Cleaning House

It was good to “Spring Clean” my soul with you last week and sit in the darkness of lent.  Today I’m equally excited to share the bright “aha moment” I experienced while spring cleaning my house.

You know those tasks that pile up in the corner and you say to yourself, “I’ll get to that one day when I have time.” I am slowly learning that as a mom of 3 young kids, time never just comes with a welcoming smile. Nope, I have to intentionally wrangle time into prioritized spaces, which the past couple weeks was decluttering.

As I was putting away half a year’s worth of my kids’  favorite artwork my heart smiled. I love the playfulness, fearlessness, and creativity of my 5 year old twins’ creations; unafraid of getting it “wrong” they created unconventional and prolific works of art. But, working my way through this monumental stack of masterpieces I wondered, How am I ever going to keep up with this year after year?!  They’re still so young! So much artwork yet to come. And then I noticed: where’s my 9 year old’s art? I realized, she only had 4 pieces of art to file. Four. 

There’s several reasons why her creative juices aren’t flowing as freely as in past years. One is that she’s become a perfectionist and prudently practical. I taught her that, unfortunately, and now as I unteach myself I’m trying to do the same with her because I’ve learned in recent years, perfectionism and practicality kill creativity.

Five years ago she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. I discouraged it. Art is a hobby. “You need to be practical,” I told her, “very few people can make a living doing art.” I educated her and pressed her to find a different answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up.”

Then brain cancer entered my life and I realized having a reputable profession and earning a good predictable salary was not the meaning of life.  And shame on me for squashing my child’s impractical dream and her artist heart. I promptly connected with a friend of a friend and took her to create art at this woman’s personal studio. This artist encouraged us to push the paint around and play with it to see what would happen.     

Now nine years old, my daughter’s immersed in the world of reading, thriving in math and will be academic, no doubt. I’m excited my girl is growing up and learning and thinking complexly – it’s incredible and thrilling to watch; but, what I want most for her is to always remember her little girl heart that wanted to be an artist. I want that part to guide her into creativity, imagination and exploring new pathways and frameworks for her entire life. Practicality is indeed important; but I want my daughter to know it’s not the god I made it out to be. 


Why imagination is so important

When all the practicality and prudence in the world isn’t enough and you are left pressed up against a brick wall of the unfairness and impossibility of life (be it a terminal diagnosis at 35 years old like me or some alternate unthinkable unfairness or impossibility), creativity and imagination are vital to empower you to keep pressing forward. It is here – pressed on all sides- that you will not be crushed as long as you stay unafraid of creatively believing in, hoping for and dreaming of an alternate reality. Bessel VanDerKolk, in his groundbreaking book on trauma The Body Keeps the Score, explains it this way, “Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives…Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities – it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true.”  This is why I want my beautiful daughter to keep her imagination on fire!

Educated in biochemistry, molecular biology and formerly a pharmacist, I placed (evidence-based) science on a lofty pedestal. I continue to value its importance; but we need both science and the arts to make sense of life! Interestingly, neuroscientist David Eagleman says, “good science and good art are the same thing. They’re both trying to understand what in the world is going on around us. They just use slightly different approaches to get there.” (1) Furthermore, they piggy-back on one another; the limitations of science can be filled in with the arts and vice versa.

So, when science’s tool kit ran out for me- I’ve received all proven treatment for glioblastoma- was I going to give up and believe in my 1 year expiry date? Heck no! Rather, I’m engaging my imagination, which is closely linked to my spirituality. As I intentionally create space for quiet and/or prayer and/or guided meditation and/or reflective journaling incredible things happen.

A month ago I was writing my memoir and reflecting on how being given a terminal diagnosis is, as I’ve alluded to, like being pressed against a brick wall. Science has not yet found a secret passageway through this brick wall. But as I was spending time meditating and praying in my mind’s eye the brick wall became stretchy – like a portal access if I just pushed into it.  Believing there was a way through the seeming dead end, with my family by my side, we pushed in and emerged on the other side of the wall. Three years beyond my prognosis, we are living- and thriving in- an impossible alternate reality by collaborating with, what I call, God energy.

Reframing “Impossible”

I often reflect on having faith like a child; kids aren’t encumbered with struggling to believe in the impossible. It comes naturally to them. Like when my 4 year old daughter voiced in her usual flair, “When I grow up I want to be a pegasus!” (2) And her earnestness declared I am serious. Similarly, when children see a field of dandelions gone to seed, they excitedly pluck the flowers and blow wishes to the wind. Wishes that we might be inclined, in our adult “wisdom”, to brush aside as impossible. However, I now take a step back to let these little teachers school me in the ways of believing. 

Furthermore, my wise husband declared a ban last week on the words, “I can’t do it.” This phrase is no longer a part of our family’s vocabulary. Instead he taught our children, try, “this is hard” or “could you help me?”. The inherent possibility in these latter statements is a huge shift.  


It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Nelson Mandela


This spring as dandelions pop up unexpectedly I invite you to reflect on the following:

What impossibility are you wishing for?
How can you employ your creativity to get one step closer to making your impossibility possible?

Then share these reflections with a trusted friend (quickly, before you overthink and lose the courage to believe in the impossible). Let’s be brave together!


 Thank you for journeying with me. Make sure to sign up for blogposts- which include memoir sneak peaks, dropped straight into your inbox – if you haven’t already.



1. Unlocking Us podcast. Brene Brown with David Eagleman. Aired Dec. 2, 2020.

2. A pegasus is similar to a unicorn, but it has wings and no horn.