It’s my birthday: Creative Practice and Real Life

My sister and me on the street in Chicago, Illinois 1963

I’ve been preparing for this job for a long time.

I write this blog post on the afternoon before my 60th birthday.

What is real for me in this moment is an intense desire for quiet, for ease, and to slip in to my outside art studio/garage and stay there, uninterrupted. But even with both kids living in other cities, in college and working, even with it being a Friday afternoon, gray and silken late summer air, even though I have washed the lunch dishes and licked the last of the chocolate pudding from the cup…I still manage to clutter up my approach to that clear time.

 

 

 

What if the whole ride, from dawn to dusk, was part of our creative practice?

What if we pared down expectations so far that the husk of expectation for hours spent alone in our creative work was slipped off to the bare naked tender desire to express experience as it is lived?

What if while I washed the dishes, I was already in the state of mind that has wiggled free of nagging responsibility?

Wouldn’t this disrupt our belief that artists function in a beautiful biome of solitude where wind nor rain nor dark of night will stay them from their flights of imagination?

 

What if the way we live is our art?

What if mindfulness prepares us for this, the dance between the dishes, the mail, the laundry, the bills, the sad human, the other sad human, the happy letters that need writing, the checkbook that needs attention–what if creative practice encompassed the whole thing?

 

My belly relaxes. Lunch begins to digest.

 

When I began blogging in 2009, my kids were early teens and I had no idea what I was doing with nearly everything. I set out to make sense of my life through creative practice, finding the sacred in the ordinary, and especially in laundry.

Motherhood has shaped me from the beginning. For so many years, I yearned to make sense of my life as a woman and mother, as a person in relation to other persons. I longed to voice what felt like was mine to voice, but I felt shuttered by expectation and training.

 

Showing up to write on this blog, which started out at Laundry Line Divine and has grown in to Rising Forth, I have learned a few things and shared them with you readers as promptly as I could. I have accomplished much in the way of clearing and making time for my own work in the midst of mothering, going from eking out time at the edges of my days, to Thursday is Art Day to now, when every day is Art Day as long as it also includes time to develop my teaching commitments, to study and write, and to tend my family with its ebb and flow of need. Every day is art day because in these 9 years I have figured out how to make a decent contribution to our family’s welfare while doing the work I longed to do…for, like, my whole life.

 

Captured by Ben at his favorite spot in D.C. in the Freer Collection of the Smithsonian Museum

On the eve of what feels like a very big birthday,

I notice the things that calm me and bring me in to connection with spirit. The light as it dawns on the pear tree, my steady and daily witness during meditation. The tree grows ten paces out from my bedroom window where I sit every day. The tree fills with light and I watch.

I notice the comfort of yoga class with people I have practiced with for five years. We did our “birthday treat” inversion practice and I brought cups of chocolate pudding for a gift to everyone for after class. Making a birthday snack seems like it comes with the territory of an early September birthday, right?

I notice how much I want to do my daily writing practice, even though I knew I could only do 20 minutes of it before a meeting. I did those 20 minutes and it was worth it.

I notice how once I got home and made lunch and cleaned up and took care of a bunch of small details, what I really was driving towards emotionally was this writing, to move towards and sit with each of you, from all the points on the globe, who gather here to share for a few minutes of your day.

How I Attempt to Thank You, Even Now

I cannot describe to you the pleasure knowing you read these posts and take them to your hearts. Every single time I post, I shed readers and I gain readers. People decide what happens here on Rising Forth is for them or not for them. They make a decision. And while I am sorry to see readers leave my mailing list, I also celebrate the clarity it takes to know, “I am ready to move on from here.”

I honor those of you who stay, who read me week to week. You have endured my oddball early posts and allowed my writing to mature and flourish in this space. Thank you for your time, for purchasing my first book, for buying my writing prompts, or enrolling in my classes. Thank you for letting these posts land in your inbox to be savored at just-the-right moment. That spot when you have time to read and open your heart to what rises forth.

My Birthday Wish

In honor of my work in Armenia I have a birthday wish. New Illuminations is a yearly 3-week residency in the city of Gyumri where I go to work with women artists in need of community and connection. You can learn all about it in this video. If you feel moved and capable of making a tax-deductible donation for New Illuminations, thank you. If you cannot offer a donation, please know that your prayers and blessings are treasures that carry me far across the sky to the land between the seas, to Gyumri with its stone cobbled streets and long golden afternoons.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for considering the whole of our lives as our creative expression.

Thank you for arguing with me.

Thank you for sending me emails.

Thank you for sending me letters.

Thank you for sending care packages for Armenia.

Thank you for living your lives fully awake to the beauty of a long cotton line of pinned socks drying in the sunshine. How our lives line up like that sometimes. How there is also beauty in the tousled, disordered chaos of a teenager’s bedroom. How that is a metaphoric expression of a human trying to make sense of who they are becoming.

Thank you for being a witness to rising forth.

Much love to you each.

Best,

 

S

 

 

 

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Showing 11 comments
  • Becky Moulton

    Happy happy birthday to you! Thinking of you today, tomorrow on your birthday, and every day! XO Becky

  • Peggy

    Suzi, I am honored to contribute $60 in honor of your momentous birthday (tomorrow!) and the momentous occasion of your next creative journey/pilgrimage to Armenia.

    Big love and endless admiration and respect to you –
    Peggy

  • Ursula

    Happy happy Birthday dearest Suzi
    It always opens my heart and spirit and body, drifting through your words, they are like a balm, they are Inspiration and make me feel sure about making steps in life.
    I‘am very grateful for that and for the work you do, so Werner and me will send you two donations for Armenia.
    Xo
    Werner Ursula

  • Ann

    Happy Birthday Suzi and here’s wishing you a Joyfull New Year! Welcome to the Sixties! ????????✨

  • Gail Burlakoff

    May this be your happiest birthday (and year) yet!
    I, too, am a Virgo–turned 82 September 4th, and *know* that this will be a stellar year for me 🙂 I read your birthday-eve blog with a soft smile and a nodding head, identifying with so much of what you say and loving your thought of “what if our art is our lives?”!!! Yes, Suzi–you’ve hit the nail on the head, so to speak. Thank you for all you do, all you share, the beauty you create. I wish that I could send you a donation for Armenia but, unfortunately, I have very limited means. What I *do* send you are my sincere thanks and my moral support for what you are doing. I hold you in the Light (a Quaker way of putting things) and wish all good things for you.
    Gail

  • Suzi

    Happy Birthday Dear Suzi!! Sending so much love and appreciation for who you are and all that you bring to this world. May all your heart wishes manifest!! Love you. Suzi

  • Maggie Dillon Katz

    Oh to this, ” I yearned to make sense of my life as a woman and mother, as a person in relation to other persons. I longed to voice what felt like was mine to voice, but I felt shuttered by expectation and training.” Happy Birthday dear Suzi on this special of special birthdays. Love, Maggie

  • Julie Bond Genovese

    “What if mindfulness prepares us for this, the dance between the dishes, the mail, the laundry, the bills, the sad human, the other sad human, the happy letters that need writing, the checkbook that needs attention–what if creative practice encompassed the whole thing?” Deep bow to you Smoozie, the unfolding of our life (and laundry) IS art and is life, together. Thank you for the reassurance and for writing the whole-heart of it. Happy Birthday Babes ~ Love you Xoxoxox Juju in Jersey

  • Barb Buckner Suarez

    Happy Birthday, Suzi B! I am so pleased that our lives converged when they did and my only (slight) regret it that it didn’t happen sooner! I am inspired in what can happen in nine years based on what has happened with YOU in that same amount of time. I’ma few years behind you in writing my own blog (five to be exact!) and I resonate with the growing sense of purpose that those years of creating have given to me. I love watching and learning from you. And I ADORE that we share the same birthday. Can’t tell you how much that tickles me! Hope this decade is your BEST yet! XOXOXOXOXO

  • Tara

    Sending you a bunch of happy birthday wishes! I’m about to spring into a new decade too, well, in February!
    Mine is yours plus 10! Imagine! I just swam @ Mansfield and driving by your lovely home noticed the beauty of the wood on the frame of the front door as I drove by. I thought , Suzi has such good taste! And also thought, I bet she’s had some fun summer adventures! Love to you, Tara

  • Tasha

    Happy Birthday! And thank you for this. The thought that the whole day, everything we do, is our art and our creative practice—that really resonates with what I’ve been reading and thinking lately. Right now I’m at North House Folk School, where they have this idea of Slöjd, which means (as far as I can tell so far) using simple tools and materials from nature to craft things that are useful to you, and express your own creativity. Also, here we have a communal kitchen where I wash and dry my own little set of dishes and put them away each meal. It’s either a chore or a meditation … anyway, very best wishes to you!