Friday, August 30, 2013

Accomplishment in spite of the pain: give yourself credit

An opportunity to participate

This last winter, sometime after the first of the year, the Whatcom Museum sent out a call to regional artists to participate in an open hanging.  The title of the exhibit currently on display is:  Nature in the Balance:  Artists Interpreting Climate Change.  
      What is happening to the earth? Why is it happening? 
      What are your visions of the future? How can people make a difference?  
These were the questions that the artist's submission was to address.  With at least 3 or 4 months to produce a piece, I decided to try to respond to the invitation.

Revisiting an important experience
Baker Lake

In 1993, I traveled to the Canadian Arctic and spent 3 weeks living with a native Inuit family.  The community is called Baker Lake.  It is in the Canadian territory of Nunuvut at the northwestern end of Hudson Bay.  The purpose of my visit was to study Inuit clothing patterns and techniques and appliqu├ęd wallhangings.  It was an incredible experience and formative in terms of my fiber art from that time forward.  I returned with a hazy plan to weave and sew a coat which would draw inspiration from the amautik or mother's parka.  Many pieces of my subsequent art work grew out of that experience, but although I started work on the parka piece, I never completed it. 

The big push
My unfinished coat languished for years in my project stack for want of the final inspiration.  Then came the call to artists from the Museum, and I immediately seized on the idea of finally bringing it to completion.  

Many places in the world have already felt the harsh and frightening effects of climate change, but nowhere greater than the Arctic.  The people who live there depend on the ice for they are still actively fishing and hunting to sustain themselves.  And the ice, which supports the fish and animals in complex ways, is fast disappearing.

Coat in process with cut-out paper images

The Coat

Exhibited in museum
The shaping of the coat and the hood are derivations of the mothers' parka, but adapted for practical wear in this part of the country.  The border design on the bottom attempts to portray the loss of traditional ways of life the Inuit are experiencing, in part because of climate change. As you move around the coat from right front to back to left side and front, the colors and vividness of the traditional images fade.

Give yourself credit

I worked on this project, as I am able now, a day here and a day there until the very day I was required to turn the piece in to the museum.  Then I heaved a big sigh of relief - and sort of forgot to pat myself on the back for making a major effort and getting important work done.  So now I'm doing it by writing this post with all the photos.

It doesn't have to be a work of art.
I rise to the occasion almost weekly of taking care of my
two year old grandson for a day or part of a day, which
is really important for me and for him.    

A trap, all too easy to fall into, is perpetual disappointment about what you can't or didn't do because of a headache - or lots of headaches.  So don't forget to give yourself credit for those things that you actually pull off against all odds.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Suicide is a scary thought

Hanging on by my fingernails            

Hanging on - just barely

This is a hard topic for me right now because it cuts a little too close to the bone.  I've been having a really hard time lately.  The headaches have been relentless AND accompanied by mood crashes that last at least a couple of days.  It all leaves me feeling worthless as a human being.  Worth less than other people around me who walk the planet and go about their daily lives getting things done, having a good time, etc.  Sometimes all you can do is just hang on.

"I just can't do this anymore."

That's the recurrent thought I have when things get really bad and I don't have any substantive breaks between headache episodes.  It doesn't go much beyond this thought for me, but at this hanging on stage, I'm scared and anxious. I feel like I'm on a precipice.

Suicide is a bad idea

of course.  It destroys everyone around you and eliminates the possibility that you might, in fact, get better.  And guess what,  after 3 or 4 really bad weeks, I seem to be climbing out of the abyss. A change in medication, talking to others (my husband, my mental health counselor), and - hanging on.  Also, I keep trying new ideas and recycling some old ones.  I keep in mind some outside options like a return to the inpatient program that helped me before, procedures I haven't tried, etc.  

The good memories

I try hard to hold on to the vision, the feelings, the touch and sound of good times, what my therapist calls resourcing.  Our recent trip to California, in spite of my "difficulties," included some great times, the ones to hold onto.

Floating in the Eel River in northern Cal

Swimming has become one of my favorite activities lately.  I'm a really good floater and I feel weightless and cool, including my head, which all too often, feels too hot and heavy for my body.  The Eel River in the redwoods of northern California has some fantastic swimming holes.  This was a short hike below our campground.

A good dinner with my family, swimming in Bellingham Bay, 5 min. from our house, taking care of my grandson:  these are all worth hanging onto when the going gets tough.