Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My First Tattoo, Perhaps?

I learned something big recently. BIG big. Big like an a-ha moment, only all in caps and exclamation marks -- A-HA!!! -- with clouds parting and sunbeams piercing down like swords. Oh, and choirs singing, too. And pointing their fingers.

Wait a minute... At me?

But in hindsight I see now that I deserved it.

What happened was this. My friend Sue and I went to a theatre performance one evening together recently, and I stayed in her guest room afterwards and tagged along to work with her the next day where I stayed until James could fetch me. (Why I did this is because I'm currently without wheels, but that's beside the point.) Sue is a librarian. And we all know about me and books. Being 'forced' to spend an entire day in a quiet building surrounded by floor-to-ceiling shelves full of awesomey awesomeness is about as close to heaven as I can imagine....

During the course of the day, Sue walked some of her co-workers back to meet me. One was her best bud at the library, an artist named Maren who is married and raising a family. Since Maren seemed to have the time, I invited her to sit at my table, and the two of us talked about art. I learned that she attended art school and that her mother is an accomplished artist. And I learned that although Maren knew of her mother's talent, she hadn't seen much of her work until recent years. Impressed with what she saw, she asked her 80+-year-old mother (who apparently has never worked outside the home during her marriage) why she hadn't continued with her art after Maren and her siblings were all grown and gone. And her mom's response was, "But who would've cared for the house?"


This was choir-and-cloud-parting Moment #1.

Apparently I was a little shaken by her mom's statement and wasn't entirely focused when Maren continued talking, because I recall her asking me questions and me answering them apologetically. As in Maren asking, "So you do art full-time?" And me answering, "Haha, yeah! But I wouldn't recommend it unless you wanted to be really, really poor." Maren said, "When I get home from work at night, the last thing I want to do is try to get in the Creative Zone. You're so lucky to have your entire day for art."


You know that THX surround-sound bit at the movie theatre where a crazy loud musical chord narrows itself down to its essence and focuses like an ice-pick of tone right in your sternum? Only it's painful in a sweet and harmonic way, like you're not sure you can bear it but if it's gonna kill you then what a way to go?

Behold choir-and-cloud-parting Moment #2.

I don't even think I said anything more to Maren after that. If I did, I was just going through the verbal motions. Because it'd occurred to me moments earlier that Maren and others like her -- creative folks all wishing years of their lives away to that day in the future when they can do what they dream -- all trusted me to be using my time wisely. And in my head I'd already fast-forwarded to the end of my own personal movie to the scene where my daughters ask me why I didn't do much with my art after they both grew up and left home, and my old self answering with something totally banal like, "But who would've cared for the house?"

I was Maren once. I knew women who spent their days making art. I hated them and worshipped them and would've sold my soul to be them, and in my head I imagined them happily living my dream and reveling in it, wringing their hands in creative glee behind my back while I paid my workin' girl dues. Those chicks owed it to me to be making the most of their amazing good fortune! And if I'd even suspected that they were spending their days folding clothes or polishing silver, I'd have called the Time Police and had all those blessed creative hours revoked.

So, wow.

In the space of just a few weeks I've met two strangers who've both looked me square in the eye and challenged me to not disappoint them. I'm sure that wasn't really what they were doing, but that's definitely the message I got. And now I think of that message often.

"Disappoint none. For in great freedom lies great responsibility."

Yikes. And I'm serious when I say that those words are something I should write on my bathroom mirror in chapstick, or spend a year creating a needlepoint sampler out of, or tattoo backwards onto my forehead just so I have to read them every day, especially when a dust bunny taunts me and makes me go hunting for my broom.

Because it's not about the housework or the fill-in-the-blank. And it's not about how poor I am, but how LUCKY I am. And it's all about the art and about the complete freedom I have to pursue it. And it's about remembering my young self who spent countless hours wishing the years away until she could be where I am now.... So you might say there's a third person begging me not to disappoint her.

And she's the most important one.


  1. WOW WOW WOW!!! I am SOOOOO inspired! You always say what moswt needs to be said in my life as well as your own. You make me proud to call you my friend.

    Let's make a date to get together the first week of May so we can show off what we've accomplished. :) Love you!

  2. I posted a link to your blog from my blog. :>)

  3. A get-together would be awesome, Laurel! It'd be a treat. :)