"The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds." -- The Dalai Lama
After dinner last night, I sat in the kitchen, twinkling with sparkly lights, reflecting and refracting off the wine glasses, water goblets, and other shiny surfaces, talking to two friends, women, glorious women, intelligent women, creative, artistic, witchy women about being artists and mothers and how to juggle the two. All three of us are completely committed to our children, not just raising them and providing them with their basic needs, but instilling values, a strong sense of self-worth, strength, showing them art and culture, and opening their little minds to everything we're able. It is hard for us, we agreed, to commit entirely to art-making and creating, when the job of raising children, our children, requires such a deep commitment of time, energy, and attention. Our husbands, all artists, were free to attend to, develop, hone their talents, explore and create, and frankly, for two out of three, make a living. It's a pretty exciting endeavor, actually. Two artists trying to make art and raise a family with all its joys, trials, love, and crazy-making tedium.
Creative people are pretty darned sensitive. And when I say sensitive, I don't mean touchy or particular. I mean able to use all their senses to observe, experience, and participate in the world. Maybe I cannot speak for all creative types, but I can speak for myself. I feel it like tingling or sizzling nerve endings. The slightest gesture or note or word can leave me turning it in my mind for days, making connections to thoughts and memories past, wanting, needing to make it into something. I find it hard to reconcile this urge as immediately as I once could now that I have children, and the desire to care for them, tend to them, nurture them, and raise them seriously cramps my time, concentration, and ability to hold a thought for more than thirty seconds. I keep voice memos for myself full of ideas, carry a composition notebook, and squeeze in moments of the day and night to write, draw, and think, but it's just not the same as getting into the mucky muck and creating at will.
The energy used in creating and art-making and in having children emanates from the same chakra. Being a mother, making a home, a family, a unit, taking care of us feels like creative, spiritual work. I find absolute joy in some of those moments. The same as being in a studio or in front of the computer or wrestling with my thoughts though, I often struggle as well. There is a drive, a need to do things a particular way, with particular energy, concentration and connection that frustrates me when I am unable to do so. All that said, I still want to make art.
There is an image of the artist as selfish and preoccupied, often ridiculous and caricatured. Focused, yes. Burdened, sometimes. But I think the artists, the intellectuals, and the thinkers are going to change the world. We lead a spiritual charge, want to effect change, see the world that exists between the tangible. We are the whistle blowers on the status quo, the makers and doers at a much deeper level than our current culture suspects (or expects or accepts). An artist suffers as a child, at least I did, which is probably why my commitment to my children is so strong. I remember the loneliness, the drive, the feeling different and alien and I want to guide them should they find themselves with this gift (as I already suspect). It doesn't much improve as he or she enters adulthood. The best he can hope for is to find a group of supportive individuals, perhaps artists themselves, alongside which to write, paint, dance, sing, compose, cook, play, sew, design, think, and see. Allowing the girls to see creative mothers and fathers, working in whatever milieu, professionally or as a side gig or passion, gives them proof that they are able, should they choose, to follow this path and meet some incredible people, do incredible things, change the world.
Trying to describe the creative spirit, the drive to someone who does not feel its pull is like trying to explain the change of pressure in the atmosphere. It is like attempting to reveal magic, not the trick but the real thing. It is like hearing a ghost in the attack, running upstairs to see it, and then being the only one who did. It can be isolating and lonely and frustrating and lovely and wondrous. It is all those things. I cannot say what drives me to write other than a desire as strong as my life force that begs me to sit at the desk, table, bed, floor and get something down, to share, to connect, to define for myself what I have observed, experienced, seen, felt, breathed. I can only hope that I am connecting, that I touch a chord in the hearts, the minds, the souls of whomever stumbles upon it. It was the same call that I heeded to dance, to act, to paint. I had to. I needed to. I wanted to. I still do.
While visiting with my family over Thanksgiving, I was toying with ideas about longing and need, feeling that longing and wanting to explore it, when someone entered the room to ask what I was doing. When I said, "Writing. Like I try to do every night," I was met with, "telling everyone about your life on Facebook?" To which I replied, "No. WRITING." The slight so quick, so easy that it gave a chuckle to the offender. The tears, the emotions only sometimes show on the outside (and they didn't that night), though I put it in the work. I take comfort in my community, my tribe of artists, creators, healers, and others who value my role as storyteller, as connector to the ether, to the soul and find no need to belittle it.
Sitting at the table with these women last night, being considered, taken seriously, asked about art and mothering and living and loving, I was left speechless by how difficult it can be sometimes. I really didn't know what to say. I wish there was something that I could finish, that I could offer, that I could fully commit to. The days when I try to write or draw and am constantly interrupted by the girls because they want to chat or read or tell me something incredible or eat or use the bathroom or go on a playdate, whatever, I am seriously beside myself. Then I berate myself for being upset when their demands are not exceptional, their needs, even wants, not unreasonable, just bothersome and disruptive when I am searching for just the right phrase or just the right line. They are just being children and I, their mother. To whom should they direct their questions, desires, thoughts?
Recently I began a series of drawings (well, so far one) that relates to some imagery I have used in the past. Sometimes I need to see work I've done in the past to continue the dialogue or theme, to remind me while looking at the strokes or colors or techniques used just what I was getting at. I have been so excited by this piece, at what it has me thinking about, considering, that I want to work in this visual medium again after years away. I am excited and nervous and thrilled and scared. Having my ladies, my wise women close, because they understand my drive and my passion for creating and parenting, is a true blessing. A tribe I have longed for since my years in Boston and during my tenure on staff at AIX Restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where nearly everyone's day job was creative and we all got together at night to "serve." Finding the balance between the two, depriving no one, denying nothing is the exercise. Being a good mother and making art is the goal.
I have so many friends who have found the way for themselves to do it both, to do it all really. They have hands that reach out and help them, make sacrifices that I have not yet allowed myself to make. They may miss being the Mystery Reader, be unable to attend the class party, but are doing insanely exciting work in visual arts, acting, music, voiceover. Perhaps, in me, there is fear, distrust that I am truly capable, talented, good enough, whatever the scary message may be. Perhaps I really do just need the little one to get to kindergarten where I will feel better about leaving her. Those abandonment issues creeping up pretty much anywhere, anytime. They inspire me, these mamas.
Whatever the medium, I am trying to tell stories using myself, my individual experience, my life, to connect us, to allow us to commiserate, consider, discover, wonder. After all the years I have lived, I have finally decided to accept this as a gift and have begun the process of letting go energy that does not support this and reaching out for guidance, community, healing, and love. Ultimately, I hope to be a mother that Lily and Virginie can trust, believe in, and love because I have offered them safe ground to experiment and grow physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychically, and openly. I believe the only way for me to do this, for ME to do this, is to make art, create, express every day that I am able.
(c) Copyright 2013. Repatriated Mama: Back to the Suburban Grind.
Life is what you make it.