Better with Art!

Like many others, I am prescribed medication by a psychopharmacologist to help keep my brain chemistry working at it’s best possible level. I have been told that some people discontinue taking their medication when they find that they are feeling better. I’ve never been one of those people. I have noticed, over the years that I have been under this sort of medical treatment, that my medication seems to be far more effective under certain circumstances.

I go through phases when I tell myself that all the creative activities I enjoy doing aren’t serving any real purpose. The visual art pieces I create tend to not be displayed in art galleries. More of the stage plays I have written have not been produced by theaters than the ones that have been experienced by theater audiences. Poetry and stories I write have generally not been read by large audiences. So, sometimes I wonder what the point is of my doing these creative activities at all.

Except when I get to thinking that way I am discounting a priceless and essential purpose that creating art in any form serves for those who create. Life is more pleasant with art. Using my creative skills makes my life infinitely more enjoyable, meaningful, and fulfilling than it would be if I were to stop doing those activities altogether.

I keep lots of records to manage my moods. I keep track, spreadsheet-style, of many daily activities I perform, along with meals eaten, and medication doses taken. When I make my entries on my spreadsheet I always find that my mood has been more stable, and my levels of contentment and happiness are higher, when I am regularly engaging in creative pursuits. According to the data I collect on myself my psychiatric medication is actually more effective when I am following a regular routine of creative expression in a variety of artistic mediums than it is when I refrain from such activities by telling myself that my lack of professional success in any of those areas makes them pointless to continue.

I was pleasantly surprised when I first noticed this to be the case. I didn’t expect that indulging in creative expression would actually help my mental health, but it really does. My life is more enjoyable and my mental health is far better with art. So, I encourage everyone reading this to go ahead and do something creative that you enjoy. In time, you may discover, as I have, that your world is a much better place than it was before you began regularly enjoying your creativity.

Max Finds His Passion

Max was a large teddy bear. He always felt a bit self-conscious about his great size. Many of the other teddy bears who lived in the giant backyard dollhouse called “Much Ado About Nothing” were far smaller than Max. But, Max soon learned that due to his size there were things he could do that the smaller teddy bears could not.

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Max could sit at the computer desk and use the computer! The smaller teddy bears certainly couldn’t do that. They couldn’t reach the keyboard. Max’s large arms put him at just the right distance from the computer keys. While Max enjoyed being able to use the computer, he still often felt that something was missing from his life.

One afternoon, Max consulted with two of the smaller teddy bears about how he was feeling about his computer time, and what might be missing from his life. The two smaller teddy bears Max sat on the couch with that day were music bears. Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear both listened politely to Max as he talked about his time at the computer desk, and how he wished to do something more.

“Have you ever considered music?” Mozart Bear asked Max.

“I listen to music on the computer.” Max told him.

“No, no,” Strauss Bear scolded gently. “He means making music!”

“Yes! Have you ever considered making music?” Asked Mozart Bear.

Max felt confused. What were they talking about? “You think I should make music on the computer?” Max asked, doubtfully.

“Not on the computer, on the piano!” Mozart Bear said, grandly.

“Come with us.” Strauss Bear instructed to Max, so he followed the two smaller bears.

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Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear climbed up onto the back of the piano, settling themselves in comfortably next to the busts of the great composers, Mozart and Beethoven. Max sat at the piano keyboard, feeling very unsure of himself.

“Now, play.” Mozart Bear commanded. Max stared up at him.

“I don’t know how to play the piano.”

“Are you sure?” Asked Strauss Bear.

“Humans have to take lessons to learn to play piano.” Max told them.

“And, are you a human being?” Mozart asked Max.

“Well, no. I’m a teddy bear.” Max said with a sigh.

“Exactly!” Strauss Bear said. “Just play the keys as if you are typing a letter at the computer. I think you’ll find the results surprisingly pleasant.”

Max stared at Strauss Bear. Could it be that simple? Could teddy bears really play piano without needing lessons?

Max followed the instructions given to him by the two smaller music bears. To his surprise and delight, Max began making music! Max enjoyed playing the piano. He played and played, while Mozart Bear and Strauss Bear looked on, appreciatively listening to the music he made.

After that day Max did not resume his post at the computer keyboard. He stayed at the piano, playing his heart out. Max figured it was alright to not go back to the computer. Max had found what he enjoyed best.

Mozart Bear told Max one day later that perhaps another giant teddy bear would come along eventually who would best love spending time on the computer. So, Max didn’t worry about that any more. He just carried on enjoying making music at the piano. Max had found his passion at last!

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One of My Favorite Skills

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A few years ago, when I was enrolled in classes intensively studying Dialectical Behavior Therapy, I learned a skill that became one of my very favorites. I put together an iTunes playlist soon after I enrolled in those DBT classes and this one skill seemed to be the easiest skill to find represented in the songs I had in my iTunes library at the time. Later, I found the coloring page above and used colored pencils to add vibrant colors to the page so I could have a bright reminder for using this skill. The DBT skill essentially taught me to do what the picture above is recommending.

Stand tall when you feel small. Or another way of saying it is, fake it until you make it. The specific instructions in Dialectical Behavior Therapy involved doing something that elicits the opposite emotion to what emotion you’re currently feeling. So, if you feel like going back to bed and hiding under the covers all day, instead get up and do something productive! I use this skill regularly. I love that if I’m starting to feel irritated and I don’t feel like doing something that’s good for me, I can use this skill to drastically change my mood.

You don’t have to have studied Dialectical Behavior Therapy to benefit from doing this to help you get yourself out of a mood rut. I have found that it’s helpful when interacting with my small daughter to recommend to her when she’s feeling gloomy that she do something different that she enjoys and she’ll feel less gloomy. It works!

I feel so grateful to have skills to help me manage my moods. I don’t often have mood fluctuations these days, and it’s so nice to have skills like this in my self-care repertoire. Try it. Stand tall when you’re feeling small!

Spring TeaTime!

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Springtime is beginning to blossom. This time of year always reminds me of the time one spring when three of the dolls who used to live here at the giant backyard dollhouse called “Much Ado About Nothing” decided to have a patio tea party.

The three dolls who took it upon themselves to have a tea party were called Katie Leann, Bobbi, and Mary Caroline. I took the photo above when I happened to go outside and discovered the dolls having their tea party.

The three dolls looked very happy sitting at the patio table with their nice porcelain teddy bear tea set. I noticed right away that while they had a very nice tea set to use for their tea party, they didn’t actually have any tea to drink, nor did they have any scones, cucumber sandwiches, or other traditional teatime delicacies to enjoy with tea. I asked the three dolls if they were enjoying their tea party.

“We’re having a very nice time, thank you.” Katie Leann told me politely.

“Yes, our tea is delicious!” Agreed Mary Caroline, lifting her dainty tea cup to take a sip.

“I thought the sandwiches and little cakes were tasty too,” Bobbi added happily.

“I’m sorry,” I told the dolls. “But, I don’t see any evidence here that suggests to me that you’ve been drinking tea, or eating anything. Your tea cups and plates are spotless as though they’ve not been used at all.”

“Of course!” Bobbi said.

“Yep! Just the way they should be,” agreed Mary Caroline.

“What fun would it be to have to do dish washing after our tea party?” Katie Leann said with a giggle.

“So, did you, or didn’t you, have tea and teatime snack foods here just now?” I asked them, totally confused.

“We ate all the things we told you we had.” Mary Caroline explained.

“Yes! It was easy. Much easier than the way you have tea and snacks for a tea party,” Bobbi told me with a sweet smile.

“But, how?” I asked the dolls.

“All our teatime snacks and our tea are imaginary!” We can eat and drink anything we like, and we enjoy it all in our imaginations!” Katie Leann told me, as she took another sip of her tea.

“Aaaah!” I nodded and joined the dolls in smiling. “That does ensure that everything will always taste just right, doesn’t it?”

“Every time!” The three dolls replied in a chorus.

“Well, I won’t interrupt you further then. Enjoy the rest of your tea party!”

“Don’t go!” Mary Caroline urged me.

“Stay! Join us!” Bobbi encourage, waving to a nearby empty chair.

“You don’t mind?” I asked them.

“You’re a writer! You’ll be able to imagine even nicer tea and snacks than we did.” Katie Leann told me.

And so I did. I joined their tea party, and I had a wonderful time too. I sometimes forget how magical the imagination can be, and that spring day those dolls reminded me.

As we head into spring this year I hope everyone who reads this story remembers to use their imagination every now and then. It makes life so much sweeter!

Gratitude For Everything That Happens…

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A couple of weeks ago I made my very first pitch presentation to a theater with the goal of enticing them into producing one of my full-length plays. I have slowly been working on editing that play, off and on, since I wrote the first draft a few years ago.  Prior to preparing to make the pitch presentation for my play I hadn’t been feeling all that excited about that particular play in some time. However, going into the pitch I felt that the play had potential, and I didn’t want to not make the pitch at all and have to wonder forever after what might have happened if I had gone ahead and made the pitch for the play.

In the days leading up to my pitch presentation, when I wasn’t feeling particularly enthusiastic about my script, I chatted with a few close friends about the play, and about the issues my play was starting to raise that I could potentially further develop in later drafts. I hoped these later drafts would spring into being in a the process of exploring the play in a workshop setting with members of the theater company once they loved my pitch and selected to produce my play in their upcoming season.

By the time I made my pitch I had enjoyed such successful and satisfying brainstorming sessions with friends and family members that I was feeling really excited about the prospect of beginning to rewrite the play to further explore all those new ideas my friends and family members had helped me come up with in our recent conversations. The night before my pitch I was thinking that I would be rewriting the play to add new material, wether or not the theater company selected it for inclusion in their upcoming season of live theater.

So, I pitched it the play to the theater company! There was lots of nodding and other positive body language among the company both during my talk, and while they asked me questions about my play. After I concluded my sales pitch for my play, the members of the theater company thanked me for being so well prepared to make my pitch presentation. They said they like the concept of the play, and they were even more interested in what it would become once I added in the changes I proposed to make to the script in a workshop setting. They said they would let me know their decision one way or the other within a couple of days. I left feeing good about the experience, no matter what the decision of the theatre company would eventually be.

As promised, a couple of days later I received an email from the artistic director of the theater. She thanked me for making my pitch, and for allowing them to read my play. However, she indicated that they would not be joining me for a workshop of my play to develop it further, and they would not be including my play in their upcoming season. When I read that email I expected to feel disappointed. But an extraordinary thing happened instead.

The first thought that popped into my head upon reading the email from the artistic director wasn’t, “Oh no! They didn’t choose my play.” What first came to mind was this:

Whooppee! Now I’m free to rewrite my play, make it ten times better than the version that theater company read, and prepare the new and improved play for submission to other theaters!

I caught myself off guard with that response. I didn’t expect to feel happy about the theater company *not* choosing my play. However, I have been feeling so excited about beginning to rewrite my play that I suppose you could say that there was no available processing power in my mind with which to feel sad about them not wanting to be a part of my play rewrite in a workshop setting.

So, while they didn’t choose my play, I still did succeed in many respects. I prepared my pitch, and I made a great presentation. And I came up with lots of new material with which to improve my play. So, what that the theater company did not choose my play. What a fantastic outcome I got anyway! I have all those brilliant new ideas with which to begin a rewrite of my play. Considering how I’d been feeling about that play leading up to the preparation time for giving the pitch, I don’t think I would have thought to do a rewrite of the play at all if I hadn’t prepared to pitch it to that theater.

I’m feeling far better about that play, and about myself as a playwright, a writer, and as a person, than I could possibly have expected to feel after having been turned down for the pitch I made. I find that it always helps my mood, and the state of my mind, to express gratitude. It isn’t often that I wish to express gratitude for things *not* working out the way I hoped. But this time I think that not getting what I wanted has turned out to be exactly what I needed, and in the end I feel I am coming out ahead.

I take great joy in the process of rewriting my plays, and in finding out what sort of plays they evolve into as I work on them. I don’t write plays, or anything, with only the hopes that someone will want what I write. I write first and foremost for the sheer joy of doing it. So, today I feel grateful to that theater for asking me to pitch my play to them. They gave me such a gift. Now I get to rewrite my play and enjoy that process, which I would not have considered doing if I hadn’t prepared myself to make that pitch presentation.

I’m learning that sometimes, if I can view the situation just right, not getting what I want can be just as wonderful as getting what I want. So, I have to say that I really do feel gratitude for absolutely everything that happens in my life!

 

Dolly Option Paralysis

Penny PlayPal really loves to play with dolls smaller than she is. Penny is a life size toddler doll, and she always has a great time playing with other dolls here at the giant backyard dollhouse called “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Penny likes littler dolls so much that sometimes she gets to feeling overwhelmed by how many smaller dolls she could play with, and she has a difficult time choosing a single doll to play with at one time.

Just recently I ventured out to the dollhouse to see what was going on out there, and I discovered Penny sitting in the rocking chair, looking pretty overwhelmed.

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I asked Penny to tell me what was troubling her since she clearly wasn’t having as much fun as she hoped she would have that day.

“There’s so many little dolls I could play with!” She cried in exasperation. “I don’t know who to choose!”

I sat down across from Penny and looked at her holding all those little dolls in her lap. She really was in a state.

“Penny, how did you end up with all those dolls in your lap at the same time?” I asked her, bewildered.

One of the smaller dolls answered for Penny. It was Camille, the blonde doll in the black dress with polka dots. “We all want to play with Penny because she’s so fun!” The other small dolls all happily nodded in agreement, but Penny didn’t look nearly as happy or pleased with this notion as the little dolls did. Penny just sat there, looking stressed and overwhelmed. She didn’t even know what to say.

I suggested that the smaller dolls go do something on their own for a while and I would talk to Penny. So, Camille and her friends sat down to have a book club meeting.

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Once the smaller dolls were situated reading quietly, Penny and I went into another part of the dollhouse to figure out a solution to her problem of selecting a doll to play with. Penny looked longingly around the dollhouse at all the dolls and teddy bears that were there to have fun with.

“It’s just so hard to choose!” Penny said with a long sigh. “Could you help me?” I agreed to help her. Penny did seem quite distressed and I hated to see her feeling so flustered and out of sorts.

I already knew that some human beings can occasionally get to feeling overwhelmed when we have too many things to choose from, but I hadn’t realized that dolls could experience such problems too.

Finally, Penny settled on one doll to play with, but Penny must have still been feeling flustered because when I went to snap a photo of her with the one doll she selected to play with that day – well, the photo below was the result.

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“Penny!” I said in alarm when I checked the picture. “You moved her just as I was taking the picture. Half her head isn’t in the picture at all! I can’t use this photo. We need to retake it.”

Penny looked at the photo and then shrugged. “It looks fine to me,” Penny said. “If you want a better picture then stick around and maybe you’ll get one.” Penny then wandered away to play with the regular sized dollhouse I bought for the dolls earlier this year.

Sure enough, Penny and her friend did have some fun playing that day. They played in the dollhouse with Saucy Walker and her other little doll friend.

But, I still didn’t get a single good photo of Penny’s doll friend’s face! Oh well, at least Penny had some fun, and she was able to recover from her dolly option paralysis!