creativity is life itself

creativity is life itself

I was once told I have an unhealthy attachment to creativity.

This comment made me angry, which then made me proud because I spent centuries numbing myself from anger. Sometimes it just feels good to feel something again. After the initial, three-second anger burst wore off, I stopped to think, and then I laughed.

In reality, creativity is the essence of who we are.

The opposite of creation is not destruction; it’s death.

Destruction, or the breaking down, the demolition, the annihilation of what must be destroyed, is an essential step inherent in the process of creativity brought to life.

I think the person who made this remark may have been referring to art.

Maybe I do have an attachment to my own artistic process. But maybe that’s because my art is less about what I make and more about uncovering who I am. And this road of self-discovery is one that I absolutely, without a doubt, cannot stop treading. My very life depends on it.

We all wear masks that we’re taught to don from before we can walk. Be the happy, smiling, good girl. Go ahead and say yes. Eat everything society serves you with a big ol’ thank-you-more-please without stopping to question who or how you’re being taught to live, and who or how you would be without any such teaching.

When we break down the masks and destroy the shells, what is left underneath?

I’m finding the deeper I go, the more of an artist is there, clawing and screaming her way out.

And there are so many available mediums, the entire world becomes the artist’s playground. From the human body to food to spreadsheets to paint to anything else you use to shape the world around you. That, dear friends, is creativity.

Maybe I won’t use paint and charcoal and movement and words as my mediums forever. Regardless, I will always have the drive to create, not because it’s an external action that I’m addicted to performing, but because creativity is who I am. We are all artists deep down, whether we choose to recognize it or not.

We all have the internal drive to build and shape and mold, ultimately with the greater intention of leaving our mark here.

And I believe anyone who denies their own inner creative sense has simply stopped listening.

We grow up, as children, scribbling and sketching away. Everything makes sense and all is sacred. We inherently understand the connectedness of it all, without having need for explanation or reason.

Somewhere along the way, we can often lose touch with this childlike sense.

I tend to attract people who want to reconnect to their creative selves. These people, many of whom appear to be in some semblance of a transition phase, seem drawn to me. They want to tell me of their ideas. They feel the need to express their artistic sides to me.

I, too, am an ideas person. I have about a million and a half a day. Some stick; many fly away.

I was in the midst of a difficult life transition, several years ago. Stuck in a rut, and lost along the way, my external situation had become me, and I felt it killing me slowly. My throat was closing. I lived in a landmine of pain.

At the time, I was living in so many ways according to how I had been taught to act rather than how I felt called from within. Throughout the process, I experienced hopeless moments, full of despair. I felt as though I was in over my head in life, and had no idea how to carve my way back to myself.

During this period, I met with a healer whose eyes lit up, when I told her how I had recently found myself immersed in art. I told her how my favorite pastime, of the moment, involved stopping in estate sales and on the sides of roads to select old wooden furniture or even a scrap here or there, before bringing my findings home to repaint and fix up. I painted each and every one of these pieces white. As she heard this, her eyes grew wide and she paused before proclaiming of the symbolism behind me transforming this old, worn-down, forgotten furniture. White.

Art, time and again, brings me back to myself. Art allows me the space to transform back into who I was before the world told me how to be.

Whether it’s painting a dresser in messy strokes of upcycled white or dancing or cooking without recipes or even just coloring in the lines of somebody else’s shape, art gives me space to be, without thought or judgment or reason.

Allowed to wander around the forest of my mind for too long, I would go mad.

When I’m creating, through words or colors or bodily shapes, my thoughts get out of the way of life happening. I am present. And I feel like my existence begins to make the slightest bit of sense.

No matter our belief system, creativity affords us a connection to the divine, if we are open to it.

Our creative urges and inklings needn’t make reasonable sense, for they bring us back to the childlike state, where all things were possible and reason wasn’t necessary for day to day existence. It just was.

All life is, by definition, creative.

Creativity is not an unhealthy attachment, a useless pastime, or something you need to suppress. Creativity is bringing form to life itself.

So despite what others tell you, about the impracticality of your creative dreams, I want to encourage you something different. For in connection to your creative self, you bring light and change and breath to the world. Even when the light you shine is on darkness itself. And in so doing, you give us all meaning.

We were not placed here by chance, but rather to stir positive change through what we create.

And that creation can take an infinity of forms.

For me, today, that form is an empty frame. Which, naturally, I’m painting white. The story behind it, as yet unwritten.

we are all alone

The first time my heart was broken, I received the best advice about love I had yet to hear, from (as is usually the case, with truly great advice) the seemingly least likely of sources. My manager at the time. A buttoned-up, stretched-too-thin, father to two-year-old twin girls, he and I, up to that point in our brief, professional relationship, had not delved anywhere near a topic as personal as either of our love lives.

Yet I, a hardly-turned-23-year-old, emotional mess with an inability to wear my heart anywhere but my sleeve, no matter how hard I tried, after spending a week blaming a mysterious case of Fall allergies and graciously declining all offers of Zyrtec with a barely-concealed, choked sob and a mumbled, “Thanks, but I don’t need any, really,” for whatever reason, decided to confide in him. Maybe I was finally tired of the front I had been living, for far too long.

He had pulled me into a private meeting to discuss something related to whatever I happened to be doing for my job, at the time, and of course, completely unrelated to my emotional state of affairs. And I, the whole while thinking I really shouldn’t talk to him about this (as it went against everything about professionalism, that had been beaten into my skull with a bat, from before I could walk), slowly began to apologize for my distraction, as of late. And then I told him about my blindsided breakup.

He responded by telling me his own, long-winded tale, of his version of heartbreak, that left the world as he knew it, shattered, all the years ago. And afterward, he told me two truths that I, to this day, carry with me.

That each of us, is, always, alone. And that love is a choice.

The latter was perhaps the easier of the two, at the time, for me to learn.

He exclaimed, as his eyes grew wide, “Love is not a feeling. We do not fall into love. We choose it. Each and every single day, we have to decide to love someone. Love is a verb. And so you need to find someone who is willing to make that choice.”

Ever since, I have not wasted more than a second (okay, really, a few months at most) on anyone who is not willing to make the choice.

You can smell them a mile away. The ones who are searching for the feeling. As so many of us do search.

Understanding the concept and putting it into practice are two separate things. But from my understanding, and the willingness to at least try to change my habits and inherited, neurotic tendency to want to fall into love, I can slowly chip away at the Walt Disney romance my mind spins like a cloud out of figments of imagined silver.

I can decide, time and again, to stay rooted in reality, even when it feels far less fairytale-esque and far more like a ridiculous sitcom in which you cringe as the protagonist, yet again, stumbles into that pothole you just know they should have seen coming. The soundtrack so clearly warned of its appearance, as did the fact that they trip over the same exact pothole, in the opening act of every episode.

The first piece of advice, that we are always alone, is one that I continue to wrestle with, years later. As my manager elaborated, he explained that, although happily married, his wife could leave him at any point in time. He does not rely on her to fill any kind of void he may experience in his life. Instead, he succumbs to the belief that he is, ultimately, always alone.

Because, in truth, the thing that connects us most, as humans, is our own flighty nature. We all live in temporary bodies, and no matter what kind of spirituality, reincarnation, or soul-life you believe in, the one constant among us all is that we are, in our current state of human minds and flesh, always changing.

Even my human understanding of God is always changing too, in rhythm with the present moment.

Ultimately, we cannot rely on any other human for any sort of permanence, or even longevity, in his or her choice (as a verb) to love us.

And any attempt to create a lasting structural bind, between ourselves and another human, is really just the vague masking of a deep-seated insecurity. Such as the belief that we are not enough.

I recently started a business with someone who, when we agreed to begin the project, appeared to complement my weaknesses. I thought I was doing the right thing, by working with someone who would address my own shortcomings, and, consequently, free me up to play to my strengths. And, to be fair, I was doing the right thing, as I was following my gut, the entire way. I do not regret for a second choosing to start the company together.

However, I discovered shortly thereafter, that she had changed her mind, and no longer wished to embark on this path together, at least, not in the same way I intended. Life had happened, steering her along an alternate course. And in the changing tides, she handled herself with integrity and grace. As did I. And to my knowledge, neither of us harbors any kind of ill feeling toward the other.

Even so, today I felt my insides twisted in a knot, as the reality of her decision slowly dawned. That I had, unwittingly, become a solo business owner. And all of the qualms, stresses, as well as the imminent possibility of failure associated with such an endeavor, loomed at me with an eery eye from around the murky corner of the wooded forest in which I found myself wandering.

Around every bend in the road, I could sense the gnarled roots growing larger and more trip-worthy. And I, unable to move fast enough, lest I escape the tree before the impending dusk.

Such is life, I guess. Wandering solo in the forest. Tripping over knots and brambles, and maybe catching myself or perhaps landing, with a scritch and a scratch, before picking myself up, dusting off, and traversing, forward, yet again. Just a bit stronger, or at least slightly tougher this time around.

Recently, I have personally come to know several single mothers. I hold great reverence for each of them, as I cannot imagine being solely responsible for the upbringing of another human. Yet they have done so, beautifully.

Every time I hear another one of these ladies’ stories, I stand in awe for the strength and fortitude before me. Yet now I recognize the common thread between us. While my own situation doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to theirs, there is one minuscule similarity between the tales.

At one point, these ladies, too, must have not had the ability to imagine raising children on their own. Yet when the time came, they just did it. Learning how to do so along the way, and uncovering their own strength, grain by grain.

In that golden example, I know I can walk through my own forest, however different it appears. I can choose, in every given moment, to stop relying on others to guide me or even walk alongside, hand-in-hand. I can allow myself, simply, to walk my path. Even when it feels terribly lonely.

In realizing that I am never the victim of another person’s flightiness, I also release myself from playing the role of the fake hero and inauthentic martyr. Because the other person never was the villain, in actuality. Any kind of self-contrived role, for either of us, is too great a burden for us both to bear. And only when we have dropped the roles we unconsciously play, do we have a hope for connection.

And so today, as I cycled, thoughts swirling until they began to make the slightest bit of sense, I realized just how hidden I was, in my own notion of togetherness. How much energy I had poured into cultivating a shared experience, as well as how much energy is now freed for me, to pour back into myself and my millions of projects.

Because I always have been the lone wolf of the pack. Adaptable enough to get along with the group, and if you mess with one of my babies (albeit, a creative baby), you had better watch out. But perhaps all along, freely myself, on my own.

We all stand, together, in our aloneness.

Rooted in a sense of the solitary nature of our existence, we begin to have a hope for authentic connection. Maybe even cultivating what we so desperately craved, to begin with, in our emphasis on so much togetherness: unity with something greater than ourselves.

 

This piece was published on Rebelle Society.

the real reason i started practicing yoga

I have a confession to make. There’s a bio floating out there (somewhere) about my yoga background and it is – get ready for it – a lie. Not a whole lie. A half-truth. And one made unintentionally. But I want to come clean all the same.

I started practicing yoga from a dvd in my bedroom, when I was about 11 or 12 years old. My partial-truth bio claims “as a complement to dance”. Which is true. I was a dancer (a not very good one) and I thought increased flexibility, which I heard I could get from yoga, might make me better. So the way I remembered it, I bought a “yoga for flexibility” dvd. I vividly remember practicing it in my bedroom – for some reason seated twists stand out in my memory. Maybe that dvd had a lot of them.

Memory is a funny little selective animal. Often it cages out the aspects on which we don’t want to focus our attention. Last winter, in the middle of a move, I came across that dvd again. The title was actually “yoga for weight loss”. Not flexibility. Aha – now all the twisting-postures make sense. The reality is, when I was in middle school, I had an eating disorder.

I used to limit myself to less than 1,000 calories a day. I worked out obsessively –running, swimming, dance, and, apparently, yoga, as long as it promised to turn me into a size zero.

The irony of it is – I started practicing because I wanted to be smaller, but instead, yoga had the opposite effect.

I have heard that eating disorders often originate a means for control. Which, in my case, makes sense. As a kid, I was an oddball. I got made fun of, and had a hard time fitting in. I remember one time, riding the bus home from third grade, a girl telling me the clothes I wore were weird and that I should dress more like her. She was wearing blue-jean overall shorts with bright flower patches sewed on in random (“fashionable”) places. That same day, shopping with my mom at Kids R’ Us, I saw those shorts. I asked my mom to buy them for me. That girl and I ended up becoming friends, when she realized I had the same shorts she did. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

We didn’t have cable until I was eleven, and to this day I still don’t know how to play video games. I think those were the kinds of things that made you cool back then, but I’m not entirely sure. I remember making a new friend when we moved in sixth grade who, upon realizing how shy and awkward I was, stopped being my friend. I have always been an introvert – and in middle school, being quiet and shy was just plain not cool.

I think the combination of getting picked on, and my sensitivity, led 12-year-old me to subconsciously realize that I could never control other people and what happened around me. As a means for coping, I gripped at controlling the one thing I thought I could – myself. Namely, my body. I became obsessed with being perfect. I thought perfection equated happiness. Because people who, in my eyes, appeared perfect, also seemed to be happy. I forgot that inherently, I am happy. Always have been. My mom claims she never met a happier baby. And as a child, I may have been a goofy weirdo, but I loved every minute of being a goofy weirdo.

That “yoga for weight loss” dvd led me to my first “real”, instructor-taught yoga class, which I took at my high school. It was taught by the gym teacher, a marathon runner who I doubt had any kind of yoga-teaching credentials. This was back before yoga was all that popular in the US (and a smidgeon of the size it is now in DC). I told someone about this and he told me I’m “like an original hipster of yoga”, because I did it before it was cool. I think that comment will make my family laugh. At the time, armed with a field hockey stick and a slew of pink hair ribbons, I was the epitome of a catholic schoolgirl, and basically the opposite of hipster. I think the most ironic thing I did was go to a Fall Out Boy concert. And, apparently, do yoga.

I have nothing but fond memories of my freshman-year yoga class. I went to a large public school, and felt lost there. I had very few friends, and spent many an open-lunch period wandering the halls by myself, because I couldn’t find anyone to eat with. But in yoga, none of it mattered. Students of all ages and social statuses took the class, and in the “yoga room”, we were all equal. The teacher would write on a chalkboard the poses we were going to learn that day. Every Friday, she put on meditative rainforest-sounding music, and we did savasana (i.e., corpse pose, otherwise known as the yoga version of naptime), for the entire class. It was awesome.

My first yoga teacher did not wear lululemon (if that even existed then). She did not chant or take photos of herself doing fancy poses, or teach us rigorous flow classes with a peak pose (at least, not that I remember). What she did do was offer us a safe space, in which to explore our bodies through the practice of yoga. She read the room, and gave us what we needed (deep rest). She planted the seeds of yoga, which, for me, have since cultivated into a lifelong practice.

That year, I started eating again. I also, unknowingly at the time, learned to listen to my intuition. I made the challenging choice to transfer to a smaller, all-girls school, where I felt less lost and more at home to be myself.

At first, eating again had the opposite effect – I went through bulimic episodes, and frankly, blew up in size. My journey with food has been a long, hard-fought, solitary battle. It took me years to get to a place where I did not count calories or feel guilty about what I ate. Today, I eat a highly intuitive diet that works for my body. I focus on whole, unprocessed, natural foods, and have eliminated foods that don’t serve my body’s health. I have written briefly about my journey with food here.

Exploring my sensitivities, and which foods do and do not work for my body, led me to another version of my former eating-disorder behavior. This time, instead of focusing on loving myself because of how I looked, I turned my focus to loving how good I felt, as a result of practicing yoga and meditating everyday, self-care rituals, and living a clean, healthy lifestyle. Yet I was still missing the point. Because both of those versions of living involve conditional love – loving myself because I look or feel a certain way.

I realized this recently, when several instances of control-related issues emerged in my life. I believe we attract into our lives what our souls require for higher growth and learning. And I needed to learn the ugliness of the control-gripping monster.

Last week, I saw a photo of myself, and I realized that I was viewing it in a different way than I was accustomed to. A great deal of my life, I’ve seen my photo, and immediately began analyzing the parts. But last week, I looked at my face, and saw the whole person. I looked at my image just like I look at other people. I think this is what it means, to love myself unconditionally. Loving myself in entirety, no matter how I look, what I can do, or how I feel.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading about the beginning stages of my yoga journey. I think this is why I love teaching yoga to all ages, but especially kids and pre-teen and teenage girls. I have visions of one day starting a mindful living club for teenage girls, where we practice yoga, meditate, and talk about mind-body health.

For me, yoga is (and was) a game-changer, the gateway to my own healing. I began practicing because I wanted to be a size zero, and I thought “yoga for weight loss” would get me there. I think a lot of us start a yoga practice because we want something specific. Writing this reminds me of the song lyrics – “you can’t always get what you want/ but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need”. I never did become a size zero, from that dvd. Instead, I got exactly what I needed.

I intentionally don't keep photos around from my disorderly phase. Instead here's one from the peak of my "awkward phase" - 15 or 16 years old. Back when I thought it was okay to cut my own bangs. And apparently I really liked pink.
I intentionally don’t keep photos around from my unhealthy-eating period. Instead here’s one from one of my prime “awkward years” – 15 or 16 years old. Back when I thought it was okay to cut my own bangs. And apparently I liked pink.
Ten + years and so much growth later <3