Friday, July 24, 2015

Creativity is what gives meaning?

Today I was reading in The Gifts of Imperfection book by Brene Brown and ran across the idea that "If we want to make meaning, we need to make art." (page 96 in my copy) The definition for "art" given is very broad and includes things like baking, doodling and rebuilding an engine. Brown claims that there is no such thing as an uncreative person, only people who are not using their inborn creativity.

Since early childhood I have always been drawn to drawing, painting, crafting, and writing--the traditionally creative things. I married a man who is all about ministry, so that has been a big part of my adult life, and this chapter made me think how ministry, counseling and evangelism, when can also be creative in that each person in front of you is unique, and the ministry of assisting them to find their path is a unique process where creative thinking is applied. My husband does not think of himself as very creative, but if you put him behind a video camera, an unexpected wacky, creative dimension comes out. His creativity comes out in the context of people and relationships. Mine begs for time alone with art supplies or a blank journal and pen.

For many of us taking time for creativity feels frivolous and self-indulgent.  And yet--what if the creative things are really the vital and necessary things, and much of the "productive" things we feel we ought to be doing are not the things that are meaningful or important in the long run? This is such an intriguing thought to me.

In my experience, life starts feeling dull and pointless when there has been no time and no room for creativity. When it seems that all my moments are gobbled up by tasks which feel dull and uninteresting--running errands or driving kids places, paying bills, cooking and cleaning when I'm in a rush and there's no time to apply any creative or individual thinking. OK, I'll admit that for me, exercise pretty much feels the same way--dull and necessary, and taking up my time when I'd rather be doing something more interesting. Is there a way to make things like bookkeeping, running errands and exercise creative? I'm not sure.

The cure for the "dull and pointless" feeling (beyond the basic need for rest and sleep, which sometimes must come first) is usually to take a step back from all the boring stuff that is clamors to be done (and believe me, it will still be there when you return!), and take time out to do something creative. I know this. I do this and practice this, sometimes better than other times. But maybe I should stop feeling guilty whenever I do it. Maybe it is important and meaningful not only is a self-fulfilling way, but in a much broader sense than I understood.

This summer started with a lot of busy-ness and time away from home. Now that we are home with no more trips planned, and nobody is involved in any sports which involve constant travel (hooray!), I've been doing some creative stuff that I've been longing to do for ages. I dusted off my sewing machine and went through my scrapbooking and painting supplies--it had been over two years!! Right now I don't want to go anywhere. I want to sit in my nice chilly basement with my sewing machine and photographs and watercolors and knitting. And it feels awesome. Yet I can almost hear my parent's voices in my head saying, "Sure, it would be nice if somebody paid you to sit home and be creative--but this is the real world."

Brown begins her chapter on creativity recalling her early childhood when her father was a student and the family had little money, but a lot of time to create stuff and get together with neighbors. After her father graduated, the family moved and became more prosperous, and the creativity, spontaneity and sense of fun disappeared. One thing I appreciate about Brown's book is she does not portray making changes as an all-or-nothing situation. She does not advocate that we all quit our jobs and move to some idyllic cabin in the woods.

But I do think that in choosing more time for creativity, sometimes there ARE trade-offs. Particularly between time and money. More time usually means less money. For most of us, that's just the way it is. I quit my part-time banking job with eyes wide open to the fact that there would be less money. From years of living on a ministry salary, I know how to live simple. It was nice to have more money freedom for awhile, but it wasn't worth the stress and the near-complete loss of time to be spontaneous and creative. And in a few years there will be no kids in the house--no basketball practices or weekend tournaments, no dirty shoes cluttering the entryway, no socks or towels thrown everywhere, and way less time running to the grocery store. There will be time then to earn more and save more without sacrificing so much in return.

These are definitely things to think through if one is craving a life that feels less dull and more meaningful. The answers are different for everyone, because for many, their job is a place they express creativity and find meaning. There's no cookie-cutter, formulaic answers to these things. Only individual, creative ones.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

One of those rare, amazing kind of books

What a good book this is. I'm going through it slowly, with highlighter and a pen to take notes in hand. I kept hearing the name Brene Brown, and checked out a book they had at the library. But I quickly saw this book was so good, I wanted to buy a copy of my own.

To live "wholeheartedly"--that has been my goal. So it's nice to find someone who has intelligently consolidated a lot of research and information to help me along my way.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Some Comments on Depression

I was reading over on a friend's blog, cypress and fern, and it has caused me to think some about depression. When I have faced my feelings of depression with courage and an open heart to listen, it has ended up being a very good thing in my life. When I have taken the time to look at and answer the questions: What is it that I'm really sad about, or angry about, the answers have led me (eventually) to more freedom, more truth, and more ability to experience joy and practice authenticity with others.

But it seems in our culture most people think depression is something they have to "get over" or "overcome". Something to shove away, so they can get on with the business of their real life--rather than seeing it as part of the process that leads to their real life. Rather than paying attention to the message the soul is trying to send the mind and body. Rather than looking at it as something real and legit, something to pay attention to and pursue.

But I admit, the answers to these questions (What am I really sad about? What am I truly angry about, or afraid of?) can feel incredibly scary and overwhelming, especially to one who is new in this process and has never faced their personal demons down before. That's why it is so valuable--and probably even essential--to not try and pursue the answers all on your own. Good counselors have been trained to be a helpful guide along the way. And a good counselor does not tell you what you need to do and how to do it--they assist you to listen to your own soul and find the answers that are right for you.

For better or for worse, I'm a seasoned veteran in the ways of depression. And a seasoned veteran in following the questions to their answers, which I never could have imagined would be the truth. Answers that were so terrifying and horrifying, many times I thought I would be overwhelmed. Yet I was not overwhelmed. I'm still here. I hold on to the promise in the Bible that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overwhelm it: I have found this to be true. In the words of Corrie Ten Boom, "There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." Jesus does not turn his face away from the vilest, most horrific forms of human evil and suffering. And neither should we.

I still struggle sometimes, but I know how to fight well. I still don't sleep well most nights. Sometimes I lie on the bed and my heart pounds with fear, despite the fact that in my logical mind I know I am safe now. There are others inside me who don't believe it--a terrified six year old, and a very angry teenager, a completely overwhelmed young bride, and maybe others besides. I still seem to face a wall in regards to physical intimacy, though now I understand I am not just crazy or weird. There are good reasons for my feelings and reactions, and I am only newly in touch with most of them.

But I'm finding places of freedom, joy, contentment and peace in my life which didn't exist before. I'm learning that it's OK to be me, with all my struggles, instead of imitating and pretending to be like others because I thought that was how life worked and what I had to do in order to have any relationships in the bright outer world. In order to have the happy family and the life that I saw others had and that I so badly wanted. I'm learning, step by step, with the Holy Spirit as the ultimate counselor and friend, and with gifted human counselors to help as well. God has led me very slowly and gently, so I would not be overwhelmed. And I am so grateful.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Emotional Healing: You get out what you put in

I haven't written about healing from abuse in a while. I've been distracted and unable to focus, and healing absolutely takes time, focus, and intentional work.

Here's a confession: I hate summer. I hate the heat. I hate the irregularity of it, of no set routine and schedule. I have not found it possible to keep any kind of regular schedule in summer, too many things come up. Generally these are fun things, but it still throws me when life feels unpredictable and a bit over-crazy. And I hate having no time or privacy to myself, because the kids are always here.

I also have a long-term pattern of getting emotionally down and depressed in the summer. I used to think it had something to do with my birthday in early June, because that's when it always seemed to happen. Now I think it is the association from childhood that once school was out, I would be spending a lot of time with the relative who abused me. So there's this sense of dread that remains from that association, despite the fact that it's been years since I have seen him at all, and many more years since I spent any length of time with him.

So I'm trying to keep myself "up". I schedule fun outings with good friends, and keep myself busy with a huge front-and-backyard permaculture-style fruit and vegetable project. I try to do fun, relaxing things like reading mystery novels, watching a show or two, going on nature hikes, and doing the artistic stuff that feeds my soul and makes me feel at peace. (OK, that last thing which is maybe the most important thing isn't happening at all. Cite the lack of time and privacy written about above. Argh!)

Not to mention writing, which is barely happening either.

Despite my intentional efforts to keep my head above water, I'm still feeling the downward pull. I'm not giving in to it, but I do need to give it some time, space and attention. Because there is no other way to move myself forward and out of it.

The thing about emotional healing and depression is, you can't just ignore it. You can't tell yourself to "buck up", and simply talk yourself out of it. Depression doesn't work like that. Depression feelings are the little red flags in your lawn marking, "Look at this: there's a problem here. Attend to this spot, before the problem grows bigger."  Depression is telling you that there's something you need to work through, to come to terms with. And that doesn't just happen all by itself.

I think the Waldorf people or maybe the Quaker people have a label for this. It's called "inner work." A quick google search tells me the label actually comes from Jung. I like it, because it legitimizes the process as "work." It isn't just laziness, being self-absorbed or self-indulgent. "Naval gazing" would be one negative description. Our culture has many negative descriptions for what can positively be called "inner work". We tend to only value outer work that looks productive, or results in see-able, measurable gain or profit. It's an upstream fight to value and to pursue inner work, but the Bible tells us it is the unseen things, the eternal things, which are truly valuable. And that we should not be conformed to the culture around us. We should not take "the broad, easy road" taken by most folks that leads to soul-numbing and soul-death: If we are wise, we take the narrow, less populated path, the one that leads to life, instead.

But I still hear and tend to accept the negative labels inside. Even though I know better from my own hard-fought battles and hard-won gains.

Hopefully, for the rest of the summer at least, I can work something out.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Blueberries for the Fourth of July

It's been hot hot hot here. It hit 100 degrees by the end of June, and there's been no rain for several weeks. Weird weather and hopefully not a permanent change, but with global warming, it may be. It's feeling more like California than northeast Washington state.

I've got some delicious berries ripening. One thing berries need is a lot of water. We went to a beach on the Snake river last week and already there were blackberries ripening, almost a month early. But the fruit was small and hard because of lack of water. The berries I'm getting at home are sweet, full and delicious. That's because they're being watered like crazy.

The blueberries are amazing. My bushes are only a year old, but are producing several small clusters of berries already. Just enough to snack on as I walk along with the hose. The "hardyblue" bushes look bushy and full. The "bluerays" look a bit tall and scraggly, but are beginning to fill out as new shoots come up from the ground.  And both of them taste out of this world good, with a wild, tangy flavor I've never had from a store berry. I can't wait until they produce enough to make a pie!

Some people say you can't grow blueberries where we live, but mine both at this house and our previous house have done great. I mixed the soil half and half with peat moss when I planted them (to make it more acid), and I mulch for the winter with abundantly available free pine needles. If you ask to rake up and collect a neighbor's pine needles, they will never say no. The bushes also do not seem bothered by the hot sun like my currants and gooseberries, which are looking pretty sad.

There's a robin that flies down and hops around the edge of my spray as I water the hill in back. Perhaps my watering raises up some nice juicy worms for him. But thankfully, so far the birds are leaving the blueberries alone. At my old house I never got to eat a one ripe berry, because the second they turned truly blue, the birds ate them all.