My Life Map (the scenic route, please)

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A few years ago I was the director of a nonprofit organization that worked with families raising kids who had various emotional disorders. I hired Magical Rain, a storytelling and theater company, to do a program with the kids.
They were all going to make Life Maps — a physical representation of their mood, or of something significant that happened in their lives, or of how they got where they are now. First, each of the three members of Magical  Rain showed and described their maps. Then they pulled out all kinds of creative materials: implements for writing, ribbons, buttons, sticks, leaves, magazine pages, twine, tape, staples, and so on. The kids had such a fabulous time! When they first entered the room, they pulled their hoodies up over their heads, and they sat in the back row hugging their knees. Not for long! All moved in closer as the storytellers explained their maps, some were literally on the edge of their seats. When it was their turn, there was laughing, gluing, deep concentration, scissoring, and conversation. These were the kids who usually were harassed by classmates and punished by teachers. They were edgy, angry, afraid, and annoying. But not this day! They were just kids having a good time. The next week we came back to do our big reveals, where each kid could get up and explain their Life Map to the instructors and the rest of us. What insight! What joy! What pride! I was so tickled to see the outcome for them, I just knew I had to make my own Life Map.

Here is what I came up with. It is a pyramid, hung on a piece of yarn. Every bit of the map means something and was chosen specifically to capture part of my life.

My Life Map

The first side is RED. Red signifies joy, love, passion, fun, and creativity. Every bit of the surface is covered with images: music, flowers, beads to signify my hobbies, sunshine, a map (travel), a dog print, and dance. When I live in red, I am enjoying the process, living life fully, feeling happy
and loved!

Living in Red

Right next to red, however, is BLACK. Black is also just as full, but suddenly instead of feeling pleasantly busy, life feels ruled by the clock and the calendar. I’ve said, “yes” to projects I shouldn’t have. I’m feeling resentful and overwhelmed, even if I also feel successful. I am getting things done, but a lot of the joy has gone out of it. Like making a wedding dress for pay. Bleah!

Doesn't this feel yucky?

Usually after I hit black in my life, I have a little meltdown. I stop taking on new projects, especially for other people. I dispense with all my responsibilities and don’t add new ones. Finally, I move to PINK. Ah, lovely, relaxing pink. The images I’ve added to the pink side are uncluttered
and simple. There is home, a martini glass, a flower, and sunshine. A dove of peace rules the top. I always want pink to be enough. Pink is sweet, simple, and happy.

Simple, easy pink

In time, pink begins to feel cloistered. Somewhere pink fades and fades and finally gives way to GREY. Grey has but 3 images: a snowflake (representing that restless feeling of cabin fever), a skull (because my creativity feels shriveled up and dead), and a pocketwatch (again, grey is
ruled by the clock, but now there is too much time…). Grey is the worst place to live. Nothing to do, no ideas, boredom, ennui.

Tick tock, my life is slipping away into grey

Suddenly I have a meltdown because I can’t take it anymore, and I go on a spending (stashing) spree. I get all kinds of ideas for new projects
and I start amassing the materials. Oooh I can see RED coming right around the bend! And there it goes, the pyramid goes spinning again. A few little additions determine how fast that baby spins. It all hangs on a yarn loop — hobbies or the lack thereof can make me go from grey to pink to red and back around as fast as can be! It has a kite tail of a few photos, of me well-rested, of my family, and of my child in different moods. The whole thing is capped by a medication bottle lid, because health (mine or my family’s) can also determine how fast this thing swings.

I'm sick! I'm tired! My kid is acting awful! I'm spinning!

I explained this whole Life Map to a therapist once awhile back. She laid some brilliant insights on me.

1. I was raised to equate love with doing. Think about that. I keep doing, doing, doing, saying yes because I think I “should”, because I want people to like me. That’s why I like red so much, and why I keep ending up in black.

2. I should be able to choose which color I want to rule my life, not allow all the external things to swing me. Life’s harsh winds do frequently blow, do they not? But that doesn’t mean I have to let that spin ME.

3. I am the best one in the world at being me. Who cares if other people are happy in pink? Pink can be a wonderful place, and there’s no shame
in a pink-lived life. But it’s not my color. I’m RED.

So I am busy sewing, knitting, scrapbooking, reading, pulling weeds, lunching with friends, writing, and having a wonderful time. I don’t feel guilty (mostly) about spending money on stash and supplies. It’s fun, it’s cheaper than therapy, and it keeps me in glorious — necessary — red.

Join me?

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4 responses »

      • Yes, it has construction paper on each side and the bottom. It is held together with tape on the inside. I did the sides first, then the bottom. Other people made theirs flat, or in a cardboard box, or on cloth. Try it! It is so fun.

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