There's really not much to do when someone is doing their PT exercises.
All those synapses of empathy and compassion and wanting to help have to be turned off; you can watch her struggle, but can't reach out to help, to ease the burden, to stop her because it might hurt.
So I doodle, instead. Carpal tunnel brace on my wrist, pencil held awkwardly in my hand, I doodle an eye, trying a new look inspired by a favorite artist. How do I create that look I love with my poor, unsteady hands? So I doodle and make marks and she keeps lifting her leg and squeezing her eyes closed, the blue and purple stuffed dragon held tightly to her chest. I add eyelashes as her therapist talks about schedules and new exercises. I add shading after I move to make room for a new round of exercise, my feet balanced on a large, inflated ball. The bottom lashes are added as I try not to cry in empathy. My own body hurts -- past my wrist, my legs ache, my back screams. There are no exercises here to make me whole, to take away my pain, and so I draw and listen and encourage.
I wish I could jump up and down with pom-poms.
When I finish, when we reach a rest period, my brain apologizes for the work. My hand is in a brace so it's really more scribbles than what I can usually do. But when I share it, I get this:
That is…amazing. Wow.
See! My daughter can draw so well! She's an artist!
I can't draw.
And I smile and the apology in my head goes away (what a lie it was!), and say It's practice. Every day. But thank you. And here I was thinking it wasn't good!
Like many of you, I create alone. I'm in a studio space. I'm the only one seeing what I'm creating, and I'm seeing it with the eyes of an artist who wants to go further, is striving for something better, different, more authentic and original and how I see it in my head. I'm already in the future scolding the inability of my past self -- which in this case, is the me-in-the-moment, over things I haven't even learned yet.
And yet, I have a classroom full of eager students ready to learn, looking to me for guidance.
I can only share the path I've walked. A few days ago, I was compelled to make a video for a long-forgotten YouTube channel of mine that focuses on chronic illness & living your best life. I think it has 54 subscribers; it doesn't matter. What does is that my father was working with me that day, when I decided to tack this vlog-type video onto the end of an emergency video shoot for another project, and thus, I spoke not only to the camera, but to him, about growing up with an invisible illness and all the negative stuff that comes along with it -- being shamed by people, whispered about, and feeling as though I missed out on all those rights of passage because of pain and immobility. It's hard to face those things yourself, let alone with someone else in the room.
But as I spoke, he whispered behind the camera, smiling. And I cried on camera because wow, I have finally found myself, and thus, support from all those around me.
And one of those whispered words got my thinking; Successful, tell them you're successful.
From the inside, life looks much different. I see all I want to do, not all I have. But when my mother and her PT instructor gaped at my scribbled drawing, when they saw only the beauty and not the mistakes or less than I'd been hearing in my head, I realized that we need these people in our lives to remind us of who we are and what we are doing. They're the mirrors that reflect back the truth of our being, and are the only ones who can show us where we took a wrong turn or how much distance we've really covered.
But I think the biggest thing is that despite not making much money, working for myself, and falling flat on my face more times than I can count, my parents say I'm successful.
And now when I look at it, I can see it. I have clients and a niche business that fills a need, that uses that college degree I thought I'd never use again the day I had to move back home from Hollywood because of my health. I have great joy chatting about directing and developing video content. I now have a co-workspace where I do editing work and contribute to the whole while using their studio space and equipment to make better content. Hot damn, did you see how well the summer camp videos turned out?
I have students excited to learn. I have articles in the works and published in over a dozen magazines and more zines and websites. I have friends all over the industry and artistic circle we're all members of. I have secret projects, a book on Amazon, and more to come. I can finally sit back, look at the work I do every day, and realize I made it, wherever this is. It was hard work and full of flops and failures and successes and dinners to celebrate…
But most of all, it's mine.
I dreamed it, built it, & made it reality.
(And I'm only getting started.)