Caring for My Creative: On Being Well-Rested.
“Self-love for me is the willingness to just do what needs to be done in order to return to my heart, again and again. To know my own heart as home so that I can in any moment and under any circumstance hear the voice of my own soul.” ~ Meggan Watterson
Falling asleep last night, luxuriously, early and warm, I found these questions in my mind:
Of what purpose is my being well-rested if my children are far away? Of what purpose is my being rested if there are parents weeping the losses of Xavier, Luis, Franky, Enrique, Joel, Kimberly, Gilberto, Brenda, Miguel, Eddie, Paul, Juan, and all the hearts stopped last Saturday evening?
What is the purpose of my being rested while a friend slogs it out with cancer in a hospital in Boston or another friend honors the loss of her sister with a dedicated hiking trail?
I have been ultimately and eternally distracted for the past 22 years by nagging worry, listening to creaks in the floors, the walls, the rise and fall of breath, the zipping of zippers and the snapping of pillowcases pinned to my wash line, to the breaking of things, cups, deadlines, legs and hearts.
I have tuned my ears to the tone of fever, music lessons, hunger and lying. I have figured out shortcuts and allergies and what to cook when there is an ache in the house. I have learned to speak soccer, lacrosse, texting, menstrual cramps, guidance counselors and hooking up.
I have watched the rise and fall of rashes, hives, pox and inertia. I have helped and soaked and asked and raked and still, in all of this motion, these circles of motion as Joy Harjo writes, they are done in beauty, they have all been, even hard, even gut-wrenching, even virtuous or vivid, all beautiful on some level.
By beautiful, I don’t mean all unicorns and rainbows. By beautiful, I mean the coppered shine of a well-used bowl that ages with grace, the accumulation of moments that are now memories, but they have a smell, a texture, and a place because I paid attention, to at least some of it.
By beautiful, I don’t mean that I want to do it all over again, but like a boat on choppy seas, I thank those years for getting me here. I thank those difficult, beautiful moments for shaping me.
Does that mean I think I am perfect? Does that mean I think I can switch careers? No. All that means, that beautiful bit, is that I have come to recognize the action of sand to pearl, the oystering of a woman’s life that is motherhood. And that the pearls are not my children. The pearl is me.
My work is to express from this place of pearl, of the irritation and the shine.
So my purpose, in being well-rested today, is I can pay better attention. Caring for my creative means full and undivided attention, even to the seven-year-old clinging to my thigh, or to the color of that fresh strawberry in my fingers.
I wake early and see one poppy touched by a sunbeam that comes just so through the hemlocks to land on that single bloom. All orange. All morning.
I can text my son a question and know he will ponder it all day as he navigates an internship. I can send up a prayer for my daughter driving from way up north, towards home, knowing there is a pot of green chile chicken waiting for her return. I can do the work I have before me, rested. Equal. Lacking in nothing.
I think, for a long time, I felt identified by my troubles. I found value in what I was suffering through. Sleeplessness was a virtue or a badge of something like courage. As a mother, there is always a little trauma on the table, always a slight or a fever or a bump or a cavity that needs attention, needs me to find a solution.
This is not to even mention the big-assed troubles that can arise. I am not even going there today.
I am talking about the ordinary, run-of-the-mill, missed-the-bus, pumping-breast-milk-in-the-office, writing-on-the-subway, not-making-a-peep-about-that-bad-dream-I-had kind of day where you, rested or not, have to make your way with and around the people in your life, your responsibilities and your desires.
So, I can care for my creative by being rested. I can respond with soulful attention to the eagle I saw rise out of the Copper Beech this morning. I can watch the light on that poppy or the texture of my oak tree and know, I woke up today rested so that I could continue to rise forth.
The fact of my children being awake and away from me, means I have more room to move. More quiet. That which I have longed for is here.
And while I hate it, I miss the nagging, the touch on my neck by my nursing child, the bra-strap down my shoulder while carrying groceries and a wriggling toddler, the long hall walks in hospitals, or pacing sidelines, arguments and upchuck, I thank the boat that carries me and I will continue to work from inside motherhood.
“I no longer call such tasks housework. I call them the domestic arts, paying attention to all the ways they return me to my senses.” ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World
I am not alone.
Neither are you.
Neither are the parents of the fallen in Orlando. Send them love. Treat the next person you meet as if they are one of those parents. Meet them with attention.
Live your life like that poppy, touched by morning light.
This day has chosen you.
Let’s rise forth together.
Suzi Banks Baum is an artist, actress, writer, teacher, community organizer, and mom. She’s passionate about helping women find their creative voice and live focused, joy-filled lives. Suzi inspires hundreds of women every year to live their lives from the space of creative spirit and to value their contributions to the world and one another through her Mapping Motherhood course, taught throughout the United States, her blog, her Sacred Refuge programs and her Powder Keg Writing Workshops. You can find her work on TheMid, Literary Mama, MotherWriterMentor and her blog.