I’ll Be Just Fine • by Mark Montano
I'm not sure how you all feel about your creative time, but I know from speaking to many of my friends that though being creative is something we enjoy, it’s also necessary to our survival. We need it or we get depressed, feel anxiety, or simply lose our minds. I’m just going to share something with you that very few people know — I have suffered from depression most of my adult life. It’s been a struggle and I’ve been off and on several medications with not much relief.
Years ago I decided no more pills. I had to find a way to deal with it in another way that didn’t make me feel like a zombie. The one thing that has truly saved me from going insane is my work. I think it’s why the Big Ass Books have 150 projects in them. I create from morning until night and though it’s my living, it keeps me sane and gives me joy. When Jenny asked me to write another Art Saves article, I really wanted to express that it really does. It saved me and it continues to save me every day. As I pound on these keys, I realize that creativity has been my lifeboat my entire life.
Born This Way
I try to remember the exact moment my creativity was sparked. I think (to quote the amazing Lady Gaga and the movie The Joy Luck Club), “Must be born this way.” Though, there was a moment that something ignited. I’ve managed to narrow it down to two moments in particular.
On Saturdays (I’d say I was 5), when my mom would go grocery shopping and didn’t want her little monkeys grabbing everything in sight, she would drop us off at our grandparents’ house for a few hours. We loved it. My grandfather was always out in his wood shop working on something and Gram was usually set up in the dining room sewing and mending. I always had to choose between wood scraps and sewing. I usually chose sewing, especially in the winter. It was exciting for me to get to sew on buttons and work on the sewing machine, and it came easily to me. Hey, some kids can play baseball and run like the wind — I was a born stitcher!
The other moment was on a Saturday and involved a box of wine. I was about the same age, 5. My brothers were dropped off at my grandparents’ house and I got to hang out with mom. We stopped by my Aunt Lulu’s house and she was having an afternoon glass of wine and doing something amazing that blew my mind. She was making an enormous macrame planter. I asked for some wine, got cola instead, and joined in to learn a few knots. I learned two things that day. The first thing I learned is that my mom liked to hang out with her sister with some wine without the kids on Saturday afternoon for a few hours and she was NOT at the grocery store for hours on end like she claimed … and how to macrame.
A Way of Life
So there you have it, sewing and macramé, and I can’t decide which one truly ignited my creativity, but I learned at an early age something extremely important. Being creative and working with my hands made me happy. It calmed me down and allowed me to just be me. It was something that I desperately needed, too. Since as the eldest of six boys, I was the third parent in the house. I felt the responsibility to be an example for my younger siblings and though it was important to me, creativity allowed me a much-needed break from that responsibility so I held on to it with everything inside of me.
I was lucky. My parents, though not rich, encouraged most of our whims as kids. I tried the clarinet and tortured everyone for a year. I tried the rock tumbler and couldn’t sleep at night because of the noise. I even tried the microscope but got really tired of looking at dead bugs up close. What really stuck was the sewing machine in the laundry room. I think when my parents realized that I was never going to play Little League (thank God I have five sporty younger brothers), they just decided to go with the creative aspect of my upbringing. Art supplies and fabric for birthdays and holidays and I have to say I was a really happy kid.
The one thing I didn’t realize until much later was that my creativity wasn’t just a fluke, it was a way of life for my family, and whether I wanted to or not, I was going to learn how to take creative matters into my own hands. There was a reason my grandparents worked with wood and sewed. It was necessary. My parents were creative because that’s just how we lived. I grew up in a small town with limited means and if you needed something, you made it. That’s how I grew up and as I write this, I feel very blessed that this is how it was meant to be for me. And often when I struggle with faith, I take a good hard look at my journey and know that something is nudging me along and making sure I’m OK. Even when sometimes hourly I have to remind myself that my life is exactly how it’s meant to be. Ups and downs, storms and struggles, successes and adventures. Armed with that thought and a glue gun, I know I’ll be just fine.
To learn more about Mark Montano, visit markmontano.com.