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The Language of Discipline

Ingrid Kirkegaard on Laundry Line Divine



I have had to learn whole new ways of speaking since becoming a mother. In my childfree life, I wrote about Marcel Proust and his obsession with time passing. For me, as for him, the obsession with time passing amounted to an obsession with self passing — how, as your life goes by, your identity shifts continually. Different parts of who you are come to rigidify or dissolve. What was once frozen with fear expands to airy liberation. Elements of yourself you thought you could never do without become redundant or obstructive and have to be jettisoned, like empty rocket boosters. The characteristics you held closest to your heart ossify and desiccate. For example, how, from uptight teenager, you learn Expansive Liberal Tolerance as a twenty-something graduate, and from there how you become a mother, and how all that learnt tolerance disappears into the maw of discipline.


I had a longstanding relationship with discipline. I was a very, very disciplined child and teenager — my time management was exceptional. I awoke at 5.30am and revised in bed, I was at the piano by 7, and every day without fail my bag was packed and at the door. No one needed to tell me off. But they still did. My discipline was always fleeing whey-faced before a dark-browed father.


My excellent time management lasted all the way through university, which was, after all, a bit like school. It only started to crack when I finally had to leave school altogether, and enter the World of Work. Then I learnt about all the ways in which employers and colleagues undermine your self-discipline, through impossible deadlines, boring tasks, power struggles, envy, incompetence, and simple meanness. And I learnt that without the prop of studying for exams, my time management was useless. I turned out to be as lazy as everyone else, when I didn’t want to do something. This discovery threw me so much that I ran back to university, thinking that this was where I would find my likeminded community of non-disciplinarian souls, all engaged in lifelong labours of love.


Wrong. Once I had to teach others how to manage their time, as a lecturer, my own discipline went even more pear-shaped. It’s not that I didn’t complete tasks to the deadline, but that the way I went about finishing turned into insanity: last-minute scrabbles, tearful up-all-nighters without the benefit of following-day lazing. It scrambled me. I talked the talk of calm practice, day-to-day discipline and creative nurture, but I did not walk the walk.


At the same time, disciplinarians who were not my father were closing in on me. Bullies, delighting in abusing their positions of power (I could be specific but will refrain), sniffed me out and hounded me for minor misdemeanours. I did not know what to do with myself.


In the first few months after having my daughter, I lived embraced in the milky syncopation of her heartbeat, entirely looked after by her needs. No need to manage my own time, it was taken care of. No need for discipline, who needs to discipline a baby? I managed to extend this to the whole of her first three years, by moving to Australia, and starting my first novel. I could write while she was at nursery, and also spend several days a week with her. I complained publicly that I never had enough time to write, because I felt it de rigueur to complain, but secretly I was happy, rocked in the rhythm of her days. I did not know what lay ahead.


Because then… then there were two. A boy. Lover of women, charmer of all, dark-souled, uncontained, pure ego. And discipline came to visit me once again. Time management turned into sticks that beat me incessantly, a relentless roll call of disparate dull claims — feeding, shopping, cleaning, running for the tube, deadlines, running to pick up, doctors’ appointments, activities, suffering the comments of other mothers, nursery staff, school staff — and that discipline found its doppelgänger inside me. When my uppity son did not conform, I disciplined. Not kindly, but brutally. Angrily, forcefully, without finesse. There were no clever tips and techniques inside me which rose to the surface and helped me through. My longing for flow, connection, lovingkindness, to be a gentlewoman, all that was so much mush, it had all been so much learnt theory. The reality was perpetual shouting, nagging, talking back to talking back, argument, misery.


I wish I could tell you that this new maternal language, which seemed to burst out of me as naturally as tears, itself dissolved into understanding and forgiveness. It has not yet. For me, as yet, the melting point between discipline and creativity has not been found. I try — I seek it through yoga, dance, trying to write, trying to understand what it is like to be a child. I fail, every day. I’m about to fail again. It’s 8.12am, and I have been writing when I should have been getting my child ready to go to school.


Naughty girl.




Ingrid Wassener


Ingrid Kirkegaard is a writer based in North London, and is working on a book entitled Motherload. A former lecturer in French literature, she also teaches French and English, and acts as an education consultant. She is married with two children.







Sunday 11 January 2015

Mandy Thompson: Permission to live the life given you.


“From my earliest days, I was most satisfied when interacting with nature and, even better, carrying a favorite crayon in hand.” This is the start of my artist statement. The second sentence, however, is a bit misleading: “These passions followed me into adulthood and are now expressed through my paintings.”

Mandy Thompson

The truth is that at the start of college I made the conscious choice to set down the “crayons” for something more practical and achievable. It didn’t matter that my happiness (and possibly even mental health) rested in those moments of quietly drawing and painting and creating.


I walked away from my true voicemy true self.


Without painting and drawing, I was a fraction of my true self. This incompleteness culminated in a few years of depression. Foggy years. Hard-to-leave-the-house years. Dark, thick, heavy years. Depression led to therapy. Led to art journaling. Led to understanding my artist-soul. Led to releasing my artist-voice.


And HERE I AM, just a handful of memories later, living the best years of my life. I got those tattoos I always wanted. I cut my hair pixie-short, like I longed for since I was in first grade. I found an inner strength and external voice that my own mom didn’t even know I had.


I don’t take this wholeness and clarity for granted, and I have a passion in life to help others bring their own creative voice to life. Nurturing it. Guiding it. Calling it out.


Why? Because I can’t think of an act more violent than rejecting who we truly are.


So, let’s put our weapons down. Let’s stop pushing ourselves away from who we truly are. Let’s embrace those things that make us unique.


I’m here to give you permission to speak. I’m here to remind you that your creative voice is worth sharing. Your messages and makings are worth offering to the world.


You have permission to:

Believe in yourself. BE yourself. Know what you want to say and go after ways to say it. (Yes, you already know—it’s been in you all along.)

Give specific and real time to listening to your inner voice. This is where you will find your creative voice. Remember yourself. Think, journal, write, catalog your life, dialog with your life.

Strengthen your voice through creative play.  Practice! Experiment! PLAY!

Chase your creative dreams. Write them down and plan them out.   Spend time working towards those goals, even if its just a few minutes every day. Turn off the television and turn your dreams into reality.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: You have permission to do things differently—differently than you’ve done things before, and differently from how others expect you to do things. Permission to live your life. Wear blue jeans and t-shirts for days on end. Buy that soft blanket from Target that you always touch when you roll through that aisle. Drink coffee at dawn, or chai tea, or hot chocolate, whatever feels like YOU. Permission to be you: beautiful, flawed, perfectly imperfect, with something unique and distinct to offer the world. We need your voice. You were placed here during this time for a purpose. You are to realize that purpose and actualize that purpose. Be a good steward of the life you’ve been given—BE YOU.


So we take this little life we’ve been given, and we so desperately want it to mean something. We want to mean something. And we can. We use our own unique voices to make art as our offering, and we place it on the altar of humanity. It is not a gift received until it is given. It is not a word heard until it is spoken. We have a responsibility to share. We have a responsibility to speak. We have a responsibility to make that offering.


What is your offering? What do you have that the rest of us need to receive?


And can I give you an offering? I’ve made a few encouraging cards for us to use, as we find ourselves, believe in ourselves, BECOME ourselves. Please print some out, glue them into your journal, stick them in your planners, use them as lock screens for your phone.



All of these little things are meant to remind you: You were made to be you.




Mandy Thompson




As a child, Mandy wasn’t happy without her favorite crayon in hand. As an adult, she’s a mommy who spends schooldays “coloring” with mixed media on canvases, or working up fun tools that encourage others in their own creative pursuits. And if she’s not in her studio, check to see if she’s in an orange hammock at her favorite beach.



Serendipity Tromps: Quest 2015

At Helen's in Ishpeming

“Scramble the self temporarily so that the world can seep in.”
Jason Silva


Jason Silva offered the #Quest2015 prompt yesterday. I wrestled with it all day as I worked. I wrote. I made a little video in the woods. I talked to my trusted shipmate Molly. Then I slept on it. Today, I offer you this post as a map for how I make choices. I found the idea of curating occasions of serendipity to be oxymoronic, but on this fresh cold day, I have a response.

About Jason:

Jason Silva is an epiphany addict, media artist, futurist, philosopher, keynote speaker, and TV personality. He is the creator of Shots of Awe (13 million views) and the Emmy-nominated host of National Geographic’s Brain Games.
I found his interview with Marie Forleo interesting and more personal. I loved learning that his mother is a poet. I consider his work highly provocative, desperately tender and distinctly male. Marie’s post has more links and video about Jason. I invite you to be rustled from your comfort zone, as I have been from mine, to consider these thoughts for yourself.

In what ways might you artfully curate your life in 2015 to occasion serendipity, creativity and awe?
Ontological designing says: We design our world and the world designs us back.
What are the linguistic and creative choices you can make in 2015 that will in turn act back upon you and transform you?

It is Friday here in Great Barrington.
On the verge of bitter, but there is a liveliness in the air that has nothing to do with anything, but everything to do with the Full Moon. Do you pay attention to the moon? Are you surprised sometimes when you wake in the night to find your bed flooded with white light? Do you notice it as you drive along a road, the glow behind a bank of clouds, as if behind a curtain there is someone dancing with lights on?


photograph by David Kern
photograph by David Kern

I love the moon.
I love the regularity of its traffic across the sky, around a month. It neither chooses my laundry line or me to shine upon, but I welcome its beam, its crack of light in a pitch-black winter sky.
I stay tuned to serendipity, creativity and awe outside. I don’t bound out every morning in my jammies these days, but most mornings of the milder seasons I am out there at the compost or in the garden or on my way to the river, just to see what I can see. I rely on the wilderness. I wonder if it notices me, taking it in like a drunken sail, gulping fresh air? It fills me.
I lived for a long time in a city where wild was not so easy to come by, but I found it. I let myself be witness to the elements of wilderness in Manhattan in the junk cluttered waste spaces where the machine of gentrification had not yet civilized every square inch.

Now I live in a small town near a lake. Within ten minutes I can be in quiet woods. Within another ten minutes on my bike, I can be at a river. I hold these places as my temples to serendipity, creativity and awe. I wonder if they rely on me in any way? I wonder if being seen, cherished and observed with wonder, the woods yield to me?

Terry Tempest Williams describes wilderness like this:

The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restraint, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the wildness we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wilderness lives by this same grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.

-Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert

I can hear that space between my heartbeats better when I am outside.
I live by this grace.

I believe in the benefit of discomfort, whether it is the cold or grit or not being altogether sure that I can accomplish what I set out to do.

I believe inertia taints brave new choices, that the relative comfort of our current state simply overwhelms the desire to try a new thing. When we squash the urge to strap on snowshoes instead of clicking on another YouTube video, order a new kind of pizza, or to read poetry, stasis sets in. I believe that all that stasis prevents transformation.

But, “to artfully curate my life?” Can I curate surprise? Can I curate the random? Can I cause chaos to “scramble my self temporarily so that the world can seep in?” Cultivating my wild soul with forays in to the woods which exist in an ancient mysterious order, in to deep lakes and flowing rivers, down mossy paths towards an unknown outcome design new thoughts and associations within me.

I will remove, as with a whisk broom pressed to sweep up all of the thousand-shard-shattered bits of a drinking glass off the kitchen floor, the sense that curating a life begins to make a life feel precious, as if a heavy-handed interior designer has been at work here. I would make these linguistic and creative choices:

I will live in wild grace.
I will expose myself to nature, daily.
I will engage in contemplative practices.
I will routinely study blades of grass, the oak in my backyard, the eyelashes of my teenagers, the pattern of cloudtreecloudeagle that imprints my walks.
I will put myself in the path of vulnerability, deep rapture and devotion.
I will not be expert but a merchant of inner excellence.
I will not aspire to conquer, but will inquire to plumb.
I will learn, leanly.
I will suss and be dazzled.
I will make and make and make more because ultimately this is where serendipity and awe and surprise live for me. Making art, visual art, business art, family art, laundry art- anything done with awareness and skill becomes an artistic offering rather than an automated or predictable response. When I am caught in the act of making, what is made always “exceeds the materials I began with”. This trio of wonder lives in the aroma of human interaction and the thrum of grit sprinkled liquid lust, it lives in empty spaces where potential perfumes quiet air. This trio is a tincture that allows me to “trace something I have never seen” with my words, with my conversation, with my art work, they flood me with the sense of the not-yet-known being revealed through wild grace.

But if you remain too identified with holding it all together, you disconnect from your vulnerability, you turn from the wild reality that your heart could break at any moment. You forget that it is through your brokenness that your gifts pour into this world. You forget that each and every crack in your heart is an illumined portal through which the poetry of your life will flow.

Matt Licata of A Healing Space

I will shake loose of my own expectation to look like I have my act together.
I will work, regardless of a confident measured plot, but work with loyalty to my devotion at a pace that supports my roles as writer, maker and mother.
This means, and here I am in total agreement with Jason Silva, I must move more slowly. In one of the articles linked in a post about Jason, this quote:

“The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to bring us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”


I don’t require awe to slow me down.
I invite awe by physically slowing down.
Believe me, mothers know slow. Read more on this here.
Mothers have a bead on slow.
We have grown wings, slowly.
And we eat wonder, breath filled awe, at the pace of the small people chattering around our shins, counting heartbeats, our life becomes that slow. This cannot be supplanted by inventing artificial life.

Real life makes more real life, which is filled with serendipity, creativity and awe. (click to tweet, please)


Another Quest2015 writer, Paula Trucks-Pape wrestled with this prompt in her post and tells a story about a spider, while also leading me to a new learning about serendipity. I had never heard the story of the Princes of Serendip. Thank you Paula!



One single drop
One single drop

So, in response to the prompt, relishing an array of symphonic choices of nurturing resource will certainly surprise me, stop me in my tracks, and cause jaw-dropping awe. The values of devotion and attention, of solitude and merit, kindness and courage will all lead me in to new ground, new relationships, or burnish existing ones to unplanned brilliance. Trusting, as Paula writes, that my own creations can bear my weight and carry me forward. Collaboration with my pack, with my tribe of wonder-seekers will be marked by compassion for real-life-lived on a planet loved and cared for by its inhabitants who see value in preservation and conservation, in treating time as a valuable commodity, and in the slow listening to the holy echoes contained within each of us.

How do you hear yours?





PS Please share this post with your people and subscribe to this site. I am not at all a numbers person, but I do produce events, teach and travel. I’d love you to stay current with my serendipity tromps so if by some chance we can meet in person, we could. As my mother used to say, quoting someone else, “Keep those cards and letters coming.” Stay close. The Moon is full tomorrow.

Going First: Beginning (or continuing) a conversation about the creative lives of women

Jan Phillips and I spent time together in June at Women's Voices, Women's Visions at Skidmore College. photo by Denice Jelley
Jan Phillips and I spent time together in June at Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions at Skidmore College. photo by Denice Jelley

I am very curious about conversation.

I love to talk with people about more than the weather.
I want to know what you think, how you see the world and what strikes you as beautiful, memorable or important.
And I want to know what you dream of, where you’d like to adventure, what you care about, and where you see yourself in five years.
I’d like to be part of making that happen for you, if only by leading my life full out so you have someone else out in the world to bounce off of.

In my morning reading, I came across this passage by Jan Phillips in her book, No Ordinary Time. She writes about authentic conversations and describes being surprised by a conversation she started with a young man in a diner by asking where he gets his values.

She says,

“If someone doesn’t go first, how do authentic conversations ever get started?”

Then later in the day, I came across Seth Godin’s blog post titled, Go First. You can find it here. I cannot quote it because it is so short and to the point, I’d ruin it for you.

On Laundry Line Divine, I endeavor to share my creative life with you.

I aim to make sense of my mothering by expressing from inside my experience. I use my words, my images and what I see in the world and bring to you here as conversation starters. Perhaps we will meet in person or you will comment, but mostly, I imagine you might bring this conversation in to your own life and see what happens.


It is summer and I bet you’d rather be out picking blueberries, but since you are here-maybe it is late evening and the fireflies are out…maybe you live in Australia and it is a chilly winter morning and your gripped cuppa is sending up steam between these words and your eyes…maybe you are on the subway heading in to the city for work, these words and images slim in your palm…whatever and where ever you are as you read this, I hope you know how much I appreciate your attention.

I imagine that you may need just a bit of company and a tiny dose of inspiration to set your day right.

I hope you find that here on Laundry Line Divine.


a small found word page in a book I am altering
a small found word page in a book I am altering




From my bright light to yours,





PS Here is a video of Jan’s that gets me going every single time.

PPS Please stay current with your subscription to Laundry Line Divine. You can subscribe here on this site in the upper right hand corner of this page or via the AWeber email that you received if you are already on my list. Thank you! xo S

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