Roughly 5 years ago, I was trying to come back to my creative life as a new mother. I couldn’t find my rhythm. I didn’t even have a parenting-work-life rhythm, and to add a creative practice to the mix felt so big but so essential at the same time. I worried the creative parts of myself which I just began to discover pre-motherhood were going to shrivel up and die if I didn’t access them. Weekend artist dates and writing groups were replaced by sleep and family time. But there had to be a way to have both.
I knew I needed a practice and a routine. Journeys called me, especially the becoming on the other end. Beginnings of journeys were the fun part. There was momentum, but when something came up on day 4 or day 5- I would often stumble, and my mind would go to 3 places: 1) abandon the journey when I didn’t do it perfectly (many times this happened) 2) keep going with it whatever this looked like and 3) figure out the new rules for an imperfect journey giving myself permission to mess up, but just to complete it.
So much of my writing and creative life is similar to these journeys. All or nothing thinking doesn’t work for me. I don’t need tools for commitment, but to get back up and rebound when life happens.
In the wake of my 40th birthday approaching, I started a list thinking about 40 journeys which are on the horizon.
40 days of cleansing
40 days of training for a 1/2 marathon
40 days of paying off my CC
40 acts of intimacy
40 days of blogging
40 days to open the doors of my new office space
40 days of creating
40 days of organizing
40 days of writing
40 days of speech therapy ideas
40 home decorating ideas
40 ways to make a difference
40 lunch ideas
40 gift ideas
40 essays about turning 40
40 things to give away/sell donate
40 different outfit ideas
40 acts of self care
Some – like the cleanse and 1/2 marathon training will begin this week and I feel like I’m dragging my feet with them, but know there is the power of a few committed friends who will also be on this journey with me. Others, are a little more fluffy but also worthwhile endeavors like thinking about Christmas gifts before the last day of Amazon prime shipping, and having lunch inspiration every morning versus dread, And then there are the ones which will make me happier vocation wise, from the inner debate over whether I need professional office space, to organizing, speech therapy ideas, and then there is the endless list of writing goals.
I’m curious, which journeys are you currently embarking on and which ones speak to you? Are there any here which you’re willing to raise your hand to and join me as a companion on the journey?
All I can say is that being YOUR mother has made me grow more than anything else I have ever done, including being Evan’s mother – and here is why. I truly believe that all things which are hard make us strong. And being your brother’s mother was not very hard. He was an easy baby, an easy toddler, and a relatively easy kid although I still worry about him more. And because he was so easy, I incorrectly thought parenting was a piece of cake. I might have even been a little bit of a know-it-all thinking I’ve got this, so much that I coached other moms on how to find “mama bliss” (like I had climbed Mt. Olympus of parenting or something!)
You have taught a parent who thought she knew it all to feel human and vulnerable. I like to think God was looking down, knowing I needed a good dose of mama-humility, and you were there saying, “Let me at her!”
And here is what I want you to know about you arriving into the world. You were so wanted for so long, even though you were one of my biggest surprises ever – (you see, I was about to have surgery the day before finding out I was pregnant with you which may have not allowed me to have any more children.) But you were so wanted, to the point that you were in my vision boards when Evan was a year and a half, and he would point to the picture of a baby girl dressed in a stylish ensemble and he would ask, “What’s dat?” and I would say, “That’s your sister.”
I absolutely love being your mom, and you amuse and delight me to no end, wondering where you come from because you are everything that I want to be. You are FIERCE with a capital F.
I love your fire and your spark. Even when your voice turns into that sassy chief voice, I whisper to the person next to me, “Nobody is going to put Charlie in a corner.”
You humble me. The song you created: “You go to jail, and I go to spa!” (sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle) is your favorite one to belt out at family gatherings or in the middle of Trader Joes.
You have made me grateful for Google and middle-of-the-night kindle reading when I begin searching for phrases like “strong willed child” and “how not to crush her spirit.” Terrible twos had a whole new meaning for me, and on the day we had the stand off over pulling the wagon home from the beach, I realized how you were built. You are pure grit, determination, and self reliance, baby. I love and admire you for it!
When you started preschool, it felt like a switch went on. You became delightful and cooperative. I love watching you play with Evan and how you look out for each other. I love hearing you tell one of Evan’s buddies, “Don’t you be mean to my brother!” You are a girl who is always going to look out for others, and for your courage and compassion – I am so proud.
I hope you know how happy you make me. And even though this post was going to be published about 6 months ago on your 3rd birthday, it has been carried (and sitting in my draft box) for a long time. I love you my little ferocious wild one. May this third year be as big as you are big girl!
I’m returning. Slowly returning to things I have put off and have preferred not to think about.
It works that way for me. I go in cycles. First thinking about big things for others, and once I get my bearings thinking about the little details for myself to prevent them from becoming big things one day. I return to thinking about these details once I can’t make any more excuses. Once I remember how long it has been since I’ve been to a doctor.
Coming up for air again after my mom finishes her chemo, with a sense of normalcy returning. The possibility of recurrence lingers as a close reminder. The doctor explained yesterday, “PARP Inhibitors are not dodging a bullet, they are just another bullet – although they are an exciting and different bullet instead of chemo.”
I pride myself on my intuition. On my instinctive knowing. I don’t need to weigh options forever, I have always known the next right thing once I’m ready. My knowing has never failed me, but over-thinking paralyzes me.
I meet the doctor yesterday in a local support meeting where he spends his Sunday with a 3-hour Q&A about everything ovarian cancer related. The fact that he is doing this makes me like him already. He answers each question thoughtfully and respectfully. There are no blanket answers, we are each individuals, but he does his best with each individual situation we present in the big world of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research.
And so I’m trusting myself, in this small moment that the stars are aligning again. The plans I’m setting into motion are well thought out, and I stop thinking of myself as a fence-sitter, instead knowing I’m exactly where I need to be.
I am equal parts introvert and extrovert, but tend to identify more with introvert because time alone is how I recharge.
My way of recharging looks like this: unscheduled mornings with no commitments, time to journal, run/hike, going to the beach in the late afternoon, yoga, curling up in bed with a good book, and most recently – swimming.
I love the color orange.
In college, I had a roommate who had “The Best People are Wearing Orange” t-shirt. I wore it for about a year (can’t remember if he gave it to me, or if I stole it) and it either disintegrated or I returned it.
I often sing the wrong lyrics in songs.
Back to Myers-Briggs, even though I’m 50-50 Introvert-Extrovert, I’m about 90% NFP.
I love board games, but only remember to play them at the beach with family, (not counting all of the games I play with the kids here). But I want more time playing games for me – like Balderdash or Scrabble.
If I had to choose a cartoon character I most identify with currently, – it’s Dory.
I used to enjoy writing lists like these, but now I find them challenging.
I had a great party trick (again – another college thing) but I’m way out of practice. I could name a person’s inner animal. I was really good too although could never do my own. My friend told me I was a flounder (Dory did not even exist yet!) which I accepted, but ironically don’t know if that still fits.
I never felt like New Jersey was where I belonged, although I always feel “home” with the people around me there.
I rarely feel certain about anything, mostly finding exceptions to rules.
Hold on! I’m half way there… (Oh, no! Living on a prayer!!!!) is not my favorite Bon Jovi song. (I’m sure I messed up the lyrics). My favorite is “It’s My Life!”
I don’t know what my favorite music is anymore, and like Dory, I seem to have forgotten what music I liked in the past when a friend recently asked what I grew up listening to. My most listened to Pandora stations are Milky Chance when I’m hanging at home, and Pitbull when I’m motivating myself to run.
My bookshelves are color coordinated.
I could easily live the rest of my life without TV.
I love fun bright patterns and have a special love for textiles – window treatments and rugs, (although they are all store bought unlike my Mom).
I hate cooking. It does not relax me. Every afternoon when I start thinking about dinner, I have another Dory moment forgetting that I’ve eaten dinner for 39 years wondering what to make. (Although most nights, Mike cooks).
I have a recurring waitress dream that I’m in a restaurant and don’t know the table numbers.
Back to my books: I love used book stores, Barnes and Noble, libraries, and could get lost there for hours.
I also love journals with inspirational messages, however, if the lines are off or the pages feel too small – it constricts my writing. I need to inspect a journal before determining I will write in it.
I love working for myself, and don’t think I’d ever want to work for a company again. But I do need good collaborative partners and colleagues (that’s the extrovert in me) or I’d lose my mind.
Community is really important to me, be it a neighborhood, school, spiritual, etc. When I’m feeling connected to my community, I’m feeling more aligned.
I hate scary movies. Law & Order SVU marathons are more my speed. (Maybe I don’t really want to live without TV).
My name has grown on me. I also like the variation El/Elle, but please not Ellie.
I planned to share my own snippet from last year’s Luscious Legacy Project which I found in an old notebook. But when I started editing my slice, a POEM came out(!)
***Total disclaimer – I am not a poet, and have a big panic button around the word “p*em” – even more so than the words ch@pter or b**k. P*etry brings me back to my freshman Honor’s English class where my teacher suggested I not be an Honors English student anymore, instilling a belief I absolutely sucked with everything related to p*etry.
In writing this, I began searching my computer for a specific image to accompany this post. Instead, I discovered several forgotten photos taking me back to the distant past of new motherhood just 5 years ago. I remember through my images, the same way I remember by eating a spinach artichoke quiche with caramel coffee in my slice below.
(Working Title: Stolen Moments at Barnes and Noble) ***Suggestions are also welcome in the comment section
I remember the peace of eating alone Spinach artichoke quiche with a caramel flavored coffee became staples in my new motherhood days. Planned and spontaneous breaks became little miracles in the weeks after returning to work to enter new territory as a working mother.
Mondays were my new favorite day to eat slowly, finishing my meal without being needed.
There I could browse my books like it was an inner excavation taking flight in my heart discovering the twelve secrets of highly creative women a question of balance artists and writers on motherhood. I skimmed the treasures in magazines: finding where women create and mingle with images and words of artful blogging.
Others had been here before Not choosing One love over the other But integrating both parts to become a creative mother.
My new life revolved around feeding schedules But my writing schedule was non-existent I no longer knew what worked I struggled writing first thing in the morning or at the end of the day?
Hush quiet crazy one Were the not-so-gentle notes I wrote to my mushy brain Which no longer could find the words Asking to play with paint instead.
My writing time became Slices and snippets in those stolen moments at Barnes and Noble I remember with each sip of caramel coffee and bite of spinach artichoke quiche Nourishing my creative mama’s soul.
Now it’s your turn: ) Set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes and feel free to let your pen go with the prompt “I remember…”
And remember: It may or may not be about food. My piece started with the taste of spinach artichoke quiche and caramel coffee and went in a totally different direction. Sue Ann and I spoke more about how food became the place for more memories in our conversation last week.
Remember the snippet writing contest? Post yours in the comment section below for the chance to win a scholarship to the Luscious Legacy Project by 6 pm EST today.