Friday, January 30, 2009

Secret #4~ Surrendering to Creative Cycles

It's week four of our online book blogging club, hosted by Jamie of Starshyne Productions, and we're reading The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women. This week's chapter has us exploring voids/darkness and creative cycles in our lives.

The beginning of this chapter really hit home for me, because it sounded so similar to what I've gone through. All through my 20's I really pushed myself-- going to college, assisting in the psychology department with research, working 2 jobs, and volunteering at a domestic violence shelter to boot. I was trying to be the perfect college student, build the perfect resume, so that I could get the perfect job when I graduated. It was during this time of my life that I completely lost touch with any kind of creativity. I was too busy trying to be successful.

I got the "perfect" job after I graduated, doing just what I thought I wanted to do-- counseling at-risk teens and their families. Often I worked more than 9 hours a day, and my days were full of stressful situations and lots of travel as well. I was always tired and this began to take its toll. I think it was around this time that I first talked to my doctor and he suggested that my chronic fatigue could be from depression and perhaps medication would be beneficial. I was mortified at the thought.

Thinking a change would help, I fought for, and got, a job as a social work case aide. I also got married. I left work every day with a migraine. Eventually, every morning, I was crying in the shower and trembling with anxiety the whole time I was getting ready for work. I was always tired. I realized I was very far away from what I really wanted to do, which was advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence. After 2 years of living life like this, I left my job at DHS to return to shelter work.

But by this time, I was a walking zombie. My self-esteem was shot. The harder I tried to be the perfect employee, to say and do the right things, the worse everything got, until finally I was just... done... I reached the point where I could no longer physically or mentally function.

This was the first black hole I experienced. Eventually I recovered and found an awesome job doing behavioral research, which I loved, yet at the end of the work day, I was always absolutely exhausted. I found myself dozing over my work in the afternoons. I was always tired no matter how much sleep I tried to get.

In 2000, my husband got a job in Colorado and we took a chance and moved to a new, unfamiliar state without any family or friends near. I worked a couple of different jobs doing floral design instead of any kind of stressful human services work, but I was always so damn tired it was hard to function. For every day I worked, I needed a day or two to recover. I was also wracked with constant pain and anxiety. In 2002, I was diagnosed with major depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

Since then, I've been learning how to function again. It is taking a long, long time. What helps me manage the void?
  • acknowledging my limitations and honoring them
  • 10-12 hours of sleep a day
  • a daily dose of sunshine
  • vitamins
  • quiet time
  • time in nature
  • music
  • my spiritual path
  • creative work-- polymer clay, collage, journaling, floral design, rubber stamping, crochet-- anything that puts me in touch with color and texture
Its only been in the past 2-3 years that I've discovered the energizing gift of creativity, so I'm not sure I've gone through too many creative cycles at this point. One I can identify, though, is getting burned out by doing too much of the same thing. I was making very intricately decorated boxes to sell and at one point got 3 commissioned pieces to do. While I learned a huge amount about polymer clay and sculpting with those projects, I also got tired of making box after box and I missed the freedom of creating spontaneously. Once the commissioned works were done, I quit making boxes and began to focus more on jewelry.

Well, now its time for a change again. I realize that jewelry is an "easy out" for me. While I like it and find it fun, it isn't the type of polymer clay project that brings out my creative passion. So I've been reading books, collecting ideas, making sketches, browsing tutorials, visiting poly clay sites-- gathering inspiration and information for making larger, more sculptural pieces. I'm still a researcher at heart, I guess.

But I think this may be my biggest key to managing those voids-- instead of pushing myself past my limits, I need a time of gathering together before I can proceed, whether its gathering my energy or ideas or confidence. And maybe that's what all the pain and exhaustion is trying to teach me... slow down, take a good look at what's going on, be honest about how you're feeling, figure out your choices, and then move ahead, creatively.


1,000 Faces of MotherHenna said...

Lots of good supportive vibes to you! I realized reading your post that our world doesn't always honor knowing our limitations. Like you have some specific things that I know work for me. But they fall outside the "normal" schedule of others. People are always pushing me to change that. And visibly get annoyed sometimes if I don't. Hmm. You've made me notice that consciously. Thank you. Will work with that one. :) Here's to living our fabulously, uniquely created lives!
Reiki to you!

Genie Sea said...

What a brave and inspiring person you are! How totally aware of your process and your needs. That's huge! Most people are nowhere near that space, and you swim in it!

Bets of luck in your new endeavors and lots and lots of warm, sunny, C healing! :)

CynthiaMarie said...

Oh my, acknowledging your limitations and honoring them -- you're a step ahead of me. I know about mine, but usually I pretend they are not happening until it's too late... live and learn...

Here's to honoring you, your life and your choices! Incredible growth and strength is shown in your words.

Wisdom to live by. thank you

love-n-light always

Lissa said...

It's amazing how we push ourselves to the point of exhaustion in the quest of "perfection."Then we realize we aren't being true to ourselves.Great post:)

Fatma said...

Wow, what a journey. And how wonderful to see the creations coming out from it. You are so in tune with your inner Goddess and I am absolutley sure she will be guiding you on the path to your greatest expression.

Much love

intothedawn said...

MOTHER HENNA~ Don't let them push you! Go at the pace that works for you. I had "friends" who were always pushing me and as I look back now, I see how miserable it made me to be forced to go at their pace. March to your own drum!

GENIE SEA~ I think this book is really helping me to process my past and see more clearly. What a blessing!

CYNTHIA MARIE~ My first lesson at honoring my limitations came from my yoga instructor several years ago, she taught me the mantra "Listen to your body." Very wise woman.

LISSA~ At the time, I felt I was doing the right thing-- I think most people do. But I'm so much happier now that I've learned to listen to my body.

FATMA~ Thank you; I hope she is-- I think she's been dying to express herself!

Anonymous said...

Human beings were not meant to go to an office every day of their lives, nine, ten, twelve hours a day. We were not built for this culture that we have built. It is soul killing; just look around at all the walking dead.

And yet when someone is brave enough to step outside that norm, they are told that they are "lazy," "not successful," "immature," etc. etc.

From now on, I think we should all agree to STOP apologizing for choosing happy over money, sanity over status, fulfillment over materialism. We should all agree to STOP apologizing for exercising options that all humans could exercise if they were just a little brave! :)

D said...

You are a strong person. Thank you for sharing your story, which seems to resonate with a lot of us.

Kavindra said...

How wonderful, not that you are ill, but that you let your illness heal your spirit and teach you where to go. We all have different obstacles, the trick is embracing them and working with them to make something unique, as you have here. Very inspiring.

intothedawn said...

BLISS CHICK~ Amen again and again!

D~ Thank you...

KAVINDRA~ I know I am moving forward, because I can finally see the gift in what I've experienced.

Anonymous said...

i can relate to your story so much. in my early twenties i was diagnosed with S.A.D. and began taking a variety of meds to deal with that, then i dealt with infertility (and one miscarriatge) for seven years which ended up with me being in a state of deep, deep depression and very isolated from both myself and my loved ones, the doctors finally figured out that i do not make enough seratonin and so i now spend each morning checking out my email with a sun lamp shining in my eyes, i know i need a certain amount of sleep, i can only manage to have one or two "extra" things on my schedule on any given day, i have a pretty good idea of my limits.of course, it took 3 medical/stress leaves to get me to see them clearly. i may not always be the fastest learner on the block but i do learn:) big hugs to you on your journey!


Jamie Ridler said...

I love that sense of gathering your energy instead of pushing through. You've gathered much wisdom too. Thank you for sharing it.

intothedawn said...

OLWYN~ Our experiences sounds so similar! Isn't it strange how our bodies keep telling us what's wrong, and it takes us forever to listen and figure it out? Glad you are on the healing path now.

JAMIE~ I have definitely learned to become a gatherer, but it took a while!

Serena said...

I so agree with what blisschick many people have lost touch with 'real living'. I was amazed at your journey so full of stress, strain and tears. Sometimes, it takes our body to give us a huge wake up call on letting us know that we really need to rest. I'm so happy that you are finding such enjoyment through your creativity. I have never tried polymer clay or sculpting of any kind but I have been so inspired by the blogs I have visited that I bought some clay the other week. Who knows when I'll get around to it but it's there for when the urge takes me. Blessings to you on your continuing journey ~

love, light and peace,

martie said...

What a brave, honest and inspiring post! You have learned so much, and I am sure are a stronger better person for it. I believe one of the hardest things to do is to recognize our limitations - and with depression, fatigue and fibromyalgia those limitations can be huge. I have fibromyalgia too, and it has taken me years to learn to honor my body and not push it too hard.

I love your egg-shaped goddesses!

intothedawn said...

SERENA~ When you get around to playing with your poly clay you may find yourself in love! That's how it all started for me.

MARTIE~ Sorry to hear you also must deal with FMS; but nice to hear from another person facing the same challenges. It really does teach a person to have to live differently.