Sometimes You Need Purple Hair

pinkandpurple

When I went from the mother of one to the mother of four within 5 minutes, I changed.

With one child, I had been a fun, creative, engaged mother with a deep commitment to doing what was best for my high-needs child. I willingly gave up my own sleep for my son’s and gave up my immediate goals for returning to work and theatre once it became clear that my son wasn’t thriving with other care-givers.

When the triplets were born, I had no choice but to spend all my time focused on child-care. Caring for infant triplets takes all the time you have as a parent and my eldest was a high-needs preschooler who demanded my time. My husband came home from work every day to work as hard as he did at work. We were lucky. Gifts from family paid for months for a nanny to help me, and we spent our savings on a second. I was a stay-at-home mom with 16 hours of professional help with the childcare 5 days a week and I was still struggling to provide the basic care my 4 kids needed.

I was always exhausted, and always busy. It took 6 months before I could take any time for myself without my mother travelling 300 miles to stay.

For the first 4 years, I never got less busy. As the children developed and needed less intense care, we hired less help, but I never got less busy. Then, school became an untenable environment for one of my kids and I pulled him out to homeschool.

During these years, my adrenals were in overdrive and I was living in stress-induced “must be responsible or the entire world will collapse” mode. I started to act and direct again. I started writing again. But, I didn’t start to really play again. There was a certain joyful play that I didn’t let back into my life.

Early this summer, it became clear I needed to embrace my youthful playfulness at a new level to start enjoying parenting at a deeper level and to provide the best coaching to my creative clients. After a session with a coach of my own who helped me tap into memories of a freer and more playful time in my life, I created a multimedia “self-portrait” of the most exuberant, youthful, play-loving part of me.

I wanted to deepen my connection to those memories, so I let that self-portrait influence the way I presented myself to the world.

I let that part of me go clothes shopping and bought dresses in bright colours and patterns that I had not worn since becoming the supermother of intense triplets plus one. I dyed my hair blonde.

blonde

Then, I started adding pink and purple highlights.

photo (38)

I have been using Manic Panic gel. It washes out and I get to try new variations any time I like – which this summer has been almost every day. Because it washes out, I don’t mind the kids using it. So, not only do I get I get to have fun, I get to be the fun mom, too.

photo (39)

 

More importantly, by expressing my creativity in my hair, every time I see my reflection, I smile and remember the power of play.

Have you dyed your hair pink lately? Maybe you should try it? It’s lots of fun!

Introducing Kate Arms-Roberts

I am Kate Arms-Roberts and welcome to my new home on the internet.

Here, you will find me writing about the power of play, creativity, stories, and beauty to provide a basis for meaning-making in a troubled world. I have been blogging on these topics for several years now, and all my previous posts are available on this site.

From the links in the navigation bar above, you can find information about the classes I teach and the creativity coaching and writing services I offer.

If you like reading my work, please subscribe to the blog. I have a special gift for subscribers – an audio-recording of me leading the full InterPlay warm-up. Follow along with the guidance in the warm-up and enjoy a 15-minute self-care break and an opportunity to connect with the wisdom of your own body. Just sign up in the box on the left and you will be directed to a download link when you confirm your subscription.

Over on Facebook, I post inspirational quotes and links to articles about play, creativity, and story-telling. Please Like my page and enjoy those resources.

And now, for those who don’t know me or want to know a little more about me, here is an Introduction, 

If you met me at one of my InterPlay classes, you would see a tall woman in flowing black trousers and a black or jewel-couloured top. I would welcome you and provide a comfortable environment for you to connect with your own body-wisdom. You would find me compassionate and open, vulnerable and strong. You would hear a laugh in my voice. When I danced with you, you would see remnants of ballet and modern dance training abandoned decades ago but still present in my body.

If you met me as an actor in a play I was directing, you would see passion and drive. Always moving forward, I wouldn’t let you rest on your laurels. I would always be nudging you to find more truth in the moment, a deeper commitment to the emotional life of the story. And yet, when you struggled, you would find me encouraging – realistic about your limitations, but always striving to help you bring out your best performance, and always in service of the play.

If you met me only through my fiction, you would find regret, horror, magic, and transformation.

These are all part of me.

As a child, I suffered from existential depression and found meaning in my life through theatre and dance. My writing comes from the depths of my being, where I still wrestle with existential questions. My work as a director, coach, and InterPlay facilitator comes from the compassion for humanity I discovered through art, performance, stories, and my commitment to making my life meaningful despite the lack of external answers.

I am on a mission to bring beauty and meaning to the world, grounded in an Ethic of Play, with full acknowledgement of bodies and feelings as essential components of human experience, recognizing the immense variety of human beings in the world, and claiming the power of story-telling to bridge the gaps between individuals. I refuse to deny the horrors in the world, but I insist on seeing the wonders, too.

Kate

The Things We Are Afraid to Write About

The last of a series on truth-telling in life and art. See the first post, Dare to Be Yourself, here.

Did you notice how my writing got analytical and vague last week?

For the past year, I have been easing my way toward dealing with the most defining moment of my life – the nadir from which the rest of my life has been an ascension. I thought I was ready, but I was wrong. I pushed and my chief defense mechanism, my intellect, jumped into the fray.

I believe that as I learn to retell my story with myself as the protagonist, as I turn my knowledge of storytelling on myself and claim the moment I chose to walk out of darkness towards my own power, I am changing my life. But, I also believe that this is a deep-body process, not one I can think my way through. As soon as I jump to analyzing emotional events intellectually, I know that I am reacting from fear and it is time for me to turn back to play.

I came up against my hard edges last week and hit a wall. I’m closer to my deepest material than I have ever been, but I need to be gentler with myself. Time for me to go back to some sneaky deep play.

Which is why I decided that I will leave my improvised poems about play up at A More Playful Life. Leaving them up is scary, but it is a fear I am willing to face. And, by approaching the poetry InterPlayfully, I connect to a deeply supportive community.

I hope you’ll drop by and check them out.

The Power of Unrelated Ideas

My experience is that I have never done well writing a story from one idea or developing a character from one source. Only when I put together two previously unrelated ideas or characters do they come to life; it is in the process of connecting the unconnected that my stories grow.

Orson Scott Card, Characters & Viewpoint

This quote came to mind yesterday as I watched my children play. They were wildly and chaotically mixing-up inspirational sources.

When I first saw them, they had transformed the manipulatives that I use for teaching math (card-stock base-ten blocks, vase gems, dice, and coins) into medicine for our Roboraptor. I was somewhat put out to see they had destroyed many of my hand-made thousands cubes in the process, but I noted that by filling them with the smaller pieces, they had created a play version of hard-shelled pharmaceutical capsules.

The Pink Pirate

Later in the day, my daughter was playing “Pirates of the Caribbean,” which she knows only from a single movie trailer. She had donned a black vampire cape and her pirate bandana, hot-pink with a skull and crossbones. With a small, plastic dagger tucked into her waistband, she was commanding the motley crew of her Playmobil Egyptian ship to search for treasure according to the map she had drawn.

In both cases, the play was deep, engaging, unstructured, and inspired. The elements of craft that could be used to transform either of those games into a short story, for instance, would clean up the edges, and remove some of the unmatched elements to streamline the imagery.

I found myself wondering whether in the name of craft, I had lost some of the wild creative impulses that my daughter was demonstrating.

What do we sacrifice when we transform the wild, messy realm of life into art? Can we stay open to the mixing of seemingly unrelated ideas and still use craft to form cohesive work? The quote from Orson Scott Card not only says “yes we can,” but also “perhaps we must”.

What do you think?

Self-Care for Creatives

Do what the dice say.

Whether we are paid for our creative work or not, creative people have stressors that are directly related to our work: the need to be productive and avoid procrastination, solving the problem at hand, self-doubt, finding time for subconscious creativity and for experiences that introduce new ideas and images to our thinking, etc.

There is a certain level of stress that helps prod us into action. Deadlines, for example, can be useful for some people. And other levels of stress push us into a state of overwhelm and meltdown. We must have tools to pull us back from the brink if our stress threatens to overwhelm us.

A Thought Experiment

What makes you feel the opposite of stressed?

If you don’t have an easy answer to that question, try this exercise: Take a few moments to imagine how your body feels when it is stressed. Then take a few moments to imagine what the opposite of that feeling is. Really feel it in your body. And then, try to recall the things that you have been doing when you have felt that way before.

So What?

What animal are you when you do them together?

There isn’t a particularly good word in English to describe how our bodies feel when we feel the opposite of stressed. Some people use flow or openness to describe the feeling. In InterPlay, we call that feeling grace. Notice that we are using grace to name a physical sensation.

We can choose grace for ourselves. We can notice the specific things that create grace in our bodies. And, choosing to do things that give our bodies that experience of grace is a powerful practice of self-care.

An Example

I was in a big rut this week.

I haven’t been writing. NaNoWriMo has started and my kids are moving forward at good paces, but I haven’t written anything beyond a few emails and now this blog post. I have been cranky about this.

My husband and I are preparing our house for sale, an interesting challenge with 4-year old triplets underfoot and while homeschooling our eldest child. We are buying a charming house about a mile away that has more land for the kids to play outside. And, despite the fact that this is an entirely voluntary move, the work involved is substantial. So, it is not surprising that I was tired and stressed.

Unfortunately, I was also losing my cool with my kids. Which was not cool.

I knew I needed to change things up.

When I waddle, I giggle.

Under normal circumstances, changing the dynamics with my kids is often as simple as playing with iMuseCubes, an iPhone app that shakes virtual dice and provides a movement and a sound for you to create simultaneously. 3 rounds of that usually shakes me out of a bad place. If the kids join me, it can go on for some time and become hysterical.

But this week, I knew iMuseCubes wasn’t going to be enough. I needed something that would create a deeper feeling of grace within my body. Something that was specific to my needs to loosen my stress associated with the house and to be more compassionate with my kids.

And, reflecting on my need, I found a tool. It was a song, On The Line by Cris Williamson and Tret Fure. This song always has a profound effect on me. In the lyrics, the changes in a family as children grow up and leave home and elders die are reflected in the laundry Mama hangs on the washing line. And, although I usually cry during the final verse when Mama has died and Daddy hangs his own clothes on the line for the first time, the rhythm and melody of the song are upbeat and get me dancing. Dancing and singing along, I remembered with my whole bodyspirit that my time with my children is short and that my love for them and my joy in their being is bigger than my frustration at any given moment. And I was able to reconnect with them from that place.

Sometimes, words alone can be a salve in our wounded times. Sometimes, creative movement can help us through the rough spots. But sometimes, we need both.

And our bodies know.

If we notice what happens in our bodies and make note of what makes us feel grace, we can use that knowledge to take care of ourselves. We can choose to give ourselves experiences of grace. And we should. Our bodyspirits will thank us for it.

How can you make a moment of grace for yourself today?

Back to the Doodling Board

Please, doodle at work

Sunni Brown, The Miseducation of the Doodle

Do you take life too seriously? I often do.

I am a Serious Person in recovery. I am also a Sensitive Artist. These two personas have been in conflict recently. Imagine the following  – it’s been going on inside my mind.

Playing With Paint

Serious Person straps Sensitive Artist to the chair and says “Produce creative stories to make the world a better place.” Sensitive Artist curls up in ball and hides, “I can’t take the pressure.” Serious Person then steps in and creates, but the result is pedantic and uncompelling. Sensitive Artist withers in shame that this is the product associated with her name and finds comfort in Shiraz and chocolate rather than in writing. So, Serious Person drags Sensitive Artist to laptop and the cycle begins again.

This is what happens when I let that Serious Person persona have too much control.  Oh, I know, she’s useful when it comes to doing my taxes, but she’s not much help writing a story until the final stages of editing.

Painting with my daughter this week, I remembered the joy of being creative in a medium where I have no expectations for myself, where the process really is the product. And, this joy makes the Sensitive Artist happy.

Playing With Colour

While my daughter attempted symbolic painting, I just stroked the paint on the paper, feeling the way the cheap paintbrushes caught on the paper and noticing the way the paint came off the brush unevenly. I looked at the paint colours in front of me and the paint on my paper and decided to try a new colour just because it appealed to me in the moment.

And it was fun.  I even liked some of what I created. But more importantly, I reconnected with the playful side of creativity and my Sensitive Artist persona came out of hiding. The next few things I wrote had a freshness that has been missing in my work recently.

What do you do that helps you tap into your playful creativity when the world looks too serious? Do you have tricks or games you play? Let me know in the comments.

Back from the Void

Yes, I’m back.

I don’t like dropping the blog for the summer, but, there are only so many hours in the day and I needed to make sure that I spent my meagre writing time this summer on my novel and some short stories rather than on my blog.

Summer Reading

The kids are still on summer vacation for another couple of weeks, but I’m ready to be back to a non-vacation work schedule.

One of the good things about having taken a break is that it has given me an opportunity for some discernment about my goals for this blog. When I started this blog just under a year ago, my only goal was to write publicly about my NaNoWriMo participation to keep myself writing. Since then, I have discovered that people respond to my writing on creative process, writing, and InterPlay and that I have a lot I want to say.  So, I have decided to focus this blog in those areas and to develop a more regular posting schedule. I’m still working out the kinks of scheduling, but I am looking forward to writing a more regular and focused blog.

While I’m working this new direction out, I have a question for you. What would you like see me writing about in this space? Please let me know in the comments.