Begin, Again

5 MIN READ

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What does it take to deepen our practices so that we can connect with the innate creativity within us so that we can be transformed?

 

Relaunching Coucou Home after a long hiatus has been a lesson in persistence and belief.

Writing has been a core part of my life since I was given my first composition book. I was homeschooled for third grade, and one of the things my mom had me do every day was to write about a topic every week. I filled the wide-ruled pages with my hopes and dreams, and the kernels of future essays I'd yet to write. 

As a teenager, my first job was at the local Dairy Queen. It rewarded me with precious dollars, but it also gave me my first limiting belief when I told Tina, the older girl who managed the store, that I liked to write. “That won’t last,” she said as she expertly dipped two cones into a vat of warm chocolate. She was technically an adult, how could I not believe her? 

After I quit the cone job, I went to an art high school where I helped run the school’s newspaper with my twin sister. I also found new ways to tell stories in art classes ranging from pottery and jewelry making to painting and photography. In college, I looked forward to writing essays and my grades reflected it. It was a weekly column that made me realize what it means to communicate with words, to reach people. My writing was terrible, but it fed my spirit.


In graduate school, I picked up the academic pen again and transformed a class into an early version of this website. I wrote mostly about home, and later on my search for it. I earned the award for best graduate thesis for a history of a radio show I worked on, and by then had published writing in Edible publications and Paste Magazine. I didn’t have a cheering squad. Instead, I had Tina telling me I couldn’t do it, and I was happy to prove her wrong. 

A funny thing happens to women approaching thirty. Things that seem light years away suddenly appear on the horizon: home, marriage, babies among them. Until then, they exist as abstract concept or pictures we gloss over in magazines. As the twenties dance on, they begin to manifest as your friends' lives. You are their bride’s maid and later house- and babysitter. Writing, which was central to my identity and way of making meaning of the world, became as irrelevant as high heels are in your thirties. Coucou Home, the place for which my writing lived, was shuttered if only because I no longer had time to "play" house. According to the rest of the world, I needed to make one! I still wrote the occasional essay for publications I admired, but my practice of writing, which had sustained my imagination and my will, surrendered a white flag. Tina had won.

In truth, I didn’t stop writing. I began to hide it. I was traveling twice a week, and my corporate job left me little free time to sleep, let alone write. The executives found my creative life charming but hardly took it seriously. Then again, neither did I. When I needed to be validated as I writer, I had the Los Angeles Review of Books or Bitter Southerner to publish my work. Charles Bukowski would have cringed. 

Then I got married. It was no longer just Tina telling me I couldn’t write. I had a chorus that included society, expectations, and other people’s Instagram posts. After a whirlwind romance, I moved to Vietnam to make a home with my husband. Within a few months, I was asked to lead a writing group and write for a magazine. I stress here that I was not looking for these opportunities. The writing group went well, but writing for the publication did not. My editors in the past were people who I personally connected with and who knew how to deliver criticism with grace, not an anvil. Suddenly, I was questioning my ability to tell a story. I had left Tina some ten thousand miles away, but there she was in her Dairy Queen regalia, dipping a cone in the subtropics. Maybe it really was time to put down the pen.

I had left Tina some ten thousand miles away, but there she was in her Dairy Queen regalia, dipping a cone in the subtropics.

We all have our Tinas. Mine took the form of a cone-dipping Latina, but maybe yours is a relative, or teacher who made you feel small. We can’t banish these people, but we can change our relationship with them. I know Tina was a creative person because we all have the potential to be creative. As an expression of the Divine, it is innate within us. Had I chosen to believe what Tina said about my creativity, that it would die rather than flourish with age, I wouldn’t be sharing this wisdom with you. And I certainly don’t think I would be doing it from halfway around the world. 

Luckily, I did not. After a walk across Wales with my husband, I was reinvigorated to write. Before I left, I had begun a redesign of the website, and many months later, here it is. Since I have resolved the search for home, I found myself shifting my lens to another subject, the thing that has made me persist at what I do throughout my life — creativity. 

Coucou Home's restoration reclaims my downtrodden spirit, but it also reestablishes a place for people to experience transparency and brutal honesty about what creativity is, and how it can transform us.

Mary Warnerstories