making art

David Smith believed that "the conflict for realization is what makes art."

I wonder if that is what makes humans too.

In any case, it is a useful paradigm for thinking about mothering. Worthwhile questions for a mother might be, “What do I fear will be realized here?” and “What do I hope will be realized here?”

Right now I feel like I am in a battle with Oldest’s recent tendency to fall into depression. 

On my side: my self as mother is influenced by my self as child.  I had a very depressed father.  I could not rescue him though I tried.  It may not be true but I believe that, by way of vodka, his depression killed him.  I could not save him though I tried.

On Oldest’s side: he has just realized that the universe is exceedingly large and he is minutely, possibly meaninglessly, small.

Last night, when I came home from my weekend away, he saw me and stood up.  I went to him and put my arms out. His tall, thin frame stooped sadly toward me. We both wished at that moment, I think, that we could somehow travel back to the time when I could hold him without thinking, balance him easily on one hip, the weight of him interfering not at all with some other necessary task. I reached up to hold as much of him as I could which was really not enough.

We talked about the return, over the weekend, of his depression.  “Sometimes I just feel like giving up,” he said.

What do I fear will be realized here?  I fear he will become my father.  That he will fall, and fall, and fall.  This fear does neither of us any good.  It makes me intolerant, impatient, annoyed.

What do I hope will be realized here?  I hope that he won’t be sunk by the weight of his woundedness.  That he will begin, like an artist, to both find and create meaning. 

We lay side by side on his bed.  My eyes were attracted to something new on his wall. Next to a post-it with homework assignments, he has taped two small drawings, exended doodles, to the blank whiteness.  A ghostly figure spans the space between the drawings.  He is not at all unlike the figure in The Scream. I find myself obscurely pleased at this discovery.Img_2951


3 thoughts on “making art

  1. It’s interesting and wonderful how we hold our children diffferently depending on their ages, their sizes, and thier needs. Being able to carry our kids around on our hips was such a luxury – now as they grow older we have to be more creative when figuring out how to hold them – when to touch them physically, when to be a container for their thoughts and feelings, when to just leave them alone. It sounds like you’re walking that tightrope skillfully with your oldest just as you gracefully tutor your friends on being a container for their own children, their own friends and themselves.

  2. these are really good questions about realization…what do i fear…what do i hope…it is interesting to explore how each of them takes us away from the moment, but also informs the moment. i’m going to experiment with asking them today, especially during my youngest’s inevitable defiance.
    it would be a great gift if your son was to make artistic use of his depression.

  3. nada:
    Thank you. It’s so true that what constitutes holding changes over time. One challenge of mothering is to both be a container of your child’s experience and to facilitate the process of his or her internalization of those skills. I think the hardest part is often leaving them alone. It is so much easier and comforting to feel that I am doing something. However, I know that sometimes, just being in it with them, side by side, is what is most welcome.
    I hope you’ll let us know the results of your experiment. It can indeed inform the moment when you look at how the personal polarities of hope and dread are at work. You make an interesting distinction between being in the moment and out of it. I guess I see see self-reflection as an expansion of the moment, and not so much a taking away. I, too, hope Oldest can use art to transform this painful moment in his life – I think I had blocked out how hard it is to be seventeen.

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