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Lately, I've been corresponding with an artist who was in an accident and suffered a major brain injury. Not too long ago, Brian published a newsletter about artists with disabilities. When these kinds of coincidences happen, I've learned to pay attention.
The correspondence started because the artist was having trouble doing her art now. I understand because a few years ago I developed a vascular disorder that results in mini-strokes and occasionally major ones, with all the brain damage that goes with that: motor control issues, memory problems, speech difficulties, balance, vision, mood swings. And about 6 months ago, I had a detaching retina just to keep things interesting.
I remember very clearly how terrified I was to try to draw after I began to recover from that first major stroke. It felt so unfamiliar (and I'd been dedicated to making art since I was 9 years old - quite a long time ago). I was afraid I wouldn't know how to do the thing I loved most in life. Then I remembered what I'd already been through and survived - a truly horrible childhood, a violent first marriage, falling into a bottle to drown my misery, finding and losing the love of my life to cancer, losing my ability to earn a living due to disability and then losing our beloved farm to financial hardship. And every single awful thing that happened turned out OK. Hmmm.
As the blackness of fear started to recede, I became willing to remember the blessings that came out of those "disasters". My family managed to instill a love of learning in me, I solidified my commitment to my art during that first marriage, I found peace and serenity through recovery from addiction, I learned to be an example of survival to others who have lost love, being disabled has really freed up time to be able to make art and do my needlecraft hobby, losing the farm meant I was able to sell it to wonderful people who have brought it to life as an ecologically positive natural food operation. Gratitude began to reappear.
So, after a couple of months, I picked up my pencils and brushes and started in. Gorilla hands at first. Eyestrain. Headaches. Extreme fatigue. Tears. And then again. Several times. Slowly but surely, I could see improvement and to my amazement, it all came back and more. I still have limited studio time before my eyes give out and I can't focus enough to even read print, let alone draw, but after 3 years it's a lot better and it's always improving. I still can't walk through a grocery store, but that's why they have those little go-carts (look out for the crazy woman zooming around the aisle displays!). Working on the internet marketing process was really intimidating because I wasn't sure I could learn entirely new complex skills, so I started here at FASO and found that it was much easier than I thought it would be. I can sit on my drafting stool without getting seasick. I'm actually having fun again!
All because I was willing to let in the awareness that no matter what has happened, there has always been something positive somewhere in the mix. And the knowledge that I can choose to pay attention to the blessings or to the misery. It's my choice. I choose gratitude and joy.
My disabilities prevent me from hanging shows or fairs or gallery involvement (openings and receptions are just too much for me), but while I was out there in the bricks and mortar art world, the Internet came along. So now my galleries are digital ones. And my "shows" are international (I have fans in Germany and Hong Kong - who knew?!)
Life is an amazing ride as long as we're willing to get on the train and see where it's heading. Have a great trip - I am!
Editor's Note: You can view Linda's original post here.