There are so many questions that fly through my mind on a daily basis, it’s hard to find time to sit down and grapple with them. I have all these ideas, all these questions, all these avenues and doorways that open up during the course of a day, ways that I want to explore and flesh out and turn into a story, a painting, or a poem.
What if there was this one…
I wonder if I could wrap this ribbon around…
Could I write this on…
It’s an endless stream of thought. Funny thing is, there are plenty of other endless things that exist within my day. Things that are not particular to my own experience that many other artists/writers/poets/creatives have had to and are still attempting to overcome. I like to call this the List of Endless Doing. Mine reads something like this:
- Get up with the husband and pack sandwiches for lunch.
- Make coffee.
- Journal/art journal/read a book for leisure.
- Get started on homework
- Get the laundry going/dust/clean bathrooms.
- Feed the children.
- Fold laundry from the day before.
- Chase the baby.
- Feed the baby.
- Chase some more.
- Read a book to the toddler.
- Clean the kitchen.
- Put away clothes, fold more.
- Make coffee.
- Browse social media. Think about writing/painting.
- Naptime’s over.
- Wash more things.
- Wrestle with kids.
And it so it goes. I’m sure there are a good many lists that look similar for many stay at home parents. It’s not all bad, either. We love our kids. We love to play and read and chase and wrestle. The housework isn’t even all bad. Sometimes the methodical soaping and suds-ing of dishwater and bath times, or the texture of clothes and blankets folding into neat little piles, can be grounding and relaxing. Traditions become a safeguard of sorts, a way in which the melody of the day re-centers itself.
This is all well and good, and sometimes I just get the intense need to clean out cupboards or under beds. Hidden clutter – and visible clutter, for that matter – is not conducive to a creative flow. It is conducive to creative thought. Hence all my ideas. In the course of a day, I probably have at least twenty or so ideas that do not get jotted down or come into fruition until many, many weeks later, if at all.
But the home work and the homework are all good, right? This is where I get to live my art, right? Raising my kids is going to be my greatest masterpiece, right? These are the reminders I get from generations of church-goers and Christ followers who believe the ultimate completion of the soul is done in the work, work, work. The cooking, the cleaning, the nurturing, the bread winning. You know, daily life.
Well, yes and no.
The truth of it is, these parts of life need to receive the overflow. They need to receive the bounty and harvest of what is sown and cultivated in the soil of a creative. What happens most of the time is the exact opposite. I look at my List of Endless Doing, and feel immediately overwhelmed. Time is not on my side. I cannot possibly get done all that I have to do, let alone feel validated in taking time to sit in the mess and uncompleted tasks and create yet another thing. So, my days end up wrapped up in the completion (or not) and the achievements (or not). I dwell in the land of Endless Doing, running and going until all my energy is spent and I have barely enough strength to crack open a book or pick up a pen.
So lately I’ve decided to reframe the way I look at my List of Endless Doing, and redefine what it is I actually do. Yes, there are things that come with the territory of motherhood. But I’m finding those things to be a lot less and a lot simpler than the constant laundry, washing, instructing, and organizing that the namesake seems to inspire upon the arrival of the first squalling little bundle of joy. Motherhood is not a name I bear casually. But I must wear it differently if it’s going to fit properly. I am changing the definition just as much as the name changes me.
I need it to be this way. My children need to be this way. My husband needs it to be this way. My art needs it to be this way. My community needs it to be this way. I am designed to redesign. Consider me the Artificial Intelligence of Creative Life. I assist and incorporate from my own wealth of information and abilities. These are God-given, for such a time as this. The perspective I can bring to my family is needed, and it is desired. I focus on my craft, and the overflow colors my family with joy and ability, creating a harmony of the different parts we all add to it. If I make my art a priority, the time I do have seems to develop with a focused clarity, and I am able to reach an appreciation for relationships and research that has until this point been a wayward rudder in my life.
That’s what this is about, really. Claiming a creative life. Motherhood fits into that. It’s so hard to remember this in a world that values productivity and order and progress and completion. It’s hard to convince others that focusing on my creativity is the most productive, orderly, form of progress I can muster. It looks different. It’s new. But that’s okay with me, because that means my life is, well… Alive.
So here’s my New List of Endless Doing:
- Enjoy the morning.
- Enjoy the afternoon.
- Enjoy the evening.
- Enjoy the night.
- Give thanks.
I will let my creative calling overflow and nourish every other aspect of life. Today, that looks like laundry heaped on the couch and a floor that needs vacuumed. But I have ideas to paint, books to read, and a classroom to participate in. This is my one life. I will make an example of it. I will embody it, and I will not meet expectations. This is acceptable to me, because I know there is room in the love of God for me to claim these promises. I’m experiencing this firsthand. And I know these promises will inspire my children to go exploring for where God has hidden promises specifically for them. Watching their delight in learning His love and purpose is the highest gift I could receive from motherhood. Giving them the space to do so, celebrating when they find it, and sharing the experience of finding our promises is the best I can give to my children, or anyone.
So, before the evening gets away from me, know that God has promises for you as well. He’s hidden them well, mischievously even, but he’s left clues. Walk on in the faith that His promises are good, and your brand of creativity is a gift, for you before it is for anyone else. Collect your clues, and make sure you’re wearing a comfortable pair of shoes.