Art Softens Life’s Challenges

In 1998,
my life was forever changed by a spinal cord injury that surgeries would not be
able to repair completely. I was left with severe lumbar and sacral nerve
damage, chronic pain syndrome and chronic depression. Becoming disabled at 34
was not on my To Do list. I had just begun a job that would allow me the
flexibility to go back to school and pursue a degree in writing.

earlier I had begun creating collages using a mixture of images that spoke to
me and illustrated my writing. They were pulled together in an order that felt
right, using whatever I had on hand: school glue, tape, journal pages, magazine
clippings, gum wrappers, ticket stubs. Those early collages were all confusion,
experience and angst; color, feelings and words all thrown together, in an
unconscious way, exploding on the paper they were built on- proof of life,
proof I was there.

I rarely
showed my collages to anyone and when I did, it confused the viewer. I was
writer after all; not an artist. Writing was what I had done since I was old
enough to hold a pencil not art they told me, and I foolishly believed them. So
I quit sharing them, creating them in private and tucking them away and then,
eventually, I quit keeping them altogether. Yet, years later when healing from
my second spine surgery, I had to do something and art was still there.

Art was
and continues to be a huge part of my healing process. It helps me feel more
centered and serene and continues to sustain me through challenges and changes.
It has allowed me to take the small steps that were necessary for me to
reconnect with the world after my injury. The more I create; I become more familiar with my art and the creative
process. I work intuitively, my art
rarely following a set path or plan- a process I find so similar to life. The
wonderful thing about art is that it doesn’t have to be created any certain
way. If I had not had my visual art to retreat to for solace and expression in
the months when I was unable to sit and write, I can’t imagine I would have
been able to make the strides in healing and confidence I now have in my work
and in my new life without art.

Originally published in Natural Awakenings Magazine, 2005.