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. 

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? 

Mourn and Hope

I’m afraid to tell you the name of the Facebook group. Mainly because I’m pretty sure it isn’t legal to do his sort of thing. Passing off prescriptions in every case is illegal…at least I’m pretty sure. However, there I was, looking at the screen. Reading all the posts of desperation, the outcry for this kind of insulin, that kind of insulin pump attachment set, the horror stories of painful arguments with insurances and pharmacies that would end in moot meaningless apologies. The whole time wondering who added me to this Facebook group. 

 The group was of others who were diabetics from all across the country, asking others to share the excess diabetic supplies with people who were either struggling to get some because of switching insurances, having no insurance from loss of jobs, or being unable to afford even the “affordable” healthcare. My heart ached as people would post their plights. One woman was struggling to get her insurances to switch over and her son had been without insulin for nearly a month. She had syringes they could reuse, but they just couldn’t get the insulin. Even the Pharmacy was trying to help her fight for it, desperate on her behalf. She was pleading with anyone who would help her get her hands on some for her eight-year-old. Thankfully others came to her aid in the comments, but my heart just shattered into a thousand tiny pieces. It struck me. It struck me so hard. Like my heart had been in a bloody bar fight and came out the loser….barely alive. There were so many stories like hers. 

At any moment I could be in their place. 

As some of you who are my “veteran readers” (congrats you’ve been titled)  know, I am a Type One Diabetic. I was diagnosed at age eight. Being diabetic has been hard on my prideful and at times, depressed soul. Okay, I’m whiny and I know it. Let’s call it like it is. But, diabetes is a very serious and expensive condition. In my time as a diabetic, I’ve been very fortunate to have wealthy family and friends who have been there to assist me generously when I was in a bind. I’ve had good insurance for a very long time and have been fortunate to never be in want of diabetic supplies. Though, when a person added me to this group (to be honest I didn’t know the person who started it, nor did I know the person who added me, so I haven’t the slightest how I came to be added to it at all) I became so much more aware of the plight of other diabetics in the world. 

It humbled me. Considerably. 

I was once an eight-year-old very aware of my mortality, and absolutely terrified to die young. I could only imagine what it felt like for that little boy, knowing he needed his meds to live, and knowing he was off of them for far too long. I could empathize with parents trying to make low carb meals (that were filling for a growing child) on a shoe string budget and walking on eggshells with food and diet to keep blood sugars from getting worse. I could imagine the feeling of those high blood sugars that boy would feel. The joint stiffness and aching, the difficulty processing information (especially in school). Trying to function like a child should, while working with what felt like half a mind, body, and chronic exhaustion caused by high blood sugars? The worst. Feeling dumb for not understanding the assignment. Feeling weak because muscle fatigue made your arms feel so much like noodles you could hardly hold a pencil. Feeling like your eyes should just close and sleep it all off, but being afraid you wouldn’t wake up if you did. Then there was the long term fear that ever doctor makes very clear when you’re first diagnosed:  the fear of organ failure. 

My words are so limited to explain all of it. You would have to have lived it to know it. 

None of this probably resonates with you. Most of you will probably skip over this and never read it. Even if you do, you’ll go about your lives forgetting this exists. Why? Because even if you do read it, you’ll be just like I am now. Sittings on here, writing a blog post or voicing an experience to social media, without knowing what you can do. I’m with you there. It resonates with me because it hits close to home, but I know there is little I can do. I’m not wealthy, just a combination of lucky and blessed. I’m just out here trying to make my own life work. Even if I could throw money at the problem, what good would it do? There are so many out there that need it and aren’t going to be as lucky or blessed as I was. 

So I mourn.

I mourn at how limited I am. I mourn at my own situation and the fear I feel. I mourn because I, and so many others, are so weak physically and financially and handouts can only go so far. I mourn because so many will die tonight because of a disease we talk so much about, and still know so little about. I mourn, because mourning does nothing to fix it. I am helpless, and I am no less that fearful eight-year-old all over again. I mourn, because I can relive the questions, the fear of not waking up in the morning, the feelings I feel both physically and emotionally when there was something wrong in my body and nothing I could do would stop it. I know that story. I lived it. I cannot unlive it, and I am helpless to save anyone else from it. 

So I mourn, and I hope. For what? I’m not sure. Just something better that I don’t have words for. 

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