Sharing the Muse

Creating is an interesting experience. Making something from nothing. When I actually sit and ponder on it the process is absolutely amazing.

I never thought of myself as being particularly talented. Yes, I drew recognizable portraits at the age of ten. But I’d held a pencil since I was four and it seems as natural as breathing to look at something and recreate it by drawing it. Simple. You see it; you draw it.

I was almost forty-five years old before I realized this isn’t a gift everybody has. I think the fact I’d done it as soon as I could hold a pencil sort of de-valued it for me. I didn’t have to work to make it happen. It was too easy.

I started homeschooling my son, Joshua, when he was fourteen. Josh was born with cerebral palsy. He is non-verbal and non-ambulatory and he needs help in all areas. I wasn’t particularly eager to home-school. I knew, better than anybody else, what little free time I’d carved for myself would disappear once again.

To keep my sanity I started taking watercolor classes and I discovered something surprising. Josh wanted to paint. And he didn’t just want to finger paint. He wanted the brush, the good paper, the whole nine-yards. Inside the body of this disabled young man lived the soul of an artist.

The question was: how could I help the artist emerge? I’ve written about this journey in the Walk With Me blog on Josh’s website . It’s been, and continues to be, a fascinating journey.

What I ponder today in this blog is: How does a person learn to share a muse? When Josh’s talent for art emerged, I found myself not wanting to paint. It felt like an unfair competition to me. I know it isn’t but there is a part of me that aches and cries when I paint. Because it’s easy for me. And it isn’t for him. How can I sit down and whip out a painting in one or two days when it takes him months? I can’t so I turn my art towards him. I share it and get enormous satisfaction from that.

But the muse needs an outlet and for me that outlet has become writing. I write. It drives me, pulls me, entices me, and haunts me. I have to write. I need to write. I have characters lining up in my head demanding I tell their stories.

The writing drives me like art never did. I think it’s because the writing isn’t easy. It will never be easy. I bleed when I write. I tap into my soul. It gives me something that painting and drawing never did. When I painted, I looked at something else and copied what I saw. It was more external.

I don’t do that with writing. When I write I go inward and I search the depths of my life experience, and my needs, and my loves, and my fears. I share the inner core of my being when I write. The writing holds a fascination for me that nothing else in my life does.

I look at Joshua and I see that same drive inside him. If there is one thing I’m proud of its that I managed not to crush Josh’s spirit. He soars, and its beautiful to see.

Two powerful muses. One in art and one in writing. How do they get along? How do I decide how to share? I want. Josh wants. We both have needs and drives. How do I manage to keep it fair?

I’ve had to develop the one thing I don’t possess. Organizational skills. All my life I have fought against being boxed in. I don’t like confinement in any way, shape, or form. And yet I live a life that comes with bars.

I realize I could have walked away from the responsibilities. I could have turned over the job of raising Josh to somebody else. But I really couldn’t. I loved him before I ever laid eyes on him. And once he came into the world I never looked back. I don’t wail about what we don’t have. I embrace what we do have.

I look around my living room and I see painting after painting lining my walls. Not mine. But Josh’s work. And I feel like I’m in the middle of the most magical garden ever. I see his lilacs, his roses, his petunias, and lilies. I see water, and rocks, and magical creatures I can’t even put a name too. I am so blessed.

I became organized. I’ve downsized the clutter in my house. I’ve thrown away, given away, or sold things we don’t need or don’t use. I’ve simplified my life. I made sacrifices. I sold my horses that I loved so much because I can’t have a third muse. Two is enough.

I hired help with the house because I don’t like to clean house and I love to write and help Josh paint. So I learned to get help where I need it. And I learned to divide up my time.

I get early mornings for me. My writing. My time. Josh is still asleep and my husband is usually somewhere else. He gets his running done in the mornings so the TV is turned off and I can write in peace and quiet.

Afternoons belong to Josh. He paints. Afternoons are so exciting. On good days, when things go as planned and Josh’s muscles are behaving. Then the paint flies and I don’t possess enough writing skills to describe what it feels like to feel all that artistic energy coming from Josh. It’s miracle on top of miracle.

On days when his body isn’t cooperating, it’s a battle like you’ve never seen. He struggles so hard and every stroke is a victory.

Neither one of us has what we want. But we have something so precious and wonderful that I thank God every day for allowing me to be part of it. I don’t know where our journey will take us. I only know that each step is an adventure.

About C. L. Roth

C. L. Roth was born and raised in Kansas. She has a deep love for the prairie state, the Flint Hills in particular. She is married, has two sons, four grandchildren, is an artist, writer and full-time caregiver. Life experience has taught her that normal doesn't exist, it's the journey that matters, and the best way to succeed is simply: Never Give Up.
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