Monday, August 27, 2012

The Return of the Adrenaline Supergirl

As I was breezing through Facebook a few days ago I came across this picture:

After laughing at the intense look on the little girl's face and the quote, it struck a chord. A really big, two-handed, stretch-your-fingers-as-far-as-they-can-reach chord.

Because it made me realize this is exactly the feeling we are missing as we get older. THIS is the way we felt every single day as kids. We would never consider NOT feeling this way. We got an idea and we acted on it because we knew it would make us feel amazing.

My mother's aunt baby-sat us one weekend, and found us with every cushion from her patio furniture all over the yard and under the porch. The Olympics had nothing on us. Jumping from the deck, running and doing flips in the air, and perfecting twists and mid-air gyrations was extremely important so we could get high scores from the judges. Although I don't think she liked the idea of seven year old kids jumping off the side of her house...

There were no parents there, no one to buy us $200 uniforms, and more importantly, we were doing our own thing. Because, as my son said when he was eight, grown-ups ruin everything. He was talking about playing sports on the school team at that moment, but I knew what he meant. We take our lives and unfortunately the lives of our kids so seriously at such a young age that we take away their fun. We are controlling and feel the need to impart our wishes on our children. They feel too much stress far too early. They need time to be kids, to figure out their OWN ferocious games, and "get good" at something just because THEY love it--not because of something we want from them.  We were superheros that day at my aunt's house, and each of us was completely exhilarated and exhausted at the end of the day. I'm pretty sure we went to sleep happy.

Another day we took every scarf, pillow case, sheet and towel from the linen closet and made a house on the weeping willow tree in the back yard by hanging everything from the drooping branches with clothes pins. We came in for dinner starving and not realizing we had been outside for hours. It was like magic--we created our own world.

This post also made me realize that we let our fears stop us from doing so many things. "I would love to write a book but....  I would love to try out for a commercial but...  I would love to mountain bike or belly dance or play guitar..."  You get the idea.

Of course money is an issue. Time also. But there is still that part of me that wants to do Leap-a-Letics in front of my friend Michael's house in the winter because his sidewalk still freezes perfectly in January. Everything was a competition then, and it felt great. No one was worried that too much competition was going to ruin our self esteem. If we did a bad leap--we were given a bad score. Nobody cried.  It felt great to practice something and get better at it just because we wanted to do it. Not because school said to to do it or our parents. But because we LOVED to do it. 

I want to be excited and terrified again. I want to do cartwheels in my backyard just because it is sunny and learn how to do a backwards dive into my pool. And I want to give my son the space to create his own world too.  But for now I have to people need me. :)

P.S. My short story ABSORBED is currently in the TOP 20 in Amazon.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Madness and Art

Van Gogh cut off his ear.

Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

Numerous entertainers have overdosed on drugs--accidentally or otherwise.

Shakespeare wrote of madness in Macbeth, and hinted about it elsewhere.

Edgar Allen Poe was questionably depressed or bipolar.

Some scientists believe the connection is clear--where there is creativity, there is the potential for madness. One European study linked the same genetic mutation that insights creativity to schizophrenia.

It certainly seems that the creators of beautiful musical masterpieces like Mozart or Beethoven or breathtaking art like Picasso or Monet have a special vision or a different type of connection to another world. Some say it is because God is always speaking, and they are taking the time or have the ability to listen.

And of course there is the drug connection too. Do true creatives try and self-medicate with alcohol, heroin, or cocaine? Does their propensity toward drugs stem from wanting to expand their already wider ability to see the world in a different way--or a need to quiet the "voices" telling them what to write, paint, or sing.

Or do artists simply remove more of the social restraints that we and society have put in place from a very young age. We are a civilized nation, each of us fitting neatly into our roles and polite mores that have been dictated since our births.

Freud used "talking therapy" to get to what he considered to be the root of people's problems.  He asked that the filters be removed, even if it was momentarily, and to free associate, and say the first things that pop into our heads--even if they seemed crazy or frightening. Wild things were said! New discoveries were made about deep and mysterious problems. We would never say these things in normal everyday conversation--people would think we are....

What if we all tried to keep the filters down a bit. I'm not talking about the ones that keep us out of jail, but the ones that keep us from being embarrassed, or saying what we really feel, or doing what we honest-to-God want to do without the worry of hurting someone, disappointing someone, or being afraid and doing it anyway.  Maybe that is the only difference from the creative geniuses and everyone else.

Is creativity merely the ability to keep these filters down? Maybe those who can control them are lucky. They can write or draw or make music--or in some cases, all these things, and put the filters back in place when they need to function in a social or familial situation.  Are the poor souls who are locked away and forever confused between reality and another world simply lacking the filters at all?

At this point the jury is still out. Not all schizophrenics are artistic or creative, in fact some are simply and sadly paralyzed by what they experience. Not all madness is schizophrenia, and certainly not all artists are mad. 

Some days I wonder if we are not all mad, but not properly categorized yet.