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an inkling of compassion for van gogh

Vincent Van Gogh, self-portrait

me bandaged ear

I admit, based on what I knew, Van Gogh always sounded like a totally self indulgent pain in the ass to me.   Every time I heard something new about him (ie:  he shot himself in the stomach, not the heart—what kind of self-respecting suicidal depressive shoots themselves in the stomach?), I’d roll my eyes the same way I do when I hear about Lindsay Lohan’s latest exploits.

Today for the first time, I’m starting to feel a connection.

There’s the flurry of creative activity that caused him to paint almost 100 paintings in 70 days–I’m definitely writing a lot.    And there’s the deep dark depression. At the rate I’m going, I don’t even think I’ll make it to 70 days (that’s how long he was here). And I’m on anti-depressants.

Yeah, what do I have to be depressed about? I’m in this gorgeous, sweet little town. In a house.

garbageWell, first of all, Thursday is the day the garbage collector comes. I knew it was a bad omen when the garbage collector didn’t pick up my garbage that I carefully brought out front the night before.   Was my American garbage not good enough for these French garbage collectors?   Perhaps I committed some garbage faux pas and the whole neighborhood is judging me harshly.   I’ll never fit in.

Then I got my first email from my “tenant”.   I was subletting my NYC apartment to her at to below market value, but above my stabilized rent,    The extra money was helping pay for me to be here.   I guess she decided that she preferred my stabilized rent to our agreed upon rent, because she  sent our unofficial (and yes, illegal) agreement to my landlord.   He is now threatening to evict her and me.  And she wants her deposit money back NOW or she’ll sic her lawyer ex-boyfriend on me!!!

office-tourisme-auvers-sur-oise-1To get my mind off things, I go to the tourist office up the street  to see the short Van Gogh film that I heard was very good. It is. Something about the way they interjected his self-portraits, painted during his last 70 days in Auvers and the look in his eyes, that moves me like never before.

Poor old Vincent. He was mentally and financially unstable, totally unable to get any pure enjoyment from the world. I’m bawling my eyes out. I know EXACTLY how he felt. Look how beautiful Auvers is and my world is black with worry. Yes, I thoroughly understand the torture in those eyes.    He had nobody but his family to count on and was constantly afraid they’d abandon me…I mean him.

But Van Gogh had already experienced a modicum of success as a painter when he killed himself.

I haven’t had any real success as a writer…(or anything). So, now that I think about it, when it comes to reasons for being really, really depressed, That big baby Vincent had nothing on me.

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