Posts Tagged ‘ creativity

re-picturing SWIMMING


My big toe skims the surface of the pool and the water feels colder than I expect. Although I instinctually pull my foot back, I force myself into the water to swim. In one swift motion, I plunge into the pool and dip my head under the water. I remind myself to breathe and settle into the front crawl.

As my hand slices the surface of the water, I capture a brief glimpse of the faded “T” that is tattooed on my wrist. I smile (and cough as I breath in a little water) and recall the reactions of my friends to my now almost non-existent henna tattoo. One friend wondered if it stood for Tom Tiegs and my husband plays along saying that he likes to have his women branded. Another wondered whether it was real (real henna-yes, permanent-no) and more to the point “what is that all about.”

My answer is simple. The T stands for Tribe. And thanks to Rebecca Murphy, I, along with 7 other women shared this symbol from our most recent gathering. Yes, the T stands for Tribe, but determining what the Tribe represents is much more complicated.

Anxious from the uncomfortable space of silence, I start rambling on and fumbling over my words. The questions feel pointed, even though they are motivated by friendly interest and curiosity. I try to find the language, but am at a loss.

So, I start with the real, the tangible, the concrete. Facts that I can logically piece together and articulate to others.

What is the Tribe? Well, the people of my Tribe are beautiful, creative, brave, authentic women who were willing to symbolically take the plunge and go to a creativity retreat with a group of women they had never met. I am still so grateful that Celina, Dar, Emily, Elizabeth, Meghan, Melissa, Sophie, and Rebecca said “yes” to that initial gathering of very different, but like-minded spirits. We came as strangers, but left as a Tribe. We are writers, photographers, painters, mosaicists, researchers, videographers, wives, partners, mothers, striving to be more authentic and creative, following our bliss. The Tribe is a scattering of women from across North America, but we congregate in spirit through our blogs and our “secret” Facebook group and in person in a rugged beach house on the Oregon coast. We do everything from the ordinary to the extraordinary. We prepare and eat meals together, we walk and run by the ocean, we dance. We create vision boards, we paint rocks, we voice dreams and fears aloud for the first time. The Tribe is about creativity, it is about connection, it is about drinking wine, it is about authenticity, it is about Mic Jagger.

Although my heart has a deep understanding of the Tribe, it hasn’t yet found the language to speak this truth to my mind (much less give me the words to explain it to others). Perhaps it’s the lack of oxygen that comes from being a novice swimmer or a momentary lapse in my racing thoughts as I fully immerse myself in the flow required to coordinate my limbs into one fluid swimming motion, but my mind is just quiet enough to hear my heart whisper that swimming in the water is a lot like being a member of the Tribe.

Some of us dove. Others waded. Still others got their feet wet, but decided that it was not yet their time to swim. Each woman in the Tribe ultimately plunged into the unknown, trusting the universe, trusting one another, and trusting herself.

Just as the Tribe requires us to share with one another wholeheartedly, swimming requires you to be all in. The legs can’t take a breather, leaving the arms to flail forward. You must be willing to give your whole self (even those parts that we often hide in the dark because they don’t feel so pretty – our insecurities, our anger, our not-quite-fleshed-out ideas, our what-ifs, our pettiness) and accept other people’s whole selves in return.

After having a long-standing running injury, I appreciate how the water supports me unconditionally. It’s not easy. I have to show up each day. And, even when busyness, fear, and feelings of not enoughness make me want to run, I know that the water is waiting for me to come as I am.

The water also offers gentle resistance as I move forward on my path. Likewise, the Tribe supports me, but also calls me on my shit. What do you mean you don’t have time to breath? You can’t prioritize 5 minutes for yourself? Hell, let’s breath now. Doesn’t that feel better? Yet, even with the gentle resistance that comes from moving in the water, I don’t sink.

The Tribe is linked to one another in the same way that the water connects all life in the sea. Although sometimes nothing is said, the Tribe hurts when one of our members feels alone or can’t speak her truth. Like a rising tide, a success of a fellow Tribe sister also raises us all to a higher level.

This year, the Tribe plunged into the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. As with our first encounter, there were those who were instigators and others who were followers, but when it came down to it, there were 8 women throwing caution (and garments) to the wind as we raced toward the sea.

My big toe hits the surface of the ocean, quickly followed by the rest of my foot, calves, thighs and torso. Somehow, with these beautiful women surrounding me, the water feels warmer than I expected.

re-picturing STRETCHING

Do you stretch yourself? I mean stretch in all senses of the word – physically and psychologically.

I typically do not stretch.

For example…

The words exchanged between my physical therapist and me on my first visit.

Me: So, I’m having these knee problems and it just seems to be getting worse the more I run.

Her: Do you do Yoga or Pilates or anything to stretch your muscles or strengthen your core?

Me: Are you f*cking kidding me? I don’t have time to stretch because I’m too busy running!

I hold a somewhat superstitious belief that if I stop running to stretch that I won’t be able to start running again.  Furthermore, if I stretch at the beginning of a run before I am completely warmed up, I might actually injure myself by pulling a muscle. Sometimes I stretch when I’m all done. Sometimes. Maybe this sheds some light into how some of my running issues developed.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that at the same time I’ve been running into these running issues, I have been reading Twyla Tharp’s creative lessons and journey in her book, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life.

She also talks about stretching in our creative lives, specifically, the importance of knowing yourself and then finding ways to stretch.

The better you know yourself, the more you will know when you are playing to your strengths and when you are sticking your neck out. Venturing out of your comfort zone may be dangerous, yet you do it anyway because our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable….another thing about knowing who you are is that you know what you should not be doing, which can save you a lot of heartaches and false starts if you catch it early on.                                                                                       Tharp (2006, p. 27)

And, in my very limited experience with stretching, it actually seems to work.

I’ve been stretching and cross-training instead of running. And, guess what? My knee feels better. Because I’m maintaining my cardiovascular stamina, my physical therapist thinks I might actually be able to run the Honolulu marathon on December 11 (fingers crossed).

With my photography, I was trying to do it all – portraits, landscapes, black and whites, even though I’m naturally drawn to colorful macros. There’s something to be said about being well-rounded, but there’s also something to be said about knowing your strengths, your voice, the way you see the world, and then stretching a bit beyond your comfort zone rather than trying something entirely new.

Stretching even impacts my scholarly research. Guess what? I see the world through a gendered, embodied, social psychological lens. However, when I started my job, I dove into all sorts of new research areas. Many of them are dead in the water (lab). The only areas that are still really active are those that are related to how I naturally see the world, what I’m naturally passionate about, but have pushed into interesting new directions.

I’m starting to see that stretching isn’t so bad after all.

What are your strengths? Can you stretch them in creative new directions? Do you need to call it quits on a false start?



self-consciousness and creativity

Consciousness (defined): the state of being conscious; aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, and surroundings.
I struggle to create and maintain consciousness in my everyday life. Some of the time it’s just easier to go on auto-pilot. Awake, work, home, sleep. Repeat.
Do you spend much time being conscious? Really conscious. In the moment. Breathe.
One reason we may avoid consciousness is that it sometimes transforms into its not-so-nice, rarely invited cousin, self-consciousness.
Self-consciousness (defined): The state of being excessively aware of being observed by others.
Instead of being captured by the moment, we become hyper-vigilant to how we appear to others. As if someone is taking a photograph,  up-close and personal, magnifying every wrinkle, imperfection, insecurity. Do I look OK? He’ll think I’m stupid if I ask that silly question. Everyone is staring at me.
One way that I remain conscious without becoming self-conscious is by immersing myself in the river of delight. I try to savor the activities that I love — photography, drinking good wine and eating good food, running, writing, talking with friends, playing music — without judgment. Not my own or the (often imagined) judgment of others.
What can you do today to become conscious?