Making it Small
Now that I have a crawling, curious almost one year old, I feel myself wading more deeply in the muddy midst of parenting than I was in the first months after she was born. Some days it is a swamp of laundry piles, never ending food on the floor, and new messes sprouting up as quickly as I can contain the existing ones. Then there are moments of calm: sipping tea and chatting with Amos about where clementines come from and or watching Eowyn practice standing. More than ever in this journey I am being pushed, molded and changed as I learn how to be the best parent for my children. In the midst of all of this, my mind goes most quickly to the things I’m not doing or haven’t gotten to. But recently, when I’ve been able pause for a moment and really look around, I’ve realized that somehow I have managed to cobble together a fulfilling creative life.
Social media, the small creative business encouragers, the go-viral-and-make-your-fortune tellers, lead us to believe that you have to give everything you’ve got to achieve your dreams. I thought I had to be the woman who could spend all day with her kids and then spend all night working, but I just couldn’t do it. I need down time, I need sleep, and last year when I was pregnant with Eowyn, I mostly gave up on being productive. Some people can wrestle their dreams into submission and get exactly what they imagined, others watch them take a completely unexpected shape. There may have been a time when I hoped that I could make it big with my creative work but in a strange way, I am grateful that my kids have forced me to appreciate making it small instead.
When I pay attention, I notice all the little things that make my days worthwhile: baking bread, sewing a dress for my daughter, planting in our community garden, experimenting with natural fabric dyes. There are also the activities that are fulfilling in ways I couldn’t anticipate. On the first Sunday of the month I make my dream of owning a cafe come true when I cook a big brunch and bake yummy things to share with an appreciative group of friends. I make time to write as often as I can (usually not often enough) and occasionally I get paid to do this and, while I aspire to much more, this is also a dream come true.
Some of my skill and interests are not particularly marketable or meaningful on a resume but sharing them with other people is a reminder that money is not always the highest marker of value. Last week I put my master food preserver skills and title to use and taught a high school math class how to make blueberry jam. At least one kid said it was really fun so: success! A few weeks ago I lugged my sewing machine, thread, and pin cushion to a repair cafe. I was a bit in awe of people who had the motivation and desire to repair irons and umbrellas and happy to lend my skills patching up holes in pants, jackets, and aprons. How cool is it to get together with a bunch of people who are interested in and committed to repairing things? It was a fun way to connect with people and help them solve tiny, specific problems with needle and thread.
I know it is a privilege to be able to do the things I love without worrying about how I will pay rent or buy food. I am incredibly grateful to have help from family which gives me some of the time and resources I need to make and write and volunteer. Progress is so slow. Most what I do is squeezed into an hour here or there, prioritized because it matters to me to do creative work, to share food with friends, to make things for people I love. I have so much admiration for people who have created successful businesses and lives from their passions and hard work and compared to that I often feel like a flaky dabbler. You are incredibly lucky If you are able to support yourself or your family with work that you adore, but if that isn’t happening for you don’t give up on the things that you enjoy most. I think it is important to look beyond the idea that our passions and our income must be the same thing. We each need to discover our own definitions of success and be open to them evolving and changing over time.
I’d love to encourage you to find ways to make your dreams part of your every day reality or to know what you are doing to make it big or small.