About three weeks ago, a friend recommended a book entitled: The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron. The timing was right. It's a twelve-week guide through gentle, thought-provoking creative exercises that promised to help even the most cynical to identify and remove their creative blocks.
Sometimes creative blocks can feel more like steel reinforced walls that were organic-like and useful at first, especially for anybody whose spent a great deal of time in a smaller house with a big family. Survival throughout the developmental years depended on one's ability to erect a solid fort when needed.
It was hard to listen when adults comforted my parents for birthing a large family when they hadn't even complained. And it started the same way. They'd look at our brood, then look at my parents and pout. They wouldn't say, What a lovely family! More like, Uggh! You have your hands full! So we stood there, awkward, like hemorrhoids. Sometimes people drove beside our station wagon at a traffic light. The wife rolled down the window and the husband leaned over and shouted: "Geesh, are those all your children?"
Dad never told the truth, like, "Except for the three at home." He just said yes. The husband always grimaced and looked at his wife, like, Wow, I thought my life sucked. And the woman looked at Mom and said something like, "Dear gawd! I don't know how you do it, because -- well, never mind."
It was easy to finish that thought.
This treatment had a dismal effect, especially when we weren't allowed to act like wild Indians at functions and instead had to sit still and watch the adults drool over our more popular cousins, while they showcased their various talents. Okay, so we didn't command any spotlights. Nothing a little pepper shot through a straw couldn't fix. Pain was always a valid distraction from what was terribly obvious. Nobody clamoured to see us showcase our talents or cared to see us yank the tablecloth from beneath the table setting, throw chairs the length of the dance floor... sing like drunk toads at a karaoke bar.
Perhaps it's the circles I travel in lately, or maybe because it's Lent, or maybe it's coming from the book I'm reading about removal of creative blocks, but there's been a lot of use of the word surrender. It conjures the image of the wicked witch writing the words "Surrender Dorothy" with her broomstick in the sky in the Wizard of Oz. Surrender, surrender, surrender. What a horrible word, I think. I pulled it up on my phone last time somebody said it, just to be sure I knew what it meant. Maybe I was wrong... Nope. Surrender as defined on dictionary.com confirmed the imagery. It described defeat... giving up the fort. And to take it one step further: it sounded like victimization.
When you hold onto whatever control you can (for good reasons, of course), it's amazing how much you still lose. Mom became ill just around the time word spread that if you had faith in God, a person could name their miracle, as in, name it and claim it. It works like this: Mom was healed. Period. Only she wasn't. And while I saw her condition worsen, I thought maybe my faith wasn't strong enough, or somebody else's was weak. And deep in the recess of my mind I feared that maybe the brood of wild Indians didn't deserve somebody as good as Mom.
There was no chance for an honest discussion, preparation or understanding about how Mom felt or how she wanted it. And we sure as heck didn't know how to handle it as a family. How could we when nobody spoke about what we saw? And because we denied it, we never said anything that resembled goodbye.
That was one of the uncomfortable realities. It was the prayer that was expected to work, but it didn't go the way we planned. So the pain and disappointment was placed on the proverbial shelf, never to be looked at again. Until now that the word surrender appears.
And as I think about that word, at least it's not name it and claim it. I suppose. It's surrender to the Creator of the Universe, the master of humankind, His Excellency The Artist...