Turning Anxiety into Creativity

My mom was always my hero. She is everything to me. My mom and I would do everything together. I idolized my older sister, who was out of the house before I was a teenager, but my mom is, well… that's my mama. She helped me through a number of anxiety-ridden moments: I remember the moment when I realized my anxiety was real. I was in First Grade. We were given a color-by-number assignment page. The way my brain saw it was to ignore the numbers (and clearly the directions). All I could see in front of me was a pretty picture for me to color however I wanted. I looked around the classroom and noticed that everyone's assignment was the same. I looked down at my own and started questioning my creativity and the differences between my coloring and theirs. Why was I so different? The “forbidden” color-by-number remained in the very back of my messy desk, looking like abstract origami. I felt like a freak, but why? Turns out, I was just flexing my creative muscles. I got my creativity from my mom and, through her, I eventually learned to build on it. At an early age, she would introduce me to art and books. We would walk to the public library together and sit there for hours and read. Now that I'm writing this all out, I'm realizing that it was probably just as nice for her as it was for me. She could quietly read in the atrium lounge where the only sound made was the buzzing from the lights and an occasional book page fluttering. When I was a pre-teen, Mom started working at a clothing alterations shop where she eventually became part owner. I was so proud of her when she worked there. She invited me to help out some days after school and taught me everything she knew about hemming (it's terrible), embroidery (cool!), jackets (hard to deal with), and little odds and ends that we could make together. She even helped me with design work when I applied to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology (big dreams, yes). My mother suffered from Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, a rare, inherited disorder that can cause lung and liver disease. When Covid-19 hit in March of 2020, she was all I could think about. At that point, she was on constant oxygen. But my mom was ever so vigilant when it came to her health and was sure to wear masks, stayed in her assisted living apartment room, and asked for help if she needed it. By April, things had taken a turn for the worse and no one could find any masks to wear. I do what I normally do in stressful, anxiety-ridden situations: I was normal. Stressful situations where a large group of people are involved tend to make me less anxious - everyone is worrying enough for all of us! I got out my trusty Singer sewing machine that my mom gave to me and started sewing my own masks with a pattern I found online. I was being resourceful as Mom taught me. My mom and I talked on the phone a lot more while we sewed; she started making masks as well. She made them for nurses and friends and her church. She even started making more hot bowl holders (hot pads for bowls!) that she used to make all the time. Nothing could keep this woman down. I was tiring out from making tons of masks but here she was, steadily going at it. I knew then that I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to sew her patterns, cook her recipes, and do her Jane Fonda videos. Just like Mom. I mean, how could someone with breathing problems be almost healthy (for her) during this pandemic? She is typically in and out of the hospital all the time. I couldn't wrap my head around it. Her faith stood strong in the face of anything. Who wouldn't want to be her? February 3, 2021, 4:51 PM Voicemail from Mom: “Oh, hi, baby girl. This is Mama. I'm doing well and I miss talking to you, so give me a call and we'll chat.” April 20, 2021 Voicemail from Mom: “Hi, Honey. Call me back when you want to visit. Sorry I didn't get back to you, but call the hospital phone.” Mom was back in the hospital. It was not Covid related, but her lungs and heart were failing her. My mom has fought many battles; we weren't so sure this was one she would fight through. She had told me that she was ready. It didn't make the pain any easier to deal with. My mama, Dorothy Jean Berg, died on April 26, 2021. She lived a long life of happy memories and had a strong will to survive. In the end, she died a happy woman with a full, completed life. She was the queen in life's game of chess. As 2022 arrives, I am thinking about how I want to live my life like her. I want to be better and do better and create happiness around me. We all should want to create a world worth living in and worth making beautiful. By turning our anxieties and fears into tangible art and expression, we can conquer anything. I am now surrounded by many hot bowl holders, masks, and photos of her beautiful, smiling face.

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