Tend To Your Gifts (Lest You Lose Yourself)

“Not using your gifts is not benign. It metastasizes.”

—Brené Brown

“Messy Banana” by Ana

Watching my daughter paint or draw, and listening to her tell stories makes me think back to when I was a child. I had a vivid imagination and I loved to draw. Every day, I would come up with new ideas for superhero characters and I would do my best to bring them to life on paper, one after the other, again and again. Drawing, witnessing my imagination become reality on paper, was an amazing feeling. It was like tapping into my own, personal superpower. Then, one day, I stopped. I cannot remember why I stopped or when, but I imagine that it was around the time I began participating in team sports.

I had no interest in sports and, as a result, I was terrible at them. Even writing this now, I am overwhelmed by the confusion and sadness I felt from being so clearly out of place on the field. I would rather pick flowers in the outfield than play baseball. In soccer, unable to pay attention, I walked around in circles until the game was over. At lacrosse practice, I was horribly bullied by the other players, perhaps in an attempt to motivate me, but I doubt that was the reason.

I did not know how to care about this thing that was so clearly important to others. Eventually, I found a group of friends who were into what I was into: music, comic books, and skateboarding. Regretfully, I never really got back to drawing though. I would doodle here and there, covering my notebooks with my favorite bands’ logos, but my skills had atrophied from lack of use. Fortunately, over time, I have found different ways to express myself creatively, ways to give myself my life back.

The need, that drive to create, does not die, but we do if we ignore it. That is why I cherish every painting my daughter paints, every story she tells, and every imaginary creature she conjures. Not everyone is gifted with a vivid imagination. It is my job to help her to keep, to develop, and to share that gift in whatever way it happens to manifest.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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