Thursday, January 26, 2012
Dear Lost In Living Film Supporters:
We are pushing forward with the editing and hoping to complete the film by this Summer. Your help and encouragement has kept me going and kept this project going. I am so grateful. We still need help paying for more time with an editor and paying for a composer so your continued support is much appreciated. Thank you. In the meantime I have a lot of great stories and clips to share with you. Enjoy.
A few months ago I asked you to share your own stories about being a mother and an artist. Or perhaps stories of friends, relatives or acquaintances. I was quite moved by the responses I received. So many people shared their pain, their insights and their joys. It is clear to me that the women in Lost In Living are not alone and that this film is an important portal for women’s voices. With the permission of the writers, I have included some of the excerpts of those stories here. I am touched by the candor, the honesty and the depth of these experiences and I hope you will be too. And if you’d like to add your stories or comment on what you read here, I would love to hear what you have to share. Please feel free to email me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment on the blog or facebook page here. I am listening!
Parisa ( Photographer/Filmmaker):
If I stop having creative thoughts and ideas, I’m lost and depressed. It’s the thing that ‘makes everything alright’. And I truly think that without art and a creative outlet, the world is a soul-less place and that we are all creating in one form or another just to stay ‘alive’; some of us in the visual arts, some of us as mothers!
But to sum it all up in one paragraph, since I have had kids, I have earned very little money. My husband is the bread-winner and even though this has been stressful at times, he has been really supportive of my career. He understands that if I can’t do what I love to do, I am miserable and feel like I am letting myself down.
When asked what I do, I always say I’m a photographer. Even though I think of myself an artist, I always feel pretentious and self- indulgent saying it, unless I’m taking my practice seriously enough and making a living out of it.
My parents were not ‘artists’ but I guess my mother was creative in her own way. She was flamboyant and glamorous and she loved art and beautiful things, so perhaps I had a lot of exposure through her. But also being a girl in a middle-upper class Iranian family, the notion of work and career had little significance. My parents assumed I would marry someone and be looked after. My parents also lost all of their money, so I don’t have the luxury that I thought I did when growing up. There is no trust fund that will pay for my kids’ education or one that would buy us a house. So a lot of the internal issues I struggle with re: money have a lot to do with my upbringing…. And part of me feels like I don’t have the right to make art. Making art is for the rich.
At this point the things that I have given up and the things I have gained have become so intertwined that I hardly know one from the other. For example, I've all but given up playing gigs on a regular basis, so that I can be with my family. But at the same time, I learned that it's okay to stop being someone's performing monkey and to do my own thing, to create my own artistic space in the world instead of begging to be a part of something already established. When my kids (now 11 and 14) were young and at home so much, I had to stop now and then and take them to the park instead of steaming away with my own projects. I learned that my very willful and directed work ethic wasn't always the formula for inspiration, that sometimes dropping everything to go outside actually helped me return to my work with a different perspective. I learned so much more about teaching and communicating, and also about levels of communication. The question, how do I explain this to a six-year-old? also somehow relates to, how do I explain my art to someone on the outside of it, without talking down or making them want to run away? I no longer want to explode when I have to drop everything to help my kids. My art will be there, but my role in creating their lives is a limited one and a thing of such beauty. They are learning to create their own way, they've always been learning that. My art is with me always, I have a little more trust in that.
I am a choreographer/dance teacher and mother of 2 young girls. I have danced since I was a child and have been making dances since my early 20's when I met my husband. Now, I am 38. Although I think I have known this for many years, it has just become glaringly real that my husband is deeply threatened by my creative side. He feels completely abandoned when I take on new projects. It has come to the point where he cannot ask me about my dancing life at all.
You ask what do you give up?
I am contemplating giving up the fantasy that my husband can celebrate my creativity. I don't know if I can.
I've been putting off answering these questions because my main feeling about being creative now that I have children is that I'm not anymore -- and I feel bad about it. I love having two children -- I wanted two. I think if I just had one I'd have things more under control in my life, but it probably wouldn't be that different creatively. My biggest creative obstacle is myself. I could do it around the kids if I tried harder.
When asked what I do, I say I'm an actress. I've always defined myself as that and still feel connected to it, although I'm starting to feel comfortable with writing. I'd never say I'm a writer because I haven't made any money at it, sad. My creative expression has changed since becoming a parent -- I'm not sure who I am creatively right now because before I used to do a lot of comedy that was based on my crazy behavior and I used my 'cuteness' for lack of a better word to be funny. After having kids I no longer feel cute, appealing, or wild anymore, so I've had a hard time adjusting. I don't want to cross over yet to playing old ladies, but I fear that's what I am now. On the positive side, I've started to trust other forms of expression and am beginning to feel comfortable with a more subtle comedy, and have begun trusting my writing voice more than ever, and allowing myself to write without judging as much if it's funny or not.
I think the importance I put on success is much less since I've had kids, so if I never had kids and then had less success as I aged, I would be very depressed. Having kids just made all of that world, worrying about how others perceived me, and competing with other actresses, and all that, seem shallow and less important. But I think that in the true creative sense of acting and theatre and writing, having children has made me more geniune in my experience with it and less superficial.
I think I am the parent I want to be. I'm completely connected to my kids. I'm not perfect, but I don't know what that is. I show my anger to my kids when I'm genuinely angry, and I try to be honest with them all the time. I would like to give them a better example of a woman who's confident and productive creatively, I guess that's the thing I'm not doing. And that's the main thing missing in my life. And I'm struggling along, but maybe I'm not one of the geniuses I compare myself to and wish I were, but I'm one of the half-way artists in the middle who never does anything truly great, but appreciates those who do.
On failing as a parent:
I am sure my daughter will have years of therapy even though I swore that I would never raise her like my mom did. I just think it’s part of the genetics – we love, we try, we fail but we do the best we can.
My own dear mother would have said, “the really sad thing is, this is not the worst you will ever feel.” Horrifyingly Zen.
I fail every day, multiple times. Acknowledging this is both a relief and an incentive. And I try to remember Scout’s description of her father Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird: “Jem and I found our father satisfactory: he played with us, he read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment.”
I'm learning, and will continue to learn, that I fail as a parent when I don't show them how to be authentic to the person I am. I'm finding that as I stay true to who I am, I'm a better person, friend, mother and wife. It's sooooo easy to lose yourself once you have kids. It's so easy to fall into becoming what you "think" you should be but without being true to myself, I fail at everything! What is hard is now finding myself again after losing myself for so long!
On what we give up when becoming a mother:
The origin of the word sacrifice means 'to make holy.' Having children should be viewed in this light, not in the modern definition of sacrifice which means giving something up. When we choose to have children, we engage in the act of making something holy or sacred (perhaps life, living, etc), an act that challenges who we think we are, what we think is the right way to live, etc. When we choose to do anything in life, we should do it in this light so we remain dynamic rather than static in our definition of self. For when we think of having children as having to give something up, we undermine having children as a choice and are tempted to think of it as a burden on or challenge to our pre-determined lives. Accepting children into one's life is the attempt to make life sacred and fuller; it is not about trying to maintain one's former self but creating a new, improved self. Just my thoughts . . .
Friday, January 6, 2012
Happy New Year! I hope 2012 will be the year we dare ourselves to take the risks we've always wanted to take, to know that what we do is important to someone, somewhere and to enjoy the challenges ahead. Thank you all for your support. This clip of Merrill Joan Gerber gives you a glimpse into her process and challenges. To read more about her and her work please visit her website here.
To make a tax-deductible contribution to LOST IN LIVING, please visit the website here. You can also mail a check written out to my fiscal sponsor, "Filmmakers Alliance," c/o Mary Trunk, 1218 East Palm Street, Altadena, CA 91001. Thank you!!! -Mary