It has taken me a long time to”go public” with my writing. About two weeks ago in my posting Poetry- Words Painting Pictures, I shared how I have always been fascinated and influenced by the written word. Even as a child I would write poetry and, as I progressed into my teens, I wrote funny “ditties” for friend’s birthdays. I even wrote a skit or two that we used in high School.
Diving into the “dark period” of my life I isolated from the creative Muse. But as I approached the end of those troubled years and was close to breaking out into the sunshine of true living, it does not surprise me that the first sign of her return was in poetry – even though it was somewhat depressive. I think the expressing of my feelings as I came through that difficult period helped me to walk out of the darkness and into the light.
Shortly after the poetry came the painting. (Art classes were second favorite to gymnastics and outdoor sports when I attended the Ursuline High School for girls.) I lived in Sardinia at the time and I was blessed to have a wonderful artist in my life at that time. His name was Santiago (still is, he lives in Puerto Rico with his wife Josefina), and he was an engineer who worked in the same set of offices as I.
Santiago was one of those many mentors in my life that I will write a posting about soon. He was a quiet, slightly built man with a round face who looked more like a studious professor than an engineer; not that I know what an engineer should specifically look like! But one thing he was passionate about was the creative and artistic process. And I am happy to say that he enjoyed sharing that with others as much as he indulged in it for his own delight and personal satisfaction.
To go to Santiago’s house on the island of La Maddalena, Sardinia was like going to an art gallery and attending a concert at the same time. Every wall in every room was covered with his art work. He produced paintings prolifically and painted every corner of the island from every angle possible. He used oil paints as well as water colors and his work was magnificent.
He also played the guitar, and many glasses of wine were consumed as he shared his passion for painting and music. Josefina was a very patient hostess who probably did not fully understand this strange English woman who kept appearing at their doorstep. But I wanted, needed, to be steeped in the creativity that permeated their household (Josefina was very artistic in her own way too), although I’m afraid she may have thought sometimes that I just wanted to be steeped in wine!!
It was exposure to Santiago and his love of painting that influenced me to go into town one day and buy all the basics to start painting again. Of course, being somewhat obsessive, I then began to paint in every free moment possible, sometimes working until two or three o’clock in the morning even though I had to be in the office by 8am. But it was wonderful to be in the grip of the creative Muse, and to watch a painting unfold and develop was an incredible experience.
This all happened in the early to mid seventies. I married my husband Richard about ten years later and although I stopped painting I continued to be involved in some form of creative art. We met in a little theater group and our relationship developed amid the smell of grease paint and the magic of the spotlights. Over the years I recouped my love of calligraphy (the art of beautiful writing) and created and printed many pieces for sale.
Today I create cards with the help of Stampin’ Up products and my teacher Mary Gillette. For me it is so exciting to see a piece of creative work develop and then hold the finished product in my hands. To share that with someone as a Birthday card, a Thank You card, or a Christmas card adds another layer of pleasure and satisfaction to the process. It also gives me great pleasure and joy to share my writing with others in the hope that someone, somewhere, will find their own pleasure and perhaps a little enlightenment in the words that I write.
Over the years I have discovered that God has blessed me with many gifts and talents other than a sense of the artistic. As my life unfolds and I continue to be open to whatever path He leads me on, it seems that part of my life’s mission is to be in the right place at the right time with the right words for specific people. To this end God has blessed me with the gift of compassion for others, especially those who are travelling their own dark path or are struggling with hardship and tragedy.
I think this is why I am able to do the work that I do as a volunteer with Community Hospice of North East Florida. It also helps me as I volunteer at my own church in the Ministry of Consolation. And then there are all those individuals who seem to cross my path “by chance”, but when we say goodbye and continue on our individual journeys, I understand that I have ministered to them in His name.
As I read back over this article, I realize that it is not at all what I thought I was going to write. But that is often the way it is for me. I start off in one direction and end up going totally in another. I think it has something to do with that “meandering” quality that God instilled in me. But I also think it has more to do with inviting Him on the journey with me as my fingers start their journey across the keyboard.
I haven’t written anything for about a week now. I guess it would be truer to say that I have not been able to write anything during this time. Some people call this “writer’s block”. I like to think that my Muse needs a rest or a vacation now and then.
There are several different schools of thought on this matter. There are those who think that if you are a writer (or painter, or any other type of creative person), you should just blast through the block, force yourself to write something (or paint, or whatever), get something going. Others think that this is not natural and that if the creativity doesn’t flow, then leave it alone.
I happen to be of the second opinion. Even though it is frustrating for me to come to the end of a day with itchy fingers but nothing running around in my head, my heart, or my soul, I think it is right (for me) to wait until the Muse decides to come home from her vacation, opens her suitcases, and spills out whatever treasures she brings home to share with me.
I guess I need to clarify here that it’s not that my mind has been totally blank. I know I still have a writing to do about the glorious Cowboys game that we experienced in Tampa a few weeks ago (even though they weren’t so glorious against Denver last weekend!). To be noted that there’s another posting about “mentors” that’s creating waves in my heart. And my soul is contentedly nurturing a whole juicy article abut Zhanra’s, a restaurant in St. Augustine that is fast becoming my favorite Sunday brunch spot.
What happens for me, I think, is that my Muse needs head, heart, and soul lined up in some sort of synchronicity. They all need to be on the same page (no pun intended!), singing along in harmonious arcapella. And then, of course, I have that devious little fellow, de-pression, who hovers out in left field waiting to strike me out.
Yesterday, however, Rich and I drove up to north western Georgia with some friends. We are sharing a weekend with them in a gorgeous log cabin in the mountains. My heart and soul are both jumping for joy and sitting in serenity. Just to be in the mountains after living in the Florid flatlands is a gift from God. My soul is very connected to rocks and mountains.
As well as the mountains, we are also surrounded by woodlands that are made up of more than pine trees. (Trees are the next soul connection after mountains for me.) It is early Fall and the colors are creeping into the leaves. As I look out over the wrap-around porch that I am sitting on there are lovely shades of yellow and bronze with some soft deep pinks and russet reds here and there.
Just below the cabin there is a small lake and to one side of us I can hear the running waters of a creek that feeds into the lake. Birds are singing all around us and the squirrels are having such fun scampering up and down and in and out of the trees. From where I am sitting I can see three large squirrel nests.
As the evening closed in yesterday we lit a log fire in the outdoor fireplace on the porch. The night was still, the fire crackled, and all around us were the sounds of the night. Crickets and other insects formed the string section of the orchestra. Various frogs tuned up their woodwind instruments, and some unknown creature of the dark provided a strange soft trilling sound.
When the sky darkened into full night we were treated to a magnificent starry display. We are far from any major town so city lights did not spoil the effect of God’s night-time creation. As we gazed up we realized we were seeing the Milky Way and there were a gazillion other stars up there. I saw three shooting stars, one that was big and bright and seemed to cross the whole heavens on its journey to extinction. And I was reminded of another night, another starry sky in Umbria, Italy many years ago.
And as I sat and bathed in the beauty of it all, I felt a subtle internal shift. I knew that Muse was on her way home and that soon my itchy fingers would be flying across the keyboard. I am grateful for her return and, as if to confirm her presence with me right now, a watery sun is dappling through the trees to bathe me in a soft morning glow.
I’m never quite sure what happens to me when my normal routine is disrupted. All I know is that it seems to take me forever to re-find myself, to get back into my everyday patterns and the activities that I love doing. Sometimes the disruption is a “going away” thing; a trip, a vacation, a retreat. Sometimes the disruption is caused internally; an emotional hiccup, a hormonal hill, an unexpected trauma. The journey back is more difficult when the disruption is a “double-whammy” – a trip AND an internal shift.
Last weekend Richard and I took a trip. We mounted our much-loved Harley and hit the road. First stop was Orlando where we spent the night and participated in Night of Joy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (That experience will be a posting of its own.) We had a great ride and even though we encountered some of the usual backed-up traffic on I-4, we arrived safely.
On Saturday morning we slept in a little after our late night at the concerts and, after breakfast, we got back on Harley fully kitted out in our rain gear. There was a steady drizzle of rain which wasn’t too bad, but the closer we got to Tampa the harder it came down. We were glad to reach our destination – the lovely luxurious Westin on the Causeway – change into dry clothes, order up some room service, and just relax. Later in the evening we took a cab to Mass at Christ the King church, then crossed the road to eat at GrillSmith on South Dale Mabry Hwy. (Another separate posting on this experience!)
On Sunday morning we prepared for the other highlight of this trip: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Dallas Cowboys. Richard and I are die-hard Cowboys’ fans and this was a great game to be able to travel to. The weather was reasonable even though showers were promised. We had our rain ponchos and what’s a bit of water if you can get to see the “Boys”!! (The game will be another posting!)
We happily prepared for our trip home (the “Boys” won after an exciting game that could have gone in either direction until the fourth quarter). Apart from a short we-are-lost detour at the beginning of the trip (unfamiliar city roads and road construction!), and a small shower closer to home, we had another great ride and arrived home safely at about 10pm.
Now that was a fabulous weekend; no hiccups, no problems, and a very happy ending. It just carried a simple “disruption” tag to my usual routine. So why on earth did I wake up on Monday morning feeling like I was sliding down some treacherous slippery hill of grayness? I guess if I could answer that question, and especially if I could offer a solution, I could get very rich very easily!
Thank God that I have done a lot of personal growth and spiritual growth work over the last thirty years. At least this puts me in a position to be able to actually recognize that I was on this slippery slope. It allows me to know myself enough that I am aware that geographical and time disruptions to my routine affect me in ways that perhaps other people do not experience. I am also willing to put a name to that slippery slope, that most people avoid because they feel it carries too much stigma: depression.
I feel blessed that I have built a support system of incredible friends and that I know to reach out no matter how small the hiccup or hill may seem. I do not want my hills to grow into menacing mountains that I cannot surmount. I also feel blessed and grateful that the depression that I suffer from occasionally is not acute and does not require medication. I also recognize that if I did not have the self awareness that I have worked so hard to achieve, and if I were not willing to take action and ask for support and help, I could easily spiral into deeper depression.
Many people out there, especially those in the male category, refuse to even consider that they may be depressed. I think it is time to concede that as human beings, with all the in-built emotions and hormones (yes, you guys have crazy hormones too!!) and all the external stress that we deal with on a daily basis, it is normal for us to have “ups and downs”. In our “ups” we are high on happiness and excitement. In our “downs” our happiness is pushed down, de-pressed.
Sometimes it requires nothing spectacular to de-press our feelings. It can be something as simple as the end of a special occasion (a trip, a celebration) or even a split second thought or memory that triggers a series of other thoughts that take us down. And sometimes all or any of this can take place on such a subconscious level that we cannot put our finger on what is causing our “down”, our de-pression.
So on Monday my plan had been to get up and immediately hit the computer and share all the wonderful experiences of the weekend and whatever else the Muse presented. But somewhere on that slippery slope Muse had jumped off the wagon and I was left with “gray”. Plan of action: pray, call a friend, go meet with some people who didn’t think I was crazy and who understood exactly what I was going through.
And that is how I am very blessed. I have gathered around me people who are available to me, who care about me enough to give me their time and their invaluable friendship, who are willing to listen, to share their own experience in similar circumstances. With their help, it has taken me four days to fully come back up and feel normally enthusiastic about each day.
I have been patient and gentle with myself. I have not “self-bashed” myself because I haven’t written anything since Saturday. I have allowed myself to be “lazy” and focused on doing just the absolute essentials on my schedule. And lo! the Muse is back. More postings to follow!!!!