Re-imagining The Space Between

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash
Photo by Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

Pandemic rules repeatedly remind me that space is a relative concept. Even when lines have been painted on the floor, to some people six feet apparently looks more like six inches, while to others it appears closer to 60 feet. The measurement is not to blame. Humans seem to have always had a need to define their spaces, and as long as that need has existed, each human being has approached space with his or her unique understanding of what it is, how it should be, and how long they want to stay there.

When I first started this blog, my mental space was very different than it is today. I was stuck in the middle of a transfer from career professional to freelancer, and from one continent to another. I was working from home, with a baby and taking those first daring to steps toward becoming a writer. I was desperate to connect with other people who found themselves in similar situations.

I was incredibly lucky to meet Julie Patton, who could not only empathize, but was willing to take a little risk with me by writing about our experiences trying to find sanity in the spaces between, and stick it online. It felt bold and daring, sharing our thoughts with anyone on the web who would read them. We celebrated each new subscriber (yes, You!) and each new idea that allowed us to vent about something that had been driving us just a little bit crazier than we were to begin with.

However, the space Julie and I created here has begun to feel very small in light of all that has been happening in the world lately. Between pandemics and racially-motivated killings, blatant political corruption, and environmental peril, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm to write about tips to mitigate PTO drama, or how to use that drama to create realistic antagonists.

Recently, nothing that I felt comfortable writing about seemed worth writing. I’ve been considering whether to thank you all for your support and put this time toward some other endeavor. My farewell post is half-written, and as this afternoon I was fairly certain that today was the day it was going online.

As I stood in the shower trying to resign myself to closing out this fun experiment, I realized that my problem isn’t that I’m lacking for things to say. The problem is finding the courage to say the things that I feel need to be said.

I’m refocusing The Space Between. I want this to be a space to promote the risky, tricky, beautiful process of transformation. I want it to speak to all the spaces we find ourselves between these days.

I was listening to Unlocking Us with Brene´ Brown earlier, in which she interviews Glennon Doyle on her latest book Untamed. In the interview, Glennon tells the story she uses to open the book, that of a cheetah she and her family saw in a show at a zoo. The cheetah performs for the crowd, gets rewarded and is returned to her enclosure, where her entire demeanor changes. Although the cheetah was born in captivity, there is something wild about the feline form pacing the fence line. It’s as if there is some deep instinct within her that recognizes that there is more to the world than she has ever seen, and she yearns for that space.

Hearing Glennon tell her cheetah metaphor brought two things to mind. The first was the perspective-shifting poem from Leslie Dwight that stopped me in my mental tracks the first time I read it.

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Creating Creativity

How to keep your well from running dry

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

As a writer, and a person whose drawing skills maxed out at stick figures (not the cool, funny kind), when someone mentions creativity I immediately start thinking of stories. 

‘What would happen if a leprechaun moved to New York City? Or maybe if a shape shifter came to Earth and could only learn by experiencing what it’s like to be each item in a food chain? Or better yet, let’s combine the two…. NOW we’re getting out of the box!’

If I push myself, I might perhaps consider story structure, and how to creatively approach my leprechaun/shape shifter encounter in way that isn’t just omniscient retelling. 

‘What if the narrator is a jellyfish that can only think in watery thought bubbles in the present tense because it has no temporal lobe? Only it turns out to be an unreliable narrator because it is actually another shape shifter who is dreaming about the future….’

And if I’m feeling very avant garde, I might noodle over poetry and the intersection between structure and prose and story. 

‘…And that jellyfish only thinks in iambic pentameter….’

But then my brain short circuits and I revert to my usual thought patterns, which boil down to how do I get this story out of my brain and onto the virtual paper? 

Did you catch that? My creative efforts fall into ‘usual thought patterns’. That’s just fancy speak for a rut.  

How creative can you be if you’re in a mental rut????  

https://www.reddit.com/r/perfectloops/comments/3i88qw/stuck_in_a_rut/

(Especially if you don’t even realize that you’re in a rut in the first place.)

Enter Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day – the perfect brain de-rutter. Day’s unique, quirky, upbeat approach to creation pushes you to reexamine various forms of creativity (in addition to yourself and why it is that you tend toward certain creative outlets). One second she’s challenging you to list all the creative endeavors you’ve ever tried –and  then BAM! She demonstrates how being creative in one sphere can unlock creative bursts in other areas – like a giant creative snowball. By the time I was done with her book, I was ready to get back to glass blowing, knitting, and singing. And I could already feel the current of creativity flowing back toward story creation. (The stick figures, though, are still what they are.) 

Another great way to challenge your brain tracks? Get out of your space, physically and mentally. In case you doubt my commitment to this method, I headed to Cleveland to volunteer at an outdoor performance arts festival in February. Yup. Because few thing demand creativity like trying to entice people out of their warm homes to attend a festival in the dead of a lakeside winter. Yet, Brite Winter has become hugely popular over the last decade. It’s gone from an all-volunteer effort cooked up by a couple of community-minded Case Western grad students (my awesome friend Emily Hornack and her awesome friend Jimmy Harris) to a registered charity with a full-time staff; from a three-band, 600-person event to a 40-musical artist, 20,000-person event. (So if you live in the greater Ohio area and haven’t been yet, yes, you ARE in fact missing out.)

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Hope and Grief, Connection and Creativity: An Interview with Cara Martinisi

Cara Martinisi is a writer, advocate, certified grief counselor, and mom to three little boys, one in heaven and two on Earth. She lost her 6-year-old son in a tragic accident in 2014. She blogs about her journey, sharing with others the beauty and wisdom she and her family have found in the pain they experience. Visit her blog at Christian’s Red Balloon and her new foundation Love From Heaven to support grieving families. You can also connect on Twitter at Grief’s Guiding Light @lightofgrief.

Cara, you have a beautiful blog about dealing with the loss of a child, and you’ve published other articles in a variety of blogs (including this one) besides. What is it like trying to capture your experience, your emotions, in words? 

Self-expression in words has always come easy to me. In fact many times, I find myself narrating situations in my own head as they are unfolding. The physical act of writing is soothing. I love the way pen and pencil feel on paper. As my emotions leave my body and the pen glides along the page, a certain sense of calm overcomes me.

There are some emotions that are more difficult than others to put into words. When I have trouble finding words that fit my emotions, I turn to meditation. Often this works, but not always.

Photo by Aung Soe Min on Unsplash

After Christian passed away, my ability to read was gone. The concentration and focus needed to delve into books had vanished. It pained me. It was over a year before I could pick up a book again. Now I read even more ferociously than before. The more I read, the more I am able to express myself. Reading, all different kinds of texts, has proven to be a wonderful compliment to my writing.

Were you a writer before 2014, or did the need to write arise out of your experiences? 

I have always considered myself a writer. English was my favorite subject in high school and my major in college. While many students bemoan paper writing, I enjoyed it. My confidence never paved the way for me to believe that I was good enough to do much more than write school papers. Although I was employed as a Deputy Managing Editor at The Economist, it felt as though it was more my attention to punctuation and detail that landed me my job.

After we lost Christian, writing was my way to carry on his memory. I would post a photograph, accompanied with a blurb about him, each day. At one time photography was a large creative outlet for me. That outlet seems to have dimmed since losing Christian, while writing is taking center stage now.

Grief is a powerful emotion.  Does it serve as a motivator or demotivator for you? 

Grief is an intensely powerful emotion. Most of the time it serves as a motivator for me. Many blog posts are derived from my own real time emotions surrounding grief. It truly helps me to keep the blog flowing, as emotions are always flowing. Grief will always be a part of me. With time and growth, my relationship to it changes, but it will always be there.

There are days, and sometimes more than one strung together, when grief is a demotivator. When these dark days descend upon me, fewer than in the past thankfully, it is difficult to do anything that brings joy. There are times when focusing is difficult. Eventually the fog lifts and I find myself returning to writing.

What did you hope to achieve when you started the blog, Christian’s Red Balloon?

My goals have always centered around helping others. It is all about healing. The hope has been to help others heal as well as to continue walking my own healing journey. I have received messages from grieving parents, those who have experienced grief in the past, as well as people who have just walked through tough times telling me that my writing is relate-able and helpful. While I am aware that my blog speaks most poignantly to grieving parents, I am also aware that none of us escape the world without running into some trouble.

It has been over a year that I have been writing my blog and it has become abundantly clear that a strong message is hope. Hope for those grieving, hope for those who are sick, hope for those who are experiencing tough times. We cannot control what comes our way in life, only our reactions. We need to move through the pain, the troubles that arise, and find light. For that is the only way to live again after you have been burned by the fire.

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