When your pain gets bad, or you’re on the verge of a panic attack – when the tide of your day shifts from normal to nasty, what do you do?
There are spiritual disciplines, of course, that we could talk about. I can bring to mind the things I know are true, mentally rehearsing a truth list: I am loved, I am safe, God sees me, this life and this pain will end one day, beautiful moments (as well as difficult ones) are in my future… In a moment when all of me wants to recoil inward, I can pry my spirit open and orient it upwards and outwards, in prayer. I can worship –- you already know I like that one.
I’ve discovered something else.
The moment when my heart doesn’t just flutter or stutter before continuing its steady rhythm, when it misfires and then does it again and then settles into a hiccuping, oxygen-light pattern… well… that can be a hard moment for me. I never know what I’m looking at. Possibly just an unpleasant hour or two, but maybe more. Maybe a day. Plus another one for recovery.
Sometimes I keep working or cooking or doing whatever I’m doing. Eventually, though, I reach a point where normal activities are no longer an option. For me, this is where it gets tough.
And, as I mentioned, I’ve discovered something.
I can paint.
Sitting at our little wooden dining room table, I can dip a brush into water and stain paper with colour. I like letting swirls of pigment run where they want. I like dabbing splotches of green where I imagine trees to be, staining lips with purple in the shadows, seeing fur start to look… furry. And the miracle, for me, is finding out that I can do this when I can do very little else.
So, on good days and bad ones, I perch on a wine-coloured cushion set atop a hard, old chair and play with paint, like I loved to do in kindergarten. It soothes me. Often I play music, quietly, as I do it.
There is an idea swirling in my mind about all of this – but I won’t share it with you yet. Let me think on it for a few more months. Then we’ll talk.