That used to be the response from people when I told them what I did for a living. (And by living, I mean "living".) Whenever someone would ask what I did and I would say "I am an art dealer," they would always get a very particular look on their face- like they were satisfied with the answer. Like, "Okay, that is solid." It was my identity. (And to other people, it seemed accomplished and glamourous. We can talk about the gruesome realities some other time, if you like.)
But it was very easy for me to identify who I was. Being an art dealer was the natural culmination of my work starting in college and lasting until I had Phinny. 12 years of a career that I seemed well-suited for. Totally respectable.
Then I turned into a nobody.
WAIT! I am somebody's Everything! Actually, I am four peoples' Everything. I am a mom and a wife. And I can tell you with steely certainty that waking up to this every morning is infinitely more satisfying, real, and accomplished than anything I ever did in my career.
Still, sometimes I feel lost without the handy Identifier that is a career. I can't shake this feeling that when the kids are all in school, I'll get my identity back. I'll "Do" something again. In some ways, this stretch of life seems like a weird time out. I'm sorry! That sounds terrible! But y'all have counted the hours in a day, right? And you've witnessed my inability to focus on anything substantial aside from the beautiful little need machines, right?
Now I feel bad. Let me clarify: I am really happy and so proud of this life. When someone asks me what I do and I get to say I am with my family full-time, it feels right, and good. It feels like an amazing privilege. (Thanks, Jules the Rockstar.) It's not that I am unfulfilled. But I've never been good at being just one thing. Remember my art dealer/ birth doula stint? Yeah.
So, about a week ago, I found myself in Dick Blick Art Supplies (A name almost as bad as "Doc McStuffins"). I was there to get...art supplies. I didn't really know what to get, and man was it a far cry from the days when I was a painter (before the art dealing) when I would sling a giant bolt of canvas onto the counter and say, "I'll take whatever is left, and these", unloading a passel of giant 750ml tubes of oil paint onto the counter.
I found myself wandering the store aisles aimlessly. Like a foreigner. I was sure they would think I was plotting to shoplift. Watercolor? Not oil- no way, no time for that. Markers? Markers are fucking expensive! Like, really really expensive (the real kind, that is). Okay, paper. Just start with paper. And a backboard. And some sizing tape. And a pack of brushes.
I came home and sat down the next morning in front of a blank piece of paper, and started to paint.
A seismic shift and a loud click.
That is what I felt.
For the first time in fifteen years, I had found myself obsessing over some ideas for paintings- and this sitting down, with intention, to put them on paper was all it took for me to feel like an Artist again. After all this time, all these years and this roundabout path in life, I came back around and suddenly felt, distinctly, like Myself again.
I guess I've been doing this all along. When Phinny was born, I started sewing, and designing and writing...it's all been there, but I never felt entitled to call myself an artist. I guess now with a paintbrush in hand, it seems more legit. Whatever, I'll take it. Being an artist and a mother seems perfectly compatible. It means I have to get up before 5am, but still. It feels so so good.
As is my custom, I feel like I sound a little too grand about all of this, and need I say, embarrassed, to be in a perpetual state of evolution- even identity crisis as a parent, but this writing it down is all part of working it out.
After all, when people ask my kids what their dead mother was in 40 years, they will probably say, "Oh jesus, who knows. She never did anything really well, but she did everything she loved." I will laugh in the Great Beyond. Or in the ground. And when you're a rotten corpse and you laugh, it shakes the worms off.
See, even in death, I will multi-task!