wild spring crocus dripping with meltin snow

Oh Crappy Day! – Finding Inspiration in the Messiness of Life

I have a love/hate relationship with the end-of-winter season. It’s dreadfully brown, muddy, miserable and volatile – warm and sunny one moment, and snowing and blowing freezing rain in your face the next.

Spring is messy…like life is messy.

I find my soul taking on the struggle for Spring to break through, searching the hills for barely-visible, courageous fuzzy sprouts of purple hope. Some years I have searched in vain day after day. This weekend, while hiking with my uber-messy, mud-loving Mylo, I was delighted and relieved to find some blooming crocuses, though they were weighed down and dripping with melting snow.

Then, to my astonishment, on a wildlife path going up a familiar hill, I saw one brave little crocus bud growing up through a pile of what our daughter, Jessie, later described as “little brown Easter eggs.” (She has always had a creative imagination.)

I laughed as I got down on the soggy ground to photograph this budding hero, being careful where I knelt because some of the deer turds had left the group.

I took the photo to remind myself:
Keep searching for beauty. You’ll find it. Carry it in your heart. Let it inspire you with hope, no matter what mess you’re about to step into or rise out of.

INSPIRATION and BACK STORY:

Here is what inspired me to rise above my crappy mood on the weekend and take the hike that led to this blog post.
It was Easter weekend, so my husband, Terry, and I went to the Good Friday service at our local cathedral. I was asked to read the lines of Pilate. The original Good Friday was messy – anger, misinterpretation, righteous indignation, pride, fear, jealousy, conspiracy, love, compassion, friendship, a kiss of betrayal, lies, mob mentality, injustice, cruelty, anguish, death, darkness, sorrow, shock, guilt…waiting, grieving, lost, confused…

The soggy, drippy photos in this post were taken on Saturday, the in-between day, the “everything is overwhelming and I can’t see any hope” day.

The crocus is called the Pasque or Easter flower. It’s my favourite flower, my favourite colour, and the Easter story has inspired me with love, light and life since I first heard it, from a beautiful black woman preacher and singer, Dr. Jonnie Mae Brown, on an Easter Sunday, when I was 14 years old. “Let light shine out of darkness.”*

But there are still days when, as songwriter Keith Green wrote, “Jesus rose from the dead, and you can’t even get out of bed.”

RIGHT BRAIN / LEFT BRAIN / MESSY BRAIN:

About a year ago, one of our contributing artists, Randall Wiebe, recommended a blog called “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” by Eric Barker, so I subscribed.

Eric’s August 2016 post, The Neuroscience of Mindfulness, made me smile, laugh, and nod with recognition. He shared research revealing that the right brain receives information through the senses, and the left brain analyzes it and interprets it for us. Lefty is constantly explaining what’s going on (e.g., It’s a crappy day…There’s nothing worth photographing…You’re so behind you’ll never catch up, the world is falling apart…). We tend to believe Lefty’s stories as if they are rock-solid truth, but sometimes they’re lies or half truths, which can really mess with your mind.

It’s perfect that I would connect with this fascinating blog through Randall. I have taken a number of art classes with Randall called “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” in which you focus on drawing what you see rather than what your left brain is analyzing and telling you that you see. If you are drawing a square table, your left brain will inform you that it has a square top and four legs of equal length, which is true, but you can’t draw it like that. If you want your art to reflect reality, you’re better off instructing Lefty to give up the left seat for this exercise and let your right brain steer your body to sketch the shapes, angles, proportions, light, shadow, negative spaces between the objects, etc. When you’re finished, you can invite Lefty to offer his analysis, “That’s a table.”

I drew a picture of my hand in one of Randall’s classes using right brain methods (following a little black bug along the contours and into the wrinkles) and encouraging Lefty to go take a nap and stop telling me how many fingers there were and how long they should be. (We discovered that when you operate in creative right brain, you lose track of time because Lefty is the time keeper. That might explain why I’m finishing this blog post at 2 a.m. and why I’m always late for everything except for every meal.)

We need our left brain in order to get to bed on time, detect patterns, do our taxes, and find meaning in life. However, Eric Barker says,

When you pay too little attention to the right brain’s raw data (“She’s looking at her phone”) and give too much credence to Lefty’s sometimes-boneheaded interpretations (“Clearly, we’re boring her”), you can end up angry, sad, frustrated or anxious.

The truth will set you free. Here’s my favourite, freeing revelation in Eric’s post: My left brain isn’t me! It’s just part of my body (like my hand or my gut**) doing the best it can with what I feed it. We don’t have to say with a defiant or fatalistic tone, “This is how I think; therefore, this is how I am…and this is how it is.” Lefty can be taught! Sometimes Lefty acts like a child, and we need to offer parental guidance. “I understand you’re thinking _____. Come take a walk to the other side and see what it looks like from there.”

Just as a photographer can improve the artistic composition of a photo by changing their position (credit: Randall Wiebe), we have the power to give our Left Brain Interpreter a different view. We can tell ourselves a better story (credit: Eric Barker).

Of course, one could just sing, “Always look on the bright side of life.” But Eric’s insightful, research-based blog post goes further with the “how and why” of that philosophy than Monty Python’s little ditty, and it’s just as entertaining. I hope you’ll make time to read it. It has the potential to relieve suffering.

On Saturday, I was caught up in such a negative spiral of thoughts I didn’t want to get out of bed because I didn’t want to be awake. There is so much nasty stuff going on in the world – political drama and deception, injustice, cruelty, suffering, fear, and hopelessness…and at home, friends dealing with cancer, broken relationships, addiction, my own frustrations with being human and foolish and sometimes so overwhelmed with the storm in my brain I become useless.

Thankfully, mindful memories of the resurrection story, Barking-up-the-wrong-tree blog post, and right-brain art classes began to sprout in my memory, and I knew,

I needed to drag my left brain up the hill behind our house and view the world from the underside of a crocus.

Little did I know the crocus would be rising out of a pile of poop in preparation for Easter Sunday, resulting in a unique, down-to-earth self-portrait. When I told my friend at church about the picture, she said, “Life’s a pile of ____ (insert your preferred expletive). Rise above!”

For some right-brain inspiration and a fresh artistic perspective, check out Randall’s paintings in his Angels card and see these angels coming into being in the videos on his Patreon account.

To offer your left brain more brilliant, creative, down-to-earth, research-based ideas, you can subscribe to Eric’s blog. Or if your right brain likes the feel of a beautiful hard-cover, I’ve preordered Eric Barker’s new “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” book, and you can too!

If you want to feed your right brain more crocus images, I’ve designed a few cards featuring our fuzzy friends:
Birthday Crocuses, Easter Crocus, Faith in Spring (a grief card), Spring Crocuses, and Canadian Wildflowers.

And if you just want a laugh, we also have a few messy Mylo cards, including Mylo in Mud, Lend Me Your Ear, and Go for it!

*”Let light shine out of darkness” is the greeting in the “Storm” card, which features a photo I took of providential special effects at the Canadian Badlands Passion Play near Drumheller, Alberta. Fortunately, it didn’t start raining until Jesus had risen from the dead. However, I do have a photo of Jesus climbing down from the cross in a rainstorm at a dress rehearsal.

** The famous cookbook co-author, Janet Podleski (The Looneyspoons Collection, Eat Shrink & Be Merry) spoke at the Women in the North Conference in Peace River recently. She is working on her doctorate in natural medicine, and she said that, according to recent research, the network of neurons lining our gut is so extensive some scientists have nicknamed it our “second brain,” so it may be time to “take platters into our own hands” and “give peas a chance”! Janet is a pun master with a unique perspective on health, and I can’t wait to read her book when she’s finished digesting her research. How much is our thinking affected by what we feed our second brain?

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