Until the last few years I’ve seen myself as a bohemian mother, artist, memory maker and caretaker/gatekeeper of developing minds. I’ve viewed my life’s work as the unrealized career of a woman who struggles with organization and focus…not anymore. Actually now that I even saw myself like that, it seems like total bullshit.
I thought as my children grew up that they might be disappointed in me that I didn’t have a traditional career. Talk of the other moms who were doctors, lawyers or therapists sometimes resulted in a sense of less than for me. I assumed my children would all want the total opposite of my life—high powered jobs with days spent kickin’ ass and taking names. Not days filled with kids, carpools, chores, errands, creative work (rarely sold), homemaking and hanging out with friends.
I know many families are unable to have a parent at home, a luxury indeed (especially regarding health insurance). However, increasingly folks find themselves in work/home situations that require a lot of strategy to keep things humming along. Commuting to other cities during the week, working remotely, running home businesses or freelancing are such common scenarios of modern life.
Now, five months into the identity shift of my empty nest, I thankfully see those family years so differently. Creating a home, trying to model a healthy marriage, nurturing my community, making art and being the historian-in-chief was an education deeply connected to my values and interests, there wasn’t a moment wasted (OK, maybe a few).
My years of unprofessional networking created my superpowers.
The world should watch out for parents who stayed home to raise their families. We maybe don’t have the references, titles or 401Ks that our peers have. However, we’re digitally savvy, well practiced in the art of endless diplomacy, good listeners and mighty grateful when our efforts are acknowledged. And now with the dailyness of busy family life behind us, we can do damn near anything.
At fifty-two, I feel betwixt and between, no longer young and not yet old. Looking back I can see my life as remarkably valuable training and experience. To hell with regrets. I can’t change a damn thing. I know myself much better in midlife and that’s truly a gift. I also know I still have a lot to learn.
Like my prairie ancestors, I have an inherent longing now to settle or “prove up” one hundred and sixty acres. A sort of cognitive Homestead Act of my midlife psyche. A bit of a gamble, rife with elements of uncertainty, the heady buzz of adventure and the resilience to know I can handle whatever comes my way.
Funny to think about cognitive growth using these terms. However, metaphorically, it works pretty well. Claim my section. Select the crop. Prep the land. Plant the seeds. Irrigate. Fertilize. Monitor growth. Harvest. Review.
These 3 simple questions help me often and perhaps might’ve helped my prairie ancestors as well. The trick is being able to actually answer them.
Homestead Act of 1982 “…and that such an application is made for his or her exclusive use and benefit, and that said entry is made for the purpose of actual settlement and cultivation, and not either directly or indirectly for the use of any other person or persons whomsoever…he or she shall thereupon be permitted to enter the quantity of land specified.”
This gallery contains 8 photos.
I’m moving out of my studio and I want to honor the 15+ years I’ve worked there with an informal (and last minute) open house. Over the years my parties were known for two things, well, maybe three—art, noisy kids and peanut M & Ms.
There will be art, jewelry and some accessories for sale and a few items simply for viewing that I’m unable to part with right now. I can guarantee that this will be a very low key event. Please just stop by and say hello if you’re out and about on Saturday. I would love to see you even if just for a minute. Please share this or bring a friend.
You can do a quick run through of my space, say hello, grab some M & Ms and browse through Deep 6 Goods that is just below me. Joey’s shop has very cool stuff. Here’s the link: http://www.deep6goods.com/.
180 Flynn Ave • Burlington • Vermont• Saturday • 2-5pm
(back right corner toward the tall smokestack and up the green fire escape)
Half of all sales will be donated to the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf in Burlington, Vermont.
I was reminded today of something from my children’s early education days.
That was fine when my kids were developing a sense of how to behave around other kids and caring teachers were asking them to give language to their feelings. However, as adults that’s not nearly enough of a “gut check” on the huge amount of messages coming our way all day, every day. Our bodies give us so much information…heart rate, muscle pain, hunger, thirst, fatigue, shaking hands, sweating and so much more. I know at least for me, the more I notice, well, the more I notice.
And once you notice, you can’t NOT NOTICE.
Terribly well written, I know. If we were talking in person that might make way more sense to you. OK, I’ll try a little harder…
On one hand it’s a good quick question to keep in mind? Does this feel “yucky” to me? However, yucky alone requires deeper exploration as grown-ups. Is my body trying to tell me something my mind wants to override or disregard?
My mind wants to override messages the rest of my system is sending constantly.
Sometimes I have to tell my brain to step out of the room. Because it says some utterly crazy bullshit sometimes. I’ve had a quickening heart rate in a situation recently and I took notice. When I listened, I realized that what was required of me was courage, not medical attention. I know I’ll tell my body to leave me the hell alone and let my brain take the wheel again, but now that I’ve noticed…well, you know, I can’t NOT NOTICE.
Positive Psychology teacher/author, Tal Ben-Shahar teaches that sometimes we’re having a “bad brain” day. It’s simply offline. Makes sense, right? Just like having a bad: hair, back, skin, belly, knee, wrist, neck etc. day—we should gives ourselves permission to recognize that we can indeed have a bad brain day. It’s just sending some false data today and if that’s the case, listening to our bodies instead can be the balance our system requires.
If I want to improve my listening skills with other people, I have to at least try to give myself the same courtesy every once in a while. That means I have to listen more. Talk less. It’s 1:24 am and my body is telling me it’s time for bed. Goodnight folks.
Why we need to question everything
This form of psychological abuse typically plays out like so: The gaslighter states something false with such intensity and conviction that whoever is on the receiving end is confused and begins to doubt their own perspective.
The term comes from a 1938 play called Gaslight, in which a husband drives his wife crazy by secretly altering things in her house and making her question her grip on reality.
Somehow folks, photographs of Herrick, South Dakota struck at the heart of many people…actually WAY more people than had ever read my blog before. So, at first it fed my ego. I was obsessively checking the number of viewers I had for those Herrick photographs. (Obsessively is almost too small of a word for my behavior.) I kept thinking about the comments of people who grew up in Herrick and moved away. A former babysitter of mine wrote and people were connecting about their love of Herrick and rural South Dakota. That was a blast for me. Thank you.
This morning in my NIA dance class we did a move that protected our hearts and then we gave them out to the world. Arms closed and wrapped in protection across our hearts then opened wide. It made me think about EGO vs. HEART—protecting the way the world sees me vs. vulnerability & social risk. I was thinking about the volume of traffic I had to my site and then it all went straight to my heart. Arms wide and then crossed. Try it, it’s kind of a cool way to get a sense of vulnerability and protection in your body. I’m not surprised that my pictures of Herrick, South Dakota sparked so much interest and dialogue.
I think the geography of our upbringing is in our bones.
“…voluntary settlement to a frontier area tends to produce individualism.” Geographical Psychology; Exploring the Interaction of Environment and Behavior edited by Peter J. Renfrow. Cool, huh? I often think about the freedom and spaciousness I was allowed growing up on the prairie. It was awesome AND I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Burke. To quote Joni Mitchell, “I got the urge for going”.
My settlement in Burke was involuntary at my birth, however, it did produce a sense of individualism in me. I suspect in many others too (judging by your response to my photos, shut up ego, let the heart take over). In the book I referenced it suggests that people in frontier areas are naturally more suspicious of outsiders because of the potential to spread disease. Fascinating lizard brain stuff, huh?
For many reasons “pioneer & frontier thinking” has been bouncing around in my head a lot lately. Last week a relative sent me this article about my Great Grandfather, Lowell Stanton Lillibridge, pioneer banker. These few paragraphs tell a great story about pioneer life in South Dakota at the turn of the century.
I’m grateful I have a different lens to view the landscape that informed who I am. I’m not wild about some other middle aged issues, but I do appreciate the wisdom.
I haven’t lived in South Dakota since 1989. I moved to Vermont on New Year’s Day 1990, and yet an image of a South Dakota two-lane highway is my constant muse. Funny how different things look with a quite few more years in the rear view mirror.
I encourage you to think about what specifically speaks to you about the geography you experienced growing up. What’s your “South Dakota two-lane”? That image got me through some rough dental work last week. You might want to consider a landscape as a sort of meditation…a “go to” place when you need to settle your brain down.
Thank you for reading. I’m truly grateful for your time.
Over the weekend, my husband and I dressed up as Mexican artists, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera for a Halloween party. We weren’t necessarily in the mood and it would’ve been easy to stay home. A few hours before the party I thought about the opportunity to walk three houses down, see costumes, have a few beers, eat some chocolate and talk to a bunch of interesting people. When I thought about it, well, it would’ve been really stupid to stay home. Culturally, I think we sometimes consider PLAY as frivolous or unnecessary. NOPE. It’s really necessary. I know that play makes me feel more creative, relaxed and better able to handle setbacks.
I’m pretty sure I’ll remember dressing up like Frida & Diego for a Halloween party more than another night on the couch watching a movie. GO FORTH & PLAY, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Frida Kahlo’s home in Coyoacán, Mexico, but I can pretend I have with Photoshop. Don’t you love my cigarette spoke. I think Frida probably could do things like that with smoke.Frida is worth knowing more about. She had a remarkably interesting life. Her paintings, clothes and attitude really speak to me and provide inspiration. http://www.biography.com/people/frida-kahlo-9359496