Since you asked (really, you did!), I am still alive. And things are looking up a little bit. Winter was long and hard. It was cold and wet, it was filled with sickness and injuries in my household. I had a major identity crisis, which has alllllmost been resolved. You probably will not believe this, but I want so much for you to like me, my very self will bend towards being what you want me to be, and in that process it is easy to simply lose sight of who you are. More about that later, though, as in not in this blog entry. You’ll just have to come back again!
One of the things I have found is that not having a clear grasp on who you are, what you believe, what your solid foundation is, makes creativity extraordinarily difficult. You have to have a point of view from which to write. Then the depression stuff. Honestly there is a world of poignant magic in that darkness that cuts deep into the soul and whispers so sweetly it brings a lump to your throat and tears to your eyes. But it is hard to express so that people can accept it. Not all of our existence is sunshine and roses. Not everything is about us. Sometimes it’s when you are lying on the floor thinking it is too hard simply to exist that your heart starts pouring out the deep wisdom that sustains life in the face of pain. And sometimes, we can catch it in a bottle and pour it out on the world, a healing balm.
Except it is a healing that is hard to put out, and harder to receive. It’s like a vaccine or medication that includes possible side effects that can be really unpleasant. You know, like those commercials that tell you this medication can clear up your acne, but just might kill you in the process. So it’s hard for me to put these words into the world. I can’t tell you that life is wonderful. I can tell you that life is hard as hell. But do you want to hear that? There are all those beautiful moments that make life worthwhile — falling in love, having children, watching your children fall in love, with life, with things, with their partners, with their own children. Except every single one of those things has a hard side as well. Love ends, in death if not in any other way. Our children experience sorrow and heartache that we feel in our own hearts. Eventually we face our own mortality. This is not something I fear anymore, except on behalf of those who would suffer because of it.
See, not such fun stuff. Not everyone wants to hear it. You have to suffer a fair amount before you can really embrace it, and by then you really have no choice. But through it, you are transformed.
Because these words are so hard, I have in this last season turned to visual arts. This also has been fairly unfruitful since I became determined to switch from pencil drawings to various color media. I really should have stayed in that acrylics painting class! Instead I have been struggling with acrylics, watercolor, watercolor pencils. So hard! I’ve been most comfortable with color pencils, took a udemy class and learned a bit. But I felt largely like a failure. My daughter-in-law told me you can’t really fail at art, but what I was producing was just not conveying my vision. It seemed childish, while what I was trying to convey was anything but childish.
I drew the picture in this blog this week. I use photographs of strangers when drawing, just to get the light and shadow, because those things don’t emerge from my imagination as well as I’d like, but she looks nothing like the photo I used. Not unusual, of course. It’s hard to capture a person on paper, and I was not trying to. But this new person who emerged just spoke to me. I think she is beautiful, but she is more than that. She is courageous, a little defiant, a survivor. I have a table top easel in my room, and I have left her up on it since I first drew her. My eyes wander to her many times a day. I say good morning and goodnight to her. I keep working away at her, a little bit of pencil here or there, some burnishing, wondering if I should burnish more, if it would make it more realistic, or if I prefer the stated fantasy of the marks of pencil on paper. There are other things I want to work on, but I haven’t yet been able to flip the page over and cover her. I have named her Eve.
There has been one theme throughout my artwork attempts lately, and that is rainbows. Every face I draw or paint has rainbow eyes. The depth of the meaning of this is probably more than I know, but there are a few things I see. The rainbow is the symbol of the LGBTQ community, and there is a lot of that in there, because this is something that has made a home in my heart. The rainbows symbolize a spiritual realization as well, the opening of the universe within and without. And of course, Michaela was obsessed with drawing rainbows, so they are a connection with her. But again, I am trying to use words to convey something that has risen from a place that is too deep for ordinary words. The rainbow eyes just are.
Anyway, Michaela is still missing. People are looking for her still, and I am grateful, although hopeful would be stretching it too far. Not that hope is always a good thing. I was talking to my youngest daughter about this the other day, about what an actual burden hope is. Hope implies a longing for something that you do not possess, and that is a hard thing. When you have been in the dark and you see a crack with light around the edges, you stare at it, wondering if it will widen or if it will close, and it is almost unbearable to think that you might soon be set free of the prison of darkness, while being fully aware that this might not be the case. You can only stare at that crack for a time. What does the Bible say? “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Sometimes it is easier to close your eyes. So I hand off Michaela’s case to those whose job, or whose choice, it is to investigate it, and I close my eyes, because I cannot bear to watch them work. I cannot look at that crack of light any longer. But I can, occasionally and in my own way, kick at it, hoping to break it down, hoping to let the light flood in.
I am so happy to feel Spring in the air around here. I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area, and this has been one of the wettest, gloomiest winters in memory. I am home these days. I never returned to work after my cancer journey. There are a whole lot of side effects I still suffer from the treatments. Things disappear in my mind in the most alarming way. This morning I walked into my daughter’s room to say something. I opened my mouth and then, poof. It was literally like a small explosion in my brain completely obliterated the information that had just been there. I stood there, waiting for the smoke to clear, trying to remember, but I had to give up and leave. I did remember it a little later, but this kind of thing makes a lot of things difficult. I’m just attributing it to chemo brain. In the throes of treatment, chemo brain often had me hearing something completely different from what was being spoken, like the words jumbled themselves in mid-air and became something else. This was the most interesting thing! I remember the weariness. My husband often comments on how easily I dealt with cancer treatments, but I’m just not sure he was paying attention. I think he figured if I wasn’t vomiting that I was okay. I was commenting about chronic pain the other day, and said that the severe shoulder pain I experienced during radiation was the first time I had really realized why people might opt for assisted suicide. He replied that he hadn’t known it was that bad, that he’d heard me say it hurt, but it hadn’t registered that I said it hurt so much it made me want to vomit, that it was past 10 on the scale, that I couldn’t sit in a chair or lie in a bed and didn’t sleep for two weeks. I had mouth sores, and everyone was like, oh, mouth sores, but they didn’t understand how really painful chemo mouth sores are. It was the thing I most often heard fellow chemo patients complain about. And now, with after effects, a touch of neuropathy, chemo brain, plus arimidex for five to ten years, with side effects like bone pain, difficulty grasping things (physically), cough. Not to mention the mental stuff, the paralysis.
So instead of working, I am staying home. I babysit my grandkids a few days a week, my sweet three year old Theo and one year old Elara. Taking care of kids is hard work. You can’t just read or watch TV and let them play. Elara is too young, so you have to watch her all the time. Theo just wants the love and attention. “Play with me!” Here is a secret, though. Here is why we continue on, why we live and propagate the species, because however hard things are sometimes, all it really takes to feel it is all worthwhile is to look into the faces of our children and grandchildren.
I will try to be back soon, hopefully trailing clouds of glory through peaceful skies! Maybe I will even have some spectacularly good news one day. You never know, right? Any morning you might wake up, and before you go to bed life will have done a 180, changed irrevocably — maybe even for good!
Till then, thank you again for being here, and remember, you are loved.