Wednesday, February 18, 2015

In the Beginning

Little did I know when I sat in on a child's art class with Cathi, that I was going to be embarking on a whole other side of myself. 
Cathi was my last stop on my cross country trip in 2013. The day I arrived, she told me I could come to the class, and help, or take part. I seem to remember there were 3 projects. Funny thing, though, I only seem to remember two: this one above and a heart that I have come to really love that is painted on a small piece of construction paper.

I believe the canvas was the last project, which was probably a good thing, given its size. It was intimidating. But I dove in, any way. As usual, I had no idea what I was doing, but I just did it. Cathi even admitted to me at one point she wasn't sure it was going to look like much. I don't think it is quite what she said, but she was initially unimpressed.

The kids in the class, by the way, did gorgeous work. Talk about intimidating!

After I got home I splurge painted a bit. I made a lot of different things. I have come to have quite a collection. Those first ones were still kind of timid, though, as I didn't do much in the way of canvases. Previously I had done some work with oil pastels and colored pencils, and before that created visual images on the computer.

I had been moving forward, but not sure where I was going. After I was home a few months, the painting I had been doing moved into the background, as I tried other things. 

But, then, last fall when I went out to stay with friends for 6 weeks, something told me to paint. Paint every day. I knew that would be interesting, to say the least. That would be 42 new pieces of art from someone who had no idea what she was doing.

But the thing was, something told me to do it, so...I did.

And I can't tell you how glad I am that I listened. I am really enjoying expanding my horizons, and experimenting. Today I found two things that I painted, but didn't know what I was going to do with them. Now that I have come to a different place in my knowledge and play, I have an idea of where to take them that I couldn't have had when I first created them.

There are so many pieces of this painting journey that I have learned a lot from. I know I need to write them up somehow. I considered writing them in a book in which I showcase the images of those several weeks, but I just haven't gotten there yet.

I am today almost sadly, at the clearest place I am going to be for the next few weeks. I have so much I want to do, and wish I could do, but it is going to have to wait.

In some ways I have never felt so alive as I do with the creative banquet that I am in the midst of. It would be really sad to leave this place any time soon. I so hope that whatever I am doing, and thinking and listening to is somehow, some way taking me to a place that allows me to continue. 

I struggled writing that just now, for concern about how I might look at things, and how others might, too. Dying while dealing with cancer is often seen as a "failure." And I don't want to look at it that way, and I don't know that anyone else "should," either.

There is this idea that if you do things "right," or "get it" you will be healed. And, yet, there are those who aren't. Kinda sucky to be on the "aren't" side of that equation, if you belief that death is a failure.

There is zero doubt in my mind that cancer sucks. But what sucks more is everything around it: treatment, how I am treated by others, the financial issues, and the whole "goodie" bag that comes along with it. I truly could deal with cancer a lot better if it wasn't for all of those other things. 

But, here's the thing, dealing with cancer and all that comes along with it has given me myself in a way that nothing else ever did. And for that, I couldn't be more grateful. I have been so much more of myself in the last few years than I was before I was diagnosed.

I had this "vague" feeling that I was living. But I wasn't. There was always a tomorrow I couldn't seem to get to. There were always distant things that never seemed reachable, and in many ways I had kind of settled. I wasn't happy about it, but in some ways I felt like I had no choice. The years ahead weren't ones I was particularly looking forward to.

Little did I realize that I was going to have a moment in which suddenly those years were less than "guaranteed." Little did I realize I was going to wake up to the idea that I was on "borrowed time," which we all are, really. 

We just play this game of pretend. We pretend that there is a future to plan for. We pretend tomorrow will always come. We pretend death doesn't exist, or exists as something distant enough from us we don't have to think about it today. If anything, that is for "tomorrow." It is for the tomorrow after all of the tomorrows that we have that have the things we want to do, and plan to do.

I was just thinking about 20 years from now. I then switched to thinking about 20 years ago. It is odd to think about that time. It was a much different life, and it is kind of like a movie I once watched. For something that was at the time so real, it is kind of gray and fuzzy. I got kind of sad. At least the ego of mine did. If I am not here in 20 years, I may be that for some, if I am anything at all. Even sadder still for this ego of mine is that the sooner I leave this life, the farther away I will be in people's memories of me.

It is no wonder we don't think about death. The ego hates it. Life goes on for those still here. It has to, but that also means that the focus is on the things of the here and now, and not on the things as they once were. It would seem that that is the way it "should" be, after all. That is also all the more reason to live as fully as possible in the moments that we have been given. They truly are a gift, and one that we very frequently do take for granted.

There truly is no time like the present. And that is said to my soul in a way it has never been heard before. You hear words. But how often do you really, truly feel and experience them?

Knowing all of this, I still find myself frustrated. If only knowing this was the Magical Key to creating exactly what I wanted in my life right now, but it's not. If only knowing this meant that I was in some way guaranteed to have the outcome I think I want, but it's not. 

If anything, knowing all of this in some ways maddens and saddens me. What if the things I desire so much never come to pass? What if I do everything that I can do, and know to do, and am aware of, and can try, and still feel like I am coming up empty? What then?

Life is full of contradictions. On one hand we seem to be told we can be anything we want to be, and do whatever we want to do, but then for many it doesn't happen. But what does happen are a lot of judgments. What does happen is fault-finding. Often the person is found lacking in some way, maybe even labelled and found lacking for the rest of their life.

Why have we come to believe that things are only "Good" when they are a certain way? What if the crap in my life has been there for a reason? So many of the things I have experienced have been helpful for me, and helpful for perspective. I have been able to experience so much through the mess that has often been my life. 

As a child I thought it was a bad thing. Why couldn't I have a "normal" life, like everyone else? The "funny" thing is that as strange as I might be, and as strange as my life has been, it has been in many ways "normal," as I can relate to so much that others deal with. It has either made me more compassionate, and/or helped me to tap into "my" compassion, along with many other things.

I suspect we all have a much more similar experience of life than we realize, or think we do.

And with that, I think I will conclude. If I don't, who knows where the tangent could take me? I guess, as always, it needed to come out. I thought I was going to just write about the art, but the art was much more than I realized, as it became a conduit for where I just went. 

I should be used to this by now. Interestingly, perhaps, my works of art have journeys like I described. I may have an idea where to begin, but I never know where I will wind up. Just like life, I may think I know where I might be headed, but in the end it is rarely like I thought it would be, and often even better.

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