Tabula Rasa = “clean slate”
I’ll have to admit – my brain isn’t really normal these days. (Of course, if you know me at all, you know that the word “normal” hasn’t really ever been something used to describe me.) But it goes a little beyond the usual eccentricity that I’m known for – beyond purple shoes, a three wheeled pedal conveyance, a walking staff with a bear on top, or a fez with a wingnut embroidered on it.
The only way I can express it is, I don’t know what I’m passionate about. I should say, I don’t know what I’m passionate about doing. I love my wife, I love the Lord, I love my dog, I love my church family – there’s no doubt about those. I love riding my trike – again, no question. But when it comes to what I should be or want to be doing, I’m not sure. Even as I’m writing this, there are a number of creative projects that I should be working on, but don’t really feel a desire to pursue.
“Grow up!” I know – there are times when we all must quit waiting for our muse, stop sitting around until the mood strikes us, and just get to work and get stuff done. I understand that – all too well. And one theory I’ve been kicking around is that I’m just lazy. Or that I’m being exactly the type of creative person I despise – the one who is of no use whatsoever unless “inspiration” strikes them. If they don’t feel inspired, they simply do nothing. Grrrr… Useless. But I don’t think terminal lazyness is the problem here. Granted, I’m an expert at putting off ‘til tomorrow what I ought to be doing today, but I think something deeper seems to be going on…
Over the past few months (almost 4, to be not quite exact), my world in general and my body in particular has been through tremendous changes. As I write this, my weight is 312.3 lbs, which is over one hundred pounds away from where I started before surgery March 30th, at 414. And is worlds away from when this whole process started at Weigh to Wellness in January of 2009, when I weighed 480. I’ve went from not being able to stand more than a minute or two before my knees wouldn’t hold me up to riding 14 miles on my trike without stopping. The only time I use my wheelchair these days is when I have time to shop for more than an hour and I want to work my upper body.
But my head hasn’t quite figured out what that means yet…
At times I’m overcome with excitement – the possibilities are endless of what I can be and do. From hopeless to unlimited is quite a journey to make, and it staggers me to think of where this path might lead even a year from now. Vicki can get her arms all the way around me to give me a hug, and that delights her. I can move, I can walk with her in the store, I can do things around the house, I can go down to the basement or upstairs for the first time in years…
But I have no idea what I want to do.
It almost feels like I’m waiting for something – something to happen, permission to be granted, an act of Congress (hope I don’t have to wait that long…), or some switch to be thrown that turns everything on. Maybe a door to be unlocked or at least a key given. I don’t seem to move forward… I just wait.
The things I seem to spend my time on are the most mindless things I can find… Spool knitting or kumihimo. Loom knitting. Riding the trike, where the body is engaged but the mind is in neutral – sort of. Anything that asks for more of me than those simple tasks gets put off. Why? I have no idea.
Some folks whose counsel I trust have said that time is needed – my mind needs time to catch up with the tremendous changes my body has been going through. It’s like someone who has spent the last 30 years imprisoned in one cell. That’s all they’ve seen for the last 30 years. Now, quite suddenly, the door has been unlocked and they’re free to walk out into the sunlight. But their head is still in the cell – still in prison. The body is walking free, but the mind hasn’t grasped that freedom yet. I notice that in myself somewhat – I’ll sit down, not because I’m tired but because “I can only stand for a minute or two before I have to sit down.“ The habit takes over before I realize it.
It’s been months – maybe even over a year – since I seriously worked on music. My keyboard has sat silent for a long time, and I’m not sure how to begin again. It’s been almost a year since my job ended at CBH when Gilead wrapped, and I haven’t done any serious audio work since then – I have projects waiting, but it’s like I don’t even know where to start to pick them up.
I play music every week, between my gigs at coffee houses and the worship team at church. But to work with it – to construct and compose, to arrange and record – I’ve been a long time away from it. Back when my energy was all used up just trying to live through a day. Somewhere along the way, between my most recent lowest weight (366) through being laid off and getting back up to 480, and now at 312, I’ve lost the process of making music – the routine of getting into a creative mindset, finding inspiration and working toward producing music.
When the Lord shattered my chains, when He set me free from food, He did it completely. The human side of me is waiting for the old habits to come back, but the part of me that trusts Him knows that they won’t. There’s a reason He put those words into my mind when I awoke in the hospital – “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free.” But Sightblinder is never happy unless he has someplace to nail us. I told Vicki I believe that my mind is the battleground now, and not my body. By His grace I’ve been set free from bondage to food, but the enemy won’t stop coming after me – he’ll just find a new place to attack.
In the end, I have to realize that I AM Tabula Rasa – a clean slate. And it’s going to take some time – a lot of time – to see that reality. I’ll never be the same, but in God’s grace I’ll be right where He wants me. So we keep moving forward, one foot in front of the other. Finding my way back to creative pursuits, from a whole new perspective. And perhaps letting some things go – I’m sure that some of the things I’ve pursued in the past simply won’t seem as interesting or important anymore.
Patience. It’s not that the passion is gone, but rather that the scene has changed. The slate is clean, and what comes next will be from a heart that understands how deep and high and wide is the love of Christ. So I officially give myself permission to take time. Starting a new life doesn’t happen instantly. Living without chains takes some getting used to – all the opportunities and options seem more than I can take in. Time and patience along with an abundance of God’s grace will sort it out.
So ease up on yourself a little, Cal. Don’t stop moving, but don’t get frustrated when you’re not sure where to put your feet. Until recently, walking wasn’t all that easy for you. One step, one move at a time, “’till by turning, turning, we come ‘round right.”
Right on the money. A lot of that speaks directly to me as well. I have a lot of hobbies, creative things I like to do. I have found that sometimes getting rid of a few to focus on the ones I enjoy the most helps the “creative spark” come back. Just a thought.