Two and a half years ago my daughter joined our family. I took no drugs. Don’t ask me why someone who had experimented with drugs throughout her 20s would decide not to take any drugs on the day she most needed them. I labored for twenty four hours. I became dehydrated and delirious. I cried. Her cord was wrapped around her neck twice. Twice. I haven’t even heard of that happening. I said I wanted to die. I requested to be taken to the hospital for a c-section.
It was bloody and it was long. However, in a sense it was appropriate because two births took place that day. In the end I was reborn on the bed where I delivered my daughter. The last two and a half years have unquestionably been filled with the hardest and most rewarding moments of my life. The events surrounding her birth shook my psyche. I struggled with postpartum depression, feelings of isolation and worthlessness. As my love for my daughter grew, I found myself faced with a flood of unreconciled grief from my own upbringing.
For years, I had covered all that fear and sadness and anger up with my perfectionism. However, sleepless nights, a tight budget, limited family support, and mountains of dirt diapers, finding toys in the fridge and yogurt covered laundry brought my inner perfectionist tumbling to the ground. Suddenly a great chasm yawned open inside my and years of anger, sadness, fear, and self-criticism came tumbling into the wide open prairie of my consciousness.
The resulting spiritual sojourn took my through dark canyons well trodden by the feet of my ancestors. My inner perfectionist waited patiently there for me in the darkness as I cried, blamed, and bungled my way through the following months. I hated everything for awhile. I hated my dog, my house, my marriage, motherhood, my job as an art teacher at a public school. Slowly, the tears, like a river, carved away new pathways in the canyon and life began to grow again. I spent many hours silently rocking, nursing, and reflecting with only the company of my small daughter. She was beautiful, but since she couldn’t speak I spent a lot of time in my own mind reflecting. I was visited by my grief, and by dreams that I had tucked away in boxes on shelves for some later date.
As a mother, I give so much of my life and energy to my child and my family. I came to the conclusion that I could only invest my time in things that fed my soul. I could not nurture my child if my own cup was not full. In the process of getting to know my grief, fear unfilled dreams, and anger intimately I also became well acquainted with what my heart needed in order to feel alive. For me, art, writing and teaching on my own terms, in my own way, and my own schedule were needs. Not wants.
The rebirth that took place after my daughter’s birth was a complete spiritual overhaul of my life, mind, and spirit. Those sort of events don’t occur often in the course of a lifetime (Thank God!). However, I do try to stay open to small opportunities for miracles, rebirth and beginning anew each day now.
I painted some pictures I considered fairly decent. Art is in my soul. My perfectionism held my back from progressing as an artist for so long. I’d begin challenging myself and immediately give up in frustration when the results looked awkward and embarrassing. Once I recognized the importance of filling my own cup as a mother, I knew I had to commit myself to my art.
So it was humbling to step into the studio of one of the best artists in Austin and begin again. I spent 3 hours drawing bowls and apples in charcoal pencil. I had so many preconceived ideas about how good I “should” be. As I sat at the drawing bench, and squinted my eyes at still lifes, I saw the face of my inner perfectionist staring back at me. My boisterous beliefs fell away I received coaching, “Let the pencil be a skater gliding on the ice.” I was scared, exhilarated, and eager to laugh or cry at the beauty and frightfulness of it all.
That day I was able to look deeply into the eyes of my perfectionist, and calmly tell her, “We are going to be ok. I need to make these mistakes to move forward. Thanks for all of your concern.”
Another birth. Another beginning. There was no blood. But it was painful in moments, and scary. Some moments I wanted to run out the door. Some days I still do. Like this morning.
I am now re-learning the basics of art, and re-envisioning my business plan. Both of these will render me a beginner yet again.
Meister Eckhart says “be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” I now translate that to mean that to be fully present and live authentically I have to put aside my ego and befriend my inner perfectionist each morning. I am leaning in to some uncomfortable feelings and fear. It has been on the the most important skills I’ve learned as an artist.
I like to practice gratitude, and today I am so grateful for my daughter. I am grateful for the art we make together, the laughter she has brought into my life, and her inspiring freedom and fearlessness. I am also so glad for my own rebirth. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned thus far from motherhood. I am grateful that I have the confidence to face each day anew. I am glad that I have the courage to wake up each morning and take steps forward on my journey as an artist.
What dreams have you put in boxes?
How will you begin again today?