Dispensing raisins with one hand and scribbling with the other is probably not what Julia Cameron intended when she advised writing ‘Morning Pages’: three longhand pages first thing in the morning to help artists recover their connection to their gifts.
The idea is to become familiar with your ‘first thoughts’, before the world intrudes, and thereby get in touch with what you really desire in life – clearing the pathway to right creative action. You’re supposed to get up before the others in your household and set aside at least half an hour to allow for these important musings.
Well, the world intrudes on me at approximately 6 am these days – since the recent end of our breastfeeding relationship and the sad loss of the ‘feeding back to sleep so you can get some more shut eye’ manoeuvre. And it’s usually with a bit of a thump: a two and three-quarter-year-old thump with an emphatic “Woke up Mummy! Woke up!”
Prompted by the block I’ve been experiencing with my novel, (which I’ve been working on, on and off, for years), I turned to the ever inspiring Julia Cameron, author of the acclaimed “The Artist’s Way” which helped me recover from writer’s block – and general creative blocks – several years ago.
But a couple of nights ago I felt more than a little annoyed with Julia. Reading her ‘Walking in this World’ with Jude tucked up asleep beside me, everything she suggested struck me as impossible for me, a single mother juggling study and part time work, to actually implement.
Having time to go on an artist’s date? Sure, no problem when I was 24 and running on my own schedule, and I did find them very beneficial back then. But now…? The gap between where I was at, and where I wanted to be in order to nurture my creativity, seemed to loom very large indeed.
Just as I was about to toss the book aside in despair, she said something that turned it all around: she related the story of how, as a single mother, she had started to lose joy in her very joyful, lovely daughter. Serving her daughter’s needs and not serving her own creative needs was taking all the sap out of her. She was irritable, resentful, and snapping at her child.
I could hear a mirror of myself here. I go through regular periods where the enjoyment of motherhood sounds like a far away ideal rather than a lived reality. My life feels hectic, overwhelming, and a struggle to meet everyone’s basic needs, let alone my creative ones – hardly a tranquil pool of bliss.
Of course, as a yoga teacher and long-time yoga practitioner, none of this should be a problem for me, right? I should be able to meditate and asana myself into a state of imperturbability, just with my regular practice. Well, I’m afraid it’s not that simple. I practice yoga most days (usually with my son playing nearby, regularly talking to me and clambering over me – so not exactly relaxing). I meditate most days, though not nearly as long as I would like to.
And still, although things are much worse if I don’t practice, it’s challenging to keep my perspective, to not succumb to stress, to not… you get the picture. But Julia Cameron’s words made me stop and think.
She said that she had been told by a mentor that instead of listening to the prevailing ‘cultural wisdom’, which says ‘your child must come first’, she needed to listen to her innate wisdom, which was saying: your connection to yourself and your creativity comes first, and then your mothering will flow out of that abundance.
It was such a relief to read that. I have long compared myself to what my friend and I call ‘Uber Mothers’ who just live, breathe and sleep mothering, who just seem to love being with their children more than any other activity. Well, I love my child, but I also love reading, writing, being in nature alone, meditating and experiencing my soul. I would love to be one of those mothers – if in fact, they really do exist – but I can only be what I am.
So. I have had a look at what I can prune from my over-committed schedule, and what help I can marshal to create a bit more space and time. I have newly committed myself to morning pages, and to waking up even just 15 minutes before Jude – early as it is – to do those in peace, without having to answer questions about helicopters at the same time. I’m also going to somehow fit in an artist’s date – taking myself off to do something or be somewhere just for me, just to feed my inner artist – once a week.
Even if you are not a parent, I think we all probably have areas where we need to let go of over responsibility in order to give ourselves the space we need to grow and flourish.
I’ve realised that it’s not enough to try and get an early night and recover from my 13-14 hour days looking after Jude. I need to drink from the pool of my own creativity, and this replenishes me in a way that no amount of sleep can. I’m also reading novels that directly relate to my own novel, speaking in the language of magic and mystery and forests in which my own work is steeped, and giving space for that to breathe. Hopefully, out of that will come a more energised, happier mother.
And I notice my creativity flowing into my motherhood more: making up stories which Jude loves listening to; turning the bathsponge into a friendly monster-creature; just grabbing those moments with him and making the most out of it instead of just living through them in the hope that I’ll come out the other end intact.
I’d like to share some lovely quotes that have recently inspired me in this area: “A wise parent does little, yet so much gets done! After all, the Eternal does nothing, yet the entire universe goes on. When you get too busy, stop and return to centre. When you are centred, you easily keep things in order. When things are in order, there is not much to do”; “To allow the Mother principle to work to centre your family, take time for yourself. Otherwise, the self will be constantly grasping for its share. This grasping obscures the Mother principle from within you and from your family, and leaves everyone alone and lost.” – Vimala McClure, ‘The Tao of Motherhood’ (I highly recommend it as a ‘daily reader’ for mothers).
And finally: “In the quietness of a woman’s life she is at peace. Seeking nothing more than to be still and listen with the source of all life moving through her. Showing her the one consciousness of love” – Casey Leasure, ‘The Color of a Woman’s Heart’ page, Facebook.