Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rainy days don't necessarily have to get you down

It's a rainy Wednesday here in my neck of the woods and it's been pouring all morning. Tornado warnings were issued in several nearby counties as well as my own. When these come, it's always a nerve-wracking time but since I've lived in Georgia all my life, I know inevitably that this type weather will come each year. We usually have tornadic activity mid Spring, so today's warning was a little early.

Whenever it rains, I can't help but think of idioms like, "It's raining cats and dogs," or "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." I don't often feel down on rainy days, in fact, I rather enjoy them. They give me time to stay indoors and do the things I enjoy doing like binge-watching TV series or reading a good book.  But today, I think I'll use this dreary day to focus on being creative.

I've started a new art process called acrylic pouring. It involves acrylic paints, pouring mediums, and silicone. It's quite fun and I've quickly become addicted to it. Art has been extremely helpful to me in my breast cancer recovery. As I'm working on an art project, no matter what the medium, I find myself getting lost in the project. I don't think about anything other than what I'm doing at the time. It doesn't matter if my back is screaming out in excruciating pain or if my arms are swollen with lymphedema, I just keep on working.

The cancer treatment center nearby offers art courses for breast cancer patients and survivors at no cost. It's a great opportunity for those affected by cancer to connect. Sometimes I visit and participate in a class but most times, I prefer to work alone at home. When I'm home, I can wear comfortable clothes, crank up my stereo and work freely. It's nice to allow myself time to be uninhibited and while the creative juices flow, I am overcome by a wonderful healing power. As I create, I can channel my pain into the art.

When I look at the many pieces I've created this week, I can tell exactly how I felt at the time of the creation. There's a wonderful ocean scene, filled with beautiful shades of blues, seafoam green, and white - I was feeling very peaceful and relaxed that day. I was also thinking about planning an upcoming vacation, a time to get away and rest. Another piece is chaotic - filled with an array of bright colors but tainted with splashes of black. That day was one of feeling conflicted and confused. I'd been stressing about an upcoming checkup and couldn't help but wonder if test results might indicate cancer had returned. There are many others and each one has been cathartic for me.

My kitchen table is covered in puddles of wet paint. Thankfully, I thought to cover it in plastic first. This has been my hub of creativity. Each evening my husband comes home from work and takes a look. He marvels at my work and I smile. He knows, as well as I do, that staying busy has been a vital part of my healing process. Though it's been three and a half years since my initial diagnosis, I still feel myself in the midst of healing. I'm not sure I'll ever be completely whole again and that's okay. My life often feels like a masterpiece in progress. Some days beautiful colors meld together to create a sweet memory and other days, they're scraped away and repoured.

Life moves at such a swift pace and just like the liquid paint that pours from my container onto the canvas, it travels exactly where it chooses. Sometimes settling into deep crevices and sometimes sliding over the edge. We have no control, although we often think we do.

It would be nice if all medical doctors would recommend art therapy to their patients. I could just imagine, at the end of a visit, a doctor pulling out his prescription pad and telling the patient to wait just one more minute while he scribbled a note. Upon handing the prescription to the patient, the words on the script pad would read something like this - "Art therapy, dose TBD by patient. Medium TBD. PRN for optimal health."

Some doctors and hospitals are finding that art is beneficial for their patients. In fact, doctors in Sydney, Austrailia are prescribing this type therapy for their patients on a daily basis.

It's important to do whatever we can to stay as healthy as possible. Art therapy is an easy way to do that so I say, "Be creative!" Even if you've never had a single art lesson, you can make art. And after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say. Don't worry about what appeals to others, use art as a creative outlet to move from continually focusing on your health to focusing on joy. The one thing you have that nobody else has is your creative mind, your story, and your vision. So write, draw, paint, build, dance, and play. Live as only you can and enjoy doing it.

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