I was listening to the Nov. 7 Tranquility Du Jour podcast about creativity and the importance of creative expression in one's life. It really resonated with me, especially after my flight out to Phoenix two weeks ago. I sat next to a woman who was knitting a baby bonnet, who was kind enough to let me do some stitches. I had to give up knitting when my Lyme Disease (LD) struck, because my disability mostly manifests in my arms. I had very limited arm capacity, and it was more critical for me to save my arm strength for necessities instead of spending them knitting. It broke my heart, but I basically packed up that part of my life in a bag, stuck it in a closet, and tried to forget about it. I wasn't a good knitter, but I really enjoyed it and it relieved stress. Knitting those few stitches on the airplane really reminded me of how much I missed it.
As I've chronicled on this blog, my LD journey has been arduous and painful. At my worst, I was taking narcotics every six hours and it barely took the edge off my pain. I couldn't write, push a grocery cart, cut a vegetable, or even wash my own hair. But as painful as that was physically, it wasn't as awful as the heartache of not being able to express myself. I lost my ability to write, knit, and cook/entertain -- my three primary creative outlets. So in addition to losing my arms, my job, and my social life, I lost my voice. I felt powerless to create and share my experiences with others. It is part of what made 2007-2009 the darkest years of my life. Yes, I tried voice-activated software, but it really sucks unless you pay $2,000 for the software designed for quadriplegics. Example: I told the program to "scroll down," and instead it typed "scrotum." It takes many hours to train the voice-activated software to your voice and way of speaking, and it is so sensitive (it is based on software developed by the CIA), if you are tired, in pain, or otherwise off your game, it will impact you training the software. I was all three.
The podcast I heard reminded me how nurturing and important creativity is to my spirit, and that I need to make time for it the same way I prioritize taking care of my body, my 12-step program, and my marriage -- my top priorities at this stage in my life. Writing is my primary outlet for creativity, but -- you'll notice if you look at how often I post -- I fit it in around the edges. I'm also very wordy, so posting takes a very long time. I need to schedule 15 minutes a day to write, so I'll have my creative outlet and get a lot more writing done. I have tons of things to say! I am thrilled that I am starting to knit again -- I'm working on a scarf and I'm hoping to re-learn the things I've forgotten and pick up more advanced skills. I hope to chill out about it this time around and enjoy the journey instead of worrying about how to make the perfect X.
I encourage you to think about your creative expression and how you can build more of that into your life. We think of creativity as projects you have to take on, like scrapbooking; if that's your thing, go for it, but there are as many creative outlets as there are people. Music, decorating, making home-made cards and cooking are a few that come to mind. I like to make seasonal centerpieces for the dining room table, and arrange a little autumn tableau on our front stoop with gourds and other seasonal items. My husband teases me for this and finds it a little odd, but I think it's a nice creative activity that frankly doesn't take a real investment of time or money.
My recent thoughts about creativity came at the same time I'm learning another lesson from another area of my life I'm working on: the importance of play. When we're kids, it's natural, but we forget the importance of play as adults. It keeps our minds and souls young, and if anything, it probably becomes more important as we age and take on the burdens of adulthood. Play is also critical for a healthy sex life, but that is easily forgotten as our society becomes more and more obsessed with the state of the body. The connection, of course, is that many creative outlets also allow us opportunities to play. Enjoy!