I do just enough dishes to have a clean spot on the counter to paint. Listening to the shitstorm that is American politics on the radio, I fear that my dumb little animals are meaningless. I paint them anyway.
I dream of projects I have no time to complete, making to do lists and marshalling the kids to plow through chores. When I run out of steam, I crash hard.
I can’t breathe.
In the bathroom, I’m emptying my diva cup into the toilet, and the baby pulls herself up on the edge of the toilet seat. She’s fast. She’s waving her hand around my crotch, as I see some of my menstrual blood drip out of the cup. I don’t see where it goes. I check the white tile, my bare leg, the baby’s clothes. I see her huge, stupid grin. And then my blood trickles down her cheek.
There’s an alert on my phone. It’s a portrait client who wants an update. I haven’t worked on her painting in a month. I was going to finish it before this job I had set up for a local performance piece, but I got sick, and I had to put her painting on the backburner while I addressed the other deadline. I don’t tell her I was sick. To me “I was sick” is code for “I have terrible time management skills.”
I haven’t been able to paint for a week. The baby cries every time I set her down. So I set up a large watercolor canvas on a low table in the living room and start painting together with the girls. The painting looks pretty amazing, until Phoebe scribbles all over it when I’m out of the room.
I am never alone, but so lonely. I am trying to create beauty, but feel like a wreck. But I can’t stop carrying my kids with me, and I can’t stop craving moments to make art any less than a drowning person could stop craving air.
Phoebe and I paint together again. She keeps making chaotic choices, trying out things I don’t like, and I keep trying to rein her in. She gets the paint pallet way too wet and pours it over the canvas and I’m biting my tongue because I want to freak out. But then I realize the splatter gives the sky a unique texture, and the saturation of the colors is truly amazing. I love it more than anything I’ve ever made on my own. When it dries, I hang it up above my bed.
While clearing away a stack of papers, I find that first piece that I thought Phoebe ruined. I realize it isn’t so bad after all. The scribbles kind of look like birds. So I hang it in the kitchen. It reminds me that maybe it’s ok to just not be ok, at least for a little while.
And, for a moment, I feel free.