Strong emotions effect most of us, I suspect, on an almost daily and sometimes unforgiving basis. We experience sadness and fear, joy and unadulterated excitement, depression and, yes, also grief. These are all part of the intimacy we share with one another and the world, the great human enterprise, if you will, and often an incompetency we struggle to master.
The good emotions... those are easy. They come to us in a great rush, and we swallow them whole, barely allowing ourselves time to drift in their aura. And, before we've even begun to appreciate this beauty, they float away from us a specter, a pale but lovely memory. Sometimes, we forget to hold on to them. Sometimes, we take them for granted. And sometimes, for many of us, perhaps all of us, we are lucky to have these moments translate themselves into creative expression. We are all creative in some way. We all allow the things we make, do or say to somehow become a vessel for the emotions we experience.
When I am happy, oh those are the beautiful moments of creativity. It's a lovely verse those moments make. When I am anxious, I turn to my work and grant my tension passage into my craft. When I am angry, I hammer. And hammer. And hammer until something takes shape and, in its birth, the ire I felt dissolves into art. And those moments are beautiful also. They are the tangible results of experiencing life and, when life is littered with adversity, they are the complex, physical embodiment of getting past those difficulties.
But what about grief? It seems to be it's own ugly beast, angry and set on proving every other emotion it's unqualified companion. It presents itself as greater than the sum of all others. How does creativity remain our unwearied collaborator when grief takes root and crawls up the walls of our emotional shelters?
On January 2, 2016, a half a world a way, my best friend passed away. She was 40. It is the first great loss I've ever known.
And it has been a struggle to allow creativity a presence in this pain. Grief wants its house empty, to pack the happiness in a box and carry it to the curb. To close the curtains against joy, however faint the light may be. Grief is an unforgiving mistress who takes the excitement of discovery and turns it hollow, if you let it. And, for a time, I did. For a time.
But even when the shadow of grief darkened my door, I worked. I worked at remembering, at opening the curtains and cleaning the windows and allowing the sunlight back in. It was dark, and I was tired, but I worked at creating and allowing those creations to say something about my life with her. Through my art, she was speaking to me, and the power of grief can hardly compare to her beautiful song. You should have heard her voice. Maybe, just maybe, you still can.
And soon, I found that I wasn't working at remembering. I wasn't working at combating the presence of grief because every day of my life with her worked itself through and out of me. She was never content to allow me to live with grief, silent and accepting. And creating is the embodiment of her lust for life, which fuels me when I haven't the energy to nourish myself.
And yes, while I may still meet with grief in the shadows and silence, often and unrelenting, I've begun healing through art. Grief will throw down at my feet its gauntlet and, heavy though it may be, I will pick it up and make something beautiful from it, if for no other reason than to honor the experience of loving someone enough to grieve for them.
It is not a cure.
But it's a start.
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