Thursday - Knocked Off Balance: Molly, Master Painter
In my constant pursuit to believe that there is more to me as a person than a mother, wife, and employee, I’m always signing up for classes or taking on hobbies that A.) I don’t have time for and B.) I frequently have absolutely no talent for whatsoever. I’ve dabbled in most of the domestic arts—knitting, sewing, embroidery. I’ve taken classes in kayaking and photography. I got a master’s degree in writing and publishing (hopefully an exception to the no talent rule) which was a lot of fun until I got pregnant and realized that I was sitting around a table work-shopping poems with a bunch of 19-year-olds who probably thought I was some freaky, old lady—about to have kids.
My latest endeavor is painting.
I signed up for a weekly oil painting class with a local painter who also happens to be a mother. Four of us, all mothers, go to her studio in an old factory building every Thursday night and try to engage our brains in something other than: kids, work, cleaning the house, trying to exercise, forgetting to buy the birthday present needed for the weekend, one of the twins has another ear infection, oh God, we’re out of milk.
I have found it to be surprisingly effective. Those two hours every Thursday evening fly by, and even though I’m a terrible painter, it really does feel like I’m exercising some dark part of my brain that hasn’t been flexed in ages. But the being terrible at it part is hard. I’m so overly competitive that I don’t enjoy doing things I’m not good at, so it’s an exercise in patience and restraint—trying not to constantly compare myself to the other people in the class. I’m the woman who, in prenatal yoga, would often find myself surreptitiously looking around the room to make sure I was stretching further than everyone else. I’m pretty sure that’s against the whole spirit of yoga.
I finished my first official oil painting last week, a desolate landscape scene that I photographed during a long-ago trip to Ireland. It’s resting on the mantel in our playroom, and every time I notice it I get a little thrill—I did that! And I’m actually OK with the fact that my painting isn’t better than anyone else’s (I’m taking comfort in the fact that at least it’s not much worse). What matters is that I accomplished something outside of the concentric circles of parenting and work that rule my life.
Even though it’s unlikely that I’ll ever be a painter, just the idea of thinking about being something other than who I am right now is almost exciting enough. The drudgery of raising young kids, the endless cycle of care and feeding, is so consuming that it’s easy to fall into the routine and forget there could be anything else.
Getting my master’s, painting, my secret desire to learn to play guitar that I may indulge next—these are all ways of escaping my everyday life, which frankly isn’t all that exciting. It also lets me use the parts of me that aren’t needed anywhere else. Luckily, my husband, Charlie, is more than supportive of all of these random hobbies I pick up and then eventually abandon. On painting class night, when I practically run out of the door with glee while he’s still sitting at the kitchen table with three whiny kids who won’t eat their dinner, he even tells me to enjoy myself.
But not before reminding me that he’s going to get his, too.
ODDS CHECK: The odds an adult will paint or draw in a year are 1 in 14.67—almost half as likely as the odds of participating in photography (1 in 7.84), about as likely as creative writing (1 in 14.29), and twice as likely as kayaking (1 in 28.57).