Friday, July 20, 2012

# 312 - Sharing the Soul

As a mom, I've diligently kept all of my daughters' art work from their childhood. Years ago, I made extra large-art portfolio holders by stapling two posterboards together, leaving the top open to slide in their artwork. This kept their work from being bent and creased.

In an easily accessible area, the portfolio was kept behind my china cabinet with the edge of the portfolio barely sticking out to make it easy to retrieve for adding new artwork to it.

Recently, I took a day to spread out some of their work and to simply gaze upon the beauty of each piece. I'm considering buying very large frames so that I can create a collage of framed artwork for each daughter; I plan to put these collages in the guest bedroom for everyone to enjoy.

I imagine, one day, when my children have children of their own, my visiting grandbabies will get a kick out of seeing their mommy's art, created when their mommy was a child. It will be a link from childhood to childhood.

Some of their work is abstract, other work is "still-art" and a few pieces reflect a historical event. Each one is precious to me.

Most moms love to get their child's artwork, but I can't express how excited I had been to get each drawing, each painting, each sculpture...I never wanted to buy any art because I had little artists living in my household.

To add to the art of my children, I have my own artwork throughout the house that I've produced for years and years, especially some larger pieces that came with studying Visual Arts and Design at the University of Houston. I've been blessed to work in the Arbor Building through many art classes and to have professors of great artistic standing be my teachers in specific art methods.

Obeying my own need to create art is a tremendous stress reducer for me. However, I had some serious health battles that would put a wall between me and my need to create art, especially the battle with being able to use my arms since they were not getting adequate blood flow. But, I had two major surgeries to better enable blood to get to my arms and hands, a two year process of surgical intervention that went into three years after they decided to remove my minor pectoral muscle on the right side since it was shredded by bone shards. Even if the major surgeries were horrific and came with critical complications, I'm happy that my left side works wonderfully, but my right side was never properly "decompressed" by the removal of my first rib along with the removal of the anterior and scalene muscles in my neck --- I also have artery clips along the thoracic arteries as well, both sides.

The surgeries had to be done a year apart. Each one required approximately one year recovery, mostly because of the collapse lung that each surgery left me to deal with --- because of a paralyzed diaphragm. The nerve in your body that is the "control wire" for the diaphragm, which controls the lung, well, this "control wire" was impacted by each surgery, so each side ended up with a collapsed lung following surgery. It would take about 9 months, each time, for me to again be able to inflate my lung. Let me tell you, everything done to me in the dice and chop operating room could not compare to the lung collapsing. It's not a good feeling when your lung collapses and you can feel the lung sticking to itself --- to inflate it, with each labored breath or with pulmonary rehabilitation causes tremendous agony.

My left side was surgically decompressed by this method in 2005 and the right side was done a year later, in 2006. Since I am still unable to freely use my right arm, it's an ongoing battle. Even the simple act of blogging can cause me trouble as the right arm goes numb and pain from the lack of bloodflow creates pain down the arm and a sensation of choking on the right side of my neck. It's a big price to pay, but I try to position myself the best way possible so that I can type, type, type. I can use my arm for a short time, but it's never felt the same since the days when I could use my arms without a second thought and that was ten years ago.

I guess this is another reason I've treasured my daughters' artwork. If anyone understands the desire to create art, to play instruments and to do things that are ordinary daily activities without a thought about anything other than "Which color to use next," or "Which key to play next?" -- I do understand having the burning desire to do such things, yet not be able to do them because of physical limitations. I also understand what it means to push past the pain, to keep going in spite of challenges. Sometimes I've paid heavily for those decisions, but I rarely regret it.

Good thing I have partial use of my right arm since the surgery, it is better than before surgery, but still not completely workable as is my left side. I can often work around my incomplete decompression. Maybe one day I'll have the luxury to have the right side fully decompressed so that I can do normal things again, like drive to see my daughter in Dallas without it being a huge undertaking that causes me major issues, such as being able to feel my arm. Driving requires limited mobility, a huge issue for me.

Yes, maybe you can see a little through my eyes as well that this artwork is more meaningful than I can express.

Living life as fully as you can means different things for different people. Some people are given every tool and every healthy benefit to be able to live a beautiful life, yet they still take it forgranted. My mindset feels that there are enough problems, day by day, for me to conquer; I certainly don't need to add any more problems to what I already face. For many, like me, just getting through their day is a personal battlefield that brings constant reminders that simple things can be great challenges.

Others seem to look for problems because it seems they need more drama in their life or they are not satisfied with having an "ordinary" life full of blessings that deserve focus instead of contrived issues stemming from owning an ungrateful heart. I've seen so many people create their own problems and these same people proceed to wonder why their life is full of problems?

Personally, if I have extra energy and physical capabilities, it must go toward the constant effort to keep my health balanced so that I may have that awesome day with a few minutes at the piano or to do simple basic tasks, such as the laundry and dusting the furniture. One thing I must say is that a good day for me can indeed be jam-packed; I've learned to fully take advantage of a good day, probably much better than a "regular" person without any health hurdles.

However, once my neck broke, in 2009, it required massive reconstruction and double-sided hardware to support the neck so it would not collapse again. To add to the thoracic artery issues, I found myself confronting more challenges on top of existing challenges. It felt like I was being sandwiched between major health assaults that I had no control over and I did feel squashed like a bug. For a while, I didn't feel very excited about the added loss of sensation in my hands due to a spinal cord injury. I didn't like the struggle to move my feet forward and to lift them to take a step...all of it took more effort than could be expressed, even to those closest around me.

The spinal cord was squished between two bones that had broken, so it damaged the spinal cord in a manner that could not be repaired. It created a large lesion on the C2 section of spinal cord that is still present and visible on MRI scans. Still, I regained more feeling and better use of my arms/hands and legs/feet than the doctors thought were possible. I've been given more than my fair share of miracles, even if I've been given more than my fair share of physical hurdles.

Through it all, I've learned there is something powerful about art --- it is a healing expression of humanity. I finally understood that for many people, especially for those who have suffered deeply from physical or emotional pain, a piece of art can seem to speak to you or for you. Art can capture a feeling, it can represent the best in you, the worst in you or it can bring hope beyond words.

For some dedicated artists, on any level, from novice to accomplished, there seems to be a sharing of the soul in some of the work produced by particular artists. Often, you can feel pulled into a piece of art. If you haven't had this experience yet, then I recommend that you view art differently. Try to search for a piece of art that truly SPEAKS to you with such depth that you feel knocked out of your shoes. It's out there, you might have just not found it yet, but when you'll know it.

I have a few personal favorites that definitely evoke great emotion from within the well of my soul.

In fact, I'll be scanning a few pictures of historical art that have brought me great comfort and hope during times of great turmoil.

But, there is a certain peace, joy and innocence that comes with looking at a child's artwork. It's like looking out a window to see a different view of sunshine.

How many times have I been delighted by these works of art created by my children? I can't count. Even through difficult times of their children created with bright goodness, always doing their best to get their mind's eye down on paper.

I love the effort. I love the result. I love the sharing of their souls.


John Gray said...

what a delightfully celebratory post

Dreaming said...

I remember your mentioning the surgeries and back issues, but I had no clue. You were really put through the wringer.
I love your girls' art work. What fun to go back and see it all. I have a few pieces from my boys - I kept memory boxes where I put art, school work, favorite photos, a few toys. Someday I'll give those to the boys! said...

John - I'm sure you've seen your share of people like me in your line of work. At least you keep your own sanity with the animals in your picturesque town. I'm about to come over for an electronic visit!

Dreaming - I have too much to list, too many things that have been back-to-back that it can really drag me under if I contemplate it for too long. That's what chickens are all about! They sure know how to make sure you stay on task and to help you to be absorbed into your bigger-than-life events. My family, friends, blog buddies, dogs, chickens...all are so wonderful and all of us have our issues, all of us have our own life story, it's the part of life that I love and embrace. It's good you have memory boxes, I have a few of those can we call them "precious boxes" around here. My girls each had "precious boxes" where they would keep their most treasured items. I've been passing on things to my oldest daughter, she's getting close to turning 25 years old, so it's time. It's weird, but it's a different phase in our lives. Besides, I have to make room for chickens right now! I have six feathered babies in the backyard and three inside that keep me busy with their shedding. At least I don't have 17 cats! Ha Ha! Well, I don't think I ever will either.