I’ve finally cleared a few things up with myself. Once and for all. Here, they are:
1. I am a mother. Nurturing, caring, strong.
2. I am an artist. Creative, intuitive, risk-taking.
Simple, to the point, seemingly obvious. Yet I have struggled to carry the weight of both roles. Allow me the entitled pleasure to take you back into my life just 8 months prior.
My life was a mess. If you asked me then, I would probably not have been this direct in my assessment of my regular ole normal life. Job, married, car, kid, city apartment, health and family. I am not trying to diminish anything I had in my life by saying that I felt very unhappy. If you want to relegate this to “first-world whining”, a bourgeois breakdown or bratty adult tantrum, please read no further.
Anyhow, I ended up back on “the couch” because I had the wherewithal to recognize that my weekly crying fits were a huge sign that something was off kilter. In the midst of panic inducing anxiety and depression its very hard comprehend the cause of the suffering. I only knew that it was painful. Several endless loops of self-examination helped me realize I may be in big trouble. I asked myself, “Is this getting out of control? Is my roller coaster of emotions affecting my loved ones? Can I function at work? Is hiding under the covers for 2 whole days healthy?” I was frightened by the answers.
I asked for help, medical help. Now here is the thing, I was walking around with everyone else. Attending weddings, school functions, happy hours with friends and co-workers, family trips, playing with my daughter and functioning on almost a daily basis. The good times were just book-ended with days cocooned in my cozy little room. But the middle days were getting to closer to the hidden days. The cycles were shortening.
So there I sat, on a chair, looking at a Grad student, ramping up her clinical hours with my mess. And this is what I remember most clearly. I said I felt like an out of focus picture of myself. Like looking through a lens that created multiple layers of gradation, some days would come into focus, and other days my face would blur at the edges, pulling from the center figure and unfolding into an endless repetition of a scattered soul. I was losing myself. I had no idea who I was anymore. Panic inducing is an understatement. I wanted it to end–if ending meant something other than leaving behind a shattered family. I wished for some magical erasure that just deleted me from the picture, where no one would be the wiser.
But I, nor anyone else in this world, has such power. There is no delete button. I was still here, not erased. At first I relented to this obvious realization. Since I can’t go anywhere, I might as well try a different approach. I took some immediate steps to remedy physical symptoms, such as taking medication. But, I didn’t really believe in myself, yet. I sheepishly poked around for names of therapists. I kept the holidays very very simple (something I will continue going forward). I planned a short getaway with my dearest friend. I booked my first appointment with a new psychologist on my way to the airport. I came back from my trip, and within a few hours I was fired. My appointment had ironically been set for my first day of unemployed life.
I can’t hold anything back anymore. For so many years, I created a narrative that was not my own, but one that was easily validated and acceptable. I was a one-stop-shop of marketing wizardry, a working mom, successful career-woman, striving to climb the ladder part way to middle management, a hard nosed disciplinarian keeping out of my daughter’s way and a competent juggler of complicated schedules who didn’t need help from anyone. I take business classes, I talk in acronyms and douchebag business-speak pushing the envelope, thinking out of the box and at the end of the day….I felt empty and alone. I trusted nobody, work “friends” confused me, I just wanted to hide away. I can remember coming home, filled with numbness, reaching for a bottle of wine, sending my husband for carryout, barely able to read a bedtime story to my daughter.
But, somewhere, buried deep beneath the mess I had created on my very own, were some nuggets of truth, safely stowed away. There is way more to me than the artificial identity I had thought I wanted for myself.
I remember being filled with love, dancing to 80’s music with a tall Icelander on the top floor of The Hilton Hotel. I was less full of myself, less concerned with what I ought to be doing, a little out there, a little unmoored. I played in a silly punk band, surrounded by friends and a scene that continued to invite us back for more fun and snack cakes. The best part was that we had the freedom to make what we wanted. I had something more than work, career and cared little for other people’s opinions. I admit, I did feel self-conscious of this attitude, I always felt like an immature child around the other adults at work. I felt I should be doing more, I felt that this could not last. I let myself fall in love with a man who liked me this way. He had fun with me too. I remember his beautiful smile.
At some point, I stopped having fun. Even with my tall Icelandic free-floating husband. Sometimes I would rally for the sake of my child, but I pretty much convinced myself that the fun times were gone. I had to work, I needed a 401K and benefits, needed tons and tons of benefits and retirement accounts, raises, bonuses, promotions, new jobs, better clothing, nicer shoes. Life is serious, this is important times, better buck up, better grow up. You fucked around for too long.
And this landed me on the couch, vibrating with stress, in pools of tears, dripping with sorrow. I saw my saddened husband who could only offer me his hand. I cried with each consoling hug from my 4 year old daughter. This is not what I envisioned. At all.
So, I am starting to make my way back. I have a vision. And I have planted two very solid stakes in the ground. Motherhood is power. Artistry is freedom. When I die knowing that I nurtured, protected and cared for these gifts in my life, it will be a happy day. The role of mother and artist is right in my focal point and I can see it with crystal clear sharpness. The image I see is smiling, relaxed, resolute, forgiving and is me, its my face, my body and my bits of soul. I don’t to have to strain to figure it out, its always been inside.
Focusing on motherhood means honoring birth and rebirth–its love, sometimes mundane, filled with minute details, but all the thought and energy I have to provide is what feels so right to offer to my family. Now I see motherhood is about nurturing the nature of self, fostering a home filled with love, health and happiness. I have the power to create a small bit of space filled harmony, safety and fun for myself, my husband and daughter. I am the mother of this house. The well-being of this home is centered through me, its a reflection of my generosity and love. This is empowering and has been an immense revelation to me, as I have tried to run away from this vantage point of motherhood. I never believed I was worthy or good enough to have earth momma power. But I get now.
Being an artist is a role I have never really owned, but it has been at the center of my discontent. Up until this point, I have incorrectly characterized an artist as a flaky, poor, unsuccessful dreamer. Yet, I have always viewed the world through a lens of an artist. The very traits that have gotten me in trouble in the office are exactly what will help me stick to my artistry. Overthrowing the tyranny of status quo won’t make me nervous, rather gives me a freedom to express myself. For example, I really have no concern what is said on this blog, something I would have been so worried about in the past. What if someone read this blog and I never find a job again? What if my boss thinks I am a delusional neurotic rebel who hates management? I can only write this blog as an artist. If this makes little sense to you, I also have no concern trying to explain this. If this sound like crazy talk because you think that being an artist means I will never make a dollar in this world, than I will simply ask you to reconsider this stereotype. I am committed to my role as an artist, and this identity will be with me wherever I land.
My next steps will be to create tangible goals that fall within the role of mother and artist, artist and mother. I have the rest of my life to fill these buckets with accomplishments. Even if I do feel a little fear, trepidation, slight unease with the nebulous pathways I am paving, I also know I have hit the nail on the head this time around. Artist. Mother. I can’t wait to see what will happen.
“The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery”. –Francis Bacon