When I Am Unseated

 “Art happens at the moment you are unseated.”

–Tess Gallagher

Tell me about a time when creativity came out of a frightening, unsettled or unseated place.

21 thoughts on “When I Am Unseated”

  1. I went through a rough period of life beginning with a car accident leaving me unable to walk, shortly after healing I fell and broke my hip, and finally diagnosed with breast cancer in a 2 year period. The process was exhausting. I was searching for an outlet to help me work through my emotions of sadness and anger. It’s devastating to walk out of your home in tact and return using a walker at 41, laying awake at night wondering if the chemo is working or just slowly killing you, and being alone.
    I journaled, wrote songs, began a book, and started painting. I had no formal training but the process was wonderful. I painted and wrote how I felt and later learned to learn to love the process. There was no judgment and for my eyes only. It was a dark time in which I fell in love with the process of painting. I now look back on those items that mark a closed chapter in my life and gave me a deeper love for the process not the product.

    1. I have often heard people say that cancer is the most transformative experience of their life. You have expressed this process so very well. So thank you.

  2. “Art happens the moment you are unseated.”

    I push away my breakfast tray. My friend Ellen is eating bites of food in between bouts of frantic writing in her notebook.

    It’s early morning at Kripalu, silent breakfast. Silverware clangs uninterrupted and coffee aromas waft through the air. Coffee is new at Kripalu. A few years ago, there was none.

    I turn from the window to my bag and pull out my papers. The big clock on the wall reads just after eight. Our workshop begins at eight thirty. I pick the easiest homework assignment from our workshop and place my papers on the table.

    Ellen keeps taking bites and writing.

    I get to it quickly. I look at my list – other people’s mothers – and pick the first item that gives me a clear picture in my mind, a spark of interest in my body. I turn one paper sideways and draw a sensory diagram, myself in my car talking to my sister on speakerphone. It’s mostly dialogue, there isn’t much to draw.

    I get another sideways paper, check my watch, and start to write. I AM… YOU ARE… big letters, just like our instructor Heather told us to use, to slow us down. I am in the car again. I can feel the seat behind my back, see the cars driving around me on route 66. Two lanes, a concrete corridor into DC. I can hear my sister’s voice coming through the speakerphone, see my hands waving…









    I finish and check my watch. Seven minutes. Good enough, I think.

    I place my papers back in my bag. Ellen looks up from her writing and biting. We smile, and I wave as I leave with my breakfast tray.

    The worst thing in my life is that I never have time to write. We are here because I am making time.

  3. Art happens the moment you are unseated”.

    Oh yeh? I’ve fallen off my seat….and it’s hard to get up with the knees and shoulder that I have….But…here…….I ………..GO! umph…..ugh…..sigh…..
    All that’s on my mind these days, since the preliminary diagnosis, is the “please, my angels, protect me from the flaws and aging of my body upon my brain’s health. And, rest, rest, rest, rest, rest….sleep, sleep….rest, rest, rest….ad nauseum infinitae….

    Don’t feel particularly creative….pain is highly overrated in my mind…..so are challenges and bad news. I’d much rather be able to garden right now, or remember the piano pieces that have vacated my memory, or enlist a lost libido to even play piano.

    But, I must admit I am in a numb limbo, feeling all is fine and will be so……with a befuddled “maybe”.
    Not wanting to share my news with close ones and family, other than those who know because of their close proximity to my life and know I’ve been going through some changes in my health and vitality….those who look at my garden and say it’s still beautiful though my tending of it has severely decreased. And, I guess I look pretty okay as well….no one has made mention of changes in my demeanor and looks, but I know the differences. …ee..ew….

    It’s mid-summer.
    The maritime is thick,, and wet….
    as it embraces the buds and green fruits…
    The sun has trouble reaching it’s children….

    Impending tomatoes, green and waiting,
    Foiliage green and living…
    The dog sleeps inside with it’s sweater
    Wrapped snuggly around her sleeping body.

    And I sit idly writing……waiting…
    For the sun of health to live its vibrant, vital summer, though
    Embodied in the season of Fall and
    Impending Winter….hey, it’s summertime!

    A gipped life in the early Crone times…
    but a filled life before that expects more,
    wants more, craves more….
    What’s happening in this unseated moment?

    I pull the Faith card, 5 of Earth…oops..
    It says I’ve forgotten….a path well-grooved from my spiritual life before..
    “All is well and will turn out well,” says Faith…
    But for my instant and passing thoughts…

    What’s my future hold?

    …Fickle life, in its endless cycles
    Will bring tendrils of new grass
    To ingest,
    After the fire burns to death
    The trees and life that went before.

    “So, enjoy the foreshadows
    While breath still reigns, and love endures…
    Blessings are here
    To wallow in earthen soils and waters…

    And, breezy hope raises it’s sleepy head..
    “Nothing wrong with getting muddy….eh?”

      1. Thank you for your soothing words and for the time it took for you to read and comment…..thank you, Adrienne.

          1. What a nice encouragement…I’ve got a chapbook ready to go….I’m a bit bumpy in the technical computer world, but am working on it….Thank you, again and again!!

  4. When I was eleven years old, I learned about the art of poetry from my language arts teacher, Ms. Perez. I still remember her, with her beautiful short silvery hair. I learned about found poetry, haikus, freewriting and alliteration. I had found my special language, it felt like.
    At home, life had begun to be chaotic. My oldest sister, who was adopted, began getting into a lot of trouble at school and I remember watching my family and feeling intense fear that we were breaking up. I began writing on sheets of paper, any paper. I expressed my emotions daily and sometimes hourly. My journal was truly my best friend. My journal felt like an eager friend waiting to offer me support, comfort and safety. I would write poems to God, poems to my family, poems expressing deep love for boyfriends and poems asking and answering philosophical questions posed by myself. I would write poems from the perspective of family members and friends. The gift Ms. Perez gave me in 6th grade afforded me the opportunity to be in touch with my feelings and gave me an outlet to express my anger, sadness, fear and joy fully. 15 years later, I still journal weekly and feel most at ease when I am writing and I communicate best through the written word. When I am not writing on a consistent basis, I feel off.

  5. Adrienne Drake


    My dear friend, Gayla, died two years ago; although she had been sick for at least a year, still, to me, her death was sudden and unexpected. I couldn’t believe she was dying. I was in denial.

    Gayla was one those rare and selfless individuals who truly believe in the Light in all beings. She was ceaseless in her journey to make that Light shine in all. Yet, she also knew darkness in the human soul. She had the strength, courage and conviction to protect those she loved from these sinister forces in whatever form they manifest.

    My friendship with Gayla was a perfect fit. Gayla had a special needs daughter; I believe this sorrow was a driving force in her life. It made her stop and look deeply into right and wrong, fair and unfair, and the ever unfolding nature of grace. Her losses did not calcify her. Instead, they cracked open her heart and became her greatest teachers. As on one level I became the healthy daughter she never had, she became for me the loving mother I have always longed for.

    Gayla saw the Light in me. She was a sensitive artist and she saw beauty in me I never knew existed. By example and in words, she encouraged me to be the best person I could be. She helped me see and believe in my potential.

    Throughout my professional career as a physician, I never saw anyone fight so hard for their life. She once told me, in the brief respite time between her two bone marrow transplants, “I think this fatigue is the new normal, and I am not sure I like this new normal.” It was the only time I ever heard her complain. Haggered and exhausted, she became more spirit than physical form, yet, the Light never left her eyes.

    Eventually, the doctors had no more to offer her. After that, she agreed to go on Hospice. When her son drove her home from her final doctor’s appointment, they spoke very little. At her memorial he said, “We are the lucky ones, for we realized in that long drive home, we had been able to say everything that needed to be said between us. All that was left was, ‘Goodbye.'”

    I was totally unprepared to say “Goodbye.” And I was so angry. Why does it always seem like those who have meant the most to me, those who have witnessed me and reflected back love, are the ones I lose, and always too soon?

    I decided to do what Gayla would do. I turned my anger, my sadness and my frustration into creativity; I made a collage. The collage is of a rugged mountain rising above a simple golden landscape. In the distance, gentle rain is falling from magenta clouds. The showers are feeding a blue river which flows underground. The tall mountain has been pushed up by these underground springs and now draws its strength from them. This piece of artwork is the most vulnerable and creative piece I have ever created.

    Each time I look at this collage, I am empowered. I didn’t really lose Gayla, just as I have never really lost anyone whom I have loved deeply and who has loved me, just as I am. You see, Gayla is the mountain. The mountain is me.

    1. This was so beautiful to read. It reminds me of my relationship to my mother in law. You described your love for her in a way I could feel deeply, just as the reader. Thank you!

      1. Thank you so much for your validation that what I am meaning to convey is getting across to the reader. One never knows, being so close to the writing. I am so happy for you that you have such a wonderful Mother-in-Law!!! Great Mother-in-Laws do exist, despite all the jokes! ????

    2. I would love to actually see your collage…though you described it so well…..and, your friendship with Gayla….what a treasure! “…”Haggered and exhausted, she became more spirit than physical form,, yet the LIght never left her eyes.”….is haunting and tells of her spirit/soul so explicitly because it tells me she had an everlasting strength that is so hard to hold onto during such times of fatigue.. What a gift to have known her and been so close to her.

          1. Hey Paula ~
            You got me motivated to actually sign my picture and photograph it…(one should always do this with their artwork anyway!!) Hope to take care of these little details tomorrow, and send I will send the photo off to you! I do appreciate your interest.
            PS: LOVE your catchy email ????

  6. Anita Furtado

    I so agree with the Poetry being published. And with the beautiful way the feelings have been expressed in the writings I’ve read in this post. I’ve been unseated many times in my life, but at age 68 falling and fracturing my pelvis in 4 places and being told I have Parkinsons dot-dot-dot a little-known disease that I would have preferred never knowing about other than knowing Muhammad Ali and Michael j.fox have it and watching there struggles and triumphs. So now I’m 75, getting over my second fall, and struggling with finding the energy and the will to continue on in this journey of life. Not wanting to let my family know how debilitating I feel, because they believe I am still the mom they always had, and I’ve been blessed now with another generation of great grands that I wonder how I will be able to manage this new chapter in my life. What would I do without my faith? However I am finding that my faith is failing me at this critical time in my life. You ladies, and gentlemen, that contribute to this writer’s blog will never know the clarity you brought to my mind and the closeness of knowing that other humans are experiencing the same daunting fears and joys that I experience. Can’t say it enough. Thank you doesn’t seem to express my gratitude.

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