One of the things I had to face was my deteriorating health due to exhaustion and neglect. I used to get by on just a few hours sleep. After all, with babies waking in the night it was normal to get by on such little sleep. But over the past few weeks, my body said, "enough" and I had to listen.
So after the gallery talk last Saturday, and the Art Salon Boston on Sunday, I decided to give myself a vacation from all things gallery related, as much as I could anyway, and try to regain a semblance of what life would be like without the influence and influx of gallery work. It was unbelievably hard to do, and I'm not quite sure I pulled it off as well as I thought I could.
The truth of the matter is, the gallery is like a fifth child. It needs to be nurtured, spoken to and with, physically cared for, and like a child, it's relationships need to be fostered. And as in motherhood, or parenthood I should say, the rewards or end pay aren't immediate, and you have to put faith in the presumption that good work will eventually yield good results.
Sometimes I wonder, in the back of my mind, why I still plod on, in the middle of a recession (or towards the end if you believe the New York Times - I'm still waiting to see a difference) while bigger and more notable galleries are folding under the pressure of low sales and attendance. But I chose to start this gallery because I am passionate about the promotion of ideas through art and can't imagine a line of work that doesn't involve working with artists. I don't know what else I would do, if not this.
At the end of the day, though, I need to think about the long late hours and how they affect my health and my family. With two toddlers no longer napping, and a new school year beginning, the thought of the work ahead is exhausting in itself. A quiet part of me is whispering "slow down" and another voice is yelling, "GO!".
When I was a competitive runner, my friend Megan and I would cheer for each other with just that one word, with as much depth and determination as we could muster. The sound of her voice bellowing that one word has stuck with me, through births, through the passings of friends and family, through those spots in life when things seem they can't get any better or worse, I hear her voice pushing me forward, telling me to "GO!" I hear her now.
I choose to keep going, but it isn't really a choice at all. This gallery is a part of me, and a part of my family. My children have grown up here. I have countless hours, not to mention dollars, invested in education, professional development, networking, relationship building, and the physical business itself. How does one stop their life's work mid stream? That's a question I can't find an answer for, not that I've been looking. A better question would be, "What is my most important work?"
I asked my son how he felt about the hours I spend working on the gallery, and whether he felt neglected at all, sharing me with my work. He very quickly responded, "No." Anyone who knows William knows he is an old soul, wise beyond his years. He doesn't want to be responsible for me not doing what makes me happy. I think we forget sometimes, as adults, that we have the same needs as our children: the need to learn, to explore, to be loved, to love, to enjoy ourselves and have fun, to wonder, to contemplate, to spend time alone and to have meaningful relationships, to make meaningful contributions to our family and community, and to be physically nurtured. My most important work is of course, raising my children, but it is not my only work. Thank you foremothers.
My mental vacation is over, if it ever began. I am ready to move forward, push forward with promotions for Ellen Shattuck Pierce's upcoming exhibit, Floor Play, which moves the focus of the viewer from the wall to the floor, finish up with the website, work on the new member's pages and get the online gallery figured out, amongst many, many other to-do's.
In order to get all of these pressing tasks done, I will be working a full work week in the gallery next week. My husband and I are switching positions. He will be working from home with the kids, and I will be in the gallery. I'm sure by the end of the week we'll have a better perspective of each other's lives, and of our own. Maybe, just maybe, some of the questions I ask myself, my internal conflicts, will come closer to resolution, or maybe I'll just have more brain space and relaxed shoulders as a result of a shorter to-do list. Either way, at the end of each day, I know that with my new-found respect for my physical limitations, I'll be grateful for my family, my work, and all of the people in my life who support and encourage me to GO!