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Art, Procrastination and a Brain Tumour

17th October 2017

I have an ‘art shed’ at the end of our garden. It was bought with the money I was going to use on continuing the second year of a part time art diploma. But instead we decided to make a permanent place to use for art instead.

t then got cold and damp and needed insulating and I did so, but struggled to spend the money on ‘me’ to fix it. It was all a ‘waste of time’. Plus I find one small problem with art- you want to stay there all day, which doesn’t work well with home educated kids and a family. Not to mention fatigue, where if I did too much I couldn’t handle the household chores on top very well, and so I procrastinated.

Then in 2015, I started struggling to focus on the more detailed work. The last thing I painted where I needed to outline it, I really struggled. My eyes felt they were wrong and blurry, so I changed it a little and made it more abstract, but silently gave up. Then I got ill, then I found out I had a brain tumour, in my cerebellum- the very part that controls fine motor skills and coordination (amongst other things)… I couldn’t even see, or walk, straight.

The night I had brain surgery still attached to drips, I was holding my fingers together as you would hold a pen, trying to see if I could move my hand to write my name. Silently writing invisible signatures under the bed sheet. Crying. Wondering what I would do if I could never paint again. The thing that I love, yet the only thing I have always held back on. Scared of failing.

A few weeks later and while I could hold a pen ok, I would still write the wrong words, letters were in the wrong order or not legible. I couldn’t spell as I forgot how to spell words I knew easily. I had to sound them out in my head each time. Even forming letter shapes was sometimes hard, the fluidity wasn’t there, it was somehow broken in my brain. Yet I wrote. I scrawled notes that only I could have ever deciphered, and then typed. I hit the backspace far more than any other letter on the keyboard, often two or three times a word,  as I kept typing the words wrongly, and spell check was ever so needed, but I kept going.

The colouring books I had bought before the operation to entertain myself I couldn’t do properly. I couldn’t see where the pen nib was properly and I couldn’t coordinate to keep the pen were I wanted- or even within the lines. It felt the most depressing thing to do, somehow torturing myself on what I now couldn’t do. Patience Jo, learn patience. I accepted that maybe I would only ever be able to paint abstracts from now on? But hey, people paint with their feet. I just need to give myself time.

A few weeks after my op, my son moved back here to live in my art shed- as somewhere cheap to live- followed by his girlfriend. Well it didn’t really matter as I couldn’t see it anyway, my world was still spinning violently, but all my artwork and materials got packed up (with me all but shoving it in boxes as I couldn’t see it correctly) and spread around the house, in the loft and under the stairs. By the time they moved out it was cold again, and I didn’t feel up to sitting in my art shed even if all the items I wanted were already there, and there was no way I could get in the loft or carry things as my body was too weak to do much. But I managed to tidy it a little and paint a couple of very abstract paintings- helping me release a little of my trauma with art therapy!

Then in March, my son and girlfriend moved back in! Once again the few of my items were tidied away into various boxes and corners of my house. I still wouldn’t know how I would be able to paint.

A couple of the times in the summer I tried using watercolours, or did a pencil sketch, but found it so hard- and even more depressing. I’d constantly go over the lines of where I wanted to go and it didn’t really help my confidence that I could do much.

So I wrote a book! I often couldn’t type or write correctly, but I kept going until I wrote seventy thousand odd words and edited and published the book myself. From the person who often quits before she has started, I did it. I completed a whole book and got it printed 16 months after the date of my brain surgery.

Once I finished I got the desire to paint again, I ‘want’ to do work that is detailed- but who knows if I can easily or not? But mostly I just want to feel the paint on my hands as I work with the textures. Yet it’s October and my son is still living here, so I keep waiting… I’m getting good at that…

I was asked did I want my art shed after he moved out as after all I had not used it much in 2 years… and I almost broke down in tears screaming “it’s mine, don’t you dare take that away from me!” Although I am also a little nervous …will I be upset if I still cannot look at work in detail? Will I be able to do any work that I can sell? Or will it just be a large amount of personal art therapy?

He is moving out within a few weeks, then I need to find all the storage shelves that have been dismantled, the boxes of materials in the loft, the paints, the paper, the canvasses. So I have things where I need them when I want. I know it will make me feel grumpy as I hate doing chores I shouldn’t have had to do, that I will have to get others to help me (I still can’t climb in the loft) and it will be cold … but I know my soul needs to paint. It told me to write quotes on canvas before I even had the tumour removed. I need to do it. To heal me.

Next - “I CAN change”