Imagine Creativity Unleashed

There are some places in the world that seem to inspire creativity.  For me, two of those places are Paris and New York.  I’ve had the privilege of visiting both cities more than once, and there is something magical in the air.  Paris has always been intriguing to me because there are so many great authors who went there for periods in their lives to write.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and James Joyce all roamed those streets and sat at Parisian cafés to write.  I actually read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, a memoir about his time writing in Paris, while on a train to Paris.  How cool is that?  New York is teaming with creativity of every genre you can imagine.  There are performers on many street corners and subway platforms.  Dancers, musicians and artists are putting themselves out there for people to see.  Actors go there to get their big break on Broadway or television.  These people all have one thing in common.  They are brave enough to unleash their creativity on the world, come what may.  I have always felt like if I could spend a decent amount of time in one of these places where magic is in the air, maybe some of the creative magic would rub off on me.  You see, I never thought of myself as a creative person.  I thought to be considered creative that I had to know how to draw or play an instrument, or really like to do arts and crafts.  I believed that I had to be able to create something in the traditional sense to be a truly creative person.  What I am discovering is that every single person walking this good earth is creative in some way.  We all have ideas that want to land on us and be realized through us if we are willing to say yes.  I shudder to think of all the opportunities that I have wasted because I dismissed them on the basis that I was not creative enough to tackle it.  Imagine what we could accomplish if we were to realize the nature of the creativity that lives in each and every one of us and act on it!

I only recently started writing on a more regular basis.  I still don’t know that I would call myself a writer per se,  but I’m ready to take the plunge and embrace my creativity and surrender to what it wants to do through me.  Now if I can just push past my fear.  I think fear inevitably comes along for the ride when it comes to expressing creativity.  Here are some of the fears that I have to push past:

  • My story is not original.
  • Other people who are experienced writers or storytellers would be able to tell the same story so much better, so who am I to attempt it?
  • Who am I to think what I have to share is important, or that anyone would be able to relate?
  • My story might make people uncomfortable or (heaven forbid) not like me.  I want people to like me!
  • I’m not organized enough to be a writer and balance my kids, my job and my husband.  It’s just not the right season to start this creative venture.

I could go on, but you get the drift.  Creativity is scary.  I think that’s why I find it so remarkable when I see people who are brave enough to dance on a street corner, or get up in front of a crowd and share their story.  Imagine for a minute what life would be like without those people’s creativity.  It would be so dull and boring, wouldn’t it?  Life would be monotone and mundane.  Creativity adds vibrant color to this world that we live in.  Creativity adds vibrant color to my everyday life when I am daring enough to let it flow through me.  I am imagining my life going forward as I embrace my creativity.  I challenge you to imagine where creativity will take you too.

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Binocular Vision

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of binocular vision for a while now.  According to the dictionary, the definition of binocular vision is as follows: vision using two eyes with overlapping fields of view, allowing good perception of depth. Pretty cool concept to think that our eyes work together, each seeing a slightly different picture, but overlapping to give the world we see around us depth.  I’ve done the experiment before where I just look out of one eye, and it does make things very one-dimensional.  Or the trick where I look at one fixed spot and close one eye, then close the other, and I can see how the spot seems to move a little bit depending on which eye I am looking through.  Only when we are looking through both eyes do we see depth.  Amazing stuff.

A couple of years ago, I read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It  by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny.  In the book, they have a slightly different definition for binocular vision as it relates to marriage: the artful ability to see your partner’s perspective as well as your own.  Wow.  I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty sure that my perspective is the right perspective, especially when it comes to how to raise our kids or how to load the dishwasher the correct way.  Don’t even get me started on folding the laundry.  Everyone knows there is only one right way to fold a towel.  Then I read this passage from the book:

The nice thing about binocular vision is that you don’t have to agree with your partners perspective.  The key is to focus on your partners feelings instead of the facts.  You don’t have to agree with the facts of your partner’s point of view, as long as you give importance to the feelings associated with it.  (Page 125)

One of the biggest things I’ve always wanted from my relationship it to feel validated, or to know that my opinions mattered.  It was a hard pill to swallow to realize that that meant I had to do the same for him, and an even harder pill to swallow to realize that I hadn’t been using binocular vision in our relationship for a very long time.  Maybe not ever.  This idea of binocular vision as it relates to this man of mine has really been an eye opener (pun intended).

Here is a real life example of how this got put into play this past summer.  Imagine us enjoying a great family day at the zoo.  We were sitting on a bench watching the boys playing on this big wooden play structure.  They were having a blast, and it was a nice picturesque scene.  Here is a snippet of our conversation:

Him: We should think about changing the sleeping arrangements for the boys.  I think they are getting big enough to have separate rooms.

Me: I agree.  We could move the biggest boy downstairs, and the smallest boy into our room, and we could move back into the big room that they are sharing now.

Him:  Yes, that would work.

Me: Maybe if we move back into the big room, we could expand the closet so we could actually hang clothes in there.

Him: Expand the closet?!?  How would we do that?

Me: (I very patiently explain to him how we could expand the closet)

Him: So now you want to remodel the whole house?!?

Me:  No, I didn’t say the whole house, I said that one closet!  (I can feel my blood pressure start to rise along with my voice.)

Him: We already have the water heater that needs to be replaced and the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom that you’ve been on me to get repaired, and now you’re wanting to add remodeling on top of that.

Me: I haven’t even mentioned the plumbing or the water heater.  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!? (Yes, I was talking quite loudly.)

Him: I’m done talking about this right now.  You’re getting upset and we’re in public.

At the point it is no longer the sweet picturesque scene.  I was spitting mad that this man of mine would not even entertain my idea about the closet.  I felt like he was shutting me down and not hearing me at all.  And who was he to just end the conversation?  Then the thought of binocular vision came into my head, and without really wanting to, I begrudgingly took a moment to think about it from his perspective.  I had a moment of insight, and this is what I imagined him thinking:

I work all the time to make enough money to support us.  Then things like the water heater and the plumbing happen, and it’s like throwing money down the drain.  Then this wife of mine wants to add remodeling projects into the mix.  Where is that money supposed to come from?  

I was already angry when I had this glimpse into why this man of mine might be reacting to me the way he was, so even though I used binocular vision, it wasn’t like some magic elixir that calmed me down right away.  I was able to take a moment by myself to calm down, and then I went back to him and asked him if I was on the right track about how he was feeling.  Once upon a time, that same conversation would have just ended with me being angry, and I would have stored it away in my bank of hurts to be rehashed whenever I needed to. (Remember my playground?)  Even though I may not agree with his perspective, being able to see his perspective is pretty huge. It gives our relationship depth.  It’s using both eyes to see, rather than just seeing it through the one eye of my perspective.  I try to keep my binoculars on a string around my neck now so I have easy access when I need them.

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The Playground

I used to be great friends with Resentment.  It was my constant companion.  I had a whole long list of things to be resentful about, and I felt pretty justified in my self-righteous anger at the hand I was dealt.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a terrible hand that I was dealt.  I have a pretty great life with a husband who provides, and two great boys.  We don’t have any major money issues.  We have had no major health issues, which I am so grateful for.  We haven’t had to deal with unemployment.  I have wonderful friends who I know would be there for me in a moments notice.  So who was I to be dissatisfied with this life that God had granted me with?  Most of my resentment stemmed from my marriage.  I thought I had married my soul mate, but the real life version of marriage was not meeting the version of marriage that I had in my head.  Every time I felt like this man of mine let me down – every time he didn’t call to tell me he would be late getting home; when I didn’t feel heard by him; when he made work his priority; when he didn’t communicate with me about what was going on in his life; when we would fight and he would walk away in frustration, my resentment would grow. In her book The Mended Heart, Suzanne Eller refers to the Playground of our Mind.  For me, this playground is where Resentment lives, and I would go there to rehash the wrongs that I felt like this man of mine had done to me.  If we had a fight, I would run to the playground and go over and over what he had said; what I should have said back, and how obviously I was so much more right than he was. Instead of being calmed down by my visit to the playground, my conversations with Resentment only served to keep my hurt and anger at the forefront of my mind so that the next time we had an argument or he said or did something that hurt me, it would just build on that last time.  I spent so much time at the playground that it got to the point that this man of mine would look at me wrong and I was instantly angry.  I had pretty much set up camp in the playground.  I had my tent and my sleeping bag and my jars of food.  I had a two-man tent so Resentment would have a place to sleep too.  Turns our Resentment was not a very fun companion.  Resentment and Joy are like oil and vinegar, and there wasn’t enough room in our little tent for Joy too, so Joy eventually left to wait for me outside of the playground.  The funny thing is that this playground where I had set up camp has a fence around it, but the door was wide open, so I could have left whenever I wanted.  I was not being held prisoner.  I was there of my own free accord.  All I had to do was walk out, but that meant leaving Resentment behind, and even though it was toxic, I was reluctant to leave it.  In my mind, Resentment had become my way of trying to get what I wanted from life.  It was my twisted version of hope, and without it, would things ever change?  I struggled with leaving that playground.  It was familiar,  and how could I trust that things would actually be better on the other side of that fence?  Ultimately, it took having someone standing on the other side of the fence to keep calling me to come out.  Come out!  Come out of the playground so you can experience the freedom and Joy of life without Resentment!  You won’t regret it! So one day, I finally did it.  I walked out of the playground.  I stood on the other side of the fence and I gave Resentment a final wave goodbye.  And you know what? Joy was waiting for me.  She grabbed my hand, stretched her arms wide and we jumped and ran and played.  My playground is still there.  Resentment is still camping out, and there are times when I will walk close to the fence and wave.  There are times when I may even go inside and say hello, but I don’t stay long, because it turns out that Resentment will never get me what I want out of life, and Joy is a much better companion. If you have set up camp in the playground of your mind, come out!  Come out!  You won’t regret it!

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The Longings of an Introvert

Life has been going full throttle since school started.  I feel like there has barely been time to take a breath.  I was listening to this episode of the podcast Sorta Awesome the other night.  My friend Kelly (Love Well Blog) is the co-host every couple of weeks, and they were talking about what it means to be an extrovert versus an introvert.  It dawned on me just how much of an introvert I am.  Kelly was telling the story of what she did on her kids’ first day back to school.  She went to Target and then met a friend for lunch and they were able to hang out and talk all day, and she was totally energized by that.  I had to laugh because I got my kids off to school, came back home and spent a heavenly day alone.  I took a nap, caught up on some organizing, and I don’t think I talked to a single person all day.  It was amazing.  This is not to say that I am not a people person.  I love getting together with my friends, and I get so much out of my time with them.  When I really need to recharge though, I need my alone time.  This can be really hard with two boys, a husband and a part-time job.  I know I’ve been feeling the effects this week of being constantly on the go with little to no chance for quiet.  I’ve been having random thoughts that go something like this: Wouldn’t it be great to just get in my car and drive?  What I wouldn’t give for a hotel room all by myself with a few good books.  I could just hang out by myself.  Alone.  By myself.

I had the privilege tonight of listening to a friend who had a really tough week.  She had finally reached her breaking point, and she went out walking by herself.  She found a swing, and she just sat and swung for a long time, and she was able to take solace in that little bit of time alone.  It was a good reminder for me on these weeks when I am feeling like if I don’t get off by myself soon, someone is gonna get hurt, that I can do small things to get away and recharge.  Even if it’s as simple as finding a swing for an hour.  I can’t keep giving if my tank is empty, so finding the eye in the storm where I can put some gas in my tank is essential.  I used to have mommy guilt over this, thinking that once I had kids, I had to give them all of me, all of the time or I wasn’t being a great mom.  I soon discovered how much better I was at being a mom when I saved time just for me, and I was able to let go of the guilt and just enjoy my time alone.  So, whether you are an introvert who longs for solitude, or an extrovert who craves some face time with friends, find your swing so you can recharge your battery and face the new day with renewed vigor.

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Letting Go

This time of  year always makes me think of letting go.  Letting go of the gorgeous summer weather; the wonderful months of not having to set an alarm; the fun summer activities with my boys.  I’m always sad every year when the boys go back to school and the leaves start to turn.  This was brought home yesterday when I was dropping my youngest off at school.  As I was leaving, another mother was dropping off her girls.  As they walked toward the building, her youngest daughter burst into tears and refused to go in to the school.  The mother was dressed in scrubs, so I’m sure she was on her way to work, but she stopped with her girl outside of the building and just hugged her.  It brought tears to my eyes and my mother’s heart ached for them.  It was another reminder that life is a series of letting go.  When the letting go involves our children, it is especially bittersweet.  I used to shy away from grief in my moments of letting go.   Let’s face it, grief is not the most pleasant thing to embrace.  I think fear and grief are two things that people often do their best to bury or deny.  They get a pretty bad rap.  The way I look at grief has changed though in the past couple of years.  It is not just some terrible feeling that needs to be shoved down and avoided at all costs.   I am learning to become friends with grief and to embrace it in those moments of letting go when it pays a visit.  When I didn’t allow myself to grieve, I hung on to all the sorrows of letting go.  Soon I was carrying around this huge bag of loss and sorrow, and it was heavy.  One of the most freeing times in my life was when I finally embraced grief and let it do its job on me.  It’s o.k. to feel the loss of letting go.

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A New Filter

I took my car in to get the oil changed today.  It was early morning as my oldest gets on the bus at 7:15 a.m.  I am not a morning person.  At all.  Up to this point in his school career, school start times have always been nine or later, so getting up and out the door by 7:15 is a huge adjustment for both of us.  (He is not a morning person either.  We may or may not be a little crabby with each other on some mornings.)  One nice perk to the early start time is that I now have an extra 2 hours in the morning between the time he leaves and when I take my youngest to school to get things done.  Things like taking the car to get the oil changed.  We take our cars to a Mr. Tire not too far from our house.  I was the first customer there this morning, so I got right in.  Turns out my Volkswagen needs a special oil filter, so the owner had to call to another shop nearby to get one, and it ended up taking a little longer because of this.  I have always enjoyed talking to the owner.  He is a very nice man and has some great life stories.  Today was somewhat of an exception since, as I said, it was early, and I’m not the best at carrying on conversations at that time of day.  I was anticipating just sitting quietly and catching up on Facebook while we waited for said filter to arrive.  Alas, it was not to be, and he started talking.  In the end, I’m glad he talked.  I learned that he is one of 7 kids, and that all the people in his family play an instrument.  His sister was a musical prodigy and could play the piano without lessons at the age of 4 because she could just hear the music in her head.  He and his brother were in a rock band together for many years.  He even played me a rock song that his brother wrote and performed.  Check this out!  He played it quite loudly for me.  He told me that his mother taught him that all men should know three things: How to cook; how to sew a button on and how to do laundry.  I guess I hit the trifecta, because I married a man who can do all three of those things.  I must say, it is a blessing.  The best part of the morning though was when he told me about his philosophy on life.  He said that hard times had been his companion for a lot of his life.  His wife had been sick and he had faced struggles with owning his own business and making ends meet.  In the midst of that,  he said he lived his life by this Proverbs: A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).  He chose joy in life’s circumstances.  It was such a great reminder.  I can choose the filter through which I view life.  I can filter it through resentment and anger or I can filter it through joy and choose to be grateful.  I lived a lot of years with resentment being my constant companion, and my soul was dry.  A joyful heart really is good medicine.  It was so nice to get that reminder from this random person that I only see when I get my oil changed.  I knew my car would be getting a new filter, but I had no idea that I would be getting the filter of my life checked as well.  It was a good early morning and I am grateful I didn’t miss it.

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