I am no stranger to hard times, but somehow every time there is a crisis I find myself shocked. I’m walking along soaking up the sun, when BAM a big ugly storm cloud tears open and pours its fury all over me. Or worse, all over my loved ones. And while I am aware there will be good times and bad in this life, and I’ve seen my share of both, I want to believe I am entitled to some sunny days. I want to throw on my sunglasses, and believe that I can will away the clouds. But it doesn’t really work that way. And of course I know this, but like I said, every time there is a crisis I am shocked.
When my Dad died just before my high school graduation, I said to myself, “this can’t be happening to me, he needs to be here.” But despite my shock and denial, he was gone. And despite it all, I trudged along, I found ways to cope, and eventually found a new normal. When my hubby and I struggled for years to get pregnant, doctors discovered I had an auto immune disease as well as a tumor on my pituitary gland causing the infertility. I thought, “this can’t be happening to me, I have plans.” But despite the shock and denial it was happening, my plans be damned. But despite it all I trudged along, I found ways to cope, and eventually found a new normal. And when we finally welcomed our kiddo, after months of insomnia and bouts of self induced isolation, I realized I had postpartum anxiety if not depression. And once again I thought, “this can’t be happening to me! I’ve wanted this for so long, it is supposed to be perfect.” But once again I trudged along, found ways to cope, and eventually found a new normal. Then one morning my mom called to tell me my eldest sister had died. This time I wasn’t just shocked. I was numb. I thought, “ok, something has got to give.” But not more than a year later one of my other sisters called to tell me her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. Like an old war vet, I started to prepare for battle, but suddenly I found myself shell shocked. I should be used to bombs going off around me but I’m not. I was completely consumed in thought. I know I’m pretty sturdy on my own but I want to carry everyone’s grief, fear and worry. I put others needs in front of my own. Sometimes I’ll do anything to make the people I care about laugh. I just want to control the situation and make it better for everyone. I know that I’m strong, but suddenly I am tired. These old army boots are wearing out, and I am getting sick of just trudging along. I need a break.
And so, I sought respite in my art. Even when life seems ugly, I can turn to the arts and feel like there is still beauty to discover and create. So I head outside and I take photos. I head inside, read poetry and play with my paints. One of these particular days I was working on a new watercolour piece, and it wasn’t going exactly how I wanted it to. I find watercolours difficult. I want to control it, go over it until its perfect. But it doesn’t work that way, if it doesn’t go how you want, you can’t change it. They are fluid and messy, but sometimes when you go with the flow, what you thought was a mess turns out to be something really beautiful. And suddenly I realize that, that is what I need to do. I need to stop trudging along, I need to start going with the flow. I can’t control everyone, or all of the things that could happen. I can only control what I am doing right now. I am going to stop surviving and start thriving. I know that bad things can and do happen. I can’t control that. But I also know things don’t stay bad forever. Life always keeps moving on, and I have seen with my own eyes just how short it can be. I decide right then and there that I am going to make the most of this life. I will rediscover my curiosity and hopefully my passions. I am going to find new ways to express myself and share my gifts. I’m going to look for joy and beauty even when everything seems to be at its worst. And I’m guessing that along the way, just as I have encountered in the past, it won’t be perfect and may at times even be messy. But maybe, just maybe, this life could be like the painting. It may occasionally be a mess, and sometimes I will get stains on my hands and heart. But if I stop trying to make it perfect, and just go with the flow, even despite the messy bits. Maybe it will turn out to be something beautiful too. So here I go, let’s raise a glass and drink it up. I’m off to make a beautiful mess! And I have a feeling its going to be a masterpiece.