After many months of painting (a few hundred) faces, she is my new favorite. Hours of practice have taught valuable lessons - like letting go while still holding a paint brush. An exhilarating freedom, a precise imprecision, which I've admired in many works of art. Finding the truth in my voice while residing in that place called 'flow.'
There is much to be said for living in the moment, no worry, anxiety, guilt or regret. I watch a squirrel hiding a walnut on our back porch. Hear the kids playing next door, showing off their first kindergarten drawings with their wild imaginations and plans for who they will become. Then passing through a vibrant downtown on a post-card perfect drive to the barn, such gratification as the foal is now filly, albeit still close to mom.
So why don't we all adopt this way of being? Ask and most adults rattle off the exponential reasons why they are so exhausted, splintered from busy busy days, dealing with the hectic that is life. Forward motion, accomplishment, plans, crises, how will they manage... a 'normal' way of life. And there is always the hovering, impending doom streaming from the 24/7 media.
Then there are (so many) people like me. Living with a chronic illness - no wheelchair, brace or special-needs apparatus - which means I have an invisible illness. It will progress, has left permanent damage and on days when I feel really really bad, for no outwardly apparent reason I lack the strength to hope, or sink into another cycle of grief. For more than ten years I have been redefining my self in a way that is just off stage, away from bright light. Making the transition from a doing to a being. And most days I succeed, having become compassionate and understanding with an awareness that often startles me.
I have a home, wonderful family and lots of art supplies... why would I grieve? An unexpected deja-vu seeing the ones wearing heels and put-together all the way up to the styled hair. Focused, decision-making, purposeful. A backward glance across a decade reveals a different me: optimistic, sharp, talented creative director, business owner, with avocations like showing horses, writing fiction. Leasing new cars every two years in a wardrobe that, while not trendy, was a true artistic rendering of who I was. No power-wielding corporate maniac, just a woman deriving immense satisfaction from doing what I loved. Do I miss that person? Wouldn't you?
Now, aside from my tiny stash of going-out clothes I am repetitive. T-shirt splatted with paint, sweats and hair knotted in a bun for so long... I cannot remember my last trip to the stylist. Do I bother to shave my legs or paint my toenails? In that case, no need for make-up. This is what happens during the transition from daily (public) activities to maybe once a week. And there are those who innocently envy my lifestyle. But it is not and never will be a choice.
Before illness I did not paint, so this is my choice, one of my silver linings. Art. And closer connections with fewer people holds such meaning... rather than an active social life. Another choice: examining life rather than hearing it whoosh past in a roar of distractions.
Emily Dickinson wrote, "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words, and never stops at all." What does all of this mean? That there is always hope along this journey, despite the lapses and deep pits that are not, in a way that is unrecognizable to those whose lives are not impacted by chronic illness. We are a community of believers, grit and survival, even managing to thrive. Like the magic that is making art. If my hope is dormant today, in the larger view, through the silence, pain, aloneness and inability to be understood, I suppose I really do not ever stop.