Christ, faith

Seeing

I want to be young forever, I think. I’m celebrating my twenty-fourth birthday. I’m having knee pain after sitting cross-legged for too long. I want to be young forever. 

I think about death. I think about life. I want to be content, I think. I am scrubbing grease from already-washed tupperware. I am running into the branch of a Crepe Myrtle tree and fishing the white blossoms out of my hair.

Scripture opens up for me. It closes. I am watching YouTube instead of praying. I want to be more devout. 

I check off my daily boxes. 1 Kings 4. Psalm 114. Ephesians 5. I want to know this book. 

My mind won’t stop when I want it to. There are doubts in my periphery. I want to believe. 

There are sermons in my podcasts app and the playlist of church music I’ve started on Spotify titled “Glory” is filling up. I want to be new. 

***

There is this scene in the Bible, in the book of John, right after Jesus appears in the story. John the Baptist has been preaching Jesus’ coming.

“Behold! The Lamb of God,” John says, having seen Jesus walk by. Two of John’s disciples immediately follow Jesus, and Jesus, feeling them behind him, turns.

“What are you seeking,” he asks.

They don’t really answer him, asking another question instead.

“Where are you staying?”

Jesus tells them to come, keep following, and they will see.

The next day, Philip–a new follower of Jesus–runs to tell his friend, Nathanael, that he has found the Christ, the one foretold in the books of the law and the prophets. Nathanael, incredulous, asks, “Can anything good come of Nazareth?”

Philip’s response is one I’m interested in. In the previous verses, Jesus is called Lamb of God, Son of God, Rabbi, and Messiah by an assortment of people. Philip could have used any combination of these names to describe, accurately, just what sort of good could come from the insignificant town of Nazareth. Philip chooses none of these in response. Instead, he answers, unknowingly, quite like Jesus himself.

“Come and see.”

Philip, having been with Jesus, must have known that language could do no justice to the goodness of the Christ. So many names, so many characteristics. The writer in me quivers thinking of the hyperbole I could use that wouldn’t actually be hyperbole at all. He could have quoted the law and the prophets he himself mentioned, could’ve drawn word pictures to rival the psalms of David.

But I suppose Philip knew the only way for Nathanael to understand the goodness of the Messiah was for Nathanael to go to Jesus and see for himself. Come and see. 

Nathanael went, and he saw. And he was never the same.

***

I am changing, even now. Every year I am different. My body changes and my hair changes and my tastes change. For the past couple of years, I have changed homes and cities. Last name. Email address. Some of my closest friendships are a little less than two years old. I am meeting new people all the while. Hindu. Taoist. Jewish. I am learning and losing and forgetting and gaining and seeking.

“What do you seek?” Jesus turns to John’s disciples and asks, “What do you seek?”

They do not answer.

I am looking for ways to be better. I am saying “should” too much and not doing enough.

What do you seek? 

Maybe their question was their answer; maybe they only wanted to see where he lived.

I am listening to instrumental tracks and brushing my teeth. I want to create. I am drawing every day for Inktober.

I am in bed reading a book. I am running laps around the pond near the fitness center and the mailboxes. I want to be invigorated. 

Maybe they didn’t answer because they didn’t know what they wanted. Maybe they were seeking too much. Maybe they didn’t know how to say, “We are seeking everything.” 

Come and you will see,” Jesus said. Maybe he meant you will see where I live. Or maybe he meant, you will see everything you don’t know yet that you are looking for. 

I am reading. I am praying. I have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you.”

Jesus says to Nathanael once he has come to him, “You will see greater things than these.”

I think about that now, while I write. While I pray. While I seek, even though I sometimes don’t know how. The Lord asks, “What do you seek?”

My answer to his question? You. Even when I don’t know it. Even when I answer incorrectly.

The Lord–merciful, unchanging, and good–responds.

“Come and you will see.

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Christ, faith

On Declarations, Intentions, and Grace

Most mornings, after I’ve taught a few English lessons online to various Chinese students before sunrise, I sit down with a bowl of oatmeal and thrice-reheated coffee to read Scripture. Those are the mornings I cherish, the mornings that aren’t me hurriedly slipping out of the apartment with a lunchbox and a jacket slung over my shoulder, scalding, microwaved coffee dribbling down my fingers. It’s that glorious break between jobs that sets the tone for how the rest of the day will go. It isn’t so much the break that does it, but how I fill the break. When I read the Bible, my days turn out much differently than when I don’t.

I picked up a Bible reading plan at New Years. I love the organization of it, the way the creators align the text with whatever is happening in real time and throw in a Psalm just for good measure. For example, in the week before Easter, my assigned reading was Luke 22: The Lord’s Supper, Jesus’ betrayal and arrest. It’s a heavy chapter, burdened by the weight of the foretold and quickly approaching crucifixion. I sat down to read that morning, burnt coffee and oats in tow, trying to quiet all the other voices in my head demanding my attention. My eyes got stuck mid-way through.

Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.

In my time as a Christian (which has been nearly all the time I can remember), I’ve heard what must amount to dozens of sermons that cast the disciples as somewhat cartoonish, snoring while Jesus prays alone in the garden. They are a ragtag crew, never getting it right. And Peter! Peter. He’s the worst of them. He was on the mountain with Jesus during the Transfiguration, witnessed miracles, saw mercy after mercy, yet his faith was still so small. He was given to his emotions. Poor, pitiful Peter.

But as I read that morning, a sneaking suspicion crept over me: Peter probably really thought he could do it. When he said, “Lord, I am ready to go with you, both to prison and to death,” maybe he wasn’t just spouting off, willy-nilly. Maybe he was willing himself by word to be able to do what he knew would be very hard. Maybe, in his very real, very human mind, he thought that by declaration he could overcome.

My words–as were Peter’s, as are yours if I’m guessing right–are not capable of wishing things into existence. I don’t mean to say that declarations and words aren’t important. A surface reading of Proverbs 18 tells me that life and death are within the power of one’s tongue, and as someone who reads and writes a lot of them–words, I mean–I have a lot of faith in their ability to reform and inspire. So no, I don’t mean that words are weightless. What I mean is that Peter could not declare himself into staying by Christ’s side during his arrest and trial. As much faith as he may have put in them, his words couldn’t keep him from sin. Neither can mine.

What can keep me from sin is Christ. He seems to keep walking me back to this realization, through quiet mornings in scripture, through conversations with fellow believers. I keep thinking that one day I’ll wake up and completely understand his grace, reject all the ideas I have subconsciously developed about how I can save myself. Instead, the Lord takes me gently by the shoulders and leads me back to the only word that can consistently stand by its declarations. With scarred hands, he opens my eyes (eyes I seem to always believe are already open), and allows me to see who I am and who he is. Sometimes three or four times in a single day this happens. Suddenly, and each time as if it were the first time, I see how powerless even my best intentions are.

I’m thankful for Christ who sees me. Who saved me and intercedes for me. Who has new mercies for me each day.

Now to reheat my coffee.

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Life

And The Two Become One

1 year, 4 months, 2 weeks, 4 days, and, I suppose, a couple of hours now. That’s how long I’ve been married. I don’t keep a running clock in my head. In fact, last week when someone asked me, I estimated a year and a half. Wondering about my accuracy led me to do a truer calculation.

Marriage is one of the boldest things I’ll ever do, I think, though there is a lot of life left in me to live. Bold because what else in this life fuses two people together in the same way? What else makes two people one?

Mitchell sits in the dining room now. Dining room is a generous designation. I mean the small area off the kitchen of our three bedroom apartment, large enough to house a wobbly, wooden table for four; a white dresser-turned-pseudo-pie-safe purchased at a yardsale in Cleveland; the broken bar stool in the corner that holds the inkless printer and a ream of stark white paper; and one Mitchell, dressed in the maroon sweater I bought him for Christmas. His hair is cropped short, face clean-shaven, pale eyes framed by black-rimmed glasses.

“Have you seen my specs,” he would always ask.

What pair is this one? These that loyally stay put on the bridge of his nose while I seem to always be pushing mine back into place? It must be the tenth, at least–ordered quickly to replace the latest pair lost or flushed or cracked. Despite the lack of context this most recent pair has, they have been with Mitchell places I have not. I have his history, at least a few years of it, but these frames have his sight. They’ve seen each backspaced letter on his screen, the flitting scenery past his windshield as he drives to an array of houses each day. Does Mitchell notice the same things I notice when I make the same drives he does? How do things catch his eye? I might never know.

And yet. Despite the natural separation of two people living individually in the world, this–being married–has done something quite incredible to me. When I am with my husband, it almost feels like I am alone. I don’t mean to say that I feel lonely. I only mean that, instead of feeling like I am an actor on stage presenting a costumed–vulnerable, maybe, but still costumed–character to an audience of Others, I feel as though I am in the round, and there is no costume, and the audience knows and has always known me, and I him.

 ***

One year during our dating relationship, Mitchell and I decided to ask for experiential birthday gifts. Mitch’s request was for a home-cooked meal and the Andy Griffith show, so I found myself at his apartment on the fourth of March preparing hamburger steak with buttery, sour cream filled mashed potatoes. He was getting off work later than expected, so dinner would be around 9:30. I wandered around the apartment while I waited for him to arrive. Washing dishes. Setting and resetting the table. It felt old school and domestic in a way I had never experienced. In October, we’d be married, and this apartment would be mine, too.

“If you don’t like something, you don’t have to eat it,” I told him when he finally walked in the door, tired, hungry, and–above all–grateful. He laughed. I was always saying that, he said. He liked everything I made, he said. And I knew that was true. He never asked for anything but was gracious for everything.

We washed our plates side by side before going to sit on the couch to watch Andy, Barney, and Opi in their idyllic black-and-white world. The light of the TV flickered brightly in the dimness of the apartment. Mitchell laughed often, and so did I. It was a perfect evening, as much a gift for me as it was for him.

For my birthday the following month, I asked for a picnic at a park in Chattanooga. In the spirit of flexibility and not asking too much, I didn’t tell Mitchell what food I wanted. So, a month later, when he lugged bowls of guacamole, chicken wings, and key lime pie out of his book bag, I was angry at the lump that swelled in my throat. Didn’t he know that I hated key lime pie? That chicken wings were the least preferable date food? I had imagined crudites and deli sandwiches, the quintessential checkered blanket and actual plates. He had thrown a bed sheet on the ground and the napkins he packed were soaked from where the bottle of juice he’d thrown in his bag with everything else had busted open. I wrestled with myself silently for the few moments it took him to arrange everything on the sheet. I didn’t want to comment on how difficult wings would be to eat without napkins or how everything smelled like grapes and was sticky to the touch. I tried to imagine how hard he’d worked that day, preparing and marinating the chicken, consulting friends for the perfect recipe to season the guacamole just right. I bit my lip, fought the urge to cry each time he apologized, kept saying, “No, it’s okay. It’s okay.”

Or maybe I never actually said it was okay out loud, because all I really remember saying is, “These are your favorite foods.”

I watched his face, how his mouth turned up sadly at the corners in an apologetic sort of smile. My eyes opened, really opened, and–for a moment–I saw us from above. We laughed together, pretending to wipe the corners of our barbecue-laden lips with purple-tinted napkin squares. The image lasted just a second, and then I was back on the ground, not looking Mitch in the eyes, not touching the food he’d made for me. Silently grieving my expectations.

***

Here are things I’ve learned are okay to expect in marriage:

  1. Faithfulness
  2. Regular washing/grooming
  3. Kindness
  4. Communication
  5. Respect
  6. Love

Here are things that aren’t okay to expect in marriage:

  1. ESP

***

Recently, Mitchell planned an evening out for Valentine’s Day. He took me to a restaurant in the city, some place with an ‘anti-inflammatory’ shtick. He ordered lasagna, and I ordered butternut squash pizza. We talked about our days and about our friends and about our childhoods. There was a lot of laughing and smiling over a candle in the middle of the table. We got a late start on the night and missed the second part of the date, which–he revealed later–was going to be a drive-in movie (a cliche I’ve always wanted to run right into). When we missed the movie, we responded with a shrug and caught the newest Lego Movie at a regular theatre in a mall nearby. Mitchell was worn out from a few late nights, so I wasn’t surprised to look over at him while the little square figurines danced around on the screen and see his eyes growing heavy. We turned in early.

Last year for Valentine’s Day, we went to a pizza place in Chattanooga and wound up in some tiny improv theatre that was hosting a jazz night. We’d been wandering around the city and happened into the place. There were several elderly couples dancing a little less gracefully than I imagined they once did. Or maybe that was just me romanticizing things and they had always been terrible dancers.

Regardless, I couldn’t have known that watching them bump and giggle their way through Danke Schoen was exactly what I wanted my Valentine’s Day evening to be, just like I couldn’t have known that watching a sub-par sequel featuring non-humans while my husband snoozed in the seat next to me would be just as wonderful.

***

When I was little, I liked playing with my Barbie dolls alone. Inviting someone else into the mix was always a gamble. There was always the risk they’d try to impose their narrative on me.

“No, you’re supposed to say this.” 

It was easier to play alone. Playing alone meant that I got to craft my own story. I got the house and Barbie’s hot pink VW bug with the daisy in the window and the hard-to-come-by matching outfits. I got to be the love interest and the cool best friend because it was my story and nobody who ever came over to play with my Barbies ever seemed to get that.

And I guess that didn’t really change until Mitch.

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Life

Millie and Monty Mornings

My mornings have risen to a quality I can only call mystical. The ALDI brand coffee in my old mugs is rich, the yellow turmeric in my oatmeal, golden, the once muted cinnamon and allspice, shining bronze. The blueberries I rinse in my palm are bluer than ever, the ivy on the dancing trees outside greener. When I sit to read Scripture, it is enlightening, transformational, alive. Even the gym with its cold, metallic, functional quality has become quite dreamy. Not easy, but much more romantic. A push-up introduces me to my breath for what feels like the first time, and the sweat that follows reminds me that I am alive in this world and that it is a wonderful place.

Yes, things are really looking up around here.

I really shouldn’t do this, this thing where I idealize any and every thing because of singular, seemingly perfect moments. But, this particular morning–having had my mystical oatmeal breakfast and ventured out into the world of dog walking, where the man in the ratty pickup whizzes past me with the salutary index finger in the air, and the peal of laughter from the Asian nanny in the park transcends time and space to materialize in my stomach and leap out of my own mouth–I know I won’t stop it. It’s too good, all of it. Too good.

I want Millie and Monty stretched out on their fixed leashes in front of me forever, keeping the line taut between them and me. Gone is the day just last week when Millie greeted me at 10:00 a.m. by jumping onto my hip and too easily ripping the right pocket of my winter raincoat straight down to the hemline. Seven times seventy, Millie. Vanished is the thought of Monty slipping out of his Gentle Leader harness and making a beeline for the front door, uninhibited. Bygones and the like, right, Monty? Today, this morning, they are the sweetest creatures I’ve ever seen. Their labradoodle fur is fluffy and, unlike their previously sinful hearts, white as snow. They are adventurers, sniffers, leading me curiously through this peculiar spring weather, this oddly sunny February day. There is nothing else in the world except what is in this space right now: once-dead leaves possessed by wind, swing set symphonies performed by neighborhood children, houses with doors wide open, vacuum cleaners ohming inside them.

Twenty minutes pass. My dog walk timer goes off. Time has not stopped for me. No time portal or swirling, hypnotic vacuum appeared inside Monty’s crate. So I pick him up, place him inside, pat Millie on the head, and bid them farewell just in time for the morning to end.

 

 

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Christ, Life

Lord, Deliver Me from Me

How did I do it for four years in high school? (Seven, if I count middle school.)

The careful curating of myself, I mean. It’s exhausting. Sometimes I’ll be tagged in a photo on Facebook from that era–me in Steak ‘n Shake with friends, me in the middle of a dance number with show choir, me dressed in red and black for homecoming week–and it all comes back to me, the tired thinking: was I a little too loud? Are they laughing at my teeth? I was too painfully quiet, probably. I shouldn’t have tucked my shirt. Is there something on my pants? Gosh, I talk too much. Why are they whispering? They’re talking about me. I should like this band. Just be yourself. Just be yourself. Should I read less? I’ll bet he would like me if my teeth were fixed. Stop it, be yourself. Be her. Be cool. Care less. How should I respond? I’m so fat. Too fat for skinny jeans? No. Yes. They’d notice if I wore Converse. What if he doesn’t text back? I don’t care. I’ll eat the burger and leave the fries. No, I’ll only eat the fries. See my new Converse? I’m just like you, now. 

And it didn’t stop in high school; it just changed a little for college. I should read poetry. Maybe I won’t respond to this text? Give it five minutes. Ten minutes, then respond. Eating isn’t cool. Why are they whispering? What did I say? I’m humiliating. I should raise my hand. I’m not mysterious enough. Don’t be so excited all the time. She’s so cool. So petite. So poetic. So lovely. Make sure he eats most of the popcorn. I like the Office, too. Have you read any Wallace? Any Rilke? Any Faulkner? No, I don’t watch TV. I should be like her, but different. Unique. I’m too crass. No, actually I’m too innocent. Be lovely. Be funny. Talk less. You should’ve said something. I’m still not as unique as her. Did he read my play? They laughed at my joke. I’ll tell more jokes. Different jokes. They like different jokes. 

A few days ago, I saw an old photo, and I remembered all these things. It made me tired. Instead of just remembering, I started wondering how the other people in the photo remembered me, and if they realized I’ve actually changed quite a bit, and I’m not the too-quiet-but-also-obnoxious-and-small-thinking-too-opinionated-so-awkward-fill-in-the-blank-with-any-insecurity girl I was then. Except maybe I am? And that’s why it wore on me. Even though I’m contented with life as-is right now, it’s easy to slip into the endless, vicious cycle of inward thinking. I came home, laid on a yoga mat in my floor, listened to the new The Brilliance album, and cried a little. That helped, minimally.

The answer isn’t “Be yourself,” and “Don’t worry about the nay-sayers,” because even while I’m doing those things, if I’m stuck in the thought cycle above, they will be the ones constantly informing the way I act and see life around me. The full answer has to be more like “Stop thinking about yourself.” I really appreciate self-improvement. I like seeing people take up yoga or eat healthier or vow to read more or have fuller conversations with others. Of course, there is something to be said for self-reflection; analyzing actions and thoughts and state of being is good. It helps us be better to ourselves and others. But I’m fooling myself if I think that I can be sustained by only thinking of myself, even if it’s forward-motivated. How often did I hurt people trying to get to a version of myself I could stomach? It would have been impossible for me to arrive at the idealized state I had envisioned for myself, which makes the question, “Was it worth it,” an acutely painful one for me to answer. It wasn’t. It never is.

Sometimes narcissism masquerades as self-improvement. That’s a truth I’m learning, and that I’m sure I’ll learn again again. (I’m only twenty-three.)

“From the need to be understood, deliver me, oh God.”

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faith, Life

Lest They Should See With Their Eyes

You are hidden,

They say.

I wonder–

Has anyone seen you?

 

I have so many homes

And am lonely

Still.

You have no home.

What does that

Make you?

***

On Thanksgiving, I sat across from Mitchell in a Waffle House near Marietta. We took a wrong turn and ended up driving through a college campus neither of us had heard of. It was littered with Christmas lights in all shapes and sizes. I had cried earlier that day while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on a laptop in the home of a couple I didn’t know. I dog-sat for them the previous night, which I knew would be sad. There are a lot of melancholy things, and I think being alone in a strange home on a holiday that conjures images of warmth and family and friends is toward the top of that list. (I realize this might not be true for some. For some, Thanksgiving doesn’t conjure good nostalgia. That is a higher form of melancholy, I think.)

I ordered grits, toast, and hash-browns. Mitch ordered a platter with eggs, sausage, and a waffle. I was thankful for cinnamon raisin toast and apple butter, surprise Christmas lights, and for Mitchell, who is a form of home for me.

***

The little yellow house on Daisy Road is, of course, a home to me. It’s where I’ve lived most of my life. It’s home, just like Mama is home to me and Daddy is home to me and driving by Cumbee Park or Fourth and Cherry or Irwin County High is home to me. I fled there after Thanksgiving to see those people and places that have marked every Thanksgiving I can remember. Mitchell was with me as he usually is when we visit my home. It’s something very unique and special, witnessing one home collide with another.

Ocilla doesn’t have a Wal-Mart. When I visit home, most of my time is spent with my family in one of the neighboring cities that has more than two red lights. We went shopping at a tiny mall in Tifton–Mama, Grandma Helen, Mitch, two of my aunts, and me. They laughed and picked on one another. I remember a time when relations weren’t easy between them, so seeing them find solace and joy in one another was spectacular. I kept thinking of a song I put on a mix CD for Mitch recently. When you are fully known and loved, you have a home. 

***

I’m joining a church, the second in my life. The first was my church throughout my adolescence. I stopped attending when I went to college and have remained a church nomad until now. The church I’m going to join is kind. I’m impressed each time I visit with one of the current members by the amount of Biblical knowledge and wisdom he or she possesses. When we moved to Atlanta several months ago, I wasn’t expecting to find this. I wasn’t expecting to feel so bolstered by a group of people I’m still getting to know, but here we are. Excitement is welling up in me now as I think about it. Thank God for this new place and the new homes it has brought me to. Thank God.

***

According to CHILDLINE India:

The issue of street children is considered to be an urban problem. Children can be found in railway stations, near temples and durgahs, in markets, under bridges, near bus depots and stops, etc. Hence the definition of street is not in the literal sense, but refers to those children without a stable home or shelter. There are three major categories of street children:

  1. Children who live on the street with their families and often work on the street. There may be children from migrated families, or temporarily migrated and are likely to go back to their homes.
  2. Children who live on the street by themselves or in groups and have remote access or contact with their families in the villages. Some children travel to the cities for the day or periods of time to work and then return to their villages.
  3. Children who have no ties to their families such as orphans, refugees and runaways

…In 2003, UNICEF estimated that there were at least a 100 million street children in the world, but though this figure is commonly found it is not seen to be based on any actual studies or surveys. In 1994, UNICEF estimated that there were 11 million street children in India. This number is said to be a drastic under-estimation. The Indian embassy estimated 314,700 street children in cities like Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Kanpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad and around 100,000 street children in Delhi.

…Because of a lack of permanent shelter and the fact that the number of street children is not recorded in any national survey or study street children are often called the ‘hidden children’.

 

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Life

Move Your Muscles, Little Creators

There’s a documentary on Netflix right now called Shirkers. The documentary is about a lost road movie shot in the 1990’s in Singapore by the spirited Sandi Tan and her friends. After filming wraps, Sandi’s mentor, Georges–a mysterious and enigmatic man–takes the footage and disappears. In its exploration of creative exploitation and abused collaboration, the film has an undercurrent that feels celebratory. But of what? It is celebration of youth and creativity, of passion so strong it can’t be contained within the usual plot points of adolescence. Celebration of art that must be acted on, must be executed and presented to the world. Celebration of people who believe that their art is that important, that it’s actually just bigger than they are, that the world needs it. Celebration of revival, of resurrected ideas and dreams.

As someone who has always leaned into creative outlets more than other types, this film had an odd effect on me. It was…convicting. Tan wanted to be the first person to make a road movie in her home–Singapore. It was important to her. To her, the sure way to freedom was through “building words inside [her] head.”

“When I was 18, I had so many ideas, I hardly slept at all.”

Mitchell turned to me. “I’ve always been jealous of those people,” he said. I nodded, eyes transfixed on the screen before me, across which some of those very ideas flitted and danced. Tan, fuzzy and young, in a pink, linen top. A small, spotted, plastic dog being placed inside the frame. The inside of a car in a green-hued tunnel moving backwards. Scenes from Shirkers, the movie she was burdened to make. She called it a time capsule.

I’ve never had any problems getting eight hours when it was easy and available to me. I’d quickly put away my pen and paper for, let’s say, Netflix. I can remember moments in my life when I wrote in a frenzy or holed myself up in a room with a piano for an hour or two until something came of it. But those moments were always placed conveniently between other obligations (sometimes as loose as lunch on my own), something to bookend the time and provide easy escape. I’ve never been one to toss and turn in bed because of an un-laid plan or idea. My creativity is there, but it’s like a weak tea. It just grows cold on the table while the sipper (me) delights herself in more worthwhile or enjoyable pursuits.

I don’t think everyone is meant to create in the way that Tan did. There’s no right or wrong way, surely? But I can’t help but want the sort of zeal that she had, that forgot-to-eat, can’t-sleep stuff. My relationship to creativity is much like my relationship to eating healthy or exercising. I don’t want to do it. I really don’t want to–until I do. Then I understand how helpful it is. It’s exponentially good to move that part of my brain and expel all those thoughts that float around up there untapped for so long. I’m not a creator the way Tan is, but I am a creator. Perhaps you fall into the latter category with me. Let this be encouragement to you: create anyway. Draw, paint, write a paragraph of prose or a short free-verse. Write a play or a screenplay and employ your friends as actors. Take photos or pose for photos or film something beautiful. Spend some time on the piano or guitar or mandolin (?). Make yourself do it. It’s good for you. It’ll move your soul and feed your mind and–probably–make you better. Create a world, as Tan suggests, and find the freedom therein.

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