The paint problem

The paint problem

The fine sirs Merriam & Webster provide seven unique definitions for the word “PREGNANT.”

Currently, I like to think I embody them each.

  1. archaic: cogent (at the very least, I must be cogent, so let’s pray yes)
  2. abounding in fancy, wit, or resourcefulness :  inventive (naturally, I think so — not my place to speculate if others agree)
  3. rich in significance or implication (yes yes yes; stakes are high on all fronts)
  4. containing a developing embryo, fetus, or unborn offspring within the body (confirmed! baby girl on the way!)
  5. having possibilities of development or consequence :  involving important issues :  momentous (certainly feels this way)
  6. obsolete :  inclined, disposed (ditto)
  7. full, teeming (double ditto)

But there is a problem with feeling you’re cogent and inventive, teeming with ideas and ambitions, while pregnant and disposed, with everything seeming so very rich in significant and implication.

In no time at all, you run out of paint.

My explanation requires I describe a recent dream — one I can only assume was directly inspired by my newfound hobby of scrutinizing paint swatches for our baby girl’s room.

(Sidebar: Incidentally, the nursery-to-be is currently painted pink. But too pink. The room was supposed to be my closet. My happy, too-pink, far-larger-than-necessary closet. Apparently the sole, current Lady of the House is already being dethroned. Naturally, I couldn’t be happier about this. As my parents move from the home I occupied from ages twelve to eighteen, I’ve re-inherited my girlhood sporting equipment, craft supplies, novellas, porcelain knickknacks, and a shockingly extensive collection of embellished berets. Surely Cameron shouldn’t be the only one subjected to these odd Abbey relics.)

Back to the dream. And because dreams are boring to hear about and even worse to read about, I’ll summarize it in two sentences:

I dreamed I didn’t have enough paint. Lots of walls, plenty of blank canvases, and not nearly enough paint.

No need to inform me that my sitcom bffs (Doctors Frasier and Niles Crane) would scoff at the simplicity of this dream. Me no care. That’s what’s nice about my dreams. While the fictitious characters occupying my waking mind can be maddeningly mysterious and elusive, my most memorable dreams are obvious ones. Nothing a freshman Psych major couldn’t decode in the time it takes her macchiato to cool.

The canvases, of course, are the various beautiful, demanding things vying for my attention. They matter to me, and I hate to keep them waiting.

The paint is my energy, my focus, my time — those infuriatingly finite resources we all attempt to allocate with thought and care.

(I’m fighting the cliche that I’ve spread myself too thin. Please fight it, too. Horrible expression. Especially as your waist expands daily, and you’re feeling particularly, profoundly grateful.)

Anyway. Between gawking at the stark canvases and depleted palettes, I discovered something reassuring — an acknowledgement that may put you at ease regarding the blank (or near-blank) canvases in the wings of your life, too: 


Moving forward, there are three options:

1. Get better at cutting canvases.

2. Get better at manufacturing paint.

3. Get more comfortable with filling the canvases more slowly.

I dedicated myself to working on all three, and then this funny thing happened: Cameron became really good at brushing his teeth. 

(And all of his stuffed animals’ teeth, but that’s beside the point.)

After months of giggling and sticking out his tongue while we struggled to ensure the bristles grazed all four of his little darling dental quadrants, bam. He’s a pretty proficient little brusher.

It happened like all of his seemingly insignificant mini milestones have happened: over time and all at once, reminding me that raising a toddler and writing a novel requires tremendous attention to the minutia. The joy is in the minutia. The work is in the minutia. Managing and monitoring the minutia IS the privilege and the job.

As a parent and a writer, no one on the planet could possibly have your radar, your instincts, your intuition, your innate, unflappable investment. No one could possibly care the way you care, because no one could care so much. People want to know if he’s walking, if he’s talking, if the book’s done, if the contract’s signed. It’s too much to expect them to relish and agonize the million complicated, glorious, surprising mini milestones in-between.

Watching Cameron gleefully brush his tiny perfect teeth tonight reminded me that I’ve never before written this novel, or been pregnant while caring for a toddler. I’m a toddler at this book, a toddler at being a pregnant mom. Most days, I write a bit, care a lot, and kiss my boys more than they could ever want. Most days, I bet I graze three quadrants. I’ll get there — to my page count, to my due date — over time and all at once.

Meanwhile, as I pray this baby arrives full-term, as Cam did despite my body indicating an increased risk for preterm labor, I remind this baby, “We’ll wait for you. We’ll be patient. Please stay as long as you like, as long as you can. Sweetheart, we can’t wait to meet you, but we will wait to meet you.”

Maybe I can grant myself more of the time and space to grow at my own pace, as we grant Cameron, “our wonder boy,” and my expanding belly. Maybe we, as artists, as parents, as prospective parents, as friends, as advocates, as risk-takers, as innovators, as young adults, and old adults, and everything in-between, maybe we can all grant ourselves a bit more patience.

Art and artful living takes time, and, as my marvelous agent, Victoria, reminds, “Good beats fast.”

Whatever you’re working on — a project, a home, a business, a family, a compromise, a partnership, a change of heart, a shift of perspective — know we can’t wait to observe its beauty, but we will wait, with hope, with encouragement, with patient, poised applause. 

Paint on, dear ones.