Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dead Dreams and the Dirty Truth

I have been thinking about what my therapist said at our last session lately.  We were discussing my anxiety over all of my projects and ideas, work and play, my "Renaissance woman" nature, as she put it, and as I was going off about my inability to do everything she reminded me that I was forgetting the fact that I am a single mother during the week.  Not only am I a mother, which comes with all of its responsibilities and sacrifices, but I do it on my own the majority of the time, which comes with even more.  I feel bad even comparing myself to single mothers, who have to be the hardest working, most chronically stressed and strongest creatures on the face of the earth.  Props to that group of women, which includes my therapist.  (You are all amazing!)  Having her make the comparison herself allowed me to see the truth in it.  I am not a single mother for real, but it certainly can feel like it sometimes!  And like other real single mothers, and all mothers alike, time is of the essence.  It is valuable, and we have to manage it or it will manage us.  Sometimes there isn't enough time to do everything, and in order to prioritize for parenthood, we need to make sacrifices.  That's part of the deal.  Sometimes some parts of us have to experience a temporary death in order to rear new life, all in the hope that they will be resurrected one glorious, long-awaited day in the future.

I have given up a lot to be a mother, as does every woman.  We sacrifice our freedom, our time, our sleep, our nourishment, our hygiene and most cases our mental well being...all so our progeny is properly taken care of.  This is an amazing gift, both to give and to receive, but it also can be one of the most soul crippling acts of selflessness.  All of our personal pleasures in life, the places and things that we find and express ourselves in, can get put on hold.  We are at the beck and call of another creature.  Hobbies fall by the wayside, dreams fluttering after them.  My therapist used to be a trainer, she used to be a size 4, she used to be a sculptor, she used to be an artist...until 3 years ago when her son was born.  It was heart breaking hearing her tell how she cried as she covered her potter's wheel in her basement studio.  She had to put those parts of herself away in order to be the best mother she could be. At least temporarily.  In synchronistic fashion my dad mentioned the same thing to me the same day in the same words.  Parts die, not forever.  I am realizing how many directions I am pulling myself in creatively and I know that there are some things I need to put away, things that need to die, although, there are some parts of me that I refuse to give up.  I was forced to break myself down to my basic components and determine what is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival.  What was the bread and butter of my soul?

When I was little, the first thing that I can remember ever wanting to be was an artist.  I can still remember the first time I was placed in front of an easel.  I can still feel that chalky paint being stirred by my over-sized brush in the bottom of that little Styrofoam cup.  I can still smell the powdery paint.  Part of me is still standing in front of that easel, looking at the blank paper, and making those first brush strokes.  I am still standing there, in so many ways in my life.  Still standing at the easel, at the very beginning.

Painting is an amazing feeling and release.  There is really nothing like it, if you are someone that understands its worth.  It isn't even my "thing" per say, just one of many sides of me, but I have been drawn to it since my early childhood.  It is an excellent means for expression.  It can also be pretty messy, time consuming, and not exactly kid friendly.  I was by some miracle able to squeeze in some painting time early last year, and that was the first time it happened in quite awhile.  I'm not even exactly sure how it happened, I think I just desperately needed it to happen at the time.  It was wonderful, but it gave me a false sense of hope about my life as a mother. It was exciting while I could swing it, but soon I had a stack of canvas and brushes and paints and rags wedged into our already cluttered bedroom.  And there it sat.

There it sat...mocking me.  Every morning I woke up and it was beside me, every night I curled up next to to a dead dream.  All snug as a bug, next to decaying hopes.  "You'll never paint me, EVER!"  The half painted ones taunted me.  It wasn't healthy.  I decided all of it was better out of sight, out of mind instead of in a limbo life, waiting for me to pull them out and pick up where I'd left off.  Not gonna happen.  Don't wait for me.  Shut the car off, I'm gonna be awhile. I decided that even though I feel so emotionally connected to painting and have always returned to it again, no matter how long I had previously given it up for, it represented something I just can't accomplish at this point in my life.  That representation was hard to see every single time I went into my bedroom, my supposed sanctuary.  It needed to be removed.  It was sand in my eye, it just made my eyes water and burn and itch!  It is hard to remember that this is only temporary.  It doesn't have to be forever, it just isn't my main priority right now in life. 

I have a lot of ideas and plans on my plate, I enjoy creating and expressing myself.  There are things that I do that have a purpose beyond expression.  My screen printing and piercing are both possibly lucrative activities, they obviously can not be put on the back burner.  Those projects and all activities they include will continue.  They are my work, not so much hobby, even though it feels like it at times. 

As far as pastimes go, when it comes down to it, writing and music are things I can not go without, and they are kind of tied around each other.  My spirit would be crushed if I had to give these forms of self expression up, especially writing.  It's the only thing that has always been there for me, that has always been a trusted pain reliever.  Sorry, Painting, but Writing stays. 

So, I decided that if my therapist can cover up her potter's wheel, if she can let her creative muscles atrophy until time and life permit her exercising them once again, surely I can give up some things that aren't so much a priority, mainly oil painting, which meant packing my things away in a plastic tote and saying goodbye...for now.  It wasn't as hard as I THOUGHT it would be, but it was still sad in a way.  I just have to remember that it isn't forever.  And I can focus those ideas, that energy, into other aspects of my life.  My screens can become my canvas as I work on my own shirt designs more.  I have been wanting to get a new set of water color pencils.  Perhaps they would be a little more child compliant?  I used to love using my set in college, I think it would be a good compromise.  Removing my small canvas collection helped to remove the negative feelings of failure they stir up in me and also forced me to define my inalienable creative outlets.  I can only be so many parts of me at a time.  It's like the Rock Hall, you have to rotate the exhibits, some pieces need to stay in the vault for a bit, but they will be displayed again.

The dirty truth about being a mother is that you can't be or do it all.  Parts of you die, huge parts, parts that have shaped and defined who you are as person.  Beautiful, colorful pieces of yourself need to be laid to rest for a time, but not forever.  I remember a few years ago my dad telling me that when you are young you tend to think that there won't be time for all of these things that you want to do, but then when you get there you realize, there is time.  Time is of the essence.  The time will come.

Are there any pieces of yourself that could use a temporary death?

In Time,
Missie Sue

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