Tag Archive for creativity

The Power of Enduring

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It’s Thanksgiving.

I’ve been cycling through this mixed state of hypomania and depression all Fall. Relief came at the beginning of the month, like a release on a pressure valve, giving my mind and lungs the room I needed to breathe and just . . . be again. The cycling has slowed but has not fully passed like it usually does every November. I can feel depression lingering, watching my every move, waiting for a crack in my fortified defenses it can wedge and root itself into.

My partner can see it perched on my shoulders and looking out from behind my eyes, hear it in my voice when I tell him I’m just tired. The stress and strain of trying to delicately maintain my footing as I navigate my way through motherhood and illness is becoming exhausting, but I’m still putting one foot in front of the other. I’m focused on maintaining, focused on my treatment, focused on smiling and laughing with my boys even when I feel depression beginning to launch its silent assault. It desires simply to gut me—to turn me into an unrecognizable form that’s had its insides scraped out.

But it’s Thanksgiving. So I’m giving thanks. I’m staring at myself in the mirror with a clenched jaw and determination in my eyes. I’m remembering I’m a survivor. Remembering that I’m loved. Remembering that I belong here, in this body, in this life, and with them. Remembering what I have. Remembering that depression lies and that within me there are no barren wastelands. So I cook, pouring my soul and love into the food, and then give thanks as we eat, whispering declarations of gratitude that I have them to root me here.

It’s my birthday.

I’ve fallen into the gravity well. I don’t understand why, which means I struggle to explain the how and why to anyone who asks. I know there has been stress, that my marriage is strained, that I’ve been triggered by my abusive father reaching out and demanding that I stop speaking and sharing my truths . . . that I refrain from owning my experiences. But yet I still don’t understand how it makes me susceptible to spiral down on a day where I enter a new season of living, or when living rises above just bearable.

I’m 33 today. I’m sitting on my bed in front of this painting and meditating on the duality of lightness and darkness present. I’m remembering how my father said I’d never make it past 18, let alone to my 30’s. I’m remembering the pain of the past and sitting with the pain of the present but now smiling as I focus on the yellow in the center, because I’m remembering that I was made to endure. I was made to not just survive but to thrive.

I wrestle with the darkness of trauma and this illness and can’t extricate myself from either, but I still dance in the light that exists as well. So I forcefully allow hope to pull me out of the well. I take a shower and get dressed. Do my hair. Throw on my favorite shade of lipstick, something bright and bold. Text my partner that yes, I’d love to go as a family and pick up my gift. I read the cards they’ve given me, I marvel at the creativity of friends as they post photos and GIFs of Prince and The Mindy Project on my Facebook wall. I feel the warmth and love of celebration. I whisper thanks. I dance and allow my body to be overtaken by the freedom that comes with fluid movement. I breathe deep and exhale slowly, allowing each breath to ground me firmly in truth.

It’s the weekend.

Depression still lingers and still hasn’t passed, but I’m hopeful it will. Until it does, I’m forcing myself to trust in the power of enduring.

Who Sees You?

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I took an art class as a college elective. The first assignment challenged me to communicate the divide between who I was and who I thought I was supposed to be using only a black marker to draw basic lines and shapes on a four-inch square of white paper. As I brainstormed ideas in my sketchbook, a small, stylized stick figure imprisoned in a bold spiral was the closest I came to depicting the words I’d scrawled across the page:

My body keeps going through the motions of life while I retreat further inside myself . . .  Can I bridge the distance and become whole again or will I disappear entirely, leaving only a hollow body? . . .

At the time I was focusing all my resources on fortifying my outside, making it strong and impervious like an exoskeleton. Behind the facade of perfection I hid the parts of myself I was afraid wouldn’t measure up, trying to starve them out of existence. Even my creativity, curiosity, and originality were too risky. People might not like what they see.

Trying to protect myself from rejection isn’t worth the loneliness.

Recently I was flipping through my old college sketchbook when my doodles and laments caught my eye. For a moment my insides started to shrivel and fade until I realized, this time I didn’t have to disappear.

Those many years ago, the longer I hid the less I knew who I really was. So I’m on a journey now towards healing and wholeness. Before I can live as a whole person, I must learn to see and embrace who I actually am. I’m digging deep to reconnect those parts of myself I shunned as unworthy and hid away.

I’m making time first thing every morning for journaling, reading, and a big mug of tea. I treated myself to a new sketchbook and a colorful box of chalk pastels. I’ve uncovered growth, connection, and creativity as my top core values and am trying to support others in their own journeys out of hiding through sharing my stories and listening well.

As I awaken and reclaim the parts I’ve hidden away, I am expanding to inhabit my body more fully. I think most clearly while I’m walking and my fingers transcribe my stories into shareable form. Even though I’ve been too straitlaced for such silliness, I dyed the tips of my hair purple and dance to my favorite songs. As I speak with my mouth and wrap my arms around those I love, I’m using my body to express instead of disguise.

When a friend asks what I’ve been doing my impulse is still to hide behind safe, responsible tasks like laundry and dishes. Throughout our conversation I hunker down and watch her interact with a person who is not quite me. I get stuck talking about grocery shopping and freelance projects when I really want to discuss ways to find freedom from perfectionism and people-pleasing. Voices of self-doubt beg me to stay hidden until I can prove I’m worthy of being seen.

Trying to protect myself from rejection isn’t worth the loneliness. Slowly, incrementally, I’m letting my outer shell soften and stretching my hidden parts tentatively toward the surface. The first time I had a guest post published I finally found the courage to tell my friend I had started writing again. A few weeks later I admitted my disappointment when a different submission was rejected instead of hiding the failure away. Maybe soon I’ll share with her one of my stories that is still too personal for a broader audience. Now when we hug goodbye I feel her embracing all of me.

Being myself is not about which parts of me are worthy to be seen. Denying parts of myself won’t make them go away. I’m tired of trying to cover my scars and hide my weaknesses. I’m not always who I want to be, but only when I learn to accept who I am do I dare bring my whole self into the light where there is space to grow.

As I inch out from my hiding place I’m offering myself with all my hurt and all my hope. I’m not perfect, but I’m worthy of love. I have something to give.

This is who I am. I’m becoming visible.

Let Them Live

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My husband is from the Cascade Mountains in Washington State.

He’s at home in the outdoors. He’s a skier and a hiker and a rock climber. He loves the idea of overnights in the wilderness, navigating with a compass and the stars.

My preferred form of adventure is trying a new grocery store, but I’ve been known to hike a mountain or two, especially if it means quiet time together with Chris.

There aren’t a lot of quiet wilderness moments when you have two babies in two years. Our life together lately is mostly focused on tending to our little ones and occasionally squeezing in quick family outings in between nap times. And though we moved to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains nearly five months ago, we haven’t actually made it much past the city limits.

Until yesterday.

After a leisurely morning building block towers, we decided to take a lunch up to a nearby State Park for a picnic. But loading and packing took more time than we anticipated and a wrong turn led us astray. We ended up eating our picnic in the parking lot of a hillside government building and then getting right back in the car to get home for nap time.

As we were driving down the hill to our apartment, we noticed a trail leading up the mountain, busy with hikers and families.

“Someday, I guess, “ Chris said, the disappointment thick in this voice.

Returning home, the boys went down for naps and we commenced with our weekend cleaning rituals.

Dinnertime neared and Chris suggested we get something ready to eat.

And as I looked out the window behind him, I was struck by how light it was outside, that even at 6:00, we still had at least 90 minutes of daylight left.

“Let’s go,” I told him. “We’ll give the boys a quick dinner and we’ll go hiking up that trail, the one we passed on the way home.”

“But it’s late,” he said. “It’ll be dark soon and they need baths and it takes time to load everything up.”

“Let’s go anyway,” I said, not responding to his valid points.

“You’re serious?” he asked, eyes beginning to spark with adventure.

“Totally,” I replied.

Off we went, infant and toddler in tow, with plans to hike a mountain before bedtime.

Arriving at the trailhead, we strapped on the babies and began to climb. The further we got into the trees, the fuller Chris’ chest seemed to become. Step by step, I watched as he relished in the surroundings and relaxed into a state of quiet joy.

“I feel . . alive again,” he told me, slowly. “You know? There’s a part of me that needs this.”

“I know,” I replied.

And I did know. I could see it in his expression, his posture, his movements.  He was standing straighter, smiling, moving with a zest I hadn’t seen in awhile.

And I knew because I understood what it’s like to bring a passion back to life.

Scurrying up a hillside is not my cup of tea. I’d prefer the cup of tea—with a spot to write a story or a song. But since becoming a mother, I haven’t often made time for these loves.

Instead I find myself flipping on the TV for the last ten minutes of a home renovation show or scrolling through my news feed. Not my passions, but who has time for those?

Giving up social media for Lent this year made me realize how much I missed being creative. When I stopped consuming everyone else’s updates and comments and ideas, I wanted to make my own.

And so I started to carve out time. A few minutes in the morning. A half-hour in the afternoon. Some nights after bedtime.

Time to be alive again.

To feel the spark of creativity. To craft words into stories for the pleasure of it. To find myself on the page.

It’s bringing me to life in new ways.

family hike

There are passions that will cause the heart to ache if they are not given space to flourish.

Let them live.

There won’t be enough time.

Let them live anyway.

There are other things that need to be done.

But let your passions live. Resurrect them if you must.

Remember that you are alive but once.

And that mountains can be climbed before bedtime.

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