Floating in the Harbor of My Discontent

Port of Sacramento, West Sacramento, CA. ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2011. All rights reserved.

I realize that life is tenuous and change is inevitable, however a large part of my internal self craves to be anchored in a safe port where the rhythms of life are more predictable than not. But at this moment I find myself floating precariously in the harbor of my discontent. The waves coming in off the bow are large and choppy and seem focused on one action: to capsize.

This seemingly dark scenario is really not as bad as my words paint it to be, at least not for me. It is a familiar place that I have been privy to visit throughout my life. It is a place where I have floated and flailed and found myself breathless on too many occasions to count. One step removed from depression, it is not a bottomless tunnel that leads to that hopeless void of no return. It is instead that temporary gap between my striving for consistency and my need for change. It is that momentary dangling on the precipice of day-to-day existence and the deep desire for creative expression. The one thing that keeps me from falling into that tunnel is the existence of hope and the need to connect with the world through my very soul.

All artists have experienced it. Some have dealt with it better than others. Michelangelo must have had it; Beethoven most certainly felt it; Van Gogh was missing an ear because of it; Gauguin may have severed that very ear in spite of it; Dorothy Parker, Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway drowned themselves in alcohol in the midst of it; and Sylvia Plath was damned by it.

Artistic angst… that place of inner turmoil and frustration when the artist is lost in the search for what to say and how they want to say it. That required space where discontent becomes the catalyst for renewed expression.

In order to create, sometimes it’s necessary to flail helplessly in this ethereal space in an attempt to find the shore. It is a tension that finds one foot pointed towards the earth while both hands reach towards the heavens. It is a place where one rarely sleeps and when one eventually does, dreams become endless streams of archaic symbols. The mind escapes into a fantasy land filled with colors, where light blends with line and faces become shadows on an abstract canvas of geometric shapes. It is a place where words string themselves together mysteriously as if dictated from afar and through some knowledge outside of one’s own.

The line can at times appear precarious but the difference can be measured by the end result. The tortured soul remains floating out there in that ethereal realm, failing to place paint brush to canvas, words to music, their eye to a lens. The desires of their soul are rarely expressed and they are unable to cross over the chasm, often falling into the endless depths. Theirs is the boat that floats in the harbor of discontent, fills up with water and eventually sinks to the bottom never to be seen again.

While the motivated soul sees this as a necessary but temporary place to visit in order to align themselves with truth, inspiration and personal vision. They see this flailing as required and recognize it as motivation to place paint brush to canvas, write words to music and lift the lens to the eye then click the shutter button. They can see the dark chasm but choose to jump across to the other side. Theirs is the boat that floats in the harbor of discontent, uses a bucket to bail out the water and eventually reaches the shore.

About tracyth76

I am a professional photographer, obsessed iPhoneographer, freelance writer and website designer located in Northern, California. View all posts by tracyth76

9 responses to “Floating in the Harbor of My Discontent

  • Madge

    Tracy, I am so sad to hear these words come from you but I know all artists do go through this. I love your last sentence which shows a hopefulness. You have been striving for your Master thesis and I am hoping this is the let down from being so busy performing that now you are just feeling a little lost as to what comes next. I have faith in you. Thanks for sharing what a lot of people go through including me.

  • Judy

    I’ve been in that harbor, Tracy. One of my friends told me last week that when she interviewed several very successful writers about the secret to their success, they all said “persistence.” I found that very encouraging. So keep bailing. I know you will make it to the shore.

  • Amy Ferris

    Oh, i love you Tracy.
    I just plain love you.


    See, there you go again. There’s the love all around you.

  • Cheryl Moseley

    Tracy, I barely know you, but enough to know your photography and writing inspires me. I’m the nurse who lived in Mammoth in 1970, who flew with the injured people in the single engine air ambulance. I think we connected because of your posting pics of the eastern Sierras. For more than a few reasons, I feel a connection with you. I’m writing a book now and know that persistence is critical. You are great, and your work will continue to be inspiring. As one of my teachers said, “Keep up.” Now must listen to my own mantra. Best to you, Tracy!

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