Making Something from Nothing (Much) pt 1

This is part of a new series we’re calling Show Your Work — personal stories about the messy parts of a creative life. Part 2 is Here

I have been so many different versions of myself over the years. This is how life goes – no matter how you may feel during the years when there is so much pressure from all sides to pick a mold for your life and then remain forever within it. Life is change. I have been inspired and cynical, skeptical and spiritual, analytical and inspired, impoverished and middle class, certain and confused, athletic and disabled… the list goes on.

That last one, though. I never made plans for needing mobility aids in my thirties. My past self — the dance-all-day and run-many-miles self — did not see this coming. Years of multiple injuries and illnesses gave way to an underlying neurological condition, which meant some permanent changes. Truthfully, there were many months in which I couldn’t articulate what I was going through, as I wasn’t ready to look at how much my life had morphed into something I didn’t recognize.

The more that life progresses, the more I see that life has a lot in common with art. I may have begun with a vision about how I thought things would go — but then I encountered a piece of life that I did not know I would find. And then (because life is less optional than art at times) I had to figure out what to make with it. But I had no idea where to begin.

My creative life has taught me that when you don’t know how to do something, you can begin by learning from others. I spent years in dance class, repeating exercises over and over, day after day, learning new things each time. You never outgrow the basics. So when I was handed diagnoses and realized I had no idea what to do next, I had to learn the basic steps.

Alicia Searcy from Spashionista and the Fashion is for Every Body show is a friend of mine and a leader in the disabled and fashion communities in Nashville. She recently shared something with me in response to a recent Facebook post I made which really exemplifies her influence on my own process. “Establish new goals and perpetuate the part of you that no disease will ever steal. Artists need very little to create…”

“Establish new goals and perpetuate the part of you that no disease will ever steal.
Artists need very little to create…”Alicia Searcy
That sounded to me like a good place to begin.

In order to perpetuate the part of me that no disease will ever steal I had to first view myself with an honest sight. After much self-evaluation, I can tell you that part of me is composed of roughly two measures of dark humor, three scoops of pure bullheadedness, a dash of willingness to try new things as long as there are multiple back-up plans, a generous pour of a love for learning, all mixed in with a fondness for both list-making and coloring outside of the lines. I am at least this, in all times.

My new goals: to learn a pace that is sustainable. To never take myself too seriously. To continue creating, from where I am right now. To make plans knowing that I haven’t yet been to the future, and thus I don’t know what tomorrow will be like. To continue building relationships in which I can both give and receive.

My past self would want something a bit more grand and ambitious, but this part of the journey isn’t for her. She got me through the years which were doable with more gumption and tenacity than mindful practices. But I don’t walk with her feet, or write with her hands. She got me this far. Now it’s up to me.

It’s not nothing, though it certainly feels like nothing much. But isn’t that what artists do? Create something meaningful from whatever materials we can find?

What I have right now to create with: time, companionship, true stories, a stubborn will to continue, and tea. I think that’s a pretty good start.

Audra Almond-Harvey is a founder and the Executive Director of abrasiveMedia. 

Next Up:

In Part 2, Audra shares five (or so) things she has learned in the process of using creativity to re-build her life.

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