Artist's Way,  MidLife

The Artist’s Way for Midlife – CONNECTION

I am currently working my way through Julia Cameron’s newest Artist’s Way series, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again – a program specifically targeted to help those in midlife discover creativity and meaning.

This week I focused on chapter three: Reigniting a Sense of Connection.

I continue to follow the four cornerstones of the program:

  • Daily hand-written Morning Pages (wrote all 7 days)
  • Weekly solo Artist Dates (visited the library and spent time in the kitchen)
  • Two 20-minute solo walks per week (struggling with this because I hate to sweat)
  • Ten weekly Memoir prompts (this week focusing on ages 11-15)

By design, the week’s theme of Connection is born out of the memoir. Before I started delving into the assigned prompts, I didn’t consider connection a theme for this period of life (grades 5-9). And I certainly questioned how it pertained to the present. However, I am learning not to question Julia’s direction but instead trust her wisdom. It always leads to insight.

This week’s writing prompts ask us to answer the following:

  1. Whom do you form new major relationships within this period? Briefly describe the dynamic of the most important ones.
  2. Where did you live?
  3. What was your community in this period? Did you have one? Was it satisfying – complicated – dramatic – supportive?
  4. Describe one sound from this time period. Was there a song you listened to over and over? Try listening to it now. What does the experience bring up?
  5. Describe one taste from this period.
  6. Describe one smell from this period.
  7. Describe a time when you felt lonely during this period.
  8. Describe a time when you felt supported during this period.
  9. What was a source of stress during this period?
  10. What other memories feel significant from this time?

By far the most significant event during this time in my life – and I might go as far as to say one of my top five “traumatic” moments – was our move from Houston, Texas to Weston, Connecticut when I was twelve years old.

Sixth grade is a difficult time. Halfway between childhood and adolescence with hormones raising beneath the surface, it is a time when we don’t know exactly who we are or how we fit in. However, the move from Texas, with its classic drawl and southern hospitality, made it especially hard.

I attended parochial school from the time I was in kindergarten. Boys were separated from girls and we attended chapel once a week. Manners were required and the expectation was that “children are to be seen and not heard.”

I vividly remember my entire sixth-grade year. I remember the snickers when I would respond “Yes ma’am” or “No sir” I struggled to understand my English teacher with the Boston accent. I endured the mocking of my southern drawl and then would go home and practice how to speak properly. By the end of the year, my relatives teased I spoke like a Yankee.

It was a lonely period – and I yearned for connection.

Of course, I eventually made friends and adapted to the New England lifestyle, but I have never forgotten that feeling of isolation and the desire to belong.

Interestingly, I think my recent interest in genealogical research is rooted in this desire for connection. I no longer struggle with fitting into a social group, but instead, I wonder how I fit into the world at large. Where did I come from? What legacy will I leave behind?

My ancestral background is akin to a human mutt. I’ve researched three generations on both sides of the family and so far I have determined I am southern: Texas, Tennesee, and Alabama are predominant birthplaces.

My husband, however, is 100% Italian. Both of his parents are first generation American. Which means my children are 50% Italian. And while I do not have the Mediterranean DNA, I’ve chosen to adopt this country as my own.

So this week’s Artist Date took me to the library where I checked out multiple Italian cookbooks. I perused the recipes, finding those that reminded me of the Totoro family dinner table. I then purchased the ingredients to make authentic meatballs and Italian gravy. It’s been a while since I spent so much time in the kitchen preparing a meal other than for holidays. And I loved every minute of it.

There is definitely room for improvement. Visible bits of bread in the meatballs detracted from the presentation – and I forgot to brown the beef bones for the sauce. But overall… the meal was delicious and my husband was thrilled.

I look forward to many more afternoons in the kitchen – honing my culinary skills and connecting to past loved ones through food.

 

20 Comments

  • Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    Hi Molly and welcome to #MLSTL this week. I’m really enjoying your posts as your work through The Artist’s Way for Midlife and because of you I purchased the book and am starting the process. I actually struggled with memories of my first 5 years which I found a little disconcerting. Julia writes so many things that I’ve felt for some time so it is good to have confirmation that perhaps I’m on the right track. My cousins have researched my family tree on both my mother and father’s sides of the family and it is fascinating to read. My husband was born in Italy (Naples) and moved to Australia at 4 years old in 1952. I love visiting Italy and actually it was one of my favourite places before I met my husband – the Italian connection must have been meant to be. Your meatballs look delicious and what a lovely idea. I look forward to your next instalment!
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

    • Molly Totoro

      My husband’s “grandmother” (not biological, but rather a long story I will tell another time) is from Cassano Irpino – a small area about an hour outside Naples! We would love to visit that region and reconnect with her past … someday 🙂 If you have any travel tips or places to see – I’d love to hear!

  • Michele

    What a fascinating process. I loved The Artist’s Way, but have not seen this book. I love this idea and I have no doubt that Cameron can lead you to some amazing insight. There is something about midlife that makes us long for understanding of who we are and where we have been. I suspect you are going to learn a lot!

    • Molly Totoro

      Yes, Michele… this is most definitely an interesting and insightful phase of life. I am so glad I found the #MLSTL community and realize I am not alone in this journey 🙂

  • Jennifer Jones

    Hi Molly I’ve just discovered your blog and will definitely be back to read more of your writing using The Artists Way. I love the prompts you were given for this exercise. I’ve just started a similar series on my blog using an instructional book about writing memoir. #MLSTL Shared on SM

    • Molly Totoro

      Jennifer, I think all this self-reflection is a prelude to writing my memoir 🙂 I even have a working title: Silencing Delilah. Delilah is the name I’ve given to my harsh inner critic who constantly tells me I’m not good enough.
      I look forward to reading your blog series. I’m sure I will learn a lot about the writing process.

  • Jan Wild

    I am a long time fan of Julia Cameron and have this book. I haven’t worked it all and have long given up writing morning pages but I love time out on my own. I also found her memory joggers great for reinvigorating and rediscovering some childhood memories.

    • Molly Totoro

      I do believe Julia Cameron has stumbled upon a GREAT system to help others reconnect with their inner artist. I think I read her original book three times, but only sporadically attempted the weekly exercises. I did, however, enjoy Morning Pages – but I understand they aren’t for everybody 🙂
      Thanks so much for stopping by, Jan!

  • Samantha Smith

    Hi Molly I’ve just come across your blog through the Mid Life Share The Love community and I’m really interested in ‘The Artist’s Way’. Julia’s book looks so interesting, I’ll take a peek 🙂 Your meatballs look delicious!!

    • Molly Totoro

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Samantha! I look forward to getting to know you better through this vibrant #MLSTL community 🙂

  • Karen Hume

    Hi Molly,
    I’ve talked about you in my June RAW NEWS update that I’m posting tonight. Your name came up because I read It’s Never Too Late… a couple of years ago when it first came out, but didn’t do any of the exercises.

    Now, thanks to your nudge, that of another blogger (Pat), and life circumstances that are driving me to really figure some things out, I’m working through Julia’s book too.

    I have a deadline – I want to make some big decisions before my 59th birthday at the end of August – so am trying to work through two chapters a week instead of one. I look forward to following your progress, and love the choices you’re making for your artist dates and the actions you’re taking as a result. Well done, Molly 🙂

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Karen… I’m so glad to hear Julia’s book is helping you sort through life. I’m not sure where I would be if I did not develop a Morning Pages habit several years ago. The voices in my head were getting out of control 🙂
      Thank you for the mention in your RAW NEWS post … I look forward to reading it and to following your Artist Way progress.

  • Mary Lou

    I’m sharing this series on my social media for the #MLSTL and my artist buddies are really enjoying it! What stands out in my mind of memories of 11-15 was my awareness of others’ dying. I vividly remember my grandfather’s death. I also remember a tragic death of a neighborhood boy who fell off the back of the garbage truck when he jumped on it as it took off. I went to parochial school also and remember the girls being on the left and the boys being on the right in church. It also bothered me that the public school kids sat on the outer aisles of the church set apart from us.
    http://www.meinthemiddlewrites.com

    • Molly Totoro

      Oh Mary Lou, thank you SO much for sharing this series with your artist buddies – and I’m glad they enjoy it. I struggle with calling myself an artist but this program is helping me realize we are ALL creatives!
      Interestingly, I did not recall any deaths during this time period but now that you mention it… I remember my godfather died on the night the astronauts landed on the moon. The children were told to stay in the family room in front of the television but the adults would periodically come in to witness history. Try as might, I could not shed a tear at the funeral, but two days later my dachshund died and I couldn’t stop crying. I always felt guilty that I felt sorrow for an animal but appeared uncaring for a fellow human being. Even in that memory, however, there is a sense of connection.

  • Victoria

    I have to say the age you are reflecting on now was a traumatic time for me. When I was in 5th grade we moved from WV to Ohio so I very much understand the accent business. I was made fun of every day. It was only about three years that we were there but it felt like ten. I get so anxious even thinking about that time in my life. Good for you and your cooking that sounds so wonderful. I might need to pick up an Italian cookbook, I love cookbooks.

    • Molly Totoro

      Italian cookbooks are filled with great recipes and wonderful possibilities of celebrations around the family table 🙂
      As traumatic as the move to Connecticut was… it is next week’s time period that I feel anxious about delving into. High school did not represent glory days for me.

  • Leslie Clingan

    So interesting to learn that you moved to New England in 6th grade and I moved from New England to begin school in Tennessee in 6th grade. I couldn’t understand a word my teacher said! I missed the word ON in a sentence she dictated because she pronounced it more like OWN. I struggled to fit in because I was very naive and many of the girls in my 6th class in Memphis were much more mature than I. In 7th grade, I accidentally tried out for cheerleader and made it and was really bullied for making the squad. But I finally found my niche in art and made good, life long friends.

    I have just begun this book but really want to get after it in the coming week. I enjoyed the few pages I have read and want to do the writing exercises. Have been told all my adult life that I should write a book about mi vida loca! Maybe I will.

    • Molly Totoro

      Leslie… I am a FIRM believer that everyone has at least one book in them that needs to be shared with the world. I strongly encourage you to follow this nudge and see what happens 🙂
      Yes, we share a similar 6th-grade experience. Sadly, I tried out for cheerleading and did not make the team… which created an internal bullying of “I’m just not good enough” that has continued to the present day.

  • Lise

    Hi Molly, just discovered your blog 🙂 impressive that you are following the steps. I don’t think I could stick to it, too much soul searching LOL.

    I’m a good example that it’s never too late to begin again. When I turned 50 (oh my 20 years ago!) I asked myself what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I figured if I was lucky I would have another 20 good years and wanted to do what I like. I didn’t have to work (my husband gladly provided) so there was no pressure to earn money but still I needed to get the satisfaction of accomplishing something.

    You never know what life will bring around the corner and at 52 I learned how to make a website from scratch and coding became my new passion. I’m been a web designer since then and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.

    Can’t wait to follow your journey.

    • Molly Totoro

      Lise – what an inspiring story! I hope to keep following my passion twenty years from now (although I’m fairly certain coding will not be anywhere on the list) 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and I look forward to keeping in touch through the #MLSTL community!

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