So a ten year-old fixed something for me…

Napkin artEvery idiot has a podcast, except me.   There’s no reason for me not to have a podcast. I talk to strangers all day long. I’m completely fascinated by them and yet – apparently I won’t think to hit voice memo even once while I’m talking to them. My family will end up standing twenty feet away, periodically glancing over mentally begging me to walk to the car with them while I carry on a heart-to-heart with my new friend about her mom’s cancer treatment and her partner’s workaholism. That is the stuff that internet radio was made for and nevertheless I persist in doing nothing.

Tonight I took my 10 year-old to my friend John Matta’s art show. It was excellent. (You can find his amazing website here: mattanapkin.com ) Every day for 5 years this guy has drawn really clever, one panel cartoons on a napkin. He started doing it to make his wife laugh. I love that. The whole thing grew out of trying to connect to another human being. And it spread. Sometimes he has guest artists do napkins for him now. When I saw him tonight one of the first things he said was, “How come you never did one for me?” And I said, “You never asked me!” To which he responded something along the lines of “Sure I did, but you blew me off. That’s so like you.”

And it is like me. Which is mortifying because what I really, really want to do with my life is make things: I like making jokes and taking photos and mini-art pieces and painting pots and mixing concrete and putting wheels on things. Lots of times I don’t do things because I get afraid. I really thought I would get over that. I assumed I would outgrow fear. It didn’t work like that. If anything, the courage I had has atrophied over the years every time I said no to something or second-guessed myself. As an adult instead of honing my craft I am stuck perpetually trying to take the first step. I reinvent the wheel rather than get on the bicycle and I wonder why I never get anywhere.

After we left the art show I explained to my daughter that while I had a very talented father, he was not supportive of my art and that he also used his art to avoid being part of our family. Because of that I was often afraid to do artistic things because I didn’t want it to take me away from our family. I know what you’re thinking: Wow, I wish I could lay such heavy stuff on my 10 year-old kid on a Thursday night! Jen, isn’t that what therapists are for? Perhaps. I’d like to believe that instead of oversharing I was introducing my daughter to the concept of vulnerability so she could see her mom struggle with something and -hopefully- come out of it on the other side. It turns out she was exactly the right person to be on the end of that conversation. Here was her perfect to-the-letter response, “Oh mommy, you can do that stuff ‘cause you’re tough.”

One sentence and she gave me what I’ve been waiting to hear my whole life. I can never tell her that because then she’ll know she’s officially more evolved than I am and then how will I ever get her to practice piano or make her lunch again? No, I’ll just wait until she’s 30 and maybe we can talk about it at my book party.

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