Editor’s Note: I’m delighted to introduce you to Annette Varoli, a smart and talented creative mother who I connected with during Jennifer Lee’s Right-Brain Business Plan course last year. Annette is the real deal. When Annette recently told me that she had firmly committed to a daily creative practice — and that her practice was life-changing — I asked her to share her journey with Studio Mothers readers. Enjoy.
Annette Varoli: I am the proud momma of 6-year old girl, I’ve been married 11 years to a guy who is a modern day “MacGyver” and I’m in love with my cat, Coco. I’ve lived half my life in New York and recently returned to my birth state of Maryland but I love traveling, having been to over 100 cities in 20 countries. I am the artist of my life. My mission is to live my life in FULL color and inspire others to do the same. This has taken the form of architect, project manager, and holistic health coach to name a few. Currently, I’m a budding entrepreneur, exploring the next best fit for my creative expression. Three themes that have run through the course of my lifetime: making heart-to-heart connections, the creative arts, and abundance. This is what inspired my new blog. Check it out!
Fertilizer for Your Soul
Recently, my six-year-old has been asking me to keep her company in the bathroom, specifically for “number 2’s” — and not just for the wiping part.
Although I don’t particularly enjoy the aroma, I know that this is the time of day where she either imparts deep wisdom or where she philosophizes about life, so I go willingly. I sit on the floor of the bathroom ready to listen to what my little Buddha will teach me each time.
Yesterday, she did not disappoint. She assumed her position on the throne and within a few seconds, she says in a voice that sounds like when you rave about your favorite dessert, “Mommy, why does pooping feel soooo good? It just feels sooooo good. Why is that?” Her angelic face alternating between an inquisitive look and a squinching one, whenever she unloads her bowels.
She’s dead serious so I do my best to contain myself and say, “Well, sweetie, it’s because it’s a great release and a way for your body to get rid of the icky stuff… imagine if you couldn’t poop, then all of it would get STUCK inside you.”
That’s when it dawned on me that doing daily creative practice is like having healthy bowel movements… it just feels soooo good. It helps you get unstuck and feeling like yourself again. Like taking all the crap in your life and turning it into fertilizer for your soul!
I know this for a fact because over the past 15 weeks, I’ve been doing a daily creative practice and it has been life changing. Although most people know me to be a creative person, it feels like it took me a hundred years to arrive at this particular place in my life. One where I finally understand how essential regular creative practice is to my life, my success and personal happiness. But how did I get here one might ask? Allow me to share a bit of my creative journey.
As a toddler, I got spanked for drawing on walls and climbing up on the bench so that I could play the keyboard (not before they took a photo for posterity like the one at right). My parents wanted clean walls and feared for my safety if I sat on the bench unsupervised. They meant well but that marked the beginning of my creativity being controlled.
Later in my early education, elective classes and extracurricular activities fed my creativity. I loved anything music and arts related.
However, I didn’t realize at the time that my creative pursuits were being filtered through my young, naive, brain. The one that bought into the idea that these activities were called extra or elective because they were outside of the normal curriculum, optional… in other words, “not really important.”
At the same time I was an academic, excelling in my normal subjects. Unfortunately, my achievement in what society deemed “serious subjects” led me to pick a major using only my head and not my heart. It was a decision based on this equation, “I’m good at math, science and art. What does that equal? ARCHITECTURE.”
With that decision, I entered my first semester in architectural school and quickly learned that they frowned on extracurricular activities, wanting the students to focus solely on architecture. Thinking I was taking a vow for creativity, I willingly followed the rules, not realizing that I was trading in my 18-year-old creative self for a creatively stifled 50-year-old.
My inner child decided to leave the building, while the school’s climate and a few misguided professors helped grow my inner critic.
Everything became very serious, very quickly. Ironically, all the creative passion that I threw into my portfolio which in fact, got me accepted into the college would be exactly what the school intentionally wanted to strip away. My passion for mixed media, vivid colors and freehand drawing was replaced with ink line drawings and white box models. Color was forbidden.
Once, I was getting a desk critique from a visiting professor, whose teaching style was unlike the majority at my school. He looked at my sketches and looked at me and then said, “You’re a young woman, why don’t you draw like one? Be more young and free in your drawings.”
The school had successfully controlled my creativity. I made drawings that finally fit the mold and yet I didn’t recognize myself in any of my drawings and neither had the visiting critic. I had failed at being myself but my true creative spirit didn’t leave me. She just ended up biding her time in once again “elective” classes, taking every type of dance class offered.
I’ll admit that architecture school allows more individual creativity in the latter part of your education, but by then for me, it felt too late. One of the only places that my authentic self overlapped in the architectural world was when a few students and I formed our own acapella group and sang at architecture events.
My education culminated in me on stage at the graduation ceremony singing “Blackbird.” I had partied a little too much the night before drowning my sorrows in disbelief that my education didn’t feel more fulfilling. The next morning, I actually woke up without my voice and barely squawked out, “Blackbird singing in the dead of night… take these broken wings and learn to fly… You were only waiting for this moment to be free.”
I don’t think the universe could have sent me a clearer sign that my creativity was stifled. Read more