Great Creative Expectations

https://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

I keep forgetting this TEDtalk exists. I had seen it first when I was in college learning to cope with the high expectations of creativity: that you have this creative resivoir that never ran dry and always pumped out good ideas. I had been taking 22 credit hours to graduate at the time. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing semester. My boyfriend had gotten kicked out of school and had to head back to California while I navigated my final semester on my own. I felt abandoned. Unsure. And all around used between my relationship that was long distance, and the demands of being a graphic design student in her final semester.

I had logged on to TED.com and just went to the category “Creativity” and just let it play through the videos randomly. This particular video had struck me so deeply that I remember feeling a sudden and complete sigh of relief. Going to a Christian school had its benefits, and the source of my creativity was one of them. God was the Creator who made me creative, and all my creativity was a source from Him. What a wonderful and reassuring affirmation.

I had forgotten about it, as I often do in my humanness. 

I was at work today when I heard it again. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing Tuesday. My creative juices exhausted as I attempted to come up with more and more variations of a package design for a product just new to the market. “A culinary innovation” I had thought, but then rejected for its cliche nature and discarded with the rest of my bad ideas. I needed feedback from our marketing director, who, of course, had blown me of for the past few days, and I was sure would do so again. 

I turned on TED.com for some videos on food. A desperate attempt to come up with some kind of revolutionary idea. Of course, I didn’t come up with anything. Instead I sat staring at the screen in hopes something would just come to me. A couple adjustments and mistakes were corrected, and as the talks kept speaking, I found myself less working on the project and desperate to be doing something else. The videos were relevant to my job after all, so who could really yell at me? Eventually I started clicking on videos in the side bar, craving information that was outside of my usual everyday, and looking for a challenge. Looking to learn something new.

I was about 5 videos into my listening when I played the video, and about five minutes into viewing it I had recalled having heard this talk before. As she spoke that sense of relief came over me again, but not in a religious or supernatural way (though that is still largely a part of my life), but in knowing I was one of a collaborative team. 

Collaboration is another buffer creatives can maintain to protect them from the stress, high expectations, and struggle of creativity. Being one of a group of people working towards the same goal certainly takes the pressure off. It makes sucesses more fun. It makes losses less burdensome. It makes the artists more humble knowing their work was part of a contribution, and it gives the artist an awareness that full credit cannot come to them for each success. They were part of a bigger story, a contributing part, but not the only contributing part. 

So as I sat in my chair, fully aware of how far behind this package design was, hearing my e-mails chime as they came in from the factory in China wondering how all that is going…I realized I can only go so far as my contribution allows. If we as a team are working together, I had to wait for the together part of it. I have exhausted my resources. I showed up for my part, and my marketing director had a lot of other parts he had to show up for too. So my job was as done as it could be until I got feedback. The pressure was off. I had done all I could do, and I was so thankful to find this TEDtalk again. 

I Suck at Friendship

I saw that she had tried to call me, about 15 min after we were supposed to speak. I had planned and reschedule on her already for our phone call, but once again, my brain failed me. Not that I had forgotten this time, but I had laid down for a nap with every intention of calling her on time, then proceeded to sleep through the alarm, then proceeded to wake up thinking I had woken up in time, then proceeded to fall back to sleep. I had felt terribly about it upon realizing that I had missed her call. So much so that I texted her back and tried to make up the lost time. 

Before I was married, I hardly forgot or missed a date. Now, it’s like I can’t set a date to save my life. I forget about it or I double book it or I just can’t seem to get myself together enough to make it on time. The worst part of it all, is that if I fuck up my own social life, I fuck up my husband’s. He knows so few people, and I’m the only one who contacts anyone to hang out because of it. His social life is entirely dependent on me. The introvert of the two of us. Ironic. 

I feel like I’m unintentionally pushing people away. I want to see them. I want to spend time with them. I care and love them very much. I just am so sucky at keeping plans since I got married. What’s worse is that I promised I wouldn’t do this to people. I promised that my marriage wouldn’t make me fall off the face of the earth, because it had hurt my feelings so much to have my friends do it to me. Yet, I’m so tired being at the beck and call of my workplace and then having to come home and be at the beck and call of my husband. There really is no such thing as introverting and down time anymore. I can’t have days where all I do is nap without interruption. I can’t have the silence, or the daydreaming I used to, or at least, not the same quality of it. It’s like my brain can never refresh fully because the presence of another human being is there, forever. It’s weird. I don’t like it. 

Part of me hopes this is temporary. Another part of me knows it isn’t. My husband is having a difficult time making friends of his own in the area. So he relies on me to make them for him. So here I am juggling the social life of an extrovert. Tired. Exhausted even. Neglecting my friends who are single for the couples I had so long also been neglected by until I was no longer single. I feel like I’ve only been married for a few months and the only respite I got out of it was a buissness meeting to IL(which was super fun and I really ought to write a blog post about it, but I’m not sure I’ll get to it), which doesn’t sound relaxing at all, but was a nice step outside of my husband’s life for an overnight, and a refreshing step back into my own world. A very clear step of only having to worry about myself again. The way it used to be. 

All that sounds super selfish. I’ll admit it probably is. Which makes me feel like a shitty person. I don’t feel like I should play mother like this. I don’t feel like I should be responsible for my husband’s play dates. I’m hardly good at being responsible for my own. To be honest I really haven’t had my own play date in a long time. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I need to have my own separate friends again, the ones who aren’t another couple. Individuals I can keep in touch with and have all my own. Knowing myself though, I’d probably forget those dinner dates and such as well. Maybe I’m just destined to be a shitty friend forever. 

Bad Weather Girl

“It’s supposed to rain tomorrow.” 

“Really?” 

“Yep.” 

The weather isn’t something I pay much attention to for some reason. At least not like other people seem to. It’s not something that occurs to me to pay attention to. It doesn’t really demand my attention like other things in my life. My projects at work do. Juggling things at home does. My insurance does. The weather is hardly on my radar. 

I have a few coworkers who seem to know the entire weekly forecast. They know every nuance. A change happens and they’ll tweet about it. If it changes while they’re asleep, they announce it to the world as if it’s a perfectly normal topic of conversation. Though, I do recall lots of movies and books speaking about the weather being just that. It just seems like such a trivial topic. Who has time to pay attention to it? Are people’s lives so dull that the weather becomes such a primary part of it? Do people not have enough to worry about? 

I can feel it when I wake up though. Very strongly. I’m very physically and emotionally affected by weather. Perhaps I ought to pay more attention to it, but I like waking up to the surprise of it. The unpredictability of it. The disorganization and unstructured nature of it. The unpredictability of it. I like my life that way. Unpredictable and unstructured. I just can’t make everything in my life fully structured no matter how much I try. I associate it too much with work. I like living the pieces of my life outside of work on the fly. No plans are the best plans much of the time. Of course there is a mild bit of planning. Little tasks that are in my brain, but if the weather doesn’t permit an activity, then it simply doesn’t happen. Most of my plans tend to be indoor anyway. 

I get wanting to think trivially though. Or even thinking more structurally. When you make your world smaller it becomes simpler. You can organize things better. My husband thinks that way. Compartmentalizes things. Organizes his world in a very meticulous and sensible manner. He knows the weather. He knows the details of his life.  Not that he is a small thinker, but his plans are smaller and more sensible. His opinions and his creativity may not be, but those things he takes action on and implements are. I’m not that way, but I can appreciate that kind of thinking. 

Some days I’m disappointed that I can’t think that way in my home life.  Why is it that I can manage deadlines and designs but not plans at home? I think it’s because I fear inflexibility. My whole life I have had someone in it who is structured and inflexible.  Setting a plan means having something inflexiblesometimes. My brothers both have anxiety problems. My husband does too. I was always the one who had to adjust to the weather of their personalities. I can’t predict their storms. I can’t tell when the clouds will roll in. So I roll instead. Why? Because it creates better harmony. Less disappointment. Less conflict. Better environmental climate. Is it exhausting? Yes. Is it worth the effort? I’m not sure in reality if it is or not. It certainly makes my life easier. Or gives me the perception that my life is easier. 

Back to that fear of inflexibility: I see the torment and insecurity that inflexibility causes in the lives of my loved ones and coworkers. How much it prevents people from having experiences. How it inhibits intelligence, rationality, and growth. How lonely it can be to be inflexible. Of course this is all only my perception. It seems like a really difficult life from an outside perspective. I suppose in context they’re comfortable and that’s what matters to them. They need that. Because fear takes over and causes chaos. To me, chaos is inevitable. The unexpected is expectable. Most things are not so chaotic that the world will end. Most average storms are endurable. But, admittedly, I am not Everyman. 

I see in myself the problems flexibilities can cause. I often go into tasks expecting the worst and being pleasantly surprised when they go well. It can make a person very critical and even cynical. A dark person. A passive agressive person. Which I tend to be, and pass it off as sarcasm and morbid humor, though less so when I’ve been drinking or had copious amounts of coffee…like now…which has been the entire fueling of the blog post and broken my streak of prolonged silence. 

The biggest issue with being flexible is that it requires you to set inconsistent boundaries. Some days it all works out. Others it doesn’t. Which can be super annoying to some people. You also can spread yourself too thin because you want to be flexible for everyone and people please more often than you’d like. You over share options and personal information which also annoys people. Basically, you can become a problem. The very thing you try to avoid. You become the unintentional and unpredictable  storm. Which often makes me a bad weather girl. 

Deadlines, Assembly lines, and Waistlines 

Since starting my full-time job as a graphic designer, I’ve found myself relying on reading energy. The energy of people, the energy of a room, the energy of collaboration. Trying to gauge how much energy people are investing into projects. Much of the energy of my investment, has gone into cooking with my team. Yes. Cooking. I work for a company that manufactures and sells kitchen appliances. Lots of them. Under several nameplates and in many different stores internationally. 

Today we spent the afternoon going over the care and use guide (also known as a CUG in our line of work). We have an air cooker, which is basically a table top oven of sorts that works best when trying to make frozen foods like fries, nuggets, egg rolls etc… anything you could bake or fry, but without the oil. The collaboration was simple. Get the manufacturing specs together and the engineering notes, throw in (or make up) the names of parts, act out the step-by-step of the process and write it out, throw in the warnings as you come across probable and improbable issues, and hit the ground rolling. Then you eat whatever you make while you type up the findings into a cute little booklet that gets revised 50 times in multiple languages (in our case English and French) before getting mass printed well after the deadline and stuffed into a box for absolutely no one to read. Because who really reads the CUG? 

The food is pretty much the only incentive of the process. Of course, that doesn’t help my waistline. What also doesn’t help my waistline is the fact that I now work a desk job and eat food at work. On top of that…all employees of the company get to check out a product from the product library fresh off the assembly line and available to the public or not. True story. So say…I want to borrow the top selling company dehydrator from the product library. I just go to customer service. Fill out the paperwork and say….I want it for three months. Just put in the date three months from the day I pick it up…and there you go. I have a dehydrator for three months so I can interact with the products we sell without having to purchase the product unless I want to. When I’m ready to purchase the product? I get a discount. A steep discount. 

All this, paired with me trying to take more insulin unlike before, has made me gain ten pounds. I can’t say I’m very happy about that. My weight has been something I became more and more conscious of in college, and now that I’m out of college, it’s become something my attention fixated on, especially since I had lost so much weight due to diabetic complications. I liked being smaller. I liked people noticing how much I lost. Even if I didn’t like how I lost it, I liked the result…..a little too much. Now, I work in a food oriented business, and while I’ve never considered myself fat….I know I am a person who enjoys eating. A little too much. And since eating a little too much and enjoying being skinny a little too much,  I find myself fixated so stupidly on my weight, and wanting desperately to go back to “forgetting” to take insulin and lose it all again. 

When did I get this shallow? There are worse things to be than fat! What is wrong with me!?!? When did I focus my own energy into something so silly and superficial as my weight? How did I get so good at reading the energy of everyone else, that I failed to read my own? 

The Call

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today: 

Ive been wanting to ask my fellow Christians an important political question today. As Christians we know that all of the troubles facing our society today are a result of our sinful brokenness. Poverty, oppression, the broken family structure, drug addiction, violence, these all stem from our sinful appetites. 
My question is: why do we look to the government to solve problem that humans by their own nature cannot fix? If the church truly is the body of Christ in this world, why do we look to others to fix the problems that Christ himself addressed. He didn’t condemn Herod or Caesar for not ending slavery or for not caring for the poor. He didn’t demand a minimum wage or free healthcare. He didn’t criticize the Romans violence and oppression. He didn’t come to say those things, and discussion of those topics are for another time. My point is that Christ came to call us to repentance and to a new life of true freedom. Freedom in spite of the brokenness of our world. We can be poor yet rich, broken yet whole, and return good for evil. Why do we expect a politician to do the work of the Holy Spirit? Republican or Democrat if you expect a bunch of men on a hill to accomplish the societal change that can only start with inner revival then you’re out of touch with reality. The Holy Spirit cant just be on Capitol Hill, or in the White House, or written in the law. It must be in the Church. It starts in our homes, on our streets, in our communities, in our hearts.

I suppose I have more questions than answers about this issue he describes prior to asking his point. 

Should we exclusively as churches deal with this issue or should we as Christians vote in candidates who will help steer the government in a direction to take care of people on a mass scale? Which does the most good? Can that even be quantified? I don’t know what the “most good” can even look like in a social climate prone to corruption and destruction. 

In our broken state, and even with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t the same kind of broken affect the Church as well? Wouldn’t that also mean that there is a possibility for corruptibility and if so would it do more harm in the sight of the world and “cause our brothers and sisters to stumble” if the Church to have a slip up? Would that be effective to the cause? Is such a slip up inevitable? Look at the issues of the Catholic Church and all those molestation accusations they had. How many people ran in shame and disappointment then? In counterpoint, those who stayed in the Church, how many forgave the kind of people who committed such atrocities? How does all that reflect on the record? 

In addition, would we run into the problem of the Church being a commodity instead of a spiritual and communal relationship? How does that affect the cause? 

How much has present government influence tied the Church’s hands? 
It’s such a big hot topic issue with so many scenarios and a lot of factors. None of which I think have a definitive or even correct answer. I still wonder if perhaps our fear of these questions and their potential results is what stops the Church from living up to its full potential. 
1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 
We have forgotten this. We have forgotten that throwing money at people and actually loving them are two different things. Can we even come back from going so far? Has the revival halted? As Christians, what is stopping us from using the full power of the Holy Spirit? 

People Suck

Why can’t people just be happy for her?

It was her third marriage. People kept reminding her and anyone else who would listen to their mouth flap. Yes, it was her third, not that the number counted toward or against anything, though for them it did. They used it as a quantifier in which to judge her, instead of as a fact. Yes, she had been married three times before. They didn’t want to know the rest of the story, only that at one point, she had two other husbands. 

The first one died tragically of cancer. It was painful for her. He was older, and of course they judged her on that too. Even then, they didn’t care that she was stable, happy, and loved. Only that he was so much older than she was. When he died she was alone in the loneliest of ways. Three children who could barely understand where their father had gone. People pretended to mourn with her, but they didn’t really care. They judged. As they always do. Thus, she pulled away as she always did when she sensed toxicity and resentment.

She tried to love again, but the toxicity of others brought someone into her life that was fueled by their toxicity. It turned him against her. He manipulated her, threatened her, convinced her to marry him or else he would say, but the else would change. He’d find her, he’d hurt her, he’d hurt the kids, he’d hurt himself. He was desperate, and it made her desperate. So she married him to protect herself and her children, besides she could handle it she thought, and of course they judged her for that too. For trying to love. For letting his threats get to her. For ultimately marring someone else betraying her first marriage like her late husband was still alive. 

Nothing she did was good enough for them, and as the poison of their presence in her life seeped in, she began to believe that she would never be good enough ever. They all would find reason to talk. 

After having enough, and deciding to ask for her worth and being refused, she left him. They judged her once again, but this time for leaving. She decided not to listen to it. She took her children and moved away. Started going to church. Started learning to love herself again. Her children felt more free to be creative. She felt more free to be creative. Finally, she was ready to love again, and she did. They got married and are happier than ever! Of course they judged her again. They still do. But this time she shut the door on their words and made a home of love and safety for her family. They live happily and functionally. She finally feels that kind of safety and love she once had felt. Yet, they still judge. Out of ignorance. Out of malice. Out of loving to hear their own voices. They say the children must be emotionally torn apart, as if she had never spoken to them or gotten their input about it prior. Like she was being selfish. Like she hadn’t sat on my couch for several hours pouring out her soul about how the kids would feel and if they would let her get married again. Because she needed their permission. Not that those who judged her knew, and not that they cared. They just wanted to pretend to have empathy. 

I was so angry to hear how many people so openly talked about her in front of me. So willingly thought that I’d agree with them. So openly shamed her. So I spoke up, knowing that I too Would be judged, merely asking if they knew all these accusations for certain. Asking if they were living her life for her and felt as if they could come along and have a say in it. Asking if they enjoyed talking about her more than talking to her. So they stopped speaking to me. 

Neither she nor I have felt loss at their absence. 

I’m just getting so sick and tired of ignorant people talking about things they know nothing about. Especially when it has nothing to do with their lives. She’s not a relative. Her life has zero impact on theirs. Why open your mouth at all? LET HER LIVE HER FREAKING LIFE WITHOUT BEING AN OBJECT OF YOUR JUDGMENT! But, of course, we all judge. It’s our nature to want to. To gauge our lives against the lives of others and assure ourselves that we are doing the right thing. As if there is even a definition for that. I do it too. I catch myself being that person all the time, and realizing that I’ve got my own problems too. People ignore the fact that life is messy because people are messy, and a mess is a mess no matter how big or small it seems to be. 

If it isn’t your mess, just don’t worry about it. 

Linear 

Every one says

Push forward

Keep going

Don’t look back

That’s not where you’re headed

As if life is linear

They never tell you

That sometimes

You just end up

Working backwards

Or looping back

Or you bring that past

To the future

And make a

Complete circle 

They never tell you that

They lead you to believe

It’s all linear

Finally…

After several months of waiting and waiting, I had thought the ship had sailed. I was convinced and disappointed. It was a great position. Only five minutes from my house. What are the odds of that? Finding a corporate graphic design job only five minutes from my house in a tiny lakeside town very few people in the world had heard of? I thought it was impossible. Still, I waited. Nothing. I waited longer. Nothing. I e-mailed asking how things were going. I got a generic response of noncommittal and affirmation that they were still interviewing. I waited more.

Eventually my wedding came and went. Still nothing. I had given them the dates I would be “away” on my honeymoon, so part of me still hoped that  they were considering me and not counting me out. Still, there was that other part of me whispering that it wouldn’t happen. Not to me. It was too big of a step. Too much for me. There were so many other talents and people asking for less from them financially. Every doubt encircled my heart, and I became discouraged. Still, I was tired from looking for other jobs. I stopped looking. Kept going to work at retail, praying hard that God would open a door somewhere.

“We need another hand in the gift shop, and obviously we thought of you right away. It’d only be short hour, but it would give you a better financial situation.”

I was flattered that the Director of the museum wanted me to switch from volunteer to paid associate. I wanted to say yes, but he inquired about the interviews I had for the design position. I told him honestly that I hadn’t heard anything back, but I wasn’t sure what to expect really.

“There is a part of me that says I ought to wait on this.”

He nodded knowingly. Kindred spirit to my own.

“We can play it by ear, but by saying this, I have a feeling that I’m going to lose you to them. You’re talented and very special.”

I was so encouraged. A fellow designer, professional, and creative twice my senior thought I had what it took. I held on a little while longer to that little glimmer of hope. There was also a bit of relief knowing that even if I didn’t get the design job, money was going to come from somewhere. I wasn’t being left out here, trapped in a position in retail that wasn’t doing anything for me. I had options that would be supplemental, fulfilling, and use my expertise. I thanked God for listening to me, even if it was for a moment.

“Have you heard back from them babe?” My husband asked the evening he came home from his first day at his new job.

“No. The ship has sailed I think. It’s been nearly a month since I last heard anything.”

“You never know though.”

“I do know.”

I didn’t know.

That same evening my iPad told me I had an e-mail notification. It was them.

I got the job.