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I am quick to write off creative pursuits at the end of a long day of teaching.
Despite thinking of myself as a person who is completely happy and comfortable with being creative, being free and playful in the creative realm when I am truly exhausted seems overwhelming. It seems too draining and frivolous when all I want to do is rest and switch off.
Yet now I realise, while I am on holidays and engaging with all things creative, how utterly essential being creative and playful is, especially at the end of long and challenging day.
Just as the opposite of play is not seriousness but depression; the opposite of not being creative is not being still and restful, it is numbing.
Yes, that’s right. Numbing.
At the end of a stressful day, or an argument, or a lesson gone pear-shaped, or on the brink of a challenging conversation, we need to be more playful, more daring and more creative. I couldn’t believe it, but I see it with clarity now. Every time I sit down in front of Netflix, or YouTube, or mindlessly scroll through Facebook, I am not “unwinding” like I think I am; I am numbing. I am zoning-out because I have decided that I am too tired to engage with whatever experiences I have had in the day.
But really, I am avoiding.
How? And what if I am truly tired?
Physical tiredness is inconsequential; you can get to bed earlier, exercise and eat well, and make sure that your body is at its optimum to heal and regain its energy stores.
But emotional tiredness? That requires creativity. It requires a vehicle for expression, and a pathway out into the world where it can be seen and demystified.
It requires voice and play in the quiet and safety of your own mind, away from the noise of the classroom. Away from the demands of leadership, of the assault of angular personalities, grief, sadness, and unresolved issues. It is the voice that soothes the abrasive, stark moments of the day.
The balm that is creativity allows you to do the following:
Being creative is your chance to play in the playground of your own self, heart, and mind. What a crucial part of getting to know yourself! Combine with stillness and silence, and you can truly hear your thoughts, that you may become emotionally strong and perceptive.
So as I sit my exhausted self at the piano and lift my hands to the keys, I remember that with each piece or exercise comes new sounds, healing, ideas, chords, tones, and colours.
As I put pen to page in my journal and write for the five minutes before falling asleep, I see the unspoken words coming forth from me, uncensored, raw and real, authentic, alive, and truthful, that I might make meaning out of my thoughts. That I might see all the places where I have been dutiful, or withheld my true self, or could have done things differently. That I might also catch the wild and amazing ideas that are just below the surface, eager to play.
As I sing, I hear and feel the openness of my voice and how this might feel in rehearsal. I find the satisfaction in producing a beautiful sound, and the wholeness of my body as it aligns in song. I think of how I will share this with my choristers to capture that physical, musical and emotional reward.
As I compose, I practise a skill that is words and music combined. I give energy to silent words on the page and bring them into being, all the while aware that they are guiding my thoughts, and giving courage to my new ideas by existing.
The more tired and exhausted I am, the more I need to be creative.
There is no perfect time; to create, to live, to love, to apologise, to connect, to forgive. You make the time.
Get disciplined + determined, and catch those moments of productivity, or find a way to make them happen. The difference between creating something, or nothing, is as tiny as a breath of forward momentum, five words of connection, half a page of writing, eleven minutes of day-dreaming, or one look that creates a thread of connection which allows love to spark, forgiveness to flow, or ideas to blossom.
Embrace the stomach-flip, the discomfort, and the rigour. Take measured leaps of faith the way you would cold showers; grit your teeth and just do it. Take joy in the clarity and rigour of walking a path which leads somewhere. If you are weary, afraid, fragile, or alone, don’t hurry, be tender with yourself, and ask for support.
But don’t stop.
From moving forward, persistently, dedicatedly, and with hope + courage, you will create something worthy and valuable.
There is no perfect time, only your perfect will to engage with life and leap.
Roar of the beautiful girl. My beautiful one, you count. You, the awkward, hilarious, amazing, extraordinary one. You hear me?
You count. You matter. So deeply. So very acutely and absolutely.
You count, and your thoughts and values matter. You matter. You can get as eff-ing excited or emotional as you want. You do not have to make anyone else happy and you do not have to conform. You do not have to colour in the lines for anyone, or twist yourself into any shape that is not truly you. Everything you are, my darling one, matters so damn much it hurts.
So sing out, my lovely.
Oh, the world will HEAR and EMBRACE the mighty, earthy, ROAR of you, my beautiful, wholesome, overflowing, belligerent, fiery woman. You will not be stamped out or held down. You will not be backed into a corner.
And above all, you will not be sidelined by small minds and even smaller hearts.
You are, indeed, AWE-SOME AND AWE-INSPIRING when you are in full joy and full flight.
And you know what? That scares the SHIT out of them. That scares the LIVING, BREATHING SHIT out of them.
What a laughable concept! That all you need to do is be yourself to make the ground shake under the feet or your adversaries.
This is beautiful.
I don’t think I have any issues with the “wear different colours” point! 😉
I had a thought today. I am someone who really likes to get things completely finished before I relax. I’m a list-maker and ticker offer-er. I make lists from lists, with priority highlights and checkboxes. Even on the days that I am tired, they are Sharpied off with amazing industrialism.
I could argue until I’m blue in the face that I know what balance is. Even to me, it all looks pretty good from the surface, my life. My values are grounded, my life is good, I love my work, connected inner-circle, healthy + rested.
But somehow, this peaceful existence and safe methodicalness started to pull tighter around me. I would wonder and worry if I hadn’t done what I deemed “enough” preparation over the weekend, if I had earned my down time. I lost the edge and the ability to see effort and situations for exactly what they were.
And I realised this:
Every time I wait until “everything is done” and checked off my list, I am saying NO to ME.
That’s terrifying, I think to myself. Surely it’s not that bad. I’m over-dramatising.
But actually, look deeper. If I wait until everything is tidied, everything is completed, everything is clean and straightened, packed away, Glad-wrapped, boxed-up, including my joy, then I will undoubtedly miss The Moments. The moments of joy and laughter and silliness and grace that makes life so livably sweet and real. Why? Because I won’t be looking for them. I’ll be on my mission, with my Sharpie + list. And even if I have 3 hours at the end of the day because I’ve been so damn efficient, what then? A cookie-cutter conversation, cup of tea, and Tim-Tam? That’s nice, but it shouldn’t be all there is.
I will always be a stickler for routine and organisation. Not just because I’m a teacher, but because I think there is a certain humility and grace to working methodically. I like the steady hum, the strong foundations from which to build energy, life, and fun. My lessons are playful, creative, and far-reachingly imaginative. I crave balance in the foundation and routine in order to make it all work, just as I need oases [plural of “oasis”, did you know that?!] of introverting time to off-set the incredible energy required in my teaching job. And especially so in performing arts + secondary music.
But I’d like to keep that sense of freedom and possibility open, like a gap in the curtains for the dazzling light to sneak through. I’d like to sneak in MORE unexpected moments into the routine that fill me up in the soul. Oh no, let’s be very clear that I do NOT mean the extra concert or rehearsal. I mean the unexpected round of drinks after school. The pizza on the carpet in the middle of report-writing week with friends, laughter, and cider. The 30-minute facial when I should have been marking. Not when everything is done, not when I’m super-relaxed and free on holidays, but because it might be a cool thing to do.
And because it’s a resounding YES to me.
When you going into “warrior-training” and actually open the floodgates into all the things that you haven’t given time, something really curious happens. You start waking up buffeted, tossed, and turned by thoughts, ideas, errant emotions, extreme highs and lows, and scraps of memories.
Everything is so utterly present that it’s disorientating. I am so glad for time to fully experience and feel all these emotions, because I am all-too-good at hopping onto the “routine bandwagon”, being industrious and not having a good look, because it’s all too messy. I like tidy. Like, bento-box + OfficeWorks tidy.
But seeing as my “thing” has been leaning into whatever scares me, or makes me nervous, or I think will take up more time than I am willing to part with, then I’ve been seeing a hell of a lot of stuff up close that I have smoothed over all year. It was a good year, but a very safe year last year. I’d like a different point of view, just to see if it will give me a different result.
Refreshing, but slightly crazy-making.
So here’s my thought for today while navigating all this chaos:
I have a heart. I have a mind. Both of which I am allowed to use fully.
This is extraordinary.
I am alive, and I get to affect the course of my day, the next minute, the next hour, the air around me.
The capacity and agency to think my own thoughts, wonder what I will do today, how I will affect the space, people, and world around me.
What worth, magic, mo-jo, spark, new viewpoints, positivity, serenity, insights will I dare to bring to the table?
Isn’t that extraordinary enough?