(By Corey Rotella, CNA Extraordinaire)  

   I looked up at the clock, surprised to see that four hours had passed. I had paint in my hair, under my nails and on my favorite jeans…and I felt much, much better. I looked at the explosion of colors and patterns on the canvas before me and as always I was surprised that it came from me; that I created it and with that awareness came the deep sense of peace and satisfaction.

     I didn’t know how to paint two years ago. I didn’t take a class and the best I can do at painting actual objects is easily outdone by a kindergartener. None of that stops me from hitting the canvas when the shit hits the fan. For me, creating something, ANYTHING, is a life affirming act that rejuvenates my spirit and reconnects me to my present. Maybe it’s because for so long I was an active participant in my own destruction. Maybe it’s because right now all the collective anger in society seems so toxic that I feel powerless over it. Whatever the cause, the very attempt to bring an idea or emotion to life through a creative outlet does more for my mental and spiritual well-being than a store of self-help books. I blast my music and lose myself in the process as my mind and emotions feel free from the cage of everyday worries and anxieties for just a little while.

       I’ll tell you something else! My best paintings, my most insightful writings occur when I am feeling my most uncomfortable, when I’m fleeing into that land in my mind full of abstract thoughts and colors. It really gives meaning to those awkward moments when I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. It puts it to good use.

        Creating is a cleansing, cathartic experience that enhances my life in a way I didn’t think possible. I keep trying new things! Some work and some don’t. I’ll spare you the details of my in the shower solitary naked dance. Suffice to say, it ended with a bruise on my head and water all over the floor. Even so! It was a new experience! 

       I implore you to give it a shot. Write sad poetry, sing off key, paint, collage, dance naked (or clothed)! Don’t let that little voice inside convince you that you’re not good enough to do it. The point is trying new things. The very attempt to do so is, in and of itself, the creation of a new experience. Shine on my friends!

Corey Anne Rotella co-authored the book CNA Edge: Reflections from year one along with Bob Goddard and Hannah Hedges. It’s collection of essays from their blog CNA Edge: A Voice from the trenches of Long Term Care

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