Artists of all kinds have the collective reputation for being a bit self absorbed by the rest of the world. We sacrifice money, time, stability, and most of all according to the non-artists in my life at times- our relationships for our art.
The past two years of my life I have come to know firsthand that isn’t true in the grandest of possible ways.
In the Fall of 2009, I passed a colonoscopy and mammogram with flying colors. My yearly thyroid check was the same- somewhere on the brink of hyper but I could put off treating it again. Those are the test results I always dread and having another year or two of being free and clear had me walking into my yearly GYN appointment with complete confidence I could check some of the most unpleasant maintenance appointments off my list.
Looking back I now realize why we should really stop worrying about most of the things we do. Unlike what the people whispering secrets in the faux guru world would have us believe, it’s never the things you fear that come to you and knock you down.
It’s those you never even see coming.
“How long has this lesion been here?” is not a question you want your GYN to ask you. Nor is it one you could even adequately answer unless you practice yoga in the shower.
With a mirror.
I had no idea when the growth had started other than she hadn’t noticed anything the fall before. It could have been weeks and terribly fast growing, or have been there since last October. I wasn’t sure which was preferred at that point. And like most patients who are hit with news there’s a toxic and potential threat on their body I asked her no questions, set up the excision and biopsy and went home to do my own research.
I have to say knowledge may be power, but in many cases with such diagnoses, God damn the internet. I had about a month to research, to worry, to realize that even with her having told me something was there that all the yoga and mirrors in the world wouldn’t have made a difference if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
I didn’t share this with many people pre-surgery. Why worry them? Why let them know I was worried? I took the approach I have on many a health crisis from the past- pretend it’s nothing and it will be so. It usually doesn’t work by the way. It didn’t this time either.
Somewhere in the midst of painful procedures, path reports, and adding a new specialist to my roster I became closer to (or further from depending on the comfort level of those reading) my Facebook friends-a lot of whom I only knew peripherally through the budding Arts District in Canton. And if the internet be damned for too much (mis) information at times, God bless it for its ability to connect those sitting on a couch in their living room in too much pain to leave the house and scared out of their wits about their health.
There’s another reason I was reaching out online, though I wasn’t aware of it due to the distractions of my health. As things progressed from Fall to Winter, I could feel that I was in fact dealing with this crisis alone despite being surrounded by a household of people. My kids were too young to be burdened with it, though they were old enough to share a little of what was happening and why I wasn’t able to do much for them for a few weeks. But my husband wasn’t there- at least figuratively. I made and received lots of valid sounding reasons for this, such as it was a scary thing and some people deal with that by withdrawing from it. That sounded good and I went with that. However over the next few months it became apparent that something else was wrong. I wouldn’t fully grasp how alone I was for another month or more, nor how alone I would come to feel in so many ways for the next few years.
On December 28th, 2009 I typed a status update to reflect being made privy that what I was feeling was in fact a unilateral decision to end my marriage. Oh- and it wasn’t mine.
That evening my Facebook status simply read…
I won’t tell you what my sister or niece had to say about it on someone else’s wall, but my nuclear family rocks. Just sayin’.
What I hadn’t considered was that those who had been following along so closely with my health concerns would interpret this as something far scarier than it was-for them I mean. Because for me it was far scarier than anything my health could muster up to distract me.
I refrained from posting details of course. I was still hopeful this was simply a case of temporary insanity. It was not.
Temporary at least.
The next Friday was First Friday. The theme was Fire and Ice (hmmm...) I wanted to go. I wanted to stay home and pull a blanket over my head too. But I had been doing that for months already and needed to breathe.
I didn’t know the artists at the Galleries of 2nd April that well, just the owners, Todd and Brennis. I always collected hugs from them on First Fridays. I like to think I’m the only one, but I’m not. It’s ok though. In this case I don’t mind sharing them. I couldn't keep them to myself even if I tried. These two guys are truly the heart of the Arts District here. But more on them later.
As I walked into the gallery I saw an attorney friend I know through theatre and was met with such a simple yet loaded question when one's life has been flipped to black and white...before and after.
"How are you!"
I filled him in. He hugged me and tried to reassure me the way so many people do when they know that words cannot contain enough love and support. I asked him if he knew the attorney I had called and made an appointment with the day before and was entirely reassured.
“I think you’re in good hands. I know the prosecutors don’t like to see him walk in with a client. He’s that thorough.”
Now that’s my favorite kind of reference- who’s the guy people don’t want to see walking to the other table in court? That's my guy.
Then he pointed and said, “Well-hey! There he is now!”
And so I turned and was introduced to one of two professionals who would champion me for the next few years. All I recall was that he was extremely tall and politely said hi as though he had any clue I had talked to him the day before on the phone. He then he walked off to catch up with his family. This was one of the first tiny suggestions that I could ever come back to the feeling that my life made some sort of sense over all- that I could start to believe that coincidences were not just that in other-wise hostile Universe. It seemed less intimidating to sit down with him the next week having at least seen him and met him in person already. And this 1.5 years later I find it highly apropos that it occurred in the Gallery that has in many ways become my second home and second life post ...well...haste I suppose.
What I remember most about that night was it was the first time I laughed-at myself, at my situation, and at my friend Todd.
I walked up to the counter for my hug, and was met by Todd whose expression turned from joyful to very serious when he saw me.
He leaned across the counter, lowered his voice and asked “What’s going on? I saw your status on Facebook…is it your health?”
I whispered six words, as though not saying them very loud would make them not true- the way people whisper the word “cancer.”
Then the hug came.
And the tears.
And with the most serious expression of sincerity the following question.
“You want me to break his knee caps?”
Now you have to know Todd perhaps to get why this is insanely funny. And let’s just say that the personality of he whose knee caps were in question makes it more so. I informed him of a past history of Military Academy meets Armor division and like any respectable artistic person he had to withdraw the offer with, “Oh well…shit. Guess not then. But I would have you know.” And then he smiled and winked and grabbed Brennis who was mid-transaction and not at all paying attention to our conversation.
“Take Brennis!" He joyfully exclaimed.
"You can have him! He doesn’t cook or anything and is kind of a pain sometimes, but well…he’s yours if it helps!”
And Brennis looked at him like he was crazy for just a second, then shrugged, then said, “Ok” while smiling that huge Brennis smile. Then he hugged me too.
And I laughed (a little.) And fell in love with both of them (a lot.)
I have spent the past 1.5 years rebuilding my life piece by peace. I still follow up with that specialist along with several others and have been more than blessed with the professionals that have come my way to champion my cause.
But the most profound healing that has taken place, is in and around the community which inhabits that gallery on a daily basis. My family shrank in some highly painful ways, but has multiplied in others too lovely to even comprehend.
This week I was reminded of just how incredible this family of Artists is. And why I am one of them. Really. They actually let me in. And seem to want to keep me. ;)
A few weeks ago Brennis had his own health crisis- half of the duo which is in fact the heart of the Arts District needs to heal his own heart. And Todd needs to be carried as he cares for Brennis.
This extended family has stepped up in the most amazing way- everything from hospital care packages to covering time at the Gallery so it can stay open, to planning benefits to help financially. One big heart of a family beating together to help one of its own (who just happens to have the biggest heart of anyone I have ever had the privilege to meet.)
So if you’re reading…
Stop into the Gallery called 2nd April in person or online. I’ll be there several times working the register myself. Drop them a kind word or make a purchase to support them.
And most of all...thanks for reading, for watching, for listening to and supporting your local artists. We are all so very blessed to be among them.