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Hidden Treasures in Chaos

Hidden Treasures in Chaos! acrylic by me
I remember as a kid that at school when we were going to do art, I got very excited. Almost as if finally the warmth, color and vibrance of life would suddenly ignite. I do not think I was alone in feeling this, but like most, I grew up thinking art was pretty frivolous, and that art was left for those who were determined to sweat it through their pores, or die trying. For the rest of us, business as usual. So I must say that finding art again came late, during a sloppy and hardened process of perfectionist parenting, trying to keep my kids perpetually stimulated. Funny thing was how much I was also trying to keep this exploration ordered. How they resisted my prodding them to keep tablecloths clean and supplies sorted and well-cared for. How silly I think I was now that I understand children better, and how much compassion I have for me as a new mother with the best of intentions, and honestly, how happy I am my girls were unbridled little terrors with unsquashable spirits.

As life does, it presses, and that pressing usually leads to a little something needing to topple. In this case, I had to give into the fact that two little girls ran circles around my tight rule, and had boundless energy to create chaos, that for years I would humbly admit to myself, I couldn't tame. BUT I WOULD STILL TRY. Having these little girls took on a wildness day to day, that didn't look like my little Victorian picture books of beautifully dressed, clean, presentable children, doing orderly, sensible things, that I so loved as a girl as I dreamed through them into my future.

Maybe the chaotic nature of children feels normal to some, but I was rather shocked that my girls preferred to run around naked, that they often painted each other's faces and bodies in living color, with chalk and crayola markers, and everything else, and did the opposite of what I asked them to do at every turn. They were little tornadoes, and together they were mischief.  One time the bigger one put scotch tape all over her face, and the younger one colored all kinds of patterns on the tape. Then when the older one looked in the mirror she got so scared she was screaming to get it off, and it was killing her have me rip off the tape! They made circuses and hawked their wares on the street, making signs and just very much running full-speed ahead in the art department.  I was both fascinated and in horror. They also didn't clean up one mess without major prodding. My girls came in having their own way. This was not the way I came in. Even though I had my power struggles with my parents, I was content to be their good girl. It was hard to relate, and I have to say I wish I could have just let go and joined in the fun--but really that took me getting so tired over the years from fighting it all, that I finally just had to let go.

eating play dough

 As a single mom I just didn't have the energy or reinforcements. But I have to say I am so grateful my girls were a handful for me, because much freedom has come from spending less time trying to control. My inability to get my kingdom under control has had me often with my hands in the air, except when we all had our hands in the moment of doing art together, which was what it all often led to--well if you can't beat 'em, join em--like as in ME sitting down and doing it too, not just micromanaging it. That is when we could chat amicably and just watch color and ideas form before us. This is when I began to realize that there is something to being in the creative process, not just only in experiencing the art others create. I had always played other composers music, read other authors' books, watched movies made by strangers, and doing art myself led me to have novel thoughts that there were arrangements of notes on a piano that could be uniquely my creation--what other possibilities? I had always squelched this in myself before. 

This is a different generation coming up. My girls take their electronics and make fast speed movies of themselves doing things, (ironically my youngest made one the other day about cleaning her room. It showed her moving towards parts of her room and in fast motion cleaning it all up--didn't have to fight for that one! Thanks technology!) and my daughter and her friends made a quite horrific horror movie on the playground with her school iPad. They are focused on being in the parade, not watching. I am inspired by this, which I guess is the fuel for my own desire to jump in--just because it is really fun! I see that there is room for all of their creations, but it doesn't so much matter the content, but what it is developing in them to just jump right in and go for it!

So, it took a very long time for me to realize I could just start at the beginning. I could start to draw on a cheap piece of type paper and with kid supplies. I could mess around just on the black keys of the piano that sound tonally okay to the ears. But I see that it is okay that it took time. The fun part is that I am experiencing more of the world around me as alive because I am letting myself engage with my own creativity. And funny enough, I think this is the only legacy I could leave my girls: the freedom to create, both alone and with others.

I will also add here, that my writing progress has been the slowest process to be helped or opened by this art making, because I have cared too much about doing it well. To date, the major breakthrough I have made is to let ONE person read my novel I wrote 8, ouch, 8 years back in its entirety. I celebrate this, not because I plan to be the writer of the century, but because letting someone read it was a big step in my letting go of weighty and enormously stifling armor I am wearing to not fail, to not be rejected, or to risk realizing that I was dreaming the wrong dream--which now I see has been just a big excuse to stay out of the game--any game, even the littlest leagues!

So, art has come dancing its merry way to me, through my live-out-loud daughters, and my subsequent forced surrender. I admit that art is shaping everything in my life, even my relationships. One poor chap I was in a relationship with got paints, a paintbrush and a little book to paint in for his birthday. Maybe that is why it ended:) I laugh about this now, but secretly I hope that he got to experience at least one stroke of the brush, before he threw all of it out. 

I believe there is a richness to engaging with our creativity, that actually helps to enliven every day, (even if we just do it once a week or so), and helps an old archaic way of doing things fall away--and we don't become lazy or useless to life--quite the contrary-- real life energy picks up the slack, to make everything, even the menial tasks, like doing taxes, a more radiant and glowing experience. Yes, I have experienced this with taxes.

I notice there is more energy to sit down and create, and actually learn, when so much energy isn't used in the execution and control. Here is to freedom and long vibrant life! Thanks for reading:)

One of my first crayola marker drawings on type paper. The girls made me put it on the fridge, where it got quite tattered, but there were my idealized girls, all dressed up, clean and enjoying picking flowers with their beautiful mother--oh and the beautiful blue butterfly. HA HA HA HA


  1. I love this post! Thank you for sharing your hard won and uproarious wisdom. Always a treat to hear about you and your daughters!


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