Creating is an Act of Hope
Monday, August 29, 2016
I have been thinking a lot this weekend about something I read on this blog post, written by a woman named Joy who I barely know through following each other on Instagram. Her words cut right to the point of what I’ve been struggling with since April:
"It’s my giant neon sign: if I’m not creating for days, weeks on end, I’m holding my breath. If I’m holding my breath, I am not abiding in Christ, and fear has stopped me in my tracks. Creating helps me push back the darkness and take a deep breath.”
The fear I experienced that early morning in April when I woke to the sound of death—I cannot say it has left me. Whenever I have to tell someone about that morning, I still start to shake and, if I’m not careful, I’ll melt down into a big puddle of tears. Kendell can tell the story through the lens of “my wife saved my life,” but I’m not certain my efforts really helped; I think it was more the timing of the policeman and then the EMTs that really saved him. But my retellings bring me back, in my memory, to the absolute terror I felt. And while the medical procedures Kendell had should mean that he never will have another cardiac arrest, the fear is still here. I am living in a space where I no longer can feel like we’re “done” with medical issues; I just feel like I am waiting for whatever comes next.
And maybe what comes next is Kaleb, whose heart check-up in June did not go well. And if I thought living in fear of the possibility of my husband’s death was difficult, translating that to my child is just…I literally can’t. I can’t talk about it or write about it or even know how to begin to deal with it. I have to look at it sideways, out of the corner of my eye.
So there’s a lot of fear around here.
And since that morning in April, there has been almost no creating. No writing, no delving into new quilting projects, no scrapbooking. And sure, I’ve had two enormous vacations to plan, and a graduation, and then a really busy summer.
But I think fear is mostly what is stopping me.
Creating something is an act of hope. It means you are imagining a future where the thing you create will still be looked at or used or read, that it might inspire someone else. Sitting down at my scrapbooking desk has felt nearly impossible because it is there that the what-ifs overtake me. The what-ifs that I can’t even write out, but that fill my head. I can’t make any assumptions anymore, and not only about Kendell and his heart or Kaleb and his heart. Life’s biggest lesson for me over the past decade is that people die. All the time, unexpectedly, without giving you a chance to say goodbye. I am incredibly lucky that I am on this side, that I can still hug my husband and my children, that I can send them funny texts and wash their clothes for them and kiss their foreheads when they’re sleeping.
I know that I am lucky. And blessed.
Right now is the only thing I have.
But not creating for months & months…that is a space I cannot abide for long. It’s not in my nature to not be making something, to not be working on a project or thinking about a piece of writing while I fall asleep or making a mess at my desk. It is a dark place, and even though it was terrifying at first, I have started again. And it is pushing back the darkness—just a little. It is, to use Joy’s words, like taking a deep breath. Like breathing again.
Even though I’m afraid.
Because really, the fear isn’t only for my family. Deep down, the fear is also for myself. That my life has come to nothing, that it has been meaningless and I have left no mark. That if it were me who died tomorrow and I left behind all of these people I love, would they know that I loved them? Would it have mattered that I was here? (Hopkins had it right: it is always ourselves we mourn for.)
And maybe scrapbook layouts are a silly way to make my mark. Maybe no one will care that I left them a quilt or two to huddle under when I can’t hug them back. Maybe I will never find success as a writer.
But I have to keep trying. I have to live this one life that I have, and one way I live it is by making. It is my act of faith and hope: that the world will continue on, that my children will be OK, that I will be here to witness and to love and that, if not, I will leave something that might matter to someone else.
It is the only way I know of holding back the darkness.
(I sat down to write about a scrapbook layout I finally made. I guess that will have to happen tomorrow, because this was what I needed to write today.)
Oh dearie! I *hear* you. You should go back a couple week's posts where I laid all our medical stuff out and all the fear... It is *very* real, that terror, and when one scare layers on top of another...holy Toledo Batman. No fun at all. The shakes eventually go away, but it takes time. I am so proud of you for grabbing onto hope. It is such a scary first step, but it's the first step to healing. I am cheering you on!!! Sending you all the love these bits and bytes can hold. Xo (PS. This right here is why I dearly love IG. What an amazing community.)
Posted by: Joy | Monday, August 29, 2016 at 03:01 PM
My husband lost his job in the spring of 2013, and two months later our fourth child was born via emergency c-section and spent 9 days in the NICU...to a tune of $100,000. That was when I stopped creating. Later, I had two cancer scares (I'm ok, fortunately). Even now, three years later, with a new job in place and a healthy toddler, I find it hard to create. I have been so shaken by the experiences of the last few years, I feel I don't even know myself. I make things occasionally, on deadline, when I have a specific use in mind. Mostly, I find myself a ball of anxious tension and being still enough to create, or read, or even to pray sometimes, is impossible. I am just trying to be patient as I'm sure it's partly a form of PTSD. But I want you to know, I get it. I hear you.
Posted by: Grace | Monday, August 29, 2016 at 03:20 PM
I read the blog post that you linked to this blog post of yours once I finished reading your words. I have to say that the idea of motherhood and maybe more accurately family- hood being linked to fear so closely is something that I know for sure, but have never qualified as well as you did in the post. Also, I am a person who creates, and I experience the more short-term lack of creative interest from time to time. I have always looked at those shorter breaks in creating as almost cleansing my creativity, or as time that encourages me to be able to find joy in another endeavor. I have never thought about creating as a means of abiding in Christ. Never. In fact, I am going to have to put some serious thought behind that idea. I thank you for this post. It has given me a lot to think about. Looking forward to seeing what you used your courage to create.
Posted by: Anne-Liesse | Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 02:26 PM
This is so spot on for me. It sounds dumb, but in February I started working on a 3000-piece puzzle that my kids got me for Christmas. I worked on it at night after the kids were in bed while my husband & I watched tv. Or at random times during the day when I had a few minutes to kill. And then on March 30th, I found out Aidan (my 8yo) has cancer, and my world stopped turning. I couldn't look at that stupid puzzle. My sewing machine started to gather dust. I actually planted a few tomato and pepper plants in June, and then I never watered them and haven't looked at them since. My ability to create completely halted. My parents came to visit me last month and my dad finished that puzzle. (It had the thickest layer of dust on it.) I was so glad to take a picture of it and put it in its box. Now I'm feeling the itch to buy fabric and make a blanket for a friend who's dying of cancer. If I can start that project, then maybe I'll be pulling away from my fear a little? At least I'll feel like I have a small piece of myself back. (Sorry for the long comment, but thanks for the chance to sort out my own emotions.)
Posted by: Melanie Bell | Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 02:28 PM
I have been forcing myself to churn out some writing pieces, but not the way I have wanted them to turn out. However, I went MONTHS without touching a paintbrush, which is the truly soul-driven creative endeavor I love at the moment. My heart just couldn't. And so my hands couldn't. It's been horrible.
Posted by: Feisty Harriet | Wednesday, August 31, 2016 at 11:31 PM