I’ve not written in a long time.
It will be very obvious as I go along that I am out of practice.
I haven’t known what to say as I stumble along with this adjustment to my MS diagnosis. At first I felt relief, and then it became befuddlement, and after that came anger twisting towards despair. I didn’t want to inflict this excruciating process on everyone. I tortured a few of my friends and my husband, instead.
They deserve presents.
The drug company from which I get my injections sent a nurse, N., to my house to train me on its use a month or so ago. I liked her immediately. She’s lovely and warm and funny and smart and explained things clearly to me. I tend to view medical appointments — excepting my eye doctor who lets me rattle on about whatever — as Getting Down To Business: Thou Shalt Not Cry. In the time frame of my woe, that first visit from N. fell somewhere between befuddlement/mild optimism and don’t talk to me/seething anger.
She got me to cry.
N. came to visit again today (oops, yesterday), and she let me drag her around my house and natter at her about the jewelry I used to make and the jewelry idea that was in the embryonic stages of development before I just STOPPED functioning on that level. She looked at my tools and at my old work and at the start I’d made on a new direction before the anti-convulsants of late last year sent me sideways. She looked at the bulletin board over my bench and asked me when I had last arranged it. It’s been a couple of years, honestly. I’ve added to it here and there, but not given it a full reconsideration. She said that maybe it was time to do that — to refresh the energy.
I will be doing that.
But before we got to my bench — sacred space for me and not one I share that often (photos are one thing, touching my stuff is quite another) — she asked me what made me most afraid. The answer was hard to speak, although it came to me immediately — being a burden to my husband. He’s never given me cause to think he felt burdened and has amazed me with his thoughtfulness through all of this. I know that such notions are unworthy of who he really is and are born of my own insecurity. I can let go of that.
She reached deeper. And I allowed myself to see, less in the glancing way of denial that has been my recent habit, that much of my fear and frustration and anger is tethered to the possibility that I’ve lost my creative self. It was hard won for me to accept the idea of “artist” as identity. And that identity began to slip away from me again in the face of I’M NOT MAKING ANYTHING. This disease is in my brain and spinal cord. It is unpredictable. It makes me tired. My vision is not always clear, my balance is generally terrible, and I have pain. I’m tired of my own thoughts on the matter. It is easier to ghost through the night and sleep during the day and not face the delicious problems of figuring out how to make when I don’t know if I will have the stamina to immerse myself in the process. When I’ll have to stop, because food? Sleep? Injection? When I run into the inevitable snarl of discovering that what works in theory is a different thing entirely when I attempt to put it into practice.
My husband bought me a new chair that is designed for jewelry makers. It is very, very nice and probably the most comfortable chair I’ve had in my life. He buys all of my amazing tools. (Hammers!) This, though, made me feel unworthy. I’ve not made anything complete in well over a year. It has made me question my status — my validity as a jewelry maker. He didn’t see it that way, and still refers to the room in our house-to-be-built as my “studio” when I’ve reverted to calling it my “office”.
If not the “guest room” when I’m feeling particularly defeated.
And then I feel guilty, because I’LL STILL HAVE A GUEST ROOM AND THAT IS A LUXURY!
My friend C. is also my optician and she understands this loss of making, and what it does to that sense of identity. She and my eye doctor have plans for how to modify a pair of my glasses to hopefully minimize the icepick stab of migraines brought on by using my torch. But if it doesn’t, she and I talked about how maybe the way to handle this is to schedule my torching for times when I can have the residual migraine without them interfering with other important things. It was not something I’d thought of, but it makes a certain sense. Weighing the physical misery of a planned migraine against the psychic misery of not DOING anything? Migraine wins. Book it.
It’s on my agenda to drag her out to our land when I get the next set of plans. I want to show her where my STUDIO will be and how it will look out to the mountains. And where we will be able to hang out and talk about any old thing.
My friend S. said to me recently that when it all gets to be a bit too much, remind myself…nothing is happening right this minute. Or even right this second, if that is what it takes. I’ve found myself doing just that when that little flutter of anxiety takes hold. Or saying it within the press of impotent fury. It helps tremendously to take that space, that little interruption in the flow of distress, and rebalance perspective.
My friend R. understands so well how keeping the lid on the chaos of my emotions is a full time job, and that looks are deceiving. Where others may think I’ve got this covered — she can see when I don’t, and she always has calm and wise words to help me stay human.
She and S. both see the fraying before even I do.
Those are just a few of the people who have offered me graces and kindnesses in the face of this state of affairs. It’s shocking to me, sometimes, when people do. I bumble along in life thinking that I am unnoticed.
I tell myself that I’m not dying and should be grateful. This is self created drama, and my feelings are overblown. And then someone is sober at me. A doctor sort, usually, but sometimes not. Sometimes someone unexpected, like my architect who immediately knew what she needed to adjust in the plans to accommodate the possibility that this may not be an easy journey for us. Because it is, after all, us, and not just me.
A few weeks ago, my niece came over and asked if we could go to the mountains. My husband came along. We had such a lovely day. We’ve not gone in such a long time, because I’ve not felt steady in driving so far and then being hot and tired and away from cell phone service. I did not realize how much I missed that time, in that place, with those two people. It was the filling of a well I hadn’t realized was running alarmingly low.
I took pictures. See? Just one here, because my camera and I need to become reacquainted.
Today (yesterday…) I babbled on at N. about this bit of process and that bit of problem solving, and which metal I liked better and how K. would EVENTUALLY get her little flame painted copper bits to use in her own artwork, and how x was time consuming, and how I didn’t want to make y any longer. She looked at my pieces and said they were beautiful and I am talented, and I am interesting, and she even said that I am unique (!) and that I need to get back to it. A little bit at a time.
She helped me see that it’s the same thing — I need to refill that well that is perilously close to empty.
N. is very wise.
Making isn’t only about giving something away, it’s about becoming more complete. It is, probably, MORE about that than it has ever been about the final product.
But back to unique (!) for a moment. I had to laugh when she said it, because those who know me know well that drawing attention to myself is PAINFUL for me. N. had asked what my creative outlets were, and I listed off jewelry (Legitimate, because I get paid for that, right?), and that I take the occasional photo for my own pleasure, and I read for a few writers — again for my own pleasure. I didn’t tell her about my blog. And she even asked about my site — if I had one. Well yes, but not really active. It skirted the edges of dishonest, and I’m not that. Must amend that little dodge, especially since she encouraged me to write — to journal specifically. I only privately journal in the grudging sort of way of small annoyances and vast injustices and very little in the way of wisdom and brilliance which I think so many creative people hope to capture when they make.
Well, until they know better. Messy and flailing yield more interesting results, in truth. Make a mistake and then refine. And refine again. And trip. And swear. And backtrack. And refine. Take it apart/tear it up/delete it. Start again. Wonder if you are insane. Discover something fascinating and unexpected! Work feverishly. Hit a wall. Have life interfere. Fiddle longingly. Put it away for two years, three months, and a week or so. Stare at it for 29 days. Have it come together in ease and elegance and wonder why you didn’t see how to accomplish that back when. Like that. It’s complicated.
But unique. It slides away from me as I try to find the point in this silly little blog. ME? UNIQUE??? See? It’s painful and catnippy all at the same time. When people have asked what I do more recently, I have not claimed the identity of artist. Also known as One Who Would Like to Be/Make Unique. I told her that I have instead chosen to be in stealth mode — where it is safer. Where there aren’t so many expectations.
The problem with safety and low expectations is that there are also far fewer rewards. Not the money rewards, or attention — no. The rewards of having spent time in this life doing something fulfilling. As she said, all we have is right now. Frittering away my time on fearing that I MIGHT NOT be able to make, rather than just plowing ahead and TRYING is a waste of all that I…am.
It’s going to be bumpy. I know this. I’m still befuddled and furious and despairing. But I think I’ll bang on some metal a little. Maybe fondle something slinky that I’ve already built and let the tactile aspects draw me back in.
My niece J. and I were texting tonight (yesterday), and she said that in her opinion, I am adventurous. That gave me such a glow of pleasure. My blend-in self is seen as adventurous by one of my most favorite young people.
As she was leaving, N. and I were talking about writers and writing. She said that if I ever write a book, I should call it Stealth Mode. I like it.