Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A New Earth - Chapter 4 - Roleplaying

Roleplaying. I don't know of anyone that doesn't do this. I see it in myself. I see it in others. It seems like such a natural thing to do that I never really pondered how damaging this can be until my oldest child moved out of my house.

Long before I read this book, I became painfully aware of my identity as a mother. I wasn't just a mom, the label. I was a MOM, the MOM. I mothered everyone. I mothered my own six kids, my husband, the dogs, my cousin and anyone else willing to listen to the lectures and let me feed them. Without motherhood, I was a wash-up as a human being. This mothering was the one thing about myself that I liked. It wore me out and quite honestly, dried me up at times, but I did not know how very dependent my self identity was to mothering until my oldest daughter packed her things happily and moved out of my house.

She had no idea she was taking away an enormous piece of my identity. I had no idea that this was probably good for me. I tried very hard to be brave, but I cried like a baby every time I passed her room and saw her sisters things taking over her space. At the time, I thought I was just missing her, but in retrospect, I was mourning the death of the "Mom" in me. I did much the same when my son left two years later.

Playing "Mom" was an interesting game within my head. On the outside, I was very good at letting go and letting the kids make little mistakes and calling myself wonderful for being so understanding. On the inside every time they crawled back to me to ask for my help, my ego soared to great heights. On the inside, I got depressed every time they figured out a problem for themselves. Secretly, I hoped their solutions wouldn't work so I could be a hero in their lives again. I felt horrible for wanting that, but now that I have read this book, I realize I was not a horrible person. I was a person who's ego needed to be fed.

An A-Ha! moment for me was when Jenny McCarthy asked how to manage the guilt that comes with motherhood. It did not occur to me that guilt is an ego made structure. I did not think about the ego needing to blame someone. For me, guilt is not just a mom thing, guilt is a life thing. I feel guilty about anything I can. Give me a subject, any subject.. I bet I can find a way to feel guilty about it.

The store clerk seems to be having a bad day. Maybe I should have chosen another time to go shopping.

Yeah, I am that bad. Actually I am worse, but my role as a blogger won't allow me to prove what an idiot I am. I must remain in some sort of authority place so that I am worthy of passing on vital information.

What I figured out from this was that my roles as a mother, a wife and a nice public person were simply spin-offs of my guilt. This ego thing is pretty complicated. If I knowingly had to put together the structure on which it is built, I would tear my hair out.

Moving on to the other side of role playing is my role as an artist.

Honestly, I barely know what I am doing. I know that my insides crave putting something in my hand and creating some sort of optical illusion of depth and space on paper, canvas or wooden panel. I am rarely satisfied and quite often as I put down a mark, I regret putting down the mark. More often than not, I spend more time trying to fix the mark I put down initially than moving on to making the next mark. This too, is ego.

Eckhart told a story about an expert archer that was very determined to win an archery contest. Each time he drew his bow, he was so set on winning that he would miss his mark. When someone asked the monk why this was happening, the monk replied "His need to win is draining his power."

This got me really thinking about how I approach my work as an artist. I have been doing a lot of small studies to learn this and that. Am I really learning from this experience? At times, I can honestly say yes, I have learned some valuable information. There are other times when I am so determined to win approval that I lose all sight of the original goal. How many times have I chosen a subject, a color or a style that I hoped someone "out there" would like?

My identity as an artist is very wrapped around progress. Rather than just enjoy the process, I am attempting to enjoy the progress. Most seasoned artists will tell you that the progress comes when you focus on process. As I look through some of the work I have produced, I can honestly see where I was focused on process and where I was much more concerned about progress.

I am not sure how this is going to change my art. I feel as though a huge spotlight is shining on my "role" as an artist. I am hearing my ego tell me all kinds of unhelpful garbage about my future. I hear my ego starting a lot of sentences with "If you want to make it as an artist you better.. " My ego reminds me that the middle of a recession is not a good time to be an artist. This usually happens at the grocery store checkout where I am buying less groceries than before, but paying more. The important thing, Eckhart writes, is that I am hearing my ego telling me this. There is a space now between the thought and me.

As I gather my subjects and begin to set up my space to paint, there is so much freedom in my soul. My ego is ranting, but it doesn't matter because good or bad, I am going to honor this time and place I have before me to create. In the words of the great Scarlett Ohara "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

Eckhart Tolle says "Passion is greater when you focus on now."

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1 comment:

theresa said...

ha ha! I often quote Scarlett myself many times. She is one of my all time heroes--even though she missed the mark many times--she is after all, only human.
Yes, the Role Playing! I didn't even know that was a "bad thing" to be. Suddenly--AHA! That explains a hell of a lot.