Category Archives: Art

Of Various and Sundry Tragedies

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Artful Blasphemy has been eating up a lot of my time, but so have stress, sorrow and anxiety. 

EDS News:

I saw the Physiatrist last week, and he felt that my shoulder is impinged. We discussed, pretty thoroughly, my concerns about steroid injections, and he felt that it would only take one shot to fix it. So I agreed. So far, it is sore, and I’ve postponed trying to sleep on that side because I’m not ready to deal with the possibility of this treatment failing. He also wanted to try Effexor, which he said some people who do badly on Cymbalta can tolerate, and some can’t. I started it Thursday night, and I feel a little clenchy, and a little weird, and I can’t decide if it’s the drug or if I’m just paranoid due to so many paradoxical responses. Being stuck in mental debate is always fun. 

That afternoon my back spasmed horribly, and I had to go home and ice my shoulder while soaking my back in a hot bath and crying over the perfect storm of awful that has struck my life this past week.  

Work: 

Since my new department chair gave my co-worker more power, she has become impossible to work with–and this while she thinks things are going great (why wouldn’t she?). She countermands me, invalidates me and yet needs me or else she can’t do her own job. She barges into fittings, snatching them from my hands and announcing to students, “Everyone does this WRONG, nobody understands this.” Were I to confront her, she would suddenly “not remember” doing that. I’ve been down this road before with her. I’ve reached the point where I hate her, I am miserable at work, and I fantasize that I will, at some point, simply put down my scissors and walk away, never to return. 

I have to somehow deal with all of that while I am in pain, icing my shoulder, nursing my back, and appearing to be graceful and resilient. I don’t feel like I am either, but maybe I was meant for the stage after all. 

Life: 

My mother has dated a man for two and half years, whom I liked. She has been so very, very happy–they travel, they shop, they have fun together. Until last week, when apparently she found out that he had hidden something from her that was an absolute deal-breaker. I have been utterly heartbroken for her; I cannot fathom the pain she is in and would do anything for her to not have it. I was so happy that she had love and joy in her life, and I feel really bitterly about this man turning out to be someone he said he wasn’t. My poor, poor mom, you know? 

More Life: 

Many of you with chronic pain know that sometimes a pet is the very best pain medication there is. We found out this week that my soul-mate dog has a cancerous tumor in her leg that is inoperable because of where it is. I am completely unprepared to lose this dog. We have the option of amputating the leg and hoping it hasn’t spread, but she has arthritis in her back and slight dysplasia so we are not sure if she can handle only one hind leg. I have no intention of making her suffer because I can’t let go, but I also feel unable to cope with losing her. It’s a really hard decision, and instead of making it I’ve just broken all the rules and let her sleep in our bed each night. I am too emotionally reliant on her, yet I must make a really painful decision on her behalf that she won’t understand. 

So it’s fitting that Artful Blasphemy just started the first edition of “I Hate Sundays” because it’s Sunday, it’s not even 9:00 am, and I am just suffused with dread about going back to work tomorrow. Perfect. 

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On Limitations

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I will have logged something like 50 hours by around 9:30 tonight, when I will be done seeing the show that opens tomorrow for the fourth–and not final–time this week. It’s not that it is the worst show ever or anything (I am looking at you, West Highland Way), but I think the only thing I watch more than four or five times is Firefly. I am exceptionally tired, and tonight’s viewing is an extra. Normally I don’t attend the preview performance, which is a sort of dress rehearsal with an audience, but we are apparently trying this idea of talk backs in conjunction with preview and our director (you may remember the Retarded Child Emperor) wants me to attend. I find this amusing, and hope that at some point his blood suddenly runs cold when he realizes that he has now taken the risk that I will mention, in public, to an audience, that he fired me from the creative team during the production process.

Imagining revenge keeps me alive, it does.

Prior to coming home, I went with a work study to pull from our stock for the show I am designing this semester, Frankenstein. Stock, for us, is like a nearly 2000 square foot closet full of amazing clothes, hats, accessories and more. It’s a candy store for kids like me, and it’s all, sort of, MINE. It’s also gotten increasingly hard. Five years ago I was a gazelle leaping among racks and boxes, climbing stepladders and hauling things about. Shoving clothes to the side to look at a suit, hefting several items at once up and down, carrying boxes and armloads with no worries. Now, everything I hoist is a choice that is painful and tiring then, and painful and tiring later, too. I keep a 20 year old stationed nearby, but let’s face it, I can’t stick my arms into theirs and make them move through it the way I want. I can have her carry everything I’ve chosen to my car, but I’m the one who spots the right suit and pulls it off the rack to measure it and put it on the rack of things I wish to use.

My shoulders, wrists and ankles will wish to converse with me about this activity for hours tonight. It’s something I used to love doing–the thrill of the chase, looking at amazing pieces of clothing, re-acquainting myself with favorites that we own and that we’ve built. Now it’s an endurance test, and an exercise in helplessness. All of that would probably be okay, if I were home for good now, instead of planning dinner and waiting to go to the show. It might even be okay if I were going to the show, but not going tomorrow, for opening night. But, right now, I hold two tickets to a sold out show, and I always go to opening night.

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In other news, I had the last visit with the Shrink on Monday. It was suitably awkward. At the end I stood up to go and she followed me as she does and then she asked if we might hug, which we did, and then I inwardly berated myself for failing to hug in the first place and realized I had already broken the agreement that I was going to carry out of that session a new dedication to not making myself feel stupid. I’m the dog who eats the obedience school certificate of completion and then pees on the rug.

I have made an appointment with the new shrink, but find myself resistant. I am loathe to start all over again. I don’t care for her intake form that is very focused on how much I drink and do I ever think I should stop and how much, really, do I drink? Too much, madam, that is the answer. Who doesn’t question even decisions they are (mostly) okay with? Get out of my head already. I feel like her form is seeking problems and I am not seeking therapy because I drink too much or something like that, I am seeking outside support as I deal with a permanent, un-treatable, degenerative, chronic-pain condition. It’s going to be what it’s going to be, I just need to dump some of it on someone-not-my-spouse.

I wish to be greeted as equal, is what it comes down to.

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My PCP had me get x-rays of my hands, neck and shoulder last week. On Monday his mother (also the office manager and yes, you do see where this is going, don’t you?) called to give me my results. She gave them to my voicemail, and said that everything was “fine.” “It’s fine, Gwen, just fine. Let’s see (crinkling paper sounds) your neck has a little bit of degenerative process and your hands are fine except for some degenerative process–that’s just arthritis, hon–and your shoulder is normal.”

Um.

Do you know how many “Not Okay” wands I break in a single week? I have to hit so many people so many times, I go through them like water. Also, it’s not long enough to reach all the way through the voicemail and the cell tower to find his mother with her diet Coke and smack her nose. I texted him the next day about the veritable not okayness and he said he’s called me.

No, of course he hasn’t. And tonight I have to go to the show, with my aching (yet normal!) shoulder and my aching (but mostly okay!) hands, and my wrists which we’ve never looked at and my ankles that look like I retired from a lucrative pro-football career. Where, after watching a show wherein I spend a huge amount of time feeling bad for the rabbit, I need to try not to tell the audience that the retarded child emperor (with a beard like a Monty Python lumberjack) fired me from his stupid project.

Dizzying

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I’ve had several break-throughs this past week or so, and it’s almost like I fell into a rabbit hole and came out a different version of myself.

  1. I realized that in response to the structure of my family, I chose, at the age of six, to be the person who would be perfect, and who would make everything okay for everyone. Did you make a decision that hurt my feelings? I won’t tell you, it would make you uncomfortable, it’s okay. Do you have inadequate social skills and monopolize conversations? It’s okay, I will suffer through rather than call you on it. There are a million examples, and I’m in the process of setting myself free. It’s scary but also liberating when say, I’m on the phone with my MIL and she is detailing the various possible locations of the dining table in RVs and I think, “It is not my problem that you are inept at conversation.” OMG IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. I interrupt the moment she takes a breath, tell her the things that I think are news on our end, tell her that we are thinking of her and that breakfast is ready so I must go. I’m not, ever again, sitting down to a cold meal because someone wanted to tell me how the weather has been everyday this month.
  2. I read this post and saw myself therein. I need to pace myself on a long term basis. This means that my activity level should not spike and bottom out, but remain more constant. I can’t push myself to the edge anymore. At least as much as it is possible–working in theater this over-activity business is kind of “how we do things ’round here.” This is difficult, because it means letting go of the “maybe that was the last flare up” mindset. This is a permanent condition. So easy to write, yet so very difficult to accept.

A result of examining both my people-pleasing at the expense of my own happiness and my tendency to over-activity–both of which are things that hurt rather than help–I did something really out of character. I had a thought, “It would be so cool if I could afford to have an assistant in my studio, even a few hours a week, to do some of the stuff I can’t do, but also stuff I don’t want to do because it takes away from the number of spoons I have to do the things only I can do.” This was followed by the realization that having done away with massage, I am saving nearly $400 a month. I CAN afford to hire an assistant, at $10 an hour, for four or five hours a week. So, I did.

I’m panicking a little now, because this is tremendously new territory for me. My assistant starts Friday, and my goal yesterday was to start a list of what she can do for me. I choked, man. I sat in my messy, chaotic studio and couldn’t figure out what to have her do–because, as I told her when I interviewed her, I am not entirely sure what this will look like. It’s hard to give up control of my creative space in any way, and hard to direct an able-bodied person to do things for me. She completely understood that, and now I am trying to fully understand that, and figure out a list of things for Friday. It’s much harder than it seems, because there’s a lot going on underneath the surface in terms of my own acceptance of my condition and limitations.

I am sure I will make it through, I am sure I am doing the right thing for myself and I know it’s okay to feel like I’m embarking on a trip with no itinerary. We’ll get to the destination we need to get to–we won’t be left floating about the ocean with no sail. Fingers crossed.

Where Have I Been? Nowhere, Just Here.

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Broken Ankle Update:

No invasive surgery required. Instead, they did a “closed reduction,” meaning they knocked the child out with general and manipulated the bones into place (note: you must be very strong to be an orthopedic surgeon) and put him in a long cast. The “long cast” goes above the knee so that he can’t move the tibia at all. It sucks in terms of mobility since he can’t bend his knee. That cast stays on for three weeks, then a short cast for four weeks, then a boot, then physical therapy.

Vacation Update:

See above. No vacation.

Art Update:

I have decided to pitch an adult coloring book to a publisher, so I’m working like crazy on that and forcing out all insecure thoughts. If I can’t get published that way, I will self-publish. I think I am onto something here, and it’s an exciting prospect.

Sewing Update:

Still sewing, but nothing too interesting right now. I need a good camera so I can actually take professional looking photos of my work instead of crappy photos on my phone or iPad.

EDS Update:

Christ on a cracker, it sucks.

1. Massage has stopped helping. I’ve been trying to avoid voicing this reality, since it means I no longer have anything for managing pain. That’s a really unpleasant place to find oneself. But, for $95 a week I should be feeling relief for at least a few days afterward, and I’m not. Sometimes I feel worse. I have to figure out how to man up and tell my therapist this, since I like her a lot and it’s not her fault but I do have to stop throwing money away.

2. About two weeks ago my left thumb chose to lose about 30% of my pinch and grasp ability. I can’t lift anything of weight (like a plate of dinner) with either hand if the weight is mostly to go to my thumb. I feel like I have silly paddle hands as I try to work around this, and it’s painful. I can’t have my CMC joints fused unless I am ready to quit my job and possibly lose the dexterity I need to sew and draw. Which is sort of the same as saying I have to give up oxygen. So I’m stuck.

3. My shoulders are worse again, and I cannot under any circumstances sleep on my right side. I wake up around 2:00 am every morning because I am in pain, and it can take up to two hours to get back to sleep. Sometimes I can be sitting at the table talking to someone and a third of my brain is occupied with how much it hurts to just deal with the weight of my shoulders hanging off my neck.

4. My back is verily fucked up and hurts all the time. I have two degenerated discs in the lower back (L4 and L5) and what I probably really need is to get a chiropractic adjustment. But, that is problematic for EDS, and so I have mostly given up on it at this point. My last stab at that was my PCP putting my upper rib back in place and it popped right the hell back out within hours, so that was a wash.

5. 80% of the time, or more, I can deal with my level of daily pain. Sometimes, though, it just seems like it is far more than a person should be asked to deal with, and I have a day or days of feeling really angry and frustrated and sad about being in pain every single damn day. Which is why it’s hard to give up massage. This weekend is one of those points where I’ve had it with my body and my discomfort and there’s going to be a pity party. Which is not a party I can even enjoy.

Overall Update:

Ugh, except for art, which is good.

A Cloudy Morning

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One of my chief pleasures in the summer is listening to (and watching) the endless hummingbird war over the feeder. This morning it is cloudy and raining, so the windows are open and I can hear all the little Jetsons sounds they make as they chase each other away from a feeder that contains enough food to support the entire backyard colony. Yet, it’s not good if there’s enough—I guess hummingbirds are capitalists at heart.

Lately I get up and check my blood pressure, my husband brings me coffee (we have a running joke/dialogue around that:he says, “I brought you something” and I say “AND some coffee?” and he says “Careful, it’s hot.” and I say, “So’s the coffee.” this is the secret to marriage—regular, prescribed dialogue. Or someone to bring you coffee, idk which) and I start soaking two tablespoons of chia seeds in either water or, this week, dark chocolate cashew milk. I am struggling with the Propanolol; even though the dose is very low, I think it is causing some shortness of breath (it’s known to aggravate asthma) and, I suspect, greater heart irregularities. Also, they aren’t kidding about it making dreams weird. I’ve had nightmares and long, strange dreams that are very intense.

On the flip side, it seems to prime my sleep switch without making me drowsy; it’s like I just go to sleep like a normal person might. I faintly remember the days of simply lying down to go to sleep, and it’s like a fairy tale. More often than not, I wake in the morning to a still full glass of wine (which I then return through a funnel to the bottle, yes I am cheap), which is a congratulatory event instead of my usual initial thoughts of guilt and self-loathing. It’s different….

I’m trying to be good about taking vitamins, so once I eat the slightly jelly, faintly gritty chia seed/cashew milk potion, I take eye vitamins, vitamin D, two Glucosamin Chondrotin and a probiotic. This chia seed business has resulted in the closest thing to normal gut function I’ve had in, oh, years. Gritty or not, slimy or not, I’m committed. The cashew milk will not have a second shot at breakfast, though, because it’s fairly gross–when this carton is gone, we will say goodbye. Too thin to be milk, too thick to be juice….no me gusta.

Last 4th of July weekend I was crashing off of Xanax, plunging into serotonin syndrome with Cymbalta, and texting my PCP as I clenched my teeth, cried, and couldn’t sit still. This year I’m just a little short of breath and floaty feeling, along with odd heart rhythms. This, then, is an improvement. Clearly my orthostatic/autonomic disorders are affected by hot weather. Hence my happiness about the rain, even though it may kill the whole fireworks option. The red and white fireworks tent in the field behind our house charms me with its circus implications during the day and annoys us with its intrusive lighting at night.

Yesterday’s drawing:

07 02 2015

It’s whimsical. The child criticized it, “What’s with her feet? Is she an amputee? Wait, why are you mad?” I pointed out, testily, that the whole point of this daily drawing exercise is to suspend judgement–mine or other people’s. Or, maybe it’s about at least being tough enough to resist the needling of a 13 year old. There’s the challenge.

Skirting the Edge

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More drawings.

6 30 2015

Then:

07 01 2015

Then:

07 01 2015 a

Here’s where I went awry, because I started thinking about audience. I got a lot of positive feedback on the first one with these two women, so then they wanted to say more so I drew this one. But then I loved it even though it felt unfinished….so I colored it:

07 02 2015 color

Meh. It lost depth in photography/editing, which is always true. I also don’t like the tooth of the paper I am using–and it’s not what I normally use when I color and complete a drawing. This stuff is a cheap drawing paper, and most of my work is finished on a vellum-finish bristol board–so it’s a lot smoother. I wanted a sort of sensual, private moment versus the more public, circus/audience sense I get from the first drawing with the striped costumes. It’s not pleasing to me at the moment.

See? Too much thinking–that’s not the point of the exercise.

Onward.

Drawing Board

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I learned to sew as an adult and as a result I carry no hang-ups about it. I don’t worry that I’m not good enough or that I’m doing it “wrong” or wasting my time. My father started trying to teach me drawing when I was six. He started with vanishing point perspective.

It was all downhill from there.

I internalized all kinds of criticism and hang ups and insecurities about drawing. I’ve talked about a lot of that already here, so it’s not necessary to rehash it. As aware as I am, though, of how wrong most of those notions are, I am still constrained by it. So, this summer, in between major medical bullshit and the like, I’m doing some drawing. Just drawing, just whatever I want, no rules.

Here’s the first three:

6 22 2015 6 24 2015 6 25 2015

I like them–and that’s the only thing that matters.

What Time Off?

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I was asked to make a Day of the Dead-themed Victorian walking suit for a show that will spend two years traveling to various museums. For the first time in my artistic life, I have not only failed to submit my piece early, I have missed the initial deadlines. Inspiration showed up late in this case, but I think it was worth it. Initially I made a Victorian-esque skirt from some of my extensive collection of Our Lady of Guadalupe fabrics. Then it all ground to halt. Digging around in a cedar chest filled with -Ray’s things for a class I was teaching on the topic of DIY-clothing (upcycling, transforming, etc) I found a jacket that I had made for her from two vintage blouses that featured an appliqued skull on the back.

In looking at that, and some other things I had made for her, I realized I was ready to let these things out of the silent tomb of the cedar chest. I wanted to transform them, then release the back into the world. I took the tshirt she sent me with the logo of their band, which I designed, and cut the logo out, hand colored it, and hand appliqued it onto the skull jacket:

Victorian Altar Process 1Victorian Altar Process 2Victorian Altar Process 3

Then I appliqued elements from a gorgeous quilter cotton that was full of Mexican folk symbols (and some skull fabric leftover from my purse-making days) as well as drawing root elements by hand with alcohol-based markers and a Tee Juice marker.

Victorian Altar Process 5Victorian Altar Process 4

Next, I drew in a cat skull with bony wing elements and painted them gold.

Victorian Altar Process 7

Then I decided that everything needed embroidery. Everything.

Victorian Altar Process 8Victorian Altar Process 9Victorian Altar Process 10Victorian Altar Process 11

Next  came the bustle. I used as the bottom layer a capelet I had made for -Ray from a vintage apron, that included hand made flowers and a portrait I drew of her sewn into the pocket. Over that are layers of a vintage linen with crocheted corners, and the top layer is a rotten Victorian collar. For height I made two sort of bum rolls out of related fabrics. Then I drew, appliqued, embroidered and painted everything.

Victorian Altar Process 13Victorian Altar Process 14

I will save the rest of the photos for a second post.

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Since that’s not enough to do, I am also volunteering as the Costume Designer for a production of Chicago that a good friend and co-worker is co-directing. The concept is that the show is being put on by a group of convicts in a modern-day women’s prison (shades of OITNB). Thus, they are all dressed in gray prison clothing which the actors have to try to make look sexy without a lot of options to remake things. If you doubt this possibility, think back to being in high school and shortening your skirt by rolling the waistband after you went to school, or tying your shirt so that some midriff showed. It’s working quite well. Also, though, a lot of their costume elements need to look like they made them from a limited amount of available materials, so I have now gotten very good at making fedoras and boaters that look like they are made from food wrappers and boxes:

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There’s also a derby hat covered in Dum-Dum wrappers for Amos as well as a bow tie and lapel flower of the same. The third boater, not pictured, is a Cheese-Its theme.

We go into Tech this week, and then, possibly, I will reclaim my summer break and actually get to relax and enjoy some of it.

Famous last words, that.