What do roadwork, domestic violence and creativity have in common?
Roadwork has been going on in front of my house for over eight weeks—horrendous dust and dust storms, constant machine noise, speeders that don’t slow down for road conditions, dirt embedded inside and outside my car, and layers of dust covering my house and property. I can’t sit out on my beautiful deck without inhaling copious amounts of dust (not good for someone with asthma). And, their big trucks wake me every morning by 7:30. Maybe the upside is I might finally become a morning person?
I’ll be happy when it’s over and I’ll appreciate the new services. I’m not complaining… well, maybe a little…but I’m writing about this because I was horrified to realize this morning that I’ve become used to all this noise and commotion.
As I’m typing, my house is shaking. Vibrating. The sound of a jackhammer like an angry bird beating its wings against my windows. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
I started thinking about what we become used to in life. Our routine. Our ruts. Relationships that don’t serve our highest good anymore, but we stay because it’s comfortable or we’re afraid of the unknown.
Or maybe it’s a job that sucks the life out of us but we’re so busy making ends meet that we don’t have the energy or time to change it or to pursue our heart’s desire.
And I started thinking about my mother who suffered from domestic violence for over 30 years. One late night as she was sitting on the floor with her back against the wall, tears streaming down her face, her right eye beginning to swell into a purplish-blue bruise, my 12-year-old self asked her why she didn’t leave. She had her reasons…none of which made sense to me at the time.
In the morning, my mother, who never wore makeup, would try to cover her bruise with foundation so her customers at the store she managed wouldn’t see it. But they would see it. And they wouldn’t say anything. Because that’s what happened then. As long as a man did not harm others, he could do what he wanted to his own family.
I learned later that domestic abuse is like boiling a frog. You put the frog in cold water and gradually turn up the heat so the frog gets used to the heat and doesn’t even bother to try to jump out of the pan. My mother became used to the heat, used to the horrible words that destroyed her spirit every night of the week, used to being a punching bag, used to being told she was wrong and ugly and worthless, used to trying to hide what he did to her from others and from herself. Eventually, the heat burned her up. Years of violence and trauma led her down a path into dementia and death. The soul can only take so much.
When she was 66, my mother developed early onset dementia and walked away from home in the middle of the night. Four counties of Search & Rescue hunted for her for four days. She was finally found miles away in the woods, lying in a thicket of blackberries, crying for help. She lived another seven years with dementia, eventually forgetting everything that had been her life including her only grandson and me. The blessing in her forgetting was that she also forgot the years of violence.
In my late 20s/early 30s, I was lost in my own woods. I realized I was desperately unhappy but I didn’t know why. The unhappiness led me down a path of healing my past and, in the process, I realized that one of the reasons I was unhappy was that I wasn’t doing any of my creative work.
I was working….getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home to cook dinner and clean house and go to bed. That was pretty much it. I wasn’t using my creativity in ANY area of my life. After reading a book I found at the library on creativity by SARK, I made a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue.
I hadn’t written poetry in several years, so I started attending a poetry workshop. I started writing again. I started sending my work out to magazines and literary journals. And many, many years later I published my first book of poetry, “The Dragon & The Dragonfly.” Because I started with that ONE decision to express my creativity, today I use my creativity in every aspect of my daily life.
Maybe you have a book in you that is burning to be written but, for whatever reason, it’s not happening. You’re stuck. Like noisy, invasive roadwork or domestic violence, we become used to our environment. It becomes our comfort zone. And when we try to step outside our comfort zone, we feel like a fraud. We think, “Who am I to be a brilliant, successful author?” “Who am I to have a loving, supportive, wonderful relationship?”
In her book, “The Art of Asking,” Amanda Palmer calls this the “fraud police.” But the fraud police are not real. They are the critical voices we’ve accumulated over time. They are the wounds we have not healed.
Fear of the unknown can cause us to self-sabotage and stay stuck without even realizing it. Procrastination. Self-doubt. Allowing other people’s drama to infiltrate our lives. Creating our own dramas to avoid what we know we need to do. Distractions. I know from experience how creative we writers can be in creating distractions from our work.
So how do we become unstuck? How do we conquer our fears? How do we change our lives?
Do like I did. Choose one thing in your life you want to change. In my early 30’s, I decided to start focusing on my creativity.
Does thinking about your one thing make you a little bit afraid? Does your heart beat a little faster? Do your palms feel hot and sticky? Do you feel something fluttering or burning in the pit of your stomach? If so, GOOD!! It means that you are ALIVE. It means you are not one of the walking dead. It means there is hope for your friends and your family and your children.
Because whether you realize it or not the world is watching and learning from you.
What are you going to teach us?