Creativity for creativity’s sake

I think I underestimated the effect that reading so much would have on me. I forgot how a book can climb its way into your soul, into the very threads which weave you together. Upending your memories, thoughts, feelings, relationships. Turning over new stones of discovery and wrecking you in the very best way in the process.

At least that’s what reading’s done for me.

Some books go fast – I’m a witness to a story and being entertained. Other books train me to run faster and jump over hurdles I’d never encountered before.

Sometimes you see yourself in the characters. In this latest one I’m reading, Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, the timeline that constantly jumps around actually makes total sense. Franny Stone, the main character, is 34 years old. Just like me. She has endured many traumatic events that I never have, but all within a day or a week or a month I can revisit so many versions of myself, replay hours of scenes in my head, recreate complete environments as if I were a computer program. The mood and tone this book engenders has tapped into some deep shit, that I will say.

One super unexpected result reading has had is that my creativity is blooming again. Other factors might include (but not be limited to) less screen time on my phone; more going for walks around town; less alcohol flowing through my veins and disrupting, well, everything; working through therapy and mining and carrying out all the things in my soul, beautiful and banal, enticing and eccentric.

I feel so much like who I was right before puberty and who I became right after – all the feelings of impending womanhood and adulthood and potential mothering all wrapped into one. A giant ball of creativity and longing that looks tangled, makes complete sense to me, but that the world wants to see wrapped nicely and symmetrically into a ball.

I also love the way our psychological journey can mirror our physical journey, and that’s what I see with Franny in Migrations. She’s on a quest to witness the last migration of the arctic tern, come hell or highwater (quite literally) and there are stops along the way that trigger memory of events from her childhood and young adulthood.

The moments I create in my own life mimic the stops I take along the way of my own migration. Midwest to west Texas to Mid-Atlantic, all physical places that mimic big changes in me as a person. Maid to mother to crone, the last of that list yet to be seen. It’s all connected. The things I create and bring to fruition in the world (read: not babies) will be the joys of my life, enmeshed with the experiences and individuals who helped me bear them.

I have to respond to the depths of my soul that cry out for air, that want to be made and created and shared. It’s creativity for creativity’s sake, yes, but also for my own life’s sake.

Twilight as liminal space

We are approaching the longest night and shortest day of the year. I always focus on the night part.

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Winter twilight produces some of the weirdest light. Night comes on fast, especially if it’s a day like today where skies have been gray and heavy with frozen precipitation. At one point, there is still some light, and it gradually wanes until it’s completely dark. So dark, so quickly, that it doesn’t even let you remember when exactly became dark. But at the same time you know the exact moment.

Twilight, and more specifically winter twilight, is a liminal space. It’s a no-man’s-land, and in-between, maybe even an upside-down. There have been many times in my life that I would characterize as liminal spaces, where the edges and boundaries are blurred and it’s just me trying to find my way.

It makes sense that one would feel uncomfortable in such a space. Some would call it a time when you’re on the edge of a new beginning, but not quite there. Some religions might call it purgatory.

For the majority of my life, I’ve seen these spaces as purgatory, or even at times a special place in hell. Times where I was completely unsure of myself, questioning all of my life decisions and circumstances that have brought me to this singular point.

As humans, we wait very poorly. We are magnificently impatient. We want to hear the chord at the end of the song that resolves the melody. We think that somehow that will bring us peace.

But the growth happens in the liminal space. I think it’s probably near impossible as a well-adjusted human to become completely comfortable in the liminal space… though some can be very efficient and even enjoy long-term experiences in the liminal space.

Is it possible to see the liminal space extend before you and not be afraid of it? To not be rushing for the door on the other side of the room? To actually look at the things in the Room of Liminal Space and appreciate them? I think it is, but you have to get past the itching and biting of the discomfort.

I think after awhile in that Room, the fog lifts and the eyes adjust to a different kind of light. There still exists an awareness of an escape, the door that will release us across the threshold into the destination we have craved for so long.

That is to say, I think these times of uncertainty and perhaps purgatory may not be as bad as we think they will be. Take winter, for instance. In just a few days, the Northern Hemisphere will experience the shortest amount of daylight for the entire year. Where I am that amounts to 9 hours and 22 minutes of daylight. That is actually much more than other locations which may experience next to no daylight. If we look at this phenomenon through an asset-based lens, we see that there are then 15-some-odd hours of darkness.

Can we embrace the darkness? The lack of light that encourages us to hibernate and see inside ourselves? Twilight offers a road back into the cave of our inner selves. Of books and ideas and time without screens and technological distractions. Of cups of coffee over heart-to-hearts and journal entries and just thinking while falling asleep. Of prayer and contemplation and meditation. I think after this year, we could all use some of that no matter our place on the spectrum of intro/extroversion.

Testify, Celebrate, Lifted

Testify is a buzz word in the sect of Christianity I’ve come from. Testify, testament, testimony.. all words from the same root. As such, like many words from the same subculture, give me a slightly cringe-y feeling. Not to offend or dismiss the decade I spent in evangelistic charismatic churches. I wouldn’t even say I was burned. Not in the least. I just needed something different – a different avenue through which to practice my faith.

I still testify, just not in the ‘traditional’ or ‘pentecostal’ sense of the word. I testify when I go out in nature, when I breathe in aromas of a delicious meal or hearty wine. I testify when I create community among friends. I testify when I witness the miracle of sunrises and sunsets. I think there are different ways to testify, and all can be pleasing to God and welcoming to people.

We come to the word celebrate again. I see that this is a possible theme for Lent. With celebration usually comes the word “Alleluia” which is traditionally not sung or spoken all of Lent until Easter. Lent is a time of penance, reconciliation, somber reflection, inwardness. At least for me. Come Easter morning we will celebrate and testify to the resurrection of Jesus.

He will be lifted (see what I did there?) – banners will be raised. We’ll remember the now-dry palm fronds that graced his path in Jerusalem. Can you imagine – the King of kings and the Lord of lords riding into a holy city, the holy city, on a donkey? But he does. And a week later he’s lifted onto the cross to die a humiliating death – how could a professed king ever be killed, let alone in such a horrible and dehumanizing manner? But he is. Every year the story amazes me. Every year the power of Lent overcomes me and my soul heals and reconciles itself to God a little more.

Signs

Today I just had a feeling that it was going to be a weird day, a sign. Usually when I experience this, I do in fact have a weird day. I waited for a call for school to be cancelled due to the impending Nor’easter bound for the East Coast. No call came. Some schools cancelled. During our faculty meeting this morning, our admin announced kids would be released early, which usually means we would be, too.

It took me two hours to get home when it usually takes me 23 minutes, give or take. The free hours I had in my afternoon soon dwindled down to just minutes. It took my husband an hour to get home when it usually takes him 10 minutes. Since we got home, power’s been flickering on and off. Our sump pump somehow became dislodged from the hole it sits in in the crawl space.

Despite all these signs and then events of a day gone weird, I’ve been strangely calm. This is highly uncharacteristic for me. Even on my two-hour journey home, I only got angry once when some jerk cut me off. (Just once… I’m improving…). Even when the sump pump was askew and not doing its job, though my mind went to the worst case scenario of “Oh shit we’re gonna spend our Friday night, possibly weekend, and hundreds of dollars to get this fixed,” I stayed calm and somehow my lizard brain didn’t get to see the light of day.

I’m not sure what’s happening. It could be maturity, it could be that my broken heart is healing therefore so is the rest of me, it could be the good amount of savings we have in the bank, it could be God’s peace, it could be the zen following me off the yoga mat. But slowly I’m evolving into the person I had wanted to be when I was freaking out. During the years my heart was torn into pieces month after month. During all the lonely months when my husband was literally halfway around the world.

Signs.

Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1‭-‬14 NASB

Remember

The best way to crawl out of a pit of depression and doubt is to remember what God has done for you. Even if you’re not 100% sure he’s in the day-to-day goings on, there have to be clear marks that he’s done something good in your life. Not that he’s cause something to cause you good, but that he’s actually personally done the good thing.

You can’t always think on the things he might do in your life, because those things have yet to be and let’s be honest.. Most of the time hindsight shows us that they’re not the things we thought they’d be anyway.

Don’t strain to think of something.. Whatever comes first to your mind is the thing he’s done or the promise he’s kept. It’s salient for a reason.. It’s obvious exactly for when you need to remember in order to keep going.

Zeal, Celebrate, Consume

WordPress says ‘share your story here’ on the mobile app when you go to begin a post. Here goes, with a challenge to myself to include all the words for days I’ve missed.

I was super zealous after I became a Christian when I was 13. I had a pretty radical experience and everyone had to know about it. However, I was immature as most teenagers are from time to time and took my zeal too far. I openly condemned a few family members of sins. I extricated all evidence of ‘secular’ music from my life in the form of taking scissors to most of my CDs. This zeal was tempered little by little as I got older but I still found myself inwardly judging people for behavior that I believed was wrong in God’s sight. Often I judged before I loved. Heck, why is this in the past tense? I still do this.

I think now I’m able to celebrate more the things that God has done. I’m able to celebrate people more and this my friends is the real win here. I love people for people, not because it’s something God told me to do. I remember when I was 14 praying for God to give me a heart for the lost because I truly felt apathetic towards those who didn’t claim the same faith.

Since then almost 20 years later (good grief) I would say I have a heart for people in general, no agenda or ulterior motive. Just a plain curiosity to learn more about their life with the hope of an opportunity to share mine.

I would not say I’m consumed with the zeal about the things of God now. I’m not consumed with thoughts of whether I’m good enough or clean hearted enough. I’ve accepted who I am, all faults included. And I know the places I can still become more like Christ.

Glory

I wonder if God’s glory that resides in heaven is a bright light. That’s how I always imagine it when I read the word glory in the Bible.

A catch phrase I remember hearing for the decade plus we attended charismatic churches was something something something for God’s glory.

If doing something for God’s glory means that heaven opens up and a dove comes down and says well done, then I think I want to be involved in that.

Suffer

It’s not something people like talking about. Well, not real suffering anyway. We joke and say we have first world problems, but our voices echo what’s in our hearts so maybe we’ve I internalized our prim, proper, and privileged suffering.

We all have one thing in common : the human condition. This is something an English teacher my junior year taught me… And each year that passes I understand it more, if only from first hand as well as an observer’s experience.

Life

I’m reading another book about death, called Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death. Even in 2018 it amazes me how little Americans talk about this complex something that ails every single human and living thing on the planet.

Naturally when I think of the word life I also think about death. We’ve recently taken a more objective perspective on death by writing our wills and advanced directives. We’ve discussed what our wishes are and asked close family members to serve as executor of our estate. It seems a little strange to be not even 32 yet and have these things in place, but it’s important.

So then as I think about death my thoughts are again catapulted into thinking about life. My life. How I want to live it. The legacy I want to leave behind, especially now that it won’t be a legacy of children and grandchildren.

If my family’s genes are any indication, I could very well live to see an entire century. The thought scares me, to be honest. But the time is now to think about what the next potentially 70 years could bring (I’m not kidding about 70 years.. My Nana is pushing 102).