Don’t press the panic button…

It’s one of those days – a huge list of things to do and a highly structured day to make sure it all gets done. As a work-from-home mom, I know too well how fragile it all is… that feeling that if a call goes 10 minutes over or I spend an extra 15 minutes on one project, my work simply won’t get done and I’ll feel unaccomplished. What happens when, like it so often will, a wrench gets caught in our plans? Whether you tailspin into despair or roll with the punches is a matter of choice.

Today I had to remind myself to take a deep breath and not press the panic button. And it all worked out in the end.

My mommy coma… and re-finding my self

A year ago, I began to emerge from what I refer to as my mommy-coma, the period in my life when my “self” faded into nothingness as my life became consumed with the nurture and care of my infant. I was sleeping 6+ hours a night, showering regularly, and not waking up to phantom cries in the middle of the night. It wasn’t long before I started to yearn to get back into making art – music, painting, writing. The absolute highest expression of my “self” has always been to create things, but, having stepped away from it for over a year, I felt uncertain about where and how to begin making art. I was scared to start again and suck at it.

My husband knew I was struggling and he gifted me the book, Art & Fear.

I devoured the book hungrily and did manage to reacquaint myself with art – I dabbled here and there, making some small progress, but never really gaining much momentum under me. Since I recently committed myself to making art every single day, I picked this book up for a second read. Here are a couple small excerpt that are particularly validating for making art every single day. I’ll be sharing more as I progress in the reading:

“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork… Your job is to learn to work on your work.

“The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential… You learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about – and lots of it.

My takeaway: most of what we make will suck, but it’s supposed to. Make art deliberately and work at it constantly. Make a lot of art. Make it for you.

Living in the mommy moments…

Today, my toddler protested nap time and that threw my afternoon into a tailspin. I didn’t get to do any the productive things I had planned for that hour and a half of freedom. I was mourning the “loss” of this precious time while I tried to get my child to rest and play quietly in our bed. Cuddles with Mickey and Minnie and comfort nursing turned into her falling asleep on me in our bed, something she hasn’t done since she was an infant. As I lay there, trapped with my sweater, left arm and left leg pinned under 30 pounds of cuteness, I looked into her sweet squished up face and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love. I felt that my heart was at once full and aching with a longing to make time slow down a little bit, and I knew it was a moment I would miss even as I was living it.

Days like today that don’t exactly go as planned (but still unfold beautifully) remind me of the importance of making the time to do the things that matter most to us every single day and to live in the moment. It’s a balancing act.

Below: Just sharing one of my morning scribble doodles in calligraphy – just playing around with motion and medium (ink + metallic watercolor).

Rosie Revere, Engineer

My two-year old is obsessed with Rosie Revere Engineer, and to put it plainly, so am I. There are a lot of reasons to love this book – it is a beautiful story with wonderful illustrations; it is poetically written and the main character is an intelligent little girl with big dreams and ideas. It is an absolute delight to read aloud every single day, exactly one and a half ways through. (I am always asked to “read again, please” but alas for the many distractions of the vibrant energy of a toddler.)

[Spoiler Alert] In the story, one of Rosie’s early inventions gets laughed at, not in a mean spirited way, but it makes her self-conscious and she vows to keep her dream to herself. But, a perplexing problem draws Rosie out of her hiding… to meet failure yet again. Except this time, her brilliant Great Great Aunt Rose praises her failure, proclaims her a step closer to success, and Rosie Revere learns that, “Life might have its failures, but this was not it. The only true failure can come if you quit.”

The truth is, at some point in all of our lives, we have been discouraged from doing something we really cared about, loved even. Sometimes the “advice” is meant kindly but it is just as negatively impacting as a hoard of hate mail and cyber bullying. Even as adults we carry some of the earliest memories of being ridiculed and discredited. The fear of being pointed out and called a fraud keeps us from standing out (and being outstanding, for that matter) and instead of living boldly and authentically as our true selves, we do our best to blend in.

I was always discouraged from creating art and music as a child, mostly because my parents thought I could better spend my time studying. I was told that what I created was good, but not good enough… that I lacked imagination. (Ouch, right?) Ultimately, they meant well but these words are still part of my inner voice and I struggle with that every. single. day… but here’s the beautiful thing… Every single day that I get up to write and make art, I am winning. It’s not the kind of winning that is done at the expense of someone else’s loss. It’s pure winning.

Whatever you are struggling with… more power and light to you.