20 for 2020: Creative Expression

Mike Meyers as Austin Powers, lays reclined on his left hip, propped up on his left elbow, left leg extended, right knee bent and right foot planted flat on the floor. He holds the frame of his thick, black glasses with his right thumb and forefinger and has a slight, open-toothed grin. He’s wearing a 60’s style suit with thin blue and red vertical stripes, a kerchief, and a large symbol of male power medallion.
My mojo!

2020 was a year of struggle to reclaim my mojo. In the face of all the overwhelm of an upside down work life, the ripple effects of social injustice reverberating loud and clear through 400 years of oppression, political dumpster fires burning in every headline and social media post, and a public health crisis of epic proportions, my capacity to actively seek joy and push personal learning and creativity seemed to always be taking a back seat to managing the mental, physical, and emotional effects of persistent and toxic levels of stress in which I mostly succummbed to fits of ugly crying, eating comfort food, drinking too much, and just sitting on the couch to breathe, collect myself, and mitigate stressors. Arguably, making time for creativity and learning, and doing the proactive work of joy seeking are healthy ways to manage the former. And I agree, and also? This has been a year of exhausting triage, so pardon me for not always having my rose colored glasses on.

I’m not sure why I, or any of us, am feeling a sense of relief that this year is coming to a close. The turning of the calendar page, or even the hanging of a whole new one, doesn’t mean we leave all the garbage behind—it will all be waiting for us at 12:01 AM on January 1, 2021. For me, at least, I think it something to do with the one elemental thing that I enjoy about holidays, especially birthdays and New Years, the concept of renewing cycles. Should you have not actively reached for something you desire, the universe gives you a little poke to remind you that the roller coaster is going around one more time, if you haven’t made changes or otherwise tinkered with things in your control, do it now. One thing is certain, as sure as I am writing this and you are reading it, we made it, we survived 2020 and are rapidly approaching a one-year anniversary of some kind, depending on how you’ve measured the New World Order. We got this.

I’m staring down a year that will be nothing like the last, and it is winking at me, like an invitation to joy.

Here are the ways I sometimes nourished, and sometimes, starved, my creative self in 2020:

Put at least 30 minutes daily into Mojo List/Side Hustle

Meditate at least 5 minutes every day

These two items almost give me tears of joy as I remember the first few weeks of the year that I diligently tried to operationalize them, usually resulting in a hasty and somewhat forced late and final 40 or so minutes of my day in which I did something that resembled 30 minutes of work on a side hustle and set a timer for five minutes to sit quietly and breathe deeply in my living room before going upstairs to brush my teeth and put myself to bed. It was possibly creating more stress than productivity and I dropped this as a structured habit in a few weeks.

The one solid meditation container I have carved out for myself has been to tie it to somewhat regular hot scented mineral baths. Discovering many years ago the simple pleasure of hot scented mineral soaks, and that it’s a relatively inexpensive form of indulgent self-care, they have become a routine of sorts and an important source of quality time with my SO. Baking soda, epsom salt, and essential oils pleasing to your nose, sink into all those hot, soothing positive ions, and breathe deeply. Dim the lights, ignite a candle, and/or bring along a calming herbal tea, a glass of wine, or some hydrating coconut water as a bonus, and you’re on your way to Nirvana. Technically not meditation, I know, though I’ll take it where I can make it. The SO is fidgety, overheats quickly, and I think doesn’t like pruning, so he usually jumps out in short order, leaving me to continue luxuriating, and as has become my regular habit in these moments, to count to 300, focusing on the slow drawing of my breath in and out, and usually visualizing the numbers counting down a 5 minute period as a way to center. It’s not a daily practice, though it is a solid habit I can continue building on.

A bright pink lotus flower dominates from the lower left corner of this landscape view of a watery, green backdrop from around pond surface level.
No mud, No Lotus.

Resurrect some language skills.

Not so much here, either, except that time I accepted an invitation to be a guest on a language learning podcast to talk about my long history as a language learner.

Learn at least 12 origami well enough to execute without following directions.

A collection of various origami models arranged together on a tabletop in bright orange, pink, and green. There are wallets standing in a row, boxes and envelopes, topped with a crane and a frog, a bookmark rests at the corner of an envelope, and a fortune teller props up from behind.

Accessible Origami Project outcomes.

I can fold a wallet, and even used it as a teachable moment in a workshop full of Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) in October. I came into this one with a box that my mom taught me when I was a kid, and I still have to think about it just a little. And don’t forget the fortune teller origami that all 3rd grade girls know. And at least one variation of a paper airplane. OK, one variation of an airplane. That’s four, only one of which I learned this year. Yet if I pull the drawer in which I store all the models I’ve learned, if not practiced well enough to memorize, an explosion of brightly colored, items like a children’s story book exploded into all it’s component parts from someone’s imagination—butterflies and jumping frogs, 2 kinds of envelopes to complement my wallet, a second variety of box, a house for them all to live in and a bookmark to remember the page with your favorite. I made all these things, and while I can’t sit down and replicate them without unfolding my existing models and reconstructing the folding process, I know I can simply open this drawer of joy. In a year of context I could have never predicted when I wrote these aspirations, a year of stress, uncertainty, grief, angst,and heartbreak. A year of loss and death, of difficulty in simple things once taken for granted. Opening this drawer and looking at the bright neon pink, orange, yellow, and green, the whimsy, and under the mountain of paper treasures are the stacks of unfolded paper waiting to be brought to life, there is joy an potential, there is happiness, and there is knowing. Knowing that the unexpected burden of this year sucked a lot of the fun out of my life, that there is a small drawer full of it in my garage where I keep my craft supplies, just waiting for me to open it and release the joy of learning, the whimsy of color and shape, the satisfaction of manifesting a little item of delight and releasing it into the world. Fold your stress into the wings of a butterfly and flap your fluster away, tuck your worry into the butt of a jumping frog and send it hopping. Craft a collection of cranes for world peace like Sadako. Make a box to pack your worries into for another time. Construct a little house for your soul. Fold a cup to runneth over. Write a love letter to yourself, tuck it into an envelope, and seal it with a kiss and save up your good fortune in that wallet, we may need it in the coming year.

I never guessed when I was organizing my craft supplies that this little drawer would safeguard my joy and happiness. I didn’t really check this one off my list, though I derived so much more from it than I imagined, and look forward to keeping this one on my list for next year and making more room in my life for origami lessons with Bay Area Blind Mom’s Accessible origami Project. Evenif I don’t memorize them.

Stick A Fork In It

And so concludes my reckoning of my 20 for 2020. Now to sit with the New World Order, both broadly and personally speaking, and to wink back at 2021 with my list of demands.

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