Your Artistic Mother

What is your first memory of your Art?
How old were you when you first found your medium?

Was it,
starting music lessons
dance class
playing with crayons
the school play
playdoh or paint by numbers?

What did your small hands do?

Do they still do this now?
If not, what stopped you?

What messages did you get early on about your Art?

 

I remember being six years old, and my mother stating I would take an instrument.  I could choose which one, but I would learn an instrument.  I chose violin, and also played in my mother’s handbell choirs.

Our home was filled with music, whether it was classical records playing during dinner, or my brother and I practicing early in the morning.

My mother was a musician. Her love for music was passed down to my brother and I. She instilled not only an education, but a respect for learning the craft, every key signature, theory, and incidental.

But music was not the only piece.  My real passion?  Story.  It came out in my dance, and then I I picked up a pencil.

Third grade Creative Writing was my happy place. In leaded cursive flow, I would pour my imagination into stories, relishing the scratch of my pencil onto the lined paper.

I remember writing one story about a teddy bear that came back to me with a huge “A++”.  I didn’t think it was possible to get a grade this high!  My teacher was elated and really encouraged me to keep writing.

I brought the story home to my mother and her tears welled, and then fell.  She said it was the best thing I had ever written…..

And she said to me,
Keep writing.

As I got older, I started getting more serious with singing, dancing and acting, and was really finding my voice and success there.  As a teen, I stopped taking violin, and started honing in that I wanted to have a career as a musical theater performer.

The writer?

She was fed by my high school English teacher who taught me how to write poetry.  A basketball coach, and well over 6’5″, he stood tall in the class room one day, with a white piece of chalk in his hand, drew a circle on the floor and proclaimed,
This is the Poet’s Circle!  Are you IN or OUT?

I remember exclaiming out loud,
I’m IN! I’m IN!

Yet, even in this proclamation, my energy was really going towards my performance, not my writing.  I got an A in English, and did every assignment, but my belief was built around a performance career.

Why?

I believed my father when he told me,
You can’t make a living with your writing.

So, my creativity was channeled into my performance, and my choreography.  My love of story was expressed in my dance, and the writing turned into yearly Christmas poems for my family, and poems as presents for close friends.

And as I grew in my performance, I heard my mother say,
You should write a book.

I was having success in my performance, why was she saying this to me?
Didn’t she see I wasn’t doing that?

So, my writing became less and less……
My journals had months between entries…and then years.

Has this every happened to you? Your Creative outlet starts to run dry because you don’t think it matters or has value?

How have you felt when you stopped giving time to this piece of you that thrived naturally as a child?

 

In 2013, my whole life burned to the ground.  In one year’s time I went through a devastating divorce, lost my home, was in two car accidents, robbed twice, and lost a dear friend to a heart attack.

I questioned who I was at the identity level. And I questioned if I was still an Artist.

But in this time of deep grief, I picked up a pen and began to write daily.  At first it was writing down daily victories.  Then it was starting a gratitude journal, then keeping a dream journal….poetry started to flow out in a way it hadn’t in years.

At a very healing and cathartic yoga retreat where I had a transformative experience with a Mayan Shaman, he looked me straight in the eye and said to me,
You will write a book on healing.

And in that moment, I knew he was right.
And I knew the title.

My mother’s words ringing in my ears, after all those years.
Perhaps she had seen something I wasn’t ready to own.

Not until now.

 

At the beginning of 2014, I began to work with a life coach, and one of the first things she had me do?
Launch a blog.

And that blog was called,
ZenRedNYC.

And this blog, my writing birthed into a business.
It birthed into a platform where I felt fulfilled as an artist, and doing work I love.
It birthed a relationship with you.

And when I created my new business cards, I added something new to my personal description,
Writer.

She was in there all along…..

Still sitting at the desk in third grade English, with stories to share; waiting patiently for me to wake up.

In America this weekend, we are celebrating Mother’s Day, and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge my mother for always seeing this in me.  When I launched my blog, she couldn’t stop smiling.  Her encouragement that confused me as in my 20’s and 30’s was suddenly clear.

And today, I want to thank you mom.
You saw it, always.

And I also want to acknowledge that I got very conflicting messages as a child around the value of writing.  And I imagine we can all relate to this!  Whether it’s been a parent, friend, or teacher in our younger years, it’s so common to hear them recommending we put our intelligence to other “stable” pursuits. This can be super confusing to navigate, especially if we just want to please and be loved by these caregivers.

So, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, who encouraged you in the early days?
Who saw your raw talent, your authentic expression?

Who was your Artistic Mother?
Reach out to her or him today and thank them.  Acknowledge them for seeing you fully and encouraging you to develop and take the scary leap to be an Artist.

Many times we have to be told a million times our strengths, before we wake up to our own power.  It took me decades!

Now, ask yourself,
What came SO easily as a child?

And is this still alive today?
How can this be revived and integrated?

 

Come back to the third grade table.
Pick up your pencil.
Let that early Artist thrive again, and LISTEN to those early encouragements.

You were being seen and nourished.
You were being mothered and loved.

Now, let that child play again.

The Heat Is On

I think I’m going to pass out.

The sun is beating down on me, sweat is pouring down my face. The heat index is in the 100s, it’s midday, and I’m on the open water.

Did I mention there are alligators in the water??

My little baseball cap seems like a small joke on my head, and even though I slathered 45 SPF all over my arms, they feel like they are literally burning up,

This isn’t what I wanted.
I want to enjoy kayaking with my family.
I don’t want to have this reaction.
I don’t want to be so sensitive to the heat.

My aunt, behind me in the tandem kayak, starts to speak to me, saying we can turn around, and go back to the dock.

I see my parents, and the tears start to fall, as I choke out,
I’m not doing so well.

Have you ever felt like this?
Had a reaction and strong emotion you don’t want to have?
Have you ever felt like you were stuck, struggling in the open water of strong emotions in your Art?

And there can be so many….emotions around rejection, comparison, competition, frustration that you are simply NOT where you want to be.  At the end of the day, you just DON’T want to feel it!

I mean, how can that possibly help, right?
So, what do you do?

 

I haven’t been kayaking in five years. 

It’s been a really fun activity to do with my parents, who love to be on the water.  I’ve never been especially skilled with an oar, but the views from the water are breathtaking. I was really looking forward to sharing this experience with them again.

We were all down in Santee, South Carolina, for the eclipse weekend, and I had been watching the weather forecast carefully, deeply concerned about the heat index.

High heat and high humidity is pretty much my kryptonite.

I’ve had sun stroke and heat exhaustion as an adult, vomiting and being sick in bed for days, plus many crazy rashes that stay on my skin for weeks.

Like I said, kryptonite.

We planned the kayaking last Sunday for 9 am, the earliest the company had available, and planned to be out for just a few hours.

This was MY plan, not what actually occurred.

When we arrived, we encountered the brother of the actual owner of the rental company.  He had come to just help out for the weekend, and was missing one crucial item,

The keys to the office.

In the office were the life jackets and the oars.  And his brother who had the keys?  He was out on the water giving a kayaking lesson with no cell service.

We were stuck.
I was stuck.

And I could feel the frustration and fear rising.  The day was only getting hotter, and the sun higher.

But most of all was the simple realization,
I have NO control over this situation right now.

So, the only question was,
HOW am I going to meet it?

How do you meet that moment when you have no control over what is happening?

How do you deal with the frustration and fear when it’s arising, especially when it’s something so important to YOU?

 

We didn’t get into the water until 10:30, and hour and a half later than planned.

As I watched the brother doing his best to problem solve, and dealing with all the crowds of people waiting to get their oars and life jackets, I sat in the shade and said over and over,

Even though I feel anxious, I deeply love and accept myself.
Even though I feel scared, I deeply love and accept myself.

When we pushed into the water, I desperately wanted to experience a cool breeze, and a relief.  I wanted to feel safe and ok to be on the water for the next 2-3 hours.

And I felt NONE of that.

Instead, everything intensified. My aunt and I were paddling as quickly as we could to get to the bend, and come into the inlet where there were supposed to be trees and shade along the water.

When we finally got to the shade, about 15-20 minutes later, I was a mess, overheated, and crying.

And then my family mirrored back to me the biggest lesson.

They met my pain with acceptance.
They met my pain with care.

They met my pain with unconditional love.

They didn’t make me wrong.
They didn’t diminish my experience.

My mother came alongside the kayak, and gave me her wide brimmed hat, and had me take my cloth and start to dunk the lake water over the head.

As I squeezed the water onto my scalp, the heat began to dissipate, and I exhaled through tears,

I feel self conscious.
I feel embarrassed.

And the intensity lowered, my breathing came back, and a breeze started to travel across my wet scalp and neck.

I knew I wasn’t going to pass out.  I felt so much better, and I knew I was safe.

 

Imagine meeting your strong emotions like this.

Imagine what it would be like if you didn’t make yourself wrong.
Imagine if you didn’t diminish your own experience.

Imagine if you met these moments with unconditional love.

We can so easily be shocked at watching someone throw anger and yell at another person.

But, how are you speaking to yourself?

What do you say to yourself when you are dealing with these challenging moments?

We can easily throw blame in a situation we are not happy with in our Art.  Especially because our work means SO much.

But, if you just blame someone else, or sweep your strong emotions under the rug, they will only appear again and again.

Why?

Because they are the child waiting to be loved.

Really, at our core, this is what we are seeking. And as Artists, this is paramount to not only our work, but our relationship with collaborators and our audience.

It all begins with you.

How you deal and speak to yourself in the most challenging moments, directly affects all other relationships in your Art.

If you are making yourself wrong all the time, what are you saying and doing to your audience, your customers, and your support system? Are they wrong too?

Judgement will only stop you in your tracks.  It will halt your productivity, stop your projects, and cut you off from growth and achieving the acclaim you desire.

So, the next time you feel like you are being baked alive in the heat of your emotions, take a breath, and connect in.  Meet your fears with LOVE.  Say what you are feeling, and ALLOW them to move through you.

Place the cooling water on your head, and RECEIVE your own unconditional love.  Challenges will always arise. We have no control over that.

But it you are able to meet them AS they arise, you will be able to keep paddling, and enjoy the true benefits of your passion. You will have the long and  abundant career you desire, making a living from your art, and creating an impact with your work.

I ended up being on the water for three hours, having quality time with my family, and experiencing the beauty of the cypress trees.  I was able to process the fear, and cool down the heat.

You can too.

The cool breeze on the water awaits.

Unconditionally.