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. 

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? 

To Be American

I was recently remenicing about some past travels abroad and thinking a great deal about the election (as has everyone of course, since it’s practically being force fed to us by every media outlet). I recalled when I was in London, England for a short time. It was for nine days with my aunt, who had once lived there and wanted to share the experience with me. I soaked in everything I could. Shocked by the amount of culture shock I experienced in such a short time. Missing the bits of my heart that I had left scattered in every museum, taxi, and resturant and the little bits I had placed into the hands of those I had met so breifly, but wanted to keep close to me forever. 

In my short travel aboard I realized that there are a great deal of stereotypes about Americans. I had spent an evening at the bar of my hotel while my aunt rested and during that time I had realized (since the bartender had been kind to point it out) I was being made fun of by some French girls for wearing jeans in a five star hotel. I thought nothing of it. Mostly because I grew up in little rural USA where jeans were kind of a go-to attire for everywhere…including the bar. 

“Typical American.” They had uttered. 

I didn’t speak in response, mostly because I didn’t care that much. I was comfortable and it was nearly 11pm. They were lucky I hadn’t come out in PJs. Still, it makes me wonder what it means to be a “typical American.” What does that even mean? Is there really anyone who is actually “typical” and with what an odd personality I am, I can’t say that I’d even come close to being identified as “typical” by any stretch or corruption of the word. 

As I just came off spending a weekend at the Wayzgoose with others I realized the diversity of the nation I live in. It’s not usual for small town Wisconsin to have so many minorities and accents around, much less the combination of accent from citizens and international visitors alike. Still, the words “typical American” whispered in my ear with inquiry when I realized how many visitors were in fact foreign, and I wondered, out of curiosity, what they would define someone who is “typical American.” 

In my mind I envision an average Joe white male in his mid fifties. Probably a farmer or factory worker. Tired. A little gruff, but well meaningly so, and probably a little ignorant. Dissatisfied with the “way things are going” as technology and modernization replace some of his usual daily processes. Set in his ways. Loud and proud even when wrong. Stubborn. A little outdated in much of his thinking, and certainly a little prejudice. 

I don’t think of myself as “typical American.” I like to read. Think deeply about the things that surround my life. I like to expand my world and thinking. I befriend people who think in complete opposition to myself. I hate TV. I spend a lot of time researching random questions I ask myself. I suppose I google things a lot, but most of the world does that now too. I make art. I like steampunk stuff. I letterpress print every Thursday and often do freelance graphic design in my spare time. I go to church. I realize I’m ignorant, but I rely on feedback to help me better myself and the world I live in. I own a home. I have a job that sucks sometimes and doesn’t suck others. It pays bills. Perhaps that’s the typical part? But the rest of the world must be full of jobs that suck and bring dissatisfying results too? So what makes a “typical American” in a world that seems to have some pretty “typical” issues like poverty, health issues, personal issues and so on? What made my nationality so “typical” in the first place? 

I have no answer, other than my usual workdview that has lead me to believe that with all our differences, there is a great deal within humanity that makes us very much the same. Consistently inconsistent. Perfectly imperfect. A combination of redundancies and paradoxes. Constantly contradicting ourselves and repeating our mistakes in a bumbling whirlwind of emotions. Like lines on a page telling a story that would have too many bits and pieces, but still being conducted in words, and somehow still managing to be a story. 

Miracle Whip

I think what’s strange about moving into a home is going through all the things someone else has left behind. This evening I found myself with a fist full of recipes. All hand written. Some in cursive. Some in a sloppy but legible print. Some detailed and others not so much. Several recipes were repeats. I wondered to myself who this Vern was and how did Vern get so good at making this candy? And why were there six copies of it all hand written in this pile. As I pawed through them I read the titles of the end results. “Refrigerator Pickles” was one I was familiar with. “Potato Chip Cookies” sounded odd, but I was feeling adventurous and decided to hang onto that one. “Lemon Basil Chicken” was another, and it sounded so strange when I read the ingredients, I decided I had to taste it. 
Considering that I had no food in my new home yet, I decided it was best I went grocery shopping. It has been such a long time since I cooked something I had almost forgotten what it was like. Then again, in my apartment, I couldn’t use my oven because it smoked so badly I couldn’t cook anything without setting off the smoke alarm. I cleaned the thing six times too. Never got better. 
Things were different now though. I had an oven now, and from what I could tell, it was hardly used or really really well cleaned. So I went grocery shopping and picked up some groceries. Way too much money later (because I made the mistake of going to the grocery store while hungry), I was sitting in my vintage 1970s throwback kitchen (with a back splash so bad it was almost too good to get rid of). 
1 cup Miracle Whip

2 table spoons of Lemon Juice

1 tea spoon of dried basil

3 pounds of boneless chicken breasts
Combine to make dressing and pour over chicken and cook at 375 degrees for 45 min. 
It sounded so odd. I hadn’t made a sauce like this out of Miracle Whip. Then again, it wasn’t too far off from using a “cream of…” soup over chicken. I hadn’t ever thought of doing that same kind of thing with Miracle Whip and I was super curious as to how good it would be. So of course I made it, but added French Onions on top as an added flavor.
It was really good. 
I’ve decided to try out more of these recipes that were left behind. I’m super curious about these “Potato Chip Cookies” and the note of “(fair)” put at the bottom of the page in a different script than the rest. I mean they sound so bizarre that I think I’ll probably love them. Because who doesn’t love cookies and potato chips separately right? Why not kill two birds with one stone? 
The things some people leave behind.

I am a White Girl, and I Don’t like Pumpkin Spice.¬†

I’m not a fan of Pumpkin Spice stuff. There. I said it. I am a very typical white girl, and I do not like Pumpkin Spice stuff. Of course I still follow some of the stereotype. I’m a big fan … Continue reading