Creativity and the Fear of Being Forgotten

It was about seven months ago that I made a post begging the question, What all could you do if you just changed your expectations of how to do it? And I affirmed that I was bringing out my art supplies again, because I could still paint if I relaxed the restrictive expectations I put on myself of how it needed to be done.

And thus, over the course of two months, I made this.

a piece I only previously attached to the bottom of one of my posts. quote by David Bate.

a piece I only previously attached to the bottom of one of my posts. quote by David Bate.

Then last month, I had a major epiphany.

It started as a sort of existential crisis, seeing a different butterfly on Instagram which I immediately wanted to paint…until I thought about the actual process of doing so. Then I became very drained, and I couldn’t tell if I just didn’t like painting anymore, or maybe I was just really overwhelmed by all the work it would take. Those seemed the most probable reasons. And yet…

The entire week prior to this, I’d been schooled by the Universe from every corner on the differences between who were once were and who we become. How we progress into completely different people, if we’re doing it right. Even the “us” of several years ago, we are the same, but–to pull from an episode from How I Met Your Mother–it’s as if we are our own doppelgänger, after having changed so much.

I mulled over my mysterious lack of artistic enthusiasm all day, a bit thrown off at the idea of myself, with so much talent in the field, possibly not wanting to “art” so much anymore. Do people really just stop being artists? How was it that I identified such a need to paint and yet all I felt was frustration? How was that even possible?

Then something happened that knocked me off my metaphorical feet.

 

I love dance and watching it. So there was a PBS special airing on television–Dancing at Jacob’s Pillow: Never Stand Still–and when I caught it, they said something really profound about one of the men in the business.

Ted Shawn, toward the end of his life, wrote, “It is a paradox that I, who have a strong desire for what will endure, and will be permanent, should have chosen the art form which leaves nothing but memories. And yet I am satisfied this is my medium, and my destiny.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear to tie together all my pondering of the past several days. The Universe had been preparing me to let go of who I was trying to force myself to be–just because it’s who I’d always been–and embrace all that I was now. And in the moment I turned on the television, I was receiving a wake-up call.

Hearing that segment helped me recognize I wasn’t so much being an artist, as I was clinging to the idea of being an artist to escape a common human emotion. I realized that I wanted to paint and produce art, not out of a genuine desire and love of the process, but out of fear of not leaving something behind more than memories.

That was a difficult pill to swallow, but finally everything made sense. I was frustrated because the act of painting, in that moment, was no longer about expressing joy, but controlling anxiety.

 

And maybe I’m not as much of an artist as I used to be, but I am multifaceted, as are we all. Since relieving myself of that burden and seeing things as they are instead of how I want them to be–or through the lens of fear–I also realized that over the years I’ve slowly made the transition from Artist to Writer. And I say transition because in the past I’ve always been an artist first and a writer second, but now, my creative spirit flows much more effortlessly through the medium of words. I also enjoy being an amateur photographer–the key word being enjoy. And this time, I know better than to jump from one label to the next with the implications that it will save me from the fear of being forgotten.

I have the desire to create, and I still very much enjoy painting, and photography, and writing. But doing something out of fear, is not divine.

a piece I did a few days ago, out of the blue, for fun, with random inspiration

a piece I did a few days ago, out of the blue, for fun, with random inspiration

a rainbow at night

What all could you do if you just changed your expectations of how to do it?

My art supplies have been in the largest cabinet of my six-foot-tall dresser since I moved into this house, and even in the old house, they were put away because I was too sick to do anything except extremely sporadic artwork. And I don’t believe in putting a bunch of “supposed to finish” projects out and about; I think it leads to stress. I didn’t need to stare at things that were impossible at the time, reminding me of what I couldn’t do because of the effects of being in treatment, and the limitations imposed by disease. I think the things you need to put in your immediate vision, around your workspace, are the things you’re actually going to work on.

And now it’s time to bring them out.

 

I am going to paint. I am going to convert my desk–which up until now has been used for normal desk activities–into a place for my art supplies. My white writing desk is going in the living room, and I’m bringing in my larger, flatter one to better serve my purposes. And a lamp. And a printer. But I digress…

Most won’t understand the significance of me, someone with OCD, converting their perfectly markless desk into an art station, where it will most certainly become covered in…everything.

Luna got me more watercolours.
Melissa got me more charcoal.
I just re-found my ink.

Things are not going to stay clean.

 

I can’t do art like I used to do. (Or perhaps I could, just once, but having my arms take two months to recover from such an unwise activity is just..dumb.) And you know what? That’s okay. Now I can do different things, perhaps better things. I’ve only recently begun to see the thrill of painting, and I can learn more. I just can no longer expect myself to sit down and complete a project all in one go, like I used to…

And it wasn’t bad that I did things like that. It was what I was capable of at the time. If I had a random hour of being able to sit up then I had to use it wisely and do whatever I could in that hour, because it could be months before I got that chance again. My usual daily limit of being upright was less than 30 minutes per day, which I usually needed to eat and bathe.

Long before that, I would draw for hours at a time, relax with music and my pencils and everything else faded away…

But some days I still may be able to paint for hours, like the day I made this poster for my niece, combining some ideas I saw on Tumblr:

For my niece, so she will have something to remind her that someone thought she was amazing and wonderful.

 

Other days, and probably most days, I can go back and forth between desk and bed–whether it’s a physical desk or my overbed desk–sitting up and painting for short stretches of time, and lying back down while I wait for the paper to dry between layers. (That works out, doesn’t it?) And I’m okay with having to do that.

I’m not going to stop doing things just because I can’t do them the way I used to, or the way I want. The end result is still possible, I just have to achieve it in a different way.
What do you think you could still do if you just changed your expectations of how it “needed” to be done?

 

a rainbow at night

Another chapter in “ibuprofen always helps,” and the last of the 30-Day Challenge.

I have deductions to report! And photos of my random art and photography! Carry on if you’re brave…

 

Okay, so remember when I–… Actually, I don’t think I said that on this blog. But on Facebook or Twitter, I had mentioned being concerned that the Liver Chi, because it activates the immune system, might cause issues with the M.E., since in the past it’s been like this:

  • Take steroids → M.E. gets better
  • Take immune-activating anything → M.E. flares

So I was thinking maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I was on the Nasonex at the same time, because they might cancel each other out, with the Nasonex lowering the immune system and the Liver Chi activating it. I started them at the same time and all was well. But, two days after stopping the Nasonex, I had M.E. problems. Coincidence, possibly; I’m not sure. But then this other thing started.

My heart palpitations went through the roof. From maybe one noticeable skip every other week to at least one every hour. :\ I was very concerned, and I thought it might be the Biaxin because it can disrupt one’s QT interval and I sometimes have problems with those medications. My heart beat had been unnaturally fast, even when I wasn’t dehydrated. It averaged about 112 when lying down completely relaxed. And the irregular beats, well… Very prominent, made me cough every time. (Vagus nerve, cough, heart rhythms, all that goes together.) Then one evening several days ago, I needed an ibuprofen for a headache. Just 200mg to start with…and I noticed I didn’t have a single heart palpitation the rest of the night! I thought that was odd… The next day I woke up and took my Liver Chi. My heart went to racing again. After about two hours, I thought, I wonder if I take another ibuprofen… And I did, and my heart rhythm went back to normal. So, the past few days I’ve been taking ibuprofen with my Liver Chi doses, and I haven’t had any problems.

Then today I thought, okay, we have to make sure this isn’t coincidence, so I didn’t take the ibuprofen with the Liver Chi. My heart rate started climbing again. I took ibuprofen, and again, it went back to normal. I have a cardiologist appointment in a week and a half to find out what’s happening, but…

Now I’m wondering, what is going on? Is my heart inflamed? Or my nervous system? What is happening that the liver chi causes a problem and the ibuprofen stops it, that connects to my heart and my heart rhythm? Is it M.E. related? Or something to do with the connection between NSAIDs and orthostatic hypotension? I’m prone to thinking it’s something inflammatory, because this only started after I stopped the Nasonex. But. I don’t know! I just had my bloodwork done so we’ll see how my liver enzymes are holding up next week, and then we’ll see what else happens between now and my cardio appointment. Maybe it’s a herx, who knows. :\

Also, re: Nasonex and my eye problems: Coincidence, because my eyes are still giving me problems. And re: Breathing issues, I have not had any of that since.. well, it continued on several days after my last post, and then stopped. Whether or not it might recur, who knows, but I haven’t had it happen since.

Another random problem I’ve been having is, once a week I involuntarily stay up til six, seven, eight in the morning, until I finally get sleepy and go to bed. I just don’t get tired, and nothing can make me sleep! After four weeks of this, I figured out it was the Flagyl, because it happens after being on it two or three days, of the four consecutive days I take it per week. A friend who was on Tindamax said it did the same thing to her. It’s funny because when I first started Flagyl, all it made me do was sleep, and now…

 

So my brain fog hasn’t been as bad lately! After I made that last post, things got better. Over the years I’ve noticed it seems to do this, cycle in and out; when it cycles out, I read tons and enjoy my brain functioning. I even took a test on my reading speed and got an above-average score! (You read 305 words per minute. That makes you 22% faster than the national average.) And I even passed the three questions they asked afterward! But you know the interesting thing? (And this is how my brain has learned to function over the years of losing regular short-term memory ability: Plasticity is amazing.) I didn’t answer the questions correctly because I actually remembered what the story was about, but I answered them based on what words I remembered seeing. Just an example of how the brain learns to maneuver around its deficits and try to figure out other ways to be functional. When I first took it I was excited because I thought it meant I had reading retention, but. I really didn‘t remember what I had read, just the words I’d saw. I took it again today and now I remember what I read, though! :)

Okay, now enough symptom recapping. I finished my 30-day Challenge. It only took me..almost three months, aha, but I still got it done! Here are some of my final pieces–just quick blobs of watercolour, really, with the occasional photograph. As always, click on “Permalink” when they open in the gallery, to read more about any piece you want.

 

a rainbow at night