Sondra Primeaux / The Unruffled
My daughter was two when my husband began construction on my sewing studio.
I vividly remember her tiny body crawling over the wooden slats of the foundation, her "Winnie-the-Pooh" book in tow. It would be a place for me to store my twenty year curation of vintage fabrics, laces, beads and buttons. A place for me to design and sew. It was a place that represented beauty and creativity and productivity. It represented freedom, sweet freedom, and l looked at it with deserving eyes.
Just as Ms. Woolf needed a quiet room of her own in which to write, I needed a studio space. I needed those four walls to spatially separate me from my Mommy duties and Wifely duties to freely create. Being a creator and maker was my identity, or it was the one I longed for, so it was the one I presented to the world. At any given time, I had fifty projects dreamed up and schemed out, materials meticulously collected from thrift stores and Ebay, vintage craft books ear-marked, patterns gathered and cut. These surrounded me like an extra layer of protection in my fortress. I would be that person I projected to the world, glass in hand. Because there was always a glass in my hand. And in this sacred space, I finally had the freedom to drink as I wanted, bottles and boxes lining the walls with the bins of yarn and lace. Finally, I had the freedom to drink and create.
If you are a creative that drinks to excess, the glass of alcohol becomes a shackle, binding one of your hands to the other.
Your brain still wants to dream and imagine and create, like it is bubbling up from the essence of your genomes, the core of your cells. Your mouth can still somewhat articulate your thoughts but your hands are no longer functional. And if they are, they are sloppy, their movement so restricted that it's anything but effortless. So your fortress of freedom has turned into a prison. The place to act without hindrance or restraint has become a place to hide. When we have the freedom to choose something that hurts us, cages us, disarms us and renders us motionless, is that still freedom? If I'd chosen a lover that did this to me, I'm most certain I wouldn't have considered myself free.
When I found that my fortress was indeed impenetrable, I began daydreaming of other escapes. I wondered if I could rent an apartment in one of those high-rises that was going up around my neighborhood so I could finally drink, I mean, create without the leering eyes of my family, judging my process. I could hide better, disappear from life completely.
Oh, sweet freedom.
When the gig is up, rebuilding the trust takes some time, both externally and internally.
It took me a long time to trust my space again, trust that it would lead me back to my creative passions, trust that my memories would be kind and forgiving. I had to trust that my reflexes would slowly change and that glass in my hand would be filled with La Croix instead of wine and my husband and children wouldn't think twice about it's contents. It all took some time, a long time, a relatively short time.
A shift in time can miraculously create a shift in perception, or maybe we become expert compartmentalizers. Either way, my twelve by twelve space is sunny, cozy and inviting now. My desire to isolate, hide and hoard my creativity has also shifted to a need for people, community, tribe. My solution has become my goal, which is to build a space where others can join and offer their stories and creative solutions, where recovery is as tangible as a pen, a needle and thread or a paintbrush. Freedom exists not only in a free hand to create, but in another hand to reach out and offer help or support, like a gentle hand on someone's back. This is what Ms. Woolf had in mind, I think, when she suggested other women demand a room to write, space to create, autonomy to work. Together, we no longer have to disappear.
About the Author
Sondra would describe herself in one loaded word: multi-passionate. She's passionate about family, sewing, photography, writing and recovery (since July 13, 2014!). She's currently working on a website that is dedicated to just that, pursuing creativity in recovery. Follow along at The Unruffled.