Exercising My Imagination

Over the past year it’s been difficult to write for this blog. Part of that is the result of having a toddler in the house, but that’s the least of my issues. In fact, that’s been really fun – and if I wanted to just write about my experiences as Bump’s dad years after our other two kids were born I’d have no shortage of posts. But, as I don’t want to chronicle Bump’s life for all the world to see I’m rather selective of what I share about his growth 1.

The real reason I find it hard to write is because if I were to write every day is because I’d feel the need to comment on the crisis of the day. To say the United States has lost any semblance of cohesive mooring is an understatement. Mass shootings 2, immigration raids which completely ignore the reality of children coming home from school with no parents in the picture, and “send her back” are only the tip of our descent into hatred. It’s one crisis after another, with one part of the country aghast, and another openly cheering things on.

My more progressive friends would probably wonder why I don’t comment on the crisis of the day, every day. After all, this segment of my friendships are confronting these crises with palpable anger and many insist I should too. “Silence is support!” they cry.

I don’t disagree, and I do speak out, but I’m not angry. Part of me would like to be angry, because that would be so much easier 3, but I’m not 4. The truth is, I’m dealing with depression and grief.

It seems that the United States is going to end up in some form of overt tyranny at some point – and I’ll end up outside the boundaries of both the Handmaid’s Tale fantasy imagined by the most hard core Christianist believers and the radical progressive “how dare youism” republic. As a person who’s searched long and hard for a place to belong, the polarization of the country is crushing me. I lean more toward progressivism than anything nowadays, but I’ve met too many people in that mold who have turned me off – mostly because my interactions have let me know they were looking for allies rather than friends 5. I’ve opened myself up to too many of that ilk who’ve declared me as unsuitable for their needs and written me off. Given that I’d already learned that lesson regarding much of the conservative realm over a decade ago 6, my depression is deep indeed.

So I don’t write a whole lot because I’m afraid that it’ll just deepen my depression, which is already affecting me in a number of ways I really don’t like. I’ve not read as much as I normally do over the last two years, I’ve not created a whole lot of things “just for fun” over the same time span, and I’ve not touched my novel planning for the Penny Gnomes sequel in months. I’m just too weary to gear up. And losing some dear people at church has not helped. Not in the slightest.

This is problematic because my imagination is how I process my inner struggles. I used to do comics which highlighted the absurdity of religious practitioners, take out my camera to take photographs “just because,” think up stories in my head, or turn my fear about the domination of imagination by cynical corporate powers into a novel. But it’s hard to do those things at present – the world’s just grown too dark.

But, even depressed, I’m still me. And if I get pushed too far away from my center, my very being will push back. And so, after a particular bitter experience early Thursday morning, I tossed my plans to the wind and decided to make something. Not for a communications project, or to support a work in progress, just because. And it was glorious. In that time I felt more like me than I have in a long while.

I sat down and made a map, completely on my iPad, using Affinity Designer. I tweaked the layers, I recolored the canvas, I adjusted how the output would look – all to create a world which has no intended outlet. It’s a piece of art I made, for me. Because I needed to make something. And using my imagination is how I recover the fortitude I need to confront this world with painful hope.

A fantasy world map
This map of an unnamed continent was made entirely on my iPad, using Affinity Designer.

  1. Other than it being really cool to see, that is. 
  2. Many of which never make the national news because they involve “those people” shooting other “those people.” 
  3. Another part of me is glad anger is not my default. I feel ugly when I get angry. And I do get angry, but I experience it as a toxin. 
  4. In general, that is. See the above footnote. 
  5. What’s the difference? You keep friends around because you love them and want them to share a journey with you. When an ally is no longer useful you drop them quicker than you can blink. 
  6. Which I’m still grieving.