“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.”
– Agnes De Mille
If you’re a woman, you’ll understand when I tell you that writing this blog post has been exactly like changing your clothes 17 times before you leave the house. Not pretty. Not easy. You upend your closet looking for something comfortable that also makes you look good, that hides the parts of you that you’re less in awe of.
No. This hasn’t been one of your throw-down-some-thoughts-and-post-it kind of blogs. It’s been more like, Does this blog post make me look fat? Does this blog post reveal the part of me that waits for the sun to go down so I can watch another episode of Scandal? Does this blog post pull the curtains back on the part of me that feels flat, dull and without inspiration? The part of me that wanders around my house doing laundry, washing dishes and surfing the internet because I’m not inspired to do anything else? The part of me that wants people to see my “good side” so they’ll want to work with me?
Because if it does, I’m in trouble.
That’s why I find this Agnes De Mille quote so beautiful and so troubling. I mean, it’s one thing to do this marvelous work of not knowing, of leaping into the dark on the page or when you’re making art. Don’t get me wrong – that’s not so easy either – but living this bravely, owning up to not knowing and to finding your way in the dark, being willing to make mistakes, is another thing entirely.
“I feel like a toddler,” I wrote my friend Andrea.
“A wobbly person learning how to toddle from one life to the next – from the life of busy wife and working mother who is doing a million things at once; making meals, shooting from the hip, driving carpools, engaging with lots of people and moving from one project to the next, to a much quieter life where it’s often, most always just me – oh – and sometimes Tony Goldwyn, from Scandal. It can get a little windy and cold around here. A little lonely + a little lost.”
The family was anchoring for me. As much as I bitched about the domestic business of shopping and cooking and cleaning, these people, this job anchored me, became my identity. Only now as it’s passing – husband gone – kids out the door and onto their big, bright lives – do I realize how wonderfully distracting that life was. Now I’m more face to face with things; the quiet, the moments of uncertainty, decisions on how to spend my time + what self care really looks like. I used to shake my head at women who wrote about the empty nest and woe is me, what will I do? Get a life, was my response. That their kids and family was so central to who they thought they were bothered me a lot – as though that’s all they had to live for. I was, of course, zooming around the planet like a mad woman tossing boxes of instant macaroni to my brood – of course that’s not entirely true – but the point is, home life + mothering was so chaotic when they were small and work was a way for me to escape. And now there is nothing to escape from – and I am staring straight into the eyes of myself.
“Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.”
What a crazy, wonderful take on life.
I am grateful that I have begun, at least, to practice this work on the page and in the art studio, and that I have one place in my life where I know how to get messy and not know what comes next. I want to pay attention to what that same leaping and not knowing looks like on the page of my life. And I wonder, yes I do, where I will find the new anchors that keep me tethered to something as I toddle along.
Even Philippe Petit held a stick as he crossed the tight rope between the twin towers. What will I carry?
*Want to get a little creatively loose and naked with me and Andrea Scher? Want to write something true, paint with colors you’ve never chosen, dance a dance you’ve never danced? We have a couple of spots in our awesome Opening the Creative Channel workshop in Calistoga June 8-12.
*And if you want to Wild Write over the summer, join me for my virtual Wild Summer. 6 people on a video platform, live and in person, writing our little hearts out for five weeks. I’ve got a couple of spots left.