(Or, On Cultivating Energy.)
The moment Noah is quiet, my autopilot is set to steeplechase the toys, the groaning dishes and teetering laundry basket(s) to get to the studio. I squeeze some paint onto a palette–my way to commit to starting–at which point Noah usually starts squalling again. Perfectly reasonable, considering he’s a baby and all. I come back a few hours later to my plasticized lumps of paint, often a ruined paintbrush, and experience a secret despair. The feeling is the studio is not one of sacred time and space. It’s one of urgency and desperation. Somehow that Work! Produce! Be Amazing! mentality slipped back in. Gogogo-ness that is the antithesis of everything I’ve been working on for my mental health.
I’ve been overwhelmed with everything that isn’t getting done. The creative part of me feels fragile, like it will die without care. My instinct–an instinct formed by habit–says, How do we fix this? How do we fit it in? We’ll have to multitask more.
My wisdom (albeit in seedling form), says, I don’t want to multitask my babies. I don’t want to do more, I want to do less. But this creativity thing, that’s important. My babies are important. Both things deserve my attention.
I’d gotten used to Noah’s predictable nap pattern, and it had set up an expectation of a certain amount of time, however small, in the studio. Of course, the only predictable thing in child rearing is that everything always changes. But I didn’t want to change, and I tried to put my foot down. I forgot that hard and fast rules and non-negotiable plans are my number one trigger to an emotional fry-up.
Then I had that panic attack.
That panic attack said, Slow down, damn you.
There are so many things to do, but if the foundation of all those things is energy, that is the thing to cultivate first, before the making and doing. If I have more energy, I have better focus, better stamina and produce better quality work in shorter bursts. Most importantly, I have the strength of mind to be ok when studio time doesn’t pan out. I am more able to be present with my kids and not drag resentment around with me, able to be real instead of lost to my imaginings.
It’s about taking control in the moments I can actually exercise it, rather than wrestling the Fates. Noah won’t nap at home right now, but he’ll snooze if I go for a drive. I can use half an hour in the driveway to meditate or write morning pages. Those things are investments: they pay off in better concentration and more calm, which equals less energy expenditure in the frustration and fury of the futile settle. I’ve made some changes that aren’t dependent on naps: I quit sugar, I’m eating more raw. I’m doing a bit more exercise.
The biggest challenge I’m having is the righteous feeling of having earned studio time when Aniko’s gone to bed. I’m not getting it. Noah is teething and evenings are his worst time. Andrew doesn’t get home till my bedtime, which is frustrating for both of us. At the moment my solution is to just nurture the hope that this too shall pass and dream of the day I can give other creative mothers a little bit of time at Big Oak Studios. In the meanwhile, Andrew and I have committed to giving each other an afternoon off once a month, to do what nourishes us as individuals. I can’t wait for my first afternoon.
The studio time may not be happening yet but I’m feeling different in my bones. Not energized, exactly, but more sensitive to what energizes and depletes me, and definitely more regulated.
This is the right medicine for me at this time, with this baby.