Years ago, I lived through the death of someone dear to me largely by cleaning house and arranging things in a pleasing way. I wanted to cast my eye about and see loveliness—everywhere. The therapist I was seeing off and on at the time (y’know, maintenance) remarked that I coped by “weaving the threads of my anxiety and sadness into something beautiful.” For years, I put the emphasis on the word “beauty,” because it is true: I do love beauty and give myself over to its sway willingly.
I’m not talking about perfect beauty so much as I am referring to an inherent quality in things, events, ephemera and people that speaks directly to the soul and is hard to pin down in the final analysis. Beauty that breaks your heart and puts it back together again. Beauty that gives reason where it seems to be lacking. Beauty that, on sight, makes us feel balanced and is if things are right with the world after all. Beauty that grows out of imperfection. Flawed beauty. Accidental beauty. Spontaneous beauty. Simple beauty. It’s hard to put this into words, of course, because it really defies description even though you all know what I’m talking about.
So, yes, beauty is important to me. But I’ve realized after many years, that the more significant part of the therapist’s statement wasn’t the beauty bit. It was the part about “weaving”—doing something, making something out of something else—taking all those feelings that are so hard to hold inside yourself, and transforming them through almost any creative act whatsoever into something else. A vase of cut flowers. A quilt. A typographic solution. A crocheted bag. A beautifully clean closet. A new business idea. A blog post. A handwritten letter. A nourishing meal.
Making things, or at least trying to, is my drug. It lifts me up when all else will fail. The entire contents of a pharmacy are zero to me compared to creating something where, before, there was nothing. Even if that something is just an idea. A scribble. A plan. I’m good at starting things, but not always good at finishing them.
(I don’t think I’m alone in this. So many of you write beautiful blogs and take stunning pictures. And I know you’re not in it for the self-promotion. There’s something about just doing those two things—isn’t there?—writing and photographing—that helps set us straight. And so many of you make so much else besides…beautiful homes, delicious dishes, chicken houses, gardens, new business plans, mini-empires. Some of you make mockery of disease in the most stunning act of creativity and daring of all!)
I suppose this is why, in the end, I chose advertising as a way to make a living. I didn’t relish the poverty of being an artist, but I knew that I needed to be called upon to make things. To realize something that sprang from a creative inspiration. It’s why, too, I tried to do it differently, injecting beauty when and where I could, and it’s the reason I was lucky to land in a place that conducted (and still does) this unwieldy and often ugly business with great finesse and relative enlightenment. It helped that there were deadlines, and people standing by to make me meet them. It helped that when one project finished, there were always three more.
For years now, my husband and I have both freelanced—his projects arriving from all corners of the globe. So our work comes and goes, riding the waves of geopolitical events, constant technological changes and economic crises. This is not a good time. It’s a challenging time. But I’m not complaining. When we’re not making things for pay, we have time to dream up and make other things. Who knows what will grow out of it. Who knows what the sleepless nights, as full of wonder as they are of worry, will weave themselves into.
A new career? A knitted sock? A story to tell you? I don’t know yet. But I will, and when I do, you’ll be among the first to know. Have a lovely day, OK?