There are a million remedies for stress, anxiety, grief, etc. Counseling. Medication. Meditation. Excercise. A few shots of tuaca at Hawley’s (Insert your own favorite pub here if you don’t live close. If you are nearby, no inserting. Go to Hawley’s).
With the exception of medication, I have tried them all at various points in my life, and have good things to say about each of them. But for me, there is nothing in this world that beats creating when it comes to healing.
During my Mom’s illness, I wrote nothing. I was in the middle of editing my first novel, which was written when my silly and somewhat twisted sense of humor was in high gear. Watching a loved one suffer squished the whimsy required to improve on my dialogue and scenes, so I left it alone. That was the right choice. My mistake was in not writing ANYTHING.
For me, stress dissolves when I write, even if what I’m writing has nothing to do with the stress. When I don’t write, I become a freak. The traffic noises of workday morning commutes make me want to babble in tongues. If the system I manage at work does something quirky, I want to hide under my desk with my Steelers gnome (he’s my version of a binky). And if, by some horrific twist of fate, I have to go to Walmart and get trapped in an aisle full of big carts and bigger butts, I fight the urge to shout obscenities, cry and laugh like Jack Nicholson all at once.
I can’t explain why writing minimizes those urges. I just know it does. Maybe it releases some of the pressure so I’m not like a warm soda bottle that has been dropped on the kitchen floor, ready to explode if my top is even slightly twisted.
But I think it is more than that. I think the act of pulling something good out of my head and putting it out into the world takes away a little of the power everything I see as “bad” is holding over me. It is funny that I, who am sometimes guilty of thinking I know everything, stopped writing when I needed it most. I had been telling Mom she should journal for years. She never listened, until last fall, when she began journaling through her cancer journey.
She always was smarter than me, even though she couldn’t get me to admit it.
Creating may not put therapists, doctors, yoga instructors and bartenders out of business (a world without bartenders would just SUCK), but it sure as hell helps us all along.
Notice I said creating, not writing. For me, what I create is (hopefully) coherent thoughts and stories out of words on a page. For you, it might be something entirely different.
My partner Lee takes raw stretches of nature and turns them into beautifully landscaped gardens and yards, and can rise to the challenge whether he’s doing it for someone on a Mercedes budget or a ramen noodle one.
My Momma always created a beautiful home and delicious family meals that could taste like childhood or a trip to Italy, depending on the goal. My sister has followed in her footsteps. I am amazed at the way she kept up the family home and traditions when Mom got ill. I’m the first to admit that if it had been me living there instead of her, their beautiful home would probably look like a bachelor pad by now.
My niece Jordyn can take her camera and ANYTHING and turn it into a photograph that will make you wonder at just how beautiful the world is, laugh, think, or all of the above. Most girls her age take nothing but selfies. She captures everything through her own eyes and shares it with the rest of us so we can experience her youthful, inspired vision.
One of the bartenders at Hawley’s, Kitty, creates beautiful paintings. Her seascapes have brought my brand of peace into my home.
My friend Shannon creates in her kitchen.
I could go on and on. But the point is, each one of these acts of creation makes the world a better place. They don’t take away grief or frustration, but they help balance the scales. So get creating, and don’t worry if you suck. Just have fun. At a staff retreat the other day, we did one of those “icebreaker” exercises. We had to get into groups, and each group was given an index card with a decade on it. We had to draw a picture of an image that represented that decade to us, and then see if the others could guess it. We got the 70’s and decided to draw a dude in a leisure suit with bad hair and a hairy chest. A few people in my group know that I write, so they nominated me as the “creative one” who would draw our picture.
Being able to make pictures with words does not mean you can draw them. I doodle a lot, but I’m not an artist. Still, I took our pack of markers, had someone Google a picture of a skeezy dude in a leisure suit, and went to town.
My end result was raw and cartoonish, but everyone guessed our decade correctly. More importantly, everyone laughed. I’d been feeling gloomy that morning, but looking at my goofy-ass leisure suit guy made me grin. I wish I’d kept him so I could take a picture.
Create. Have fun. Laugh. Put beauty or comfort or peace or humor out there. Your choice. Do anything but nothing. Get it out.
Love you Mom. Like a Dog.