Updated: Aug 12
By Brenda Riojas, I Start Wondering Columnist
After more than a year of living amid a pandemic, our creativity is starting to reemerge as we find our pace in moving forward out of a “collective grief.” Yes, it has been a rough period. We have been intimately connected to losses — the death of loved ones, the loss of employment, the disconnection from our community, the abrupt stop to many of our plans. Caution became the order of the day as we ceased to hug and kiss people in greeting. We grew paranoid about anything we touched.
As our social worlds begin to open back up, so too can we reboot our creative lives.
Embracing Creativity During COVID
While the pandemic scare brought more setbacks than we could have imagined, we pushed ahead. Gone were the large celebrations, crowds, travel, or eating out without worry. But life makes its way — weddings, births, graduations, though different, proceeded. Forced to use our creative resources, we found new ways to connect with each other.
I confess, however, I am growing tired of Zoom meetings. Thank goodness for the creativity of those who find ways to keep these virtual moments animated.
During these topsy-turvy days, I am grateful for the silver linings. I recovered from my own COVID-19 scare and have witnessed how light overcomes the darkness. I’ve seen how we can grow together and be there to help one another on the journey.
On the home front, my family spent more time cooking together and finding ways to better use our space. In our case, it was providential my husband had started transforming our attic into an art studio long before the pandemic. He finished it just before shelter-in-place restrictions took effect. It was also a joy to have my daughter return from Paris, France, and my 88-year-old mother-in-law came to live with us.
Like many women of my age, I also experienced some painful moments. Life is messy, after all, and having three generations in the same household during an election year came with its moments. I have faith that we will learn from these experiences, that we will persevere.
At work, we were sad that some of our co-workers were furloughed and then laid off. Learning to adjust to the unfolding days required that we look for creative ways to work with limited resources. As a result, we took some bold steps, adjusted our workload, and expanded the scope of our work.
Setting a New Pace
During a recent panel conversation about mental health care and the transitions we are living in, Leticia Nering, a licensed counselor from Edinburg, Texas, reminded us to respect each other’s pace and comfort levels. While many are celebrating their vaccination status, she said it is important that we not be judgmental with how others are moving forward. “We need to step according to our own pace, according to what we feel comfortable with,” she cautioned.
Not everyone is ready to take off their mask. But after putting so much on pause, many of us are looking for ways to reignite the creative spark that gives us joy. Women’s creativity that leads to joy comes from immersing ourselves in a new project, getting back to something we started, or finding solutions to a puzzle in our lives.
Having regained my energy after my bout with COVID, I am ready to get back to some projects I had set aside. I realize there are no guarantees on how many more tomorrows I have, and I don’t want to waste a minute. At the same time, I know it is important to pace myself.
Time for Personal Retreat
If you have not done so already, I invite you to take some time for a personal retreat. As we transition from a pandemic state of mind, it is helpful to go up to the mountain (of sorts). Find some quiet and distance from your everyday routine and the rush of all demands.
Start by being intentional. Select a date, time, and place to be alone. Gather your retreat materials (a candle, journal, pen, a cup of coffee, or tea). As you begin your retreat, take a few moments to express your gratitude for the blessings and graces of the year. Note the moments where your creative spirit took charge. What were some highlights? What were some of the challenges and setbacks? What adjustments did you need to make? What were some of the silver linings?
Also, think ahead. What did you put on hold that you want to start again? What ideas emerged during the pandemic that you want to begin? What goal would you like to reach? You might find a weekly intentions tracker helpful in reaching a goal. Create one in your journal or on the computer and use it to note your action steps for the next 12 weeks.
Growing Words and Flowers
For me, this process points to two areas – finishing some writing projects and gardening. My intentions tracker will be helpful to keep me focused on the writing goals. And as for gardening, my only goal is to enjoy the outdoors and learn all I can along the way.
I find these offer a healthy balance. While I was not able to travel during the pandemic, being homebound forced me to find creative ways to explore. Who knew my own backyard could take me to France with a simple whiff of the lavender I planted? Or that I can travel to Italy with the basil we pick to make pesto? And I’m regularly transported to my childhood remembering my mother in her own garden.
What creative sparks are you ready to reclaim?