Good morning from sunny New York.
On such a crisp late summer day, I surely should be outside. And before long I will swap my indoor rubber flip flops for socks and sturdier shoes and have a long walk in the park.
But before then, taking advantage of a welcome bit of free time, I have been trying to sort out a number of experiences from the past few days. Sometimes, I wonder if I am in fact living several parallel lives. I do not mean this in sci-fi sort of way, but rather that I have my inner self-image, and continually find that my actual daily physical time seems to be lived by a totally different person.
Last Saturday, I went to see a small exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. My MOMA membership is about to expire and I do not plan to renew it immediately. So, I am trying to make a few quick visits before the end of October.
The exhibit I saw on Saturday was quite eccentric, and centered upon ten year's correspondence between a MOMA curator and a young artist who was trying to leave his Michigan university and family, and move to New York, find patronage and pursue his creativity. His correspondence was itself creative. None of it was an actual letter on stationery in an envelope. It could be a scroll, a tiny many-layers-of-folded tissue paper with a word on each fold, all sorts of formats.
My particular interest in the exhibit arose because in the decade following the period of the correspondence I knew the artist well. He had come to New York, continued to collect patrons, and to slowly create a new persona for himself, leaving his Michigan background very far in the background. He traveled to Japan, he was an artist in residence at a rather surprising choice, the Hudson Institute think tank. His fame grew from a number of successful "happenings," beautifully staged. Conceptual art can be awful. His was mostly magical. And always, he was very good at the self-promotion that can be essential for artists' survival.
Somewhere in this cramped apartment I have some little bits and pieces of his work that are perhaps as significant as anything on view at MOMA. Or perhaps they are not.
As time passed, our lives went in different directions. I would continue to see some of his gallery exhibits, at major NYC spots like Mary Boone Gallery, and see him in party photos in French "Vogue."
Looking at the pieces in the exhibit, I took a long meander down memory lane, and thought about what my life was like when I was in my late twenties. New York has never been a gentle place, but my memories do yield a collection of experiences that seem lighter, less cynical, maybe just younger.
I was actually alone in the MOMA gallery room the entire time that I looked at the show. I wonder how many other folks have visited the exhibit and had similar memories to mine. As I left the museum, I was still sort of not quite in the present tense, but full of contemplation. Having time for contemplation is a luxury for me these days.
Yesterday, Tuesday, was to be a day off for me. However, I had arranged a meeting to fit the schedule of a visiting top human resources lady, so that we could sit down, in a location outside the shop, to talk with one of my staff members, very seriously, about the need for her to improve her performance.
I had drafted a form that ultimately we would sign, regarding this need for improvement. My draft had been reviewed and very slightly revised by the HR lady. On Monday evening, I had taken home all the prior personnel files for this staff member. She has worked for the company for almost eight years. My company is very benevolent, often seeming to pride itself on rescue missions. I have been the manager of my shop for about a year and one half, and had intentionally not read old personnel file, preferring to form my own impressions of my staff.
Well. The eight-year file was full of prior need for improvement forms. It seemed as though over and over and over, prior managers had come to the edge of terminating the employee, and then pulled back. All the forms addressed failings similar to what my form detailed. I realized, that again, I was being called upon to be the "heavy." To do what others had not been able to do.
Yesterday's meeting went much as I anticipated it would. The staff member was defensive, and did not agree with much of what I had written, although she did accept some of the comments. She does not realize how much the pace and demands of the shop have changed, and that what might have been accepted four, five, six or even seven years ago, just will not cut it now. We asked that she think about the improvements that we had requested, and that we would meet again in two weeks to re-assess progress.
She then said that she was rather upset and did not want to go back to the store, but would like to take the rest of the day off. I told her several times, that of course she had that choice, but that making that choice was another example of letting down the rest of her colleagues. And that it meant that I would lose my day off, since someone would have to fill in for her and it was too late to make other arrangements. She stuck to her wish to go home and went home.
It was a very busy day. Customers were well served. We juggled priorities all day, more or less productively. The HR lady did come back to the shop also, and had a brief visit with each of those other staff members present. The earlier meeting remains a confidential matter, but of course everyone was buzzing with curiosity.
My plans for yesterday afternoon (glamorous grocery shopping, laundry and house cleaning were shelved. I have got some of those duties taken care of already today.
Inside my head, I still think of myself as the would be artist who left her childhood home to live in New York and enjoyed the comraderie of other like-minded folks. I am a person who actually makes art.
Ah, but the version of myself who jumps awake at the earliest light or alarm beep (whichever signals first) is quite another person. This person has difficult meetings during which she must harden her heart, this person does not make art, has a difficult time keeping up with creative friends, is thankful for continued good health and stamina, has found a way to support herself, often feels that the treadmill on which she daily runs keeps being set to faster and faster speeds. This is all the same person.
I expect that many of you who might read this feel or have felt similarly about your owns lives, althought the specifics vary. It is quite marvelous that we can be so supportive.
Still too early to wish you my usual pleasant dreams.