When my kids were growing up, my role model for how to live an idealized artistic cum domestic life was a woman named Tasha Tudor, a children’s book illustrator, who raised four children by herself in New England. Her favorite quotation was by Henry David Thoreau: “if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
The characteristics of her life (I thought) consisted of living simply, being self-reliant, amid early New England antiques and growing magnificent country gardens, all the while supporting herself by her art, painting watercolors to illustrate children’s books.
I emulated this idyllic lifestyle by becoming an antique dealer specializing in 18th century furniture with original paint and finish; my Victorian house was replete with an asparagus bed, old apple trees, a huge raspberry patch and herbaceous borders with peonies and iris. I taught myself to cook from scratch by reading cookery books written by Julia Child, Elizabeth David, M.F.K. Fisher and Alice Waters. I sewed the girls’ dresses and knitted their sweaters. There were warm brownies when they came from home from school and homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning. As a pianist, we had live music often: the kids practicing violin, cello, flute and piano.
Eventually, the balloon burst, or the bottom fell out of my life, whatever you want to call it. I found that I needed more for myself in order to feel alive than taking care of others, no matter how artistic I tried to make it at the time. I couldn’t do more for everyone else without doing something more for myself. I found a job in biotech, even though my husband was against my taking a job at all.
After many years, we parted ways and I was on my own at a time when it became clear to me that I couldn’t “do it all” by myself any longer. That’s when I surrendered to the Cosmos and the I-Ching entered my life. A friend gave me a copy and I began to practice it by reading and writing down all my questions and recording what I thought the answers might be. Thus, began my true education about myself and the world around me.
Later on, after I met my second husband, I thought about Thoreau’s quote again, because so many women (like me) were still taking care of others, putting themselves second. So I paraphased Thoreau’s quote (which I believed was mostly meant for men at the time):
“If one advances confidently in the direction of (her) dreams, and endeavors to live the life which (she) has imagined, (she) will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
And I also thought what better time to realize this way of life than with each present moment? While my daughters were in high school, I began a career as a project manager in biotech start-up companies. Turned out I was at the right place at the right time, working on recombinant Erythropoietin at Genetics Institute which turned out to be biotech’s blockbuster product, “Procrit.”
Going through uncertain times alone without knowing what the future might be was hard but the Universe provided a pathway (unbeknownst to me at the time) leading to a fresh start in my life when I was almost fifty. A new biotech company hired me, I moved to a strange city and met my husband, a piano tuner, when the movers put the lyre back on my Steinway without attaching it properly. We live in a Queen Anne Victorian house that he restored twenty years ago and is known as “Piano House,” full of Steinways, Mason Hamlins and other pianos in his shop on the ground floor.
When you read my posts, you may notice how the Cosmos and the I-Ching have guided my path. I believe that we humans make life much more complicated than the Cosmos intends. And that if we remember to ask for help, give thanks when it arrives and believe that help is available, our lives can become lighter and more joyful. This ‘unseen hand’ has woven threads of gold into the fabric of my life. Without it, I would not be where I am now.
The backstory of my journey can be found in these posts:
Life is long and dreams do come true. Even when you might not know what they could be at the time. Thank you for visiting and reading my blog.
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Hi Katherine, Congrats on your first year – wonderful work!
It is interesting to reflect on the struggles women make to find their own way – make space for ourselves – for our craft – so often duty comes first – really for me this is a huge struggle…thanks for your encouragement!
Thanks for your comment, Joanne. Duty comes first and if we can maintain joy all the while, a time may come when we have more of it for ourselves. The thing is to keep on going and to be as honest as we can be within, and with what we create. Good luck on your endeavors too.
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Hi Katherine..loved the dumpster story..I so get it too..I have carted my dumpster away after class…I feel okay to revisit different rooms still left..but for now I am satisfied to have filled it up and want it just taken away..Great class lots of interesting people….stay in touch conn