Let me explain why I play with blocks

#79 “Top Contender”?

Let me explain . . . why I play with blocks every morning. It’s part of a story I’ve been reluctant to tell.

Yes, I DO play with blocks. It’s the first thing I do every day, 7 days a week. A while ago I set myself a 100 Day Challenge and now I’m addicted. Here’s how the challenge works: every morning it’s the same set of 27 blocks, same coffee table, same me—and the goal is to make a new design each morning. I’m not sure how this is helping me cope, I just know that it does.

 

But I’m ahead of myself

It all started a year ago today. Not the blocks. It was one year ago today that I had a fall. I was walking fast on a dirt path on my way to buy groceries. I was hurrying and tripped on a root and because I was moving pretty fast, I went down hard and landed on the bridge of my nose and banged up a knee and my ribcage.

No blood, no broken bones, and I didn’t lose consciousness so I didn’t know anything was really wrong until a day or so later when I was having trouble concentrating. The doctor said it was a concussion and I needed to stay away from all screens. Not easy to do when you’re self-employed, all your work is done online, and you’re a workaholic.

I don’t know about you but I always thought concussions didn’t last long and you bounced back. It turns out that’s what happens when you’re lucky. In my case, not so much. I learned there can be a huge range of symptoms and every concussion is its own story.

I rested as prescribed, hoping to get better. But after 6 weeks, and then after 3 months, and even after 6 months, I was still having difficulty concentrating with either reading or editing for any extended period. I spent a lot of time flat on my back in the bathtub with an icepack on my eyes to dial down the stress.

It turns out I was dealing with something called post-concussion syndrome. There’s not much known about it and there’s no clear solution. As I said, every case is different.

For the first 6 months or so I did all my coaching on Zoom with just my audio (like I was in the Witness Protection Program). I had my computer read aloud to me my emails and I used voice dictation as much as possible. I had limited work hours, got easily overwhelmed. And I learned to love audio books.

 

What turned things around

What finally helped me the most was working with a chiropractor / kinesiologist and then having vision therapy (which I’m still getting weekly now). Plus I joined a fabulous adaptive yoga program. I’d have never found this effective alternative treatment if it weren’t for my good friend Francis (THANK YOU, FRANCIS!)

I now realize just how lucky I in fact am because all this might have been so much worse. (I had what’s considered a mild concussion!) And these days I am SO much better that sometimes I need to pinch myself to prove that it’s real.

This whole odyssey has been yet another hero’s journey for me. There’s nothing like a having a brain injury to get you to wake up to what matters most in life.

Some of my vision therapy exercises focus on being able to see the forest for the trees — to take in both the big picture and the picky details. This applies not only to what you see visually but to how you experience the world, how you sense yourself in space, and how you think about abstract concepts playing out in life.

In other words, being able to see both the forest and the trees is a skill for living a satisfying life. And I’m working on it.

But the biggest change for me has been this: before the fall I was a workaholic. And now I CAN’T do that any more. And I wouldn’t want to even if I could. So life is less frantic now and rich in a way I never knew was possible.

 

Back to the blocks, let me explain

Earlier this year I found some colorful wooden architectural blocks online that I liked. As a kid, I’d always loved playing with blocks. So I ordered a set and started making a different design each morning and putting the photos on instagram. For kicks, I decided to do my own 100 day challenge.

In a recent vision therapy appointment I mentioned this to my doctor and she said that’s a terrific activity for me to be doing. I guess because it requires going back and forth between the details and looking at the whole.

But I’ll tell you, I’d recommend this for anyone—concussion or no—because there are no words and no sounds needed. It’s great for musicians to access another part of the brain and play with color, shape, perspective, negative space, symmetry, and balance.

And it’s ridiculously satisfying. Every day you get to build something concrete of your own. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s nothing to prove. You’re not designing to please anyone but yourself. Each design lasts for a day and then you get to make another.

Doing this reminds me that . . .

 

Each day is new, and we get to choose what we will make of it.

After the 100 Day Challenge I just kept going. Not because I’m told it’s good for me, but because I like my morning block habit. I’ll put more photos up on Instagram one of these days but social media is not my priority.

Better living is.

So I looked over the 100 Day Challenge photos and pulled out 5 to show. I’d love you to help select the audience favorite, so please write back and let me know which of the five shown here you prefer—and I’ll post the results of the “Block-off” next week!

 

Here are the rest of the favs . . .

Why I play with blocks #60 the Mask

#60 “The Mask”

 

 

Why I play with blocks #69 On reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s 'How to See'

#69 “On reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘How to See’”

 

 

Why I play with blocks #1 untitled

#1 Untitled (yep, the first one I made)

 

 

Why I play with blocks #52 Rumor

And #52 “Rumor”

 

PS: I got my blocks (they’re made by MinMin Copenhagen) from Woodberry Toys but you may be able to purchase a set elsewhere.

Here’s to you finding YOUR daily creative inspiration (no concussion required).

And if you’re curious about receiving coaching from me, find the details here.

Looking forward,

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

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