We, as human beings, are elastic. Our bodies stretch and change over moments and years. We grow to accommodate fat, babies, tumors, muscle, liquid. We change shape and size from our waking moments, over days and years, and through a lifetime. We stretch and move to feel free, to feel healthy, to feel strong, to feel. Our minds, our brains, are ever changing clusters of synaptic connection. Firing, rewiring, dying with every thought that drifts through. We are plastic and pliable, moldable in our physical presence, our feelings, and our thoughts. We are incredible bendable beings.
Trauma affects us all differently. While we may all may bare witness to the same unspeakable event, we will process our experience in our own unique ways. We handle ourselves differently. We make different choices. Our brains create thoughts and sensations unlike any other person’s. There are aspects of this that we can control and others that we cannot.
The expressive arts have been used by humans since the beginning our existence as means of communication and expression. Throughout history, across cultures, we have used art, music, movement, writing and photography to show the human experience through varied lenses and platforms. Through the arts we explore creativity, emotion, and thought in ways words may not be able to express. As expressive arts therapists, we use these mediums as means of connection and communication between ourselves and our clients and our worlds.
As a Music Therapist and Mental Health Counselor, I have devoted my career to supporting people through their life experiences. Through trauma and transition. We work together with music and expression to create healing and change. The day that Tim had his heart attack, my skills became not applicable to my clients, but to myself and my children.
The night that Tim had his heart attack, he died for the first time. I held him as his eyes rolled back, his lips turned blue, his breathing ceased. When I pulled him to the floor I heard my own breath rattling out of his lungs as I blew life into his mouth and pumped his still chest. With time, work, and a team of first responders, his body came back to life. I sat and watched from across the room, held in the arms of my best friend.
The week that followed was a surreal and seemingly endless balance between the worlds of the living and the dead. Tim was in the care of some of the world’s best doctors. All we could do was wait.
So I waited.
And I found ways to channel my confusing and painful experience in the process.
Dear friends brought me colored pencils and coloring books. I spent hours creating colorful little worlds on neat and orderly paper pages as my beloved precariously clung to “life”. I took scalding hot showers and listened to The Bahama’s “Lost in the Light” on repeat because it made me feel something in the numbness and haze.
When Tim finished his transition to the stars, when he died and I was left to continue our journey alone, I used my creativity to propel me forward.
I returned to the pottery studio after over a year away. I began journaling every night. I cooked and baked daily. I filled our room with flower arrangements cut from my parent’s gardens. I listened to new music obsessively. I took photographs. I sang in my car. I found live shows and danced with my entire being. I started this blog.
My son has followed me in this journey and creates art for his Papa. At three, he paints, and draws, and glues feathers and googly eyes and plastic gems to cardboard boxes. He works with focus and intent. He stands proudly with his work and proclaims “I made it for my Dad!”. We sing songs together. His sister dances. We find joy in each other. We work to form our future with Elmers Glue and glitter and love.
Art gives life.
It has allowed me to feel at a time that I could not feel anything at all.
It gives me focus and energy and motivation to press forward in creating a worthy life from these smoking embers.