Friday, July 21, 2006
"Tracy Doesn't Apply Herself"
Individuality, 2006, Oil on Panel, 16x20
Whenever someone compliments me about being able to accomplish so much or about being good at something, I have to struggle to just say thank you. It's hard to get that out of my mouth when all I can hear are my inner voices screaming with laughter.
You see, I have always been a slacker. As a kid I wasn't really given much support or direction about making an effort or finishing something that I had started. My report cards from grade school through high school were always filled with comments like, "if only she would apply herself" or "if Tracy would work harder, her grades would be higher." I coasted through school just getting by, telling myself that grades didn't matter. I did a little bit better in college, mostly because I loved being immersed in art subjects and didn't have to worry about silly little things like math, my long time nemesis. But again, I often gave up a grade, or didn't finish a project, by coming up with some excuse or another, when really the reason was that I just didn't feel like working that hard. At that point I preferred sitting at a bar with friends and a cheap beer. Now that I am older and supposedly wiser, I think that I was afraid to work hard (plus I was and still can be very lazy-I just handle it better now). I still haven't figured out exactly why I was afraid, but I suppose it had something to do with leaving my old and unwanted life behind and moving towards a new, more (hopefully) successful one, and not knowing how to deal with all of the stress involved with that.
When I started working after college, it was the same. I did pretty well, but I always knew that I wasn't really giving anything all of my energy. I had all kinds of excuses as to why I couldn't finish a project or why the mats weren't cut perfectly (bad equipment, of course) or why the concept for the design wasn't very strong (client's fault). But a glimmer of change happened when Doug and I moved to Connecticut and I started my own little company, first selling holograms (an offshoot of Doug's old business) and then segueing into hand painted frames and clocks. I had to answer to myself and somehow that was what I needed. Soon our nephew came to live with us and that glimmer got a bit stronger. I could actually handle taking care of someone else!
But the real turning point for me came when I gave birth to our three children, in planned natural homebirths, with a midwife. That was the most empowering thing I had ever done for myself, and from then on it seemed that I could do everything that I wanted to and I could do it well. I embraced being a full time mother, learning how to cook, take care of the house properly and organizing our schedules. When I decided that I wanted to make really cool Halloween costumes and hand knit sweaters for the kids, I taught myself how to sew and knit. When I had the opportunity to do volunteer work with a non profits arts organization, no one was more surprised than I was, to find out I could be a good leader. When we remodeled a house, I supervised the whole project, top to bottom, and did it again for good measure, when we moved to our current home.
When I hear comments about how much I do and accomplish, I immediately remember the years and years of not pushing myself, of being super lazy, the feeling of how my real life was ahead of me and how I was never actually in it at that moment. And I feel like laughing at how different, yet the same I am. I still feel like life is just ahead of me, but I now have this overwhelming urge to do as much as I can, as well as I can, before it gets here.
PS. I am not suggesting that having children can always turn things around for a person. I think we can all think of instances where expecting that to happen can go terribly wrong, which also explains how we came to adopt our nephew.
PPS. I just have to mention that the painting I have posted is one of my most recent and favorite pieces. It's a grove of trees down the road, near town and I loved the contrast between the small blossoming tree and the other trees behind it. I have already painted another version of it and plan to do another larger one of it, altering some things in it slightly, of course.