I started painting in 2016. By then I was nearly six decades old and had lived the proverbial “Good life”.
I had been happily married for nearly half my life and I was a mother of two adult daughters. I could righteously say that I had “been there, done that,” and smile about my achievements.
So when the doctors entered my hospital room and said that I was seriously ill and solemnly released me, it was life-changing. Painting then became therapeutic for me and I embraced it.
Writing for me, was a dream. When I write down the last word of the last sentence in the last chapter, when I know I’ve strung together the words flawlessly… it’s a moment of euphoria. I’ve made my point and I’ve captured the human experience in a character perfectly. It’s what makes the isolated writer reconnect to the world. It’s comparable to a “runner’s high” the moment when a jogger hits their stride and endorphins are released into the body. For me, there’s that deep satisfaction in writing words.
But in 2016, the very blood vessels meant to carry the life source throughout my body began to fail to do so, my organs began to systematically shut down. By the time the doctors could stop the failing vessels, I was left unable to concentrate.
For years, I struggled with the five stages of grief that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross the psychiatrist wrote about in “On Death and Dying” a book I was very familiar with, from an earlier loss.
She writes that the stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And although I was now out of the immediate danger of losing my life, I was now fully aware that I had lost my ordinary life.
I could no longer climb up a set of stairs pain-free. Gone. I could no longer hold a thought long enough to write a sentence. Gone. I could no longer go food shopping by myself. Gone, baby gone. I couldn’t walk down the street without a cane. Gone. All gone. I was hopelessly, physically and emotionally impaired and I was mad as hell about it.
The first year I painted in silence. My work was limited to abstracts. Spatial forms, dull colors and disrupted brushstrokes interrupted by tears and the constant badgering question “why me?”
Then one day, I got my answer. It was clear, it was concise and it was absolute. My answer came in the form of a question, it was: “why not me?” And a light turned on, I got it. I understood. It stung, but I could now understand and it helped me to move on.
“Why not me?” has become my mantra. I use it in all phases of my life. It sustains me and it emboldens me. As a positive motivation it fuels and guides me along my next steps.
It would take another four years before I could pronounce the name of my disease, but I was respectful of it. I started listening to music while I painted. I began to walk a little taller with my cane and eventually, I would learn how to pronounce the name of the disease that had given me a different life.
In 2021, I started to write again. I wrote a story about my experience and named it “Grieving My Ordinary Life” it’s published in Chicken Soup For The Soul.
Next up… artists call me artist.