“A lack of integrity does not imply that one is a “bad” person. A lack of integrity simply suggests that one is being an inconsistent person—and an inconsistent person is a disempowered person. Whenever there is a contradiction within the self—a lack of wholeness and congruence—there is a fragmentation and its resulting sense of angst. And when this happens, all sorts of symptoms appear that one might not, at first glance, necessarily attribute to a lack of personal integrity.”—Katherine Woodward Thomas
I struggled for many years with not producing work. My lack of productivity made me surly and angry at everyone, including God. I spent this time trying to produce work but failing and being angry about it, trying to explain why I wasn’t working and hating that my life had come to this, trying to give the gift of writing back to God and failing at that too. What a miserable few years that was.
I was miserable because I was out of integrity with myself, inconsistent with the core of my being–which calls me to create. This inconsistency with self emerged because creating was always a part of my life. I didn’t have to decide to create, I just did it, naturally and authentically. I made collages and cards, wrote stories and letters, kept journals. As I got older, life shifted and little by little each of those creative acts fell by the wayside. All I was left with was dissatisfaction and a surly feeling that life was unfair: that I was being bidden to do something that was impossible to do.
Integrity can be annoying because sometimes you just want to eat bread and cheese all day even though you know it clogs you up, you want to stay glued to the screen watching trash all day even though you know it doesn’t feed your soul, you want to crash when you get home instead of making art and/or working on your dreams because you are legitimately tired, exhausted from the have-to’s. But for artists, that need to create is always there, no matter how buried and it causes you to be unsatisfied with a noncreative life.
I dug myself out of the hole by finding nooks and crannies in which to cram in artmaking, by surrendering to the new normal of my life and finding ways to create work within my limitation rather than in spite of my limitations. And I am still doing it–working with what I have, instead of fighting with what I have. And I still feel it–the rub of lack of integrity when I’m not producing–and when I feel it, I know I have to go back to the blueprint and figure out how the bleep I’m going to shove more artmaking into a crammed and crowded life.
The thing that is different about me now, different from those dark, angsty, angry unproductive years, is that I accept that finding a way to make art is my job. I thought making art was my job–and it is. But in order to do that job I have to commit to another job–a job that never required that much of me when I was a younger artist, but that requires a whole lot of me now that I’m older. My mandate is to find a way to make it work, no matter what. And when whatever cockamamy idea for making art I’ve come up with fails (notice I said *when* because life is always shifting, so whatever artmaking plan I come up with is never sustainable because I have to respond to the demands of life), I must come up a new one and be willing to contort myself to the changing demands and parameters so that I can do this one thing–make art–this one thing that will keep me in personal integrity with myself.
Be well. Be love[d].
Kiini Ibura Salaam
PS: I have uploaded “Rosamojo,” one of the stories from Ancient, Ancient onto Wattpad. Check it out and share widely if you like it.