My name is Kristina, I am the co-founder of Grow Your Mind, an acupuncturist and the mother of 2 smallish humans. When the first lockdown occurred I thought I had it in the bag. Homeschooling and running a business that values being present and calm. How hard could this be? Needless to say, I learnt astonishingly quickly just how little I had in the bag... that is until something truly wonderful happened. More on that in a moment.
As clusters of outbreaks continue to occur and restrictions are potentially being brought back I have been reflecting on that first period of lockdown. Particularly on what I have learnt and the moments that I would deem most successful, possibly even joyful. In light of a free creativity webinar we are offering next week I thought I would share a story.
The setting and scene: Day 3 of lockdown numero 1, Bondi Sydney Australia March 2020
My eldest child is overwhelmed by the sudden change in life as we know it, but she doesn't initially show it. She writes out her day's schedule very clearly.
- 9 am Silent Reading
- 9.15 Maths
- 10 am Snack
- 10.15 Project Research...
She gets engrossed in reading and goes 5 minutes over the allocated time, melts down and is inconsolable. My youngest thinks all his Christmases have come at once and declares that if he is not at school, then school isn't on. Logic follows, he is on holidays and he can do what he wants. He pours a 20-litre tub of lego out on the floor and proceeds to build a Lego city on any clear surface possible in our apartment.
Brilliant I think, were it not for the fact that he does this while drinking and splattering the same surfaces with a smoothie his sister and he had whipped up in anticipation of "break time". Deep breaths, it doesn't matter, I have a Zoom meeting. Let him play Lego and spill smoothie. Whatever. But I can't get onto my Zoom meeting and my tolerance to chaos is suddenly being tested. Meanwhile, my husband has taken over the sunroom/newly appointed office and has gone into his zone where nothing outside his current focus exists. Our cat takes to biting my achilles, perhaps sensing the impending storm that is brewing internally. My daughter remains in a steady state of hysteria. I breathe. I've got this. I WILL get onto this Zoom meeting. I envision a section in Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love where she is learning to meditate, surrounded by mosquitoes.
"The itch was maddening at first but eventually melted into a general heat of pure sensation, neither good nor bad, just intense. And the intensity lifted me out of myself and into perfect meditation where I sat in real stillness for the first time in my life. Two hours later I stood up and assessed the damage. I counted 20 mosquito bites but not much later all the bites had diminished because truly it all does pass away in the end, and truly there is peace to be learned in this."
The tears remain though and the smoothie is everywhere to be seen but my son's mouth. My version of 'mosquitoes' seems to be unnerving me. I pause and observe and miraculously I resist the urge to blow my top and enforce order and structure as I see it.
What could I do with them right now that would bring us together, that we would all enjoy and possibly be productive?
We need to eat a decent meal today, the last few days had been cheese plates and corn chips are probably not helping my mood. I start plotting how can this one much-needed task become something exciting, distracting and even pass for some 'schooling'.
Let's open a very exclusive 4 person only restaurant!
The kids are in. Menu planning, taking bookings writing out the menu and name places appeals to my eldest's sense of order, process and her love of Art. Cooking and creating the environment for the patrons speaks to my youngest's delight in interior design and food. They are both into dress codes and love a good a uniform and plan the sequence of outfits needed to see them through the day.
Our schooling schedule evolves -
1. Recipe following - Reading done
2. Measuring ingredients - Fractions, tick
3. The magic of mixing and cooking - Science is sorted
4. Menu development and writing - Handwriting practice and spelling nailed
5. Soundtrack development - Musical History and culture studies thank you very much
6. Finally outfitting the parents - Fashion and a good dose of social skills development complete.
"Creativity is intelligence having fun." -- Albert Einstein
It was still chaos but it was joyful, it was collaboration at its best and it was creative. It got me thinking more about creativity and how important it is in helping us to connect, learn, problem-solve and thrive. And there is some very interesting research about the benefits of creativity. Tapping into creativity can actually improve your overall health, improving brain function, mental health and physical health. Studies in the area of dementia have highlighted the positive impact regular creativity can have on brain health.*
Our exclusive restaurant experience has changed the way I have allowed creativity to exist in the home. From this point on the mess and chaos that has occurred has bothered me less. I see the value in surrendering to it in order to allow the kids time to explore, to practice, to find flow and to create. I have seen the change in my son, he dives deeper into building imaginary worlds, often troubleshooting real-life problems with his characters. My daughter has become a prolific comic book writer and I glean much about what she is feeling and how she wants to be emotionally supported through them. I want to foster creativity even more because I can see first hand how it gives my kids an outlet that increases joy, connection and sees them learn from mistakes and mess-ups.
And I have learnt to let go of needing calm and order. Admittedly I was a little disappointed that the dish hand left before their shift had ended. But hey, I am in the game of constantly repeating: nobody is perfect, not you and not others.
So how do we inject a little bit of this magic in our every day for ourselves and our children? I am very fortunate to be part of an amazing team of creative thinkers and doers. One such Grow Your Mind team member is our Podcast Producer Lisa Taylor. When you walk into her house you feel the value of creativity is strong. Projects both in-process and finished are on display and materials for creating are super easy to grab. Young and old are often tinkering away on a crafty creative endeavour.
One final thought:
"Creativity doesn't wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones." -- Bruce Garrabrandt
What are the health benefits of being creative? Medical News Today, Maria Cohut, Ph.D February 16, 2018
Creativity with dementia patients. can creativity and art stimulate dementia patients positively? Beat Ted Hannermann, Gerontology 2006;52(1):59-65