Some days it feels like I am just getting by until I can go back to whatever art project I am working on. I get through school and errands and exercise, except I really enjoy exercise, and then I get through cooking and eating and paperwork (is it paperwork if it’s on the computer?) or the technological equivalent, and then I look at the clock and calculate how much time there is left in the day for artmaking. I really wish it didn’t always start after 10 PM. Especially when daylight savings is already kicking my butt. The night owl self wants to stay up an hour later, but the morning self reminds me I have to teach 155 7th graders tomorrow and patience is one of those things that wears thin with little sleep. It already wears thin on project weeks. Gone are the days of scantrons and multiple-choice tests (well, they’re SUPPOSED to be gone…some teachers still use them), which means more work on both sides. Kids want me to give them all the answers. Then they get mad when they calculate their BMI as part of this project (yup. I brought in a scale) and realize they are classified as obese. Or that they have a higher risk for heart disease because of their gender or their race. Or that the parent who smokes around them is increasing their risk as well. Yeah. Well. Welcome to critical thinking.
So what little patience I have gets fully used up by 3:30 and then I’m supposed to do tutorial after school…unpaid tutorial, I might add, and I’m doing it today because of that project that’s due, but what I really want to do is come home and finish ironing. Well, that’s not all I want to do. Tonight is a little different, but it’s OK. It will get done.
This is a messy pile. I don’t like messy piles, but even if I straighten it all up before I start, this is what it ends up looking like…
I had a lot of little fussy things to iron last night: a cat, some hair, a uterus, lungs, a jellyfish.
I actually had myself convinced at some point that I would have no problem finishing the ironing last night, but then it was after midnight and I stood there staring at this pile…
Totally exhausted and still completely undecided as to what color(s) the wings should be. And that’s all that’s left. The damn wings. Hard to make decisions at that hour. So I packed everything up, turned off the iron, peed the dog, and walked down the hallway toward the sweet comfy bed, and the solution popped into my head.
Yeah. That’s how it works. If you make art every day, even on the days when there is no inspiration and nothing strikes your fancy, and all you’re doing is picking up fabric and moving it around or drawing godawful things in your sketchbook, or even just stitching something down because it needs to be stitched and you don’t feel like being more creative than that…if you do all that, then your brain gets in the habit of solving those creative problems while you’re too tired to even consider them. My brain figures shit out while I’m doing the dishes, while I’m driving to work or on errands, while I’m standing in a line. I let it wander and it does. It wanders until the answer is just there.
This is not an instantaneous thing. You have to work at it. I make so much work because I work at it. It seems so easy now, but there’s almost thirty years of practice in there, some years better than others. More intensely now than ten years ago. In fact, that might be my greatest fear about getting old is that I’ll lose that. I won’t have art every day. So when I talk about getting old, there’s a few things I want: I don’t want to be that old lady with the cane or the walker. I want to be the one who’s still hiking the mountains. She may have poles and she may go slowly, but she’s still moving. I want to make art every day. In fact, I will have worked my butt off for years and I deserve to retire and make art every day. No, I don’t know what that looks like yet. I don’t even know if I’ll ever be able to afford to retire, but whatever. Those aren’t the only things I want, but they are two of the most important.
With that, I guess at least I know what color I’ll be ironing tonight…just the wings…and then I’ll be ready for the next step on this project. Time to cut out all those little tiny pieces. Way better than stressing out about school.