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Miranda: Life, art, and friendship — in the flesh

On Friday, I had the pleasure of hanging out with Cathy Coley and Mary Duquette for the afternoon. Cathy’s husband and a boisterous selection of all of our children rounded out the group. We had such fun, despite the difficulty of completing a sentence with five small children running around.

We didn’t get our posed shot until the visit’s end, at which point Cathy’s Baby C and Mary’s daughter were BOTH exhausted and in tears. In these pictures, the little girls are both screaming in stereo. (OK, so that just made us laugh.)

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My connection with Cathy and Mary demonstrates the power of the internet — blogging and social networking. Cathy and I went to college together, but we didn’t know each other that well and we never would have become friends as “grown ups” without this blog. And I likely would have never met Mary without this blog (although it turns out we have several “real-life” connections and perhaps would have met anyway, as it seems we were intended to develop a friendship).

In our rambling discussions of life and art, I spent a fair amount of time bemoaning my current state of affairs — work work work — and trying to figure out how to change things. Cathy said something that really stuck with me. She explained that at this point in her life she no longer does things that she doesn’t want to do. Wherever possible, she chooses to do what she wants, in life and domesticity. That doesn’t mean that she never has to do the dishes, of course, but the point was that she filters out whatever she can, if it doesn’t make the grade.

I started thinking about what I might be able to excise from the considerable list of things that I really don’t want to do anymore. The first step is to look at the list of “things I have to do” and really look at which things are mandatory and which things might be just masquerading as mandatory.

I’m working on that right now. Thanks, Cathy.

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. look at you guys! i’m so jealous! so glad you were able to get together. and i, too, need to excise quite a few things from my to-do list. good reminder.

    August 3, 2009
  2. Kristine #

    How amazing that you were able to get together. I love the group picture!

    I also adhere to the “do what you want” philosophy. It started when I gave birth to my daughter.

    Before I became a mom, I was a “do everything and make everyone happy” person. Once motherhood entered the picture, I closely examined my priorities and decided that I wouldn’t do anything that conflicted with my priorities (within reason–someone still has to clean the bathroom). I also made the conscious decision to only surround myself with people who exhibited a positive influence in my life.

    I did some real housekeeping, and it changed the way I live for the better.

    August 3, 2009
  3. I’m so jealous! Christa and I met each other at Monkey Joe’s last Wednesday. The boys were in tow and it was bounce house mayhem, so not the best place to get acquainted, but we had fun anyway.

    I agree that it is important not to do anything you don’t want to do (with the exception of housecleaning), but I’ve found since having the boys that I’ve had to re-examine my whole life because the things I thought I wanted to do, that were a priority, and were important to me (like writing! *gasp*) really end up causing me more grief than pleasure now.

    I also find that as I’ve gotten older, I’m becoming much more open to doing things and starting hobbies that never would have occured to me or interested me ten years ago. I’m constantly trying to reorder my days with things that lift my spirit and those things keep changing.

    August 3, 2009
  4. Brittany and Christa — you guys had a SECRET meeting?? Where are the photos?? Where is the blog post??? 😉

    I deeply appreciate the premise of editing one’s life and not doing things that you don’t want to do, but in many cases, this extends well beyond cleaning the bathroom. When you earn money for your work, and your family depends on that income, it’s not as simple as “Well, I don’t like this and it doesn’t fit with my larger priorities so I’m not going to do it anymore.”

    In my case, my professional work is actually connected to my creative interests in that it’s writing and editing, so I do get the chance to flex my creative muscles — but of course, it is *not* the same thing, at all. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I keep doing what I do professionally? The answer is no. It’s not that the work is without satisfaction or other benefits, but it’s not my “life’s work.”

    I’m almost 40. If I’m not focused on my life’s work yet, when am I going to make that happen? Baby steps may be the most likely suggestion. But how do I reconcile spending 30-50 hours a week doing something that I don’t really want to be doing?

    (Things have been extreme during recent weeks/months; normally the workload would be more like 25-35 hours a week. So I’m REALLY in touch with how much I don’t want to be doing this right now!)

    August 3, 2009
  5. This is a great point Miranda: “When you earn money for your work, and your family depends on that income, it’s not as simple as “Well, I don’t like this and it doesn’t fit with my larger priorities so I’m not going to do it anymore.”” That is the exact situation I am in and probably will be for quite some time.

    I would so love to quit my day job and pursue my “purple cottage” dream immediately, but the reality is the bills have to be paid and it takes both my salary and DH’s to do that. Ever since I read this post, I’ve been thinking about what I can get rid of, and while there are a couple things, I simply can’t ditch the main thing I’d love to get rid of to pursue the things I’d much rather be doing.

    I signed up for an art retreat recently, paid my registration fee, but have been hesitating sending in my actual registration simply because those are $$ that maybe should really be spent on “have to’s” like bills rather than “want to’s” like a fun getaway for kelly. How do you find that balance…maybe a blog post in the making for me.

    August 4, 2009
  6. Forgive me, but I’m going to wax philosophic for a moment…

    As soon as I read your last paragraph, Kelly, I thought immediately of Miranda’s photo with the caption “Fly Anyway” and thought to myself, “There’s your answer.”

    Working to pay the bills is very much like being a caged (creative) animal. And you can sit there on your perch thinking “ho hum… I see those wide vistas out there and I’m stuck here in my cage” or you can, as Miranda put it, fly anyway. I’m reminded of my in-laws’ dusky conure here, who lives in his cage, but has some wild adventures when he’s let out to play. He may never see wide open vistas, but he sure makes the most of his opportunities to explore when he’s given them.

    As breadwinners/mothers/people who have deep financial/practical obligations to themselves and others, I think that’s the best we can do.

    Kelly, work every day but fly when you can. 🙂

    August 4, 2009
  7. I like your connect-the-dots observation, Brittany.

    It is imperative to “fly anyway,” and for the most part I am able to do that. I know that some periods are more challenging than others, and it’s not usually a good idea to take your own inventory when you’re in the midst of a particularly challenging time, but it’s hard not to be discouraged when there is an enormous gap between what you’re doing and what you want to be doing.

    Yes, fly anyway, but if you’re still in a cage, at a certain point, you have to figure out how to get the hell out of there.

    August 4, 2009
  8. Kristine #

    “Work every day but fly when you can.” I think we all need to put this on a Post-it note and stick it somewhere we can see it every day.

    Ah, the balance between work and art. Will there ever be an answer for moms? Probably not. I totally know the “caged animal” feeling. I felt it when I worked full-time outside the home and still feel it now sometimes when I have several hours of editing work to do at night before I can even think about opening my fiction manuscript. On those nights, as much as I hate it, the fiction gets pushed aside because I also need the income.

    Yes, with most things, like our paid work, we can’t just throw in the towel because it’s not what we want to do. (Dare to dream.) But we can do something about the little things in our day that eat up our creative time and energy. Sometimes just small changes can make a big difference.

    Good luck, Miranda, and hang in there.

    August 4, 2009
  9. i’m coming in late (literally and in the convo) so i’ll be quick –

    great conversation! glad i seemed to spark it in absentia!

    i think a big missing piece is i am still figuring all of this out, too. i brought up at miranda’s that in a time of need, i found out it was possible to live and raise the boys extremely frugally and still feed them relatively healthily. the necessaries were met, but i was under a lot of stress at that time in my life. i have been fortunate to learn most things the hard way like that we can currently survive without my income was learned by my bedrest pregnancy and recovery after baby c – but i’m currently seeking work because we’re nearing the end of that bubble, as evidenced by my van not being available for the trip, so we were quite crammed into dh’s honda element for well ove a thousand miles of road, with the slightly outgrown baby seat wedged in and hooked into the floorboard.

    brittany has a great perspective: fly anyway indeed.

    we had a wonderfully loud visit at miranda’s, and i’d like to thank andrew for allowing us to close him in the playroom with the 3ft and under maniacs for a good period of it.

    i would like to add that he had a husband’s ear-view of the convo when it rolled around to the domestic not-necessarily bliss girl talk. lol! hopefully he sees now, it’s not just me….

    August 4, 2009
  10. I think there should be an annual mom pow wow with two way mirrors and our husbands should be required to observe. They’d learn a lot that way. 😛

    August 5, 2009
  11. what a great conversation – I wish i was able to hop on a plane and come over for a cuppa and a moan/commentary on our stretched lives….. if it’s any consolation (and I know it’s not) it’s the same in Ireland,…. and probably every country in the world. it has taken me nearly 4 years of motherhood to stop being as petulant as my child and not strop about not having enough me-time….. and actually i’m coming to a more serene (and compromised) state of mind where i give as much as I can, and feel no guilt to take as much as I can. we’re the models for our children to look up to, so it’s important to me that my daughters see i have a creative happy life, seperate to my happy life with them. that’s the theory anyway….. like flying… the theory is far easier than the practise!

    August 5, 2009
  12. I can see it now… we get together for coffee and the whole lot of us end up skydiving together. Fly when we can indeed. 😛

    (For you ladies, I would do anything. LOL)

    August 5, 2009
  13. skydiving?….hmmmm

    August 5, 2009

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