This is the second post of a five-part guest blog series.
Tracie Welser is a graduate of the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop. When she’s not parenting or teaching Women’s Studies and grammar in a classroom near you, she might be obsessing over owls, drumming, stories about time travel, or utopias and dystopias at www.thisisnotanowl.com.
As this blog tells me with humor and flair, I’m not alone in the daily struggle to carve out space for my creative life. Disruptive energy brews and swirls around kids in the palpable manner of that cute little dust cloud following Pigpen around in Charlie Brown comics. When my son comes near me, my internal red-alert sounds. I automatically guard my toes against inadvertent stomping, and I clutch personal electronics closer in hopes they aren’t about to be shorted out by squirted CapriSun. The creative work of my brain switches to a subroutine in the background while my forebrain attempts to answer endless questions, such as “Mommy, why was the Arc de Triomphe built?” and “What is this I found in my nose?” and “Do you think Mothman sightings are real?”
My son is intrigued by the world and pays attention to details that seem insignificant or even invisible to other people. There’s a certain magic to this, experiencing the world through his extraordinary senses. For instance, when he was very small, he was captivated by the texture of sand, and I spent countless hours at the public park with him, playing in the sand, my own stress trickling away as we shifted the cool sand through our fingers together.
But my son’s attention to detail comes at a cost, as I’m constantly pulled out my world, my creative life, and into his. I’m cruising along, writing my blessed heart out or indulging in a well-crafted story by a fellow writer. Wheels are turning, words are flowing, my sense of wonder is engaged. Writers need this. And then, abruptly, I’m yanked out by the oft-repeated preface to another seemingly random question, “There’s just one thing I don’t understand.” Or, alternately, “You’ve just gotta come see this [snail, socket wrench, plastic rhinestone] I found!”
My reaction to these frequent interruptions varies, depending on factors like how much sleep I’ve had recently, the importance of the particular project I’m working on when the interruption occurs, how many other times I’ve been interrupted in the last ten minutes, or whether or not I’m on the toilet (because sometimes that’s the only place I can get any reading done). Like most moms, I’ve had moments of which I am not proud, when my temper got out of hand and I’ve raged like Kali. Sometimes this rage feels righteous, but mostly, it stinks. During one of these times, my son said, in a perfect matter-of-fact tone, “You look unattractive when you’re angry, Mommy.” Another time, I happened to catch sight of my own reflection mid-rage and thought, “Holy crap, I’ve turned into my mother!”
We’re not saints, are we? I’ve invested a goodly amount of time attempting to cultivate a sense of serenity. To be like Job: accepting, patient, long-suffering, accommodating (or maybe like Buddha, but Job is easier as he’s rooted in sacrifice, not floating improbably above it). I soon realized, for me, maintaining the serene self means letting go. Unfortunately, the things I have to let go of include goals, desires and dreams for myself, not to mention all hopes of ever arriving anyplace on time!
Sometimes I have to be Kali, simmering and brewing under the surface even if it doesn’t show on the outside. I have to fiercely dedicate myself to that which is important to me, and express it, so that fire doesn’t hollow me out on the inside.
Do other people expect you to be Job when you really feel like Kali? When is it okay to be angry?