By: Sandy Churchill
There is a beautiful term in the world of psychology called sublimation—where a negative or unpleasant emotion or experience can yield or be transformed into a positive result. For example, a heart-moving poem resulting from the sadness of a break-up, an inspiring painting stirred from the emotions of anger, or a song of praise from moments of self-doubt.
During the COVID Quarantine of 2020 (feeling like I have to name this event, much like hurricanes and blizzards—should we call her Cora?), there are amazing bouts of connection and productivity happening. Locally, I have witnessed homes being re-roofed, front porches being built, gardens being planted, and loam and mulch delivered and spread. At our house, though productivity projects certainly have boomed, there was an extra layer of personal anxiety that needed addressing. All the sewing and crafting and Zoom connections were not fully reaching the unrest in my spirit, and this uneasiness needed some very intentional listening and response.
What was I feeling? Like many, a brooding, storm-is-coming uneasiness that lingered like a dark cloud over each day, a worry about people’s safety and isolation and impending doom. I felt constantly on edge about all my son’s canceled activities—from academic classes to karate to piano, plus all the milestone events of family and friends, spanning graduations, First Communions, recitals, plays, bridal showers, and Confirmations. I had already attended one “virtual funeral,” mourned the death of a cousin, and worried through my father’s heart attack and my mom’s spontaneous emergency room visit.
Then there were the financial and career worries. What about my lovely students whom I missed terribly? All our spring enrichment classes were wiped out and then our summer camps leveled. Every day I dreaded checking email. Camping trips canceled. Our much-anticipated family trip to a board game convention re-scheduled. Concerts gone.
Lost and displaced, I found myself desperately seeking normalcy—anything that felt reassuring, predictable, the same. Even boring would be okay and anybody who knows our family knows that one of our mantras is “boredom is a choice!” (but that is another story). On daily walks, I found comfort in seeing flowers pop up—buttercups, violets, and dandelions. I heard dogs barking throughout the day and savored birds chirping at dawn. But the best of all? Hearing the gorgeous, campy sound of spring peepers at dusk became a soothing melody to my soul.
So where does sublimation come in? I started listing these “same” elements of daily life and wrote a story in verse that sought to offer comfort amid all the changes and “new normal” rules. I painted illustrations to match the text and found a publisher—all in the course of a month! The result is my children’s picture book called And The Peepers Peep On. My wonderful publisher launched the book on Amazon and it is making its way around daycare providers, preschool settings, homes, and libraries. I am told that some providers are reading it daily to their young charges and they are gaining comfort and familiarity in the rhythmic routine. I am reassured that my adult feelings of anxiety fostered much-needed similar addressing to the compounded reactions of small children. Something good came out of this. Children are feeling heard. Social distancing, more intense hand-washing, and the ubiquitous face masks are prevalent and addressed. But we can also be comforted by looking around us at the naturally oblivious flowers and trees, birds, and dogs, and find reassurance that yes, the sun will come up and a new day will begin. Now the book is done and my heart feels lighter—and that is sublimation!