I’m a parent, a business owner and a wife. That’s how I would characterize myself if I was pressed to identify who I am in relation to that which places demands on me every day. But occasionally I’m also a singer, director, actor, theater teacher, dancer, party planner and, if I really thought about it, I could probably come up with a bunch of other things to add to that list. This second collection of nouns refers to things that I am capable of doing and enjoy doing in the spaces between the times when I am a parent, business owner and wife. For me, it represents my creative child within. It’s the stuff that, if I won a million dollars, I would do for free — after I hired someone else to take care of the business and after I take my family on a much deserved trip to Hawaii, of course. (Well, in this economy, I would probably have to win at least five million to make that happen…anyway….)
Most adults wake up in the morning with their day pre-arranged. And, I dare say, most of the items on our daily punch list have to do with everyone else in our lives. In other words, parental responsibilities, work obligations and spouse expectations receive the greatest chunk of our time every day while the creative child within us — the part of us that wants to play music for joy or write a play for the love of it — gets put off until the last part of the day when the kids are in bed and the spouse is watching “Dancing With the Stars.” But, at that point, you are so darn tired from the daily rat race that, really, how much fun is it going to be to try and sing, write, play a song or paint something? When you’re tired, everything you do feels like a chore, and the creative child within us becomes yet another child who is demanding our careworn attention.
We have so many adult students who write to us about their frustrations finding a balance between work and play. My heart goes out to them as I empathize whole heatedly with their predicament. Though I am by no means a specialist in the field of self-help or “life coaching,” I recently came to some conclusions about the balance between work and play that have helped me to justify giving more consistent, regular time and attention to my creative child within.
Take playing the piano. If you’re someone who has fallen into the trap of postponing regular practicing until everyone else has had their needs met, then will you EVER practice? Let’s say that you are finding time to practice but you wish it was more time with fewer interruptions. If you’re a parent, then you know the reality — your kids will NEVER stop needing you. There are no term clauses to the parent contract. Once you sign, you’re on the hook — indefinitely.
Or are you waiting for things to slow down so that you don’t have to put in so much overtime at work? When will that realistically happen? I associate “slow down” at work with potential layoffs. Certainly if that happens (and I hope that it doesn’t), you’ll have a LOT of free time to practice but (if you’re like me) concerns about money or your feelings of despondency about being downsized will become your new excuse to avoid a relationship with your creative child within.
Spouse. This is a tricky one. Marriage is a partnership. But, I’ve learned that the only way that partnership will flourish is if the two of you are committed to supporting one another as you grow into becoming the very best version of yourself that you are capable of becoming. It’s not easy work but, guess what, success stories are better stories when there’s a triumph after a good deal of passion and hard work.
There will never be a shortage of excuses.
One of my parenting goals is to teach my kids that they can be whatever they want to be — whatever’s in their heart and wherever they set their mind to. I want them to have the fullest and most abundant life possible and I want them to become the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be. Well, my telling them this and wishing this for them isn’t necessarily going to make it so. They might listen to my directive and hearing this might make them feel confident, secure and loved, but in teaching by example, we can actually show our kids that, “Not only do I WANT you to have the fullest, most abundant life possible, I will SHOW you that it’s possible to have a full and abundant life by actually choosing to have a full and abundant life myself. A life that allows me to have at least 20 minutes per day to practice playing piano, sing, paint, draw or write simply because it brings me joy.” We are all teachers by example. What we do is so much more important than what we say.
Try just 20 minutes (uninterrupted) once per day for at least 5 days per week. Do the thing that you want to do that you’ve been avoiding. Do the thing that you used to do regularly but had to stop doing for whatever reason made sense at the time. It’s never too late to dust off an old gem or to start something new just for the sheer joy of it. And if it doesn’t work out, I’m sure you’ll find an excuse to sink back into the doldrums.
Don’t stop buying the occasional lottery ticket, but don’t wait until you win a million dollars (or 5 million) to give more attention to that creative child within. She’s been waiting so very patiently. She doesn’t ask for much. Don’t blame yourself, don’t judge yourself for neglecting her. She’ll be so glad to see you again that she won’t even remember that you were gone! Your creative child within has no concept of time. She knows, like only a child knows, that it’s never too late to have a full, abundant life. Now is the time. What are you waiting for?