On wanting both
June 29, 2017
I'm trying something new - for those of you who, like me, find it tough to sit down and actually read a blog post, I've recorded myself loosely reading this one for you. It's a little awkward, and not really how I talk, but it's a first try so whatever. Let me know what you think! xo
The YOSC: Entry #13
So, here is the thing about self care. When you fall off the wagon, you kinda can’t be like, ah well. Too bad. Guess taking care of myself isn’t for me! Onward and upward! Because a more likely truth is that it will be not so much upward, but more like, uh, the opposite. Bleary-eyed ball of anger and tears, eating gas station chips and drowning all thoughts and feelings in a hundred thousand million episodes of Friends. Or something.
I went to the gym maybe 4 times in the past two months. Let my external brain evolve into a purse colouring book for my kids. Definitely didn’t meditate again. And it didn’t feel good. So… hi again! I have a YOSC post for you. Lucky 13. 🙂
This one is kind of reflective. Something that’s been on my mind lately, and I count it as self care to think about these things, because being honest with myself and resolving conflicts is good. Finding peace is healthy.
I remember this realisation I had back in OT school. It suddenly struck me that I was never going to feel particularly good sitting in certain lectures. I was always going to have ants in my pants. I wanted to learn, but sitting still and passively listening to information that does not capture my imagination is, frankly, painful for this brain. So I said, okay. That’s how it is, it’s not forever, I can deal with feeling grossly restless for this period of time. Alright. And I stopped stressing myself out over it, trying to find ALL THE SOLUTIONS, including willing myself to feel that elusive crisp, relaxed, settled feeling. And it was fine. Once I relaxed into the discomfort, I kind of made peace with it.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with a different sort of angst, but working on a similar kind of acceptance. It’s what I will call my most profound experience of wanting to, or needing to, have my cake and eat it too. It’s pretty simple. I want to be the badass super present mom doing all the cool stuff with my babies, I want to make their lives awesome and do it all and not miss any of it, but shittt that is exhausting (not to mention impossible) and I ALSO just really want to go into my little studio and close the door and drift away into my world of pictures and art and meaning-making and create amazing illustrations that tell untold stories and move people. These things both mean a lot to me. I want them both, real bad.
But it doesn’t work that way. I try. There is preschool and a babysitter and I sketch while they craft or play lego, make paper cuts at the table while they splash in the kiddie pool on the balcony, pack orders while Alida naps, but it’s not the idyllic picture it sounds like. I mean, they are pretty small. Five and almost two, there is a lot of negotiation that has to happen there, and I just end up distracted and not really able to give all of myself to either thing*. Or I work at night and end up exhausted all day and inevitably feel like I am failing at one or both.
*As an aside: There is a shit ton of stuff that I’m glossing over when I paint life as a simple trade off between art and kids. There is everything that goes into keeping a home, getting people fed, health/medical maintenance, and kin-keeping. Those things are like, the plate the cake sits on, and it’s there whether you eat the damn cake or not.
Anyway, my purpose is not to complain. I recognise that the option to stay home with my kids and fill the little spaces in-between with art-making is not one everyone has, and frankly, working on my gratitude practice would probably help too.
Rather, this is a reality check. I wanna call out this notion of so-called “life balance.” I’ve been thinking about this conversation between Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge and Debbie Millman on Millman’s awesome podcast, Design Matters. Bonney recalls a conversation with the artist Amalia Mesa Bains. She was interviewing Mesa Bains for her book, In The Company of Women, and asked her about her “work-life balance”. The wise, 73-year-old painter’s response was something to the effect of, “What are you talking about? That’s not a thing… haven’t you figured that out yet?”*
Sigh. Preach, woman.
I feel like I have spent my life as a mother trying to strike that elusive balance, I am always on the hunt for hacks, ways to make this work as I somehow believe it should, and while I have some strategies, I still deal constantly with feeling unsatisfied and/or guilty. And there is definitely a whole conversation there too, about unrealistic expectations on women and mothers and so on, but on a personal level, I think it’s time for me to just go ahead and let that shit go. The quest for the impossible, I mean.
At this moment in time, my cake is just kind of a mess, partially eaten, partially forgotten in a container in the back of the fridge (but photographed nicely for Instagram!). That is the situation. But I mean, it is still cake. Right? So, yeah. Trying to simultaneously be a present mom and work hard to develop my craft and career is a messy endeavour. It feels like a lot of scampering, a good meal one day and some sad pasta the next, perhaps a touch more Magic School Bus than I feel particularly good about, and I may or may not be wearing Achim’s underwear, having run out of my own (sad maybe, but they are so comfortable! Freakin imposter “boy shorts” have nothing on the real deal. Just sayin.). But I’m doing it. This way is possible. So, I’m gonna try my best to just enjoy this cake of mine, sticky mess that it is.
Which might mean using it in a grand old food fight with the patriarchy.** I dunno. We’ll see. 😉
*You can find the segment on work-life balance, at 20:15 in this Design Matters episode. I highly recommend it.
**Don’t worry, Achim, you’re safe. 😀