Movement and Creativity

Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

It is really difficult to get enough movement and exercise during both the Covid-19 outbreak and this hottest time of year (On 23 July days it was over 40C [104F] and got up to 118F a couple times. It is also steamy). We sometimes go to the mall early in the morning and walk before the shoppers come, but we don’t do that too often because of my husband’s work schedule.

However, I do keep moving and creating even in my small flat. As I sit at my computer so often these days, I have learned that I need to get up just as often. I pop up and walk every hour, at least for 250 steps. It does clear my head. I am on a serious band exercise routine every other day.

Today when I needed a creativity break after working, I went into the kitchen, watched the news, and painted part of an egg carton that has been sitting here for a couple weeks and my husband was getting close to throwing in the garbage. Making my very hungry caterpillar took the sting off watching the news with chyrons like, “All the promises trump has made, but not kept on health care.”

Another thing I’m doing these days is practicing my singing. I still can’t believe that I signed up for virtual singing lessons, and I even do my homework! I practice creativity in the kitchen too. We are eating better than ever.

Are creativity and movement related? Absolutely. I am a changed person after these months of living more intentionally and with a greater range of priorities. In the past, I could get stuck in the overwork cycle of doing school work for days at a time. It is so unhealthy! Even after the coronavirus chapter, I am committed to exercise and creativity and not just work.

Today is Tuesday, time for a Slice of Life post, Day 161 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 chapter, and Prompt #103 in The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. (This prompt was about how  movement helps with fresh ideas and contemplative thinking.)

The Isolation Journals, Prompt #102

The prompt this week: Reflect on your earliest awareness of a disconnect between what the world said was okay and what you instinctively felt wasn’t right. How did you react? What action, big or small, did you take? Since then, how have your beliefs changed or stayed the same?

This was difficult for me because my childhood and youth were not ones of activism or seeking social justice at all. Instead, I feel I was always attempting to prove myself and my competence in whatever I did. To be smarter, to throw the ball farther, to be better than the others. I’m not sure why, exactly.  I didn’t come from an activist family, but rather I came from a family in survival mode. Seven children and a father who died too soon. For the most part, I was safe and had enough, but I wasn’t thinking about others. 

One example I noticed pretty early on. The world said it was okay to have people in positions where they weren’t fully qualified and that made me angry and responsive. Even as a child and teen, I noticed among teachers and others in authority. I remember in high school when our creative writing teacher promised we would put together an anthology of our work at the end of the semester. However, there seemed to be no plan to do that or any attempt to collect our work or recruit a team to help or anything. The end of the school year was quickly approaching. I don’t remember the conversation we had, but I must have approached him. However, the result was that I collected the work of my classmates and made the anthology myself, typing all the submissions on ditto masters and printing copies for the whole class using the machines in my business class.

Another example is when I worked full time during the summer after high school. It was a great job working in the nursing administration department of a hospital. I was an assistant to the administrative secretary of the hospital nursing administrator. Everyone was highly competent and I loved the satisfaction and pride this job gave me. (By the way, the job was part of a federal job creation program called CETA. I was eligible because our family’s income was low. That job, which paid minimum wage during the summer,  transitioned into a really high-paying part-time job that put me through college. Looking back, I think that was a CETA success story.) Anyway, at times, some of my hours were spent typing policy and procedure manuals for nursing supervisors of the various units. It was fascinating work. It was in my interactions with those supervisors that I noticed some were much more qualified than others. I remember more than once thinking I didn’t want to type policy and procedure manuals, I wanted to be the supervisor who could come up with effective policies and procedures.

How have my beliefs changed or stayed the same? First of all, by God’s grace and mercy, I have become more understanding of others, more lenient in my judging, and more accepting of others’ imperfections. When I was younger I was ruthless to my teachers and authority figures. Just the ones whom I felt were unworthy of my respect. (Oh, my, it’s embarrassing to admit that! What kind of warped evaluation tool I used to determine competency, though, I have no idea.) Anyway, grace has come to mark my acceptance of others now. I’m not 100%, to be sure, and I have a tendency to call out BS, but maybe I’m better at doing it privately now. An important addition to my thinking is that I have come to notice my own incompetencies and realize that others have to put up with me, as well!

Today is Monday, Day 153 in Bahrain quarantine time, and Prompt #102 in The Isolation Journals by Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO of FEED.

Beauty Hunting

Last month for a poem in the Open Write, I did research about saffron crocuses. This poem resulted:

Rose of Saffron
Out in the open
In the full sun
Lies the costliest of all
Spices

For thousands of years
It is true
The Crocus Satimus corm
Initiates the process
First lying dormant
Through the heat of summer
Does its wizardry underground

Then the autumn crocus
Burgeons and blossoms
Six purple petals
Cradle the crimson stigmas
And yellow styles

Gentle hands
Carefully pluck out
Three red threads,
Dry and store safely–
150 flowers are needed to make
One gram of spice
(that’s almost 400 flowers to match the mass of a U.S. penny)
Use saffron for
Fancy fragrances
healing and health
Creating golden ambrosial delights
Beauty of the beloved

I haven’t really seen the flowers that produce the spice saffron, but I have definitely gained so much respect and seen the beauty. Because of the costliness, I’m sure there is a lot of corruption and thievery. (Just do a search for how you can spot the “real” costly stuff from pawned-off adulterated versions.)

I have some I just took out of my cupboard that I’ve been afraid to use. All my other spices have opened up my culinary skills and interests in the past Covid-19 stay-at-home season, but the saffron still sat in this tiny case, unused.

However, this prompt today had me free it from the spice cabinet. Tomorrow I was planning to make a pot of masala tea for a socially-distanced tea party with a friend. Today, I decided that I will adjust that plan, adding a few strands of saffron I’ll make Middle Eastern style karak chai.

This saffron was a gift to my husband to use in his Arabic coffee. He hasn’t tried it yet, either.

Today is the first Sunday weekly prompt for The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This is prompt 101 and Day 145 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 time.

The prompt today came from Raven Roxanne and is called Beauty Hunting. “Think about the last time you looked at something and noticed a change within—studying a painting, an animal, a flower, a piece of fruit, what you saw through a window. Write about what you saw, and what you felt shift.”

All the Colors

Today is Thursday, Day 135 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, and day 100 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad.

On May 20, 2020, I learned about The Isolation Journals and joined in on Day 50. The next day, Sky Baynes had us write a “to feel” list. I made a “to feel” wheel for my journal that day.

When I saw Suleika’s prompt today, it seemed like a complete colorful circle for me in The Isolation Journals: “Reflect on all the colors that make up your emotional palette–from the brightest neons to the drabbest grays. Examine the different hues and shades that occur each morning, midday, afternoon and evening. Write about how they’re playing out on a canvas, how they work together to make each day a painting of its own.”

Instead of writing, I painted a picture of my emotional palette. It has all the colors in my paint box, from the inquisitive, inspired, strong and valued yellows to the appalled, revolted and infuriated reds. It has the lonely isolated and exposed blues. My painting and life during this time is a joyful, frustrated, amazed, peaceful, powerful, and excited rainbow of isolation with a shadowy covid flower right smack dab in the middle of every single day.

I was delighted to learn that The Isolation Journals will continue, one prompt per week. If you are interested in joining, visit Suleika’s website here to add your name to get the emailed prompts.

 

Dealing with Loss

Today is Wednesday, Day 134 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, and day 99 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt by Stacy London is “How do you get past pain? How do you let go of the illusion of control? How do you find meaning?”

Usually it takes me some time to give up control of my emotions. I’m a great non-crier. I envy my friends whose tears flow like the tap. When I feel grief and loss I’m often surprised with it because it sometimes happens years after a death or heartbreak. Then I can have a cleansing cry and deal with some of the pain. Writing helps. I have found poetry writing with the Ethical ELA group has been healing and exposing me to feelings I didn’t know I had. 

In the fall of 2018, I lost my sister-in-law after a two-year battle with cancer. The next month, my own oldest sister died suddenly of a heart attack while hiking. I didn’t fly home for either death, and that made it harder too. So I’m still dealing with those losses.

Now with coronavirus there is more loss. Loss of life, in our dear Dr. Solomon, and loss of livelihoods, loss of visas, loss of homes, loss of time with friends, loss of healing relationships and church dinners and so many losses, losses, losses. It is getting sad and burdensome to be home so much. Because it’s our last year in Bahrain, I also have anticipated grief. It’s already starting, too. There are losses of our “lasts,” which are not really last because they don’t happen at all  (like our last Easter sunrise service and our last ARS high school graduation).

As is my modus operandi, most of the time I’m just fine and carry-on, brave and productive. However, I’m sure I’ll have some retroactive grief to deal with in the future.

My Idea of Fun

Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today is Tuesday’s Slice of Life Story Challenge, Day 133 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, and day 98 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt by Adam Grant was to determine my “fun age” based on what I love to do to play.

I laughed when I read the prompt sitting at this dining room table / office desk. It is full of supplies for fun (and a few for working). There is no more school this summer, so some of us church school teachers started a Zoom Bible summer camp so we can hang out with kids (and, of course, bless them with something to fill their days! No one is traveling to their home countries this year.)

I need to get to work on a certificate program for which I received an extension to complete. Instead, I find a lot of fun things to fill up my days–besides reading and writing and cooking, I love to paint and sketchnote, to create from throwaways, and be inspired by creations I see from others. I have a small collection of cool little toys that I like and I know kids would like too, so they are always at the ready. I am the first to volunteer in group situations where a volunteer is needed. When anyone wants to play a game, I am always eager. Sports–let’s play! Especially volleyball and softball.

It is easy for me to determine my “fun age.” It must be around ten. (I’m sure I would love to play tetherball right now too.) I loved being in fifth and sixth grades, and that is when I first wanted to be a teacher. I have made it a career to spend my days with children. I have several reasons for being a teacher, but certainly one of them is that children make life more fun. I love learning their games (like the cup song from Pitch Perfect) and teaching them my old games (like double Dutch jump rope).

Another part of today’s prompt was to ask your friends what their “fun age” is. Do you love drinking and dancing? Do you love knitting and bingo? Thinking of what you love to do for fun helps you determine your “fun age.” You get the idea. Then you can compare notes with your friends and find some new “fun” to have with those who are similar fun ages.

Here was another fun thing that happened this morning. My husband called me and told me a package came from the U.K. (I am sure he thought I had ordered something and paid some exorbitant shipping charge.) I knew what it was:

What’s your “fun age”?

P.S. Here is today’s prompt from Suleika on Instagram.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Anyone else struggling to find work-life balance while stuck at home? This has been my constant challenge, but since quarantine, any divisions between the two have been erased. I know this is a formula for burnout, but in the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to make a more concerted effort at taking time to have fun. I’ve been playing lots of Scrabble and, when I want a particularly simple diversion, I grab a lovely set of wooden pick-up sticks, toss them on the patio, and feel transported to childhood again. I’ve also re-upped my dedication to over the top pranks (Jon—watch yourself). This makes my “fun age” pretty confusing—somewhere between 80-year-old grandmother and 8-year-old boy. Today’s prompt from the Wharton professor, best-selling author, and TED speaker extraordinaire @Adamgrant has me reconsidering what these moments of fun might reveal about me—but more than that, how they connect me to the people I love. Day 98: ADAM GRANT I used to think a real friend was someone you talked to every week. Now I see a real friend as someone who’s there for you even if you haven’t talked in a year. Deep connection can exist without frequent communication. As I’ve reconnected with friends over the past few months, I’ve noticed that the most joyful interactions are with the friends whose idea of fun brings them back to the same mental age as mine does. My idea of fun is racing Mario Kart, playing Ultimate Frisbee and ping-pong, reading Ender’s Game, a game of Anagrams or Clue, watching Batman Begins, and going to a water park or a trampoline park. That makes my “fun age” approximately nine. If your idea of entertainment is drinking and dancing, your fun age clocks in around 19. If you’re more excited to knit a sweater and play Bingo, your fun age is about 93. If your dream day is driving in a red convertible and going on a date with someone half your age, your fun age is midlife crisis. Your prompt: Figure out your “fun age,” meaning the common age of those who enjoy the same activities as you. Invite some friends to do the same, and then compare lists. You might discover some new ways to enjoy your time with old friends. #TheIsolationJournals

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Ode to My Loveseat Recliner

Staying sane listening to Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

Oh, my dear loveseat,
I see you there with your
Caramel chestnut suit
Of faux suede
Fitting perfectly around
Your well-placed rolls.
Rolls just where I need them–
The lower back bump and
The pillowy paddings at my
Neck and head.
You are a felicitous fit for me.

Thank you, loveseat, for your
Gliding recliner mechanism
That works without a hitch
And allows me a variety
Of positions–upright,
Leaning at a 100-degree angle
And fully reclined, at peace
Like a pearl in a shell.

How many hours have I spent resting
And living here with you?
Thank you, my friend,
For you are not just a recliner.
You are a caring, comforting,
Supporting, and trustworthy friend.
You hold me while I read,
Chat with my family across the sea,
Discuss issues of importance,
Shout at the nightly news,
And cuddle with my husband.

Oh, my dear loveseat, I see you there.
Thank you.

Today is Monday, Day 132 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, day 97 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt is by Lisa Ann Cockrel: “Picture the chairs that you sit in on a regular basis—at home, in public, comfortable or uncomfortable. Now pick one of those chairs, and write an ode to it, considering the physical and emotional sensations it evokes.”

When I Feel Creatively Unlocked

My one-minute list (maybe three minutes) included:

  • having supplies on hand, especially recycled items that others might consider throwaways
  • seeing others’ artwork and taking inspiration
  • making something beautiful from a story
  • digital designing to share with others
  • using up stuff
  • roller balls for writing poems, blog posts, newspaper articles
  • at my dining room table
  • my cloud unicorn pencil and colors holders

Quite often I feel like one of the people Anne described in her writing today–the ones who say ‘I can’t’ when asked to draw or participate in something like a mural creation. At times, though, I say ‘I can’ and I even encourage others to join in the process of creating. I’m a teacher, so that helps.

What I have always loved to do is create and make things from throwaways. I still do. Whenever I see a stack, a pile , a lot, or a bunch of anything cool or beautiful, I think about what I or my students can do with them.

I’m also inspired by what others create. For instance, during genius hour this year, I was inspired by so many of my students to create myself. So, other people are a huge part of my inspiration.

Time is so important. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but I have learned by dabbling in visual art, attempting to write poems, and beginning to cook delicious meals that artists and creators work hard. It takes time to make beautiful works of art. When I allow myself time to do the work of creativity, I have more success and fun in the process.

Recipe for Creativity

Piles of stuff that aren’t appreciated by everyone

1/2 cup of vision

A sprinkle of inspiration

Plenty of time to explore and create

Bake warmly and taste the next day. Adjust spices as needed.

Today is Sunday, Day 131 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, day 96 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt is by Anne Francey, artist and Suleika’s maman. The prompt is to make “a list of all the things that help you feel creatively unlocked.” Next “write about what it reveals about you and your creative process.”