The answer, of course, is “So we can learn to get back up again.” This is a line from Batman Begins that I heard my boys saying to one another after they’d seen the movie, reminding each other of the importance of learning through failure.
In the last few months I have been nursing a wound to my writer’s life image of myself, to my psyche, to my heart, and to my pride. I allowed the stinging words of another to completely shut me down. I have barely written anything since Labor Day of this year, when someone close to me, told me she was embarrassed that I am a Blogger, because bloggers (in her mind) were all “overweight, lonely, pathetic women with 20 cats.”
While I do not fit that stereotype by any stretch of the imagination, the idea that someone I love could categorize me in that way, and demean my writing to something sad that a sad person would do because she is lonely, made me not want to write or connect with my other writer friends or do anything but hide from the internet for a while.
Last night, while watching August Rush with my nine-year old son for the umpteenth time, because he loves it and would watch it every day if it were possible, I realized that two of the characters had stepped away from music for years and years, even though it was a critical, crucial, trans-formative part of them – because their hearts were broken and they were deeply hurt.
It struck me as something important to talk about with Ben, because he is an artist. I know that his emotions run deep, and there is something very powerful about going towards our art when we are hurt, instead of away from it to punish ourselves. I want him to have all the tools for artistic survival that I can impart to him – whether they are strong in me or not. Some of the tools are feeble in my tool chest, and only things I’ve heard and I don’t apply. But I want him to have them.
So, after pausing the movie and talking, he asked why there were tears in my eyes. I admitted that I had done the same thing. I’d not written in several months because someone hurt my feelings. He looked at me confused, and said, “Isn’t that what your writing is for – to help sort out those kinds of things?”
It’s true. And I’ve known it. I’ve had friends and family, and especially my husband want to push me back towards writing, in any number of ways: cajoling, entreating, encouraging, and nudging. Today, I had online friends respond to a cry for help by telling me they’d go beat up the person who hurt me, gathering around me to coddle and minister to my hurt little feelings, and then one friend pretty much slapped me (figuratively) and kicked me in the backside and told me to go write – because it’s something I’m supposed to do and how dare I keep my words under wraps out of a hurt feelings tantrum.
I laughed, and I cried, and I said something about having the cutting remark in effect paralyze me – but my auto-correct feature on my phone changed Paralyze to PARTS LIZARD, and that cracked me up enough to make me actually laugh at my predicament.
The friend who used tough love on me also said I wouldn’t want to teach my boys to give up in the face of a little adversity, and she was so right.
As a mom to artist children, I know the importance of giving them tools, and encouragement, helping them to be thick skinned because we will fall down, we will make mistakes, and we will be criticized – sometimes harshly and other times with constructive insights that will only feel harsh at the time, because we are wounded that there was criticism at all instead of bright accolades. I know this first hand. Our motives will be challenged, and our talents may be marginalized.
So, this morning, after being rallied around so valiantly by other writing friends and online supporters, I was feeling emotional and teary-eyed with gratitude. My boys were being adorable and creative, and I started crying. (Some days, I’ll admit, I am truly a Hot Mess.) I told them I was especially emotional today, and they both looked at me and said, “Why don’t you go write about it?” They both hugged me, then while my nine-year old was in the middle of hugging me, my six-year old has handing me paper and a pencil. My nine-year old then handed me a chocolate kiss and told me to hold it, think about it, slowly unwrap it, and then write about the experience. What tremendously intuitive children.
And to be honest? This whole thing – from beginning to end – I will remember as a kiss. I wrapped myself up tight in response to hurt, and then had my community of love and support come to my aid to help me open back up and realize all the beauty inside that I still want to share.
When did you feel the worst fall from your art – and what was your process back to it? The sharing of these things is so important to us all. I would love to hear your story!
Photo from here