Bad Brain Days

February 19, 2008 § 3 Comments

I left class early, wondering why I was taking it in the first place. Intermediate wheel throwing. I wasn’t an art student, mind you, I was a thirty five year old woman with a toddler and a husband. I worked in accounting. Pottery was my latest tangent, if you didn’t count embroidery, which you really shouldn’t, trust me. I had been taking wheel throwing classes for a year, amassing piles of useless bowls and vessels and giving them away as gifts as if I were some coveted artist, a fanciful JMC etched in the bottom to indicate a “GENUINE JESSICA MCCARTNEY”. But where was it going? I stood in the train station staring at a yawning hole in the street below. A water main had broken in the brutal January cold and within seconds the street collapsed, sucking in cars and parking meters and young trees like a growing mouth of hell. It amazed me how swift the flood water current ran, only twenty or so feet below the surface.

By the time I got home from class, my daughter, whom I prayed and wished and worked for for nearly eight years, was sound asleep.. She’ll never know that I kissed her goodnight, or stared at her tiny limbs all curled up beneath her like a frog on a lilypad. We were both growing older, and I missed a day of her life so I could play with clay. I recalled my mother telling me that the moment we’re born we begin dying. For some reason she felt like this was an appropriate and harmless little ‘factoid’ to lay on a twelve year old. My mind is a wall of graffiti, and that sentence is bold paint, a bit worn with time, not as sharp, not as harsh, but right in the middle, surrounded by other bits of wisdom. My cousin Tommy, for example, told me that if the nuclear power plant near my childhood home were ever to melt down, I would live long enough to “watch my skin melt like water”.

I left my baby’s room and changed into pajamas, anxious to read a meaningless style magazine, watch a sitcom repeat. These were surefire ways to clear my head of “serious business”. A sharp headache pulsed behind my right eye. Dehydration? Sinuses? Tumor?

“I’m not going to be awake too much longer,” I said to my husband, noting that it wasn’t even nine o’clock.

“Bad brain day?” he asked, whipping through channels while playing poker on the laptop.

Bad brain day indeed.

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§ 3 Responses to Bad Brain Days

  • Meredith says:

    I have two cents begging me to throw them into the pool of thought, here. For me, art… creating… is always for the sake of art. It’s for doing. It’s for using your mind and your hands in a way that makes you happy. Not giggling, party, fun happy – although, sometimes it is, but a certain peace settles in when I’m making something. And while I may not ever be able to shed the need for someone in some way to tell me I did “a good job,” it will always be for my sanity. Creating for the sake of creating. For the sake of Not Working, Not Cooking, Not Cleaning, Not Thinking. For tending the hedges against the night. I was one of those lucky kids that had a mom who loved to create, who paid some dumb kid to watch her 5 tornadoes so she could escape into the world and create. Then she brought home those skills to us and played the guitar for our kindergarten class, or sewed us new art smocks for school, or pulled out the craft box and taught us the art of Making Stuff. It was her hedges against the night, and we learned from that. So, if you ask me, the answer is inside of you. Throwing pots makes you happy in a way that other things don’t. And going out into the world and nurturing a piece of J that isn’t Accountant, Wife and Mother allows you to come back with hedges that have been tended. And you’re going to have one of those lucky kids that have a mom who taught her that it’s ok to go out into the world and do something for yourself once in a while, so that you can come home and be a good mom and teach your little gardener how to tend her own hedges.

    What’s the point of art? Oh, just life. Life is the point.

  • donkeyinawhitecoat says:

    You’re smart. And I THINK I pretty much know that, deep in my heart. Of course art has a purpose, and of course I can’t spend 24/7 looking at Charlotte and being “her mom”…but that’s what sucks about having bad brain days…you KNOW you’re thinking irrationally, but you’re unable to stop.

  • Ann says:

    Bad brain days – I call them bad guilt days – will come. The only way you can be mom is to be Jessica. And Jessica is an artist. To try to separate and just be “mom” would wipe away a significant part of why Charley clings to you. You are the best thing for her. And what makes you happy and healthy is to express. So if it is thru clay for a year and then never again – it is what made you whole at that point.

    I am directing Hamlet for 7 weeks. I am sure I will have points of “Ian is being neglected and Alex is clinging to daddy”. But when I play with Alex or nurse Ian, I will be doing it because I am 100% there. My mind and soul are not frustrated. Of course, I am writing this to try to purge the guilty feelings I have over it because my mother told me “They are only 5 months old one time”. And this has various forms. But Charlotte is on this earth because you wanted her and she was meant for you. You are perfect for her and by you creating art, you are fufilling a part of you that makes you the best mom for her.

    Love you – and mean it.

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