I am a bionic woman.
Seven years ago I thought I had pancreatic cancer. Surgeons wanted to remove my spleen, gallbladder and a big portion of my pancreas. It is a very long, boring and terrifying story but in the end I am happy to say that I am FINE. How did doctors even think there might be a problem there? Well, after months of going to pilates and trying to get back into shape I woke up one morning and realized that I couldn’t fit into my clothes. It was like I was instantly 8 months pregnant. Long story short I had ripped the fascia in my stomach and the hernia went from the sternum all the way down and my guts were literally trying to fall out. But the MRI showed a more alarming issue with my pancreas. (No one plans on this stuff huh?) So my pancreas turned out to be ok but I had to have a mesh hernia repair surgery across my entire abdomen. The surgeon actually seemed very proud of the fact that the used an entire “gun” of over 100 staples to grommet through the muscle walls to tack my abdomen back together through nine incisions. It was the most painful thing I have ever lived through. (And I have had natural childbirth!) I found myself unexpectedly for days in the hospital on morphine frantically pushing the button every six minutes. It was one of those times in my life where there was a huge non-working window in my painting. After six months I built up enough scar tissue that I could walk and wear regular pants again. After two more years I could do a single push up. A friend of mine says that was we get older we find the need to keep slapping patches on ourselves- both mentally and physically. Patch. Patch. Patch. I laugh now and say I am a bionic woman.
Anything is better than cancer so I was grateful. Am still grateful.
So why do I bring this up? Because sometimes a painting needs a huge repair. I had this happen last week. A painting I had been working on for a very long time started to go off track. And somehow, something else went wrong and then a little more went wonky until I came to the conclusion that it had to be majorly repaired or scrapped altogether. It needs major surgery. And that is not an easy decision to make. I was humming along before this thinking, “Wow! This painting will be great! People will love this!” (come on, you know you think that as well sometimes) and that thought is the kiss of death. It overreaches. I don’t know if it is overconfidence, (or arrogance) but something stops me. Puts me back in my place. ( humble humble) And then I have to see how bad I want the painting to work. What surgery it is willing to endure.
Over the years I have scrapped, painted over, scraped down, ripped to pieces, blurred out and ran paintings underwater in a kitchen sink and started again… and again… or burned them.
It is very painful. But more painful to me is signing my name to a work that does not feel right. Feeling mediocre leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth and makes me grumpy. That kills me. So I refuse to sign my name to anything where I don’t feel that I did my best. Sometimes the work still winds up not very good, and that’s ok. If I feel I did everything I could, then it is time to sign it and move on. Start to heal from it. I have many paintings that didn’t live up to the “vision.” You know- THE VISION.
I have found we artists suffer from this affliction and mostly it is a good thing. But it can drive us crazy too. Friends and family say “It is good mom! Why don’t you like it?” and I find myself with the most difficult answer…. ” I just don’t.”
So last week I took a deep breath, wiped out the face and hours upon hours worth of work. That’s the part that kills me the most- wasting time. (I hate getting lost too- waste of time). Although I do know deep down the hours were probably necessary and the lesson of not taking the painting for granted was needed (I am trying to tap into a more forgiving buddhist nature) but it will be a long repair and this painting will have a lot of healing to do… and I wish I had a lot of morphine… but it is necessary.
Oh! and don’t do pilates. That stuff will mess you up.
You are as good of a writer as you are a painter. I guess it is your brain. Fabulous brain. Cheers
ha! yes I rock a sexy brain!
WOW! That was wonderful! Like all artists, and more so with bipolar ones, we’ve all walked that path of self-doubt, but I don’t remember anyone stating it so beautifully. Thank you for that, pretty lady. Continue with the good fight……..you, (and your work) are worth it.
thanks! hug back at ya!
Great post. It reminded me of playing piano. I am a serious amateur. I take lessons and play for a group of similar pianists. We ALL know about the kiss of death. You start playing and you are apprehensive but you get thru some of the hard parts and you think “hey, I’m doing pretty well”. Immediately you screw up. It never ever fails. So I try counting or thinking about my grocery list or anything else but self congratulations!
My new painting is on the easel and I’m liking it and yes, I’m thinking that others will too. But it’s not as dangerous and immediate as the piano. However, I will need to take time and not rush it onto Facebook. Thanks for the reminder.
sure! good to hear from you- yes that overconfidence thing will get ya every time. Keeps us in check….
I’m sure you are getting lots of these : offers from us older or equally baffled artists willing to give you our worthless advice .??
SERIOUSLY. you can ask … but I will be CRUEL !!!
bring it!!! 😁
Wow Christine!!! I am so sorry that you have had to go through so much! You have been through the wringer for sure!! Amazing to me that you have such a good attitude and that you have persevered through all of it. Your artwork is gorgeous and I really enjoy your blog. This one especially hits home for me. It is a constant struggle sometimes to achieve what we want in our paintings. Knowing when to stop and to realize when going further will either ruin what we have ,or possibly take it to the next level is a constant battle for me. Thank you for your inspiration and your insight!
it is a constant battle for sure….keep up the good fight!
You’ve You are “Bionic Woman”. Dont you forget it. Been there.
Speaking of older folks, I’ll be 80 (sure don’t feel and act like it) on my next birthday in November, so I’m not “with it” like, maybe someone as young as you. But I have no idea what pilates are? Can you please explain so I can be “with it.” Do I want to be? Don’t know yet.
By the way Christine, your blogs are very interesting and educational…and from the heart, I’m sure.
hi. Pilates is a form of torturous exercise to get in shape very similar to yoga but on steroids. and 80? You sure don’t act like it!
See, I knew exercise was a work of the devil! Lol! I think most artist struggle— it’s like putting your soul on paper or canvas!
agreed. to both!
Wow! As artists, we have all been there! But I have never heard it explained so beautifully landscaped precisely. Thank you, Christine for this post and for sharing your life and deep thoughts with us!
Great story and I’m glad your are well. I’m a retired RN. I did community health care and one day a long time ago I was in a woman’s home taking her blood work. She had notoriously awful veins and every week we’d be in there poking her and struggling. This time I hit it perfectly; she replied ‘wow you were lucky’ and I quipped back ‘that’s not luck, that’s skill!’ I delivered the blood to the lab and carried on seeing other patients. I arrived back at my office at the end of the day to find a note from the lab. They’d accidentally dropped the tube of blood on the floor and smashed it. Would I please go back and get another one. I never boasted about my luck again!
ha! yes the universe is watching……