Art Every Day Month – something creative every day – been a crazy day, you know? I don’t have a strong offer for this but I have something to share. Here we go….
This is my art for the day. This box. With gifts. (check out the waffle iron) From friends. For my new apartment.
I’ve been a tad, uh, nomadic. Four plus years. Began as a lark of an extended vacation in Florida to make some decisions, regroup, come to terms with job loss, a major car accident, two minor surgeries, family death, you name it, it happened.Was like a drone following me around, dumping napalm. No more.
Florida’s nice if you enjoy feeling like a piece of gum on the belly of a dachshund walking through a steam room to find his owner. Not for me. But, there I was. Supposedly was going to stay with friends for a few months. You know, of course, that sometimes things don’t go as planned.
Out of nowhere, after all those years of speed walking three miles a day, I was diagnosed with a failing heart valve. Surgery was imminent. Yes, in the swampiness of Florida. Birth defect gone bad. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk from one room to the other. Couldn’t breathe fully. Couldn’t drive. Couldn’t eat much. Couldn’t get on a plane. Nothing. Nada. Prohibited from everything adults do. Everything. Complications with insurance, related medical issues (and I’m otherwise healthy but things happen in clusters). After a few months, test after test, a severe panic attack in the fourth MRI, thinking I’d bleed to death after a tooth extraction (meds do that), I underwent heart valve replacement surgery. Not a walk in the park (Think dachshund….gum). I was at a friend’s house. Really. It wasn’t even my house or my family. It was my somewhat old friend’s ex-husband’s house. I was just getting to know him. That was the only place with room.
I took photos of my naked chest before. Of course, I did. I signed all the documents, gave the appropriate people the important information in case….call this one, if…..call these otherwise…..passwords, balances, what to do with the cat, my art, my mother’s ballet shoes. My mother died in similar surgery. I’m not a fearful person but I had genuine concern. (I drag those shoes everywhere.) I only shared my true feelings with a few people. Others came up with “try not to worry”, “you’re strong, you can handle it” Well, now, not your chest, is it?
Can you imagine your friend’s ex-husband being the only one available to put your post-op support stockings on every day because your friend left on vacation? Then he has to take them off.
Who changes the litter pan while you’re at the hospital? No kidding. When you are single (technically, I’m a widow. I’ve earned that badge but that’s another story) the issue of cat welfare isn’t an easy one to resolve. They’re like children. No one loves them as much as you do and when you abruptly leave for a bit, they feel abandoned.
My belongings were in storage in another state. My art. My winter clothing. I was in Florida.
Then there were the people who suddenly showed their religious side even though I’m not religious and asked them to keep the thoughts to themselves. But. No. They wanted me to understand why I’ll probably go to hell if I don’t repent. Now was the time to ask for forgiveness? (What the hell had I done? I hadn’t a clue. I still don’t. Some people are just nuts) Time to repent. Yes. And I’m thinking “Hey! Cracking my chest open, cutting out a part of my heart and replacing it with tissue from a pig! I think this is enough repenting, indeed” Apparently, their God had limited humor. One learns to move forward. Hell couldn’t be as hot as Florida.
Surgery, aftercare (cardiothoracic ICU – angels, pure and simple), home nurses, a physical therapist to help me walk again, cardiac rehab where they force you to stretch your chest wall open fully, take your own blood pressure after your 15 minutes on the bike – let me just say that it was a long and oddly magical trip. If that doesn’t break you, nothing will. And if it doesn’t make you grateful, you’re a fool. Then there’s this, this – back at the house when I first came home after surgery to this place where I was supposed to just be visiting – they altered the guest bathroom with handicap bars, a shower chair to accommodate me. Me. Put a small lounge chair in my room so I’d be comfortable – I slept in it for 30 nights after surgery because I couldn’t roll over in bed. The cat was on my lap nearly all the time. Clinging. They made my meals when I couldn’t, put up with my emotions. Checked on me all the time. Gave me a place in the office where I could write, make things. Gave me privacy when I needed it, and helped me to the Vet when necessary because my cat began her journey with an illness that eventually took her life.
I was in Florida for two years. Wasn’t for me, although I tried. Looking for a new apartment long distance was nearly impossible. Reconnecting with certain people, interim housing – twice – all you can imagine. Recovering financially. Physically. Learning new ways of being. A few more stops along the way. Someone told me they felt I’d been frivolous with my life, that I was spoiled, had no responsibility and I thought “Let’s see how you handle all of this after losing a husband and things I haven’t mentioned” but what I said was “Goodbye”. No one knows what we go through except for the people who truly love us, and sometimes they don’t care to look at who we are, and the people who truly love us are the people we have chosen to love.
The only people you can count on other than yourself are the friends you cultivate, the ones you show your vulnerable self to as well as your dragon goddess, the ones you extend yourself to and open your soul to. Your relatives are just a genetic link. Your family is who you were given to. You might have a huge family or a tiny one as I do. You might all get along. You might not. But you didn’t find them by conscious choice. Your true friends will get you through that gum walking path to your owner. And your owner is You. You find yourself through trials and when those trials include people who love you by choice, the world is a wonderful place.Your true friends see the You in the mess that occurs and the glory that you achieve. Try explaining that to your estranged brother, jealous sister or cousins who think they know you, or don’t want to. The people you choose to surround yourself with are your true family – if you are smart enough to love them fully. Choose them wisely. Get rid of the ones who don’t show you love. Love is an action, not a word. We’ve all heard that. But do we practice it? Love them strong, love them through crap and love them with words, deeds and accolades.
Now. The box. From a dear, dear friend. For the new apartment I’m moving into next month. Because. Just because. Because I love my friends and they love me. You have no idea how much that makes up for the lack of birth family. It is everything.
My friends have stepped up for me through my ridiculous and often comical journey of the past four/five years, many of them with their own gum on their bellies, kept me going, gifted me, leant me, shared with me, cried with me, held me when my sweet, sweet cat died, supported my writing and art. They loved me back into being. And some didn’t. Some just checked in. A few left on their own accord and a few left because I asked them to. And that’s OK. I’m OK. Their OK.
That box is a tangible example of what love and community can do, how we pay it forward in many cases to strengthen the tribe and often need to call it back, how it creates and supports equality, love, and all that good stuff. From time to time everyone needs a leg up, a period of Grace, a kindness. I’m a very grateful gal. I’m there for my friends. They are there for me. It doesn’t get much better than that.