I took my creativity crusade on the road this past May. I had the privilege of conducting a two-part workshop entitled, “Creating Peace With Your Own Two Hands” for a group of Caregivers. The sessions were held at the Center for Health and Wellbeing, a beautiful facility dedicated to strengthening the mind, body, and spirit. And the spirits of the participants we met were in dire need of strengthening.
Everything about this center, from the architecture, to the meditation gardens, and the gorgeous terrazzo and resin medallions embedded in the floors promotes a sense of peace and wellbeing.
It was the perfect venue for the healing we hoped would happen for people whose lives have been turned upside down by debilitating illnesses.
Our pottery threesome, armed with aprons, glazes, paper and pencils facilitated a plate painting session. Participants were invited to create six word stories expressing their feelings. I love six-word stories. They are the perfect little drive-by of emotional expression. The constraints of choosing only six words is freeing. It relieves the pressure of writing a perfect story.
Legend has it Ernest Hemingway, out to lunch at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, bet a table full of fellow writers he could write a short story in just six words. His companions had their doubts and wagered ten dollars each to put Hemingway to the test. As the tale goes, Hemingway believed the resulting story to be his finest work ever.
Poignant to say the least. Well so were many written during our first session: Doing Your Best is Never Enough, composed by Daniel and reflecting his despair over his care partner’s frustrations. A more positive spin came from Lisa- There is always a silver lining. Pat wrote a double entendre with two interpretations, This is harder than I thought, reflecting her reactions to the creative exercise and her caregiving journey.
Creativity is obviously not a panacea, but I do believe it encourages mindfulness. As my friend Margie Pabst says,
“As a caregiver, activities that use our hands also reduce stress as tensions melt into creations—green shoots breaking the soil, a clay cup fired from the kiln or a melody breaking the silence or noise of the day. When we use our hands to create, we discover solace and create peaceful moments for ourselves and our care partners.
We came to the workshop loaded with statistics and suggestions for creative coping techniques. As is often the case, though, I was the one walking away feeling enriched and humbled by the sagas shared.
I carried home stories of spouses describing their multiple roles and responsibilities, leaving them little time for their own pursuits. On our second day, a participant, her voice cracking, shared that her husband’s death was imminent perhaps even immediate. She raged against the ineptitude of the nursing home. The love and devotion was palpable among our participants. I was struck by the bravery. The fact that these attendees even showed up for our workshop was brave. They aren’t settling for a diminished life. Bravery isn’t always about climbing mountains or parachuting from planes. It’s the little every day heroics, like choosing to own your own life rather than allowing circumstances or others to own you.
I was honored and happy for the opportunity to meet these real heroes.