My creative efforts are paying off in more than just the physical manifestation of cloth piling up and asking to be pieced. Making stuff calms and centers me. It helps me to remain true to myself, and it gives back in numerous and often, immeasurable ways.
Having been diagnosed with cancer, going to doctors appointments, settling into life post-treatment is an interesting endeavor. When I was going through treatment, I used writing Dreaming from the Journal Page as a focus to keep me steady, grounded and open to Melanie as a whole, healthy, well rounded individual. Cancer and its treatment can be all consuming, and I imagine that without a grounding force, it could be quite easy to give yourself over to your diagnosis and start identifying as a patient and survivor. I knew from the start that focusing on myself, my whole self, commiting time and energy to making artwork for the book and to writing it, was going to help me get through the difficult bits and help prevent identifying too closely with being a patient.
I will always be a ‘survivor’, but I find this sort of label to to be just a single facet of a broad and sparkling life. I am also a wife, an artist, cat mom, a woman, a friend, a human being. Life can be overwhelming. The trauma of treatment, worry over recurrence can be debilitating or even just plain distracting. When we say things like, ‘art saves lives’, I can honestly say, yes, this is true. In the last 8 months, I have been actively applying art to my daily regimen of getting used to being flat chested, taking Tamoxifen, getting Zoladex shots, healing my body, mind and spirit.
Printing cloth, steaming and ironing it, sorting through it and seeing the results of my efforts is a serious dose of Self Love.
Loving what you do and refilling the well of the self is truly important and can do as much good for the body as going to museums. Last week, I went to The Morgan Library and Museum with my friend Kailey (see photo below) and I did this as a celebration of my birthday.
What you see here is the imprint of an ancient seal. Seeing the minute detail in these seals and knowing a human, at one time, held, carved and used these little pieces of magic is amazing. What you see here is the seal itself, not the carved cylinder that creates the impression (that can been seen as a tiny bit of red at far left, but I did not capture it in photograph).
While I was at that museum I also saw the illuminated manuscript show (photographs were not allowed). I love illuminated manuscripts and this collection was amazing. I like to ingest illuminated manuscripts as if watching a movie, I want to see every detail, I like to think about the monks who painted and wrote out the pages, I wonder at the symbols, the scrolls, wonder who held and used the book. This time I was able to see an illuminated manuscript owned by Pope Leo X, and there, tucked into the scroll work on the outer left edge was a unicorn…
That book was almost 500 years old… maybe even older.
Who is this gorgeous girl? Why, it’s Kailey, a woman who photographs things with real film. Huh? I love this young woman. I can say she has interned for me, but better still, I can say we are forging the bond of a friendship that will last a lifetime. Friendships heal us too and finding people you bond with is a gift beyond measure.
Kailey reached out to me as she was finishing high school and forging a path for college and beyond. She had a final project that required she reach out to people in an area of interest to her hoped for, eventual profession. I was one of those people. You might say I mentor Kailey, And I do, but there is so much more to our friendship.
Again, this is a relationship that fills my well.
And in order to fully celebrate my birthday I needed some girl time! Cricket and her girls, Elliot and Alex, came over and I took this as an opportunity to get the girls sewing and quilting. You can’t start too early! (I must say, Cricket has a jump start here and her girls see her knitting, quilting and making stuff often). Afterward we went to Farmacy and had ice cream! Vanilla with caramel sauce… Yum.
I guess the real point of this post is to say, I am writing a perscription to broaden and expand what fills my well. I love hanging out with friends, going to museums, walking, lifting weights, making things, hanging out with my man and loving on a certain Peach colored being. These things help heal the rift caused by the traumas of cancer treatment and they help me leave the trauma behind.
One would think that after almost two years, I would have this aspect of my life wrapped up and tucked away, right? In my experience of cancer, the fight starts just after treatment ends. But we all know, even if we have never faced a diagnosis like cancer, that the only way out of a situation is through it. When we ‘stuff’ the effects of daily life, it only seeps back into our present through back channels.
I read an article in the New York Times called The Trauma of Being Alive, it’s quite a good one. It helped me. It suggests that you lean into your trauma. I like this term, I like the image of ‘leaning into’, it suggests being in control-being able to back away, but it seems gentle. I would push it a bit further though and say, ‘Lean into the trauma’ but also look to your passions and invest in yourself through them.
So what do you do to fill your well? How do you regenerate, slough off the ‘trauma of being alive’. Do you lean in, as the article suggests? When you are faced with difficult times, do you invest in yourself and your passions? Take naps, go for walks? Exercise? Bury your head in the sand? Drink some awesome beer?
How do you fill your well?