The Artist's Challenge
Perhaps you have noticed the "Artist's Challenge" going around. It's as contagious as the flu. As an artist who met a challenge that was too great to overcome, the whole thing has pretty much made me feel like I have the flu. The symptoms of artistic nostalgia, intense fits of longing, and a heart full of stifled movement cannot be managed by medication. However, gratefulness is an antidote to the bitterness that threatens to develop. I wouldn't have posted this except that I was actually nominated, and I'm grateful. I wish that I had piles of beautiful ballet photos to share, but I don't. I do have a few from my student days, and I'm so happy that I was allowed a taste of living that dream. My dancing days are going on being half my lifetime away from me. It's a weird sensation because I still identify as a dancer on the inside (and still use ballet as my excuse for my ugly feet when the pedicurist rolls her eyes!). My own little "artist's challenge" for years now has been figuring out how to live artistically and express myself without access to the medium In which I was trained.
I have managed to find some ways to do this- mostly through dance partying with my children. But, I also like to cook, garden, work as a doula, write, make jewelry, create terrariums, and (lately) felt. Here's the thing, though: I'm pretty consumed these days with my main job, being a mother. All those other things fill in the gaps, the very few and narrow gaps. I think that what is important is to apply the love and skill I had for dancing to all the other areas of my life. Training to be a professional ballet dancer requires great commitment, sacrifice, risk, and LOVE. You have to love it so much that you are willing to keep going. You have to believe that it is worth pursuing- not just for you, but for the world. So, I try to believe that creative pursuits are worth the trouble. It is easier to live mundanely- MUCH easier. It's less messy, less risky, but less fun. Choosing to do crazy things like covering my kitchen counter in dirt, plants, rocks, and moss for an afternoon of putting terrariums together even though I KNOW my kids are going to get dirt all over my house is my way of being an artist now. Are the results always terrific? No. Does my world feel richer? Yes.
My willingness to live in this manner has been challenged by the development of chronic illness in my body. So far, my life displays a pattern: fall in love with something; become damaged in some new way; try to move on without bitterness. My life is not uniques in this. I think that's just being here and growing up, and we all have to do that. I think the real nugget of goodness in this whole "artist's challenge" business is that it reveals what artsy people know already: it's ok to be proud of what you make. It will feel weird most of the time, and it comes with lots of insecurity. But, artists love what they do so much that they just can't help but do it anyway and hopefully share it with the rest of us. So, I'm writing a blog post that makes me feel insecure. But I love writing, so I'm doing it anyway. And I'm willing to believe that posting it will be worth the risk of exposing myself. And I bought the America's Test Kitchen
because even though I can buy pickles, I love them so much that I want to figure it out myself. The pursuit is worth the time to me. My kids will know where pickles come from! And I submitted a terrarium full of hand-felted plants to the school auction because even though it may actually be extremely dorky, I loved making it and want to share it.
I don't dance for very many people any more, but I certainly don't love dancing any less. For me, the risk of pursuing an artistic life did not pay off in the way that I hoped. At least, though, I learned that the pursuit itself is worth it to me. Enjoying creativity at the cost of practicality is a challenge I hope to meet everyday- even if I'm doing it from my bed. My children love to talk about and even re-enact (oh, the joy) my ballet accident because even though it makes them sad, they see that moment as the start to their own stories. "Mommy loved ballet so much, but then she got hurt and couldn't do it anymore. So, she had us and now she has a job she loves even better than ballet!" What a great story! The thought of my kids growing up to love something like ballet actually terrifies me because I know how painful it may be if it doesn't work out how they want. But, if I can communicate to them through pursuing my own interests over and over, engaging them in the messy, rewarding processes, that art is for knowing more love and beauty and sharing with others- and not necessarily about "success," then I know they will be blessed by it for a lifetime as I am.
I nominate anyone I know to accept the challenge of doing something you love even if it may be a bit inconvenient. I challenge you to share something with someone else.
Clearly, photography is not one of my gifts!