This I Believe
As I catalogue my auto-immune illnesses in my sixties, I realize that I have had much success beating myself up all these years. In short, I have bordered on being a basket case most of my life. Being a slow learner, I didn’t recognize that I suffered from mild but chronic depression all my life until I turned 40 and finally took stock of my life and my failed marriages. One personal inadequacy dominating my life revolves around failed resolutions for personal growth. Not exercising or eating properly no doubt has contributed to my depressions and lowered self-esteem. Robust exercise, social networking and spirituality are often touted as a stout defense against self-doubt and the blues. I am not resolute in exercise regimens. I love fast food, sweets, Coke. I tend to be somewhat of a loner, and I am an agnostic. My spiritual beliefs, an agglomeration of pantheism and the Transcendentalist’s view of the Oversoul, makes prayer difficult at best. I might as well pray into a bowl of pea soup. I have found solace, however, nurturing and exploring my creative interests.
You will note that I refrained from saying “creative talent”. I spent many years searching for “my talent.” My mother was an artist with formal training. I admired her drawing and painting talents, but when I explored my own artistic talent, I discovered just enough talent to become frustrated. I could not capture on paper what I saw so clearly in my mind. Having won a number of poster contests in grade school with simple slogans and correspondingly simple illustrations, I realize that tapping into creative modes of expression provided me with an escape mechanism. My fondest memories of school are those times when artistic projects were assigned: a transportation mural in fourth grade, a relief map of South America in fifth grade, a medieval castle made out of food cartons in sixth grade and membership in the school choir in seventh and eighth grade.
When I was in the Army I sketched, and when I was discharged and attended college, to my great delight I learned that I could earn credit taking pottery classes, art classes and a drama class. During my teaching career, I explored metal sculpture, soldering colored glass lamps and off-set printing. Much like my hobby of fly fishing, all of these endeavors quieted a restless and troubled mind. Although I did not discover my “talent” and often became frustrated that my efforts were mediocre at best, my one enduring creative outlet has been building small boats. Spanning almost four decades, my boat building passion has grown from canvas and wood kayaks, to the production of fiberglass one-man boats, to stitch-and-glue duck boats and prams to all-welded aluminum boats. This activity above all others has quieted my mind, given me solace and inspiration, obliterated time, and shut out worldly troubles.
During the last few years, I have begun practicing what I preached as a high school English teacher. I have discovered the soothing, recuperative and creative process of writing, both expository and fiction. I have finally realized that I don’t have to have a talent for these creative outlets; I do not have to judge my results or worry about others who may judge my artistry. The rewards of exploring creative art forms intrinsically manifests itself as inner peace, joy and most certainly improved mental health. This I believe.
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