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Finding It in Grief

“And when I look at these poems and do not know how I wrote them, or if I would have the capacity to write a strong poem again, I feel concerned. What will disappear next?” Melissa Broder, in Paris Review

I do not know, generally, how I create art. The not-knowing is scary because if I don’t know how I do it, how will I keep doing it? It. Such a small word, so fragile.

I get these intense bursts of inspiration that literally pick me up and move my body. I get excited that It‘s back. This wild amazing creation explodes in my mind and it’s the most exhilarating thing. Too often, though, by the time I’m halfway to the studio or the keyboard, I’m slogging through quicksand, and It’s just gone

One time, God showed me His house and He told me to do Art for Him and He told me to paint His furniture, so I did. A new It was born in me after several years of living without in a creative desert. But the quicksand of life sure does grab and stick.

I accepted a commission and then almost immediately couldn’t do the work. Right after I wrote that I was on top of the world my husband started a rapid decline in his cognitive function.

He has a traumatic brain injury from a 2009 motorcycle accident, made worse by a 2017 collision with a driver who turned on his cruise control and passed out drunk. I’ve been secretly expecting this decline to happen ever since he was diagnosed and I learned that he would probably die early with dementia because of it.

He started forgetting to take his meds. Then he took his morning meds twice in one day and slept for 20 hours. He forgot to do the self-care that he had been doing on his own. I was firmly entrenched in my projects and I was not prepared to do all the new things that he needed me to do for him.

Mostly, I felt like I was about to be lost at sea. I know that because of his multiple TBIs, my husband will probably get Alzheimer’s and die early. But I wasn’t ready for it. He’s only 47!

I spent several weeks in June completely defeated. ‘I gave up on so much to take care of him, and now he’s going to be more than I can handle soon, and I’ll be alone,’ I thought. ‘I won’t be able to stay faithful if he’s gone. I won’t want to visit him wherever he has to go to get the proper care. It’ll be a horrible place because he’s on Medicaid and disabled and I’m a horrible wife.’

That was my mind for a month. And then his doctor discovered that his blood pressure was dangerously low. As soon as we changed his meds, I had my husband back, literally overnight. It’s been almost a month, and I’m just now getting back to myself, but I’m different. I mourned the loss of my husband for a few weeks and then suddenly he was fine. As fine as he’s been.

Even though most of the time he’s this guy who resembles the love of my life who lives in a recliner and watches videos nonstop while I live this crazy life around him, sometimes he’s the scary-smart ambitious mastermind I married and lived with for such a short time before he got hit by a car and died. I’m not ready to lose that rare guy for good. Those times I get to have him are a gift.

So Spirit told me lots of things as I recovered from thinking I was about to lose my soulmate for good. One of the things was about not being afraid to go for it no matter what the audience might think.

There were a few times during the June blood pressure episode and the July recovering that I had things to write about, things to create. I got the intense pull of inspiration and would be waylaid immediately by the piles of clutter in my studio from not having the energy to put things away, or the need to find out where that smell was coming from, or the need to feed an angry frantic man, or to just go cry because I could see how awful he felt and it hurt my heart too much to continue.

One of the things that waylaid me was the fear of the reader not understanding what I was talking about, or my revealing more about my inner life than I was comfortable with. While I prayed and cried and begged for more time, Spirit addressed those fears and told me that hiding what’s the real essence of my life is over. So, I’m going to write about obeying and listening, and following a plan that I have no idea about because it’s not my plan, but it’s the plan that is right for me.

And if the reader thinks I’m off my rocker because I talk to God, well, honestly at this point, being afraid of that seems silly. God regularly takes me and does things with me that cause me to grow so fast it makes my head spin. And our parents were right when they said that struggle brings about character. He uses the struggles of me thinking I’m losing my husband and having that change so fast I can’t catch up and shows me that waiting around for it to feel right is getting me nowhere.

I want to be a public artist. I want people to see the things and read the things I’ve been given to create and write about. Because it’s not about doing art and sticking it behind doors anymore. It’s about being a window, about letting the art and the words out. It’s about leaving the window open and letting you see that I talk to God and He tells me how to do just about everything when I’m not too self-absorbed to listen.

It’s about letting you see that I repeat the same struggles over and over because the answers aren’t the ones I like, so I try it again my way. It’s about letting myself off the hook for taking a month to recover from the rollercoaster life of a TBI wife. I actually kind of want you to know me because I want to know you. I’m tired of being alone in this house, with my quicksand. Let’s hang out.