#Nofilter is as pervasive a hash as any. It makes sense in these times of alternative facts, baffling headlines and gaslighting — we want truth back, whatever it may be, since we have to navigate a world of shape shifters like never before. But every artist knows that filters are automatic to any process or narrative, any picture and any composition that we float out there. “No filter” is a fabrication, to say the least. I’ve been thinking about the allure and pitfalls of maintaining appearances for some time, but when I got an email from an acquaintance remarking on my seamless life from my Instagram feed I was startled by her assumptions: I looked great! I was always being creative! My life was all smiles! I looked at my feed and I can certainly understand why she thought I live a gilded life devoted to the arts and creativity, all anchored in lovely days surrounded by cute dogs.
We all understand how this happens. We scroll through social media and see the parties, the accolades that other people’s kids are getting, the vacations, the toned abs, the vogue perfect air brushed head shot, and it is easy to get stuck there. We get seduced by someone else’s visual fairy tale. My narrative is about putting up things that engage and delight me, while featuring my work and that of others. I have fun with it, but it really is a cork board, and flat at best.
And so I want to loop back in this blog post and swat at appearances and offer some transparency.
That happy, shining social media presence has been quite different from our reality. Last November our daughter was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease–not life threatening, but life altering to be sure. Our life was plunged into doctors’ appointments and shifting medications and anxiety and many tears. Insomnia became a part of our lives, and fatigue. I ate too much sugar and drank too much caffeine. We were entirely preoccupied with one child’s emotional and physical well being and unwittingly ignored our other child who was fine, but eventually revolted. Illness is extremely isolating, and we were no exception. I withdrew from friends since I did not want to be one more burden on anyone else’s overtaxed life. I neglected email, and my memory faltered under the stress. I fumbled time and time again. We declined social commitments and maintained our professional lives after the kids were in bed. I had a show and commissions; my husband a book deadline. And I was surprised by another cycle of deep mourning for my late sister, Heather, whose counsel and devotion I sorely needed and missed.
At Christmas we got a rescue puppy to surprise our kids and pile on a little joy into our lives. It involved more sleep deprivation, but it worked. Six months have now passed by and we are now on a vacation that feels especially sublime since the only travel we’d been doing as a family was to medical offices. Our daughter is stable and happy, and though we are still at the beck and call of this new diagnosis, we have adapted. #nofilter.