Did you hear that? The collective sigh of relief across the land when children of all ages left the bosom of their family to return to the classroom. Let me just say, I don’t want this post to come across as negative. I know only too well how incredibly fortunate we have been throughout the past, tumultuous year and, above all else, I am grateful beyond words. But home-schooling was a tough gig. I have contemplated it in a past life. It appeals to the control freak side of my nature. Sure, I over romanticised what it would mean for us all: the children would learn way beyond the mainstream and be frolicking in the woods – at one with nature or learning genuine life skills ad nauseum. They would inevitably be well rounded because I would find alternative ways to satisfy their social development and there would be home cooking galore and a house full of laughter. How hard could it be right? RIGHT?
Well, let’s just say I have been wholeheartedly disabused of this Stepford fantasy. As a parent who works but, with a studio at home and flexible work patterns, is also available to my children 24-7, the home-schooling fell to me. My husband works long hours so it was the obvious – read ‘only’ – division of responsibility.
The good part for me was that my boys are actually quite studious – which makes home-schooling infinitely easier than for some, and their school rose to the challenge admirably, so again, we were the lucky ones. But without more available time, I was inevitably squeezed and had to shelve certain aspects of my previous existence. For the most part, the plates have kept spinning and we have scraped over the hurdles, knocking a few down along the way. But we finished the race relatively unscathed, which has to count for something.
The boys went back to school on 8th March just as my husband vacated the spare room, which had become the nerve centre for all things work related, and set up in his new cabin at the bottom of the garden for which only he has keys. For the first time in almost a year, I had the house to myself! Obviously, I was psychologically unprepared for this newfound freedom and instantly overwhelmed at the back log of unfinished tasks that lay ahead, from refilling the kitchen with food that does more than merely sustain us, to executing on work commitments which had been languishing in the studio, and everything in between. Where do you start?
My life, as it had been before COVID, had rested on perpetual pause. I had just three weeks to make progress before the Easter holidays beckoned. The to-do list grew exponentially despite a relentless regime between drop off and pick up times. It was clear that there was not enough hours in the day to get back to where I felt I should have been with all the disruptions of the past year and like so many mums out there, I was knackered! Snippets of masked up, socially-distanced conversations at the school gates were unifying as we all discovered we were riding a similar wave (or in our own unique way, struggling to surface from one of many). The only thing to do was to plough through at whatever pace I could muster and that would have to be good enough. My focus has had to shift from the destination to the journey. Small wins are still wins afterall and sometimes even the slightest progress belies the effort that has taken place.
I suppose as human beings we are adaptable and flexibility is certainly a keyword that gets bandied about in our house. It is treated as a ubiquitous solution. Failure is not an end, but rather an inflexion point and time for our good friend ‘flexibility’ to kick in. I had reluctantly accepted that the one thing I had to let go of, albeit temporarily, was my work. I would continue to work on commissions and try to post on social media when time allowed (Ha! what time?), but content is hard to come by when you step away from the day-to-day, so posts have been sporadic at best and in the social media obsessed world we now inhabit, limbo has been frustrating.
I know myself well enough by now that I am at my happiest when I have time to work. The creative process is more than just cathartic, it is a visceral need. Creating something of beauty can bring a connection to ones’ inner thoughts and I find it livening. A year of greatly reduced studio time has left me with a drive to absorb myself in my work. So, I have spent the past few weeks planning and ordering supplies. I know I need to do some studio reorganisation in order to work effectively but I also need to get some creativity under my belt too – a creative transfusion if you will. I have a lot of 35cm x 35cm canvas boards that I am working on. Not my usual size as I like to work on larger pieces. However, increasingly, I would like my art to be accessible to a wider audience and if producing some smaller works enables somebody to enjoy a piece of original art then I would like to be a part of that. it’s about spreading joy.
So I am expecting to be painting more, posting more on social media and writing the occasional blog. Short of ideas I am not. Short of time however … always.
But one thing is for sure, I’m back and all the more grateful for it.
Tracey Thornton is an international mixed-media artist Originals, Prints & Products from www.traceythorntonartist.com Facebook @traceythorntonartist Instagram @tracey.thornton.artist