For most of my life, I turned this orange over in my hand, studying its nearly impenetrable peel with a sense of hopelessness. I studied the bumpy surface, searching for any accessible point of entry. At the age of forty-seven, I finally stuck my thumbnail in and pried the first little bit away. It took me over four years, but a few months ago, the last bit of peel fell away. Finally, its ripeness sat naked on my palm. I reveled in the sight and smell of it, as it rocked heavy and full, in my hand.
The juicy taste still awaits me, but before I can pull a bit off and pop it into my mouth, I see that there are yet the veiny, white remains of the past still clinging to each section. While they are much thinner and less bitter than the coarse skin I’ve already removed, I know I will enjoy the sweetness of the fruit much more without the sinewy chords getting caught in my teeth.
And so I continue.
And so I continue.
I haven’t known what to make of the last several months. It’s been a time unlike any other in my life. Most noticeable is the sense of calm I’ve felt most of the time. Next, is how easily and quickly I seem to be able to return to my peaceful state, even when I’ve been spinning out pretty crazily. After that, what stands out to me is how little need I’ve had to share my creativity with anyone.
This last part concerns me.
Since I was a very small child, I’ve felt driven to create. I first played piano when I was three, started lessons at Northwestern University at four, and composed my first music when I was less than eight years old. After the traumatic and sudden departure of my piano teacher, when I was twelve, I never played again... but this did not squelch my need to create. I turned my attention to other things which had often been equally interesting to me.
Throughout my later childhood and teens, I spent every spare moment drawing, painting, and writing stories and poetry. I shared my creations with anyone who would give me even a cursory glance. My head was constantly overflowing with visions and concepts I needed to express. Images would appear in my mind, representing whatever was going on in my life at that time, and after creating them to the best of my ability, I felt compelled to share them with others. It has been THE driving force in my life, and has always been equated with the words “life’s purpose” in my head.
Then, a few months ago, everything just stopped. I woke up one morning and had no desire to draw or write anything.
The next day was the same, and the next week…
Finally I said something to the therapist who I've relied on for so much over the last four years. I tried to explain what was going on, but it wasn't as clear in my mind as it is now. What I said was, "I'm not doing anything," because that’s how it felt.
When we talked about it, I realized I was actually doing a lot of things… just not anything creative. She suggested that I’ve been pushing very hard for a very long time, and maybe this was just a much-needed break.
I went with that for a while, but as the weeks passed concern hung in my head like cobwebs.
Is this who I’m going to be, from now on…? And if so, who am I, now?
I’ve always created… it’s who I am… who will I be if this is not me, anymore?
To prove I could still do it, I forced myself to write something every day. I tried to commit to posting here, daily, but failed at that in short order. What once was a passion had become a chore. More and more, I was wasting time on facebook or other websites, distracting myself in anyway I could from something I obviously did not want to do.
I can still write. I still have things to say. The images and concepts I’ve always found in my mind are still there, waiting to be given a place in the real world. Yesterday, I created one of those images, just to prove I could still do it. The image I posted here, yesterday, has been in my mind for some time, and I've taken great pleasure from it. I thought sharing it would bring me the same joy it always has, but in reality it didn't feel any more real than it did when it was only in my mind.
What I just realized, last night, is that there is something else I’ve not been sharing. For four years, I shared almost all of my journals with my therapist. Day and night, the thoughts in my head would spew forth onto pages and pages of journals and blogs and posts on other websites. Since there was never any guarantee that anyone would respond or even notice the words I put out into the world, I would also send it to my therapist, so she could—
So she could what? She was possibly the first person I ever met who was willing to look at all of it, read through everything I sent her, and who also seemed to understand everything I said. But, why did I feel that every thought in my head had to be shared?
The reason seems to be that nothing I thought or felt or knew felt valid until I shared it with someone else. Not one experience felt real until someone else knew of it, and the reason for that is that I did not feel I had any value. I didn't feel real or valid so I needed to be validated by others. My sense-of-self came only from outside of me, and not from within.