Sunday, June 27, 2010

Safe in the branches

I spent some wonderful girl time with my friend Carole up on Shaw: some of it getting to know her chickens, some of it photographing the flowers in her beautiful garden, some of it watching her golden retriever, Luna, swimming in the pond, and some of it just sitting and talking, first on her porch and later in her little open air cabin down by the water.

While we were on her front porch, sipping our tea, I kept getting distracted by this madrona branch just beyond her house, and finally broke down (though it felt a bit rude), grabbed my camera, and took a photo.

At the time it was just an interesting branch, but now I see that I was photographing a broad shoulder and a strong arm; some reassurance that someone somewhere is continuing to carry the cares of the world as if they were a precious treasure. Which is a good thing, because we as individuals can't really shoulder some burdens alone.

I'm especially aware of that this morning; I had promised my daughter just last night that I would come up and serve as an artist in residence at her camp for 10 days. But I realized this morning that I wasn't thinking, that I'm about to enter grad school, and probably can't just take off for a week or so. So I spent some time poking around the school website, finally tracked down my course syllabus, and realized, no, I can't go play in the islands; I need to be available here for meetings, and I need access to my computer as well.

So I sent her a note with an apology this morning, and of course my inner judge is pretty annoyed with me for not having thought this through more carefully before making the promise. And then the other voices start cropping up with excuses, justifications, and reassurances: But I've been sick! But I've been away from home and hadn't seen the syllabus yet! But she called when I was sound asleep! It's okay, you caught your mistake before 24 hours were up!

And then the judge pipes in: But you let her down, and she'll be disappointed in you. The judge thinks I should be able to do everything right and be perfect all the time -- and that's a burden I really need to just stop carrying.

I need to ignore the judge, the excuser, the justifier and the reassurer and just sit with what is. The truth is, I love my kid to pieces, and would have loved a chance to work for and with her in the place she loves more than anyplace in the world. I was excited about being an artist in residence. And I'm disappointed I won't get to do that, because it would have really been fun and and a new way to bond with her and a great way to give back my time and talent.

But the root of the problem -- what the judge is shouting to overcome -- is not just my sadness about missing that. It's anxiety about this huge choice I've made: will I be able to pull this off, going back to school, studying, attending classes, doing cooperative projects, returning to the work world? I've been happy being an artist, wife and mom for the last 14 years; what will it be like to re-enter the world of education and business? Do I have what it takes anymore?

We'll just have to see. But I'll do a better job of succeeding in ALL these arenas if I can keep that inner judge from piping up with her incessant criticisms.

You know -- when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time escaping the pressures of family, friends and school by climbing up into a tree and daydreaming in its branches. I guess what this picture is telling me is that some part of me still longs to do that. Perhaps my faith -- or this blog -- is the tree where I do my daydreaming now...


Maureen said...

The madrona image is wonderful.

You know what? Yes, you can do and will do all those things! Think of all you've already done. We'll all be here to support you, urge you on, just listen, and applaud every achievement along the way.


Louise Gallagher said...

What a stunning image -- and imagery.

And as Maureen said -- we'll be here too with you cheering you on. I am inspired by your courage. You rock!

Joyce Wycoff said...

There's no doubt that you're up to this new challenge ... the difficulty may be in keeping things in balance. You may want to find a mobile that you can keep in front of you to remind you of that balance.

It might also help to keep in mind that you don't have to make straight As ... do it on your own terms and it sounds like you're already learning how to say "no" to at least some of the delightful distractions that will undoubtedly pop up along the way.

Kimberly Mason said...

You are BETTER than you were before, I'm counting on it. I'm counting on it for me too. We are better prepared for making the tough decisions, aren't we? Because we can look at them deeper, with less of the panic of the moment, the moment that we know will soon pass.

We have such strange parallel lives going on...LOL. How nice to have a friend on the journey!