The last time I posted on my social media accounts was several months ago when I was getting ready to list some paintings for sale. At that point in time, my husband had started a new job and we were getting ready to list our house for sale and move 1,000 miles away. Needless to say, a messy studio with wet canvases is not conducive to having a house on the market so I packed up my materials, staged that room and put my painting on hold for a while. I intended to take a week off from posting on my Instagram account to clear my mind and focus on getting my three kids finished with school and preparing for our move. Six months later, the plans we had in mind have changed drastically, we are still in Georgia, our house is no longer for sale and I have just sent my kids off to start a new school year. The last several months have held many important lessons for me and it has been a season of growth that I am so thankful for.
I have been a mother for almost ten years and having my own family has been the greatest blessing of my life and my most important calling. It has held a mirror up to me and shown me my flaws and has pushed me and helped me grow into a stronger, more patient, more selfless person than I was before. Being a mother has been my dream since I was a small child myself. I also dreamed of being many other things – an artist, a ballerina, an interior designer, an actress…the list goes on and on but the number one thing was always a mother.
Last year, as my youngest started her first year of preschool, I was thrilled to have – for the first time in nearly a decade - a few hours a week to myself. I had reached a point where, as much as I loved being a mother, I felt this drive to use my creative brain in a way other than planning birthday parties and kids’ craft projects. I wanted to put my years of art training to use and create art as a business. I followed a bunch of artists I admired, I signed up for webinars, listened to podcasts and read books on running a small business. I attended creative retreats and networked at gallery openings. All of this was so beneficial to me. I learned a lot about what other people were doing to grow their business and I tried to apply these strategies to my own. I sold over 25 paintings my first year and made back all the money I spent on supplies. Although I felt like I was off to a good start, over time, these techniques started to feel out of alignment with the life I was meant to be living. I realized that posting 3-4 times a day, strategizing and preplanning a cohesive Instagram grid, liking and commenting on others’ posts, forming an email list and trying to psych myself up to talk to you all in my stories (still haven’t done that…) all seemed inauthentic to who I am at this time in my life. It seems to all work great for everyone else but was taking me to a level of anxiety and stress that wasn’t working for me. There was a constant small voice in my head telling me that it was not the time for all of this… that my job right now is to be my kids’ mother as fully as possible. All of the working mom books and feminist books I had been reading had all kinds of arguments to refute this voice but I know that that little voice was the one I needed to listen to.
Taking the last several months off from social media has allowed me to be able to define for myself what kind of art I want to make. I realized that I was inadvertently being influenced by the artwork of others and I was allowing the methods of those I admired to dictate how I ran my own business. Taking a break from that influence has helped me to create a clear vision for how I would like to do things from this point forward. For me and for my kids, my role as their mother has to take priority right now. They will only be this little and needy for a short time and I don’t want to look back on this time and feel that my focus was in the wrong place. I still believe that as a mother I need to be whole and complete and that I need to make time for my own interests but I also know that my job as a mother is a sacred one that needs to be at the top of my list in a way that works for me. I’m still going to paint and sell my work but I am not going to focus on my social media presence as much and I’m going to make my own rules that feel more in line with this stage of my life.
Back in June, while visiting Serenbe with my husband, I started to read a book called Wabi Sabi: Japanese Wisdom for a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Beth Kempton. I realized within a few minutes of starting it that it was a book I needed to own. I quickly bought a copy and proceeded to dog-ear it and underline it and star it all the way through from beginning to end. Here is a quote that had particular significance:
"But when we measure ourselves with other peoples’ yardsticks, opening ourselves up to the tyranny of “should,” we put ourselves under immense pressure to achieve, to do and own stuff we don’t really care about. This desire for more affects our behavior, our decision making, and the way we feel about ourselves…And here’s the real irony. What we outwardly push for is often very different to what we inwardly long for. We have come to a point where we need to pause, take a look around, and decide for ourselves what really matters."
So thanks to those of you who have taken the time to read this, who have checked in to see where I’ve been over the last few months and who have supported my art over the last couple of years. Thanks to those of you who have been real and honest about balancing motherhood with your other goals. I think it’s wonderful to see authenticity and honesty on a platform that is designed for “pretty.” I’m excited to continue on my path in my own way and I’m grateful to those of you who choose to be a part of it.