Confessions of a Weary Carpenter

I couldn’t figure out why this month held a sense of dread for me. For a while, right around this time, around these specific dates, I get this unexplained feeling of “blah” that would arise.

Weirder still, this feeling would only coincide with my career. “How bizarre,” I used to think. What is this feeling? Why would it have me staring at my ceiling dreading the idea of making something new?

And then…I figured it out:

Most social media apps have this neat little “turn back time” feature where they remind you of events that have happened since you signed up with them. And we, being part of that social media culture, get to relive every single thing we did on that day, from years before.

That awesome birthday party? Here are the pictures from two years ago. That life-changing music festival? Here are the pictures from seven years ago. That harrowing birth that led to an adorable baby? Here are the pictures from ten years ago.

Or in my case….that show that I worked hard on, self-funded, and attempted to sell tickets to, only for the theatre to be 1-5% full? Here are those pictures from 3 years ago….

Those auditions I advertised but no one showed up? Here’s the casting call, (that received 1 like and 0 shares), from 4 years ago…..

That post about not being able to wait to share a new play with the world only to have to cancel it three weeks later because funding fell through. Hare are those pictures from 2 years ago…

That amazing concert in the biggest performance hall, that boasts 2000 seats, but only 60 people showed up…here are those pictures from 6 years ago.

And that’s when it hit me. That feeling that I was getting around this time of year was based on the failures that I was consistently reliving over…

And over…

And over….

And that feeling would come back in October because of pictures from that Breast Cancer Awareness play that ran for two weekends that only saw 6 audience members…total.

And it’ll come back in January, ushered in by a gorgeous black & white photo when one of my original pieces, commissioned by a local university, resulted in 10 people in the audience….

And it’ll be back in February, through a beautiful poster, when I’m reminded of a Black History Show that had to be canceled because it sold thee out of four hundred tickets.

And it’ll be back with a vengeance in March…

And April…

And May…

And June and July with those performing arts summer camp pictures….

I have been silently reliving these failures for several years.

Pictures are worth 1000 words. Because while the onstage images are stunning…they remind me of stacks of unsold tickets, the 0 balances in production bank accounts, and the dwindling hope that one day…something would shift.

These masquerading representations are vivid reminders of audiences so small I would reposition them in the seats for the sake of my actors, feeling it necessary to apologize to the thespians and minstrels backstage, because all their work was done in vain.

And these colorful depictions, that appear in the “Memories” tab of my apps, are a road map that has led me back to how I got to this moment.

There comes a point when some Creative aren’t afforded certain opportunities, and people around that Creative don’t see the Creative creativy-ing enough (I know just go with it), and said Creative will point out that opportunities are lacking—So the surrounding people give the exact same advice:

“If nobody will let you sit at their table, build your own.” 

Ah, yes. The “build your own table,” advice. It’s so easy to utter. People have written books about this “take charge” kind of attitude. And people assume that the reason why a Creative hasn’t published that book, or broadcasted that podcast, or opened that studio, or produced that blockbuster independent film, or taught that master class, is because they’re not thirsty enough. Because when you want something in life, you have to go after it. When you come to an obstacle, just climb over it. When it comes to opportunity passing by, grab it by the cajones and don’t let it go.

“Build the table. Build the table! Build! The! Table!” they cry with fervor.  

But then the chanting crowd disappears when it’s time to help with advertising. The excuses pool in our ears when it’s time to buy the tickets. The backtracking comes when booking prices get mentioned. The negotiations cease when the invoice is received. And soon…the Creative is sawing and cutting, and drilling, and sanding, and staining this massive, custom table alone.

And even when the table is finished, and the Creative offers it up; those same “carpentry encouragers” question the woodwork, and the nails, and the materials…

“I mean, I know you’re trying to build a table,” they say, “but you know who is really good at building tables? That professional carpenter in Atlanta….or that professional workshop in New York….or that professional wood shop in California. Now that’s who we need to get you to.”

But we are professionals….

And we’ve become weary of having to prove it to you every single time.

The truth is, I have warehouses overflowing with finished tables.

I have piles and piles of sawdust that have amassed in its corners.  

My saw is dull

My drill motor is burned out.

The air is suffocatingly thick with the fumes of staining polish.

…and this carpenter is weary.

I’m sure, sooner or later, some person will say to me, “Now that the pandemic is over, Danita, I can’t wait until your next production.”

And I will most likely chuckle in that ‘Danita’ way that I do–and in my vivid imagination I’ll probably glance behind me at all the other tables that have accumulated over the 18 years of potential table seekers with spurious purchase claims….and I’ll merely sigh.

For I never lack material to build, because that comes from The Ultimate Creator.

And I don’t lack the desire to design the tables; because that’s my gifting.

But as far as building it…just for the sake of having a table in which to sit ….eh

And while I’d love to end this with a resurgence of vigor and hope—I’d love to leave with a “Danita quip” that makes you chuckle or say, “Yaaas, sis!” I’d love to inspire you with words of table-building encouragement—I’m just…chuckling.

Chuckling and sighing.

For all my weary carpenters out there…I see you.

I do.

You know I’m right.

Danita LaShelle

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