I’ve just spent three weeks nursing my mother while she recovered from acute renal failure. Our kidneys filter our toxins and clean our blood. Our mind uses our body as a visual indicator as to what needs mending. My mother is only just beginning to understand the mind and body connection. She is old school Midwestern, meaning, her secret ingredient is always more butter, don’t talk about finances, hide depression and resign lovemaking to the bedroom. So, once she was stable and well enough to have a healthy banter with me, I decided that a large part of her recovery would be teaching her how to have a different relationship with food. I believe release what we’re full of – even when (especially when) we are full of crap. Food being a great way to contextualize her situation, as well as a metaphor for health and what fills her, seemed like a good place to start, given that her hospitalization had emptied her entirely.


This lead to conversations like this:


“Mom, I’ve been researching foods that will help to heal your kidneys and I’m going to show you how to make soup with algae,” I say.


“Oh, they have great deals on toilet paper,” she says.


“No, not Aldi, mother, algae, you know, like, seaweed, sushi,” I say.


“I had sushi in Arizona in 1973 and I puked so much I nearly died,” she says.


“Okaaay, but Arizona is a landlocked desert, so please don’t judge all raw seafood based on their raw seafood, not to mention that the wonders of refrigeration have changed considerably in the last forty years, plus I’m not adding raw seafood to the soup, I’m adding seaweed to the soup.”


“I’m telling you I nearly died Gretchen. Aren’t you listening?”


“Fine, I will not add sushi to the soup,” and then I smiled and take a –


DEEP Breath –

(My smile meant – I am going to add so much frigging seaweed to that soup that your kidneys will literally pop out your ears and dance a thank you jig inviting sea creatures to come to me in my dreams and present me with a certificate proving that I am an all-knowing seaweed, practically seafaring, goddess able to stake her claim on the health properties of the deep. However, I will puree said seaweed beyond recognition and only tell you that I’ve added it to the soup after you’ve eaten your second bowl, which you will say is delicious, even if you don’t like it, because you think you’ve convinced me to leave out the seaweed, but, Ah Ha, when I tell you that I disguised the seaweed, you will finally realize that your knowledge base about seaweed /AND countless other subjects/ is outdated and wrong and you will look at me with the admiration I have always deserved concerning seaweed /AND countless other subjects/. Or maybe I won’t say anything at all, but relish in the pleasure of my trickery for a few weeks /months, years, I can wait/ and bring it up to make a point when we are talking /arguing/ about something completely unrelated like combustion engines or the reliability of plastic vs metal umbrella frames. I’ll say, “remember the seaweed incident?” to which you’ll reply, “um, no.” I’ll say, “well you wouldn’t, would you? Because I tricked you into eating it and you didn’t, in fact, die, like you thought you would, which just goes to show that I know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to metal framed umbrellas.” ) – AND Release.


What does this rant have to do with creativity? Or anything really?


So, so much.


Because it is a nonsensical, petty, ridiculous example of how we consume ourselves with nonsensical, petty and ridiculous thoughts that are often responses to our presumptions about circumstances concerning someone else’s thoughts or feelings.


We fill ourselves and obsess over fears and outcomes that haven’t happened and it is often the idea what could be, not, what is already that influences our art. On top of all of that, we polish and feed the trivial comments of others with a tenacity and commitment that we seldom give our own ideas, which makes us lose track of the reason that we are creating in the first place – to nourish, heal and feel with honesty, which is seldom beautiful and often raw, painful and violent.


I was home to nourish, heal and love my mother, honestly, but the horrendousness of the disease made me fall, again and again, into the comfortable trappings of intolerant annoyance through an insecurity driven by the fear of a potential loss that didn’t happen. How many creative decisions (not to mention life decisions) have I based on theoretical presumptions? Too many. But over time I have learnt that it is always the least expected thing that happens. Always. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, but it is never what you think it will be.


“Hey, the seaweed in here is pretty good actually,” says my mother after a few slurps of her soup. She slurps because she knows it drives me insane.

“What?! How did you know I added it?”

“I didn’t. The meds have killed my taste buds. I guess I guessed right huh?”


Seriously. That woman.


“Well. Thank goodness you survived to annoy me,” I said.


And meant it.