In our current world, we need places of peaceful retreat...art can be that. Especially the Zentangle(R) art form because it's accessible to everyone, even those who think they cannot draw. For me, it is part of my self-care, a tool for relaxation, self-reflection and exploration.
“Life is the art of living with uncertainty without being paralyzed by fear.” ~Dr. W. Dillon
I didn’t immediately look at going through cancer as an opportunity to rework my life, even though I knew it to be a wake-up call and change was needed. But I didn’t make those changes. Quite the contrary. All throughout treatment, I longed for a return to my old life, some sense of “normalcy”. Partly I could barely see the end of the treatment period, it seemed like it would last forever, making it difficult to imagine what my life could look like after cancer. And partly because treatment and healing took up all my energy…I didn’t have enough available band width to imagine anything different.
But now it’s coming on 4 years, and even though I’ll be on Aromasin until the end of 2019, it’s time to make some changes. And I think a lot of us are in the same place.
Finally got the Christmas décor/clutter sorted out and put away. The room suddenly looked kind of barren, so I spent some time just prutsen, rearranging some pieces, swapping out some others that had been packed with the holiday things we haven’t used in a while. Did you spend any time prutsen during the quiet time of the holiday season?
As you might imagine, life is not very “normal” for us right now as we progress through Jess’ recovery from open-heart surgery. He usually manages most of the domestic stuff of our life, while I handle the business stuff. It’s been a rather abrupt shift to suddenly be doing both. Of course, I did do that in my former marriage, but that was over 20 years ago – not so easy now.
Jess is still at the stage of needing a lot of sleep to heal. He’s up for a couple of hours, then napping for a couple. I initially tried to catch up on everything that has been sitting these past few weeks. Then a friend said, “just like when you have a new baby in the house, you sleep when they sleep.” And my mother said, “don’t worry that the kitchen floor needs washing. Do only the things you must do right now and ignore the rest.” Boy, talk about upsetting my inner perfectionist! Didn’t think I needed outside permission, but obviously, I did.
I guess I'm still a work in progress...
Prutsen is such a lovely word. It’s Dutch, and it was once used a lot by us. As in, “What have you been doing for the last two hours?” “Oh, just prutsen.”
A loose definition of prutsen is to putter or potter or tinker, or otherwise waste time by making unnecessary changes. It’s doing something of little significance that looks like work but really isn’t. It’s sort of pretend work that can help to successfully avoid real work. It’s entertainment and relaxation all rolled up in one.
Some of us can pruts for hours, rearranging things like the desk, the plants, spice rack, cutlery drawer, etc.; thereby putting off more useful tasks like paying bills, cleaning out the refrigerator or organizing year-end tax files.
I don’t know when, but somewhere along the line we lost the simple pleasure inherent in prutsen. And I think we should bring it back. Sometimes a mind just needs to graze…
A few weeks ago I wrote about the list of ingredients for joy and meaning that Dr. Brené Brown’s family came up with. They were surprised to discover that the way they were living their lives was contrary to the way they wanted to be living, so they made changes. They cut back the hours they were working, limited extracurricular activities, got more sleep, more play, and made more time to just hang out.
Jess and I started something similar. I say “started” because we are still a long way from our ideal, but we are definitely making progress. Here is a partial list.
This is a long-overdue thank you to North County Cancer Fitness (NCCF) for all their assistance last year.
In January 2016 I learned that a cyst on my kidney which we’d been monitoring since my initial breast cancer diagnosis, had suddenly gotten huge after 2-1/2 years of no change at all. There was a very distinct change in tone from my surgeon, now sure that it was cancer because of the rapid growth. Because it was so large, they would have to temporarily remove most of my organs to get it all, and supposedly it would be a very long recovery period because of this.
I had recently read a magazine article I can’t locate now about the usefulness of “pre-hab”, rather than waiting for re-hab. It totally convinced me that going into this surgery in the best possible shape I could possibly be, would pay off in a really big way. And I asked if NCCF could support my pre-hab. They were happy to do so, and handled all of the set up on my behalf!
NCCF provided additional personal training and stretching sessions...
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot
Based on reactions to my earlier writings, it seems I’m not the only one here who has tried to be perfect. In some ways, “perfect” is not difficult to imitate. In fact, it’s usually easy to imagine the requirements of “perfect” in whatever particular niche your local self is in, and put that on for the world to see. Many of us started doing that about the same time we started elementary school.
“But nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great, ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen
Becoming yourself IS so much more difficult. There are no blueprints, plans, YouTubes or infographics...
“The enemy of creativity is fear. We are all born creative. It takes a little while to become afraid. A surprising insight: An enemy of fear is creativity. Acting in a creative way generates action. An action persuades the fear to lighten up.” --Seth Godin
I don't often share pieces that are still in process, especially when I don't have a strong sense of how they will end up. It's a little unnerving.
However, I started this blog with the intent to share my artwork and thoughts with you...even the half-baked ones. Because the doing of that forces me to grow further. It's not very comfortable, but then growth rarely is. When we're comfortable, it's easy to just continue doing whatever we've been doing. When the discomfort becomes intolerable, that's when we are moved to action, change, and growth.
I started this piece months ago -- it was a slow-go right from the start. I still don't know where or how it will end up. And because of that, it doesn't have a title yet. I only know it's somehow about energy and transformation.
The beginning stage was something of an adventure.
"Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time
to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from
the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."
Are you taking care of yourself? When we get busy (and it
seems like we only get more so, not less), self-care practices
like meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep, connecting
with those we care about, and spending time on the activities
we love are the first things we jettison.
This post started with the working title, “Protecting the Asset”, because I read somewhere that when we start thinking of ourselves, our energy, our purpose and passion, as an asset needing protection to continue functioning at optimum levels, we start making decisions differently. It’s a bit like protecting one’s financial assets in that the principal must be conserved in order to keep generating income. It’s why the airlines instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first, and then help others. “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” --Unknown
This is not an easy attitude to adopt -- we’ve grown up in a culture that treats the idea of self-care as if it’s selfish, over-indulgent, unproductive, unbecoming, and not something “good” people do. In fact, not only is self-care not taught, but NOT taking care of ourselves is somehow supposed to be a sign of virtue and modesty. It’s not, taking care of ourselves is a matter of survival.
I realize whole books have been written about self-care and my musings here can only scratch the surface, but it’s often on my mind as I look to integrate this into my life.
I'm learning more about my art, and from my art, every day. It's not so much a matter of skill or practice... mostly it's a shift in perspective, a way of shaping how I look at and exist in the world.
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