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.

Reds, Oranges and Yellows

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The day before Thanksgiving.
The day before my whole life changed.

I’m pushing a full cart around Whole Foods in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I’ve just finished a full day of rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, and am ready to fill my fridge for the holiday. I want to have everything prepared, and special.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite days of the year! Hot chocolate, family, fun and laughter!

And this year needs to be the same.  How could it be any other?

My cart is full of pistachios, spaghetti squash, candles, doubles of everything, for me and my husband.  I load up the food and watch it go down the conveyor belt, seeing each item, grabbing a special card, some mints…..do I have everything?

The price arises on the screen at the cashier and my eyes widen.  I’ve never spent this much before, but it’s worth it.

After filling the cab’s trunk with my endless paper bags, I enter my room and lovingly place each item in the kitchen.

I take the bag of pistachios and empty them into a bowl, placing it next to the new autumnal candles.

All is set…….
Indeed it was, but not for the scene I thought would play out.

 

It felt strange to arise on Thanksgiving Day without my husband, but he was flying in, so I made the annual cinnamon rolls, and watched the parade with my fellow cast members.

We can’t wait to meet your husband!

And I waited in anticipation.

Upon his arrival, I was giddy like a puppy.  I showed him all the food I had bought, the candles, and placed the bowl of pistachios in front of him.

Something was off….

And while we were talking, he ate handfuls of pistachios…forming a giant pile of shells on the table, while his suitcase stood unpacked against the wall.

We had a quick turnaround before heading to the company Thanksgiving dinner my director was hosting at her home.  My husband secluded himself in the TV room, and watched football.  This was very odd behavior.  He was also an actor and usually so social.

After dinner, the group all decided to make gingerbread houses, and create teams, having a fun contest.  He declined, saying he wanted to watch football.

As I formed the house with each piece, spreading icing and creating the foundation, I saw his face in the opposite room, the lights of the TV bouncing off a distant expression.

Why was I forming a home without him?
It may have been made of gingerbread and gumdrops, but a tightness that had been building in me for months was rising.

And soon we were heading back to my apartment, leaving the gingerbread house to my director’s daughter who had such a fun time creating it with me.

And upon entering, I was invited to sit down to hear the words that would change my life, on Thanksgiving.

 

I don’t think I want to be married to you anymore
I don’t think I love you anymore

But the fridge is full.
But I bought special candles.
But I got you a bowl full of pistachios.
But….we’ve been married for 14 years.
But……..we’ve been trying to have a family………

And the ground opened up, and all I knew of my life began to burn.

In a fire so bright, flickering like the vibrant leaves falling outside in reds, oranges and yellows.

On Thanksgiving Day.

 

Two months later, I was sitting, weeping in a spacious apartment in New York.  The walls were so white, and the January wind blew outside the glass windows as I huddled in heartbreak.  A friend had introduced me to the apartment’s owner, a writer, who opened her home and invited me in for tea and support.

She listened with compassion to my story and shared her own journey from a deep depression to forming a new life and finding love again. There was so much to take in, I asked if she had any paper I could write down her wisdom on.

She handed me two bright yellow sheets.

I wrote furiously in between my tears all she shared, specifically a tool that had brought her out of her darkness.

Gratitude.

Every day, write down what you are grateful for. Write down your victories.  If your greatest accomplishment was folding laundry, then celebrate.

And so it began.

At first it was a memo in my phone.
Then a writing pad.
Then a journal, and another.

Every day, before closing my eyes, I would reflect on what I was grateful for and celebrate.

And then I started to begin my day with gratitude, turning off my alarm and sitting upright in the darkness, saying out loud, simply,

I am grateful for sleep
I am grateful for this bed
I am grateful for this apartment

And so it began.

The healing.
Building a new life.
Forgiving myself.
Asking for help.

And then Creation, pouring out of me in my performance, in my artistry.  The chakra system, that had been a distant understanding before my divorce, now glowed brightly as I held my belly.  And the color of Creativity?  Orange.

And finding my voice that had been locked for so long, now flowing so freely again in my written word.

Finding my Creative purpose, launching a global business and community to empower artists to success.

Finding and forming a life I never imagined, one so much richer than before.

Finding you.  All on this Thanksgiving Day.

 

I look outside the window of my bedroom at my parents’ house.  There is a giant tree in the front yard, and the sunlight is reflecting off the autumnal leaves, in vibrant colors like fire.

Reds, oranges, and yellows.

The red of that day four years ago, the burning of what used to be, the panic and fear of my former life.  The yellow of those sheets and the wisdom of the writer’s compassion in January of 2013.

The orange of my internal fire, my Creative center glowing in all it’s bright Chakra light.

And the tool that ties it all, and was there even before….when I used to arise with hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls.

The heart of why we gather on this day.

The heart of what I feel for this path.

Gratitude.

It saved my life.

 

Today, I celebrate you, and the path that has led me to you, in all it’s vibrant colors.

Today, I ask…what are you grateful for?