“Mask” by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
“What I Have Learned” by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
I have learned some things. I may want to write everyday but many days my creativity takes another route. During these past Covid months, I have been doing handwork; fiber arts projects pieces done in knitting, crocheting and embroidery, what used to be called women’s crafts. I created something for all the loved ones in my life who I could no longer hug or kiss or to whom I could no longer offer comfort or even a warm smile.
This did two things. At a time when my fears, anger, outrage fueled my ever-increasing depression, my fiber arts were a balm. They were a love spooling a long strand through which I stayed connected to a loving and compassionate world of friends and family. And at a time when I couldn’t write, I found other creative outlets, the therapy that kept me sane. They got me through the worst of the dark days, saved me from the dark waters of depression that threatened to drown me. My needle and thread became the delivery method for my self-care. What I didn’t realize was that while I was focused on one more stitch, just one more row, my subconscious mind was writing all along, creating on multiple levels.
Months later, not coincidentally, after the inauguration of a new president, I put my needles down and picked up my journal once again. Once again, I woke up with the need to find a home for my words. And I was amazed to find new answers to old questions. I was brimming with innovative and daring ideas that had never crossed my mind. Somehow, someway, my mind had been problem-solving all along, finding unforeseen and unexpected solutions. I felt that I had been in hibernation and was now stepping out into a new creative landscape.
I am grateful to have a creative mind that can hold much more than I could in my conscious imagination. I am grateful that my writing spirit knew when to pull back and let me heal in other ways. Now, she steps out, big and bold and more inventive and assured and in command than she has ever been. She leaves deep impressions as she walks and knows without looking back that I will fill them.
I don’t pretend to understand the miracle of creativity. But I am thankful that she has many faces. I have learned to recognize them all as part of her costume and give her her due in whatever guise she might present. I pay attention, wait patiently and am thankful of whatever form she decides to wear on a given day.
I have learned some things. I have found at this stage of this journey a cornucopia of gifts I never anticipated. Like many of us, I have suffered unspeakable losses. I have railed and mourned and kept a stiff upper lip. I have broken down into tears when I least expected it. I have weathered and continue to weather the storms that buffet me at every turn. And I try everyday to focus on the gifts, to balance the darkness with the light. I mourn what I have lost, yes. But I also celebrate what I have gained, most unexpectedly but with much appreciation. I hang on and watch the wondrous course of my life.
Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa Artist Statement: I am an Afro-Puerto Rican novelist. I am an elder who is about to publish her second novel with a major publishing house. I feel it is my responsibility to mentor up-and-coming writers, especially women over 50 who have never had the chance to fully express their stories. I feel I need to speak for my ancestors who never got to tell their stories. They were never allowed to have a voice and a face in their society. Their sacrifices have allowed me to be able to do that for them. I speak for the voiceless and faceless who inhabit my dreams.