When I said I would help with scenery for the local theater’s next play I did not fully comprehend what I was getting into. Set painting, picking out vases and chairs are some of the tasks that came to mind. What entailed was 4 weeks and 4 days of hard physical work, strategic thinking, and chaotic family schedule…and painting. Lots and lots of painting. What began as 8 X 10 backdrop panels ended up being 12 X 12. And there were four of them.
I painted deciduous trees and pines in two seasons. Now, I am not a landscape painter. Abstract realism is closer to my style. So, they came out more amateurish than I had hoped. I use the excuse that I was painting on cheap drop cloths, using housepaint from Home Depot, with shitty brushes, while backstage folk regaled me with tales of yesteryear, all while working against a seemingly impossible deadline…but that isn’t much of an excuse. Did I mention that I have a chronic pain and fatigue condition? Fibromyalgia is no joke. It may not be well understood, but it is real and often daunting. I told no one at the theater about how I dealt with the pain of working so hard for a month. So. Throw that in the mix.
One week before opening night the Technical Director called in a young college student to help out. I’m grateful for her help because it meant that I finished all four paintings in time
for opening night. She asked to paint some details. I went through many emotional responses and finally I said yes, feeling generous and grateful. I may not have done it the way that she did, but again, I was grateful for the help.
Jump to opening night. I went out with a friend for dinner then we went to see the play. It was the first time I had seen it all the way through. The musicians did a great job, cramped like they were in the hot cave that is the jump on stage right. The singers/actors belted out their songs with gusto. It was a right nice play.
The cast made short announcements at the reception afterwards. They gave small gifts to the Director, some of the technical folks and then…they gave a gift to “the girl that helped with the backdrops, painted trim and lots of other things backstage”. That’s right, the girl that had been around for a week, and added grass-looking slashes to my paintings with her fingers was getting acknowledged for her work on the backdrops. The ones that I labored over for almost 80 hours.
Boy did my ego have a hard time with that.
Did I not work hard enough? Long enough? Was it like my friend said and it was just that the cast didn’t know me (I worked during the days so that I wasn’t interrupting their rehearsals at night). Was I lured into thinking I did something special because I was told numerous times that in 40 years, no one had painted a backdrop for that theater before, much less four of them?
Did I crash at the finish line? No, not really. The paintings were finished before opening night. My ego was bruised at the finish line but I need to remember that it wasn’t my ego that was painting, so the bruising was ultimately self inflicted. I had an attachment to the outcome, rather than realizing the moments spent painting were all the joy I needed.
“A woman faces everyone else’s denial when she attempts to say how a traumatic birth has affected her. An uncomfortable sense of isolation and a fear of being crazy results, as loved ones, friends, and co-workers do not acknowledge her pain or how her world has changed. This separation from others in viewpoint and experience is often more difficult to heal than the physical wounds of birth.” Lynn Madsen, Rebounding From Childbirth
Sometimes I think I value the first time a woman holds her newborn more than I value all the other times she gets to hold them. Let me rephrase. Sometimes, I disgust myself for not being able to hold my newborns, more than I appreciate all the other times I’ve held them.
I was steeped in, and steeped myself in, a warm fuzzy cup-o-delusion about that moment when I would finally get to hold their tiny bodies, on the outside of my belly. You’d think, that with all I’d been through, that I would have known better – that there are always curve balls and unforeseen circumstances and that I might have entertained the idea, especially during my second birth, that I might not get to experience that moment. You know, that glowing moment that so many happy mammas post all over the internet of them holding their 2-seconds-old baby.
Why is the loss of that moment so deeply devastating to me? Because I put it on a pedestal. A gilt covered and tall pedestal that was initially constructed when my mother talked of having her 4 children naturally. She indoctrimnated me into the idea of natural childbirth from 6 years old, onward. The alternatives to natural childbirth became repugnant to me. Non-natural childbirth was only for weak women, or women with physical abnormalities, I surmised. After my first son was born, I realized my wrongdoing - that I hadn’t tried hard enough. I had given into the c-section because I was weak. That’s what I internalized. When I became pregnant again, 10 years later, I resolved to not be weak this time. So, when the c-section happened, I was only somewhat relieved to hear the surgeon say that my pelvis was deep and narrow. So, I wasn’t weak, just physically abnormal. But that didn’t help me feel better about it either because I had also been steeped in the stories of doctors telling their csection patients that they were narrow, or whatever, but that midwives don’t really believe all that. Midwives have seen all kinds of babies born from all kinds of women. That’s how I filtered what midwives say. I had a midwife for both pregnancies and deliveries. And still, I failed.
The pain I endured and the hope that I had, didn’t make one bit of difference in getting me that moment that I longed for. My attachment to that imagined moment has stolen many moments since then, from my experience. Just because I crashed at the finish line of the marathon of birth doesn’t mean I didn’t run the WHOLE DAMN THING.
Mourning must commence. I have been letting it slip slowly out of my eyes for years. I think I’d like to be done with it, at least the bulk of it, so I can finally move on.
Move on to seeing the two amazing humans that have been in my care for years now, with only my one eye on them, and the other looking back to a moment that never happened.
Inspirations that come from anywhere that cause us to listen with our hearts,
unlocking them in the process.
Today is Fried Day. The end of the work week for so many. The beginning for some. Either way, I am thinking of all of those who have a J O B, I mean, the paying kind, with taxes taken out, etc. etc. I remember what this was like. Counting the moments until I was released into the wider world, free from The Boss and The Coworkers – however much I may have loved them, at times.
Now, as a Homemaker, I am tied to my Boss at all times. I am yoked to my co-workers eternally. I no longer get weekends off. And, I’m learning to love it. The perpetual vigilance required of a Householder is the same as in any consciousness disciple. As above so below – As in the home, so it is in the wider world. I am grateful today to be intimately connected to my family, the world, the universe, and all connections therein. Amen.
Listen to this while you view?!
Three Little Birds – Marley
Pan came to our home on our wedding anniversary. He now has a flock of Pinyon Jays who visit him twice a day.