What if you wake up some day, and you’re 65 . . . and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?
When I was a kid my brother Trey and I used to climb the neighbor’s fence and pick pomegranates from their tree. My mom would let us eat the pomegranates as long as we put our bathing suits on and got in the bathtub to eat them. That way she could contain the dark, delicious juice.
Steve and I bought a house about—as the crow flies—a mile or so away from my childhood home. On one of the routes back to our house, I drive by a spindly pomegranate tree in the front yard of someone we don’t know. At a certain time of year, the tree has red-wine ornaments dangling from its branches that seem far too spindly to hold such luscious fruit.
I slow the car way down in front of the house—like a total creeper. I take a picture of it and post it to Instagram.
“What are you doing, Mom?” the kids groan and moan from the backseat.
I tell them about me, the pomegranate, and the tub. And how their Uncle Trey and I would sit in the tub and smear the magenta juice all over the sides of the tub and ourselves. We’d pucker our mouths if the seeds were too tart. And at some point the inside of our mouths would start to shrivel from all the acid.
My kids laugh at this. I find I’m salivating.
“Then Gran would come in and spray us down, and I’d watch the pink water swirl toward the drain.”
“Can we go home already?” someone chimes in.
“Sure,” I say.
And I put the car back in drive and start heading down the hill and then up the hill toward our house.
The thing is—and I don’t think my kids have caught on to this yet—that tree is on the stretch of road on the “long way” home. It’s not the most efficient route into and out of our neighborhood. But I’m learning to listen to that voice inside me that’s asking for doses of beauty, even if those hits are only found on the long way home, even if I have to drive out of my way to breathe.
I believe God created the world as a playground of inspiration to us. And the beauty we find in it is unique to each person here, like an individual poem or song he has written to you and to me, and he’s hidden the words and the stanzas and the melodies and the verses in the nooks and crannies of the world and has set us free to find those things that speak to us uniquely. His very word, spoken to you, spoken to me, is lurking around us.
For some of you, it’s elephants. You love elephants. And you get weepy looking at elephants because their big ears and their long eyelashes are so friendly and elegant, and when you see an elephant at the zoo or a picture of an elephant, you just feel like the world is a better place. That elephant inspires you.
Maybe for you, you can breathe when you have a collection of extra-fine-tip Sharpie markers in your bag. And when you look into your bag and you see hot pink and lime and turquoise and chocolate brown caps, you smile and you feel like the universe is speaking to you, beckoning you, through those markers.
For some of you, it’s the sky. And it whispers to you as it changes all day long. And if you take the time in your day to actually listen to what it wants to say to you, you find yourself absolutely hypnotized and really breathing.
Maybe one of your primary inspirations is music. Music is, for you, a teleporter or a time machine or a cocoon or a life raft. And when the right music is on, you are transported and enveloped and saved. And your soul feels as if it has been cut open in all the best ways.
Maybe some of you find great inspiration in other people’s creativity. And though you may not be able to come up with ideas or projects or recipes on your own, you love looking at what other people have created and that breathes ideas and life into you, and it motivates you (inspires you!) to get up off the couch and do a little something. So you need to find time to look at other people’s creativity—books, blogs, HGTV, and so on.
Maybe you need to get your body moving. And when you do, you find that your brain kicks into this other gear and, though it’s so hard to find the time to do it, getting your heart rate up and your body moving and your skin sweating brings you back to life.
Maybe you like going to salvage yards and garage sales and junk stores and digging through discarded items to find something strange and wonderful that you might refashion into this interesting piece of original artwork. And when you do that, you feel like you have just come alive for the first time and again.
Perhaps this is a week when you might go in search of an elephant, purchase some Sharpies, spend some intentional time with the sky, put in your headphones, visit a museum, take a walk, troll some garage sales Saturday morning.
Like our cars, our lives do not work when we’re on E. Sure we can run on fumes for a time, but at some point we must go about filling up.
I believe it’s worth your time to engage your senses even if that engagement requires some inefficiencies. This is one of the ways we reacquaint ourselves with ourselves. We remember what we love, what tastes good, what looks beautiful. We remember what we enjoyed as children, how we played, how our fingers looked stained with pomegranate juice. We remember we were made for the garden in all its abundance.
Some might consider the beauty-chase a waste. Engaging your senses might take time, energy, gas, paints, paper, firewood, a babysitter.
One of the dictionary definitions of the word waste is “wild area.” Were we taught to bow down to efficiency, conservation at all costs, and stewardship in ways that have now frightened us away from slow and present experience? Are we honoring practicality above all? Has the “wild area” become too much? Have we made time for the taste-and-see of life?
These are all things I think about as I’m winding my way through town or working in my house or walking outside. I catch a glimpse of something otherworldly—through the window or on the wind—and my soul perks up like it recognizes the howl.
I want to honor this call.
The kids and I pull into our driveway and start unpacking the inexplicable amount of flotsam and jetsam that makes its way in and out of our minivan every day. As we’re unloading, Lane asks, “Hey, Mom, can we eat a pomegranate in the tub sometime?”
“Yes, dolly,” I say. “Let’s do that.”
This is an excerpt, used by permission, from Brazen: The Courage to Find the You That’s Been Hiding (2106, Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Leeana Tankersley is the author of Breathing Room and holds degrees from Liberty University and West Virginia University. She and her husband, Steve, are currently stationed in San Diego, California, with their three children, Luke, Lane and Elle. Leeana writes about living from the spacious place on her blog, leeanatankersley.com