I have edited photographs of myself for years, thinking that the ones with my brow furrowed and lips horizontal are far less attractive than the ones with my smile broad. I like to smile, but I also like to be serious.
This is to me one of the first benefits of becoming a woman; you take yourself seriously.
How many times do you hear someone say, “Lighten up!”?
Or exclaim, “Seriously?” when you propose a new idea. Maybe you never hear this in your world. Maybe you are the rare woman for whom ideas land and the world around you accommodates your new path, no matter what impact it has on, say, your family life, or your marriage, or your day job.
Seriously, you want to travel to Armenia for three weeks and do what?
Seriously, you are writing a book about canning applesauce?
Seriously, you want to run a what, a poetry film festival? Who will come to that?
Has anyone ever really said to you when you float a bold new idea to them, “Who would want to read that kind of book?” or “Where is Armenia anyway?” You can go ahead and put your hands down now. I get it. We have all heard this at one point in our lives. Much of the world likes it’s women fine, sane, and dependable in the ways we have been depended upon.
Now I am a rare woman perhaps, with a husband, who when I float new ideas past him says things like, “Great! When are you going? Can I go too?” or “Sounds good to me. If it’s good for you, it’s good for all of us.” You can imagine how collaborative this marriage feels, to be with someone who has that kind of acceptance of my wild life.
However I know not everyone is paired with a person like Jonathan.
Or maybe you have a parent, like many women I speak to about their creative practice, who say, “That sounds good but how are you going to make a living? Actresses can’t really pay the rent, can they?” Or “you’d be foolish to go to that school, I’d prefer that you go to this school.” And off you’d go, complying with their small version of you.
So we go off to a school to learn a marketable skill rather than writing the poetry that pours all over your pillow. Or we turn off the light at our writing desk and go back to the sink and do the rest of the dishes, never giving the ideas that bubble forth within us enough time to surface and get on to the page.
If you are sitting on your creative power, squashing it under your rump, then I say, get up and start dancing. Your creative power is what solves those challenges like rent or insurance, along with painting new canvases. When you let your creative juices run within you, they benefit not just the quilts you sew, but your relationships and all problem solving, in every case. Seriously.
If the world around you is not taking you seriously than it is highly unlikely that you will take yourself seriously.
And the converse of this is true also, or primarily,
or firstly if you don’t take yourself seriously, then who else will?
I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do. ~ Brené Brown
I take my Rampant Sisterhood seriously. They may be hilarious, but their work is serious and I believe them when they say, “I am dying paper and clothing with all found plants from my garden. Want to see?”
This is one of my aims as a teacher, to witness what I see women creating and support it, fan the flames of their desires, and put new tools in their hands. That is just what I am about to go do in Armenia.
Yup. I leave Friday. This Friday.
And yes, I take my packing seriously. I have been working on it for weeks.
Yesterday, I got a boost that I had no idea I needed as much as I did.
Yesterday, WAM Theatre of the Berkshires, who donates 25% of the box office proceeds from every production to a project that benefits women and girls, gave my Armenia project, New Illuminations, $3,500.
What does this do for me?
It gives me confidence that I can raise the remaining $5000. No, I don’t love fundraising, but it is easy when I talk about raising the voices of women who live in a very patriarchal society, whose artwork and inner lives are rarely taken seriously. I am going to Armenia to sit with women artists, to listen and talk with them and to take them seriously.
If this is something you crave, find someone in your life, you know who that might be, who you can spin your dreams out in front of, who will take you seriously, not crack jokes about your wild ideas or look for the exit while you go on about a project having to do with mushrooms and the forest floor. Give what you want too. Listen to their wild ideas. Walk in the woods for as long as necessary and hear them. Offer them the words you long to hear like,
“Really? What a great idea. What is your first step?”
or better yet,
“I love this idea. How can I support you in this?”
Maybe what you want is time set aside every week where you are not driving the kids to school so you can write, uninterrupted for 3 hours, no matter what appears, illness, a snow day, or a guest.
How can you take yourself seriously?
Buy a better set of drawing pencils?
Start a business, like my pal Smita and Indigo Handlooms, which carries out a mission she takes very seriously? Or Kristen and her co-founder Leigh Strimbeck, who started WAM Theatre. They take women in the arts seriously. And Kristen has carried her vision of double philanthropy further than she ever expected to do.
I think our dreams are too small.
I think that being taken seriously is just one way to grow in to the bigger version of yourself that you have been hiding in those old outfits.
I want to hear from you on this because I tell you; I am walking around a different woman today because of WAM Theatre yesterday. Kristen van Ginhoven takes me seriously. She believes in New Illuminations the way I do. Sure, neither of us knows what the outcome will be, but isn’t it worth the effort?
This is likely my last wordy post for a week or so. I will post photos from Armenia all during my trip, like I did last March. You can follow me here and on Instagram.
Look for the #newilluminations hashtag.
I believe in you.
All the way.
PS (Maybe this is why I cannot get rid of the piano my grandma Mimi gave me when I turned 10. She took my dream to play the piano that seriously. Thank you Mimi!) Extra credit for sending a thank you note to the someones who takes you seriously. xoxoxoS