I have had two epiphanies in the last 24 hours: the first is that keeping a public journal (this blog) is part of my daily practice of learning to write more clearly and from a genuine place, and the second is that being a mother is a daily expression of creativity. And I cannot help but feel a sense of grounding, not to mention relief, at these new insights. It certainly makes me feel less divided about the energy I put into both.
This blog is an exercise in being true, working through the self, without the metaphor of fiction. It is a huge step for me to share its existence with the folks in my life to whom I am closest or who have impacted me with their work and their journey. With even a small audience there is nowhere now to hide and pretend that writing is just a hobby, something I can dabble in when I feel like it, because truthfully, I don’t leap out of bed to write like I do with hobbies (to bake, cook, or garden – yes. To write? Sorry, not yet). Writing, as you have guessed by now, is deeper, spiritual, it is in my DNA. It is a madness, a compulsion – I WANT to be better at it than anything else, because I NEED to be.
I am blessed by a husband who is able to do what countless writing teachers were not; he drives home this truth about writing and communication in any meaningful relationship: “If I (the listener) don’t believe what you are telling me, it’s not true. So what? You have not made a connection.” Early on, I wanted to slap him across the face, because I was so earnest, so telling the truth as I saw it, probably wearing a face as close to death as one can have on this side of the veil. But then, gently, he would add, “I don’t get the sense that you really believe what you just said. So, I don’t believe it.” Pow! A blow straight to the heart, scratch that, to the EGO. If what I write remains at a surfacey level (my issue with Facebook) and I try to show the world how great/knowledgeable/perfect I am, if I don’t go down deep inside to where I squirm or where my heart races from fear or joy, then I fail myself and the truth.
(See, see my plastic smile? Here my cheerful and rote, “I’m good and you?” when you ask me how I am, and what I really feel is human, like shit, like screaming, like crying, or like crawling back into bed. See, see my mask? It is that of a clown who entertains you, doesn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or obligate you to take a moment to see me, to comfort me, or to be blessed by the act, the privilege of being more human).
Yesterday was my last morning at the Hermitage and I lay in bed a bit looking out the window and listening to the birdsong and lack of police sirens (as if crime or accidents take a break on a Saturday morning). Though my heart was racing in excitement to get home and make Saturday pancakes for Em and C, my biggest concern coming back to the world was getting swallowed up by everything that is not writing (i.e. everything that is not creative), particularly being a mom to a two-year-old which is like being the sun to the planets. And, so I read through the notes and quotes I had jotted down from Walking on Water. I wrote this question: How do I make decisions each day with Em and C when I feel the tension to write, to be creative? This question I followed with Madeleine L’Engle’s response: the criterion is love: “Make what seems to be the most loving, the most creative decision. We are not to play safe, to draw back from fear”.
Of course it is more loving to put together a puzzle with Em than do the dishes. Of course it is more loving to go for a walk (or run in her case) than to vacuum. But creative? Then knowledge broke in: Yes, creative. To be a mother, who is present with her children, is to be creative. It takes creativity to teach a child as eager to learn and to help as Em how to fold clothes, to pour (without spilling) sugar into cake batter, to sweep a floor, to make a bed – all activities she needs to learn to be self-sufficient (I had to teach hall mates my freshman year of college how to iron; I had to teach teens at the boarding school I taught at how to sweep a floor!). It takes creativity to fill the day with enriching activities that are fun, like how to make construction paper crowns, how to learn to count or sing the ABC song, how to plant seeds, how to examine the petals of a dandelion, the bark of a stick (which I have to later keep out of her bed). What I teach Em every day so that she keeps learning and developing her own creativity, so that we connect, so that she feels the love and closeness of her mother – the one person she wants to be with more than anyone (accept this gift, Ilana) – requires creativity.
And so, with great relief, I am beginning to understand that my creativity is not divided or limited to a few hours a day. If I look at my typical day and the potential of what I can bring forth for both of us, I am leading a life of creativity. And…that…is…so…COOL.