So now I've done 40 days of collages in my little journal. "What next" was the question I posed on one of the three collages I did today. I'm not sure yet about the specifics of what I'll do. Here at the end, I pulled out my watercolor crayons (Neocolor II water soluble Caran d'Ache crayons) and my oil pastels (same brand as the watercolor crayons). I bought them several years ago, when I started my current job. They were on markdown at the campus bookstore, plus I got a discount above and beyond the sale price. I was thrilled with the purchase, so thrilled, I guess, that I thought I needed to put them away and not "waste" them on anything I did! I thought I didn't like them. I thought I couldn't use them. I guess, after nearly 40 days, I got a little freer and a little wilder and a little braver, so I used them.
I've been thinking lately of the October of 2016 I imagined back in October of 2011 when I was first diagnosed with colon cancer. I'd hope to be celebrating five years cancer free. Instead, I've weathered a second attack of colon cancer and breast cancer. Saying it, seeing it here on the screen, I feel like I sound a bit snake bit. That's not at all the way I feel. My prognosis looks good on all counts and I am grateful.
My five year anniversary didn't quite turn out to be the party I'd expected but that's okay. I don't know what might have been. I only know what is, right here, right now. I've been shaped and strengthened in the last five years. Katherine Russell Rich (read the article) said she learned, in times of uncertainty, to ask herself "How are you right now?" She said her answer was, "Fine. Stay right here, in this day, stay right here in your mind." I think that's mostly a pretty good place to be, "right here, in this day."
"What next?" You keep on living, you keep on doing. You don't spend too much time wondering how much time you might have. You put one foot in front of the other, and keep on moving the best you can.
(Yeah, sometimes that's easier said than done, I know.)
More collages. I'm almost to the end of the 40 day art journal. Tomorrow is day 40. I think I'll take a break for a few days to ponder how I am going to proceed. I'll have to think about the things I've learned by doing this.
I've enjoyed the words, I've enjoyed the images, I've enjoyed the cutting apart and the putting together. I've been a quilter in my past and this feels a lot like that, but working with paper rather than cloth.
I like the feeling of being born by bits, and not all at once. Always, a work in progress. It occurs to me just now that this process of working daily on these small collages, with no real thought of the outcome or of completing a finished project is a metaphor for my life. Each day I do what I can to do the best I can with what I have on that day. I don't look too far ahead but instead try to keep my mind right here in the present. I enjoy the process without thinking too much about the outcome.
I had a counselor type person tell me once that I sure spoke in metaphors a lot. I heard that spoken with a disdainful tone, and for a long time, I tried to nix the metaphor from my speech. I tried to come out and say what I had to say, without trying to couch it in symbolic language. Another thing I've learned from doing this practice for almost 40 days is that I love metaphor and visual symbolism. I have a poet's heart, and I'm not going to apologize for that. Not that anyone is asking me too, save for my own self!
I read an interesting article on Brain Pickings this week (https://www.brainpickings.org/?s=mary+oliver). It was from an essay written by Mary Oliver, something about the third self. In it, the author quoted Mary Oliver, saying, "In creative work — creative work of all kinds — those who are
the world’s working artists are not trying to help the world go around,
but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary.
Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else.
Its labor requires a different outlook — a different set of priorities." I'm no Mary Oliver, but I am, on my own small scale, in my own small spot in the world, a creative person, and an artist. The things I do are not earth shattering. They aren't things that will spread very far beyond my own small circle, but they are important, they are my things to do.
Part of my being gentle with myself is accepting that, and not comparing myself to others. I am only here to do what only I can do. Also, maybe I can accept that it is good for the world that I am here?!
There is a woman in my circle of acquaintances who I do not know very well. She is divorced from a doctor, and the last several times I've been in her presence, she has been talking about how she is redoing a home in the historic district of our city. She was always friendly enough but because I am introverted and somewhat slow to warm up to people I do not know, I did not know her well. I made some assumptions about her. It is no assumption that she is older than I am. My assumption was that she was a woman accustomed to having her own way. I also assumed she probably didn't have much depth to her.
I might have been wrong in my assumptions.
Last week, when I saw her in the group we have in common, she casually mentioned that she really hadn't had many dark times in very many years. And then she added that she was now facing terminal cancer. It is a relatively new diagnosis. She still looks and sound healthy. One would not guess her health is in such a dismal state by looking at her. She talked about how grateful she is, how she has been able to talk to her children and her grandchildren about her illness. She mentioned a few bucket list things she'd been able to do. Those things involved time with her grown children. It sounded to me like there might have been some restoration in those relationships. She is a pretty woman. There was a smile on her face.
When I went over to her after the meeting, she was the one who first offered a hug to me, not the other way around. And she asked me how I was doing with my own health concerns. She radiated peace.
I won't see her at this month's meeting. I'll be in Houston doing all my checkups. I don't know how quickly the disease will progress. We are not friends, only acquaintances. But she is who I thought of when I pulled the card for week 6 of the Project Thoughtful Thursday prompt. She was a healthy woman who probably expected to live to see her grandchildren grow up. Her life was changed in an instant.
I'm sorry I'm so late getting this posted, I knew yesterday was Wednesday, I know Thursday follows Wednesday, I just sort of somehow thought this was still Wednesday! I was thinking I'd write tonight about last week's prompt, and post this one tomorrow. Then I realized today is Thursday. O.o!
We all have different things we do when we are angry, or upset, or disappointed. My modus operandi is to turn on myself. I can be vicious toward me. I'm learning to catch myself when I start treating me in a way that I would not treat my worst enemy. I'm getting better at extending grace toward myself. When I forget, my friend Ralph is good at asking me to please be a little kinder to his friend. It's true that sometimes we can do things for our friends that we can't do for ourselves. But I'm also learning to be kinder to myself for own self.
I'm grateful for friends who help me to see the positive things about myself that I sometimes cannot see.