I haven’t written for two months. It’s not like I’ve been lounging in the uneventful. I’ve simply had a lot going on (mostly professional, some personal) that caused me to have to take a break creatively.
Creativity is one of those things that has to have air around it to breathe. And when there’s not enough pause in life, there’s not enough space for creativity to unfurl its wings and take flight.
I recently discovered a photographer whose work fascinated me. He uses chronophotography to capture flight patterns of birds. As Xavi Bou’s site http://www.xavibou.com notes: “Ornitographies arises from the author’s concern for capturing those unnoticed moments and from the interest in questioning the limits of human perception.”
His work made me wonder something. In the swirl of my own life’s busyness, how much am I not noticing or appreciating about the world around me?
When I was a child, I recall perfectly blissful moments of simply being. I have distinct memories of sitting in silence, listening to the world whisper to me. I remember lazing on the grass in our backyard and peering at the sun as it filtered through the leaves of the large pecan trees. I remember laying in the bottom bunk bed in the room my sister and I shared watching the wind rustle a set of pink gingham curtains. I remember staring at the patterns the ripples made in the stream near the cabin we stayed in on occasional getaway weekends. And I could do it for a long time.
I was also painfully shy as a child, something unlikely for anyone who knows me now to believe. I think that, in a way, the world disturbed me when I was young. Differently than it does now. At that time, it was purely energetic. I was living in a world that felt way too big and its influence on me was invasive, as though it was just too much of a jolt of reality. It held a rawness that felt too busy and chaotic. My older sister carried a more solid and confident presence into the world and an ability to shield me from it, and so I relied on her to do that.
I still have moments when I feel ill-equipped to handle the world. It’s why, when things get too busy, too chaotic, and too intense, I go within to find my presence, my strength, and my place of creative fascination. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing in the past two months. Living, yes. Doing, of course. But I’ve also found myself going within to listen to and decipher what I really need and want.
I also understand my son more because of my own inner reflection. I get that there are times he needs to rest. I get his sensitivity to the world around him and his need to stop interacting with it at times. And I understand that his inner world can often be a safe haven from his outer one.
I remember a moment a couple of years ago, we were driving by the local power plant on our way into town and Kane told us that it was his factory that made canoes. I said something about him being able to pretend anything he wanted, to which he replied, “No Mommy, it IS my factory that makes canoes.”
I can’t remember if it was Jeff or me that made reference after that to him being in his own world, but I’ll never forget his response.
“Why do I have to be a part of your world?”
I answered with something like “so that you can function in society with other human beings” while simultaneously giving Jeff the “what the heck do we say now?” look because it was an excellent question. Kane can be both practical and profound at the same time.
So, I went a little deeper.
“On the one hand, we live on a planet with other humans, so we have to know how to interact with them. On the other hand, yours is a rich inner world that brings you immense pleasure, especially when the world around you feels so chaotic, so I don’t want you to lose that. You can have both.”
I remember thinking who am I to constantly yank him out of that world? As one who knows what it feels like to be pulled out of a place that is comforting and comfortable, as one who values creativity and discovery, as one who believes that having downtime makes a person more open to profound insights, I have to make room for that mental and emotional play. I have to make space for us to slow down. I have to help us revel in the moments. I have to allow us to just be.
It can’t always happen consistently, but when it’s starting to feel like it never does, that’s my sign to pause.
We will never be people who get satisfaction from running around like mice on a wheel. Constant movement and distraction isn’t what ignites us. It’s not what increases our joy, allows us to recognize beauty, or enables us to be fully present.
Want happiness? I suggest slowing down. That’s where presence is.
I also suggest taking some time to experience your own inner world. Allow yourself time to revel in the moments and just be. Let yourself listen to the whispers. Give your creativity some space to breathe.
That’s where the magic lives.