“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
― Kate Chopin,
If I had to name the sum of all the thoughts that have run through my mind since our second residency ended, I’d have to call it, Fear. Not just in regard to my ability to accomplish the task at hand (all of the work that is encompassed in an MFA program like this) but the struggle I have with allowing myself to be mediocre at times. Being the head of a household with young children is the hardest career I have ever had- that includes the ten years I have spent teaching art to students. It is all encompassing and extremely demanding but more than that, the pressure I put on myself to be this do-it-all mother in the age of Pinterest is wearing me down. The worst part about it is that I hold myself to this plastic standard within society. Buy a home, make it beautiful. Have the babies, get back the bod. Cook healthy dinners, kids eat like champs. Raise said babies with integrity, intelligence, drive and perseverance, keep them safe.
Somewhere along the way in my journey from childhood to adulthood I have learned to expect that which is previously listed, to happen in a way that is seamless, without falter. It doesn’t matter that, rationally, I know that the contrary is true. While I’d call my childhood ideal, it too would be an idealized name representing the sum of all the parts of my family’s history that brings me joy. Is this something that many people do? Does remembering only those beautiful memories further translate the fears I encounter as a mother into the pressure that I press upon myself? My thoughts of inadequacy are coupled with physical pain and newfound fears of the safety and health of my children. Mentally, intellectually and emotionally I am feeling pressure- all for the fear of faltering.
What past strife, struggle and turmoil has taught me is my ability to soldier on. To make the best effort in what is a life filled with overwhelming tasks and responsibilities. Those hard memories that I happily leave out of the equation? They were many of the driving forces that shaped who I am today. Even with my crippling doubt and feelings of defeat, the overall gestalt of my being is successful. These revelations came to a boil a few nights ago, where in a breakdown, I realized what pressure I have signed myself up for. I have to allow myself to be okay with trying my best at all times and continue to move forward without judgement. To give permission to myself to just be. My new mantra: I am doing the best that I can. The following images are just a few from a series where physical and emotional pain had me couch-bound on my off time and paralyzed from entering my studio.
Bertrand Russell once said, “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” I am ready to allow myself, mediocrity in the less important areas of my life, in order to persevere and shine, in the facets of my life that truly matter.
Mandy: Couch Series, 2018