This blog is meant, mostly, to be a sort of running update of my creative projects, to both inspire and encourage those of you who might be following along. I believe everyone has the capacity for creativity, in as many different ways as there are different individuals, but we don’t always prioritize it in our lives.
I believe we should.
But life is unpredictable and, despite our best efforts as a human race to control it, life remains untamed and even a little bit feral. And so this blog is meant to record that, too, because, while being artfully creative cranks up the colors and the volume and the textures of the life experience, being mentally creative can help us turn the prism of our understanding, to find a new angle and a new perspective. Even (or especially) when life takes that unexpected twist.
I believe we should do that, too.
After all, we are all under construction until our last breath on this earth. We are all a creative project-in-progress.
This week, I had no time in my personal studio, as I was traveling for a funeral, so I turned to the greatest creative studio of all time, instead: the big world, outside.
I met with family members I hadn’t seen in a long time, and we cried together for our loss, and we laughed together for happy memories.
The ending of one generation.
The mantle is picked up by the next.
I tasted new cultural recipes, and found old favorites and some new ones. I relived the feel of cheeks bitten raw by Michigan winter, and kissed the feel of cheeks turned soft by years of friendship.
Korean foods are on the way.
A window scraper didn’t come with the rental car.
And among the many moments–of lives at an end, of lives at a beginning, of lives on the verge of change, and lives embracing the comfort of the known–there was even time for teaching and learning some artful creativity, as there should be.
This is the architecture of me. Moment by moment, I build by encounters, and events, and observations.
I am the structure built by my life experience, and creativity is my windows.
This week has seen a lot of work going on, so, please, pardon my dust.
This week, I’ve been self-reflecting. Usually, that sort of thing comes with a kind of fierceness, a mental violence I perpetrate on myself over past mistakes, missed opportunities, and the like. I simultaneously recognize my failings, and blame myself for having them.
It’s not a productive way to go about it, but it’s all I’ve known for the better part of my life.
Better part of my life. Now that’s an ironic statement, if ever there was one.
The reason I say “usually”, is because this time, my reflection comes without the usual self-flogging. It comes, because I have had a death in the family; my husband’s step-dad and a very dear man whom I have also known for the better part of my life. He joins my husband’s mother, who died about two years ago, sadly, and far too soon.
Being faced with death tends to make me look at my own ending in this world with a razor focus. I ponder on the things people might say about me, how I might be remembered. Betty’s death brought waves of uncontrollable grief for a very long time–she was as much a mother to me as she was my husband’s. But, eventually, I began to see her ending as the way of all deaths. Inevitable.
No matter how wondrous one’s soul, no matter how special one’s presence on this planet, eventually our time here ends. I don’t mean the statement as dark, or fatalistic. It simply is the way of things.
Which brings me full circle, back to the topic of self-reflection.
As I get older, I have a lot more life to look back on. Many more chances to regret, and to do double-damage-points for not only having things to regret, but also feeling guilty for feeling regretful!
But regret and guilt are time sinks. I know there are plenty of adages out there that apply here to “look only forward” “you can’t plan your future if you’re living in the past”, and all those empty words that make great memes but fly through a Facebook timeline as fast as they go in one ear and out the other while actual people are trying to get through actual difficult times in actual life.
But I do get it, finally. I have precious few moments to get where I’m trying to go, and every time I stop and flog myself, it breaks my momentum. It steals those valuable emotional resources I need to propel myself.
I’m pretty sure Dwain wouldn’t mind that his death has, among other things, given me pause to check my navigation. But I’m absolutely sure he wouldn’t want me to use it as new, inventive way to self-punish. Dwain would want me to be gentler to myself. Kinder. I need to start talking to myself the way I talk to other people.
The way Dwain talked to me.
Betty once called me outrageous. We had been wise-cracking, and I said something funny and off-the-cuff, and she laughed, and looked at me with warm, happy eyes, and said, “Jackie, you are outrageous.”
It set me back at the time. To me, “outrageous” was this terrible insult. It was one of those words that described the parts of me I’ve always tried very hard to suffocate. My artsy-fartsy traits. My penchant for “head in the clouds” and wearing jammie pants to go grocery shopping, and raising my Millennials with birthday parties where everybody got a prize just for playing games and there was no “winning”. As a kid, I was weird and hugged trees (literally) and wrote stories with happy endings, and loved shoes with strange colors I never saw anyone else wear–without realizing no one else wore them because they thought they were ugly.
I was not appreciated for my weirdness. I was mocked. Relentlessly teased. Violently bullied.
And so, when Betty, a woman I enduringly admired, looked at me with such a light in her eyes, and called me outrageous, I was shocked. I just tucked the moment away behind a little door in my soul, and left it there, puzzled and a little sad.
It has taken me all this time to realize she wasn’t teasing me. She was loving me. That was the expression on her face at the time, but I didn’t recognize it. I didn’t know she could think I’m outrageous, and at the same time, love me for it.
I honestly didn’t know.
That’s another lesson I can add to all the things I’ve learned from Betty.
Maybe it’s time I learn to start loving myself they way I love other people.