“Great Creatives Get It”

I went to see my naturopathic doctor this morning. As usual, she asked me how I’ve been doing emotionally, among other things. I told her how I had a depressive episode last week, how the intensity is improved, but how I still feel the cloud.

I told her how I paradoxically feel really overwhelmed and somehow simultaneously bored, in general. I told her how even everyday things have been feeling like too much. Planning & prep for healthful eating, sticking to a schedule, taking my vitamins – for whatever reason those things have been feeling ridiculously hard. I told her about that moment last week when I was spiraling and had a sudden fear that I would go manic or something. Leave everything and just run away. I told her how it scared me.

She listened and nodded and said, “You feel trapped.” I nodded, hesitantly because I don’t like to admit it, even though it’s true. I feel ashamed of that feeling.

She said, “There’s a name for this. It’s called Ennui; it’s french. Great creatives get it.” I sat silently, pondering this for a moment. I had never heard of this “ennui”, but I like the fact that she associated me with great creatives. Ha.

She goes on, “Also, your daughter is very high maintenance.” I nod again and feel my eyes welling. My daughter sees her too. She knows.

“Most kids require less maintenance by her age, but she still needs a lot. You’ve been doing this for what, seven years?”

“Seven and a half.”

“You are still putting out the kind of energy required by parents of 3 and 4 year olds, but you’ve been doing it a lot longer. Seven and a half years is a very long time.” She paused to let that sink in before saying simply, “You are exhausted.”

I realized about then that tears were running unhindered down my face and my nose was running, too. “Sorry”. I said sheepishly.

She shrugged and handed me a box of tissues and went on to emphasize her point, with examples and descriptions, as if she needed to prove to me how exhausted I am, and why. She talked about how generations ago, we tended to live more communally, with extended family and neighbors surrounding us and children running freely within the oversight of a larger group of adults and there was less pressure on individual parents. She said something about how our current societal norm of a parent and a kid(s) alone in the island of a house is not traditionally how children were raised and is a much more challenging dynamic, personally speaking.

I know her insights about my exhaustion are true. I even said something like that to my husband last week. But hearing someone else point it out to me in a factual way as if I needed convincing, without me having to explain or describe it – was beautifully unexpected. I felt something release inside of me (it was probably from all that crying).

Then she switched gears. “Are you playing the piano?” She asked.

I was not sure where this was going, but I answered, “Sometimes. I mean…not very much I guess”.

“You need to play every day. Play until you feel that emotional outlet. You need that because you are that kind of person. Do you ever write songs?”

I mumbled some things about not being very good at song writing. She poo-pooed that response and told me that I need to just do it because that’s the kind of person I am. She says if I produce enough material that embarrasses me, eventually I will find nuggets of value. Obviously, I know this is true on an intellectual level, but I’m not used to hearing someone tell me it is absolutely vital for my well-being that I do this. Having someone lecture me on my own need for self-expression feels unfamiliar. Um…are you a naturopath or a counselor?

I know I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to be responsible. Ten years ago we bought our house in the suburbs, I quit my teaching jobs and I thought I wanted to be Susy Homemaker. I wanted to cook nice meals and keep a tidy house and be orderly and normal. I always felt like I stood out, and I wanted to fit in. But it hasn’t really worked for me. I’m not good at being normal. I think maybe I need to embrace my uniqueness.

Creativity, for me, tends to require long uninterrupted stretches of focus. I have to find the zone. It takes time. It involves skipped meals, late night inspiration, and long hours editing, revision, or artful tweaking as the rest of the world fades away and the only thing that exists is the task at hand. How does that mesh with cooking meals and grocery shopping and swim lessons and bedtimes and chit-chat? I don’t know.

But there has to be a way. Lots of people do it, right? Thousands of moms are writers and artists and musicians and seamstresses and crafters. I wanna know how they do it. And I don’t think I’ll ever be the type to get up at 4AM. Not possible.

I love my daughter. I love her more than I can say. She is beautiful and precious and miraculous and smart. She thinks outside the box and has a gift for innovation, humor, and creativity. But high maintenance? You bet. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.

But at least I know what to work on. At least I can give myself permission to play the piano (yes, doctor, every day), write when I have the chance, and pursue other projects that may present themselves, right?

There. Even writing this post has made me feel better.

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