responses to “AT THE FAIR: Muscle Memory

  1. Camille

    Thanks for this post, and the last one! You have an unerring sensitivity toward others and more difficult, toward yourself.

    I appreciate your sharing.

  2. Luann, that was the most wonderful, thought provoking post I’ve ever read. Thank you so very much.

  3. Again, you have hit the nail on the head, Luann. I wish I were your neighbor and could get your wisdom daily over the fence. It is so good to have your writings in my in-box…nearly as good as a picket fence conversation.

    The vision of the art community as a tribe is RIGHT ON. And the realistic description of the human quirks of “family” that lead to the sometimes painful “sticky wickets” is certainly one I can identify with. You have said what I would like to say, and I thank you for it. This is another post I will put in my EXTRA IMPORTANT KEEPERS box. Your tribe member, Susan

  4. oh, so true,,, now to remind my body, and wish it were as forgiving, when I ask it to do something out of the ordinary.

  5. Beth Wheeling

    I have a friend who wrote a song that says that when people hurt us we should “look for the broken heart.” Most people are broken somewhere. Usually their vitriol not about us. Sometimes when I see a wrong being done I want to inform the world, but I have to trust that they will come to see it in their own time…if they really want to.
    I totally agree that when someone comes at me with hostility I must consider the fact that I have not walked in their shoes. I don’t always remember that. Sometimes the old reptile brain takes over and I am in fight or flight. I wish I could be thoughtful about such things but I do not always have the resources right there to do that. What I do know is that the tribe I am looking for is usually within my artistic and spiritual community. It does not seem to be in my family so much. I am a retired psycholgoist. One of my most important lessons came from an Irish/Catholic patient who taught me “God gives you your family. Thank God you can choose your friends.” I was always connected to art and I love to share the appreciation of the brilliance of a color or the way that it changes in the light. Once when I was noticing that someone asked me if I was stoned :) I was not. Just in pure bliss of the moment that something so natural can provide.

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