I recently joined a group on Facebook called The WELL (Women Empowering Learning + Leading) and each day is organized by a theme. Sunday’s theme is resilience. This reminded me of a drawing I made titled “Resilience”. Prior to five years ago, I would not have considered the word resilient as a descriptor. When I was at some of my lowest points during my getting sick and being sick phases* I did what I had to do to get through my day. This often meant nothing (i.e. rest), to reduce my reactions, and make me somewhat functional later in the day when those I love returned home. In talking with my psychologist at the time, she used the words resilient and strong to describe me. I didn’t think I was either of those things. I felt like I was hanging on by my fingernails and not being terribly successful at that. After some thought I decided I was resilient and strong, and those words helped me when I had bad days, because I knew that I could mentally pull myself through. (Invisible) Chronic illness is many things, and one of those is a teacher. You learn things about yourself that you never realized (sometimes with some help), you learn what is important to you, and you learn that there are silver linings to be found in upending life as you knew it.
My abstract art comes from a very personal place, which means I expose my vulnerability to the viewer. For me this is not an easy thing to do. I did not set out with the idea that I would create based on personal experiences, but it became the most natural way for me to make art. Some artists look to the outside world and others look within.
My new series is about anxiety. Something that is, and has always been, a part of my life to varying degrees of severity. When I am having a day consumed by anxiety, you would think that would be the perfect time to work. In fact, I find it hard to work on those days because my brain is taken over by the trigger of the moment. What I am starting to do instead on those days is to write. I find it helps and later I can go back and use pieces of what I have written to direct a particular piece of work. Below is something I wrote last fall, when my anxiety really ramped up before my graduating solo show:
“I’ve been avoiding myself lately. For a while I was dedicated to meditation but then I just stopped. The thought of being alone in my head was too much. It was too hard to turn off my brain, to get it to BE QUIET. I didn’t want to listen to it any more, I didn’t want to think any more. Avoidance. A temporary reprieve that does nothing to really quell the strong undercurrents of the mind. And yet I do it all the time.”*
In writing I find I take away some of the power of the anxiety. I hope that in talking about it and in drawing about it, that these things will also lessen its power. And so I put it all out there again, and not without some anxiety (it’s a vicious cycle). One of the most helpful things to me when I was first dealing with chronic illness was finding a blogger that was living a similar experience. You can feel very alone when you are caught up in whatever is impacting your life. In polite society we do not talk about these things, which makes you think when you hear people talking about their weekends, vacations, work, etc. that you are the only person having a difficult time. My hope is always that my art will connect with someone and that they will feel less alone.
I recently posted a couple of works in this new series and as time goes on I will show more. The two works today are still in progress. Not sure yet how I will finish them but I will be sure to show you when I do.
In the meantime, find that thing that gives your mind peace and keep doing it. Even when your brain fights you, just keep doing it.