Carving Words Into Bones

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I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about mortality—specifically, my own. Perhaps it’s because my husband is in his mid-forties now and his mind is grappling with aging and ageism in his career field. Maybe it’s his sudden concern for our future, for what legacy he’s leaving behind for our sons. Perhaps it’s because I just turned 33, and I’ve been having my own “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO BE DOING WITH MY LIFE” wrestling matches the last 3 months, because you know, the whole Jesus Year thing. Perhaps . . . perhaps it’s because my non-neurotypical children are getting older and as I advocate for them and their care, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I won’t always be here to help them navigate this world. I feel an urgency to appropriately model what it’s like to be an empowered patient so that they can learn how to be in charge of their health and wellness. Maybe it’s because I see their limitations and I see my own, and I’m scared illness with take me from them before I’m able to fully be the kind of mother they need.

So . . . I . . . I can’t point toward what exactly has triggered this recent preoccupation with mortality, but I do know, after David Bowie’s passing, I suddenly became all too aware that my days of inhabiting this body composed of flesh, bone, contracting muscle, blood, and oxygen are limited. The weight of not knowing the number of moments/days/weeks/months/years that I have left settles like a weight of bricks on a scale in my gut while I’m going about my daily living as wife and mother. It presses my hands deeper into the canvas while I paint and pushes my hand further and faster across the page as I mark line, shape, and form.

I’m not afraid of dying, at least not completely. It’s not the idea of only existing in a loved one’s heart or long-term memory that scares me about death. What terrifies me is passing on to whatever is on the other side of living before I’ve wrung every last drop out of my current existence. I know as Christians we’re supposed to long for eternity and desire to be in God’s presence. I know I’m supposed to hate this deteriorating body and long for my heavenly one. I know I am supposed to long for a world unlike this one that’s full of evil and sin.

But the truth is . . . especially as an artist . . . I don’t.

Instead, I yearn to create like He does, unabashedly, fully, and wonderfully. I long to live a life of expression that leaves no story untold, no emotion resting in dormancy. My desire is to spend every waking moment excavating what He’s put inside of me to put back out into the world. Carving words and images into bones and being on canvas and through a myriad of colors is what my soul pants after day in and day out. Creativity is something that consumes me like the fire searing Jeremiah’s bones. I know that in pursuing it, I’m ultimately pursuing Him. Like David Bowie, I want to be on my deathbed making an artistic statement about the dying process or injustice, or motherhood, or faith, or humanity or about anything I have left in me to express. I don’t want to wait for heaven and a perfected heavenly body to worship the Creator with what He had in mind for me when He first called me into being.

I don’t want to die with words and abstract visuals still waiting patiently on my tongue, queued up in my mind, or pooling at my fingertips. So I’ve spent the first month of this new year fully committed to getting it all out as it comes, on canvas, on paper, with pencil, paint, matte medium, and ink. That yielding has pushed me to make and do regardless of whatever stress I’m under in other areas of my life, and considering my own mortality has helped me commit to no longer holding back. It has also brought me freedom, deliverance from expectations, clarity about purpose, and a renewed faith that the one who saw Hagar in her struggle has also seen me in mine during this season. Here’s to a creative 2016.  

A'Driane Nieves

A'Driane Nieves

Writer at AddyeB
A’Driane Nieves is a USAF veteran, writer, artist, speaker, and postpartum depression and anxiety survivor living with bipolar disorder. A'Driane's writing, focusing on the intersections of life, motherhood, art, music, faith, race, and mental health, has been featured on BlogHer, UpWorthy, EverdayFeminism, Postpartum Progress, and the 2015 Austin Listen To Your Mother ensemble. In 2014, she was a BlogHer Voice of the Year. In 2015, she was nominated for an Iris Award for Most Thought Provoking Content. An activist with a heart for serving, social good, and mental health advocacy, she believes art and words can foster dialogue and serve as a catalyst for personal growth and responsibility. She lives in California with her robotics loving husband and three boys.
A'Driane Nieves

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  • Ciara Barsotti

    YES! This year has also begun with death in my life, not only David Bowie’s, though that has affected me deeply also. And, I’m also starting to take art classes at school, beginning work on my major, which is studio art. So I thank you for this blessing and permission and mandate to go and make. I also feel like this urge to schlep off our bodies does not honor the fact that we are here to bring the Kingdom, not just wait around for it. So I’ll raise a glass to this year being one full of life and creativity while we’ve still got it!

  • Natalie Hart

    Amen — here’s to a creative 2016!

  • Wow, this is profound. I have never thought of our shortness of time as an impetus to creativity. But you are so right, it should be! I want to leave behind the truth for my kids. I want to make sure I live to the fullest. May that also touch my art! A good word!

  • Abby Norman

    “Instead, I yearn to create like He does, unabashedly, fully, and wonderfully. I long to live a life of expression that leaves no story untold, no emotion resting in dormancy” YES! Yes! This feels like an awakening to me. Thank you.

  • Abby Paumen

    The sentiments you shared remind me of Tolkein’s “Leaf by Niggle”

  • A’Driane, I don’t think of this world as “full of evil and sin” … our children remind us of this every day. What is a Christian supposed to do? “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.” (Micah). We each have gifts for which we are responsible, right? So each day we do what we can. It’s not the body of work that’s so important … it’s the love and perseverance that counts. Perhaps some rest, breathing easy, will help. Peace

  • Jessica

    Beautiful, inspiring, and badly needed by me today. Thank you.

  • “Instead, I yearn to create like He does, unabashedly, fully, and wonderfully.” A’Drianne, I think this is what God wants us to do, but also to take time to rest. We were created in God’s image and that includes creativity. I think more art expression is needed in the world to help bring about change and empathize with people. About not being ready to die, I don’t know if any of us are, really, and I also think that God will allow you to do all the creating you were meant to do and still include time to just be, to enjoy your lovely family, etc. You are so energetic and inspire others with your excitement. You are definitely an inspiration to me. Blessings to you!

  • I keep coming back to this.