Baby Steps

Late last year, after being in a particularly stubborn creative funk, I pulled out my notebook and wrote out a list of truths that I needed to reconcile. As I wrote them out, I found myself also writing potential solutions in response.

Truth: I want to create and perform in theatre pieces.

Solution: I need to create opportunities to fulfill this desire.

Truth: I fear that I am limited by being stay at home mom.

Solution: I need to create opportunities to perform that work with my chosen stay at home mom lifestyle.

Truth: I miss the camaraderie of making theatre with others. I need connection.

Solution: The opportunities I create must involve partnering with others.  

There was something cathartic in just seeing these precious and deeply felt desires written out. Instead of letting them tangle inside of me in a sticky mass of discontentment, I could face them on the page. I could breathe easier, seeing that my frustration could be boiled down to a handful of simple statements. I still didn’t know what to do about the imbalances and holes in my artistic life, but at least I had named them. That was enough.

Then a few months later, I took a risk and started the Artist Parent Playground blog. Some people even read it. Some even seem to appreciate what it’s all about and give me hope that it might really turn into an interactive online community someday. And for a while, that writing outlet and potential was enough.

That brings us to this month.

My baby girl just turned one and looking back on the past year gave me lots of reasons to celebrate. And lots of reasons to realize how different and sometimes nonexistent my creative life has become since she was born. I felt stuck again–between being overjoyed at my good fortune to be at home raising this effervescent little person and being outraged that I didn’t have the freedom to just go out and make theatre the way I used to. And, if I was honest, I wasn’t even all that good at seizing the creative day before I was a mom and realizing that I had missed a lot of opportunities pre-baby, left me even more frustrated with myself.

Then I happened to flip through my trusty notebook and came across my list again. And even though it took me half a year, I finally decided to do something about it.

We’re still relatively new to the area and while we have definitely connected with some wonderful people here, I have yet to break into any kind of theatre scene, mostly because of my time constraints with having a toddler. So I took matters into my own hands and took another risk. I started a Meetup Group.

Meetup is a handy online platform that helps you “find your people.” You can enter your interests into the database and then see if there are any groups of people who share those interests in your area. If you don’t find something that fits, you can organize your own Meetup Group. It’s a great tool for meeting people when you’ve moved to a new place or when you’re looking to get involved in a new activity.

I created an account and have joined a number of groups that have to do with parenting, theatre, or creativity, but have found that I have scheduling conflicts with a lot of them. I still hope to make it to some of the meetups put on by the groups I’ve joined, but I didn’t want to just wait for my daughter’s routine to change in order to start networking with other artist parents. So I made the decision to invest in organizing my own group: Artist Parent Theatre Lab.

The point of Artist Parent Theatre Lab really is to have an extended, practical application for the creative work/play I want to promote on Artist Parent Playground. I love writing for this blog and dearly hope that it will start to feel more and more like a community as it grows and as other artist parents begin sharing their insights. But I also want to work with other artist parents in person and strive to create some of the performing opportunities that I so dearly miss.

So Artist Parent Theatre Lab is for artist parents in the west Toronto area who are interested in meeting at public parks and playgrounds, kids in tow, and devising theatre pieces together. It’s an experiment in redefining conventional rehearsals and performances. The group has five members so far and our first meetup was yesterday.

No one came.

To be honest, I wasn’t really surprised. No one had RSVPed “yes” and with only 5 members scattered all over west Toronto, the odds of even one person being able to attend at the totally random time and place I had chosen was slim. But my daughter and I went to the meetup anyway, just the two of us. We stretched out on a blanket in the sunshine, I jotted down some blog post ideas and even an idea for a short theatre sketch while she played with my car keys. We had a picnic lunch together, photographed the playground, and then went on our merry way.

I’ll try again. I’ve changed the settings of the group to cast the net a little wider on Meetup. Hopefully more people will join. Hopefully people will commit to actually showing up once in a while. For now, I will keep scheduling meetups. My daughter and I will keep going and, if nothing else, it will be precious, planned out creativity time for both of us. For now, that’s enough.

Looking back on the path I’ve taken from writing a list, to launching a blog, and now starting Artist Parent Theatre Lab, I recognize a familiar pattern that I’ve observed in my daughter. In December, she pulled herself up to standing for the first time. Then she didn’t do it again for two weeks. She knew she was capable, but didn’t feel like going for it again. Then one day, she was suddenly standing all the time. It became the new normal. She did the same thing with walking. She clearly had excellent balance and strength and I could see that she could totally take some steps if she tried. But she didn’t try. Not for months. And then she walked half way across the living room. But she still favored crawling for a week. And then suddenly she was walking all over the house and hasn’t looked back since.

It seems fair to assume that we’re all capable of more than we think we are. Or maybe we even know how capable we are, but we’re scared or just not ready to tap that potential. But then one day, we wake up and face down whatever obstacle we’ve let stand in our way and we take a step forward. And we might back away away for a while or we might stand still in that new place for a good long time before trying another step in any direction. But for me at least, there is solace in knowing that it will happen when I’m ready. Whenever that is.

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