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“Don’t you want to leave your genes behind, your legacy?”

My husband felt a strong need to leave his genes behind. This is probably instinctive; perhaps even a species-directive, for many people. Having a child can serve as a buffer to the fact that your life really is finite. There’s that son or daughter, a living person coded with half your genetic material, who will carry on. For me, such concerns were never important. I think much of this is simply due to my makeup. But there was also a series of writers who influenced me.

The first was Paul Ehrlich, who, in his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, warned how overpopulation was going to dramatically affect the world of the future. Next, I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in which she detailed the many ways we are destroying the environment. Such grim predictions made me feel less compelled to continue my bloodline. Then Charles A. Reich, in The Greening of America, opened my mind to the counterculture and alternate lifestyles. That was when I realized I did not have to follow an expected, traditional path.

But if I wasn’t driven to birthing babies, I discovered I was driven to birthing creative projects as my legacy to leave. I regret being dismissive of mothers and fathers who wanted to leave behind something of themselves by having a child. The creative impulse, whether it’s expressed in the raising of a child, the building of a bridge, or in artistic endeavors, is surely one of life’s primal forces driving us all.   Along with my many paintings, my current art projects focus on telling my life’s story through stage performances, in a documentary movie, and, most recently, in this book.   Without having children to pass along my story, I feel the need to speak for myself. It’s just as well; I’m afraid a child of mine might get it wrong or leave out the good parts.

Remember the woman who did not choose me to go on her spaceship? After her children were grown, some twenty-seven years later, we spoke and she raised the idea of renewing our friendship. She said that despite our not being as close as we once were, she still considered me a friend, someone she could rely on. I had to tell her the truth. Since she hadn’t been there for me then, I wasn’t sure I could be there for her now. Really, I wasn’t sure I trusted that she’d appreciate my friendship enough not to reject me yet again. Of course, time had lessened my pain, but I just wasn’t willing to take the chance.

If, however, I could return to that day when I was asked to select five people to begin a new civilization, this time I would be more practical. I wouldn’t hesitate to choose for my spaceship women who wanted to bring children into our brave new world— mothers. But because I better understand how very consuming the job of mothering is, I’d feel the need to tag along to assure that creativity and the arts were given their proper place, as they are in all great cultures. I can easily see myself serving as both a birthing coach and as Director of the Arts, continuing to do what I do best: coloring outside the lines.