Chapter 22 – Status Go

Chapter 22 – Status Go

July 8th

So, here’s the latest.

I have started to paint once again … A bit rusty, and for short periods only, but one must start somewhere after all! It was disconcerting to find how tiring it was to work at the easel … after all, the only “painting” I have done lately has been on my iPad … drawing my ‘toons for these updates … not nearly as strenuous as working in the studio. But I have made a start.

Next up is to get my web site updated … but I can do that while the paint dries.

I have caught up with all my overdue bills, and have balanced my check book, and am in general back in sync with my expenses. It did get a bit hairy for a couple of weeks, and having overcompensated for a late payment, I managed to pay a two-month utility invoice twice. So, I am now paid up until the end of summer. If that is the worst consequence of my months of mental inertia regarding personal finances, well … let us just say a big hoorah … I have money in the bank and the lights are still on!

I am getting my stamina back, and have spent time with a physical therapist. She gave me some exercises to build strength in my legs, and to increase stability. Though I am still not up to speed, the isometrics and short walks outside, or on the treadmill, are slowly getting me closer to a normal pace. But for now, I move at a pace I call, “The Southern Drawl Crawl” … no real hurry in these legs of mine. But I get there eventually.

I have most of my normal taste buds back and am enjoying a regular diet. Too bad … that ice cream and cookie diet was terrific … also eating to keep up my strength was no hardship! However, reality has reared its ugly head, and I now have to watch what I eat in order to control my weight. Back to normal, indeed.


I am able to drive … granted only short distances … but still … how cool is that? It is great to go to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, the drug store, and all those errand type places that were beyond my reach for the last two months.

Of course, that does mean I have to get dressed so as to appear normal … whatever that means. Getting dressed for the outside world is a bit of a challenge, as it is hard to find something other than my PJs and my ugly green dress to wear comfortably. But vanity being second only to guilt as a consummate motivator, I have put together a couple of summery ensembles that don’t reek of elastic waists and draw string closures. Thank god it is summer, and dresses are back in fashion.  Dealing with the paraphernalia of my new plumbing including the padded dressings and bandages, means I have lost all semblance of a waistline. So, all my decent slacks have nowhere to hang. Consequently, they have a tendency to let gravity take its course.


Sigh … another challenge that has arrived unannounced! I guess for now I will do my retro hippie thing with the long dresses. Except no tie dye … even back when it was new it was nasty.

So that is where I am at.

Despite the rather soggy days

…the sleep-deprived nights

…and the never-ending responsibility of dealing with my new plumbing

…and though the abdomen still protests at any small movement

…and sitting upright hurts

…and my tummy looks like a badly surfaced back road, complete with potholes

Despite all that, Life is good indeed! I am free of cancer with a future to plan. And while it might not be exactly the way I envisioned it, it is mine to embrace. And so what if, as I embrace it, I just don’t squeeze too hard … the pouch is not terribly stable, just yet … I need to give it some time!

Meanwhile I have other things to do.


When I began to paint again, it was disconcerting to discover I couldn’t switch off the writing part of my creative process. Instead, while painting and developing a canvas, I found myself verbalizing what I was trying to convey using color and line and texture. This was, I suppose, similar to the process of writing the updates and creating the illustrations, but in an entirely different context. This had nothing to do with my physical state, and everything to do with where my hand was taking my brain. It was really challenging to bring the two processes together and make them work together successfully.

I only discovered this after several days of thrashing about with my oils and a large canvas. Mind you, I was unable to paint for any significant amount of time, as I was still physically challenged to do anything much at all. So, it took me a while to discover that the particular canvas I was working on … the one that was proving intractable and refusing to resolve itself into any cohesive image … was really rather banal, and trite. When I thought about it as a text, it was pretty useless, so I stopped. That canvas now hangs behind a door and will eventually be painted over and cease to bore me with its slightly plastic message.

Instead, I went back to some of my earlier attempts, pieces I had left unfinished before my chemo started. I found that once I tried to mentally write about these pieces, the images began to strengthen and resolve themselves. What a joy it was to have my hand and my brain working together! If it was an image of a memory, or a whimsical creation, or a landscape from my mind, it didn’t matter. I had to be able to discuss it as I went along. The images evolved as a sort of conversation with myself.

Initially an image might be very aggressive and abstract … a sort of rough and ready conflict filled with dynamic energy. There would not always be a subject, but there would be lines and color and canvas. From that point, I would work to bring forth an image while leaving the underlying conflict visible just under the surface. The tension between the two … the conflict and the resolution, became the subject of my artistic self-discovery. It also, in some way, reflected my own inner conflict with health and wellness as a thin veneer over calamity and death. The final image might be lovey and serene, but just under the surface there is a history of conflict.

How extraordinary it was to have this collaborative process at my disposal. My work now took on an entirely different dimension. I went back to older works and found that those still fresh and compelling were easy to write about, and shared the same sort of tension … as if the resolution to serenity had been hard won. Those that had become tiresome … well, they needed to be retired or reworked and held no interest past their surface image.

The down side of all this was that it was frustrating as hell to have made this leap into a new process, and not have the physical stamina to work at a faster pace. But I realized it was necessary to slow the process, and allow time between stages for painting to speak more clearly. So, the lessons of my recovery … the need to rest, to take each day as it came, and not to rush Mother Nature … those lessons are similar to those that make this process workable.

There were those throughout my battle with cancer that felt my painting would be changed … that somehow a new depth of meaning would be discovered, that I would emerge as a cathartic artist of some sort, that my images would reflect my battle in some way.  In fact, my painting did change, but only to become more personalized, and specific. It is as if my impatience with small talk had extended into my artistic conversations as well.

In writing I had found a new avenue for communication during my illness. Now it was added to my repertoire of tools to use as a painter.

Who would ever have thunk it!

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