Creativity, Doubt, Survival

The nipping of CREATIVITY at her heels.
All she ever wanted was to turn and soothe the beast.
At times she did. Painting, writing, dancing in the dawn.
And other times, the bark grew fainter 
to a whimper,
waking her in the night. 
Was that a call?
A dream, a spiderweb filament, on her face in the morning?
Nothing more. She cupped her ear to hear the bark. 

DOUBT grew from a soft kitten to a lioness,
proud, loud, nippier than CREATIVITY.
DOUBT silenced the dog. 

Alas, SURVIVAL, a deluge of biblical proportions,
drove both cat and dog away. 
"I matter," said SURVIVAL, "for planet, people, places, politics.
Let CREATIVITY nip and DOUBT roar. I matter more."

to shelter, huddle, warm themselves, 
wait out the storm.
But the two embraced, allied, befriended, 
plotted to overtake, save SURVIVAL 
-- or at least pacify, soothe SURVIVAL's alarm --
to dance in the daybreak once more. 

My Life as Superwoman

My days have been chock full. In no particular order, over the last couple of weeks:

  • I discovered I have more basal cell carcinoma (this time, on my hairline). Surgery is tomorrow.
  • I have taught creative writing at a public middle school.
  • I bought a sectional couch and rearranged the family room. (I believe the Raymour & Flanigan salesman gave me a nice discount because he admired my tenacity and good spirits as I furniture shopped with boisterous preteens and a teen.)
  • I have been solo-parenting while my husband Chris is in Florida for a month, directing Picasso at Lapin Agile.
  • I have met a challenge with teen boys’ behavior. Say no more.
  • I have had sick daughters (one with strep throat, the other with swimmer’s ear).
  • I have started an interim job as a writer for another faith-based organization, a women’s group.
  • I have received an email, first contact in 20 years, from my ex.
  • I have been taking a sketch class at the Art Students League. I have been painting, drawing, and collaging a lot. And even sold some art.
  • I have been taking a photo every day.
  • I have been journaling every day.

the fog in Riverside Park on one of my lunchtime walks

I could elaborate on any one one of these bullet points. Suffice it to say, I have felt like Superwoman, empowered and challenged. Being Superwoman is tiring.

I have felt, just recently, the need to slow down. Perhaps February can be a month for that.

All of my work — my art, writing, and teaching fills my soul and I intend to keep on keeping on. My husband suggested that when he comes back, I should go to a spa for a few days. I like that. Until then, I might just curl up on the new sofa with a good book.

To My 16-Year-Old Self

Dear Mary Beth,

I wish I could tell you to hang in there. I see you throw your body on the bed and weep into your pillow. Your boyfriend’s kind of a jerk. I know. He won’t be the last.

Stella Adler Drama School, photo by Lou Stellato

Have faith. There are rescue boats on the way. Do not live in despair. Some life preservers will be — affection for children, intelligence, desire (and ability) to lead, wanderlust, art, honesty, a 12-step program, and education — These are not dilly dallies or detours.

You are not a dilettante. You are a lover of the arts and a lover of creativity! Now get up.

I know people say this ALL the time, my dear younger self, but the journey really is the destination. There are going to be some tough times ahead, with family members confused, hurt, struggling and ultimately there will be grace and recovery. There are also going to be very tough times in your 40s with your second husband’s Parkinson’s Disease. There will be boats to help you stay afloat just when you think you are sinking. So hang in there and do not give up.

You have to guard against your penchant for falling in love with unavailable guys. You probably should ditch B.S. You will fail in relationships (like your first marriage). Okay, so you are not too lucky in love. Though eventually you will discover the sexiness of nice guys. With the not-so-nice guys, you will need too much or your needs will be ignored and this will be repeated. Find strength from friends, family, especially your sister, 12-step meetings, and oddly enough, the whole movement that came out of a book, Women Who Love Too Much. Do not be ashamed that you love too much. It is a good thing. You have passion and enthusiasm. You work hard.

Among the things that will save you, one of them is New York City with all its vibrancy, beauty and diversity. You will feel at home on a bustling sidewalk. Enjoy those Oak and Elm suburban trees for now (although they are prompting many allergies), because you will never live in suburbia again.

You will travel the world — China, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Ireland. You will go many places and learn to smile in many languages. Your love of learning will be one of those boats that take you to a different shore. When you return home, you will ask big questions and find new ways.

You will do good work. And that will be a source of pride and income for you.

Sadly, you will not make it as an actress, but you will have medium-sized success in comedy, local television and writing. And you will enjoy it. Though you likely will never land a part in a major motion picture, you will have a joyful life in and around the theater.

You will teach drama and creative writing. When you teach, you will learn how much you know and know how much you still have to learn.

But best of all, there will be an amazing gift when you hit your mid-30s — I don’t want to give away the surprise. Okay, here it is. (As you know, I’ve never been good at surprises.)

You will have three children. Unbelievable, right? They will root you to life in a way that you never felt rooted to life before. They will make you pause and yell and hug and cry and laugh, almost every single day. So that will be good and meaningful, although not easy.

To my self, I want to write more, but two of those three children are needing attention right now. And because you become a really good parent, you are going to be there for them. So, get out of bed and be there for yourself. Learn to be a friend to yourself. Adventures await.

This post was inspired by the blog of Adam Bird. We are part of a Facebook community, Post A Day (Week) Challenge, an open group of people who encourage one another to post in their blogs  daily (or weekly).