It's been twenty days since I launched A Field Guide To Now, and in those twenty days I have been more intensely creative than I’ve been in over a year. I've been forced way outside my comfort zone. My word for the year was action, and this project has forced me to take action on behalf of my career as a writer and artist in ways I couldn’t have conceived of when I first took the plunge. I've had to learn how to query and research and push the limits of my ability to create at night after small boys go to sleep. I’m working on this book project, my novel, paintings, and a few other big projects that are under wraps with fingers crossed.
(I am also working part time, at a job that is pushing me to learn In Design and Photoshop, always under deadline. The child-free hours of my day are spent thusly: designing ads and view books and writing press releases. The rest of my day is spent juggling, with a single-minded focus pounding in my head like jungle drums.)
I am compelled, determined, wired, moody, thrilled, exhausted, inspired. When I sleep my mind is active in a way that is almost new to me. It’s frenetic and repetitive: gnawing away at the creative tasks I’ve left off from before bed. This past week I’ve begun dreaming of whales—and they’ve inspired some of the newest art for A Field Guide To Now. Here is a glimpse (in progress.) Incidentally, when I looked up what it means to dream about whales, this is what I found: Whale reintroduces us to our creative and intuitive energies to show us a talent we've forgotten about or haven't been aware existed. How spot-on is that?
I’ve had more coffee and less sleep; more wine, more sex, more dreams and less rhythm. I’m spending less time on laundry and dishes (and the house is in probable shambles because of it) and more time perched on the stool in my studio painting, with gauche on my fingers. Less time taking leisurely walks with my boys; more time trying to multi-task while they’re under foot.
It's made me think about my identity, about who I am and how I define that. For a while, after Sprout was born, I slipped wholly into the identity of mother, and felt my world narrow to the small, domestic orbit of that life. It was restful, to be there. For a while. Sprout was such an easy baby that I enjoyed his babyhood in a way that I never fully did with Bean—who cried more and was more needy, just as I was newer and more anxious at the whole mommy thing.
But now, Sprout is walking. Bean is 5. The house is littered with legos (Sprout holds lego helmets in his mouth like a chipmunk. I’ve checked his diaper but he’s never actually swallowed one. Go ahead call me neglectful. YOU just try to keep legos off the floor with two boys in the house, four years apart.) There is a constant stampede of activity and peanut butter sandwiches and glasses of milk that get spilled. The vacuum is out all day long. Money is tight. Bean has outgrown all his pajamas. Sprout is starting to say words.
And in the midst of all this messy, simple, regular domesticity, I’ve begun to long fiercely for myself. For myself not as a mother, but as someone entirely separate from my children.
Truthfully, I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with the definition of motherhood, and now, more than ever, I am enjoying my boys and wanting to be distinct from them, in my own right. A writer. An artist. Right now my mind is preoccupied with the craft of writing, with images, and also about self-doubt, and longing…
How do you define yourself? Where does your definition of motherhood (if you are, or want to be a mother) shape you? What are the words you use to tell yourself the story about your life as it is at this current moment?