A tea stain from a splatter on thick watercolor paper. One dark line encloses light pink, a red drip and green at the bottom is all I can see of a painting above my head on a shelf. One time I told my friend I was wanted to propose an installation piece to an arts foundation. I said it was going to be a display of heads on a shelf. She said I sounded crazy and they might think I’m talking about real heads. I saw a centipede yesterday while I was walking up the hill with Billy. The bug was crawling through a trickle of rain water. It was yellowish with tons of little legs and white antennas. It was a beautiful creature. Trampolines, video games, loud music, it was too loud at the amusement center we took Jack and Fiona this morning. I’m not good in situations like that. I had to wait in the car. I took a lavender soak when I got home to make me feel better. I concluded that I will never like loud places with flashing neon lights and I shouldn’t feel bad. I also realized I will never be O.K. with being in a car with my whole family if they continue to all ask me questions at the same time. I never will, and I am going to tell the kids this, I’ll just tell them it makes me grouchy so when I say “quiet time” it must be quiet time. The alternative is to listen to my head phones? But then I feel rude. But it may be the solution. “Mama’s freaking out guys, Mama needs a break, I’m gonna listen to music for fifteen minutes”. Is that weird? Should I do it? I don’t like feeling bitchy and annoyed.
How to build up your immunity when you’re an older mom with multiple young children
#1. Take baths, or meditate, or drink a cup of tea or coffee alone. The point is to be alone and chill. I know it’s hard, to find the time, to get away from the kids, to let go of responsibility and stress for twenty minutes. It’s hard and hard to justify it, until you realize you’re not so young anymore. Until every rendezvous to the kids museums and schools send you home with the flu. Until you can’t believe how much you’re getting sick. You start feeling like a heroin junkie on the couch playing cartoons for their little kids. Are you sick mommy? They ask. Yes, my throat hurts. I don’t tell them about the fever, the horrific body pains that shift each time I get a new fever. You begin to realize it’s time to take a bath, often. To take those twenty minutes. To not exercise as hard or as much as you used to, even though you see no reason not to EXCEPT that you literally do not have the energy to do it all. Just the basic stuff, cleaning, exercising, taking care of the house, the dog, playing with the kids, taking them places, grocery shopping and meal prep. Your body says NO in one way or another. Maybe it’s too late, maybe I’ve used up too much of my reserve, but it seems to me by trying to be healthy and productive as a mom I have made myself prone to sickness. I’m getting in the bath now, with a facial mask and shaving my legs. I’m drinking my water, having a glass of white wine. It’s Friday, the house is clean and all the laundry is clean. Jack and Fiona are at the park with the babysitter. The only thing I truly regret about this week is my lack of studio time, but I was sick. I miss the studio so much when I’m away.
Out the kitchen window I see a fawn. Light brown, head turned back in my direction. She had crossed the black asphalt to reach a patch of flowers. I felt like a roommate who waits till everyone leaves the house before coming out. Grabbing a stick of cheddar cheese and a Braeburn apple. I felt like I was staying home sick from work. Jack and Fiona are at the Zoo with the babysitter, who is scheduled to work till 4. Only my dog is in the house. We took a walk yesterday after we dropped off Jack and Fiona to school. Normally we take a nice long city park hike around. We pass through a park and down the city streets. Yesterday, when we crossed the street and walked behind the little babies’ playground, my legs were killing me, especially my right. FUCK just blurted out of my mouth. I was so scared they would see me. At first, I walked low, trying to hide behind the shrub and fence, then thought, o-well if they did, my legs are killing me. Billy and I bypassed the parks, we did a short ten minute around the block. I just pet Billy while walking up the stairs earlier, before when I saw the deer outside and got my water, cheese, and apple, I felt the lump on her chest. All the lumps are getting bigger, she’s an old dog. I thought I didn’t feel guilty anymore about taking her for such a short walk yesterday, I felt like we are both getting old and she’s probably tired and achy just like me.
You will survive the doctor says. I sit on the edge of the exam table on a Saturday afternoon. I can’t believe I got an appointment. Just drop me off, I tell Alan. Take the kids to the park. I’ll figure out what to do after. I’m sick again, or having a relapse, maybe rheumatic fever. Maybe I’m just PMS’ing, perimenopause, maybe menopause. I say this to the doctor. I wipe tears off my face. I’m sorry, I’m just breaking down. The nurse took my blood pressure twice, its low, 84 over 55. Same both times. It looks like this has happened before. She says reading my chart. When she leaves the exam room I start to cry. I hope they don’t keep me, I hope I don’t get rheumatic fever or congestive heart failure. Hearts aren’t strong in my family. That’s why I’m taking the celexa. Do you ever meditate? The doctor asks me. I think it would help a lot, she says. I did before. Before Jack and Fiona were born. I tell her. I’ve started going to Yoga again recently, but haven’t been in a month because of this stupid sickness, cough, sinus infection, never ending. How old are your kids? The doctor asks. Three and a half. Yup, do they go to daycare? Yes, I say. You will be sick until they are six she tells me. So, I’m not dying? No, and you can’t get Rheumatic fever since you took the MOX anyhow. My grandpa had rheumatic fever, it kept him from going to d-day she tells me. Everyone in his battalion died. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for rheumatic fever. The doctor tells me. Wow! I say. I tell her how my grandma used to tell us the story of having rheumatic fever when she was a child. How it affected her life. They didn’t have the antibiotics until 1965 says the doctor. There’s always drama around those stories she says. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are sick with the responsibility of having to take care of kids. Get some rest, drink a hot toddy, and start meditating. Doctors parting words.
My studio is a mess. The whole thing. Paint brushes hard, palette knives covered in dry paint. Works I work and work and work over. Mud and ambiguity. All over the place. Sadness in my heart. The circle of life, the we are who we are fact of it all. The THIS IS WHAT IT IS and accept it. I would do anything to have you back in your studio working my friend. Anything. I see myself in you, you in myself. Line and brush stroke, ink and glue. Ripping and attaching. The highs and the lows. The circle of the dark giant PVC pipe, too dark to see inside. Head first, head lost, if it wasn’t attached. Another toke another joke, another pill another drink, another depression. It’s all the same for you and me. The happiness, the togetherness, the creativity and productivity. It all goes together. The dyad of life. The need for escape. The difficultness of paying the bills on time, of remembering where they were put. The studio needs to be cleaned. I miss my friend. I feel a loss knowing that he’s not in his studio working. The art community is a precious circle. One falls, we all fall. The losses are real. Painting and making, filling the void, the loss, heartache, disappointment, pressure, setback. Do the lines on the canvas fill the space that good, innocence once lived? That bad happened? I put on my crusty apron. I put on my rubber gloves and begin to work. To fill the dark space with grey, blue, pink, green, muted, layered, collage, charcoal. Work is all I can do. I stay afloat. I have the lost souls in my heart. Keep them protected. Foggy mind, draw for clarity. Foggy mind, paint for clarity. Scratch and claw out of the PVC pipe. Once I stop making I stop living.
I sit on my bed, Thursday afternoon. The house is quiet, Jack and Fiona are asleep. I went to my studio for an hour, painted everything I worked on the other day white. I worked on my notebook pages. I start to cough and feel depressed. The flu can cause depression, I read this on the internet. I decide to come inside, rest. Yesterday I woke up in the morning, my eyes bulging with pain, behind my ears hurt so bad I almost threw up. I called my husband, he could be home by 4:00pm. I had to make it through the day on my own with Jack and Fiona. My legs weak, I had a hard time walking from one location to another as Jack and Fiona called me, “Play with me mommy”. Jack mostly watched T.V. and Fiona stuck by my side all day. While I was still in the process of trying to beat this monster that crept into my body to wreak havoc, I took my vitamins, ate cantaloupe, drank lots of water, and did a kids Yoga video with Fiona. My back, arms, legs so stiff and sore as I went into Childs Pose. Fiona held my hand when we did Tree Pose and airplane. I knew that I was going to recover, I still was scared. I was scared to be alone with my children when I was so sick. I felt myself going into some strange survival mode. As I ate the cantaloupe I felt the juice run down my throat, it felt so nourishing. Fiona and I made a smoothie, she cut the banana, put in the protein powder, turned on the blender, she was so proud.
Last night, after Alan was home, I came down to bed. Fiona wanted to come with me. At first Alan tried to stop her. She cried the kind of cry that shows true disappointment. I said, it’s O.K., she can come with me. “Can I sleep in your bed with you?” Fiona asked. “Yes” I say. My body aches, I can’t get comfortable. Fiona starts to bring animals, horses, the Glass Pig, she brings me pretend food. She talks to me and asks me questions. She doesn’t have her hearing aids on and I’m too tired to talk loud or repeat what I’ve said or use sign. I just say “yes” and “thank you” and that suffices. My bed is soft and cozy. Jack played upstairs with Alan the whole time. Fiona took care of me. It was comforting. I remembered myself alone with the flu. When Fiona was talking to me so much I thought maybe I should have her go, be alone. But I decided to let her stay. I enjoyed her company. I remembered the times I went home from work and jumped in bed. I don’t remember missing anyone to take care of me or keep me company. I thought about the times before Alan and I had kids and he took care of me. I thought about my mom and how she took care of me. My mom died very young and healthy, (except for the massive heart attack). I never had the experience of taking care of an aging parent, but Jack and Fiona will. I think they know intuitively that I will die before them. How depressing am I? Fevers and sickness always remind me of my mortality, of my limited energy. I always get a little bit sad the next day when my fever is gone but I still feel tired but the laundries pilling up and there’s calls to make and e-mails to respond to but I can’t.
Jack and Fiona will be up soon from their nap. I hope to be a good mom and wife tonight, to cook a nice dinner and not stress. Be fully present and available. Every moment counts.
Maybe I should work in my studio first. Jack and Fiona are in their room, not taking a nap. This is my official first post of my new work, I made my final First selection of writings for Naptime Paintings-The Book- (Still don’t know the full title). I finished selecting round one yesterday. I have almost twice as much as I need, my paintings are getting photographed for the book as we speak. I want to go paint for a minute. I paint over two paintings I painted yesterday. (I like them, but maybe they are too ambiguous.) I leave my studio after forty-five minutes. Jack and Fiona are done watching Peppa Pig, I leave dark grey and purple paintings. I added whites to lighten them, they become beings from another planet or faded out graffiti. They need more work. I worked on my Note Books too. I feel like I’m free, at least from needing any more images or writing for my book. I can write or paint anything now. I start thinking about conceptual projects I want to start. I work on my newer notebooks, the ones that will be finished next year. I have less time to work in my studio now that Jack and Fiona aren’t taking naps.
Fiona and Jack are naked now. Playing in the yard with the water hose. My house is a mess. I feel like there’s garbage everywhere. The sink is piled high with dishes. An empty milk carton fell to the ground and I just left it there. Something prevented me from bending down and picking it up. I just left it there. Maybe it is because If I pick it up and put it in the trash I am acknowledging all the other trash on the floor and the counters. I would have to start cleaning up. I’m not ready to commit yet. My neck is sore from moving Jack and Fiona’s beds yesterday and moving heavy chairs around the yard. They are playing nice, only occasional fighting over who’s turn it is to hold the hose. It’s ten minutes to five, only two and a half more hours and bedtime. I better start the cleaning before then.