We all know time is an illusion. But when the stark reality of passing time suddenly kicks down your door becoming front and center stage, it can give you a rough wake-up call. Instantly time has caught up with us, and all things at once hold a new distinct meaning.
It all began two weeks ago when after painting an estimated 120 kids at a weekend festival, my body ached miserably. I used to be able to do a lot of these gigs when I was in decent shape. Before I became “healthy” and started exercising 3-4 times a week inviting into my life my hamstring pull, my bicep strain, my tendonitis, my hernia operation. Working out had become dangerous. It seemed being sedentary was a healthier state for me these days. So, when the perfect thing happened without my even assisting it in any way, with no forewarning I get adhesive capsulitis, or “frozen shoulder.” Who knew I could be so lucky? So I sit with my bum shoulder on ice for days in reverie, finally having a chance to give myself the excuse to relax.
The recup’s been fun as hell–lounging around in my PJs all day and scrolling on YouTube and Pinterest in between feeble attempts at working on my writing. An article catches my eye about an adolescent crush I had on this rock and roll musician. He had disappeared for decades, then suddenly pops up on the scene 20 years later just a few months ago and gives a surprise guest performance only to disappear into his seclusion again, (for how long no one knows), which ultimately, is what I find so endearing. I get inspired, actually pumped, and while I’m excitedly exploring all his old concert footage, some kind of unbelievable breakthrough is occurring. What it all means is still obscure to me, but nonetheless, it sets my heart on fire, softening my hardened arteries and massaging the flow of blood throughout my entire stiff body, which unbeknownst to me had coagulated into a thick sludge over the years.
While I watch this incredible passion drip out of this rock and roller whose talent I admired more than any other talent I have known to date, what I see, (beyond the sexiness of it all), is God’s gift, (I mean a real gift, not that corporately manufactured kind that “artists” of today wear with pride). And I sit there and cannot believe the pure beauty of God’s magnificence. How it shines boldly and brightly through him and how gorgeous it can really be.
Memories flood my mind. This band ruled during the era when rock and roll was real. When musicians recorded together in the studio in real time playing their demos repeatedly on rolling tape until they had the take just right. When vinyl albums were on scheduled release in record stores, and a new release meant a new tour. When you and your friends in order to get tickets were willing to stand on line for hours starting at the break of dawn. All the songs were written by the musicians themselves, and not only the radio hits were on those albums, but the whole LP had tracks that were great. These were innocent days in my life before my break, before my sadness, before my visions, before the knowledge that I disdained gaining as it weighed heavy on my heart.
To sit in my skin from yesteryear was heaven, indeed. See, I wasn’t like most people who had the fortune of keeping their memories of youth intact. No, I had my identity stripped away from me, and with it flew my memories. I didn’t know who that young girl was from 30 years ago, but through reliving this fascination with this musician, I return there and I see her; and I remember how she once felt inside. I like her a lot, and I want to get to know her again.
Forget about Gestalt therapy, I got down and dirty—listening on and on to the music, sinking into the gulf of sentimental sorrow with no shower, barely eating, lying around in sadness and regret and remorse, with longing for days gone by—and then breaking myself out of it before dinner. Which because of my otherwise very healthy mental state, I see that I suddenly am able to do rather adeptly. Mastering such an emotional discipline was what I’d been searching for my whole life. It certainly wasn’t developed through any psychiatric help or cognitive reprogramming, but rather through applied effort and directed intention over time. I had not even realized how skillful I actually was at this; I hadn’t practiced it in years.
I remember how this young girl would listen to these albums cranked as high as her ears could stand it through massive headphones while sobbing intensely in response to this amazing voice. It was during these heartfelt listening sessions when my soul traveled so deeply that I wanted to explode, when I wanted to be something more, and perhaps find my own God-given talents to express. It was in these private moments when lying on my purple carpet in my room with lights shut and door locked that I would go on a journey to visit that land of melancholy colored in both blue and golden tones, and to later return with good answers and renewed excitement for living and feeling. I was becoming an emotional artist and embracing it. I forgot what it was to access this space. I hadn’t even noticed, but I had long stopped treading in the flowing waters of emotionality.
Although who I was no longer exists, the woman I’ve become grew out of that vanished personality. Sadly I realize that I never fully integrated my spirit of yesterday into my womanhood of today, and the pierce of this wounds me. I had forgotten how wonderful that life energy was because the memories of my past were erased. And for the last 20 years instead of making any effort towards remembering who I used to be before India, I worked on forgetting about her.
During these few weeks of manageable melancholia, I wade in this pool of sentimentality and sense how fantastic the solitary emotional quarantine feels. I had pushed that kind of maudlin and reclusive behavior away for years, as if that authentic and burning tug of heart was non-essential to the life experience, or to a functional one, at least. Since these behaviors are directly linked to how an artist accesses her feelings so that she can create more authentically, I lost a great deal more than my memories when I was told that the same traits that made me creative were not only ill-fitting to a normal human being, but pathologically symptomatic of mental illness.
Hear ye, hear ye, to mental health! Meditate and be clear-headed. Don’t think or feel too much, and hold a good routine. In the face of stress, anxiety and grief, these are valid goals, to be sure. But the guts of life have been sanitized and scoured away with abrasive steel wool. We have tried to reinterpret natural human emotions by calling them negative, detrimental, unimportant—we are bastardizing the emotional landscape of the heart as quickly as we are convincing everyone that technology is our dearest and best friend.
After the fall, having been broken down by the psychiatric system and deconstructed in my therapy, the “good doctors” convinced me that I had an unfortunate hand in life, that I had flawed genes, a defect, that I had a disorder that was a mental sickness, a genetic anomaly. My “ill” behaviors were identified with emotional states of mind, (since they classify bipolar illness with emotional swinging moods). And although I have it in my DNA to explode into expressing myself in an emotional manner, I began to systematically erase the relevance of these traits in my life, and thus, the beautiful memories contained therein. I became fearful of my own deeply emotional characteristics and was taught for 20 years to suppress any such profound, ecstatic states.
Now, the passage of time has brought me here, abruptly and without warning. My current tearful state is something that most assuredly would convince every one of my family members, (including my husband and some of my long-time friends who insist on “worrying about me” more than taking care of their own baggage), that I am not doing so well. But I’ve never been better. So as I keep this weepiness of mine a secret for the last two weeks, (going on three), I continue to relish every second of it. And as I pray about this confusing stage I find myself in, the clarity I receive is soothing and filled with grace. It’s just the beginning of my coming home to my natural state in mind and heart. If I should so wish, the chance of returning to the pleasure of being a purely emotional creative can be brought back into my life once again, if only I can find the courage within to grab it.
I am inspired and I’m writing non-stop, and when I’m not writing non-stop, I am weepy again. Ah, the circle of deep, emotionally raw creativity: become the dreamer in your imagination, enter the blues if necessary, create, feel that elation, then return to the role of the dreamer to further create…and thus the loop of inspiration continues on and on. This stimulating merry-go-round I’ve been afraid to ride on for years out of paralyzing fear. Now, I gain courage. Even though I have successfully avoided this process, I move forward enthusiastically and delve into a more extensive emotional catalog of pain and joy.
I am learning more about my once-idolized performer. I listen to recent interviews that he rarely gives. His speaking voice sounds like his singing voice, and how beautiful and sweet-sounding it is. Suddenly, I feel as though I am sitting in a college classroom; I’m aware that I’m learning new things through the story of this true artist’s process as he proceeds to share how he worked, how he wrote songs, how they entered his head, how he fiddled with them, how he dealt with his own perfectionism, how he still continues to do so. As I learn more about him and his creative process, I am learning about myself. I am learning about the way of the artist, the blues and joys of it, and knowing that someone else feels this in his own creative process deeply moves me. Could I reach those heights, not necessarily through material success, but in a personal artistic satisfaction if I embraced the process with more honest emotion and earnestness?
Although I’ve entered periods of inspiration before, when it felt easy to write, to paint, to access clarity, it often showed up during times of hardship, of disillusionment, of anger. Afterwards when trying to figure it all out through an expressive creative outlet, I exercised interpretive reasoning far more than allowing my emotions to lead the way. Trying to make sense of those negative states required changing my thoughts to positive ones, which took practice in cognitive therapy. But this time, it was different. This time, my renewed inspiration was flowing from the fountain of admiration for my muse, through heart-filled appreciation, and through the blue melancholy of nostalgia; a type of feeling I have buried so far beneath the surface that I no longer identified it as a real emotion.
In keeping that manic emotional flow constantly in check, I became less real, as if I lived in my own mind but without an emotional body. Yet, in not being afraid to explore depth by listening to my muse, I am rediscovering the part of me that holds passion within. In my sanctioning time to revel and wallow and feel deeply and talk to myself, without my own judgment of my small fits of brilliant madness, things are becoming a lot more authentic. I remember who this person is again, who I lost long ago in giving in to others’ ideas about what my mind’s health should look like, which often nullified the importance of creativity.
Arc of the Blues
For all the joy this musician brought to my heart, and millions of others, I later learn that for many years he shut down creatively due to paralyzing emotional pain. It seems that this rocker who was once on top of the world, and who is now turning human before my eyes, suffered on and off depression for the last two decades, the same time frame when I also suppressed deep feelings and often lived in an emotional vacuum. Surreal, but true. And astoundingly poetic. The reality that so much time has passed stings. And it hits me with double the potency because the icon who I once adored seemingly misplaced the same 20 years himself.
When studying literature we have an objective displacement as the reader. We are comfortably able to witness the arc of a character’s life, identifying the thematic threads the author wishes us to follow. We learn the lessons from a safe distance, and witness how the character suffers under his Aristotelian tragic flaw. But in my idol’s case, the author of his life was our Maker. And what a lovely work of art the story of his life has become, exhibiting such romantic relevance. There can be no song written more harmonious than one that God creates for us. What a gift it is to witness all at once the progression of the life of a person who once moved us so deeply. We felt such a missing hole in the music scene from his absence, and yet, what lyrical verse resulted because this man followed his heart and his inner calling into success. And how great it is to see in Act II when our hero follows his heart again, pulling himself away from his glory, taking action not from reason but once more from his heart. He is the man in his own songwriting that falls and then reclaims his soul, and in the end, saves himself from the very dream he most wanted at the start of his journey. It defies analysis and explanation, and although the Greek chorus cannot accept such motivation by the lead character, they certainly are not owed an apology for actions that are personal and sanctified.
Through these realizations about this person, I also learn about patience, about letting go, about loving my individual soul and all the pain I’ve been enriched by, about not feeling afraid to feel that pain and be human, about not being scared of losing my mental balance by revisiting past feelings. Through it all, as I grow in empathy for this lustrous star of my youth, I am accessing empathy for myself.
I realize how the emotional heartland is the shared connection we all have with each other regardless of the things that separate us in a materialistic worldview, like status, prestige, and money. These areas have nothing to do with the range of the soul’s breadth and personality. And now, unexpectedly, as each stage of this emotional opera appears to reveal itself scene by scene, act by act, I find myself mourning. I mourn for him, I mourn for me. I mourn for all people who lose themselves along the way. And I mourn for the passage of time. For time lost and time poorly spent. We are victims of time, but it is a beautiful thing when its grace shows up through something poetic in our lives, something meaningful showing the elegant symbolism of it all.
Hold Onto That Feeling
See, I once had the emotional approach to life all figured out, trusting it like nothing else, knowing I was right to deliver myself over to its power across the altar. Truly, it’s what led me to India to begin with. But as time moved away from my grasp, so did all my conviction.
What I have been blessed to see during this upheaval of emotions, is that the passage of time allows us to view God’s plan in a wider spectrum for our lives. In my case, in understanding a sketch from a page in the book of this rocker’s life drama—like a character in a movie, thanks to the internet– through his story, I see myself. And as I see God’s plan in his life, I see it in mine as well. And I now know the pain is not without gain. For both of us.
Because as I see him jumping back into the world with poise stepping comfortably out of his cavern, on his own terms to be sure, there is a perfect timing that has washed ashore onto my own sandy beach. Prior to this experience, I was in a serious writer’s block, in which being honest and emotionally relevant was at a loss for me; yet, here I am writing again, inspired like never before, beyond the intellect, slipping back into my own sensitive skin and passionate heart, gently led there by the Holy Spirit. A wrinkle in time has been ironed out. My inner time clock has restored its original, natural meter after all these years. I seem to be within the same unhurried biorhythm again like others around me who have followed their own rhythm all along, who lived for the last few decades without fear of judgment. My lost decades.
I feel as though I have caught up. In some strange and synchronistic way, now the lens of who I am focuses and I can see myself and my talents and purpose so much more easily, with HD clarity. I see that the youthful, budding and aching passion I once possessed was a deep, sacred space that God never meant to take away from me, for in an unexpected way he is granting it back, years and years later, during a time when I can finally be ever so grateful.