6 min read
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Charles Dickens' opening line in A Tale of Two Cities.
And isn't it just?
When I am able to pull myself away from the onslaught of rhetoric and political opinion and social justice warrioring and media-blitz campaigning.... and immerse into natural spaces and connect more deeply, within... I find my creative center. And it's wonderful and has become essential to my well-being.
But some days it's hard. With the world whirring around us, in such extremes, it can be hard to find a still space in the center to create. But that's exactly where the stillness is... in the eye of this storm.
The Left - while I love the more conscious conversations - is way too far left for my liking, and its statue-toppling and art censoring is starting to stink of Maoist China. :shivers: No thanks.
The Right - while I love our local police, and believe in empowering the individual and I do love tradition and nostalgia - is way too far right, and is starting to feel like a Military State run by an Administration that doesn't care about our well-being or choices, overall. Yes, this is a real virus. Yes, climate crisis is real. Please wear a mask. Please stop destroying natural spaces. And wash your hands.
We seem to be stuck in the middle, running all the way to edge to get information - here - and then having to run all the way back to the opposite edge, to absorb information - there. Constantly running across the proverbial spinning disc, hoping we don't just bottom out and collapse altogether wondering what the hell happened to us.
We seem to be collectively in Joseph Campbell's abyss. The dark tunnel. Awaiting our rise, after the fall. A rebirth, a renaissance, a reimagining into how we'll be here...after all of this.
I remember reading Travels with Charley, by Steinbeck, and noting his discontent with the politics in his day. A nation so fractured and divided... that the tension could be felt in living rooms across the country. Friends clashing, neighbors arguing, dinner table fights, political campaigns getting uglier and uglier. A nation torn apart by polar opposites and extreme ideologies - lacking a healthy and grounded middle.
We try people in the press, rather than in courts, it seems. We're confused about schooling and disease and human rights and social change vs. malicious destruction and distrust in the media, and on and on. Confusion abounds. And it's okay not to know where you stand, from day to day.
I used to proudly call myself a Democrat and now I'm not so sure. There's plenty to disagree with, lately.
I tiptoed into the land of the Conservative for a good few months, seeing the value in tradition and home and empowering individualism and so on. But there's plenty to disagree with, in our current Administration. And I can only breathe - and try to wrangle my thoughts - in the middle.
And I crave true leadership in that place. From that place. Right down the middle, a marriage of both sides. Yes, rebuild our country, our infrastructure hurts, small businesses need help, we need responsible border control but not kids in cages... but also, a woman has a right to choose and environmental protections are essential and intelligent and foreign policy and diplomacy matter. A lot. It's both, and our politicians only pander to one set of extremes, it seems.
Where has the middle gone? The media presents us with two extremes, and neither bring comfort, and so we get frustrated and go back to watching happy clips of cats and puppies kissing babies. We can't figure out how to vote here in the US, many of us, in a world that we can no longer relate to. Baby Boomers don't want change. Gen Z wants to torch the White House. And Gen X, in the middle, well - we're the Reagan-Bush kids. We're a bit precious.
And what do we all do about all of this, really? All at once? It's like someone shook the snow-globe and we're all just showing up, trying to be nice and do the right thing, and have no idea where our country is headed which is disconcerting.
And that sort of tension can paralyze creativity.
But, yet, somewhere, in the middle of the wreckage of human emotion and uprising and frustration and defensiveness and fear and chaos and grief and loss ... is a catalyst. A glowing spark, down at the bottom of this proverbial abyss.
Still shimmering. Waiting. For Next.
It's here...in the deep dark of the unknown, that we can craft anew. Make. Create. Build. From this primordial mess that we find ourselves in. Expression is key, and conversation essential, and there are many things happening:
- in education
- in social justice
- in climate protections
- in wellness spheres
- in mental health
- in technology and engineering
- in business
- in parenting
- in medicine
- in food policy
- in legislation
It's a hot mess. But most messes find a way forward...after the fires settle down. And we seek organization, and some new meaning, from the rubble.
A way forward after our trials - like:
"Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons..." and how she emerged unscathed from the temple fire...
...though she went a bit mad in the end, there, this was still a thrilling scene. And who doesn't want pet dragons to fly them around and do their bidding?
But, moving on - in all relationships, from micro to macro, after voicing and raging, comes a calm conversation and consideration. Reform and renewal. Cooperation and intention. Compromise...
This is what's missing from the conversation. It seems to be either all this way, or all that. A healthy body politic finds a middle, a compromise, a fulfilling of some, but maybe not all. Progress here, but not over there, not yet. A step forward here, but let's keep this in tact. For now. And so on. Anything worthwhile is a slow and steady unfolding. Not an overnight revolution and suppression of culture, even if well-intentioned. Life always seeks truth and homeostasis, it's true.
Balance. Compromise brings balance. A lil Column A, a lil Column B. You're just not going to be eating everything from one column. I'm sorry. You're not getting 14 chicken dishes and you're not getting all egg rolls and rice. Balance it out.
And youthful world-rockers, I get what your classes taught you, and even the books that you may have read that lit a fire within you - in all their glorious ideals and utopias and visions, but in reality, on the ground, there are real people - here - now, with real investments and lives and families and responsibilities. Utopias inspire us and can lead along a path toward a grander vision, but cannot be forced upon a society unready for it (this would defeat the whole point of being a free and inspired people.)
Change doesn't happen overnight. Lasting social change unfolds and evolves, generation by generation, over time. It's important to see how far we've come. And still work toward what we wish to see.
It's both, always.
But flying high above, in blissful quietude, in communion with Nature, in harmony, plunging into silence - there is perspective. Of all of this. And in that perspective, in that wrangling of raw emotion into channels of meaning - comes art. Chaos can be rich and fertile soil for new ideas, stories, inventions, music, healing, and more.
Get your hands in there:
1. Identify the conflict, within.
2. Visualize a solution to the conflict, a resolution.
3. Use the emotions around the conflict, channel them into a vision.
4. Create an idea or story or image of some aspect of that vision.
5. Trust your art to convey its message through this mess.
For more on alchemizing raw emotion and paradox into art, check out:
Memorial Day Paradox: Creativity and the War Machine.
by Stacie Hammond, July 1, 2020
3 - 4 min read
I've been reminiscing a lot, lately...
Pull up a seat, put your feet up, and I'll tell you a story...
See, I was a people-pleasing little girl. I was impeccably behaved in adorable little dresses that twirled when I'd spin around and curtsy. Petite, polite, well-mannered, good grades, a cheeky smile, and I listened to my folks. I chased faeries through ferns in the backyard and was delighted to be their Queen. I took good care of them.
I was born into a life of beautiful, magical stories and endless hope and dreaming. I went to Sunday School and learned my commandments and I looked both ways when I crossed the street. I helped set the table. I helped my neighbors. I was a good girl and I lived in a beautiful and sheltered world.
And I'm glad to have grown up in a world with fewer gadgets and more actual face time, where we spent so much of our youth riding bicycles and playing tag and throwing jacks and trading game cards and bubble gum. And finding secret hiding places to curl up with my books and read into new worlds and new adventures. (I read Pride & Prejudice about seven times, as a teen.)
Simpler days. We were lucky kids and they were good, good times.
In adolescence and into adulthood, life would test me, tease me, trip me, hurt me, and push me down, hard. Life would walk over me; walk past me, and laugh at me. Heartbreaks, betrayals, bad habits, confusion about the future, financial strain. Worry. And I stumbled a lot. I made so many mistakes, some over and over again, but I also accomplished incredible things that I never, ever thought I would. I just kept surprising myself. I learned to challenge myself, as I set goals and pushed myself forward through life, despite what anyone else said. It wasn't easy, but I began to notice the patterns - when change came, the fear also came. Like a wave, it would wash in and move things around, and then wash out again. And as long as I could stand back up, if I could get on my feet again, I knew I'd be fine for a while. And what has always kept me sane was a notebook and a pen and seeing life as a story.
In the past five years, I've blogged and written and dug deep and turned myself inside out trying to get to the roots of who I am and why I'm here what I have to say. And after traveling the country and emptying my guts and chasing my triggers and using therapeutic tools and doing the work - the soul work, the mindset work, the wellness work, the household work - I would get so close to finding an answer. And of course, it only asks more questions... and so it goes... and goes...
And in the ongoing exploration, in the very awareness that I am alive and participating in something bigger than me, I remember, where I've been and what matters most. After so much searching, my strategy is that simple - I pause and reflect upon my life, so far. Hard times don't last, and good times don't always last. So, I've learned to cherish and absorb the good times, and have faith and learn through the bad times. Joy, love, and beauty live inside us and all around us and where we cannot find these things, we can cultivate or uncover them - in moments - while we wait for that sweet comfort to return. And sometimes, a deep breath and a moment to count our blessings, is enough.
In our homes, in our gardens and porches and stoops and balconies, in our families and relationships and work-places and communities, in our art and creativity and dreaming - life can be very simple, but it often takes a long time and a lot of mistakes to come to understand and appreciate something so simple.
by Stacie Hammond
4 -5 min read
"I'm chasing the Muse..." I used to say, with a smile.
My creative philosophy used to be to simply soak up life and ooze out art. I took it as it came, it washed in and out, as it pleased. So romantic and blissful and serendipitous... As if I were dependent upon inspiration, itself, as if it lived so far outside of me like a separate being, and I had to find myself in its path in order to let the art through. I've discovered that this is a bit silly.
Thinking this way got me stuck, a bit. Stagnated. I wasn't writing. I wasn't creating, not really. Nothing tangible, anyway. I was exploring, sure. Drinking in life, meditating, soul-searching, pondering, experiencing, pushing out my edges, absorbing and scintillating with essence and new energy. Yes, yes, all of that, and no regrets. But I haven't really been - in the flow - and writing, for a good, long time. I've been, you know, saying that I'm writing... which is code for "it's all in my head."
The truth is that I wasn't sitting down to fresh, clean pages. I wasn't putting myself in front of the screen, with the cursor blinking back at me, asking me what I had to say, what I saw, who I met, what I learned, and what it all felt like. It was all stuck inside. I took a few years and chased inspiration, freely, and filled tons of notebooks and journals, and even turned it into a book, Wild Horses and Mistakes, which has been unpublished for the time being. It may be back, it may not - there are all sorts of things to consider when writing nonfiction/memoir, and I am so-far self-published. Lots to learn and mistakes were made. Make-believe is make-believe; it's a bit more free and artistic and there are less rules.
But in the space that was cleared - by removing that current work from the proverbial shelf - the Muse began to chatter again. (New work-in-progress!) The world came alive in all its hardship and struggle and simple beauty and shimmering characters and hope and perseverance and story. Art. My mind switched back over into story-building mode, into poetry and wonder and curiosity and meaning, and way out of personal perfection-seeking mode.
And the cold, hard truth is - anyone can say that they're writing. But to sit down and produce fresh copy, or new pages, or increase your page or word count everyday... is something different. To fill in that white space. I've found that I need equal parts grit and bliss, in order to keep the momentum going:
When I have both of these in balance - hard work and free play - creativity flourishes. In recent years, I had been either ALL GRIT or ALL BLISS. And I've found that art works best in the in-between, dancing between both. Discipline and freedom, struggle and rest, hard work and play.
If you're a writer (or you want to be...) and you're struggling to fill in the pages these days, here are a few tips to get past that stickiness and get things moving again...
For more on Creative Blocks and Procrastination, see my podcast:
The Jelly: creative hustle for anxious minds
"My first ever podcast! Here, I talk about topics fresh in my mind: writer's block and procrastination. Both common for creatives. This is reality: I have laundry going, a few quiet moments, a Mac, a mic, and lots of real-life insight to share. Ways to unblock creativity, with real tips, why we procrastinate, and how to move forward and produce something real and tangible. Anxious people are often the most creative, if we can get out of our heads. I'm here to help you do that because I really do care. The world needs what you've got. Let's get creative..."
Welcome back! I've missed you...thanks for hanging in there. I've been moving the furniture around in here - and in my life and my bedroom and lots of places...
Sweet Simple Life sums up all the big, life-changing, very ordinary things I've learned in my forty-something years of being here and there and back again:
My list of life's wisdoms used to be far more complex and definitely more wordy, but the older I get and the more life I experience, the simpler it all becomes - family, friends, work, play, health, art, and time in Nature - these seem to be the essentials, for me. I think if you can find a way to do what you love in life, then by all means, you should do it. Because to do so enriches your soul and makes you a better YOU and may just inspire someone else or even cause an unseen ripple of change in the world, big or small.
Our creative magic is that powerful - we'll never fully know what our ramblings and art can do.
If you can find a way to share what's inside of you with others and allow your reinvention through that journey of Self, you may just thrive in ways that you've never imagined. Even if some things don't work, others will. Even if you make mistakes, you'll learn from them. Even if its messy, you can learn as you go. Even if you disappear for a while, you can always come back. Creativity is fluid and forgiving and ever-present - like a current. It's never gone, even if we step away for a little while.
There is a sweet, simple joy that comes from being exactly who you are, and knowing that it's enough. To know and understand yourself and accept yourself, as you are, can be a doorway into life's most beautiful adventures.
I'll be stashing my words here:
Happy reading and I hope you find something of value, here.
Much Love, Stacie