Sunday, December 27, 2015

Creative conundrum

When people tell me I'm creative, I never know what to say, because I don't think I'm particularly creative. The other day, when someone said to me, "I didn't know you could play the piano so well," I had a sort of revelation: To someone who cannot do what you do, or does not know how to do what you do, the very fact that you can do it is amazing. But you, because you are trained, or have some knowledge of the art -- you know you are far from amazing, because you have seen or heard others do even more amazing things, things which you are painfully aware are beyond your meagre skills.

But I realised I should own my creativity, I should own my abilities and talents. And it is wonderful that I can play the piano. It is wonderful that I can read musical scores, and it is wonderful that I can improvise somewhat if I have guitar chords instead of the full score. Okay, so I cannot play by ear, and feel terribly limited because of that. And I am not fantastic at improvising and I can't play in many different styles -- jazz, for example, is still foreign to me. But I feel I should be thankful for what I can do.

Although I don't consider myself a perfectionist, in some ways when it comes to creative endeavours, I am one. Which is a bit of an oxymoron, since creativity by its very definition doesn't lend itself to perfection. It has to be fluid and free. You can't box it in, or demand it follow certain rules.

But I am the child who always coloured inside the lines and was careful to ensure the space was coloured perfectly, with not a single minute white gap remaining to be seen. I am the child who believed that if you follow the rules, you will be safe. I am the child who thought mistakes were ugly and flawlessness equalled beauty. I am the child who decided that since A + B = C, there is always a process to be followed in order to obtain optimum results.

I am now the adult who struggles to create.

People who know me would not believe that statement. To the outside eye, I suppose I have a respectable output. But they don't notice that I produce the same doodles over and over again in office meetings. If the doodles look good, it is only because I have honed them to perfection after more than two decades of doodling the same thing. You can ask my high school classmates -- some of them would remember the doodles I left in the margins of my textbooks. I also play the piano in much the same style as I always have... which frustrates me, yet is safe.

So yes... within creativity I feel there are certain rules, like if one is colouring, one ought to colour within the lines. A circle should be a perfect circle, perfectly round. If I am making jewellery, every part of the piece should align perfectly. I struggle because it is good to have standards, yet stifling to be so rules-bound. It's difficult for me to let go and explore, not knowing what will happen or where something will take me. In that sense, my creativity is limited. I don't try crazy new things; I want to be safe, to know it will work -- not just work, that it will work the way I want it to work -- before I try it. Because I hate failing; I hate making something I'm not happy with. It causes me to feel upset with myself for doing something wrong, turning out something flawed.

My rational mind knows that whatever minor flaws or imperfections become part of the object's charm, causing it to possess a beauty all its own. But my heart can't accept anything less than perfection. So I get my logical mind to analyse the possibilities and then I meticulously create according to plan. Creating is very rewarding for me and something I enjoy, but is also something I approach rather timidly. This fear, this hatred of imperfection, is killing my creativity.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The workings of a woman's mind

This is how a woman thinks:

I like flowers. (For example)

I want him to buy me flowers because he remembered what I like, and he thought of me and wants to buy them to please me.

I cannot ask him to buy me flowers, because if I ask, that means he's doing it because I asked, not because he really wants to. It means the push came from me, not from him.

WHY HE NEVER BUY ME FLOWERS ONE?! Fucker doesn't care that I like flowers! He didn't pay attention and doesn't care about what I like or don't like. Therefore, he doesn't care about me! 😭😭😭😭😭

Not in control

The #1 most difficult lesson for me to learn in love is:

You can't make things happen.

If I want it but he doesn't, there is nothing I can do to make him want it.

When I reach that point of wanting to try to make him want it, I can feel the desperation in myself. And I know he will feel it, too.

It is then best to let go.

Friday, December 4, 2015


She is a flower
With soft, soft petals
So easily bruised.

She feels fragile
For a strong wind
Could rip her petals away
Tearing her apart
Leaving her bare and bleeding.

She trembles on her stem
Anticipating the coming touch
Fearing rough and careless hands.

She lies defenseless
In the face of the storm
On the cold frosty ground.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Practising vulnerability

    Over the last several years of unannounced disappearances, friend-zoning, and dozens of iterations of “I like you, but I’m not ready for anything right now,” I had no relationship to show for the extra night shifts of vulnerability I invested. The trend of men using my openness as a platform to rebuild their confidence and gain knowledge about the types women they really wanted left me, and continues to leave me, empty.
    --Tia Joy Davis, Why Girls Like Me Ask For Intentions Up Front

After listening to Brene Brown's talks, every time I start a conversation with a new guy on OkCupid, I'm very aware that I'm practising vulnerability. The only question is the extent to which I choose to be vulnerable.

This is a calculated risk which I manage intuitively. Some depends on the extent to which the other person is open with me, some depends on how safe I feel telling him stuff (based on how he has responded so far and how I think he might respond), and some depends on how much I believe I might gain by doing so: no guts, no glory, as I like to put it. But whatever it is, it is my choice, and you should never blame others for a choice you made. I choose how vulnerable I want to be, and I have to live with that choice and its consequences.

I see three types, or perhaps three layers of vulnerability: one is when you choose to explain yourself, i.e. when you delve beneath the surface and allow another to see the motivations, reasons, and intentions behind your actions, when you reveal your thought processes and perspectives and opinions. Another is when you choose to speak of matters which are important to you or close to your heart, such as hopes and dreams, cherished memories, experiences which have shaped you, deep needs and desires. The final one is is when you choose to share the difficult, and often hidden, areas of life: your pain and sorrow, your struggles, your failures, your regrets, your weaknesses, your doubts and fears.

For me, vulnerability is always a challenge since I want to stay safe. I want to be sure that the person I'm trusting with more of myself will cherish that gift, that insight I'm affording them into the inner workings of my heart and mind, my very identity. So, to use a metaphor, I first lift up just a tiny corner of the blanket and give them a small glimpse of what lies beneath. If they respond with acceptance, kindness, and empathy, I eventually uncover more and more.

All this is not a conscious act, you must understand. I do it intuitively, and have so far not regretted my choices, ever. The only time I have been thrown off is when I allowed my assumptions or expectations to silence my intuition. Like, when I thought that due to the nature of our relationship, close family members would automatically be able to handle the information and accept this gift of being allowed to see into me. But no, being related by blood has no bearing on a person's capacity to respond to you with acceptance, kindness, or empathy. Lesson learnt.

And it was a painful lesson. It's always painful when the person you are vulnerable with doesn't respect the privilege you are extending to share your life, your very self with them. The greater the pain, the more tempting it has been to retreat and build high protective walls instead of practising vulnerability. But here is where the conscious decision comes in -- I have chosen instead to be very, very careful. I couldn't live behind walls... I would wither from the lack of nourishing human, soul-to-soul contact. So I keep trying, because the rewards are worth the risk.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Feeding the soul

Occasionally I like to buy myself a single red rose. It's clichéd, I know, but roses are my favourite flower, and having a rose on my desk speaks to me of hope. Sometimes I just need to be reminded that there's beauty in the world out there, if I choose to look for it.

I wrote that in March 2010. It's been a really long time since I've bought myself a rose, and I think I need to do this again. Flowers speak to me in a way I can't express; they delight and cheer my soul, they make me pause in awe at a Maker who put so much attention to detail into something that has no other purpose than to be decorative (in order to entice various insects or birds to pollinate the plant, yes, but still--!). And they are so delicate, requiring gentle handling... in some small way they whisper to me of God's love for me, for some days I feel fragile, and as I tenderly caress the soft petals I imagine Him tending to me with similar loving, gentle care.
...And then I discover I wrote a similar post here ;)