I've been at the studio every day this week. I'm addicted.
It's the aloneness. It's so nourishing. And NOT the same thing as being alone in your house, with your family's things everywhere and a million chores you should be doing. Not that I don't love being alone in my house, or that I don't wish for and value what a rare event that is. Just that it's not the same thing. The first day at the studio, I turned on some music to set up my stuff to, and ended up having a solo dance party, out of sheer delicious joy.
I have been working a little - finishing a dress I started last year, drawing, writing, and making some headway on a sculpted paper piece. But I've also been letting myself be aimless: I wander around picking things up and putting them down again, I look out the windows and watch the trains rush by on their tracks alongside the river, I stare into space just thinking.
I do have some guilt that I'm not home taking care of the house, making sure every minute of my family's time when they get home is utterly comfortable and easy. There's unfolded laundry on the couch right now. The bathtub could use a scrub. There are dust bunnies the size of buffalos under the bookcases and piles of outgrown clothes waiting in the hallway to be organized and stored downstairs in the garage. Yesterday, on his one day off all week (including the weekend), Chris babysat our niece by himself and then picked up both our kids from camp, and the whole time I was here. Yes, there is some guilt happening.
But mostly I believe that we mamas have to fight that type of guilt. My family is OK. They are healthy and happy. There will always be laundry to fold and dust bunnies to corral, but there will not always be this studio time. There will not always be this chance to be completely alone and find out who I am now and what my art can be, away from responsibilities and relationships. I don't wish away any of the precious people in my life, but I do crave a little bit more balance. I think most moms can probably relate.
A Room of One's Own. It's been relegated to cliché. We think we know, but we don't really know. We sell ourselves out for the martyrdom of motherhood, of putting everyone else first and secretly congratulating ourselves for it, even as we pay lip service to the importance of taking care of ourselves. But a room of our own, or a cabinet with a lock, or a non-negotiable day away, is actually crucial. We can't forget who we are alone, not as someone else's mom or wife or daughter, but as our own.
At the end of the first day, I went out to my car, and across the parking lot I locked eyes with an enormous fox, so big that at first I thought it was a coyote. We stared at each other for a moment and then she loped off back into the woods, rusty fur catching the summer light and then disappearing into shadow. I am prone to making meaning where perhaps there isn't any, but I couldn't help but feel it was a little endorsement, a benediction, to end my first day alone in the studio with that moment of gorgeous and unexpected wildness.