“I had to make you uncomfortable, otherwise you never would have moved.” —Universe
The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention”. As someone who has been fiercely committed to building a better world in my own personal way through the creative work that I do, and the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, the need for invention, innovation and new, creative ideas to spread has been forefront in my thoughts for years. If that desire is to be birthed through necessity, then what sheds light on what our necessities are? How do we get down to the bones of what it is that we really need, in its most basic form? In my experience and observation, it’s adversity that highlights for us what our necessities are. It’s the dark shadows of doubt, fear, anxiety and helplessness. Those supposed negative, inferior, or low-vibe feelings are at the heart of unlocking what makes us tick as individuals, and as collective human beings. We have those feelings for good reason. They help us to survive and evolve, until we are capable of thriving. Fear and the possibility of threat, puts us in touch with our instincts and intuition, which are essential to our understanding of ourselves and have an uncanny ability to immediately shed anything that is frivolous or extraneous from our lives, and help us zero in on what we value. Those uncomfortable feelings shine a light on our vulnerabilities and what we need to work through within ourselves and as a collective human family, and we have most certainly all been steeped very recently together in a significant dose of adversity, fear, anxiety as we continue to navigate the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Fear, just like grief and sadness, are to be moved through, not around, so we should never allow anyone to mock us or make us feel shame for experiencing fear, especially when facing the unknown. Those who can still feel deeply, despite a world that has worked hard to thicken our skins and make battle-hardened warriors of us all, will very likely be the ones who change everything for the better in the long run. They are a rare breed and have a perspective that few can see. Stay sensitized if you can, or reclaim it, as I have done after years of hardening my heart in order to soldier on in difficult circumstances. Our softness is where so much power resides, and yet it has all but been forgotten by our culture. Nothing shows us our power, like the thought of having it taken away. And when I say power, I do not mean the false sense of power that is fuelled by feelings of superiority or specialness disguised as leadership, in that hero-saviour variety that patriarchal structure so loves to perpetuate these days. I mean true power, that comes from humility and compassion, and that humble confidence that commits to raising up all people as equally important no matter their belief, or lifestyle, and with no agenda to get anyone “on-side” with the God that they deem correct, but raising people up just because its the decent human thing to do. No strings attached.
Our difficult feelings also show us where we’ve been waisting our time and energy, and how we’ve been distracted and scattered so effectively from our most essential selves. Before we can reach a new level of invention and innovation that’s necessary to build a better world, we must first acknowledge where we’ve become comfortable, complacent and apathetic about the world that is. In my own experience, if we don’t take the initiative to evolve ourselves as individuals, circumstances tend to arise in our lives that push us out of our comfort zones and make us evolve, like it or not.
Before I had ever heard of Covid-19, I had thought that I had a pretty good understanding of what “necessity is the mother of invention” really meant. I had experienced adversity in my life, and been nudged into a new level of survival and creativity to cope in the past, but as it turns out, 3 months into a worldwide pandemic where my life has been substantially altered, I now realize my previously comfortable life and innate privilege and entitlement kept me from fully grasping the weight of what that statement really means. I had already gone through many alterations in my life where I significantly simplified and culled the meaningless, the wasteful and the consumerist values from my existence. Skimming down to what really matters to me and shedding the rest. But even still, the truth is, I rarely thought about necessity, because we live in a time and culture of excess and as a middle-income, healthy, white, straight cis-woman who’s married, I have a bubble of protective privilege around me that needs to be acknowledged and understood. The fact is, I am not as vulnerable in an emergency, like a global pandemic, as someone who has health issues, suffers from depression or anxiety, doesn’t have universal health care, is trying to raise a family without a living wage, or is discriminated against, underprivileged or marginalized in any way. A significant lesson, and the beginning of the many silver lining gifts gleaned from this difficult experience. This honest look at my own privilege and the resulting humility and massive influx of sudden understanding of the adversity being experienced by the vulnerable and underprivileged comparatively to how I have been effected, has been eye and heart opening.
“We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” -Emery D. Haley
This was just one of so many veil lifting epiphanies that have come to light for me and many thousands of people through the adversity of this pandemic. I have most definitely been negatively impacted personally, as a Mother of two young boys who are now home 24/7 and need to be homeschooled. I’ve struggled these past weeks as a small-business owner who’s seen a huge drop in income from my vintage shop sales, even though I sell online, and I’m the Wife of an Author and Illustrator who had every single book signing, convention, speaking engagement and work trip cancelled indefinitely since March. Our livelihoods have been hacked down to shadows of their former glory and that’s been heart wrenching for two people who have worked very hard and made many sacrifices in order to build a life around our creative endeavours being our sole source of income. There is no denial or downplay of our personal hardships here, but, it pales in comparison to what more vulnerable people around the globe who were already experiencing adversity have had to deal with. If this doesn’t teach us compassion and empathy for one another, and help us see the inequalities within the systems we uphold, I don’t know what will.
We live in a time of over abundance, gluttony and greed with a small percentage of people getting extremely rich off of the consumerist culture that keeps middle and lower income people trapped in a cycle of wanting more and believing that if they just work hard enough, all their dreams will come true. So many have become slaves to that belief and that system, which is stacked in the favour of the already rich and powerful. It is designed for us to want desperately to climb the ladder towards the rich and famous lifestyle, and to reach endlessly for it, but never get there. The falseness and emptiness of that dream is coming to light for many, and that is no harsh truth to scoff at. The youth in particular are bombarded with the messaging that this is precisely what they should want for themselves and encouraged to strive endlessly for it. It’s a damn hard reality to realize its a lie.
When 2020 unleashed Covid-19, the world was thrown into a chaotic shit-storm of epic proportions. Lockdowns, border and school closures, daily death tolls, curfews, medical face masks, mass business shut downs and long-term social distancing measures. I need not go on, you were there, we all were, and still are navigating these new waters, globally. What an incredibly profound thing to experience in our lifetime. Especially in the digital era, when we can watch it unfolding real-time on our friends’, colleagues’ and strangers’ social media feeds from all over the world. No need to even tune into the news, when it’s so easy now to connect with real people and their lived experiences, live around the world. The unity of that global experience should not be taken lightly. For many people, that may have been the first time they really understood how connected we all are on this planet. Not just conceptually, but literally. We live on a sphere, an island brimming with life and possibility, floating in the cosmos and every single thing we do as individuals effects and impacts everyone else that walks this planet with us. It may not be immediate, or feel substantial when it happens, but what we choose in each moment sends a ripple out like a tiny stone in a pond that extends out from us continually. We have impact as individuals. Covid allowed us to see that with clarity and certainty, and if we can have a negative impact on one another, we can most certainly have a positive impact.
So many people are now beginning to understand concepts that had been floating around them for decades, but their busyness had kept them from grasping it fully. The wealthy 1% getting richer during a crisis, while the rest of us struggle to get by. The hypocrisy of minimum wage workers being determined “essential” and revered as “front line heroes”, while not making a living wage. The truth about how many goods we rely on that are imported from other countries that are produced in sweatshops, and how incredibly neglectful we’ve been about supporting local businesses and small, family-owned shops in our own communities. How much non-essential crap we buy and support that does not in any way make the world a better place to live, in fact it just contributes to more garbage and plastic waste in our landfills and oceans, and loss of hard-earned income with nothing to show for it. One of the most important epiphanies I witnessed people grasping worldwide was the realization of how little they know about how to actually survive in an emergency. People began to ask themselves, what if this was like a world war, or the next Dirty Thirties and goods and services become difficult to get access to? The sheer shock of realizing that they don’t know how to grow their own food, keep their family’s immune systems healthy and strong, or cook hearty meals from basic local ingredients, was a major eye opener for many. Hence the significant increase in veggie gardens popping up everywhere this spring and people living in the suburbs learning to bake their own bread for the first time. So much so that Robin Hood flour ran out of their standard yellow packaging and had to start packing in basic brown paper bags in order to keep up with production in North America! The most important discovery I feel for many, was watching the smog and CO2 emissions clear up in the skies all over the world as traffic and industry screeched to a halt. Wildlife emerged and was rejuvenated as people stayed close to home, and people, with no place to go and many with less to do, started watching the skies, listening to the birds and re-connecting with nature in ways they may not have in years or possibly ever.
These little seeds of thought, these epiphanies, thought experiments and self-evaluations are the silver lining during these dark times. The gifts that come from adversity and are born when we face fear and have the courage to move through it, grasping the lessons as we go. I understood it philosophically, but not experientially, because life has afforded me far more than I actually need. Facing the truth of that and admitting it to myself is a lesson in humility and gratitude, something I feel is sorely needed in these times.
“I don’t want to wait anymore I’m tired of looking for answers
Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter
I don’t know if I’m scared of dying but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow
Regret, remorse, hold on, oh no I’ve got to go
There’s no starting over, no new beginnings, time races on
And you’ve just gotta keep on keeping on
Gotta keep on going, looking straight out on the road
Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road
I try not to hold on to what is gone, I try to do right what is wrong
I try to keep on keeping on
Yeah I just keep on keeping on
I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road
I’ve woken up in a hotel room, my worries as big as the moon
Having no idea who or what or where I am
Something good comes with the bad
A song’s never just sad
There’s hope, there’s a silver lining
Show me my silver lining
Show me my silver lining”
– First Aid Kit (Song: My Silver Lining)
There has been so much emotional baggage to unpack over these past few months, and truly difficult realities to face and not look away from that many have suffered deeply and profoundly as a result of it. This is a collective pain that history has shown us, will most definitely result in transformations we can only imagine for our world. There are deep lessons to be learned and healing to experience through the discomfort.
I have been so incredibly fortified and heartened by what I have seen transpire within the creative communities around the globe as a result of this pandemic. A new and profound creativity has emerged, birthed from necessity. People being isolated and un-able to create in their normal ways have risen to the occasion and innovated ways to thrive in adversity. I’ve seen incredible works of art being made with minimal resources, musicians and performing artists finding inspiring ways to continue making music for themselves and the world. Writers penning some of the most heart-wrenching articles and poetry, small businesses adapting and adjusting from brick and mortar to online shops and delivery services in record time in order to continue meeting the needs of their customers and save their businesses. Photographers making absolute magic with their cameras in their own homes and backyards, grounded airports converting their lots into drive-in movie theatres, and families spending more time together than they have in years. Communities coming together to sing from balconies, support one another emotionally and financially online and continue to grow and learn in adaptive ways through changing tides. This experience has proven to me that when the going gets tough, the creatives get going.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” –Toni Morrison
In my own family, my Husband, Gregory and I at home with our two boys, 11 and 9, have ridden the waves with the rest of the world and have done our level best to stay within the eye of the storm and continue to do what we do best, to love one another fiercely and stay creative. That is our contribution to the world and now I know it with certainty. We will do what we do no matter what. We too planted a garden, starting from seed in our house and taught our sons how to grow food in their own front yard in the city. We cooked together, baked buns and muffins, devotedly supported small local grocery stores and businesses for our basic needs, joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) Farm to door, and we grew closer and bonded in new and impenetrable ways. We talked a lot about the state of the world and where to go from here and how to use our individual gifts and talents to contribute to positive change as we watch old paradigms fall and burn around us. Some days we slogged through the weight of the world, but we continued to work, to teach our kids, even if it was just one baby step at a time. We cultivated joy where we were, rather than desire it from the outside world that we didn’t have access to. That in itself was a massive shift in consciousness.
Of all the things I was missing, the thought of not being able to continue doing creative photoshoots was what I was grieving the most. So, with the mantra “bloom where you’re planted”, firmly held in my heart, I decided to work with what I had, where I was. I decided to do a photoshoot at home. No professional photographer, no fancy studio lighting or perfect location, just a reason to get creative with what we already had. Gregory and the boys helped me set up, Finnley, my youngest asked to model and Lief, my eldest was our photographer. Both Finnley and I modelled clothes from my online vintage shop (Patron of Dreams Shop), and a creative editorial shoot about family and planting seeds, metaphorical and literal, was born. About a month later, as isolation restrictions relaxed a little in Winnipeg, Joey Senft, our good friend and neighbour who happens to be one of the best professional photographers in our city, went out on foot in our own neighbourhood, social-distance style, to do a photoshoot together. This blog post is a result of making art in the time of Covid-19. A snapshot in time to serve as a reminder that we are only as limited as our perceptions and bravery allows, and that our desire for perfection or a certain standard can be limiting and paralyzing instead of inspiring and expanding.
So what’s next as the world continues to be ravaged by the direct and indirect effects of a pandemic? How do we continue to go through profound awakenings and transformations, a revolution, as hard truths and adversity continues to unfold? Well, I hope a commitment to self-evaluation, and an honest acknowledgement of our individual contributions to both the problems and the solutions. It is my greatest wish that each person begin to understand what it is that they as individuals have to offer to the world to improve it, and to figure out how that can be done for the greater good of all of humanity in a holistic way, not just for the already privileged few that are benefitting from the existing capitalist patriarchal systems. I see a great need for people to get comfortable with unlearning what they thought was true and stepping into the humility of not knowing, not having all the answers, or attempting to be a saviour to others when what is truly needed is our continued improvement of ourselves.
I live in excitement about the future, despite the hardships and difficulties that I know still lie ahead of us, and I’ve come to accept and appreciate the diversity of roles that are needed to be played by different types of people as old paradigms are disassembled and new ways are built. Some people will fight to tear down old systems and be warrior activists for change and accountability. Some people will use existing political platforms and rock boats from within political rings, some people will continue using their healing arts and modalities to help the collective heal through the process, and some will focus on building the new through their work, their art, their writing, and their creativity. There is room for it all, and all of it is an important contribution. Through it all, as a community, I wish for each of us to carry a fierce hope in our hearts, as we continue to peel the layers back over the coming months and with openness and non-judgment, uncover all the silver linings just waiting to be understood from this dark cloud.
- Seed planting at home, photos by Lief Chomichuk , Edited by Joey Senft.
- Apple blossoms in our neighbourhood, photos and edits by Joey Senft.
MODELS: Finnley Chomichuk (my son), and Tara Cole-McCaffrey, Patron of Dreams
STYLING BY: Tara Cole-Mccaffrey, Patron of Dreams, from Patron of Dreams Shop
VINTAGE FASHION: Vintage 70’s green dress, 70’s large collar printed polyester shirt, navy blue adjustable suspenders, vintage white with pink floral button-front dress, and vintage black slip, all from Patron of Dreams Shop.