Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Exhibitions and Expectations

I read "A Life in Full Bloom" - Porter magazine's feature on Georgia O'Keeffe - in the final days of pregnancy, feeling directionless and fraught with contradictions. I'd met new people the day before and been struck by how difficult I'd found it to introduce myself - even more so than usual. I felt so between worlds.

I read about Georgia O'Keeffe, who captured my attention in art class aged sixteen with her wild vibrancy, singular vision and unapologetic sense of self. I read about her express intention to "live a life different from the rest of you" - a seemingly overstated boast in the years she spent as an ordinary art teacher, but vindicated by the eventual trajectory of her experiences.

I read it, and felt encouraged, and vowed that - no matter how impractical or improbable - I would make it to the exhibition of her art at the Tate Modern before its finishing date at the end of October. I would not miss this rare opportunity. I would make a pilgrimage in celebration of someone else's authenticity and genius and, in doing so, keep something of my core self alive in all the transitions.

Now, on the other side, I can safely say this is not going to happen. Not because it's impractical or improbable for us at this stage - although it is. It's not going to happen because it's not a priority.

People say everything changes when you have a baby, but what I didn't appreciate and am only now coming to terms with is the fact that I changed. I have changed. Instantly, unexpectedly, overnight. The way my mind works, the things that come first, the ways I react to the world around me - even the way I dress and move in this poor battered body of mine. 

I still recognise my need to hold onto the person I was - that's why I write these things, come rain or shine, tears or elation. While I can. But it turns out I'm a mother now - whatever that ends up looking like and meaning for me. And that really is life-changing 

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