For those of you just joining us, welcome back to The Waiting Room, a series of essays solicited from the team at Heather Elder Represents that share insightful and sometimes hilarious tales about a learning experience with the agony that can come with waiting — stories of learning, adjusting and sometimes even appreciating it.
It is my hope that as we all keep navigating through the unknowns, that you will feel inspired by, and even draw strength from them. We truly are all in this waiting room together!
Kate Chase, Creative Strategist, Guest Editor
By Taya Curtin, Associate
I have worn a few hats in my career. I started as an agency account person, shifted into being a still photography producer/studio manager, evolved into a freelancer, and it all circled back again in many ways working with Heather. In every case, traversing uncertainty, being extremely determined, yet patient, and finding creative ways around obstacles have literally been a part of my job description.
Maybe it was being raised by a single mom, being an only child, growing up long before helicopter moms existed, or living at a time when being a latch key kid at age ten was totally normal. But I learned quickly in life that if I didn’t make it happen myself, it probably wasn’t going to happen at all. There was no such thing as “getting bored” at my house. There was only “go run around outside and use your imagination,” which was mom-speak for “you’ve got two arms, two legs, and a brain, figure it out.” So, I did just that.
In college, I stumbled into running. Looking back, I think it was “the freshman 15” that initially motivated me to hit the pavement, but it gave me my first taste of physical freedom and mental silence. I was hooked! Ramping up to six miles, six days a week, running became my faithful friend that I could rely on to reset my mind and start my day on a high note.
But eventually, time and gravity took their toll, and by my late 20’s I was forced to hang up my running shoes, and look for new ways to experience the physical rigor and mental peace running had provided. Ballet rose to the top of the list, but before I could finish the first series of classes, my knee started to hurt and swell — soon, I could barely walk. After tests were run and specialists weighed, I was diagnosed with a rare benign tumor. Western medicine told me, “you’ll have to take it out.” The problem-solver in me said, “there has to be another way.”
After taking some time to process and talking with experts and friends, I got to work and plunged myself into the world of alternative medicine. I didn’t quite know where it would lead, but I did know that no one was going to hand me the, “how to heal outside of the hospital” guide book, or hold my hand down the uncharted path. So, I did what I learned to do as a child and set out to “figure it out” and created my own off-script guide book along the way.
The best information I received during this time was this, “Your body is wise. It is telling you something, and you’ve got to listen and act on what you hear if you want to create change and heal.” It shocked me at first. Listen to what? Are you crazy? I heard it enough times from different people, and eventually, something in my gut said, “there IS something to this.” What’s the harm in trying?
Over time, step-by-step, I got good at listening to my body and responding to what I heard. It took time; it took perseverance, but I learned how to surrender to the unavoidable situations — in this case, a knee that didn’t work — and I showed up for myself through meditating. EVERYDAY. At the time, it didn’t feel like a choice; it simply was a requirement.
In the end, I didn’t have the surgery, and I credit that to my willingness to chart my own path and my dedication to listen to and do what my gut told me was right and true.
Today I believe that my mental strength and peace of mind are one-in-the-same.
Meditation and moving my body — long walks, yoga, and dance — are the best way to clear my head. Collaging, creative writing and poetry have emerged from the stillness created by these practices, and have become my go-to methods to flush out thoughts, refine ideas, and express my truth. Even if no one else hears or sees them, the process of getting ideas out of my head onto paper helps shift my energy and creates more inner space. And for me, having more inner space means having the peace of mind required to be patient and find hidden reserves of determination and having the clarity necessary to discover creative ways around the ever-mounting obstacles.
Written for all of us grappling with today’s unknowns.
When the world starts to spin out of control
The mad rush, rush, rush presses against your back; knocks you off-center
STOP, just stop and give yourself a break…
When your email bucket explodes and anxiety keeps on rising
Texts and pings keep flying at you like darts
SLOW, just slow down. Take a moment. Press pause…
When you’re up again at 3 am staring at the ceiling
Head filled with worries, body filled with phantom pains
BREATHE, just breathe deeply. In. out. Breathe…
When you can’t shake the stress
The news headlines, the drama, the monotony of living within the same four walls
SHAKE IT OUT, turn up the music, dance, sing, walk, hike, move, just move your body…
When the jigsaw pieces cease to fit together anymore
What worked yesterday and the day before is void
BREAK IT DOWN, throw out the big picture. For now, look ONLY at what you can control. Break that into bite-sized pieces. Take one piece at a time, one more, then another…
When the world remains upside down
What made sense before is lunacy today and the breadcrumbs you laid to get back have drifted away
TRUTH, close your eyes and go to the place where only the infallible truth exists. Use your imagination, listen to a meditation, give yourself a moment to reconnect with stillness.
And then…the fun begins!
CREATE, create something real from THIS PLACE.
A song, a poem, a photograph, a hike, a shared moment with someone you love.
Make THIS your touchstone…
In this, you give yourself the gift of peace
Moment by moment
By taking the time to:
SHAKE IT OUT
BREAK IT DOWN
and above all, return over and over to what is TRUE:
to your CREATion
that becomes your oasis
that will carry you through.
See you next Saturday with Chapter 14 from Heather Elder’s essay On Doing, followed by Kate’s epilogue to close this series. Come join us in the waiting room!