Several weeks ago, as I was reading the first few pages of Jason's latest story, the strangest thing happened: I suddenly HAD to try sculpting. More specifically, I had to try sculpting Jason's newest main character, a snail named Mertie:
I was in a rough place emotionally at the time. We'd just had some more drama and controversy over on Cake Wrecks, and both John and I were feeling beat up, wrung out, and generally awful. John hadn't slept in three nights. I was writing and re-writing online apologies for something we never intended or could have predicted. Still, the Internet Outrage Machine was at full throttle, and it was all we could do to keep ahead of it.
So it was in that mindset that I sat down to read this story about an introverted, friendless snail.
Within just a few pages, I chuckled. I felt... better. There was something so reassuring and comforting there: a reminder that light and life still existed outside of my own stress-filled sphere. That art and story-telling and happy things would always go on. That this, too, would pass - even if only at a snail's pace.
John drove me to the craft store, and while I shopped for clay he was on his phone, checking for more angry comments.
Back home, I sat at the dining room table and cut off some clay. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was calming, holding and smoothing that squishy lump into a rough shell shape. I'd never sculpted before, and I was pretty sure it wouldn't work, but amazingly just trying was fun. (My fellow perfectionists know it's usually never fun for us unless perfection is guaranteed. Amirite?)
I don't know how long I sat there - an hour? - but eventually I looked down and realized I was holding Mertie's shell in my hand. I was even a bit startled.
The rest of her went much faster, so within another hour or so, I had this:
I looked at her, this thing I had made in the quiet, away from notifications and moderations and angry virtuality, and I saw tangible evidence that everything was going to be ok. I took that picture with my phone, and after a few minutes' deliberation, I texted it to Jason, along with a few lines thanking him for helping me during a down time.
Then I set Mertie on a shelf to dry, and went to bed.
The next day, I had a long note from Jason waiting for me in my inbox. Without going into details that aren't mine to share, Jason was also in a rough place that night. Much worse than mine, in fact. My text had reached him right in the midst of a terrible situation, and seeing how his work had both helped and inspired someone else was just what he needed at that moment.
Reading his note, I felt mildly ashamed of my own self-pity, but more than that, I was so glad I hadn't listened to the little voice warning me not to send my message. I generally like to be free with compliments, but sometimes, compliments take vulnerability. Sometimes you have to admit things are broken in order to thank someone for fixing them. That's tough. Especially if you don't know the person well - or even at all!
But here's the thing, and here's the reason I'm writing this long-winded dissertation about a clay snail: you never know when that heart-felt thanks will mean the world to someone. We're all a little broken. All of us. Misery and hurt are no respecters of person or position. But sometimes - and more often than you might think - thanks and praise find their marks at precisely the right moment.
So be free with your praise, my friends. Be vulnerable. Be generous. Tell them.
And now, as your reward for slogging through all that text, here's my finished Mertie:
(Did I really order a suction cup gun set online JUST for that one dart? Yes, yes I did.)
Mertie's story is still going over at Story Town, btw, if you'd like to read along with the rest of us. Here's the first page.
And finally, here's a sweet story from Jason - just published today - about his own hard time.