Friday, June 25, 2010

Viewing Life Through My Mind's Eye . . .

Or Maybe I Just Need to See An Ophthalmologist?

First - (and I must say I'm quite proud to admit):  I just had a look at my 'To Do List' for today - 7 items to do, 6 items done!  Granted 5 of the 7 were phone calls to be made. But, hey, just last week, one phone call would have knocked me out for hours. I'm doing much better today.

Second sign that I am healing: My arm which was numb to the wrist is no longer numb! Yes, that means the herniated disc is receding and allowing the nerve to bounce back. The bad news is I still have weakness in the grip of my right hand. That's OK. I don't have the energy to hold on to anything heavier than a newspaper anyway, and luckily I'm left-handed, so not a huge problem right now.

Third and the most important reason to believe I'm headed in the right direction:  Slowly I've started cutting back on the morphine and finding (so far) I am still pain free and not suffering from withdrawal symptoms just yet. You can't know how happy I am about this. I am getting back to being my old self.  Well, not totally, but today I drove down to Trader Joe's, did a little shopping (being very careful to buy only what I could easily carry), drove home and actually made dinner (with my husband's help). OK, I did have a one and a half hour nap between the shopping and the dinner making but still, this is progress. 

Meanwhile, I saw my physical therapist, Wayne last week and he showed me how to make my very own cervical traction contraption so I can spend time being in traction twice daily. This supposedly will help relieve the pressure of the herniated disc on my impinged nerve. Before Wayne gave me the printed instructions on how to construct this very simple device, he handed me a paper to sign saying I wouldn't kill myself by knowingly misusing it (implying suicide by towel and rope) or unknowingly (implying I might overdose on my pain meds, put my head face down on the towel and thus accidentally asphyxiate myself which apparently has happened before). So far, I'm happy to tell you I haven't been tempted either way.

Otherwise not much else to report. When I take the time to reflect on my life as it was BHD (before herniated disc) and try to imagine how it might be after I'm "healed", I realize this is another one of those 'aha moments' - one similar to the one I had soon after my mastectomy/reconstruction over eight years ago. Then someone asked me if I was looking forward to getting my life back to normal.  My first thought was my life will never be 'normal' again. But then upon further reflection, I realized the real truth of the matter, that this was my 'new normal'. That my body would never be the same as it was before all the surgeries nor would I. From that moment on, I realized the life I was living was my 'new normal'. 

So here's how it begins this time in my mind's eye:  I work my way off the pain medications, hoping to be pain free but always aware of the fact that at anytime, the pain can and probably will return to throw me off balance. Hoping beyond hope to once again be my 'normal' self in the studio, I see myself effortlessly wedging clay into conical shapes. I take one and slap onto the center of the wheel. With wet hands and a water-filled sponge held lightly in the right, I bend over and with my elbows pressed down onto my thighs for stability, I put all the weight of my upper body into my arms and hands which are cupped around the clay as the wheel turns at top speed.  Very soon, I pressure this lump of clay into the beginnings of one of my lovingly crafted vessels. 

Or perhaps, being more realistic, I may have to find a way to accept that this may never be part of my new normal.  I may have to accept the fact that my mind's eye can't even begin to see what a picture of new normal might look like.

Hey, do you think 3D glasses would help?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Maybe I'm Just Too Old to Surf . . .

                 Or What Can You Give Me For A Bad Case of Impatience?

It’s a few days after East Bay Open Studios and I’m still ruminating about my fate this year as opposed to last.  Last year at this time, I was riding on top of a creative high after setting up a thoroughly successful Open Studio.  Sales of my clay and collage work, commissions with deposits for new clay pieces and a very sizable deposit for what I thought would be a challenging but ultimately satisfying 2 dimensional triptych all gave me good reason to feel enthused and encouraged for months to come.  Little did I imagine that this 2009 creative wave would come crashing down onto a desolate shore beginning in 2010 when the large triptych commission fell through just at the point of having the preliminary sketch approved (see post: You Win Some and You Lose Some. . . )

It took a while to pick myself up, dry myself off, and get back to work. I caught a glimpse of a new wave rolling in when a second generous commission request came from my dear friend Scarlett. Could I create a clay vessel for her friend, Kate, who was just beginning the difficult journey of surviving and living beyond breast cancer? And could I do it in the black Cassius Basaltic clay? Absolutely! I decided to do several pieces at the same time and let Scarlett choose the one which ultimately spoke to her.  The largest of the four was the one I really thought would be IT but it didn’t make past the drying process. Stress cracks and cracks from uneven drying were its deathblow. It may have been the result of my being too impatient to get it finished. Also, on further inspection, I really didn’t like its overall shape. It felt less than elegant, too ‘clunky’ at the foot.

Here are the three that made the cut before the bisque fire:


And the one Scarlett chose:

I was just about to have them bisqued and begin working on more pieces in this vein, when I was struck down with this %$@#$@#! herniated disc in my lower neck.  As of May 7th, doctors’ orders are to cease and desist working in the studio until further notice.  They think it may be the repetitive way I hold and turn my head while working, which has worn down the disc. So here I am, in the middle of 2010 with no wave in sight. I am, thankfully, pain free but it’s the meds, which bring my relief.

Unfortunately, nothing relieves me from the feeling that time is rushing by leaving me behind waiting impatiently for the next creative wave. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Taking It Easy Isn't So Easy . . .

Or So I'm Finding Out, The Hard Way . . .

For those of you who check in now and then to see what I've been up to, this probably comes as a "well, it's about time" moment. For those of you who are new to the blog, welcome. I invite you to peruse previous posts and the slideshows to the right where you can read more about my process and see the work in progress. 

Meanwhile, here I am, finally. I didn't even realize it's been two whole months since I last posted. The first month I was actually working on a new series of pieces in Cassius Basaltic black clay. There's no excuse for my not keeping you in the loop since I was taking pictures of the progress and the finished pieces. I had every intention of posting them. Looking back I can find no real excuse to not writing in April except at the time making the work was apparently more important to me than writing about making the work.

In any event, April came and went. I woke up on the third of May in such excruciating pain, I could barely walk down the stairs in the house to get into the car and be driven to the hospital's emergency room. I won't bore you with the details of that visit nor of the next couple of weeks when my ailment was totally misdiagnosed. Just to let you know, now I am down for the count with a herniated disc in the upper thoracic area of my spine. I'm taking a lot of drugs to keep the pain at bay while I wait to heal or have surgery, which ever comes first. Better living through chemistry is my current mantra.

Bottom line is I've been told not to spend too much time sitting in front of the computer, along with a warning not to even THINK about working in my studio because of the delicate nature of the injury to the nerve which affects my right arm and hand (thank god I'm left-handed). When and if I get the chance, I will try to post pictures of the last pieces which are waiting to be bisque fired. Maybe I'll post some of my thoughts and episodic ramblings of the past few weeks just so you know how it's been. 

So don't give up on me. Keep checking in. But please, don't ask me to take it easy. When that's all you can really do, believe me, it really isn't.