The Value of Art

Why do I get blogs out sometimes and not others? Why are there long gaps in my posts? No ideas come, no thoughts, words, sentences...even though I have so much I'd like to say, express, tell you all. Why do I even like writing? It isn't about a need to keep working through last year. It isn't because I like talking about it. I tend to avoid it actually. There are things I've never said or shared. Part of the reason I even started this blog is because our experience showed me definitively how utterly human and imperfect and broken we all are - but beautifully imperfect in a way that can lead to joy and hope. That is the human part of life. Being put together all the time, well that's not possible. I remember one comment online after Ben died, it was from a stranger about me, insinuating I was that type of person -- had everything going for me, life was easy. I believe they referred to me as Mrs. "hyphenated name" or something along those lines. Consider Facebook....our children are growing up in a world where everyone puts their best face forward, all the good times, the happy smiles and accomplishments. But, is that real? Are they learning it is okay not to be perfect? No one ever speaks up to say "I'm totally broken and imperfect, but I'm making it and life is beautiful and so worth it." I've realized through receiving so many emails recently that everyone has weaknesses, tough life experiences, regrets, struggles and imperfections. I write because in ways I have nothing else left. Maybe it gives me strength to just speak up and describe the real side of our humanity, my weaknesses, struggles and the reality of living each day with that brokenness and imperfection. That way, anyone who feels the same but never says it...well, they can see they are not alone. Not in the slightest. Maybe I find liberation in saying things that most people never do. When you have nothing else left.

I also write because it saves me. I've seen the profound value of art in my and others' lives recently and it has made me ponder whether art can truly save a life? I think it can. We were watching So You Think You Can Dance last week and saw a dance choreographed by Sonya Tayeh. It put movement to the 10 seconds after a person experiences a tragedy. Those 10 seconds after you get the phone call, when you cannot breathe and the world stops.

I was moved. I couldn't cry, as I typically would pre-Ben, because my nervous system and emotions are so messed up...but I was still moved. Just like in the dance, I feel suspended in air, and it's still hard to breathe sometimes. Are there emotions and experiences that are so integral to the human experience and staying connected yet cannot be expressed traditionally though words and speech? I believe there are. Many days are good now, but there are those dark times....lasting from a moment to a few hours to a few days...then I am able to pull myself out of it with friends, running, kids and....writing. Often the strong emotions I feel about life in general I can't even express in words to new friends...they are too much, too deep, too inexplicable, too complicated. The pain, grief yet deep love for life, family and friends. How love and loss and utter destruction can make one feel so differently and deeply about life. It changes everything. I've had moments where I feel like the only way to express it all is through a loud, guttural SCREAM. Maybe I should just run out into the woods near our house, alone, and scream. I'm not a speaker...I can do it...but I much prefer expressing emotions through writing. In some of those dark moments, I've brought myself back by simply realizing I can sit and write it down. To connect, to possibly help others. Music, dance and art can touch these deep indescribable places in us all even more naturally because no words are involved at all. They touch a place within us that we can't quite put our fingers on. The core of something much greater than ourselves.

One a rather dark day recently, I received an email from a friend that was titled "You've landed." It read: 

Over a year ago I wrote the following:

"It's as if the ocean has swallowed you whole and pounds you repeatedly into the surf. Wave after wave it's relentless. Then one day after the ocean of grief has had it's way with you, it spits you out exhausted and disoriented on the shore. Gasping and grasping the shore, blinded by the sun."

You made it.   There will be stormy nights and high tides that will threaten your existence...but you made it.  You are on shore.

Now picture everything you want your life to be.  Hold that image as your new goal and with the single minded focus of the runner at your core - just do it."

It is okay to have days where your only goal is to exist and make it through. It is okay to love and hurt and lose and love again, to feel things so profound it is hard to breathe. You are alive, human, real. I remember back to the year after Ben's birth. He was my third child, and it was my third bout of postpartum depression -- they got worse with each birth. I had actually considered not having a third just because of how the postpartum phase affects me personally. But, he was worth it. And I hid it relatively well around strangers, at work, around the kids. With depression or any mental or physical illness, some days it is a struggle to just get up and put yourself together. Sometimes you have to put your brain together each day to get through. To just breathe. It would be nice to be normal or perfect all the time, sometimes I have craved that. Yearned for it. But, it is simply not possible and part of the struggle is to accept who we are and embrace each other for it. The strongest emotion I felt in the days after Ben's death was of empathy. In the emergency room that night I remember thinking of this extreme example of imperfection and how my husband had helped me through before...and it is possible to love someone, deeply and unconditionally, even despite this inescapable part of our lives. It is our humanity, after all. I played John Legend's song "All of Me" over and over...because it hit a chord of the emotion I experienced that night. You give all of yourself to someone and you love all of them in return. The good and the bad.  

Through all the turmoil and darkness, I save myself through art and wrapping myself up in a warm blanket of love from family and friends. I want to roll around in it until it has diffused throughout my entire body and become the very continued beating of my heart, every breath. Love is life and our salvation and all that is completely real -- that never fails on those days of imperfection and struggle like we had on July 7, 2014.