Creativity and madness

27 07 2014

I’ve struggled with depression for years. It started with my multiple sclerosis and was the first symptom spotted. Coincidentally, I restarted writing.

My family always tells me I’m the creative one, the one who thinks oddly, out of the box (though I would argue my older brother is also gifted in this area – and my kids are wildly so). I know that, during my brief career in management, I was often on a completely different page than many. This led to feelings of failure and isolation and utter hopelessness…

So, now, I’m having a bad bout with the MS – blurred vision, muscle spasms, pain, confusion, the whole package. And depression. And I feel at these times, any challenge is beyond me, AND, at the same time, my life is meaningless if I don’t do something important. It’s a tough place to be stuck. So I decide to quit everything I am doing and try new things in a flurry of trying to succeed at anything, anywhere.

51TTMH+FdgLAlong comes Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings today: Creativity and Mental illness. Sometimes, at my most paranoid, I think she secretly knows me, her postings are so appropriate for the day…

And suddenly I don’t feel so alone. There are many others here in the murk (with occasional northern lights and lightning) here with me.

Now all I have to do is decide. Do I quit the writing game? Or do I listen to my chafing neurons and continue?

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Writing and photographing tears

10 05 2014

Writing sorrow. Picturing those little droplets slipping from eyes, causing embarrassment or joy or shame or release…

I hate crying. I’ve never learned to do it elegantly, with tissue carefully to nose, maybe some slight pinking of same.

Nope. I look like I’ve been dragged down a mountainside backwards and face down after I cry in sorrow. Face red, eyes puffy, headache for days afterwards. It’s not attractive.

fisher-tears_hope

Rose-Lynn Fisher: Tears of possibility and hope

But despite myself, I leak tears a lot. They come out when I laugh, whenever my kids do anything at all, pretty well (I still find it miraculous that they breathe, let alone think and argue with me), when I am feeling happy. These tears do have a bit more elegance to them. And now I know why.

They are different, made of different stuff. Check out this photo project by Rose-Lynn Fisher on the Topography of Tears. My favourite is “tears of elation at a liminal moment”, although “tears of possibility and hope” is pretty interesting, too, swirled with new pathways to explore.

Mirabilia.





Pseudopods

24 03 2014

I love amoebas. They hang around in mucky water and do all sorts of tidying up activities. They can also hang out in your gut, and that’s extremely unpleasant, but left to their own 743px-Amoeba_(PSF).svgdevices, they are interesting little creatures, moving around their environment, one pseudopod at a time. They grow and reproduce.

They have a contractile vacuole, something I’m sure I have in the back of my head, where it squirts out unpleasant things to maintain mood equilibrium. They use them to manage salt.

They are filled with ectoplasm. Goo. So are we. Messy stuff, ectoplasm.

From Wikipedia:

The amoeba is remarkable for its very large genome. The species Amoeba proteus has 290 billion base pairs in its genome, while the related Polychaos dubium (formerly known as Amoeba dubia) has 670 billion base pairs. The human genome is small by contrast, with its count of 2.9 billion base pairs.[9] Unicellular budding yeast has an estimated 12 million pairs.[8]

For unicellular organisms, they are so wonderfully complex. Why?

I suppose the better question is “why not?” They’ve been around for so long. They probably picked up a bit here, a bit there, embroidered on their genomic life.

But it’s one of those things that makes me go, “ooh!”. And wonder. Is more necessarily better? Or are they like Swiss Army animals, able to pull up a genomic shift as needed for survival at a moments’ notice?

They also can curl themselves up and hide, waiting for the right environment to grow. Can’t we all?

So why am I thinking about amoebas? Well, I feel like one these days. I seem to be growing and going off in several directions, I have no assigned body shape (dieting and exercise are changing my exterior), I wield my contractile vacuole mightily to keep my brain and heart free of entanglements, and yet my inner life is increasingly complex. I’m reaching out to new experiences and pulling them in to me, savouring them.

And though other bits of my life are dying off, I jettison them cheerfully and heal around the wound. I find that as I get older, perhaps wiser, I’m getting better at determining what goes into the ejector vacuole.

I’m adapting to my environment, I guess.

Sometimes, though, I jettison something prematurely…and am oh so grateful when I can send out a wee pseudopod to make contact, and find the contact welcomed.

picture courtesy of Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amoeba_(PSF).svg





Spring?

20 03 2014

wind-05.jpgIt’s the first day of spring, and as the howling “wintry mix” splats against my windows, I can still somehow feel the first tiny tendrils of life returning. This morning, walking around, I could feel the hint of warmth on the breeze, at least until the gale turned around and got cold. I can’t help thinking of the old fable of the competition between the wind and the sun, where they fought over who could get the coat off a man soonest. The wind tried to blow it off, but the man pulled it tighter and tighter around himself. The sun shone down, and the man took off his coat to walk in his shirtsleeves.

The moral of the fable was that kind words and warmth win over bluster and force.

Well, sometimes that’s true.  I wish the weather would figure that out…

I’m gorging on books while I wait for the greenery, filling my head with short stories and novels and poetry and music, topping up my creative juices with learning new tunes on my Uke, doing my various other weird and wonderful creative things. I was lucky enough to spend my past weekend hearing good music, eating good food, and laughing with people I care about. I’m filling up my brain, pushing it til it’s full and writing will spill out.

I’m hoping that, like the seeds underground, the soaking I’m doing will lead to explosive growth.

When spring finally gets here, that is…

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Living with sorrow

28 09 2013

ange-sorrow-weeping-whiteIt’s been an interesting week, as the old Chinese curse would say.

I read “The Deception of Livvy Higgs” by the wonderful writer Donna Morrissey, while simultaneously realizing I couldn’t attend her evening class as planned due to a minor flare up of my MS which seems to be hanging on, alas.

Then I went to a lecture about MRIs and MS which of course depressed me further as I wander about imagining my swelling itchy brain dying by inches, leaving gaping holes where once my creative spark flew. Self-pity abounded.

But I’m not alone. I also teach a course in living well with chronic disease and we discussed feelings this week, and so many are living with sorrow, fear of disability, aging, pain. My dear friend lives with a level of pain I could never bear, handles it most of the time, probably more of the time than she should, strictly speaking, for her own health. She is a marvel and I love her dearly and worry about her, though she’d insist she’s okay…

So what has this to do about writing? Well, as I read through Morrissey’s book, filled with family lies and damages done by them, I realized that what calls me to stories is the pain. The sense of overcoming challenges, damaged but still strong. The whole hero’s journey thing. And when I write well, I dip into that pain, I reach into my head and pull out the icky bits, the bits where no one spoke to me in eighth grade, the time my ex abandoned me, the memories of a mother I never understood and her loneliness. It’s not always pleasant exploring in that area, but it is where the writing is best.

I’m working on a third piece for my three novella set about religious confusion. Going to be dealing with evil in this one, and it worries me a bit. I’ve met evil, heck, I have some in my very own family here and there, and I’m sure deep down there’s an evil fibre in me, too. Now I have to tease that out and face it, straight up. Because evil and sorrow are inextricably linked, and to purge one, you must purge the other.





The joys of connecting to inspiration

17 07 2013

Back when my kids were little, I homeschooled them for a year. It was a magical time for me as a parent. My middle son was just learning to read, and in the space of a few weeks he’d had that “aha!” phenomenon happen where suddenly the squiggles on the page became the story. The joy on his face was palpable. I was so honoured to be able to see it happen, to see the words and letters take hold, to watch that huge moment of discovery.
I envy teachers this.
Likewise, I’ve been around to see others get that sudden grasp of a thought or a spurt of creativity or that lightning bolt of an idea – it’s fantastic to watch it slip across their faces, to hear the lilt in their voices, the utter soul-screaming joy of it all.
It’s infectious.
They share their happiness, and I want to rub up against it, stick some of the loose bits onto my self, put the glow on me, while never diminishing theirs.
It’s absolutely fabulous.
And such a blessing to be a part of it as it happens, cheering on from the sidelines!





The love of a new bathroom floor

24 02 2013

ImageFor most of my growing up years, I lived in the same small town, restricted by expectations and past experiences. When I married, I first escaped to London, UK for a year and a bit and then our multiply moving military madness started. We moved so often I got to be a pro at it, grew to hate having to clean the same bathrooms for more than three years, adored getting to know new towns and views from my windows and places to walk and different paths home.

When my marriage ended, I found the exploring part of my nature didn’t. I love to change my scene regularly, though I think my kids think I am barking mad when I do. Recently I ran away TO home, to Nova Scotia, a place that claimed my heart over 15 years ago. We’d moved here and there and all over in the inbetween times, but I knew this was where I wanted to be.

Now I’ve been here for two years, in an apartment with a lovely superintendent couple and great neighbours, but I feel the need to move again. Why? It’s quiet, too quiet. I look out on suburban monster houses and I’ve explored as far as I can walk all around here. I cannot easily walk for a paper or a coffee.  When visitors come, I have to give up my bedroom. I can’t see the sky. I’ve cleaned the bathrooms the requisite number of times for me to feel restless. I’m so completely self-contained in this place I never have to speak to anyone if I don’t want to. That’s not good for me.

So move I will, though it seems hardly wise. This time I’m going where I can see the sea and the lakes and the sky out of my windows. I’m up high, so I can satisfy my catlike self. I can watch ships coming in and out, see thunderstorms and fall leaves and fireworks and boat races.Image

Primarily it’s because I like a different view. My kids think it’s because I am never happy, never content, and my response is, I am happy. That doesn’t mean I have to stay static. I strive in every other part of my life, to be more fit, to be more knowledgeable, to do more interesting things. Why wouldn’t moving enter into that?

Of course, packing is a pain, but it’s also purging. It gives me an excuse to empty out stuff, clear the decks, look for things I don’t need to toss. It refreshes me but when you are living in a place for awhile, I tend to let rubber bands accumulate in the corners of drawers and crumbs in my cutlery tray, papers here and there. Moving forces me to take account, take charge. It’s lovely.

So I may appear mad, unsettled, unhappy, strange, compared to the stability of living in one place for years. Realistically, I had that time. Now I can move when I want, and so I will. And with the move, the new vista, new friends to meet, new places to explore.

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