We can work on fixing our struggles, and we can also turn them into art. I may have been doing this most of my adult life. My poem was written after having a rough couple of days and then cleaning glass tea cups of the table. My emotions went from sadness, to guilt at my sometimes extreme emotions, and then finally to ease. I held the dirty tea cups in my hands in the dark dinning room after everyone was asleep, and the weight of them in my hands reminded me that I was doing my best. Hell I was almost always trying to make magic from the chaos.
I think one of my in-laws mentioned the fact that I really like to use the word magic. It is true. Magic is the best word. The versions I like best of the word are, "any extraordinary or mystical influence" and "mysteriously enchanting." So of course when I saw a book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew I needed to read it. Now I don't really want to bore you with my own book review. Because lets face it almost every book is loved and hated by many. But what I do want to tell you is that this book helped me remember why I create. I think its good encouragement for anyone to read. But after reading this book I stopped thinking through things like if I will ever publish a book or how many people will read my poetry. I use to think that I was too scattered as an artist. I write, read, paint, photograph... pick a hobby right? But I have come to realize that painting is another outlet for me. It is one that I can go to when maybe I don't have the right words that day. My photography shows me so many little details that I love to write into my poetry. No art is a waste.
Lately I have been writing and working on photography and showing almost no one. I am completely off social media, with my only public sharing being this blog. And honestly like four people read my last post during its first week up. My viewings have slowly climbed (maybe it's the same aunt clicking for pictures of the kids?), but it has been freeing to not care. To write for me. To make art for me. To not worry about winning or losing but knowing that by making something I am winning.
This last weekend our family went to Arkansas. Having a break away from my normal life showed me a lot. For one, I sort of longed for time to write and read. The days were full with friends, but I realized that I write because I need to. My art forms are how I process life. Art for me brings magic. It soothes and helps me understand why things are they way they are. Not only did being away show me that I make art mostly for me, but that there is more to "me" than I give myself credit for. I went to my ten year college reunion, and while it was slightly nerve-raking, I was confident and myself. And people still liked me. With everything I have walked through with mental illness I have at times wondered if I was still the same Jeran that I have been in the past. I think I have learned and walked through too much to be exactly the same, but I am finding that my true self is still there. It felt like this weekend I let the walls down. I just tried to be me. I found out that being me was being someone who liked being with people. I liked catching up with friends. I liked their kids too. I carried my little journal in my purse and still thought a lot about people and my interactions with them. I think about people and watch people a lot. I think it's the writer's spirit.
In the hospital they use to use a phrase, "build a life worth living." When I was depressed and had been in the hospital three times, building a life worth living felt really far away. I felt like I had all the components: a loving husband, beautiful kids, a nice home, loving family, interests and passions... but I wasn't sure where I fit in all of it and how I could fit all the pieces together. To make my life. And not just a life but one that I was actively participating in. While I was in Arkansas though, I realized I had built it. Slowly over time with lots of work. Honestly I have always been building it. It is just that at times it looks clearer to me than others. This is a big reason that I love taking pictures. They can be so filled with emotion and bring so much beauty. When I look at photographs of my life I clearly see the beauty.
Depression is a complex illness. I can't explain a lot of it. But when I was finding myself and trying to rise again I had to paint. And it hurt to look at pictures. I wrote a couple of posts ago that I could not even post on here. I couldn't see all of my pictures and the beauty. Because the lie of depression was that I could no longer make that beauty. I knew my kids were still beautiful, but in the midst of depression I was holding everyone back. I made sadness and heartache. But the best thing was to push on. Even if it was making art by painting. It showed me I could still create. I was making beauty. And then I would see the kids imitating me and painting too. I make art because I have to.
As I drove back to the hotel after hanging with friends one night in Arkansas, it felt so evident that my happiness and life was waiting back in room 127 at the Hampton Inn. Life is exhausting and I fall short a lot of the time, but it will always have beauty. I say yes to tea cups and hiking and making art. I say yes to hand-me-down tap shoes that are loud. And yes to driving with my sister to see sunflowers. I build my life by writing and sharing it with the friends I keep stepping out to get closer to. I read stories and learn and change. I have even bought a couple of really cute sweaters for fall.
This post is about art and finding myself and building myself. It is about leaving and coming back. I wrote it to process and to document the journey. And I also wrote it because I really do love tea cups and tap shoes.