When my toddler gets frustrated, she sometimes bangs her forehead on the floor.
She doesn’t hit it terribly hard (no bruising) and I’ve heard from other more experienced mothers that this is not an uncommon phenomenon and that she will probably grow out of it before long. Eventually she will realize that it hurts. And that she is doing it to herself.
In the meantime, I have to stand by, make sure she doesn’t do any real damage, and try not to reinforce the behavior by overreacting to it. But it hurts me to watch her inflict pain on herself, especially when she pauses, rubs her forehead and looks at me with this wounded expression as if I somehow made her do it by not letting her eat my lip balm. Again.
No one taught her to do this. My husband and I don’t habitually knock our noggins on the ground to emphasize our displeasure. And yet, she steadfastly bangs her head on the floor to punctuate a moment of upset or sometimes as a way to vent bursts of uncontrollable high energy. Really. Sometimes she giggles afterward. Crazy child.
The days roll by. These spurts of self-inflicted pain happen occasionally. I watch and shake my head, thinking, “Stop hurting yourself. Just get up and move on.”
It took saying those words out loud to realize just how applicable they are to me and my relationship to creativity…and really to countless other things in my life.
I think back to all the times I have wanted to do something–creative or otherwise–and have come up against a seemingly insurmountable barrier. Time, money, fear, being a parent–they can seem like daunting walls between me and what I want or need. It’s easy to shrug off the things I want, thinking that my ship has sailed or that only people without children get to do that or that I don’t have the time or money. I just build up all of the reasons why things won’t work out and when I get frustrated about them, I wind up banging my head up against the walls I’ve built. It’s as if that self-inflicted pain is my way of saying, “Look! I’m trying to get what I want but it’s just not working.” Even though it hurts, head banging feels slightly better than doing nothing. Or so I think.
At times like that, I rub the bruise on my forehead, and look heavenward to the ultimate Father figure in my life and scowl. “You gave me this life. You’re meant to open windows when you close doors or some nonsense like that. Where are the windows? Where are the doors? I can’t get past this wall!”
And then I imagine God shaking His head and smiling at me. “That’s not a wall,” He says. “That’s the floor. Now get up and get moving.”
Oh. Right. I knew that.
So I’m not unlike my toddler. Sometimes I get so bogged down by all the seeming barriers between me and my creativity that I don’t notice that I’ve melted to the ground and started flailing in my own grown up tantrum. But I don’t have to bang my head on the floor. I can stand up and move on. Sure, there are also walls involved. There’s no denying that there will be things in my way as I try to move forward, but I will keep looking for windows, doors, cracks, mouse holes–anything to help get me past it or to at least glimpse what’s on the other side.
TAG: Starting on May 1, I am committing to a new level of tackling the blocks in my creative life by doing Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” course. I invite you to try it with me. You can find her book here or at a local library. It would be fun to have your company in this self-guided spiritual path to artistic recovery. I’ve done the course once before and it works wonders.
Oh and speaking of barriers, you know that Artist Parent Theatre Lab I started and how no one attended my first meetup? I scheduled another meetup for next week. And someone RSVPed “yes.”