A couple weeks ago I wrote a comment on FB about having attended a Zoom class on End of Life Options. My comment ended with the paperwork alone would kill you! I came clean in my comments about my husband’s descent into Parkinson’s, a disease he has battled for 9 years now. Because this disease does not actually cause death, we are exploring his options for when he decides he has had enough. In opening up about this, I received incredible support from hundreds of people. I was a bit embarrassed because I feel it is his story to tell, until someone reminded me it is also my story, as his caregiver and spouse.
My ‘coming out’ with the story led me to seeking support for myself as his caregiver. I had been down this road before, as caregiver, and yet how quickly I had forgotten about self-care and self-compassion. In one of my encounters in ‘building my team’ I was asked about my sleep. How is your sleep? I say, it’s fine, as it generally is…that is until it isn’t. Some of my best work has been designed in the night. As example…
Way before the pandemic, maybe 9 months ago, maybe a year ago I had some cloth printed at Spoonflower with words related to taxation. I took it into the wet studio and printed the same words on the whole cloth. I heat set it, brought it into my upstairs studio, folded and placed on the bed of the overhead projector, where it has resided since. After finishing my second BLM piece, I felt like I needed a break before embarking on no 3. The long ago but not forgotten aforementioned piece of cloth came to mind. I pinned it up on my design wall, and nothing happened! I masked off certain sections to give me some perspective, nothing happened. I envisioned trees, but still nothing happened.
Two nights ago I was awake for several hours in the night. I forgot what started the conversation, but somewhere in the depths of those thoughts came divine inspiration. Money growing on trees! This morning I went in and in 20 minutes designed this piece that has languished for well over a year. Tomorrow I will begin the stitching! When someone asks how long this one took me, I can definitely say, a year!
I am humbled, grateful and surprised, how with all the despair in the world right now, that I am able to make art. Just yesterday I felt overwhelmed by the 6 months we have lived in isolation, while others go to the beach, to Vegas, to dinner with friends and on and on and on….because they are weary of isolation. I’m weary too. I miss travel too. I miss seeing friends too. It’s not just about you! Our beautiful West Coast is on fire again, we can’t breathe the air, we can’t meet inside, we can’t go outside, the horrendous vitriol being slung from both sides, and yet somewhere within there is this bright light that seems to need to be making art.
It is a wonder, to me, as well.
Nancy Lemke says
Once again you have made public your experiences that many of us will face or are facing, making me, certainly, feel less alone in dealing with the tough stuff. Even acknowledging the reality of it. Thank you. Today my 80ish neighbor came over upset that her husband had left her alone with someone who was threatening to kill her. I do not know these people, but something was clearly wrong. I dialed her husband’s number for her (she couldn’t) and ultimately found he was home, and no killer was there. I gently walked her home, and her husband whispered she was in cognitive decline. I walked home thinking of all the people in my family with dementia and hoping for the 100th time that I don’t get it. And wondering, if I did, who and how could I be released when I had had enough. Just putting these words out make me feel better. Thank you. And, yes, creativity does help during this very scary time. I just finished 2 of my best pieces, that help override the craziness.
Thank you so much Nancy for your kind words. Like you, dementia runs through my family and it is something I hope to avoid. I like to think I have other challenges, as if they are portioned out! How sad about your neighbor, and for her spouse. And yet what a gift her visit to you was, to allow you to think once again about your own end of life issues. So glad to hear you are also working. Art-making seems to be the best medicine for us right now. Be well.
Cindy L Kelleher says
Your latest missive attests to me that even when we are feeling alone and isolated, we truly aren’t. Just reaching out as you did, and the responses you received, is a form of community. We may not be able to hug, as those who think it’s all about them do, but we have a deeper togetherness in our empathy and caring for each other. I am touched that you continue to inspire and create under any number of challenges. There is a lesson in your writings that can reach each of us in some manner. As I write this, we are in a hotel room an hour away from our home as a forest fire rages just northeast of us, but close enough we were given a Level II evacuation orders. Life is tenuous at best, but to find lessons and grace in our experiences is golden. Thanks for always reminding us, through your words and your art.
OMG Cindy…so glad you are safe! It seems the entire West Coast is on fire. It is just tragic on so many levels. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. They mean a lot especially in these perilous times. I catch myself all the time starting to whine in public (to a grocery clerk, for example) and then think, wait…I have a home, I am well, I have no complaints. I think part of the responsibility of community is gratitude and not being Oscar the Grouch!
Franki Kohler says
As a former resident of CA (about 45 yrs) it is heartbreaking to see and hear about the devastation in the state. Unfortunately, fires are raging in my new home state of OR as well. And the E WA fires are streaming smoke west to the Portland area. Indeed, the entire West Coast is ablaze. I am lucky. I am well. I am relatively safe in a 9th-story condo by the Willamette River. The few times that I am out of my home, I am consciously upbeat. As for my art, I have gravitated toward creating on a small, hand-held scale. I have two large pieces in progress on my design wall, but I can’t seem to muster the umph to work on them. This is fine for me for the time being. We will get through this and adjust. And I will pick up where I left off. Thank you, as always, for the insights you share about how you are coping with the current situation. I always come away with something new to mentally chew on.
my pleasure! :0)