• Kathleen Cassen Mickelson

Artist’s Way Check In #6 – Abundance and Generosity

A sense of abundance is sometimes hard to come by when an artist is seeking that balance between having to earn a living and making art. Throw a family into the mix and it shifts again. It’s hard to find abundance when money or time is in short supply.

The past couple of weeks have offered several reminders about what abundance is and how generosity plays a big part in furthering that feeling. And that trickles into the creation of art.

I’ve been doing a lot of child care over the past week. My son Shawn, an artist, and his wife Beka, a grad student and special education paraprofessional, had a recent schedule shift that has wreaked havoc with child care arrangements for their nine-month-old daughter Camille. That means Camille hangs out with me some days and then I need to figure out when to write. When to shower, too, come to think of it.

Camille is actually sitting right next to me, on my old yoga mat, pounding on a toy piano that was Shawn’s as I write this post. I am fortunate to be able to write in my own office at home, which means there’s nobody here to object if I add a baby to the mix. Yes, it makes my schedule harder sometimes, but this is where I feel abundance: being able to write in my own house with an across-the-hall commute. Why in the world would I say no to Camille when she can hang out and bang on a baby piano? This situation is going to last for a while, so I need to figure out how to make my part in it work. This is my choice as a member of a larger family group. That family group is as important as the writing.

That doesn’t work for everyone, of course, but that isn’t really the point. The point is that abundance is not always about money or goods. It can be about time, space, opportunity. It can be about loving someone else enough to open up space that wasn’t all that evident before they came along. That abundance, and the generosity that follows it, forges connections with others that build our networks as families and as artists or writers or whatever we are. I do Shawn and Beka a favor with child care. They get to go to their jobs or make art without worrying whether their daughter is safe. Shawn then does me the favor of teaching me to draw, of showing me how to look at things like a visual artist. I’ll use that in my writing. Camille grows up in an extended family that shows her how to pool their resources for the benefit of everyone. She sees how everyone gets a chance to do their work and still have time to give to themselves and each other.

On a broader scale, the Sunday salon group I belong to had a discussion yesterday about greed and altruism. Our conversation meandered around on a societal rather than personal level – the greed that tends to be associated with large corporations or insurance companies, economic theory, whether it’s a survival instinct to be greedy and whether altruism can also be a survival tactic. As we talked about people who don’t have a lot and whether trickle-down economics has ever worked for the poor, I remembered what it was like when I was a single parent. There was no extra money, little extra time, and I certainly didn’t have anything within me to look for abundance in my life. My parents occasionally helped out, but not often. I couldn’t find time to write back then because there was no support system that gave me enough breathing space to even consider it. At least, I couldn’t see one.

Which brings me back to today. Abundance is evident in my life, right now, and it is what allows me to say yes to others. There are always going to be times when we can’t see that we have enough (and maybe we really don’t). But when we do learn to see abundance and figure out what we have that can be opened up and shared, our art will get created no matter what.

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