Boundaries, Vulnerability and Magic

I’ve been thinking about boundaries.

I am someone who resists boundaries – who likes to keep options open and puts off making decisions – but I’ve learned in my creative life that when I set boundaries, everything is easier. Paradoxically, the  more limits I set, the more free I am to take risks, to go deeper and wilder and weirder.

The same advice applies to parenting – setting boundaries around what Janet Lansbury calls a “yes space” helps kids move and explore more fully than if you set them loose in, say, an open field with snakes and holes and rusty nails.

Structure gives freedom for movement and experimentation and joy. It gives you a place to start. It gives shape to the chaos of limitless potential.

One of the hardest things about doing creative work is facing the blank canvas, the blank page, the empty room, the silence.

I’ve been talking to people this spring about what thrills them, what scares them, what they want to do and what stops them from doing it.

Some fantastic ideas for exercises have emerged from these conversations – or as someone referred to them, creative exorcisms. Yes! This is exactly what they are – spells we are dreaming up, to cast out what blocks us, to call in what we need.

One of the most powerful spells you can cast is to give a name to what you want to do – to give a title to a project and to say it out loud.

If you tell that name to just one person, it gains power. It travels from your mind to the outside world, setting down roots and growing outside your control. The more people you tell, the more it grows.

When you put your ideas into words, draw what you see, move your body, open your mouth and sing: these are acts of magic, acts of power, acts of trust, acts of vulnerability.

And you know what? THAT IS HARD TO DO. It’s scary.

Brené Brown says you can’t have courage without vulnerability – “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.” (Did anyone else watch her Netflix special this week??)

When we show up, when we open up, when we drop our defenses and try something, we are casting a spell. We are asking the magic in. We open up to failure, to not knowing, to rejection, to our humanity.

When trusting and waiting and opening up feels impossible, I try to remember that all I need to do is start.

Draw some boundaries. Make up some rules. Draw a circle and step inside and say, this is for magic. Give what you’re doing a name and say, I am doing this. Then wait to see what it is.

img_0216

Your trolls scoff, your body resists, your mind wanders, and you stay in that circle, trusting that the magic will come. Trusting that what you are doing will become clear.

This is what happens when you give birth to a baby, and why so many people experience it as an initiation: your body is pushed to impossible limits and you are handed a tiny vulnerable human to care for at all hours of the day. It feels impossible and yet you must do it. And then one day you look around and your baby is five years old, tying their own shoes and telling you about arachnids.

The magic happens in every moment of every day. The growth happens without you realizing it.

It’s so easy to see the magic in others, and so hard to see it in yourself.

So if I may, I’d like to offer you some encouragement today.

You are living in the middle of magic you can’t see. The magic is there, and later when you look back you’ll be able to see it. Take a deep breath and trust that it’s there.

Even Beyoncé shows up to day one of rehearsal not sure of herself, not sure what she’s doing. She keeps showing up, trusting that the magic will come.

I take so much inspiration from her courage, the incredible courage it took to say, I am going to train and show up every day for eight months and trust that what feels impossible will become possible.

It would be easy to watch her and think, I could never do that. She is a magical being and I’m just me.

But she is human, and she did it.

You can do it too — not what she did, but something that only you can do. What is that thing? What are you capable of? What story are you waiting to tell?

Whatever it is – you can do it, you can tell it.

That’s my pep talk to you (and to myself) today…

ebd64b86-a5f4-4bee-b2eb-7f1fcc1d9159

… and if you would like some deep coaching to open up to your vulnerability and creative power this summer, read about the program I’ve put together for six courageous people here: Summer of Creative Magic. What can happen when we say our truth out loud, to ourselves and to others? Let’s find out…

Advertisements

Naming an Obstacle

I’ve been thinking more about the creative relabeling I brought up last time, when I talked about reframing ADHD as Big Wild Super Power.

I was reminded of a key tenet of the coaching I do — anything that’s true, an opposite is also true — when someone in my life emailed to tell me her son is currently being diagnosed for ADHD, and for them, having a label for something that has been an ongoing challenge is a relief.

Ah! It’s so true. Sometimes it can be freeing to find a name for a problem. And though it’s the opposite of what I was saying, it’s the flip side of the same reality: labels are powerful tools that we can use to change our experience of the world.

It can be powerful to reframe a bad situation as an exciting one. And it can also be powerful to put a name on something that is frustrating and challenging, to say out loud what isn’t working, what needs changing, what SUCKS.

And in the same way that praise can actually make you feel worse, giving a nice fuzzy sweet name to something that SUCKS can feel like avoidance, like sugarcoating, like bypassing.

Say you’re on a grand hero’s quest, and suddenly you come upon a raging river blocking your path. To continue, you will need to cross it. Calling it a stream and blithely stepping in will not help you cross it — in fact, it could be harmful. You need to give the obstacle in front of you a name that fits the challenge it offers. Maybe you sit for a while, watching the river. Maybe someone else walks up and tells you, oh they call that the River of Peril. You would be wise to listen to this name, as you prepare yourself for the arduous task of stepping into it.

Today my creative challenge for you is: give a name to an obstacle you are facing.

img_9261

Sit with your problem for a few moments. Let yourself feel it without pushing back, and see what name arises for what you’re feeling. Maybe a name already exists for this condition.

I have high blood pressure.

I am experiencing mom guilt.

This is my white privilege talking. 

Maybe it doesn’t, and you want to create one. Maybe the name that exists doesn’t fit what you’re experiencing, and you want to change it.

This isn’t morning sickness, it’s all day all night sickness.

This is not an awkward situation, it’s sexual harrassment. 

I am not a rockstar, I am burned out.

You could go deeper, and write down all your associations with the problem, then see what images, rhymes or alliterations appear and give those associations a name.

I’ve been trying to put into words the particular pain of watching your kid struggle with a thing you struggle with. Here’s my attempt to name it:

Associations:

Tantrums
Hearing my words come out of his mouth
Sinking feeling
Face drop 
Mirroring
Flashbacks
See his pain, feel pain
Ghost pain, phantom limb

Name: phantom parent pain?

This is close… I feel like a better one is around the corner of my unconscious but it’s a starting point.

What are yours? Feel free to share in the comments or on Instagram.

(And of course, as always… if you want some support as you name the obstacles in your path, you can schedule a free dreamtalk with me…)

Big Wild Super Power

One of the themes that comes up a lot when I’m working with people (and with myself!) is ADHD.

It’s such a loaded term, isn’t it?! I remember when my therapist gently brought it up with me a few years ago — have you considered that you might have ADHD? 

I felt a hot rush of shame and defensiveness. What are you talking about?! I’m smart, I’m on top of things, I was always a good student! Just because I’m late to everything, just because I have a lot of ideas, just because I talk in circles doesn’t mean I have ADHD…!

I resisted it hard, and yet as I did some reading, I found myself resonating with a lot of what I learned. I had to ask myself: if this rings true, why would I not embrace it? What am I resisting?

One way of getting help is to go do a doctor or therapist or psychiatrist, to get a diagnosis and therapeutic plan, maybe some medication. I’m not knocking any of those things — but what I find helpful is to approach it as a creative challenge.

This is something we can do with any label.

We can redraw the lines, we can choose how we define ourselves, we can reframe our world so that we feel at home in it. If I notice myself devaluing and minimizing and dismissing traits, that’s a clue. That tells me it’s time to slow down and do some looking and questioning.

Here’s an interesting thought experiment: what if my therapist had looked at me that day and asked: have you considered the possibility that you are a GENIUS?

Same traits, same condition, same situation… but what changes for me when it’s seen as evidence of my greatness instead of a sign of disorder?

I imagine I would have felt a thrill go up my spine. A warm glow of validation, affirmation. An instant reframe of my traits: ahhh yes, I do thrive in big impossible situations. I’m never short of ideas. Sometimes my passions are so big, I struggle to find the right words. I am full of energy, I am brimming with ambition. I dive in without a plan and learn how to swim as I’m swimming. YES. I am a genius.

(I actually find the label genius to be just as unhelpful as ADHD but we’ll dive into that another time).

When I notice myself using mean language to describe myself or my situation, the first step is to change my language.

That doesn’t mean ignoring reality. It doesn’t mean that’s all I change. But I start with language, because the language matters.

When I change the language to fit what feels right to me, the nature of the problem changes, and so does the solution.

Which brings me back to my creative relabeling of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. What I’ve landed on for now is: Big Wild Super Power.

facebook-post-adhd

You don’t have a deficit of attention, you have a surplus of energy and ideas.

You have a variant form of attention, a different way of focusing that requires motion and multiplicity to thrive. (Guess what else works like this? Our planetary system.)

You are not too much, too loud, too crazy, you are at your best when given space to run and move and be big.

You have big wild super power and you need a big wild super project to contain it.

You have big, wild super power that can change the world when it’s channeled in the right direction. The world needs your big wild super energy.

There! Try that on for size. I encourage you to do your own word associating and creative relabeling, of this label or any that give you trouble.

img_8382

(And of course, if you want help doing this, it is my great joy and I welcome you to sign up for a dreamtalk with me…)

When your flaws are your superpowers

My kid, like many five-year-olds, is fascinated with superheroes. He is constantly aligning himself with ones who embody something he wants to be, from Batman to Spider-Man to the Green Ninja, and raiding the costumes, closets and recycling bin to come up with an outfit that strikes closest to whatever he’s imagining.

BFEBFA52-81C4-4FBD-A82F-13FE3C6594AD

One of the best things about hanging out with a five-year-old is getting pulled into this mindset, this fluid spirit of let’s pretend.

I was reminded of this the other day hanging out with my friend Dana Inouye (of Lean In Mama) and her fabulous five-year-old, who likes to be called Flash, and to assign superhero identities to everyone  around him.

He was extolling his grace and speed (something else kids do so naturally: celebrate their greatness!) and I suggested that I had the opposite superpower — I can’t get anywhere on time and tend to move slow. I asked him jokingly, who’s THAT superhero?

He pondered this for a few moments and said, I know who you are. You’re Ease Woman.

Ease Woman! I don’t know if I could have come up with a better name if I tried. It was such a fantastic instant reframe. I loved this identity so much I drew a picture of her as soon as I got home, and when I’m having moments of rushed frantic overwhelm, I think to myself — hey, I’m Ease Woman. I’m on time whenever I arrive. I don’t rush for anybody.

img_6209

It made me think — what other superhero identities can we come up with to embody our flaws? To change up our energy, to embrace our full selves? How can we use our natural ability to pretend and project and play to deal with the frustrations of everyday life?

Wanna try it? Give it a go! And if you happen to know a five-year-old, ask them to help you.

img_6213

Bragging Mad Libs

As I said in my last post, it takes a lot of ENERGY to own your power – to express your life’s journey with confidence – to brag.

Know what else takes a lot of energy? Creative expression. It takes time and effort to sit down and draw, to get up and dance.

But creative expression also GIVES a lot of energy. You sit down to draw and suddenly, hours have gone by and you’ve been wholly absorbed in the colors and lines and shapes of what you are creating, and your brain is sparking. You spend an hour dancing like crazy and you end up working out harder than if you’d gone to the gym, but you feel like you could keep going for hours.

Bragging works that way too: it takes energy to stand up and say, this is my story, this is my strength, here I am. But when you do it, you feel the energy flooding in. This is who I am. BOOM. YES. This is who I am.

This is why I encourage you to practice bragging – because you can feel the effects right away.

Here is a super quick and easy way to practice right now – bragging mad libs! Fill in the blank and see what comes up for you.

I like to write down the first thing that comes to mind, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Because if I stop to think, I’ll get stuck and my trolls will want to get in on the action, and then I’ll start wanting to get it right, and then there’s no hope. You can’t brag if you’re trying to be perfect.

Though (as with most things) the opposite is also true: you could also sit with this, testing it out, seeing what comes to you over time.

If you want, make up your own mad libs! I take inspiration from the king, Muhammad Ali, and also from musical divas, country queens and classic rock gods. Here are some lines you could play with:

I’m so mean I make medicine sick

I’m so fast I can turn out the light and be in bed before it’s dark

Here I am, rock me like a hurricane

I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me

I was born a coal miner’s daughter, in a cabin on a hill in butcher’s holler

I’m the sister of a hellraiser, the daughter of an old tomcat, I was playin’ the piano in a honky-tonk before you bragged about that (I just heard an interview with rock and roller Linda Gail Lewis which is where I heard that line!)

So easy to turn them into fill-in-the-blank brags:

I’m so ___________ I make ________ __________

I’m so _______ I can _______ and ________ before it’s _________

Here I am, rock me like a ___________

I’m a ________ baby so why don’t you _____________

I was born a _______, in a ________ on a ________ in _________

I’m the sister of a _________, the daughter of a _________, I was _________ before you bragged about that

Try it! Jot some things down, and why not: speak them out loud.

WOO HOO! Do you feel a rush? Do you feel a thrill? That’s your power, baby.


If you want to do this with others in a safe environment for practicing space-claiming and power-proclaiming, you can sign up for my free webinar, DYNAMIC BRAG

img_1033

Here I Am

Hello out there. How was your summer?

I had a very creative summer in many ways – lots of family time and swimming lessons and camping trips and first steps and whoopie cushions and a superhero scavenger hunt.

So many things to inspire and instigate and invigorate my creative spirit. Nothing makes my heart swell with love and pride more than seeing my kids give free rein to their creative instincts. Beautiful!

And at the same time, exhausting. Because facilitating the growth and healthy development of small children involves a lot of thinking ahead, a lot of making mistakes, a lot of head-bonking, a lot of tantrum-decoding, a lot of blanket-fort-decomissioning, a lot of tears, a lot of night frights, a lot of messes.

I believe in messes. I believe in the creative anarchic spirit. And I believe parenting – all caregiving, really – is creative. It requires deep pools of creativity in order to do it at all. And because it is so all encompassing, so demanding, so FREAKING HARD — it also makes it difficult to focus on other creative projects.

Like, it’s hard to foster my son’s beautiful anarchic creative spirit while also embracing my own. It’s hard to embrace making messes when I’m the one cleaning them up. It’s hard to hold space for chaos when you’re also in charge of setting the boundaries.

So I am excited that we are in the fall and my kids are in someone else’s care for part of the day so I can make some time for my creative spirit to bounce off the walls. So I can write to you and turn my mind towards what the hell I do when I’m not wiping applesauce off the floor and chasing a one year old into the bathroom shouting NO HANDS IN THE TOILET!

My coaching tentacles are slowly coming back to life and here I am, curious about what’s going on in your world.

I find my mind returning to a topic that always carries such a charge – something that is a key part of the Creative Magic Workout, the one people are most resistant to, the one that seems like it’s got nothing to do with creativity – like it’s a separate universe – and which turns out to be intricately, inseparably intertwined with creative expression.

That topic is BRAGGING.

Bragging is a loaded word so allow me to use some other words to describe what it means to me:

  • Telling your hero story
  • Standing fully in your experience of the world
  • Owning your experience — what you feel and believe and think
  • Feeling pride in what you have done and what you will do, good or bad
  • Speaking with confidence about your experience, about what you have done and will do
  • Holding yourself with power, acknowledging your power instead of deflecting it, hiding it, pretending you don’t have it
  • Claiming your space
  • Claiming your time
  • Claiming the attention of others

So scary, right?

There is a reason we spend a lot of time on this – because it’s HARD and because it’s KEY to your creative expression.

So my approach, as with anything creative – come to think of it, this is my approach to parenting too – is to make it as easy as possible.

How to make bragging easy?

One way is to find someone to emulate, to remind you of what kind of person you want to be, to spur you on, to cheer you on, to encourage you.

dolly image

One of my champions is Dolly Parton and I’m so thrilled to see my very favorite song of hers, “Here I Am,” out in the world as a new duet with Sia. And it strikes me as a FANTASTIC bragging song. (One of my favorite ways to creatively work things out is to find a song that speaks to whatever is on my mind, and then sing / dance / jump around to it in my garage).

If you’d like to do that with me today, please join me in singing and dancing and hopping around and saying out loud, HERE I AM.

(And if you want to register for my free webinar next week, DYNAMIC BRAG, you can do it here: REGISTRATION)

Re-metaphor-izing to summon inner champions

I’ve been doing lots of champion work this week in anticipation of the new Creative Magic Workout – during which we spend a whole week summoning, channeling and seeking out champions within and without.

A key part of this work is looking at the images in our language, and finding ways to swap out harmful or mean or unhelpful images with ones that are more kind and encouraging and useful.

I call it re-metaphor-izing.

Often there is a potent image behind the meanest names we call ourselves — the ideas that sink their teeth in us and won’t let go.

And you can’t force those ideas to let go, but you can seek out new images that entice your mind to drop the old ones.

For example, did you notice that I used a metaphor just now, to describe how powerful our thoughts can be? I said they “sink their teeth in us” even though, of course, they don’t actually do that. But comparing them to a wild and dangerous animal makes my point more vividly then saying “they are very powerful.” (Suzette Elgin talks a lot about the power in metaphor and how we can use language to defend ourselves, and this is what first got me to thinking about the ways our minds use images and associations).

So, let’s say I want to make the point that ideas are powerful without summoning up feelings of dread and fear and danger.

What else is powerful and won’t let go? A tsunami, a hungry child, a great hug, the moon….

And isn’t it true that your thoughts can also roll over you like a tidal wave

Or call out with a neverending urgency

Or wrap arms of peace and security around you

Or ebb and flow like the ceaseless tide of the ocean

My point being: you can put conscious effort into the images you are summoning, and change the feeling, the vibe, the structure, the EVERYTHING around it.

Like with troll work, a lot can change just by noticing the thoughts that are running through your mind, noticing the images your mind is defaulting to – and seeing what happens when you consciously swap in a new image.

I’ll give you an example from my life – I often think to myself, “you are a hot mess,” or some variation on that theme. You are full of shit, you are batshit crazy, you have got to get your shit together.

And when I slow down and look at those images… wow. I’m comparing myself to garbage, to stinking piles of poop.

What is a different image I could use, that would still be true to the facts?

Hmmm… isn’t “a hot mess” also the conditions under which life emerges on a planet? Aren’t swamps and marshlands teeming with life and activity and balance and their own kind of order?

What if instead of you’re a hot mess, I thought: you are a hot thriving ecosystem. You are a marshland. You are ready for new primordial life.

IMG_9944.jpg

IMG_9948.jpg

Here are some other ones:

I am batshit crazy –> I am a night-cloaked superhero

I am flaky –> I am a wizard

I am a broke loser –> I am free as a bird

The facts don’t change. But the way you talk about the facts – the way you tell the story of your life — can change everything.


I’d love to hear some of your images and brainstorm some ways to turn them into champion metaphors! You can register for my free webinar, Champion Yourself, which is Friday May 18! We’ll work this out in real time…

Dancing with your trolls

I’ve been getting a big response from my last video, Dancing my Question, so I thought I’d try dancing with my trolls.

Trolls are what I call those negative thoughts that go on a loop, those critical inner voices that start in on you and won’t let up. I call them trolls because they are stubborn, they have that dogged ability to not let up or leave you alone. I’ve got lots of different creative ways I work with trolls (which I’m going to be talking about in my free webinar, FREE YOUR TROLLS, and which we spend a lot of energy on in my creative magic workout) — but this was a new idea for engaging them, so I thought I’d make this quick video about it and share it right away: karaoke with your trolls!

Something I’m struggling with lately — there’s this little troll that’s like ewww ughhh nobody likes me, nobody’s helping me – it curls inward and projects all my insecurities about what I’m doing or not doing onto everyone around me – so when I drop off my kids at school this troll is saying, they all think you’re a bad mother because you’re dropping your kids off late, ooooooh! It’s this little Gollum-like troll.

If I’m going to work out with this troll using the life changing magic of karaoke, what song makes sense? The song that floated in my brain was “Tears of a Clown”… and honestly, when I worked this out for the first time earlier today, this song showed me SO MUCH about my fears and what’s going on with me and that troll. So thanks, subconscious!

I invite you to try this yourself: Identify your inner troll (I like to draw it and name it but it also works to just notice it) and ask them, what song would help me work out what’s going on? And see what floats into your brain.

Are you ready for me to work out “Tears of a Clown” with you? Let’s see what happens.

[Dancing / singing like a fool]

I’m kind of performing this but I’m also having some genuine insights here. I’m so surprised to realize that the flip side of this hidey nobody’s taking care of me feeling is, this pressure to only share a shiny happy face – I’m not comfortable with anyone seeing my sad face! I don’t feel like I can share my tears, even though I’m someone who talks all the time about crying and sharing your vulnerability. I’ve still got a sad little clown inside me who has to wait until there’s no one around to be real! I sound like I’m joking but this is genuinely helpful for me… and I have some trolls right now who are telling me, this is pretty self indulgent… which is another frequent troll for me. But I’m sharing because I wonder if some of you have those trolls, maybe the horror of self indulgence, or little sad Gollum who feels like he’s supposed to be Flashy McFlasherson?

If so: work it out, see what comes up for you!

 

Bragging about the mess

I talk a lot about bragging about what’s hard and celebrating failure and being real. And I try to walk that walk. But I have been hiding the last few weeks, because I couldn’t find the story that I wanted to share.

And once I realized I was hiding, I thought: why do I feel like I have to find the right spin to put on this? Why can’t I just talk about my doubts and questions as I’m living them? Isn’t that what I encourage other people to do?

So here you go. My life is feeling like a mess right now. Lots of glorious beautiful moments in that mess – and also lots of questions and doubts and problems I don’t yet know how to solve.

In a lot of ways, my summer artist residency in motherhood was easier, because I focused all my attention on figuring out how to mother a newborn baby + a big kid with big feelings and energy and needs. It took all my attention to do that, and there was poetry in living that, poetry in not having a moment to write down the poetry.

And in the last two months as I’ve edged back into work – which is not a singular thing but many overlapping obligations, of which this creative magic biz is one – and the kids have edged into school and childcare, it’s been much harder.

I plunged myself headlong into promoting the fall round of the creative magic workout, and then decided to cancel it. Partly because not enough people signed up, partly because I’m so consumed with mom guilt, it’s difficult to give my full attention to creative magic these days. Even though I think it’s worthy of my attention. My body is at odds with my mind and one thing I’ve learned over the last few years is, when that happens, it’s a good idea to slow down and listen to my body.

And right now my body has a lot of contradictory information. It wants peace and quiet and a break so it can sleep, and it also wants the baby to be snuggled close at all times, and it wants someone else to hold the baby. It wants to dance and play piano and not be mothering, and it wants to dive deep into mothering and nothing else.

How do I brag about this mess? Oof.

I am ROCKING this mom guilt, y’all. Oh my god, I am doing an amazing job of relishing the exquisite pangs of shame and longing that consume me when I’m away from my baby.

I am letting myself feel it, letting myself sit with my questions. Instead of forcing the situation one way or another, I am sitting in the paradox. I am brilliant at sitting in the paradox.

My body is such an amazing teacher that even when I sit and listen closely to what it wants, I don’t have a fucking clue what to make of it. That’s how far ahead of me it is. I find this incredibly frustrating.

Oooh – except, and this is interesting – as soon as I wrote that, my body came alive with an image of exactly what it wants.

(Clue to think about later: sometimes you can’t figure out what you want until you express your rage and confusion).

So here is the image that just came to me: I’m in a small cozy room and I am surrounded by loving, patient women who take my baby and rock him and gently push me out the door saying, go, do your work honey, let us take care of the baby for a while. And I leave him in that cozy place and go outside under a big far-reaching tree to do my own work which begins with checking in with my body.

Ahhhh. I love this. This helps me understand what my issue is. It’s not about the childcare itself, it’s about the where and when and how of it.

I encourage you to join me – to take a moment, if you are currently in the mess (which – I don’t know about you, but I am in it all the time) to sit with your body, to voice your frustration, and to pay attention to the images that come to you.

Write them, draw them, or just notice them.

As soon as I noticed this image, my whole body changed. The low level panic and stress I’ve been feeling all day fell away. I haven’t solved any problems but now I’m alert and creatively engaged in the problems.

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Let’s keep bragging about this freaking mess we’re all living, shall we?

(And if you are interested, I will be offering the Creative Magic Workout at some point later this year — never fear, my mess will not keep me from making a space for expressing the wild ridiculous wonder of our true selves together)

IMG_8312 (1)

Artist Residency in Motherhood

Hello, dear friends.

For the last 3+ months I’ve been in the newborn dreamtime, remembering the things that make it maddening and miraculous. I have been thinking of you and the work we are all doing in the world to keep the flame of creative healing and revolution alive. I’ve been crafting manifestos in my head, while I’m cradling a tiny human in my arms.

IMG_6201

In some ways this has been much easier than the last time around, when it was all unknown and I groped forward guessing at the unknown. A lot of beautiful, hard-won truths emerged from that unknown, and I am surprised to find that this time around, even on the hardest days/nights/days, it’s a lot easier. This time it’s a known challenge. It’s looking down the path and being able to see a bear coming towards you and reaching for your bear spray, versus listening to grunting in the darkness and wondering what it could be and letting your mind race to all the worst possible outcomes. (I’m not sure why I’m drawn to bear metaphors when it comes to motherhood – something to explore in a future creative time).

So many things seemed impossible the first time. The fact that some of those things now seem easy helps keep me going when I hit a snag that feels impossible (like how to handle bedtime with two small children, or how to figure out childcare, or how to take a shower).

I tell myself: right now this seems impossible, but soon it will be possible, and then it will be easy.

Which is not to say that it is all sunshine and rainbows over here. (Obviously, since last week it was toxic wildfire smoke for all of us in the Portland area). There are plenty of times when I am feeling grumpy or edgy or full of self-pity or exhausted or coming down with mastitis AGAIN or taking my baby to the emergency room because his fever is too high or waking up with a four year old’s foot in my face. Trying to go out into the world with both my children is total madcap chaos and it takes all the good humor I have to laugh at myself as I chase my four-year-old across the park while clutching a tiny baby to my chest.

IMG_6483

A moment of stillness

It feels impossible, but I am doing it. Doing it badly, sure! But doing it!

And I have tools to help me when I feel overwhelmed. I can take five minutes to draw out my feelings or put my hand on my heart and breathe or pull a tarot card or text a friend or go on an imagination walk.

The beautiful thing is, when I use these tools, my kid picks up on it and dives right in. I’ve gotten so many great ideas for exercises from him, like stomping around the room pretending to be the bad guy, or building yourself a literal safe fort space, or scribbling all over your (or your mother’s) five year plan.

This is a whole different way of seeing myself and my life and my creativity. Motherhood isn’t the thing that keeps me from practicing my art: it is the practice. The challenges are impossible to separate from the rewards. This time around, though of course I do need breaks from being all mom all the time, I am feeling less of a need to escape from it and more of a desire to dive into the mess.

This has been my artist residency in motherhood (an idea I first heard of from this brilliant artist/mother, Lenka Clayton). Mothering my children makes my creative work stronger, and creative work makes my mothering stronger.