I have a confession. Self-care is hard for me in everyday life. Is it hard for you, too?
When I was touring and performing pre-kids, I found self-care on the road to be a serious challenge, one which mostly escaped me.
Self-care as the mom of tiny humans is not really a thing. Although the idea sure sounds nice, sells a lot of books and unused yoga memberships, and produces heavy traffic for HuffPost articles written by people who obviously have never had children.
Self-care while on the road with a tiny human is a UNICORN. The only exception to this: Beyonce. And let's take a minute to accept the things we cannot change as in none of us will ever get to be Beyonce.
Truth be told, Beatrice wasn't the only miserable one on that first and only tour. I was wholly and utterly exhausted. Like all new moms. At least the honest ones. When I realized we weren't going to be able to make a go of it as a traveling family band, it was a perplexing cocktail of relief chased with fear of what that meant for me as an artist and an individual. I felt guilty over being glad to be home. In hindsight, I see how I was learning about my limitations. And let's be clear: I don't love my limitations but I'm at least enough of a grown up to acknowledge that my limitations and my expectations have got to learn how to co-exist and play nice with each other. And maybe if I have managed to be that level of grown up, one day I could advance to the age where self-care was actually possible. As Anne Lamott writes, "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including YOU."
But unplugging from a hard fought career does not come easily. With very, very few exceptions, any successful artist you love has likely slogged away for a decade or more as a complete unknown before their career started to have traction. Most of us have been working our asses off for years upon years. We spend countless time honing our crafts, practicing instruments, building relationships, gaining knowledge and experience, pouring exorbitant amounts of money into exposure and opportunities. Not to mention the incredibly steep learning curve of the ever-changing music industry. Record labels as we once knew them are no more. In my lifetime I have seen the progression of vinyl, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, the dawn of the internet age, and digital technology. My first recordings were done analog to tape, and now I carry a powerful computer in my jeans pocket that can record a song and send it anywhere in the blink of an eye. This technology has cost a GREAT price for artists like me, and I'm not talking about the price of the iPhone. Digital media and streaming has diminished the worth of an artist's life work to fractions of pennies.
I may have digressed here, but my point was in illustrating the amount of true grit it takes to make art your living. I'm sure it take guts to be an accountant, too, but I've never tried that so I can’t say either way. For the seventeen years I spent as a performing songwriter before I had Beatrice and Hollis, I was committed. I was all-in on my dream of music. I approached my work with focus, passion, and determination. When you're chasing an artistic dream you get an iron in the fire, and then another. It's thrilling, really, the stuff of dreams becoming real. Some of them come up as keys that open doors for you, and some of them burn up and those opportunities never become reality. This can be wonderful and terrible all at once, because there's always something on the horizon if you keep on pushing forward. But rest? Well, rest feels risky and just out of reach.
I believe the reason it takes artists a decade or more to be noticed has much to do with momentum. Momentum has always been this mysterious component of a career and can be elusive until you get a taste of its rhythm and over time you learn how to step in time with it. Once I experienced that synergy and got some momentum going, I felt almost desperate not to lose it again. The thing about momentum? If you keep the steady rhythm of effort going under the surface, momentum begets more momentum. But a career at rest? Tends to stay at rest. And nothing can make a career come to a sudden yet completely unrestful rest like... You guessed it: motherhood.