Photo Credit Creative CommonsI grew up thinking everything had to have a purpose. I don't know why and I don't know how it came to be my modus operandi. It just did. Suddenly I was sitting in my grown up life and everything had to have a reason for doing. You ate when you were hungry, you spoke when there was information to impart, you moved because things needed doing... All of it had links to something important in your life. Homework was to get you to college. Jobs were to teach you responsibility. Careers were to earn money and buy things, have a family, do the right thing. It all linked together in this jigsaw puzzle of life and someday, when I was grown up, it would look like something spectacular. The trouble is, I had these pieces that didn't seem to fit the rest of the puzzle.
I had pieces that I loved. Pieces that were shiny, beautiful and touchable but they didn't fit into the puzzle. They didn't have the same tones, the same shape... So I set them aside. I left them there to gather dust and wondered if there would ever come a time where the puzzle they belonged to would surface and I could make them fit somehow. I waited for permission and purpose to use those pieces.
I don't usually watch much tv before I write. It saps me of creativity. Sunday Morning on CBS is different. The format pokes my creative spirit in the ribs and asks, "Did you hear that? Did you see what they did there?" I love it. Seeing the artists they feature and hearing stories of how they came to be so in tune with themselves... It gives my muddied muse a douse with the garden hose and lifts me back up to the easel. I get inspired.
Today I watched a piece about rock and roll artist turned Broadway musical creator, Trey Anastasio, formerly of Phish. It was soothing and pleasantly enjoyable until his parting words slammed into my chest, "I love writing music. It's like food!" Not that I love writing music, that wasn't where I instantly related. It was the "I love _______. It's like food!" Put in that space anything that fills you up, anything that truly rejuvenates you, completes you in ways that all of your chores for purpose don't. That was what struck me today. There are things that I do in life because they need done and there are things that I do in my life because they feed me. FEED ME... It was as if I had in earplugs and I finally removed them to hear that desperate plea, now so loud it was shocking. I had been ignoring that cry because I had other things to do; important, purposeful things... I was drowning out the pleas, waiting for permission.
The epiphany wrung my heart with surprising strength. The puzzle pieces that sit outside my daily life: my writing, my artistry - They are not pieces to be set aside to gather dust or be forgotten. Worse yet, they are not pieces to be used as rewards for a job well done in purpose-puzzle-land but a vital part of me to be cultivated and grown and built upon in their own right. If I cannot fit those pieces into the puzzle of daily life then I need to build another puzzle. I must start by realizing that those fragments, whimsical and fragile and frivolous, refuel my desires and my abilities to stick with a puzzle filled with responsibilities and things I have to do.
I had a meltdown the other day. I was overwhelmed, frustrated and desperate. As in most times like that, my mother called. I don't know if she has a radar for my moods, but she could instantly tell that something was off with me. I poured out my heart to her, I explained my frustration, I cried, I admitted that I hadn't a creative drop of juice left in me. Her answer was not to head into the house and get some laundry done. It wasn't her advice to clean a bathroom or head up to the office and do some accounting or web updates. Her advice was to go out to my studio and soak it up. Even if I did nothing at all but sit on my couch and take in the light, she advised me to go to my happy place and just BE. She told me that not everything has to have a purpose to be good for us. It was like a balm to an open wound. It soothed me and gave me permission to minister to myself.
As a woman and a caregiver I tend to deny myself that luxury of doing for me. I feel guilty if I am not serving someone else's need. I hold myself to a standard no one could achieve and one that I am sure God didn't intend for me to model. I was created to serve a God who wants me to be lit afire, burning brightly and cheerily, giving to others without draining myself of my own fuel. That "food" that I crave it is like a Sabbath to my soul. It feeds me in ways that I don't always understand. Like different cuisines, each of us craves something unique. I am fed by putting words on a page, by creating art that touches others. It becomes a Sabbath refuge for me - A place of rest and rejuvenation. It is in this space that I feel most alive, most myself, most ME. Seems counter-intuitive that I would avoid being more of who I am, doesn't it? It is time to change that perception.
Those odd puzzle pieces aren't a part of my daily routine quite yet, but I am turning them over in my hands now. I am studying them and starting to look for other pieces that will fit. Someday they will become a part of the larger picture. Until that day, I will build on them in their own right. I will create around them and be refreshed by that sensation - The sensation of being full, being satisfied - being Me.
Be blessed - And be YOU!