Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But it’s in the top five, easy.
And I’m not talking about the kind of rock that sits in a setting and causes certain women to believe that they’ve found true love. Frankly, that kind of rock has never done it for me. So now that I’ve established that it isn’t a diamond, it should go without saying that it’s also not any of the other gems. (And still, it seems to bear mentioning.)
Nor is it a shiny pretty rock of the sort that bedazzle clay pots or necklaces at summer art festivals, or worse yet, that carry the promise of magical powers when fingered at a Renaissance Festival. (On a separate and irrelevant note, I read a blog post once about getting fingered at a Renaissance Festival.)
This rock is actually more well-suited to be a door stop. And it looks like a petrified cow’s liver that’s gone grey and grown weary from trying to convert fat into a useable energy source when all six stomachs are only ever loaded with non-fat GRASS.
Part of what makes this petrified door stop liver of a rock special is its message. Stamped across it is the word “create.” And yes, the irony is not lost on me that it could just as easily be stocked alongside those sparkling rocks at those summer art festivals; sidling up next to other rocks directing me to “love” and “smile” and “be peaceful” and painted in the colors of a truly demented child.
The thing is, someone I used to look up to gave me this rock at a pivotal time of my life.
And it meant a lot to me because though I’d known him to be a deeply creative and artistic soul, it seemed to me that something was always blocking him from expressing that creativity in the way that was truly meaningful to him. And he always had something of an edge.
At that stage of my life I wasn’t doing much creating myself. I was in my 20s, drinking heavily and full of rage. I didn’t recognize that the anger was the byproduct of trying to navigate through life with a deeply divided belief system. And to examine it was too painful. Hence the drinking.
Growing up as a white girl in an idyllic house on an acre of land in an upper middle-class neighborhood formed my beliefs.
But only partially so.
Because while my neighborhood and home life were testimony to a deeply covert (i.e. WASPy) resistance to diversification, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a neighborhood that was heavily Jewish, Chaldean and African American. Thus, the schools I attended were pretty damn diverse. And so were my friends. And this formed the other half of my belief system.
At the time that I received that wonderful rock from this deeply creative person who also lived in my childhood neighborhood, I’d attended a liberal college, gotten my useless art degree and found my own little apartment in a “hip” town. I thought I’d moved past those subversive messages that fed my white suburban childhood. Silly girl. I realized soon enough that that was not the case.
The truth is, the taproot of childhood goes WAY deep into the muck.
And it’s usually itching to pull up some toxins.
So when that happens, I create. Whether it’s writing a blog post, embroidering on a friend’s jacket, making my husband dinner, choreographing a yoga flow, fabricating stories with a 3-year old, or doing a silly dance. Being creative brings me back to earth, time and time again. It puts me in touch with all sorts of people hailing from an array of backgrounds. And it’s brought me to settle comfortably in a culturally and racially diverse city with an LGBTQ community center at its core.
It’s a place where I don’t agree with everyone and I sure as hell don’t look like anyone. Which is cool. Because that’s, like, how the world is.
When I create, I get a sense of what matters, what’s important, and how beautiful and painful it can be to be a human. And the gift of that rock at the time that I received it was EXACTLY the reminder I needed to examine my beliefs and get out of my own way.
As for the important man who gave it to me, he is now nearly 80 and has grown angry and embittered, having opted for fear and intolerance over the creative acceptance he once encouraged me to explore. While he continues to have a place in my heart, it’s in the form of a memory because this soul who was such a crucial part of my creative development seems to have given up and abandoned any hope that his own creativity might open him to a world vastly different from one that he perceives. Or, more accurately, the one he’s being TOLD to perceive through sources outside of himself.
So every few days, I hold that rock close to my chest and run my fingers along the grooves of the letters.
It helps me to remember that the huge thread of fear woven through my childhood was not real. And the tapestry looks a hell of a lot better without it. I suppose in holding the gift to my heart, a little part of me hopes to impart some of that thinking to the man who gave it to me. Because while I still love him, I’m not sure how much I like him these days.
Which makes me sad. And so, I wrote this.