I have spent quite a lot of time looking at clouds recently.
Either through a doorway at dawn or at dusk when the spectacular paint box of colours and shapes sploshes across our patch of sky. Or sometimes from the inside of a wheelchair as I get trundled on a too- far- to-walk-path or as passenger in the car, I have been awestruck by the never ending capacity for the fabulousness of clouds.
Fluffy snowy cloud mountains hovering on the rooftops of the town, volcanic explosions backlighting the gloom of greys creating clouds of such density you surely must be able to ride on one. Dramatic inky washes, Turneresque pastel streaks of wonder, explosive fiery bursts splitting their intense vibrant blue canvas. We paint the skies with our eyes.
I’ve always loved skies, like gazing at the sea, their vastness make us feel tiny, our thoughts less important. Ironically being mindfull makes our minds less crammed full of clutter.
Watching the clouds pass through the sky I focused on my breath. It hurt to breathe. The week before quite suddenly I hadn’t been able to. After a week of feeling quite strange, a day in A and E, and an extra unexpected ambulance call out, it turned out there was a problem with my lungs. It looks like it was a blood clot. It was extremely painful and frightening.
Quite literally all there was to do was put one moment in front of the next, trust and focus on my breath. It hurt to laugh, to bend down and especially to breathe in cold air. Several times I almost blacked out going outside. In these moments we cling to those we love and the skills we’ve gathered . And trust that we know it is temporary.
I have been reminded.
As someone who is limited by mobility, I use my time and energy differently to a lot of other people. Rising early, using that burst of energy, keeping extra warm, scouting for disabled parking spaces close to the shops or the beach. But it is the world we are used to. Accepting new levels of limitations is another layer of challenge. Accepting even more help is even harder.
But like the skies that change, so too do our needs and our strengths. When there is no choice but to come fully home to ourselves we find we had been patiently there all along. And no amount of illness changes who we are.
These last few months have been ( again) fairly isolating. In a time where nothing is permanent, it can be tricky to hold onto the walls. Your feet need to be firmly on the ground at least somewhere, even if it is just a springboard to travel from and to return to , Staying true to yourself without any of your belongings, with your normal clothes or reference materials with books or tools and equipment; creates an opportunity to pare back to who and what is most important in your life.
After the start of the year, crammed full of community events and time with friends, choirs and art groups in Scotland, these last six months have felt frustrating; of time moving slowly, or time not being filled with our planned version of events. But when time is standing still second by second, we are offered a revitalised appreciation of having achieved in both large and small ways.
Take a breath
It was a summer of getting to know the area, enjoying the warmth and indulging in the odd treat here and there!
Autumn sauntered in with her rich fruity tones.
The zoo continued their daily antics. Bumble and Bonnie the guinea pigs, Max and Molly the cats and Horace the flat-coat retriever. Bear is now living somewhere new with more space and freedom to be his wild self. We will always love you Bear x
A few months shuffling about in one small chalet….
To a larger one …
The girl grew as they are wont to do…
And much Art and Poetry was made
Keeping up with friends by post has been invaluable. Online classes and weekly galleries can be seen on seasparkle.org.
Once a week office space waiting for the laundry!
Remembering every day what makes us happy, even if we have to wait a while…
Sudden illness, a change of direction, a change of pace throws us, We expect it all to be back how it was. But life can’t ever stay the same.
No matter what that looks like for each of us
It can be cathartic to become unwell somehow. I don’t say that flippantly, and I can only speak from my own experience and those who I have spoken with.. But, occasionally we are blessed with an opportunity to gain insight into what is real and what is snake oil.
Unable to catch that last bit of breath, a series of strange little coincidences balanced the universe again. There was a peaceful inevitablity. I just had to not laugh too much. It hurt.
Maybe, the universe took over?
I can breathe a little easier now. Yesterday my daughter made me a delicious dinner, after my first foray out in town walking a few hundred yards. We shared her cheesy chips. We were simply in the day.
It is time to get cosy
Tomorrow will happen regardless
There will always be clouds.
We must just look up.
Have A Fabulous Christmas, stay warm, stay positive and stay in touch
Thankyou to all my readers for your kind comments and support this year. Here is a mini gallery of recent illustration work. As most of you know, we are mid relocation so this has been a calming constant in an ever evolving world!
As ever, inspiration is always better amongst friends.
Since I can remember I have had a feeling that the universe can contract and expand on the turn of a card, a moment’s fortune, a wind change.
There are times where everything and anything is possible: the whole whole world is at your fingertips. You can do and be anything . Not simply in this life but beyond in all directions . A deep dive into a connection on a cellular level.
Sometimes the journey is so smooth we wonder what the catch is. Sometimes to simply stand still involves an awful lot of running on the spot. It feels never ending. We wear out many pairs of trainers.
It feels like one stupid challenge after another . It feels like there isn’t enough power left to achieve even a bit if it.
We need to be grounded.
And it can feel almost impossible sometimes, to have patience and faith in who we are.
This is no vanilla life. I have performed to thousands, and felt kinship with something bigger than all of us, lugged boxes of paint to tiny halls and felt something just as awe inspiring in teaching art with incredible people; lived in a 13 room house and been deeply lonely yet created a wonderland of fairy lights in an Edinburgh one bed: travelled the world seeing famous sights yet most gripped with wonder at the tiny hand holding mine after ten years of waiting for my angel to appear. I have seen New York at midnight, soaking up the atmosphere of a jazz club, thinking at the time I’ll be back soon. And then life got in the way. And the big things we think we can choose, aren’t so easy to just hand pick.
There is much I could tell you about the tribulations over the last few years. Of those who didn’t appreciate Artists in a traditional place, of those who use control or try to dull your shine. But this is our happy space, yours and mine; and quite frankly it doesn’t belong here. Thankfully, with our zoo family and belongings in one piece, albeit in storage, back of car or in a selection of tiny boxes; we no longer need to close the curtains mid afternoon, because we held our nerve and travelled quietly to a different universe.
You forget.. all the little things you know, when you are used to functioning in your spot on earth. Places you get food, places you put your rubbish, post your letters, buy your guinea pig hay…Tip the floor a little, slide a few hundred miles and see if the same rules apply, the same shops exist, the same customs surprise, delight or horrify you ! We might all drive on the same side, but I am sure the roads change shape. In a new territory with a co-pilot intermittently checking a snap map and her messages, it was easy the first few days to feel like we were on Mars! .
But there was no doubt it was ever so pretty. ! Once we had figured out how the ferry worked and how to feed everybody the rest sort of fell into place….
A different view around every corner kept us driving that little bit further .. from a quick pit stop at Blackpool sands on the road through Torcross.
Followed by a drive through Kingsbridge and onwards, ever tempted to pull over with another beautiful view…The vista is beginning to open up once more..
Picture perfect Salcombe with its crowded slow squeeze of an arterial main town road to drive you and your car bonkers! Next time we’ll take the private jet. 😉 but the riviera yachts : how like the vintage posters we’ve loved for years!!.
Kingsbridge, Torquay, Paignton and back to Dartmouth; every stop a different energy under a blue sky.
And behind the scenes….
What they didn’t tell you about the old woman who lived in a shoe; was that she was only in fact 19. The shoe was a chalet in Dartmouth and there was so much daily messy zoo funk, that she spent most of her time, carting bin bags in a wheelie bag and cleaning in ever decreasing circles She just looked 100. !!
All along, at every stage; underneath piles of boxes, sleeping on an air bed in my living room, both of us having to whittle our existence down to a teeny percentage of our stuff, our selves, not having anyone apart from our closest friends to tell our plans to, we kept the light on in our dream. Belief and trust were fed; and we smelt the coffee every day.
Doors may open, they may close, cards are dealt. When all is bleak you get more thinking done, or more creating done. You use it for planning or stopping. Nature abhors a vacuum. Once you make a big life change, in it comes; whooshing back in, possibilities, smiles from strangers, new things appear to see and explore. Our movements feel freer, like a holiday us. When I was asked why I wanted to move, my answer was, I needed to be more Liz. For all of us, our surroundings, our climate, our needs are our daily fuel.
Only you can know what makes you happy. (or what doesn’t )
Our feelings become painted over, like layers of armour. Daily pain, tolerating bad behaviour, or sadness or fear. Sadly, we get used to a version of ourselves, we think is us. My daughter and I knew changes were coming.
Change can be scary, but it can and does, gain us friendships, experiences, joy, and love. With a little patience to ride the waves of all this, the card games are exciting and different each time . I sit right now in a not quite knowing what will happen next space. In trust for what we’ve done so far, in what is to come. And that’s alright with me. Doing nothing? No thanks..
If you can see it, you’re a step closer. I am coveting this Moggy we saw , a beautiful very old lady! As some of you know my first car was a Morris Minor , a turquoise police car called Marmalade. One day, if I wish reeeeeeaaaaaalllly hard…!!!
In fairness, I am already pretty happy….
So as the journey continues its path , and as loved ones are missed, art supplies are stored, and classes are on hold; know that there is still eating well, exploring to do, and finally a little freedom to enjoy, fun as well as the frustrations; and with all these eggs being cracked, it’s promising to be one hell of an omelette.. xxx
It was wonderful to have a spot in a Spring craft Fair last month, dusting off the labels and the boxes and showing a range of Art prints, cards, cushions, mugs and brooches.
Storm Arwen took it’s toll on the caravan which now needs a replacement for it’s steampunk metal windows. (which I quite like!) The caravan is too heavy for me . So it has been cleaned up and is now for Sale. Do let me know if you are in the area and fancy a Summer project!
I am delighted to be able to tell you about my upcoming exhibition at Coldingham Village Hall over the next couple of months. The work will be hung over several weeks as events are on in the hall, and will culminate in a private view at the end, where sales can be taken home straight from the wall!
The Art club were asked to make a piece for the Jubilee. I gave each member a different letter to create their own style of Artwork. These were then put together as a collage on board and will be displayed in Coldingham Priory.
It’s been nice to see faces again.
Nobody is an island. Our place remains full.
Artwork was made all winter, along with many poems written. New pieces have come back from the printer to become prints, cards as well as originals.
There was even a little drama. …..
After three years, The people of the Sea Eyemouth project, finally came to fruition and we performed our show, including the film created in lockdown and Artwork made by yours truly.
And here is our art group’s display in a shop window in Coldingham.
We have new plans coming soon, but until then sending you all a big Spring hug x
Many readers will identify with the painful to watch Versus Arthritis adverts on television . Asking viewers to pledge support for those in severe chronic pain. For those suffering a myriad of fatigue inducing symptoms. I imagine these adverts are met with a variety of responses. Each according to life experience. If illness for you has come to mean an easy, specific and named condition, with a sociably acceptable set of treatments, this no-mans land of auto-immune symptoms will make no sense. Those of you with friends or relatives who have arthritis , may become interested, hoping to gain insight and understanding.
Perhaps you are untouched as yet, and believe the afflicted to be exaggerating. Perhaps you feel a few twinges and you have already begun to feel less mobile, a little weaker, and not so certain your g.p. understands your needs. How much worse does it get? What happens then?
And for those affected personally with a degenerative condition, a body that is consistently affected by weather, a slave to daily fatigue and is aging years too early; maybe your heart breaks just a little bit to see that pain, because you know it yourself and live through it every day.
Living with disease and pain is exhausting. And debilitating in more ways than just your illness.
Bad enough are the daily rituals of pain-easing strategies and positive, life affirming reminders on the fridge, when you can’t now reach the bottom shelf, but sometimes more crippling is the lack of understanding by many employers, friends, colleagues and even family of how to live with and even love with the cards you’ve been dealt .
Unfortunately, it is often those closest to you who can lack belief in the validity of your pain, or why you can’t join in family activities. Employers might lack the understanding of how to incorporate chronic pain into a hard working professional’s life, and therefore write them off as lazy or ‘milking the system’.
A lack of effective financial support, twinned with a lack of information to guide the affected in the workplace, can create a lack of respect for our still beautiful and resourceful bodies and imaginative minds that still desperately want and can give something valuable to the world.
Do you tell ?
Ironically I often see people desperately trying to prove themselves still able, by achieving double the output of creativity, in half the useable time of an average person; before weariness once again steals their daylight hours.
And although we educate our children in schools, in a plethora of differentiated ways, owning our healthcare needs as valued adults seems to be a different matter. In my classroom for example, a movable trolley with wheels, spaces between desks to navigate my sticks, an ergonomic chair and access to the lift would have saved my early retirement .
Without support to maintain a normal work/life balance and earn a competitive salary, those with a chronic condition are often forced to rely on disability payments or p.i.p.
This does two things. It labels people as permanently unwell, and keeps them in a state of limbo. As an ‘ill’ person , they might feel highlighted under their disability or condition before they are themselves, their old, ‘professional’ self . It can be incredibly difficult to convince the world out there ( and ourselves) that you can be both a, suffering from a degenerative condition and b, you still want to be, or are able to be the same or even better version of YOU.
The second thing that disability payments (or the equivalent) can do, is to minimise the quality of creative life you might get to live after your illness. An artist wanting to make money after being struck with a chronic and degenerative condition had better make A LOT of money at once or not at all. Because sometimes, making small amounts can cause more hassle than it is worth. This is of course, ludicrous. As a consequence thousands and thousands of amazing people who still have incredible creativity to offer the world, are stuck. Stuck earning too little to live on with the usable hours of their day or week. Having to declare any profit on a piece which might have taken months at an hour a day and then potentially losing financial support because they might be deemed able to work.
Sadly, sometimes, others are stuck being dependent on caregivers at home who might not be treating them properly, either emotionally or physically because their illness is not taken seriously, or they become stuck in a cycle of believing that because of their illness, their life force has also diminished. As parents our needs often come last on the list. But truly, unless you take decisive action to get as well as you can, your dependents won’t have the best of you, the rest of the time. Your life force is still there . It just needs a nap.
When you feel in pain, are tired and your va va voom has disappeared, it is almost impossible to tell yourself it will be OK. Prepare a box of nice things, a book, whatever food you love, new pj’s etc. Wrap a couple of presents for yourself. When the day gets really rubbish it’s there as a gift. The white knight might come charging, but in the meantime be your own.
When you live with chronic illness, you are often looked over as unsociable or underachieving because you can look well. That is until you move, or bend or try to walk.
For many people it can put an end to their chosen careers or dream path. Not only because their energy has diminished but because others see their failure and think it is best for them that they give up their crazy ideas. At best this might be justified as being for their ‘own good’. If we see pain, we often feel the need to just stop, not continue and give up for an easier life. But sometimes, your continued belief in your dream scares and intimidates people. How can you still have the audacity to do a brave thing in your condition when they haven’t? We know people react out of love or fear. That’s their fear talking. There is no room for a different, braver version of you. And the longer you’ve been ill, the wearier you will be. It wears you down. It takes an enormous amount of resilience to look past your pain, or your illness, the negativity of others and see yourself still sitting there.
Of course, there are other reasons that domestic situations might be difficult. If you need help with more specific issues click on my blog here :
Imagine a kindly hand in yours, telling you please be brave. On the journey through pain management and recreating a new life there are so many blind alleys to go up , promises and pastures new, magic fixes, gurus, and snake oil. Or you could drown in daytime tv and wine, buy new outfits you might wear if you could only bend your arms a bit more. Or like most of us, swing from one extreme to the other, like a giant pendulum until you rest on where you’re meant to be.
In the heart of it all is your key. The only key you need to navigate and know what you need. How to eat, what to wear to be comfortable, what makes you happy, what you have to offer and who you are, You.
On my journey to this page, I have battled heads of teaching departments, g.p’s, psychotic ex husbands, surgeons, solicitors, the weather and less than sympathetic relatives. But the biggest battles have been with the deterioration of a pandoras box of connected diseases- glandular fever, meningitis, arthritis, endometriosis and lupus. All of which have ebbed away at my energy, my career and my ability to live a pain free and operation free life
But. Those battles, the lack, became my drive. For my sense of self as an Artist, a single mother and a human being; I kept putting one foot in front of the other and vowed to create something every day. To that end for ten years since Escaping, I have written 100 blogs posts, ( today is my 7 year Blog Anniversary)❤ written 40 poems, drawn 200 illustrations , taught hundreds of community art groups, supported individuals and groups in the pandemic, completed hundreds of drawings, paintings, prints, cards and products. And I don’t think I’ve even started.
And I have learnt
Our bodies are telling us loudly what we need. Keep moving towards those things. Keep communicate those things to your doctor.
Know your rhythm. Completely be ok with it, even if the rest of your tribe think you are bonkers. Today is Happy day. Happy day is the first day of the year when there is enough sun to be outside for more than five minutes. I’ve waited six months. The cold is my kryptonite and grips my veins until I cry. So I did too much today. And it was worth needing to rest all afternoon. (which is often my rhythm anyway) At least there was Achievement too!
Accept your uniqueness. Having a chronic illness of any kind can feel like a ticket to a club you don’t want to be in. Let those that love you know what it means and concentrate on what you can do.
Accept help without feeling like you are helpless. There are plenty of positive ways to share skills.
Let go of activities taunting you because you can’t do them anymore. Who needs to paint on rice anyway?
Eat your greens, take a shed load of vitamin c and keep warm. Wear lots of thin layers and use heat patches.
Don’t be alone in a world that has become so isolated, but has so much potential. If you are housebound, volunteer as phone befriender for the elderly, find a local group or if you need support in your pain, locate a pain clinic. (These are groups set up to help find ways to manage and understand pain, and meet other people)
Rest. When you need to. My dog and cat now get grumpy if I don’t, as we all pile in a heap together.
Talk to someone if it hurts, if you’re sad, if it’s a bit rubbish. We all need that. And they might need it too.
And obviously, the most important thing is to make some art. Or create, or sew, or cook, or felt, or knit, or grow tomatoes or ANYTHING you can see taking shape outside yourself that expresses joy. Re-wire your brain in this meditative way as often as possible, listen to story tapes, not news, music not noise.
This drive to let the work blossom gives a perspective to my physical pain, and allows me to empathise with others in the same situation. Working together has been my joy. Without the groups and individuals there would be no Liz at the Beach Hut. We inspire each other. Being alone in pain is no use to anyone, but being silent amongst friends is a blessing. Press the link to the next page to see a selection of some of my own work, some of which was achieved on crutches (five years) , with a face full of skin cancer stitches and with a combination of early onset arthritis and lupus.
It took my health providers years to finally unpick my particular selection box of goodies, and along the way, I missed school exams, college terms, weeks of work, almost a lifetime of fatigue, joint problems and pain and digestive problems. I have had 18 operations and endured a ten year fertility battle with multiple losses. It took the longest time, but I refused to give up. It was simply because I wasn’t the norm, an easy fix, and I didn’t always look ill. When it was suggested I take early retirement because I was on crutches, when I wondered if this body would stop me moving forward, I let momentum and trust take me to the next destination. It has taken me far longer than I imagined it would, as a healthy twenty something leaving Edinburgh Art College. But I now know, that my journey to get here has been rich and rewarding, a parent, a teacher, artist, writer, and a person who exists.
Winter months are a good time to reset, remember, revisit and recollect. So often, when we feel it’s an uninspired time, we sweep aside how full the journey has been to get to where we are now. Discover again your forgotten gems, past achievements and unrequited ideas. And wherever you may be right now, keep your creative journey alive. Here are a few things done by yours truly over the years, from craft fairs, community Arts, Artwork and classroom teaching . Determination to keep making and to inspire and be inspired by others continues to be the best medicine I can find for chronic pain ! A snapshot so far
Between rest and rain the words come,
and drawn lines stroke my page.
Though chimneys howl and waves are fierce
your colours block their rage.
I thank you friends for sharing ways
to open up your hearts
your palette of our friendship
your gestures, lines and marks.
Catch your worries, leave them
unwind slowly, shut the door.
throw the clock out, see your hands move
see what’s not been seen before.
No-one’s watching, it is magic,
Doesn’t matter where you start.
Looking, laughing, making memories,
Making joy and Art.
Thankyou so far you fabulous Artists for being my inspiration! xxx