Tend to Your Thoughts, by Christine "Liz" Larue
When you look at this drawing, what do you think? Our "Thoughts" guide us and color our world. Are you always cycling to the angry face with lightning dancing out of your hair daily? Or are you stuck in the crying mold constantly?
If you are of a certain age, you may remember the Warner Bros cartoon of the antics of Sylvester the cat and Tweetie Bird. Sylvester is constantly dealing with his feline nature of whether to eat the "board" or not. The cartoonists took a stripped-down version of Freudian theory to show how our thoughts mirror our personal struggles daily. What appears on Sylvester's shoulders are two versions of himself - one a cat angel with wings and a halo, the other a cat devil with little red horns on its head. These two versions of Sylvester represent the superego - training of our families, societal norm structures (angel), while the devil angel represents the "id" - Freud's version of the base animal in us, all aggressive emotions and drive. Sylvester, in the middle, represents the "ego" who has to balance societal norms and animal drives. Now this greatly simplifies Freudian theory, but it gives a glimpse of the balancing drama each of us deals with in our daily thoughts.
Does anger drive us? Does unconditional love drive us? How do we express our thoughts to ourselves, our family, our workmates, our children? What emotions color our exchanges with others?
So many life instances pull on us daily; we often may not realize that our thoughts often respond to what we see, feel, and sleep. "Did you get up off the wrong side of the bed today?" a mate might query. Those of us from Black and Brown communities sometimes feel overwhelmed by images we see on the news. Drama from those one or two friends who literally "thrive" on adversity and contrariness, or our two-year-old who is mastering the word and philosophy of "NO!" or Mama who says "Pray on it" to solve a migraine can drive your thoughts into a whirlwind.
There are some of us who have a connectedness to sensing people's thoughts and emotions. They are called Empaths. These folks can sense other people's thoughts, not through telepathy, but through deft reading of body language, word expressions, and physical gestures. Comics often call it "Can you read the room?" How self-aware we are can color our interactions with others. How about that one friend? Whenever you and that person sit and grab a cup of coffee together, you come away with a better sense of yourself and better inward peace.
Is it the friend waving a magical Harry Potter-like wand around you? Is it the fancy espresso that you treat yourself to? Or did you do something internally to balance out your "thoughts"? Examine those moments. You now know what Sylvester goes through while he contemplates the angel and the devil arguing on his shoulders, yelling over & over, "Eat da' board! Or "No, be a gentle pussycat!"
The greatest battle we all wage is mastering and understanding our own thought processes. For those with ongoing mental health struggles, often their bodies don't make the right combination of hormones and chemicals to guard against destructive, meandering, confusing thoughts. This condition is when a person needs a physician or therapist to take a holistic approach using medicine and nutrition to help. It's not unlike a respiratory therapist assisting an asthmatic in navigating allergies and breathing attacks. So how we nourish ourselves through our food, sleep, play, touch, and laughter are all fuel for our egos to balance between our superego and id impulses.
Caretaking our thoughts is much like tending a garden. However, eating those fast food cheeseburgers with all those chemicals in them might not be the best for a healthy, natural garden....uh..body and give you indigestion too!
When I was a little girl, I could come home and watch my mother cook spaghetti sauce. She would sit on a stool in front of the stove and cut up veggies, brown her ground beef, add cut-up tomatoes and tomato sauce, and stir and stir and stir. I learned not to bother her because it seemed a Zen moment for her to decompress from a busy workday. I chose that time to read, draw, or play our family piano. I didn't dare ask her, "Mom! When's dinner?!" That seemed intrusive. Dinner would be ready when the sauce was ready. Through her actions, I learned the art of finding time to tame my thoughts, rest, relax, and unwind my day from school.
In fact, I took my finger and flicked off that little angel and devil on my shoulders, telling them to shut up their arguing and quietly be myself with MY thoughts before dinner. Cultivating our minds' gardens takes work, practice, and love of self. Then we can generate better thoughts and actions for our loved ones and ourselves in a hectic world. Good luck tending to your thoughts! You can do it!
Christine “Liz” LaRue is a clay artist and illustrationist. She is known for her intricately textured figurative sculptures and emotionally illustrative drawings. Chicago born though also raised in Utah and Idaho, Ms. LaRue is of Creole/Cuban descent. Her art has been influenced by her Afro-Latino heritage. Ms. LaRue’s interests has been in Pre-Columbian art of the Olmec, Maya of Mexico, Nazca and Moche face pots of Peru. This also includes the bronze sculptures of the Ife of Nigeria, and Tā Moko tattoo art of the Maōri.