Monday, March 24, 2014


A project for my art class

There are times when I start to write a post or create a new art project and I get stuck. Suddenly, every idea I have and every mark I make or word I type is wrong. Wrong, stupid, vapid, empty, annoying, pandering, arrogant, contrived. I annoy myself. I disgust myself. I decide that I will not be able to write anything helpful. I will not be able to create anything worth creating. I give up on myself and that reinforces the deeply held beliefs I have about being unworthy.

Even if I get positive feedback on my creations that still doesn’t stop me from freezing up next time and having that moment when I decide I can’t possibly write one more post. It’s not in me. I have nothing of interest to say. I nearly give up on an art project or ignore an urge to make something new. I decide I have nothing to make. I have no creative spark.

Is this a function of my new brain? I think back to before Dave died and I remember that in my job, my brain was a fountain of creativity, even if I doubted myself. Dreaming up new ways to teach old material, analogies to explain complicated concepts, ways to rearrange the classroom, manage discipline, communicate with parents, show my students how much they meant to me, decorating the classroom, celebrating successes.

Not now, though. Creating is very different now. I come up to a wall every time I try to create. The wall is doubt, fear, and over thinking. The part of my brain that is responsible for creativity has maybe shrunken or gone offline and the part responsible for worrying about the bad things that could happen has become very dominant.

I’m very much hoping that it’s like a muscle. If I stop using it, it will atrophy. If I use it more it will grow in strength. They say this is true and I will believe it because the alternative is too depressing. Getting past that wall is the ultimate challenge though. The wall says “Who are you to think you have anything to offer the world?”
 The wall says “This is not possible for you. You are not capable of this. Leave it to someone who is”.

Why is it that after I have created, put it out there, realized that the world didn’t end and I’m even proud of my work, I go right back to that wall of doubt the next time I create?

I bet it works like this. I am fundamentally different since Dave died. I have been changed. My brain is still recovering. My heart is still very delicately patched together and trembling. I’m still shaken and beaten up by the heartache. Because of this, my brain does not work like it used to so my output is not as it used to be. I doubt myself  because of this and the doubt builds up, keeping me from creating more. I create less and I get rusty. That part of my brain atrophies. The cycle repeats.
Right now, getting past this feels like pushing myself. It doesn’t feel satisfying. It feels frustrating and it makes me feel small and weak. I’m a small, slight force against a strong brick wall. I’m not seeing a whole lot of progress.

But that’s how these last few years have felt. It’s only upon looking back that I see that I did make progress. Breaking through to the other side, victoriously, and shaking off all the stiffness that held me prisoner is not how it will happen. It will happen one small, staggering step at a time. Each step will feel wholly insignificant. Negligible. 

And maybe with my former brain and former life, they would have been, but now they are mighty. They have been done even with the back-bending weight of grief with me. They have been accomplished even while wanting to hide in my room until death came for me too. I have to come back again and again to the definition of courage. It’s not doing something you’re not afraid of. It’s doing something you’re terrified of. It’s doing it. 


  1. Cassie, I look forward to Mondays because I will get to read another of your postings. Your musings are very relevant to me and my progress on this path of mourning. They illuminate my way, sometimes for days, weeks, or months. You help me to accept myself and the mental changes I notice in myself. You help me to take care of myself. I hope you will be at Camp Widow West in July: I would really like to meet you!

  2. Oh man, I go through the same thing. Without Dons support and him whispering in my ear telling me how talented I am, its like I no longer believe it and have to keep creating to rebuild any confidence or assurance I had about myself. It feels like starting over again and again and again. I get this. I truly GET this. Its very frustrating ...

  3. I'm with you here, I like to create (mostly sewing, but other crafts too) but I have a bunch of half finished projects because I'm fearful of the end result not living up to my ideals. Or, maybe I'm just afraid of finishing and having my projects end. I don't like endings, for obvious reasons. It's hard to be confident in yourself when you've lost confidence in the permanence of, well, anything.

  4. I, too, get the shaken confidence thing about creating. Some people talk verbally to sort things out, some people draw, some people write, some people dance... The feedback loop is a lot faster when talking to people, but in creating, I discover a depth and authenticity in me I like. As the years have passed I care less about being entertaining and more about being authentic. I love the authenticity of your shares. Thank you!

  5. Cassie, check out Christina Rasmussen. She takes a neurological approach to grief. I'm going to check out her book and I'll let you know what I think. -Snowygirl

    1. I took one of her online classes/groups. I'll be honest. I didn't find it to be helpful. I am very interested in the neurological component though. It just wasn't a good fit for me, personally. May have been where I was in my timeline, who knows.

  6. I can so relate to this… i actually just posted on my own blog yesterday about this very same topic.

    And the word "disgusted" that you used to refer to yourself at times with some of your creative projects… holy heck YES. Especially with my writing… i almost always get about 3/4 done with a piece for WV each week and then I stop in exasperation and feel totally bored with my own shit, and then, disgusted. I so get that!

    This is just one theory i have as to why this process has been so much harder for me since he died. Not only is my support person not there, the one who always made me feel like everything I did was awesome, but also… the kind of art and writing I am creating now is much deeper and much more personal. It is far more honest and vulnerable, and i think anytime we begin to create from a deeper place inside us there is the potential for way more resistance, blockage, and doubt.

    If you get a chance, you should pick up the book Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It is a short but seriously good book that talks about the creative process in much detail - including the never-ending cycles of self doubt and resistance that we will always, eternally face when doing deeply honest creating. It really helped me feel more "normal" for having so much doubt and resistance and for often feeling blocked or unmotivated!

    Such a wonderful post. Thank you so much Cassie!