Updated: May 14, 2020
So you are stuck inside those four walls, the same four walls you have seen for years, possibly the same color for years, with the same pictures, of the same relatives, just hanging there, just staring at you, with the same black and white eyes. It is not going to change. There is no chance that you will fall into some kind of deep amnesia state, like Rip Van Winkle, and wake up to a different world. If you did, the dog’s breath would still smell the same. There would still be dirty socks where you left them. All of your electric and water bills would be found crammed into your mailbox. You would still have the same stuff in the fridge. That will not change… well, it might get greener and fuzzier. The bottom line, life doesn’t really change much. Life will always have constants. It will, for the most part, be generally the same tomorrow and the next day and so on. (Unless there is pandemic… that’s another blog.)
We are creatures of habit. We might notice that we always dry the same leg first when we hop out of the shower. We part our hair on the same side, without a thought. We push the different foods apart on our plates or we mix them up together, depending on our preference. We generally purchase the same kind of groceries to eat, kept in the same place on the same shelf. If we frequent a church or a restaurant, we will usually sit in the same pew or seat. All being the habitual creatures that we are.
It is acceptable to do things the same. Acceptable to put the toilet paper on the same shelf and roll it the same way. (Over the top toward you is the best position. Just saying.) Acceptable to use the same cleaning products. Acceptable to dunk your Oreo's and to put peanut butter on your pancakes. Acceptable to cut the ends off your ham before you bake. (In case you don’t know the story, a woman was asked by her daughter why she always cut the ends of the ham off before baking? Seemed like a waste to the daughter. The mother replied, “That is the way my mom did it.” The daughter approached her grandmother and asked, “Why did you cut the ends off the ham, grandma?” The grandmother replied, “Cause it would not fit in my only small pan.”) After all, these are the things that work for us. They help us organize life into manageable digestible bites that are easily understood and remembered. They keep us calm and orderly.
The older we get the more we become creatures molded by the years of the same. We become less and less tempted by the newfangled, less likely to follow the herd, or cease to listen intently for the knock of opportunity. The cushions on our seats have perfectly formed to our posterior and we sink into that spot perfectly. Comfort is our friend. We sit in that little boat that is safely docked on dry land because it cannot be rocked there. It is only rocked by the occasional small emergency, something like the water heater going out, or stepping on a hairball or a tragedy in the family. (Or… a pandemic!)
In our little cocoon of sameness there is not much noise or distraction. There are quiet times when we can think, maybe when everyone is asleep. At times we think back, back on the things that never happened. Perhaps we wonder what would have happened … if we had married that other person or what if we had taken a different job or majored in some obscure subject at the university. We search to see if we are happy with how it all turned out. Did we settle? Did we take the path of least resistance or the road less traveled? Notice, things are acceptable now, why remember?
Some of us were guilted with fear, the greatest fear being that of failure. That big ugly monster running rampant inside our heads and hearts telling us all kinds of lies: “'You cannot do it!' 'You will be humiliated!' 'You will hurt yourself!' or … 'You will never live it down if you fail.'” Fear is a genuine motivator. It doesn’t give us a chance to think. It falls down over our reasoning like a dark opaque veil and blinds our eyes of hope. If we stop to listen, this dark sermon will always make sense. It appeals to our senses, our need for safety and comforts us by its continual rhythm.
In this time, we are like captives. We are sealed up in hermetically sealed living units waiting out a (COVID-19) pandemic. Many are held captive by their minds. They are surrendered to all that is the same. They are bored thinking that outside of here is life. The media, the world, the general population has sold them the mantra that life is somewhere out there. There is joy to be had but not in here, not stuffed in this sardine can. It is not inside my house and surely not inside my being. They stand, looking, like a visitor at an aquarium, looking out of their picture windows at the world, the cars passing by, all the colors, all the movement, all the life, thinking that real life, is there, just outside this incubator. Out there is what I am missing.
But I ask you, “where is life?” And by “life” I don’t mean the beating of the heart or breathing of air but the reason to survive, the cause behind seeing another day. Life is in us, not found by looking out. Life is the experience, the meaning behind experiencing. Is life monotony or is it the thrill of pursuit? Is it settling for the past and perpetuating it, or running toward tomorrow with arms wide open, heart racing, waiting to embrace a happening? Is life walking on the clay and calling it dirt or scooping it up with our hands and calling it pottery? We decide whether life is about beating and breathing. We hold the expectation of life in our hands, like a newborn when we ask, “what will she be?” We can look to see only possibility, only growth and only potential.
I believe that one reason this pandemic has made our lives feel sterile, perhaps meaningless, is because we can only find the meaning of life outside of ourselves. Life is out there… somewhere. It is out in the world, some other place. While all along we have not searched for it within us. The noise of our world is so loud that we cannot hear the thought, “Is life inside me?” Some have missed life’s joy while they stood frozen, even enamored by the lives of others.
The happiest people I know are people who create. Some would doubt that a person who will stay in one little room focused on one solitary task for hours, days, or possibly months, has much of a life. Ask someone who loves to bake where they find their happiness? It is in a room, a kitchen filled with the waft of flour and yeast, the heat of the oven, the yearning of the tongue. Ask a writer who sits in a chair in the darkness of midnight, focused on the sliding cursor made important by a small glowing screen of reds and blues and greens, just waiting for their brains to push the next word out through their fingers, which will become a book. Ask if they find their joy there? Or, question the artist who studies the petals of a flower and then brushes his colorful paste on a white gessoed canvas again and again. Thousands of single strokes, giving years of life to a confined studio, leaning forward into creativity and giving birth to a masterpiece. Ask him/her, “Are you happy?” Perhaps you could question the frail aged lady who sits pulling one long twisted thread of wool into the next, making a warm covering. See if she finds fulfillment and joy there. See if there is joy in the sculptor, or the musician, or the photographer. They all would tell us that their joy comes from within, a fulfillment that comes from the expression and the creation.
We have no need to search for life. I think we need to search for creativity. We need to find something to create, something that appears because we moved our hands and conjured a thought. We need to create something that only truly becomes fulfillment when it is viewed by the eye, touched and the texture is felt, drifts on the air into the ears. This thing is inside us all, like a caged beast wanting out. It is innate, something that comes from the genetics of our Father, the divine Creator. It is pacing in its cage held there by our chains of fear secured by the locks of complacency and sameness.
There needs to be a break away from the entertainment, from the man-made sludge that fills our void with heaping spoonfuls of emptiness, things that never change the world or us. We need to break the cords that tether us to our electronic boxes and rob us our most precious commodity, i.e., time! Time to mature, time to grow, time to learn, time to become… time to create.
I challenge you to see what you can do. No need for comparisons to others who do the same, not looking for perfection, nor striving for expertise. Pick up a brush, a needle or a lump of clay. Push down a key made of ivory or brass or pluck a string. Sing a song, out loud and love every sour note as much as the sweet ones. Awaken that sleeping giant in you. There is no failure in creativity. The product is not the point, the creating is.
Maybe you have never tried it, or have failed before. Maybe you cower in the corner at the thought of trying to create. But the fear of failure quickly fades when you see what your hands have done and realize that this came from inside you. There is no disappointment in learning to do something that gives you joy. Once you have “released your (creative) Kraken” you will see its power to change who you are and to open your mind to a new world and way of thinking.
So, learn a new way of creating and of thinking. Don’t listen to fear’s “fake news.” Fire up YouTube or Instructables and learn to do something you always wanted to do. Make all your Christmas presents this year. Leave something behind from you that only exists because of your hand. You might be surprised at the creation of your hands. Don’t get caught up in getting into the Guggenheim or the Louvre. It could happen but just enjoy each moment of the process and of learning. And if you give it to someone, enjoy the brightening of their face, the smile, the laughter, the thankfulness and the love that you caused.
Who knows, after all is “back to normal” you might choose to stay in.