How to make lemonade – OR – buck up and be a marine!

I almost didn’t write this post. It is certainly not the post I intended to write, but as they say, s*it happens.

About 3:00 in the morning it happened to me.

You see, I have a back injury that flared up about a month ago. It was bad, got better, and then after two days in the car and two nights on a strange bed it got worse, and worse, and worse. Yesterday (Saturday) I went out and did a bunch of work that was, in retrospect, perhaps not wise. Early this morning I had a three-hour bout of pain that almost sent me to the ER. That’s a $125 co-pay just to get in the door, so you know it was bad. In the midst of the agony I started an email to Carrie, our gracious editor at Scoutie Girl, to say I needed to beg off this week. Then I changed my mind.

When the s*it hits the fan we can fight or take flight, and I am a fighter.

Also,when you have an extended bout of level 8-9 pain you start getting philosophical. In the semi dark at 4:00 am, I found myself pondering the what ifs of permanent disability, and praying to my ambiguous god/goddesses.

What if I need surgery and lose the use of a leg? What if I get GOD and get right with life? On and on it goes, and in the mix I remember a recent conversation I had.

I have been volunteering to sell shirts at the Phoenixville Farmers  Market, for the Phoenixville Firebird Festival, and one week I bought some hand spun yarn from another vendor. She told me how she loved my choice as it was from roving of spectacular colorways made by a woman that no longer dyes wool. Why? I wondered. Because she has gone blind. Hmm, I said to this woman, I think if that were me I’d find a way.

How so, she asked? Well, as a creative and artist I think I’d always find a way. Perhaps I’d have an assistant tell me what fibers I had and what dyes and we’d do it together by memory.

I recalled how Matisse directed assistants so that he could create giant paper collages from bed and wheelchair.

I recalled the late paintings of Monet, done when he was legally blind.

I remembered my own self a year plus ago when my brand new, unpaid for, and really awesome camera equipment was stolen. At the time I created a “let’s make lemonade from lemons” fund raiser to replace the equipment. I shut it down after raising less than $100 because I realized I could manage with what I had, and I have. Will I upgrade my equipment again? You bet, but in my own time.

You see my focus shifted, and I realized it is the process, not the product, even with cameras.

I waited and as the pain finally subsided I knew that whatever was taken from me in physical ability I would overcome for my creative vision.

I found the voice of my ever practical husband and his sometimes annoying, but useful, mantras niggling at me. One of his favorites, although he is far from a military man, is the unofficial Marine motto:

Improvidus, Apto, quod Victum: Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.

That is the story I have today, and my question is:

If you were robbed of the very thing you think defines you, be it physical, intellectual, or other, how would you persevere?

How would you find a way to be an artist with no eyes, a singer with no voice, a writer with no pen?

What I have decided for myself is I will always find a way.

12 thoughts on “How to make lemonade – OR – buck up and be a marine!

  1. I think the two greatest losses for me would be losing my sight and physical mobility. After mourning this personal loss, I hope I’d could take on the attitude of an adventurer and improvise a new way. There are many different paths to take to compensate for these losses but I think the key factors for me would be keeping an open-mind, setting aside any control issues and probably most importantly enjoying the moments and the new possibilities. I’m a tactile person so I hope that sense would come even more alive. It’s funny how we never think of these losses until they abruptly present themselves. Back pain, spasms always seems to come without warning. I hope your back is mending and your pain levels receding. Take care, feel better.

    1. Maureen I to have thought I would be most destroyed by the loss of my sight and use of my hands. I would be. This has taught me however that I would find a way to continue with creative work.

      It is not my camera, art supplies, or even my sight that make me an artist. It is my ability to think and imagine. I guess in the end it is my brain I need most. If that goes I hope it goes in a big way and I don’t know.

      This did come suddenly but it is not going away as easily. Thanks for the well wishes :-)

  2. This post struck a chord with me.
    I have a bad back that stopped me working full-time 15 years ago.
    And 9 years ago I developed MS.
    So the nightmare of losing vision and control of hands (& everything else) is actually my likely future which could strike at any time.

    And I am absolutely terrified.

    Throw in becoming a mother a few years ago, and I have less time, energy & stamina than ever before, and more riding on me keeping myself capable for as long as possible.

    One silver lining of all this is forcing me to shift my career focus from graphic design to my true love of illustration/art. If I don’t have the time & energy for both a job and a hobby then I’ll have to roll them both into one.

    So that’s where I am now, just slowly restarting my business now my child is in preschool, but trying to find a new direction that will work with my current life and my future.

    For me, “always finding a way” is already harder & more complicated than it sounded, and things could still get a lot worse. I can totally see a time when it’s not worth it to find a way – heck, the last 4 years have been that – but the next few years are not that time. And this has me very excited.

    1. Toria thank for your honest and heartfelt response. I have seen a lot of MS in my life in a few very close friends, and more than a few acquaintances. It is a vicious disease, but can manifest in many ways, not always debilitating.

      I do appreciate that my situation, awful as it is at the moment, is probably treatable. I admire that you are still trying in a far worse situation. I hope that I would do the same.

      I wish you the best possible outcome as a Mother and Artist.

  3. Toria you are quite a remarkable woman. Best wishes to you.

    I remember when I first got sick with my auto-immune disease. I was so sad that I could no longer dance or go out to join in singing groups like I used to. It wasn’t a conscious choice at the time but I did manage to find a new creative outlet in drawing. This expanded into painting and creating ATCs. Through the community of Swap-Bot I found new crafts to try and made many friends who were turning their hobbies into an income by running their own creative businesses. I was inspired to ‘one day’ open up my own Etsy shop. I’m now starting to live that dream. All because I refused to become a vegetable sitting in front of the TV while I could not work.

    1. Bravo Diane! This and Toria’s story are exactly what I’m talking about. I am fortunate to have what will likely pass with work, but it forced me to imagine what if. I would rather die than just park in front of a TV and call it living.

      There are infinite possibilities for creative outlet. While I have thus far stuck with what I’m good at I am willing to explore any medium I could to remain active. I make no judgement on those who choose differently. I am just exploring what the possibilities are for those that have chosen a creative path.

  4. I am still at a real loss concerning my severe mental illness. It has been evident for 30 years, although I did not really “lose it” until about 6 years ago. I am no longer able to work, and I loved my job. I loved being a mother, but became unable to care for my children due to my mental instability. (Fortunately they are with my mother, living close by, and I am able to see them regularly when I am doing well). I feel like I lost who I am which was defined what I was able to do. Now I have lost my income, my children, a lot of my friendships, and many of the social things I used to do. I have turned to my crafts: knitting, crochet, sewing, and quilting. Fortunately the internet is available and I have joined several online groups that allow me to share my craftiness and make friends. I don’t have the pressure of having to “perform” every day. If it is a bad day I can just work quietly – which I find soothing. If it is a good day I am able to see my kids, talk on the phone, and visit with my online friends. So….I have lost what is most important to me, but am trying to find other outlets that now help me carve out a new identity.

    1. Oh Julie how brave you are!!! I am welling up with pride as I too have suffered with mental illness in my family. It took my Father from me early on and left me with a mother that was never more than half herself. I consequently have my own limitations in that area.

      I was coming at this from the physical limitation angle, but mental limitations are in some ways worse. I am glad you have found comfort in your needlework and online friendships. I too turn to the needles as a source of comfort when my mind is betraying me. Hmm that sounds like I mean something else, but you know 😉

      Thank You!

  5. To all that responded I am truly grateful. This is perhaps the most raw thing I’ve written here, but also the most important I think. If we can’t discuss the the bad seasons how can we ever truly bloom?

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