My power wheelchair battery died a few days ago and I can’t get it replaced until January 11th, so I was ready to declare it a sucky end to a sucky year. Then I started my annual look back through my journals. And though there was suck, there was a lot to cherish, too.
Many of my goals and plans for the future were revised by the unexpected end of my marriage. I had to do a lot of soul searching. I all but quit blogging and I have this image of myself just wallowing in sloth for months on end.
But I found instead that while I did take some weeks off from regular writing, I still filled 4 composition books with my journal writing and six visual journals with art. I also started submitting stories for publication, and to my delight, one got accepted at the Evening Street Review and will be published April.
Creative habits have come through for me once again and helped me grow. And they put major upheaval into perspective. If you strive for a daily practice, then by the end of the year you’ve accumulated a lot of crap, but bits of delight shine through.
Last year’s resolution was to become unreasonable and compulsive in my creative endeavors. And in that spirit, I took my journal with me to the hospital and began to write and draw as soon as I woke up from my colostomy surgery January 15th.
In early February of last year, I wrote this quote from Parker Palmer in my journal:
“There is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.”
I think the act of writing things down by hand in my journals helps set them in my mind, even when I don’t specifically remember them when I’m stuck in muck.
I participated in a mask making workshop that inspired me to paint a lot of masks.
I read Syllabus by Lynda Barry and it gave me a big creative boost:
I tried new mediums — paper doilies included:
I remained enchanted with the human face and the way watercolor has a life of its own.
And I drew lots of doodly inky things:
I took a restorative trip to my hometown, Memphis, and kept a visual journal about that, which you can read here.
After I got back from Memphis, I began to feel like myself again. I started painting larger paintings. I’ve always felt I was a writer first and then a visual artist. I realized the two influence each other equally. My need to segregate my impulses melted away. I stopped trying to make sense of it all, I just created in ways that felt right, and followed whatever ideas popped into my mind.
And the December 2016 journal:
So, maybe because of the upheavals and challenges of 2016, I feel like a stronger person, and I know myself better. The poet Marianne Moore said, “The cure for loneliness is solitude.” In solitude, we create, we grow, we find the strength to rise above our challenges. I recommend keeping a journal to remind yourself that there is beauty in our fragmented world, and that you’re stronger than you think.
So, 2017, bring it on. I’ll limp through the muck and celebrate the journey.