Every morning last week was the same madness.
I’d go into my son’s room at 7:00 am. With a flip of the light switch, I’d tell him good morning. He’d grumble from under the covers, his overgrown curly hair just poking out from the top of the comforter. If I didn’t know who was under there, I might have thought him a teenager and not my baby of six. I’d tell him his allotted ten minute “snooze” period had begun and leave him to his waking up. He wouldn’t. When I’d go back in his room, he’d refuse to get up.
I’m too tired. I can’t. I don’t want to go to school.
So all that week, I physically removed him from the bed. I put his school shirt over his body. I placed socks on his feet. I had flashbacks to what it was like to have a toddler.
I know him. I know if he’d just push through the initial resistance, he’d become my well-rested, hyper, and chatty boy who has so much to say on the way to the bathroom to brush his teeth that he often forgets to brush at all. But coming off a full week of spring break paired with a bonus day of school closing due to bad weather, he just couldn’t. The tired felt too big. His desire to not get up overwhelming.
Buddy, I’ve been there.
I’ve been there when the easel stares at me, and I look back at it not with excitement but with agony. Leave me alone, I tell it with my eyes. The thought of engaging with you is too much. I just don’t wanna.
Sometimes that resistance wins because I’m a grown woman in an empty studio– no one to take my hand and gingerly place it around the palette knife. No one to give me those hard truths (You have to. I don’t care if you’re tired) because while my son simply cannot stay in bed all day, I can avoid my easel. I can say no, not today.
What I realized today is this: painting, and any creative enterprise for that matter, is not a singular, contained act unrelated to what came before or will come after it. Painting is the incarnation of ideas that have interacted and developed over time
Today’s work is about more than just today. Opting out doesn’t just affect what I might produce today, but what I might produce in the weeks and years to come. I’m building something intricate here. Something with branches that shoot off from one another, intermingle, and grow.
I believe in rest. Recharging. Like my body after a good run, my creative mind needs recovery. But that’s different than opting out. Giving up. Staying in bed when a bright day will greet you two minutes after you shake the sleep from your eyes.
If only my son knew what I know– that the heavy weight of resistance he feels so intensely will vanish entirely the moment he compels his little body from the comfort of his bed and into the world. If only I always practiced what I know– that my easel doesn’t antagonize me as much as it invites me to create today what may or not be good in and of itself but what will be part of a broader, more intricate conversation, one that needs today’s little effort as it marches towards something bigger.