Earlier this year, my friend Mayura Sen and I were both feeling a bit stumped creatively. We weren’t finding the creative time, space, energy and inspiration we once had—each in our own ways, each for our own reasons. So we connected in early February to chat about creativity and the creative slumps we were in.
Mayura is a visual artist. I’m a writer, a wordsmith.
I can’t quite remember what we spoke about that day. A mix of the above, I suppose. But the text messages that followed were synchronistic, serendipitous and just … a little bit magic.
I texted, “Going to plant a seed with no pressure whatsoever. As you journey back into your art and I do the same with my writing, I think we should / could see if a theme or series emerges on which we could collaborate (just for the fun and whatever else of it).”
Her response was swift: “This is super weird. I had half the mind to ask you today if you wanted to collaborate in the exact way you just mentioned. I follow MHN [Morgan Harper Nichols], too, and always thought, ‘How cool would it be if I could make art and Emily could write?’”
A creative collaboration. Something that would, perhaps, breathe new creative energy into each of us. Mayura and I committed to chatting weekly, and beyond that, we approached it all with very few, if any, ground rules and no expectations. Let’s just see where this goes.
And well, our first collaboration—something we’re willing and excited to share, though this wasn’t the intent—is this marriage between Mayura’s art and my words.
Over the years, I’ve journaled a lot in the Notes app on my phone. I’ve captured moments, memories, emotions and more—for no one but myself. I treasure writing in this way; it is my expression, my outlet, my comfort.
Collaborating with Mayura has given me an opportunity to revisit past notes I wrote and share the ones I’m comfortable sharing. It’s allowed me to visit past moments that I chose to write about, moments that I likely otherwise would’ve forgotten, especially the details.
Throughout the past year, after my dad passed away, writing hasn’t felt the same to me. I’ve struggled to write about his passing and the moments of my life—however big or small—since then. The words just don’t seem to come or flow as easily these days.
But through this first collaboration in particular, where Mayura prompted me to write about resilience, self-empathy and / or self-love, I revisited a moment (something I had made note of) from September 2020 with Dad—and then wrote a short note to the me who wrote that note, that former version of myself.
I shared that writing with Mayura. She chose the elements of what I wrote that resonated most with her and created a piece of visual art to accompany my writing.
Mayura’s piece represents the ebb and flow of the journey toward self-empathy through different shades of blues bleeding into one another. The layering of textures and patterns throughout the piece signals the complexity and sometimes dynamic process of building resilience and arriving at a moment of self-love. It is a mixed medium piece created with a mix of watercolor, marker and digital art tools.
What you see here is where we landed, where we arrived—and I am excited, proud and grateful to be exploring and sharing this joint artistic expression.
There is still no pressure for these “magic moments,” as we’re calling these creative collaborations between us. And though this is certainly a heavier topic, it feels so good to create in this way and to create in collaboration with a really good friend, who I admire and respect so much. (And because there’s no pressure, this might be the only thing you see from us 🙃)
Here’s the full scope of what I wrote in September 2020 (again, only for myself, so it feels a bit raw and vulnerable to share these unedited words here) and then in February 2022.
Monday, September 14, 2020
Some days, I can’t make sense of this world we live in. But then I remember it’s not up to me to make sense of. I know God is working all things for my good, for our collective good. Beyond all I could ask, think or even imagine. I’m believing Him for it. There are blessings to every moment, even the insurmountably tough and challenging and draining and painful ones. He is in every detail. Every detail is orchestrated by Him.
I woke up this morning ready for a normal, productive Monday. Brushed my teeth. Washed my face. Went upstairs for coffee. Dad was sitting at the kitchen table. “I just texted you. Can you drive me to U of M today?” [Ann Arbor is four hours from home.]
“Yes, I can. You’re not feeling better?”
“No. I can’t breathe.”
And so, I got dressed, packed my bag and drove my dad down to the hospital here in Ann Arbor. And if that’s all I do today, it will be enough. It will have been a productive day. Everything else can wait. Nothing is urgent.
In some ways, it feels as though nothing has changed in the past year. In others, it feels as though everything has. We’re here at the hospital again. Sitting with questions and unknowns. Waiting for answers and solutions. But I also know I’ve lived a big life this past year, especially from October to March and then even beyond that, when this whole pandemic started and the world flipped upside down.
I’m sitting here with a mask on, aware of what I touch. The hospital feels quieter, not as busy, perhaps given the pandemic.
Dad is sleeping as some air blows into the room. Beyond that, it’s silent. Sterile. My eyes are dry. Dad slept most of the ride down. I listened to Johnnyswim, a sermon titled “It’s Already Happened” from Brad Straarup at Hope City Church, “Graves Into Gardens” from Elevation Worship and then some Chris Stapleton.
God is here with me, with us, in all of this. In this season, there’s more and more frequently a peace that washes over me, that fills me from the inside out. I still worry and doubt, but overall, I feel a shift in who I am, how I live and how I love.
God is working something out in this time.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
One day, you will look back at where you were, what you did, how you responded, who you were in the thick of it all. You will treasure the small, simple moments—the details of those moments, the stillness of those moments, the odd peace of those moments—more than you know. They are everything. And you will see how you showed up for yourself and those you love in meaningful and intentional ways. Even when it didn’t feel like it. Even when you didn’t realize it. You were there. You were present. Go easy on yourself. Be gentle. Remember the love that rested, breathed, sighed—the love that just was, the love that just is—at the center of it all.
Mayura’s original piece of art
Thursday, June 9, 2022