Sound familiar? I know I'm not alone. Many talented women I know struggle to meet the demands of motherhood while also trying to fulfil their creative lives.
Something usually has to give: maybe the laundry won't be folded or dinner won't be cooked from scratch. I've never been great for keeping on top of housework, but this year I've opted to wash dishes rather than write. Somehow it seemed easier. I've actually appreciated having a clean house because it also helps to clear my head.
That said, I've become more and more irritable. I need to create. When I neglect this essential aspect of myself, I suffer.
Last spring a close friend of mine signed up for a women's writing workshop. Grainne tried to encourage me to go with her. I declined because I couldn't justify the expense. A few months later I changed my mind. By then the workshop had filled up. I was sorry I had missed my chance.
The week of my town's annual literary festival, I attended readings instead. I had the great pleasure of listening to many internationally acclaimed authors and even met a few of them. After one event, I bumped into a couple of poets I know. They invited me to an informal event the following afternoon at my local pub. I expected to just sit and listen, but everyone was supposed to read one of their own poems.
I was mortified. Writing poetry is a gift. One that I do not possess.
It was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. We sat outside in the beer garden and I slowly relaxed. (The cider helped). I started chatting with the lady next to me. She mentioned she was in town for the Wild Woman Writing Workshop. I perked up and told her about my friend Grainne. I explained how I had tried to get in, but the workshop had sold out. She recognized my friend's name and we exchanged a few more words before she got up to read her piece.
I was blown away by her poem. It was clever, humorous, and recited with so much sassiness! Only then did it dawn on me... She wasn't a participant in the women's workshop, she was the facilitator.
Suddenly I felt shy when she sat down beside me again. I felt smaller, and smaller, and smaller as the others stood up to read. Everyone, I realized, was a published poet. Somehow I had landed in an intimate gathering of professional writers. I loved every minute of listening to them, but I felt like an intruder despite having been invited.
Just before the group broke up Magi asked, "Would you like to join us tomorrow? There are 2 spaces free on Thursday and Friday." I paused momentarily. As much as I wanted to attend the workshop, I suddenly panicked. My inner critic tightened her grip until it was hard to catch my breath. A non-committal answer escaped my lips.
"I'll come if I can arrange child care... Thank you," I added, not wanting to seem ungrateful.
While eating breakfast the following morning, I still tried to find an excuse to stay home. I've attended many workshops over the years and couldn't understand my resistance. Somehow I forced myself to go.
I'd like to say I loved every minute, but that would be a lie. It was torturous on the first day. The purpose of the workshop was to free up creativity and overcome blocks. Magi guided us through several exercises. I felt pressured, like a child at school during test time; while all the other women filled their notebooks with ideas, my page remained blank.
I had nothing to say.
In my experience, facilitators usually wait for people to volunteer to read their work. Not this time! I wanted my chair to swallow me whole when Magi called my name. "I'm not ready to read my piece," I whispered. She was very kind and moved on. I was relieved, but also surprised by my unwillingness to contribute. I vowed to make more of an effort the next day.
I went home and finished the exercise in my own time. The next time Magi called on me I was prepared, though I pointed out that I'm quite literal. I explained that I'm not at all poetic, and that I found the exercise very difficult.
It may not seem like much of a risk to take, but for me it was huge. I read an imperfect poem (my first and only poem to date) to a room full of strangers. I found my voice, despite my inner critic's insults and its attempts to silence me. I will even take my process a step further and share my alchemical goddess with you. Judge my efforts whatever way you like. What's important to me is that I pushed my comfort zone. I showed up. I acknowledged that my creativity is worthy of time and attention.
My Goddess Poem:
adorned with sunbeams
my golden goddess glows.
she shimmers, incandescent
a fire illuminates her eyes.
I feel her heat
on a sultry summer night.
the scent of bare skin,
a mixture of sea salt and sweat.
she is the sound of waves
lapping the shore,
a rhythmic lullaby.
my goddess cannot be contained
she swells pregnant
with the full force of femininity.
my goddess dwells in between spaces
she is a shape shifter
savvy and swift.
she swims the deep recesses of memory
like a dolphin diving
on the surface
she reflects light.
a dazzling prism of rainbow hues,
a colour for every mood.
she holds a mirror of clarity
to guide those who wish to see.
in her other hand she carries
an elixir of dreams.
my alchemical goddess
offers these gifts:
This post is part of Reverb13. To learn more about this storytelling project click here.
Day 5: What was the greatest risk you took in 2013? What was the outcome?