I once defined myself as a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. More generously, a renaissance woman. I was a decent writer with aspirations to work in film. I was a mediocre dancer, and I could sing. I dabbled in art and photography, loved to cook, and my holiday presents were well thought-out personally crafted pieces of my overly tender and enthusiastic heart. I wrote poetry (beyond high school age), I loved to sit and listen to other people tell their stories, and I knew how to throw a party (nearly everything deserved a party.) Still, I was not sure if I was quite enough of the good stuff. I decided that what I might lack in talent, I would make up for with determination. I put my heart into everything I did.
By the time I was twenty-eight, I’d already had a short but exciting career in the movie business working with A-list filmmakers. I’d toured in Los Angeles with a belly dancing troop on a whim, produced a show for charity at the LA Improv, written two screenplays and two books (none of which left my desk drawer), decorated my first real home, gotten a masters degree and graduated at the top of my class, and I was counseling young people on their powerful self-worth (while quietly wresting with aspects of my own). Then I gave birth to my first child, and abruptly, my life fell rather still. While my husband continued to travel for work, my fast-paced life slowed to the rocking chair in the dark of sleepless nights, as I held my beautiful, colicky newborn. In the few quiet daylight hours I could find, I would write, only suddenly the subject was different. All I wanted to write about was this child and this stillness and everything I found in both. I was exhausted, even lonely, but for the first time in my life, I’d put my heart into something and not come out the other side feeling mediocre. I felt… meaningful. Now what?
My plan had been to continue working; I had the daycare all arranged. But somehow I couldn’t go back to who I had been before. Was my destiny to be the jack-of-all-trades turned stay-at-home-mom? Would other creative parts of me fall dormant? Become atrophied? Then one morning I found my answer.
I had been pacing the house, desperately trying to get my still-colicky daughter to calm down (using the Baby Whisperer’s shush pat method in combo with Harvey Karp’s five S’s method, but to no avail). When I thought my arms might actually fall off from hours of holding her, I put my wailing daughter in her baby chair, put on The Emotion’s Best of My Love, and started dancing. I was sure I was loosing my mind, but it was all I could think to do. As I danced, my stress slowly faded along with my daughters crying. She cooed and laughed as I sang, “My life has a better meaning; love has kissed me in a beautiful way! Oh oh, you’ve got the best of my love.” I gave one of the most memorable performances of my life, and that is when it hit me. I was not a washed up Renaissance woman; all those things I was kinda good at were now being called into action—my creativity, my spunk, my compassionate and imaginative nature, would be needed now more than ever before in the lead role of my life. I would forever have something to write about. I would certainly always have someone to cook for, a beautiful subject for photographs, and a recipient for handmade presents and bedtime songs. I would put my heart into it; I would put my whole self into it. This would be my parenting method. Creativity, love, and by golly, dancing! There would always be dancing.
My kids, now ten, eight and six, are my greatest project, my most creative endeavor, my most powerful poetry, and there has been no shortage of music and art in this adventure. I’ve even mastered a few things along the way, like calming a baby, hearing a child into understanding, and of course, hair lice removal. I will always work, write, create, but that simple day with The Emotions and my daughter, was my Eciah moment, the moment that shifted the direction of my life—I knew just who I was and that I was enough of the good stuff.
Christie Havey Smith is a writer, mother, kitchen-dancer, storyteller, lover of life and author of From Three Feet off the Ground. You can read more about her at Christiehaveysmith.com