Monday, August 4, 2014

Reflection: Cleaning Out My Drawers

(This article was written and first posted in 2009.  I just needed to reflect on this to push me back to my creative self)

There is a recognizable ebb and flow to the process of recovering our creative selves. As we gain strength, so will some of the attacks of self-doubt. This is normal, and we can deal with these stronger attacks when we see them as symptoms of recovery. As you learn to recognize, nurture, and protect your inner artist, you will be able to move beyond pain and creative constrictions.-Julia Cameron

Six years ago I was writing heavily. I was engrossed in my short stories and enjoyed seeing them come into completion. I also was performing and reading my poetry, acting, taking writing classes, and doing yoga. I was single and living my life as an “Artist.” But soon unexpected events in my life took precedence: my sister’s death, the removal of my left ovary due to a cyst, my miracle pregnancy (at least that’s what I believed even though my doctor reassured me at the time of the removal I had one perfectly good ovary), quitting smoking (this was a miracle in itself), marriage, my move to Long Island, and another pregnancy.

During this time, I stopped writing altogether (except for collaborating with my aunt on a play) and even though, I felt like the short stories were finished, I was not confident enough to send them out for publication; instead I placed them in a black binder in my file cabinet. I basically “stuck them in a drawer” (a writing term meaning when a writing piece does not come together you put it away for a while and hopefully return to it with fresh eyes). The short stories remained in my file cabinet for several years because my days were filled with the practicalities of being a housewife and mother— there was no time for writing.

Eventually, the same lethargic state I had when my sister died took refuge in me. I felt Sandra the Writer, Sandra the Artist slowly disappearing. I remembered years ago reading Terry McMillan’s Disappearing Acts. Both protagonists lost who they were when they established a romantic relationship with each other. They became what the other person expected them to be. We are all expected to be a good wife/husband, a nurturing parent, a dutiful employee, etc., but we also should have expectations for ourselves—remember who we are. Sometimes it’s quite difficult to remember “who we were” before the obstacles and journeys in our lives changed us. We need to stop and reflect on the positive life lessons our journeys and obstacles teach us. For me, my sister’s death taught me how to let go of someone that I love and not be so selfish. It took awhile for me to accept her death. I was angry and hurt that she left me. But, looking back on her last night, I realized she was suffering and the best thing for her was to let God take her home. Another obstacle was losing my left ovary (first of all I thank God that the cyst was not malignant). This tragedy has shown me that sometimes things are not as bad as you think and there is still hope. Also, I’m looking at the positive that the new roles in my life are bringing to me. Being a mother is helping me improve on my own self-confidence because I am working so hard to instil it in my daughters (I’m learning to practice what I preach) and marriage has grounded me in a way that brought normalcy to my life. No longer am I focused solely on the romanticism of being an artist but on the reality of being human.

I have embraced the changes in my life and getting back to my old writing artistic self again. I pulled out some writings from a project that I started in 1999 about the people of Rockaway, I started editing my poetry to self-publish them, I took out the black binder of short stories and found out that they needed revising, I launched two websites: my own personal one and another about Rockaway.

I guess for six years I was “stuck in a drawer.” I’m glad I finally cleaned it out because I found a better me.