Back to my Easel... at last
A few weeks ago I sat in front of my easel, I squeezed some glistening oil paints on my palette, took up a brush, and started to paint again.
I made luscious little mounds of paint, added thinner, and linseed oil, and I started mixing colors, and applying their creaminess on the canvas... sky first. Ultramarine blue, cobalt, white, neutral tint... every stroke bringing clouds to life, creating space.
It was one great step up.
And it felt very natural.
In fact, it felt absolutely normal. Joyful, happy, but normal.
Like if I had never stopped.
Yet, it had been 14 months since I fell and broke my hip and my pelvis in two places, last year.
14 months of personal recovery while the world hurt and coped with a pandemic of historic proportions.
While the state was in mandatory confinement, I was in a nursing home after surgery, and trying to get some autonomy back to be sent home.
I did try and paint some small watercolors while I was there, but they were like doing scales if I had been a musician. Nothing much, really.
Finally I came home, wheelchair, crutches and all. I had physical therapy, and home support.
Pain and discomfort were constant companions, sleep was erratic, and physical therapy applied too forcefully made me crack 3 vertebrae, on top of what I was already dealing with.
In the same period of time, I had to close my art gallery and organize everything related to it from my bed most of the time.
My lease had been terminated by the new owner of the building, and of course it was out of the question to go and create another gallery somewhere else at that juncture.
I let my clients and friends know that I was closing for good and offering a closing big sale.
I showed up to meet them at the gallery as much as I possibly could muster.
The response was overwhelmingly good. I sold a lot of work, and took the rest home.
Enormous help was provided by my closest friends, to go and meet clients for pick ups, or deliveries, and clean up at closure time, and accepted it all with gratitude.
At that point, I had very little strength left for anything but daily essentials.
I watched hundreds of hours of movies, series, documentaries, day and night. Reading was sparse as I did not have enough sustained focus for it.
Amazingly I was able to keep coaching. I made sure to save my energy for the few conversations with my current clients every week.
I also enjoyed food.
And sometimes driving out along the coast to look at the beautiful world.
But other than that...
I had to let go of many on-going contacts and friends, as I did not have the mental and emotional energy to keep conversations going.
It became very clear to me that I had to surrender and recover.
That it would take what it would take.
And that I had no idea how it would all unfold, but that I would be OK.
Although loving support is invaluable, and I received a lot of it thankfully, there came a point where I just could not give enough attention and focus to my relationships and acquaintances. I just did not have the bandwidth, so to speak.
I had to stay within. A lot.
Recovery became my life.
A night of sleep was a victory.
A few steps to the car was exhausting.
Pain killers were taken only when the cost of pain was too high, since they are fiends more than friends.
Eventually, slowly, i became able to exercise again, to climb on my stationary bike and exert my legs.
At first, a 5 minutes session was an excruciating commitment.
Now I pedal away for up to 60 minutes a day.
I added 5 minutes every few weeks... and more resistance too, as I went. It get better and better.
For weeks, lately, I had hovered around my studio, touching brushes, moving canvasses to and fro, angling my easel...
Tentatively re-connecting with it all. The tactile feel of the stretch cloth, the weight of paint tubes in their box... the rags, the bottles...
When finally, I guess it might have been the surge of spring flowers everywhere, the sweetness in the air, the light growing stronger, and my strength coming back, the hundreds of photos I took during my short road trips... probably a combination of it all; finally I took a canvas, put it on the easel, squeezed paint on my palette, and painted my first original oil since the dark of winter, 2020.
And when I completed this first painting, a 20 x 16" canvas, I went into painting another one, a smaller one on wood panel.
And now I am in the middle of yet another one, another oil, on birch wood, that is coming along very nicely...
It's standing there on my easel, waiting for me to complete it, and I rejoice that I will do just that, shortly.
Today I look at my studio and I feel lucky, and grateful. Life is smiling at me.
Recovery and healing takes time.
It's a process that has its own agenda and requires one's complete surrender to what is needed at any given time for the results to be optimized.
It has been my experience in the past that I need to enter any major healing time without any other expectation than taking a step at a time and keep moving as far as I can get, resolutely.
It is very helpful to have a lofty goal, however, and mine this time is to be stronger at the outcome than I was when I fell last year.
Meanwhile, it's good to keep an open mind and go for continuous progress rather than a formal "full recovery", because sometimes we lose some capacities and we'll have to adjust to that. Like for any life challenge, flexibility and curiosity are great assets.
The best attitude is to take a day at a time, doggedly, and lovingly, with patience and utter self-compassion.
A crucial point is to never consider that we are less than 100% at any given time.
Because truly, every day is 100% of 24hrs, and that is a chunk of our life that has to be lived at 100% of our capacity at the moment.
Not waiting, not pining or longing, but living every minute the best it can be lived.
And we are 100% present inside that container.
Even when we feel depleted, or diminished, or incapacitated, we are there. 100% who we are at the core.
This is possibly the piece that most people don't get when they face their first big physical challenge, and it's pivotal in my view.
At the end of the day, I am not my body. I live inside my body. I have a body.
It's a wondrous thing to have, and it deserves the utmost care and respect, but we are pure consciousness, energy in motion. Connected to the whole universe by means of vibration and consciousness.
Life aware of itself.
That is a beautiful thing.
To your journey and to your wellness!