The study I'm currently working through is Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. It's about the role that God intended women to have and the role that they actually have and how to bridge the gap. Here's how the blurb on the back starts...
Every woman was once a little girl. And ever little girl holds in her heart her most precious dreams. She longs to be swept up into a romance, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, to be the Beauty of the story. Those dreams are far more than child's play. They are the secret to the feminine heart. And yet - how many women do you know who ever find that life? As the years pass by, the heart of a woman gets pushed aside, wounded, buried. She finds no romance except in novels, no adventure except on television, and she doubts very much that she will ever be the Beauty in any tale. Most women think they have to settle for a life of efficiency and duty, chores and errands, striving to be the women they "ought" to be but often feeling they have failed. Sadly, too many messages for Christian woman add to the pressure. The effect has not been good on the feminine soul.
When I decided to rip and shred the blog a few months ago, it was an attempt to both change directions and to stop feeling like I was falling apart in public. It was good and somewhat successful although there have been times since when it has felt more like a shift to falling apart in private. And that annoyed me because what do I have to be falling apart over? By any description, I live a wonderful life.
This study has stirred up familiar feelings of abandonment and rejection, and most especially of grief. While it hasn't been fun, it has been good learning. As an artist, and especially as an art instructor, having an empathetic versus sympathetic understanding of what your students or other artists may be experiencing allows you to relate and to teach with greater depth. In the past, when I met people mired in grief, I used to think do something, snap out of it and now I realize that doing something is definitely a good idea because when you do something you have something to respond to and it keeps you moving forward however, grief is a range of emotions that must be worked through stage by stage until you get to the finish line.
And the finish line keeps moving. There have been so many times when I've felt like I'm at the end, that I've turned the last corner, only to realize that the corners are simply further apart and just as I'm starting to relax and think it's over, here comes another one. I don't think it's ever over. I think grief merely shifts.
Right now, I'm not mad at the cause of the grief, I'm ticked off at being mired in grief and hopeful that that feeling is indicative that this is indeed a final stage because - as a result of the grief - I'm also experiencing the time and the space to create. As an artist, and especially as an art instructor, being able to focus on and develop your art is an incredible gift.
I am able to spend time each day being creative and then I am able to write about and share that learning on the blog. Through the comment section, I am able to have conversations with other creatives about what I am learning. How amazingly fabulous. I don't want to waste this rare and precious gift by wishing for something whose time is past or by hoping for something that may never occur. I want to be in this moment, experiencing it fully, exploring it deeply, grateful for all that it holds and thankful for the opportunity to learn and to support and encourage through my writing and my creativity.
While I have hopes for the future, reality is that those hopes may never occur just as reality is that they cannot occur unless I prepare for them. Preparing means both creating and learning in this present moment for possibilities in the future while at the same time allowing what exists to be enough - without the pressure for it to be something more - because the thing that I hope for may never come to pass and this current reality may be all that there is and it would be a waste to ignore its richness by overwhelming it with expectations. Isn't that an interesting conundrum?
I've heard that women going through menopause are not as nurturing as they used to be. I think that's a bunch of garbage most likely perpetuated by a man because I am every bit as nurturing as I used to be if not more so - HOWEVER - the person I am most interested in nurturing is me. I can't speak for all women in their fifties but for me, it's a time when a shift in focus away from raising children and toward investing in personal growth is entirely possible. And frankly, it's my turn.
I refuse to feel guilty about wanting to nurture myself because self-care is vitally important. This is my one and precious life. I refuse to feel guilty about not working outside the home. We have enough. I refuse to feel guilty about the fact that I am so organized and efficient inside the home that I have time for self interests and to work in the studio on a regular basis. What needs to be done gets done and it's nothing to do with me if others aren't as organized. I refuse to feel guilty because in some way that I don't completely understanding I'm considered intimidating. I do NOT need to be less than I am to make others feel better.
I refuse to feel guilty about not enjoying cooking when I do in fact cook most days and quite well. No one is going hungry at our house. I refuse to feel guilty about not having a spotless house when I have an organized, clutter free, with a bit of dust on the floor now and then, warm and cozy, home. They won't be approaching me to do an episode of hoarders here. I refuse to feel guilty for not being perfect. I'm making the best decisions I can with the information I have. That's as good as it gets.
I refuse to feel guilty about wanting to explore my femininity, my writing skills, my creativity, my art, and life within my studio. I'm not cheating anyone else by being all that I can be. My family is loved and nurtured just as much as they always have been and I am supporting and encouraging myself more fully. This is important. A woman's role is NOT simply to facilitate everyone else's wonderful life at the expense of her own. If we believe in it for others, we need to model it for ourselves, especially our daughters. Self care is critical. I am enough. I am NOT too much.
It's tax time. The final analysis is that unless I held a high paying position (for which I'm not qualified) it would be detrimental to our financial situation for me to work outside the home. The very best thing I can do as part of our financial partnership is to be happy at home in my studio. I refuse to feel guilty about making the decision to let go of getting a job and to instead make a job of creativity. I refuse to feel guilty about "not working". I have no idea what the future holds but one thing I know for sure is that the time and space to create is a gift that I refuse to waste because I'm mired in grief over issues that cannot be changed.
The past is history. Tomorrow may never come. All we have is today. Lately, I've had a desire for more color in my life, especially my clothing. I find this interesting after so many years of wearing predominately black. Perhaps color and my feelings mean the grief journey is over. Perhaps not. Perhaps more corners will appear. If so, I will approach them by doing something because by doing something I have something to respond to and I keep moving forward... and learning... and growing... and writing... and sharing... and creating. Oh GOOD grief ! ! !
Talk soon - Myrna
Grateful - the grief and the gift