Inherent Creativity

Perhaps every person is creative. This is the belief of Julia Cameron, an author I’ve mentioned before. I’m reading her book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. A playwright, composer, an author of books and screenplays, Cameron was married to Marin Scorcese in the early 1970s. She writes that since every human is part of a creative universe that each is endowed with some level of creativity. If one believes in a Creator, then one is inherently creative. Life is a creative gift and so each person’s gift back to the world is to be creative, based on individual strengths, abilities and talents.

Cameron’s “toolkit” includes regular walks for peace and inspiration, daily writing (she calls them “Morning Pages” and encourages three long-hand, stream-of-conscience pages per day) and weekly “Artist Dates,” taken alone. Since her first book about thirty years ago she has taught seminars on her method and has helped thousands to “unblock” their creativity, as well as reorder their lives.

The Artist Date really is meant to be taken by oneself, and for some that is difficult. Many say that they feel too selfish, or foolish, or can’t figure out what to do. Cameron encourages considering what one liked doing as a child and finding a similar activity. If someone enjoyed sweets as a child, go to a bakery; if they liked art class, go to a museum.

Another difficulty which I can relate to is responsibility. I still have six children at home so I cannot just go out the door without planning ahead. I admit to not getting on a lot of Artist Dates, and have to consider a lone trip to the store as just that. Usually when I go out I ask a child or two, as they will not always be living under my roof and I know what it is like to miss an adult child who has moved away. I’ll take all the moments I can with them. And yet I know that self-care and alone time really are healthy.

I’m off to Home Depot and Walmart. I’ve started refinishing our dining room table-top. Maybe I’ll stop and get a blended coffee drink, and take a little more time in the…polyurethane aisle…

Caretaker Fatigue

In England they are called “carers.” Here in the USA they are called “caretakers.” Studies have shown that those who are responsible for an ill family member are subject to “caretaker fatigue.” Caring for another without replenishing oneself adequately can lead to exhaustion and illness.

Ask most mothers and they can list what they’ve gone without for their children. The same can be said of empathetic folk without children. Sacrifice for others is necessary and honorable, but it can get out of hand.

I think of Jesus when he was here on the earth. He did not heal the whole world in a completed sense, and yet he could have. It was a temptation to do so, implied by the devil after Jesus had fasted for forty days in the desert. Yet he did not…it was not God’s plan yet, perhaps because there were millions of more people yet to be born. The lesson I learn from this is that, much as I would like, I cannot nor am I expected to save everyone. Unless I sleep through some storms, as Jesus did, unless I cry sometimes with grief, as he did, unless I meet with friends and be cared for at times like he did, then I cannot function optimally.

Caring is stressful. We need help and sometimes we need help to think things through with a therapist, to help discern our feelings, vent our frustrations. We need support in order to take breaks and to care for our own health.

If you are a carer or a caretaker, I pray that you will not forget to fortify yourself. If not for yourself then for those for whom you take care of, who need you to be healthy for them.

Restoration

My daughter Susanna and I traveled to the UK in December of 2019. Susanna graduated with her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) and asked if I would go with her on a celebratory trip. I ensured that my amazing husband would be alright with this first, because there are still six children at home and he would go it alone. He enthusiastically supported the adventure.

I think most Moms underestimate their need for restoration. We manage with the bits of time we get, with our prayer and worship time, but I think most of us run on fumes for extended periods and that is not healthy in the long-run. Over the years I have read books on how to organize and manage life. From corporate experts to Mom-managers no one book held the key. I realized that my strategy necessitated adaption of advice with each child born, with each life change.

Some women scoffed at aspects endorsed by certain published Moms. It was expressed that these authors took too much time for themselves, turned self-care into an excuse to authorize over-indulgence, went back to school at the expense of their family needs, and more. Why do we judge each other? Being a Mom is hard enough without navigating the stormy waters of negativity and criticism. We each have a unique life to be lived and, God-willing, with faith, love and support we will become that “best version of ourselves.” Why seek that version? So that we can live happily ever after? Rather, so that we can make this world a better place by helping others the best we can. In so-doing we find joy.

Part of my “self-care” was happened upon inadvertently. In 2010 I was nursing my youngest baby. I had a cup of tea, Bruce was getting all the bigger ones to bed, and I turned on the television. I saw something on the PBS channel about an Abbey. We lived in a stone house built by Benedictine Monks in the late 19th Century, full of history and stories. I imagined this might be interesting for a few minutes until baby Margaret succumbed to sleep. A few minutes? I was entranced by the art of Julian Fellowes and the world he created. Through the years I have watched and rewatched all six seasons of Downton Abbey and have seen the movie more times than I will admit.

I have never re-watched a show that many times. Not even close. I have always loved period dramas, and I could easily elaborate in a researched essay to prove that Downton Abbey was the finest culmination of its kind, but that is not the point. For some women their favorite escapes are detective mysteries, sci-fi movies, zombie apocalypse shows or “other-world” fantasies. For others, no television is involved. Playing the piano, watching the sunset from the back porch, or taking a long jog could be just what is needed to recharge the batteries of a worn soul.

Susanna and I visited some of the filming locations of the Downton Abbey series and movie. They were beautiful and we learned that some had been used in other films. Highclere Castle was once the filming location of a vampire movie. The village of Lacock, where the movie parade was filmed, was also used in the Harry Potter movies. England is so full of varied and intricate beauty, much like the hidden gems within each woman.

We had a wonderful time and it was surprisingly just what I needed. I feel restored and thankful. Don’t wait thirty years to treat yourself in some way. It may not be as grand as a trip to Europe. Go to a museum, walk in the park, write your story or paint your watercolor. Do it regularly. You are worth it, and those who depend on you need you whole. A psychologist once told me that we often put our cup at the bottom of the fountain, allowing for others to fill first. Yet if we place it just-so in the middle then our cup overflows, filling cups which would otherwise not even reach the waters.