Did Mozart Mow? The Problem With Being A Responsible Adult


The last few weeks have been a challenge for me. I’ve felt like I’ve been right up against the limit of what I can accomplish in a day and it’s wearing on me. Thanks to major improvements in my health, I’m able to do more than I used to do, but even as I check things off my list and am grateful for what I can do, I still find myself getting cranky and depressed. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t doing the things I need to do to stay balanced and happy.

The added factor that tipped me from able-to-deal-with-it to I’m-going-to-scream-now was my husband’s bike accident. While we are both relieved that his injuries were relatively minor, having cracked ribs has limited what he can do around the house. I’ve been mowing the lawn since he can’t, something that requires serious physical effort on my part (I don’t think of our yard as hilly, but there is a major slope out there and getting the push mower up it takes all my strength). Thanks to all the rain we’ve had in the last month, this is a twice-a-week job right now.

Even on a non-mowing day, my to-do lists have had me feeling desperate. I’m currently taking the Sketchbook Skool klass Seeing, and I can’t find time to do the homework. The summer edition of Spin-Off arrived, and once I’d read it, all I wanted to do was spin. But my adult responsibilities were too pressing — I needed to make dinner, pay the bills, and, oh yeah, there’s more yard work to do.

I went out to mow on Sunday and found myself nearly crying as I pushed the mower around the yard. Many times in the past, I’ve resented the things I have to do as a responsible adult. Did Mozart mow? I ask myself. Did Picasso have to paint his closets? Did Beethoven have to sort out his health insurance bills? Why do all these things get in the way of my creative work, the things that I long to do, the things that make me feel alive, whole, and happy?

Mozart lived in the city, so he probably didn’t have a yard to mow, but I’m sure there was something. Some chore, some task, some annoying bit of adult life that took his time and attention when he wanted to be composing. Life is demanding, and to live in this world as a responsible adult requires doing things we’d rather not spend our energy on.

We could just stop being responsible. We could throw the rule book out the window: just stop paying taxes, renewing our driver’s license, getting our annual physical, brushing our teeth, even mowing the lawn. But then we need to face the consequences: legal retribution, health problems, and complaints from the neighbors.

In a great blog post on how he lost his way, Danny Gregory talks about how the details of running a successful business was killing his joy. Something that started out as a dream that he loved had become the administrative nightmare he thought he was leaving behind when he quit his job in advertising. Being a responsible adult swamped his days and he stopped making time for the things that feed his soul, like visiting museums, talking with other artists, traveling, and making art.

I am wired to be a responsible adult. I’m too rule-oriented to ignore the bills and the lawn. My only choice is to fight for balance, to steal what time I can in order to spin some yarn, doodle in my sketchbook, or just sit and stare at the flowers blooming in our yard. My spirit fades without these breaks. I turn into a grumpy beast that bites the heads off things with a snap of my teeth. I growl, I groan, I fill up with hate for everyone and everything.

Today I will take some time for myself. A few minutes to draw or spin or sew. I refuse to let my responsibilities as an adult to keep me from doing the things that make my life worth living. Today, I will create.

Do you fight to keep responsibilities from swamping your desires? How do you make time to feed your spirit?

2 thoughts on “Did Mozart Mow? The Problem With Being A Responsible Adult”

  1. Most writing teachers tell you that you MUST spend some time each week doing something purely for the fun of it — an artist’s date, it’s called. It’s considered essential to creativity. So go spin!

    1. Thanks for the reminder. I’m familiar with artist’s dates, although not so hot about taking them (can you tell?). Just today I was telling a friend she needs to take a break and do something completely unnecessary, and I think that may be what’s missing for me, too. Goofing off in the most unproductive but well-filling way possible. Thanks for your suggestion!

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