September 3, 2013

The Invisible Woman

As I transitioned from full-time mother to full-time housewife and artist, I expected change.  The one thing I did not expect was the eye opening realization at just how invisible I have become and the need to fix this "nothing" that I have allowed myself to become.

My epiphany occured last week when I happened to have the television on just to hear voices other than mine, and Katie Couric's show started.  Working in the library, I could hear the topic from a distance, something about the value of female friendships.  It caught my attention, so I went to the family room to watch and listen for a bit.  Author Shasta Nelson appeared on the program, talking about her book and her web site that focuses on creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends.  As I half listened for a while, I started running through the mental list of my close friends.  I couldn't even fill one hand in the count.  Then I started thinking about the towns and cities I've lived in for the past 35 years and realized that it was the same story in each one - I had maybe one close friend at a time and, even then, I think I'm being generous when I describe the friendships as "close."  The exception was when I worked at a graduate school and many of the students working in my office were my peers and we really hit it off.  Those friendships lasted for as long as we lived in the same town.  Does that even count?  My oldest and most long-term friendship is coming to a very sad end, and it is overwhelmingly sad for me.

Wallowing in this increasing emotional downhill slide, I went to Shasta's website where I read every part of the site from top to bottom and took advantage of the free guest sign up.  In the process of signing up, there was a questionnaire about me, the point of which is to match up personalities for these small "group dates" of women in my area that are also seeking friendships.  Oh my gosh, I am so boring on paper!  In reality, I'm quite the talkative comic in a group.  But when it came to answering questions about what kind of outdoor activities I enjoy or what activities I enjoy doing in my spare time, I realized I have just fallen into the habit of doing very little.  I sort of exist in each day, waiting for the next day, and doing it alone until someone comes home from work or school.  I've allowed myself to slowly disappear, not going anywhere or doing anything unless someone else (almost always my overworked husband) has the time, energy or interest to do something.  Do I really just go to two quilt shows and a few nights at the comedy club a year?  That's it, other than one of his work-related parties or dinner with one of his co-workers or subordinates?  What has happened to me?  On paper, I look like I'm barely conscious, much less fun company.  When I get in a group, my husband teases that I AM the party and I have a blast.  It's getting there that just isn't happening.  Ugh.

I see this disappearing act happening in my artwork as well.  As I've fussed about ad nauseum, I am just dragging myself through the doll furniture painting project.  This does not look like me, but I'm having a hard time figuring out "me."  My identity has just been loss and I have to stop being so afraid to find it again.  Too much of what I do, or don't do, is driven by fear.  There's the fear of failure at the top of the list, failing at being able to maintain a friendship, failure when it comes to sharing art.  I would certainly never advise a friend to just sit in their house alone and live with it, but that's what I'm doing.  I have allowed the fear of failure to stop me dead in my tracks.  I don't want that fear of failure to stop me from making art, from making friends or from finding out who I am as an individual. 

Now what?  I really have my work cut out for me.