Persevere and “Keep Me Playing”
“Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes artists hit walls, real ones, like those life-altering physical ailments that take up space and keep us from our art, and from doing other things we love. It’s real, we’re dealing with the aftermath of illness or injury, while the process of creating moves to second place, third place, or is forever left in the closet. Yet, if we will our art to re-emerge and take some form, it can re-energize us offering an outside-the-box perspective and the joy of connection again. Persevering may help us find that spark again, and asking ourselves, “How can I keep me playing? What can I do to get rolling again in spite of the aches and pains that are part of what I now call me?”
Dr. Chuck Maranzano, a musician who plays the saxophone, clarinet and flute in several bands, may have some life lessons for us. While his tunes sooths others, he says his own life was saved by keeping playing. Dr. Maranzano suffers from arthritis in his fingers, shoulders and knees, but he says playing music keeps him going. He described how his passion helped him overcome the discomfort: “You blow through the pain. Music is my life. It just takes me to a special place. There’s nothing like it.”
Not all of us can continue doing our art in the same way because of changes in our bodies or the inability to persevere like we used to. But many of us can stay creative, if we are willing to modify, change the routines, or dig deeper. Take, for example, my young friend, Jeremy, who experienced a traumatic brain injury in high school. An accomplished visual artist, Jeremy’s paintings were in the category of pop art, detailed and contemporary in style. After the injury, he continued painting, his palette changed to dark colors—bloods and blacks—and his style became more abstract and fluid. Jeremy persevered and successfully completed a MFA in Art. Today he’s living his dream. When asked what motivated him to keep going, Jeremy said, “I knew I had to persevere and pick up my paintbrushes again. Painting is what saved me.”
Lauren Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit, a New York Times bestselling book about one of the greatest horse races in history, became bedridden with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. During an interview, Hillenbrand said she experienced severe exhaustion, “I have gotten so bad I couldn’t feed myself and a couple of times I needed someone to spoon feed me.” She said researching for the book and forcing herself to write regularly helped her get better, and fed her emotionally and spiritually.
Our bodies talk to us and we have to listen. Physical changes and challenges can’t be ignored. And yes, our creativity and ability to do art can be affected. But pursuing a passion may be the light and lift we need. We can’t change what is happening to us, but we can bring into our life that which enlivens and fulfills. Art makes that difference. Keeping on playing gives us moments in life we didn’t know we had. – Becky
Exercise for Living Creatively:
- Are you experiencing a physical challenge or, perhaps, just a dampened enthusiasm for following your passions?
- What to do? Kindle a fire for your art. And be kind to yourself.
- Start small. Don’t set big goals. Remind yourself everything doesn’t need to be perfect.
- Find the fun in your creating again. In your mind, finish the following sentence: “I___________ because it makes me feel _________________.”
- Or, discover or re-discover an art or craft form you haven’t done for a while. What are other ways you like to be creative?
- Meet a friend who enjoys the same passions as you. Talk to him about what he’s working on. Is it something you’d be interested in?
- Set the timer for fifteen minutes and get busy with your hands. When the bell rings, decide if it’s something you want to continue.
- Today may be a struggle. Tomorrow as my mother always said is another day.Keep your spirits up. The day brightens as we see more opportunities.