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Copyright © 2017 by Jo Barlow
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-
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 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-
A few weeks after my op, my son moved back here to live in my art shed-
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-
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-
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.