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Spending the past four weeks on crutches gave me the opportunity to view my life from a different perspective. Some of what I experienced was challenging: opening doors without falling over, climbing stairs on one foot, and staying clean without getting my foot wet.

Some of it was painful: you wouldn’t believe how badly your palms and armpits ache after a day on crutches. (I have bruises and calluses to prove it.) To make matters worse, I developed tennis elbow from all the crutching, which made it difficult to do things like lift a coffee cup, blow dry my hair and pull up my pants.

Some of it was funny: did I mention I couldn’t pull up my pants?

And some of it was surprising: it turns out, having Dave do all the chores, cook all the meals and wait on me hand and foot was nice for the first few days, but then I just felt guilty. I also discovered how much I miss the gym when I can’t go and that there IS a limit to the amount of comfort food I can eat.

The most surprising thing of all, though, was how quickly I lost my leg muscle. Despite years of running, hiking, skiing, swimming and biking, four measly weeks of not using it caused my right calf muscle to shrivel up to half its original size. Seriously. If you glance at me quickly, there’s a good chance you might mistake me for a pirate with a peg leg.

It made me think about how creativity sort of works the same way. Have you ever noticed how rusty you feel after even a few days off from doing the thing you love? If I go a little while without writing, I find it’s hard to get my creative juices flowing again. I forget plot lines, struggle to find the right words and totally lose momentum. It’s like creative atrophy. But when I’m writing every day it feels like the ideas are abundant and the prose flows without effort.

If we start thinking of our creativity like a muscle that needs to be exercised every day, rather than a hobby that can only be indulged when we have some free time, I think it can help us become more committed to its strength and development. Though you won’t find it any anatomy books, think of your creativity as a muscle that exists within your heart and mind. Treat it with same devotion you have for the gym, a yoga class, or your daily walk, so it will grow stronger, perform better, and be there when you need it.

How often do you exercise your creative muscle?

 

Yesterday I attended a birthday party for my husband’s dad and grandfather who turned 60 and 90 respectively. On display at the party was a giant photo collage filled with memories from their lives. As I admired all the things they’ve done and the friends they have I realized that life is the sum of all our choices. It doesn’t happen by accident, it’s the result of courageous pursuits, seized opportunities and chances taken. It’s the result of action.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of life’s demands and slip into a habit of living reactively rather than on purpose. But the photos reminded me that a meaningful life is one of our own making, that every day is an opportunity to add new memories to our own collage.

By the time I turn 90, I hope my photo collage will show a woman who did everything she wanted, loved deeply, traveled far and enjoyed every moment.

What will yours show?

“To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction is to live twice.”

– Kahlil Gibran

Photo credit

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