Archives for posts with tag: creativity

I come from an Italian American family on my mother’s side. Her great grandparents were farmers in northern Italy who immigrated to the U.S. to raise children and work the coal mines near Seattle. In other words, they were not fancy people. They were poor. But they were smart, hard working, life loving, and resourceful. They not only loved food but had a lot of mouths to fill. They knew how to “make something out of nothing”.

My mom knew how to do this, too. It wasn’t as if we were poor but money was tight and there were a lot of people to feed in a family of eight. Mom is also masterful at re-purposing leftovers into new meals so that food is not wasted.

The week has continued to exhaust me. I rallied in the writing of my last post, only to have an extremely fragmented and stressful evening, during which my irritability peaked, and I became quite irrational. My daughter had gotten rather angry with me because she told me that she had another parade the next morning and I had reminded her that I had asked her to tell me about all of her events and she had just told me, “Don’t worry about it, Mom.” I was not able to sacrifice half of a work day to get her there. She got very angry. It was kind of a last straw for me and I mostly took it out on my husband because she had treated me extremely disrespectfully and he left the room instead of backing me up. Realistically, he was probably doing what he needed to do to keep from yelling, with which I was already doing a good job.

I spent a good deal of the early part of yesterday fighting the urge to go back to bed. I have not had a day like this in a very long time. My brain and my heart were utterly exhausted despite the fact that it was a gloriously beautiful summer day in which I had much to do. I forced myself to stay out of bed. By late afternoon, I was sitting on the couch with a head both full of everything and nothing, swirling in eddies of acute pain and numbness.

My husband came home early from work and asked what I wanted to do for dinner. I said, “I am not doing well at all. I know I will be okay. Right now, I can’t think. I can’t answer questions. I need 15 minutes to finish up work.”

Then I started on my unfinished progress notes, one by one, and with the completion of each one, I gathered a tiny but noticeable bit of energy. In about 45 minutes I was done. I had accomplished something. I told John, “Sorry, that took longer than 15 minutes. I’m going to cook dinner.”

I walked into my kitchen. I had a perfectly ripe mango, a perfectly ripe avocado, and some limes. They were not planned for a particular meal. In general, that is often the way I shop. I just buy what looks good. In my freezer, I had some large shrimp. I also had a bit of simple salad left over from another meal. It was made from jicama, radish, and lime. I thought that might be a nice textural and flavor contrast with sweet mango but I wasn’t sure but I started getting excited to try. And as I sliced, zested, crushed, sauteed, and mixed, my spirit continued to lighten and I felt myself filling up again. When I tasted, I could tell that I’d made a lovely summer salad full of good things. My husband and I had a nice meal together, which led to a nice evening.

I had been depleted and feeling in utter need, just an hour before. I needed to give myself an experience of creating from start to finish, to remember that I am capable of making wholes and not just carrying an armload of loose fragments, which keep falling to the ground, and then others fall as I stoop over to pick them up.

Remember what you have and make use of it.

That is my meditation for today.

Shrimp and mango with lime, avocado, radish, and jicama.

Shrimp and mango with lime, garlic, avocado, radish, and jicama.

Here is the recipe:

About 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on.
1 lime, zested (put zest to the side), then cut into quarters.
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into large dice. (Squeeze one of the limb slices on it so it doesn’t discolor).
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into large dice. (If you have not cut up a mango, read some directions on doing it. It’s not hard but it’s different than other fruit.)
1/4 of a jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks.
3-4 mild-flavored radishes, peel on, sliced thinly. (I used a small portion of a large watermelon radish, which was about the size of my fist and cut it into match sticks.)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed.

1. Put all of the ingredients into a bowl except for the shrimp, garlic, half of the lime zest, and all of lime wedges into a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and the juice from 2-3 lime wedges. Mix gently with your hands so the avocado does not lose its shape.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil and about 2 teaspoons of butter in a large saute pan, on medium to medium high, taking care not to burn the butter. Add garlic and cook for about a minute, stirring frequently. Add the shrimp and cook for a minute or two on each side until curled up and opaque, but not rubbery!

3. Put the salad into a serving bowl and top with the shrimp. Sprinkle the remaining lime zest on the top so it looks pretty!

I used to be a masterful list maker and follower. I made goals and got them done. Then I made new goals and got them done. As I got older, I started getting involved in large projects. I taught myself how to use Microsoft Project. I thought it was amazing. I could make multiple timelines by task and responsible party as well as define relationships between the tasks and sub timelines. I could track progress. I thought the software was one of the handiest and coolest things I’d ever encountered. I know how to build in motivators and incentives to keep progress going.

I took one of those silly Facebook personality quizzes last week, “What one word best describes you?” The result was, “ambitious”. I didn’t post my results, as I often do, just for fun. I didn’t like the answer. I’m not exactly sure why because objectively, I am ambitious. I set high goals. I have been an achiever my whole life. And I have certainly had people tell me that I was ambitious.

I used to take it as a compliment. Now I don’t because to me it connotes unnecessary competition with others and with myself. I realize that it doesn’t have to be that way but for me, it reminds me of unrelenting standards, of the sadness and disappointment I’ve felt when I didn’t live up to standards set by myself or others. Most importantly, it reminds me of times that I’ve relapsed from healthy life changes such as regular exercise and eating well, because I took setbacks too hard, losing my momentum.

Making and achieving goals is an important part of life. But making a life of setting and achieving goals is not a life I want to lead. It leaves out too many of the good, enjoyable bits. Enjoying the process of life. Making new discoveries. Finding new directions.

I have written a lot in my life. Thousands and thousands of pages. A lot of the writing I do is technical, in the past, scientific writing and in the present, psychological report writing. A few of my published research articles as well as my past grant proposals had 50-100 revisions. They were painstakingly outlined, re-outlined, reviewed, fleshed-out, referenced, reviewed, revised, reviewed, etc. Many lists were made and this is necessary for this kind of highly technical, collaborative, and competitive work.

I do not write multiple drafts of my reports. I write 1-2 drafts, the 2nd being a light edit for typos and such. I use templates to organize my reports, which include lists of procedures, headings, empty tables into which I dump numbers, and other information. The information is presented in a highly linear fashion, the same way that I’ve presented information, with very few changes, for many years.

Prior to starting my blog two years ago, I had not done any other kind of writing for decades. And then came my blog. I write what is on my mind. I may have mulled it over for an hour or two or in some cases, a number of weeks. But I don’t use outlines and only rarely do I make notes of stray thoughts I don’t want to lose. And I don’t always write what I had intended to write. Sometimes the stream of thoughts takes me to new places, some revelatory.  And as you’ve probably noted, I don’t do a whole lot of editing. I barely proofread and occasionally copy edit. Editing on a grand scale has yet to ever occur. Sometimes I later add to a post but it is not because I wasn’t happy with it. Rather it is because I am still thinking about the topic and have found more that I wish to say.

I have written over 600 posts in 26 months. I have not yet ever written myself a reminder to write a post or to have needed to schedule time to write. This may change over time and that would not necessarily be a negative thing. Right now, the freedom of writing in an organic fashion both in respect to process and content, is an amazing gift, in what had been a very linear periods of my life.

This is a mindful way of writing. Not all of my writing can be that way, nor should it. It suits the kind of writing I am doing right now, short bits of personal meanderings. Personal writing, not professional writing.

Similarly, I am not a professional athlete. But on most days I walk almost as far as I drive in my car. I have a general goal in mind in terms of distance but I let myself take different routes and walk longer, if the spirit moves me. I am also not a professional photographer. I have no technical or artistic training, just a desire to take photos, 90% of an art history degree, and a love for the outdoors.

I enjoyed taking photos with my smartphone and decided that I wanted to take better photos. I spent some time researching prices and types of cameras as well as their reviews, probably a total of 3-5 hours. Once I found a camera I thought would suit my needs and price range, I bought it. I knew that my decision may not be the best decision but I wanted to follow my interests and I figured that there are a lot of good cameras out there.

After the camera arrived, I started taking photos, lots of them. I had read a little about the operation of the camera but I really just wanted to use it and not analyze it. I have an analytic brain and I like to let it go free from time to time, like when I am taking photography. Analyzing is hard work.

Using this organic and intuitive process, I have become a better photographer. I am using my interests to guide my gradual learning of the existence and operation of the overwhelming number of features on my little camera.

Is this the most efficient way to become a good photographer? No, it really isn’t. But it is the way that is the most enjoyable way for me, right now. Yesterday, I left the house on a beautiful Sunday morning. I walked where my legs took me, which was to two parks and one community garden. It was still early so the air was crisp and there was a wonderful breeze. It was gorgeous and I took a lot of photos, a few of which I’ve shared with you.

Sometimes listlessness leads to mindfulness, a yielding of the “shoulds” to the freedom of how one moment leads to the next, almost effortlessly.

 

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