Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Tree Fort

It’s Sunday morning around 3 AM. I’m sitting on the couch at a friend’s house, savoring the last beer of the evening,  still glowing from the show my band played at a local bar just five hours prior. My friends and I may be middle-aged but we are giggling like school girls. Our kids are elsewhere, sleeping and safe, and we are talking about everything . . . movies, men, our mothers, life. I know I will pay dearly for this venture into the youthful territory of pre-dawn revelry –particularly in a few hours when my family will look to me to be the functional, dependable mother and wife who will make breakfast, but for now I feel like a teenager.   The deep, intense friendship we are enacting, the underlying sense of possibility that permeates the night all takes me back to the summer after high school graduation when the future was unknowable, but the mystery seemed overwhelmingly in my favor. Good things have happened and therefore more good things could happen. Summer has just begun. “The future’s open wide.”

It’s Wednesday afternoon around 3 PM. I’m standing in a darkened room next to the bed of a dying woman. We have known each other for ten years. She is the mother of my oldest son’s one-time best friend. Together we have endured and enjoyed countless play dates, some which ended well and some which ended in tears (the children’s, not ours). The friendship between our sons fizzled out a few years back, but she and her family have remained regular attendees at our New Year’s Eve parties, including this past New Year’s Eve when she shuffled into my kitchen, thin and frail, to take her usual place the table with all my friends. Her presence made the party feel complete. But now she turns her head towards me, her eyes flutter open and fix upon me for a moment before looking away. We know each other well enough for her to say, with the most emphasis she can muster, “This sucks!” Already she is tired and drifting off again and we have run out of things to say. “Take care,” I tell her, “I’ll catch you later.”

It’s Thursday morning around 4 AM. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. My youngest son has a headache and a fever of 104.6. My husband is rocking him in the recliner. I have administered Tylenol and placed a cold pack on his forehead. We have been fighting this fever since the early evening. The advice nurse told me everything is fine as long as it stays below 105 degrees. I’m worried – not really worried, but still worried. Life takes detours; one moment changes everything. What comes next remains unknowable. You hear stories all the time.

It’s Thursday morning around 10 AM. My son’s fever is down, not gone, but back to around 100. He’s feeling better and acting more like himself.

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside, an anomalous warm and sunny day for our coastal Northern California town. I step out on the deck and feel the warmth rise up from the sun-heated boards. There’s not a hint of cold, even the icy sea breeze that often threads itself through the usual spring-like temperatures of our climate is still.  Summer!

“Come outside,” I tell my son. “It’s beautiful out here.”

Still in his pajamas, he follows me across the deck to the weather-beaten settee and sits on my lap. Instinctively we both close our eyes and turn our faces towards the light.

“Sometimes,” I say, more to myself than to him, “all you have is the warmth of the sun on your face. And sometimes it’s enough.”

He lays his head on my shoulder.  I have not felt this content in days.

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I’m in a creative phase right now, working on new material after almost two years of refining and recording material for my upcoming EP.

 Having space to create feels good in so many ways. Creativity is both my coping mechanism and my vanity; my psychic insulation from the world, and my Achilles Heel. There’s also a compulsive element, particularly when I’m working on a new song or three, as I am right now.  A large part of my brain is tied up in endlessly repeating unfinished song lyrics hoping to push through to the next line or hearing bits of music in my head and wanting to see how they fit together with another part I already have.  I can lose track of time easily when I’m right there in the moment, and maybe that’s the magic of creativity for me. It’s one of the few things I do that actually puts me in the moment. 

I have two sons – ages 3 and 11.  They have lived with their mother’s creative compulsion all their lives.  At times it’s worked out well for them – a huge papier-mache volcano in the back yard? Sure!  Make a movie about our cat being a demon kitty?  Mom’s ready to shoot and edit.  But for the most part, Mom’s creative life is an inconvenience, just like Dad’s job.  They have yet to put it together that mom’s creativity, unlike Dad’s job, isn’t really funding the household, and in America no money means no value.  Maybe they will never see it that way.  Maybe that’s just my hang up.

But because I’m not “professional” and because my subject matter is often dark or weird, I keep quiet about what I do when meeting new moms at school functions or on playgrounds.   When asked,  I simply say I stay home with the kids, which is true, but it feels like only half the story since creativity is my lifeline.  I often wonder how many other moms have similar secrets.  

I would sound horribly selfish to say that my kids get in the way of my creativity.  Creativity is my release and my kids are often the cause of stress.  I have met many a mom who has told me with honest joy that her children have brought creativity back into her life, or her children have helped her re-channel her creativity into useful family things like sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking.  My children do inspire me often, but never to scrapbook.   Childhood has dark, scary  and wonderful moments that they have helped me remember.  They have also given me the gift of urgency.  Because of them, I no longer feel I need a whole day to work up a song idea – I’ve got an hour and a half before preschool pick up. Time to make music – Go!

 I  feel guilty during those long slow hours in the afternoon when I am playing make-believe Star Wars,  or Dinosaur Bingo, but secretly running  song lyrics in my head over and over again hoping to get to that next line.  If ever something demanded being in the moment, it is parenting.  

My litmus test for how I spend my time is this: were I on my deathbed right now, would I regret that I had not done more of a particular activity?  I’m pretty sure I won’t be regretting that the stove didn’t get deep-cleaned more, or that I didn’t shop for clothes often enough.  On the other hand, when it comes to playing music or playing with my kids, the answer to both is a resounding Yes! I would regret not living both my life as a mother and my life as a creative person to the fullest. I’m just a little conflicted on the balancing act.

I often wonder how other artist moms handle balancing their creative life and their parenting life. . .

Self portrait - I've never been good at drawing guilt.