Life Pasta… Lessons from a Late Blooming Artist

Standing over my stove, stirring a batch of Hamburger Helper, I glanced up and spotted a strange scrawny scribble on my wall. Looking closer I could see that it was dried spaghetti that had evidently passed the “al dente” test the week before. I’m sure that I was too distracted to clean it off at the moment, so there it was…a pale, white, dry, twisty thing stuck to my freshly painted wall. I reached to pick it off, but it would not come off without taking a quarter size chunk of paint with it. Now, instead of noodles on my wall, I had a jagged splotch of white drywall. Nevertheless, at this moment, I wasn’t thinking about my wall. I was thinking about the flinging of noodles. That’s the test, right? You keep throwing it until it sticks.

Before I crossed the border into “40 something”, I think I lived a life half realized. For starters, I grew up in a cliché. I was a small town Texas cheerleader, raised by two conservative Christian parents. I went to a state college not far from home where I never even got a tattoo, pregnant, or arrested. Before I was yet graduated from college, I was swept away by a gush of religious fervor that took me downstream until I and found myself in a sea of holy rollin’ fundamental Christianity. I swallowed the entire belief system hook, line and fisherman. I learned basically that”women should put out, shut up and have babies. Well, I always did like Little House on the Prairie anyway. I just needed find my Charles Ingles, a bible, a nice little cabin, some vittles to fix and some kids. Fast forward a few years, and bingo! That’s exactly what I got.

In my community of faith, I adopted a perfect little idea of womanhood. I learned all the expectations, the “shoulds” and “should nots”, I conformed and then slowly began to die inside. After a decade in this fantasy world I realized that I no longer knew who I was or what I wanted. Most of the messages about women were geared to keep us “in our place”. Ambitious women, smart women, and opinionated women were to be admonished, discouraged or at least reigned in…especially if we challenged the superior wisdom of males. I got a very strong message that any creativity that wasn’t used for God was “of the flesh” and “carnal.” Self-seeking pride was a sign of sinfulness, especially for a woman. My battle between what I was supposed to be and who I actually was, culminated in a very short-lived blog entitled “The Artist Must Die”, I shit you not.

Like stepping out of a hazy smoke filled kitchen onto a nice big breezy front porch, my 40th birthday coincided with a growing clarity. My narrow-minded world view began to dissipate finally thanks to my three surprise antidotes: an “almost divorce”, religious disillusionment, and many hours of NPR podcasts. Throught the miracle of modern technology and (more than a few sets of earbuds) the world became wide and wonderful in my mind. I understood one big beautiful truth: our shared humanity.

Now, here I am 43, gloriously 43 mind you. This is my “do over.” I’ve decided to live my life fully engaged and on purpose. I’ve got a mind of my own and certainly plan on using it. I’ve decided to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a REAL artist. I know it will be a tough road especially from way out here in the dirt roads where there isn’t an “arts district” or a gallery for many miles around. That’s ok, I bet I can figure it out. It’s like back in my cheerleading days when we used to make run-through posters for the football games. Rejection and discouragement will stand in my way, but just like a giant paper poster, I’ll bust through and keep running.

Like the author and professor Brene Brown says, “you have to be courageous with your own life so others will be courageous with theirs,” I have a new purpose. Even though I still live in a very closed-minded part of the world, I feel like it is my job to be different, free, and courageous for others. There are so many women that need to know that they don’t have to accept the roles of this fear-based culture. Courage and creativity go together and they also grow together. I’m prepared to spend the next 40 years of my life exploring what this all means. It is time to fling my truth and my creativity against the odds… and see what something sticks.