Two months ago, I read this quote from writer Elizabeth Gilbert:
Traditionally, women have always made their art out of stolen materials and stolen time.
Those words have made the biggest difference in my life.
You see, I thought it was a problem that I was writing in bits of stolen time. I thought that I had to somehow get back to that pre-motherhood existence when not only did I have hours of uninterrupted time to write, but more importantly, I had an alert mind (imagine that!) oriented mostly around writing and the preparation for it – observing the world and listening to the aha moments and emotional currents of my inner life.
And (forgive me) I thought my problem was somehow a new one. I forgot the real history of women’s lives and fell into that pumped-by-the-media version of the story: that women have only been trying to combine work and family life for a few decades, so it’s all so new, so complicated, so iffy whether it can work out…(Of course, the truth is women have been doing the juggle in one way or another for millennia.)
Then I read “Traditionally, women have always made their art out of stolen materials and stolen time. ”
And suddenly I became part of a great legacy of women who had been stealing bits of time, writing at kitchen tables instead of desks, scribbling notes whenever they could, and most of all writing anyway.
Painting anyway. Composing music anyway. Dancing anyway. Working on their callings and dreams and labors of love anyway. Fill in the line for you. What is life asking you to attend to, in stolen bits of time?
For me, neither childcare, nor mornings for writing at the cafe, nor times of turning the music up so I don’t hear what is happening in the other parts of the house, changes what has fundamentally changed about my life, my focus, my new divided consciousness. But as I learn to do my art in the most “imperfect” of conditions (imperfect as defined by artist dudes with no childcare responsibilities) I remember millions of women who came before me doing the same, and I can exhale. I can remember, thanks to Liz, that what I am doing is more typical than unusual, more an age-old reality than a contemporary predicament. And that reframing changes everything.
What would change for you if you really embraced making your art or working on your dream during stolen time? If you embraced it could happen that way?
photo credit: Nathan Dumlao