Keep Swimming(Painting)

Even when everything changes, it stays fundamentally the same. Once again I've found myself with a deadline looming ever closer, a pile of paintings sitting in the trunk of my car unfinished. I told WT of [TERAN] Studio I'd have the paintings to him by Saturday, a week before the opening party of the Newburgh Open Studios tour. A month or so ago I mentioned that I might be interested in participating, intending to take my time on the pieces I had been working on and see how close to complete they were when the event came around. Sure enough, I was included in the roster and confirmed to participate. I am grateful to be pushed, to see how much I can accomplish, and I always seem to do more and do my best under pressure.

Now that I've been working, it's become that much more important to maintain balance. Spending time with my daughter takes priority, but finding time for self care remains important. I think of the days before I left to travel when it seemed like I worked constantly. Working for the pumpkin show, working on my art and at the studio. Now, as a mother, there is no such thing as a day off and it is only beginning. While Stella is still an infant taking care of her is relatively simple and follows a pretty consistent schedule, sleep, eat, poo, play, repeat. Once she starts running around more and sleeping less, it will be another story. Looking back, it seems like I had all the time in the world and yet at that time, I felt overwhelmed and like it was so difficult to get anything done. Now, if I'm awake, I'm on. Whether I'm mothering, working, or painting, I have to show up 100%, and I don't settle for anything less. 

Last night when I got home from work I spent a few hours with Stella, soaking up all the smiles I could get and just being present with her. My Mom was generous to watch her for a few more hours while I worked on my pieces for the show. Settling into the garage with my paint and my pieces, I found it easy to slip into focus. The moment came however, as it always had, where I looked at everything I was working on and felt that it was not enough. It wasn't good enough, I didn't have enough time, I wasn't good enough, who am I kidding I'm no artist, I might as well scrap those pieces and settle to do something simpler. I might as well pull out of the show altogether. I packed up my things and stared at the one piece listlessly, unable to devise my next step. I thought of my daughter in that moment, and understood that one day, she would feel this too. She would feel a sense of defeat and inadequacy in some project she was undertaking, whatever the genre. If she were to come to me in that moment, I would tell her to keep going. I would tell her that giving up and settling for less is never an option.

So I kept going.

I got the paint back out and looked at the piece hard. I tore it apart, what I liked and what I did not, what worked and what did not. I squeezed a tube of paint right on it's surface and started hacking away with the palette knife methodically and with rejuvenated focus. The process in and of itself soothed me, the playful pushing and pulling and mixing of colors absorbed me in a way that despite the fact that I was manipulating the medium and putting it where I wanted it to go, I was also surrendered to it. I was surrendered to the flow as if something foreign was guiding my hand. 

By time I was finished covering what I wanted to cover and accentuating what I wanted to accentuate, the series of steps I would take to complete the painting became clear again. I looked at the other two pieces and saw a path for them, too. I smiled to myself, feeling accomplished as I packed up my supplies and set myself up for an easy transition into artist mode the next day. I went upstairs and picked up my daughter. I changed her, I fed her. It was about 9:30, and I knew within the hour she would be asleep. Whether I'm coming home from work, or coming back from some form of self care routine, I can sense her gratefulness for my return. I can see it in her eyes and the way she omits a contented sigh before she lays her cheek on my chest. I held her close, as I always do, swaying and singing her made up songs of which she is the star. She fell asleep and I held her for a long time after.

Stella is a gift to my heart, and to my soul. She is a gift to my ambition and perseverance, to my confidence and my self love. I look back and can think of countless times when I gave up, or went to my mentors for pep talks and motivation. While a good pep talk does no harm, I was able to pick myself up. I was able to keep myself going. I was purely self sufficient in that moment, taking ownership of my creativity and my responsibility to my chosen craft. 

I have never been so motivated to SHOW UP FOR LIFE as I have been since Stella was born.

Mindful perseverance. Showing up and being totally present for everything, whether it's doing the dishes, taking a bath, or writing an email. Each moment I spend with my daughter renders me enamored. I think because of the intense feelings of love and joy I feel when with Stella, I have to make the best of the time while I'm away from her. Otherwise, I would likely fall apart from sadness and maternal separation anxiety. If I can't be with my daughter, I better make this good, I better make this worth while. It is not always easy, and sometimes I do waiver, but I have a hell of an easier time coming back to center, and a stronger center than ever. Not to mention that I want to set an example for her, and I want to make her proud.