About a week ago, I found this image the Facebook page of one of my friends, Susan Frank. I was struck by the simplicity and the power of these questions, and the easiest way to save it for myself was to share it on my Facebook page.
This message needed to be saved because over the last several weeks, I had found myself slipping into a cavern of deep frustration. I was able to keep the despair at bay–most of the time, but it was always nearby, threatening to join in. I kept working on projects and deadlines, but there was no joy in the normal day-to-day interactions with students that inspired me or reassured me that the efforts were effective. Occasionally, there would be some extraordinary moments where I actually got away from the desk and the classroom, but they were few. They renewed me momentarily, but they lost the cumulative effect that such encounters have had in the past.
This was my frame of mind then, when I encountered this message. I didn’t have to go beyond these four questions to recognize why I was so out-of-balance. The original four questions got my attention:
- When did you stop dancing?
- When did you stop singing?
- When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
- When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
I stopped all of these things when I felt like I had no time. I had plans to do a blog piece about dancing, but that was months ago now. It also had become necessary to stop going to Curves until the doctor cleared me to return. I could still be occasionally enchanted by stories, but it was harder for stories to reach my soul, and I stopped telling my own stories. As a result, my blog became lifeless. And silence lost all its sweetness as anxiety and its endless chatter took up lodging in my mind.
As much as these questions got my attention, I knew I needed to make them even more personal. I needed to create a list of questions that would guide me back to a sense of wholeness. A reminder that there are some activities that are necessary and not optional. By framing the questions in such a way, I could plot a path back to myself. I created a list of personalized questions:
- When did you stop making music?
- When did you stop quilting?
- When did you stop sharing your stories?
- When did you stop finding comfort in the small moments of beauty and sweetness?
In the couple of days since I created my own questions, there has been a shift. A summer quilting project will be revealed tomorrow. I’ve started blogging again, with more of a focus on stories, including a story about my future blog. I am set up to return to Curves in August. In the meantime, I’ve started walking to a coffee shop that is quite a bit farther than the local shops. The walking is the beginning of putting movement back into my life, while also giving me a source of new things to notice and appreciate. And a few times a week, the coffee shop provides a change of scenery that boosts my creative output.
At the moment, much of the stress has been eased, at least temporarily. I can now focus my energy on creative healing while accomplishing the tasks on my list in a more balanced way. Life is looking a lot brighter.