Category Archives: Culture

Back to reality, here comes gravity

I was in the art class, looking at the naked model in front of me. The quiet chorus of titillation had dulled into a few red faces of the owners of the easels on the outskirts.

The teacher walked around the room, ‘Look at him, draw him as you see the body, not as you think you see the body.’ It made no sense as I stared at his body for what felt like an age. The muscles in his back, the lines of his sides, and shape of his shoulders all seemed unfamiliar.

‘Draw what you see, not what you think you see.’

Stop thinking and draw, I told myself silently.

My eyes barely left his body as I drew, eye to hand, hand to eye. Not looking, not judging, just recording.

Soon I dropped the paper to the ground and started a new version of the body. The teacher walked past.

‘Who did that?’ He asked.

‘Me.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes.’

I think it was the first time in my life I haven’t second guessed my ability and actually performed the act of illustrating what was in front of me, and not drawing what I thought I knew. I recorded what was in front of me, not assumed the shape. The second time was when I wrote my first two books.

We draw and write what we think we know. We assume and presume about what is happening based on our own experience and historical data stored in our brain. Once the brain has established the facts that there is a man in front of me that I am supposed to draw, it relies on old data to record it onto the paper.  Your brain has so much to process every day, it makes do by guessing much of what is happening around you, which is where the neurological theory of perception and guesstimation/belief comes from, and the theory that perception is hindsight, meaning, you thought an event would happen the way it has, even though there is little evidence of it happening, besides your own belief based on data stored in the brain.

Our bodies and brains are trying to process a flood of data every millisecond. Are we cold, hungry, thirsty? Aching, sad, happy, aroused, excited, bored, worried? There is so much to take in that scientists believe we only process about 1/18th of what is happening at any one moment, and the rest we just make up, according to history, beliefs, and experience. So often, we miss the reality, and actually just make it all up what we perceive to be the reality.

So, what if we stopped over stimulating our brains? What if we took some time out from social media, scrolling through updates on Facebook, or scanning news headlines constantly, that we put on music and turned off the radio in the car. That we looked at the sunset and not the billboard that’s screaming at us to read it. What if we read a book for more than ten pages at a time. That we truly looked at the man’s body, or the child’s face, and we wrote down, or drew what was there, instead of what we thought was there?

What if we listened for a moment and didn’t mine our own lives for an anecdote that outdid the storyteller. What if we asked a question instead? What if we honored the muse and stopped when the sentence came into out head and wrote it down?

I waste time on social media. I share things that aren’t interesting to anyone else or post to assuage my ego. I share as procrastination. I share because I assume and presume and I share because I’m lazy.

So I’m taking a break from sharing. I’m taking a break from scrolling. And I’m taking a break from guessing and spending some time trying to find my benevolentia again.

En avant.

 

 

 

 

Blood(y) Cancer Memory

I spent Sunday with my brother,  who I cared for during his fight with a bitch of a blood cancer.  I spent nearly every day for 5 months in the hospital, sometimes going back and forth several times a day (usually when I forgot something he needed desperately like medication or the iPad). Those long months of waiting and watching and hoping, all the while becoming fluent in a language of white cells and neutrophils and more.

Sadly I’ve seen two of my friends become fluent in this language more recently. Cancer is a bitch.

But my brother is a miracle man, and I was saddened to see Olivia Newton-John had cancer again. Her hospital and doctors saved my brother’s life and my sanity. When a doctor cries at the news of remission, you know you’re in the right place. When you give them your favorite champagne when you leave, you know they’re worth it! (Dr’s Genevieve and Joel, I’m talking about you both!)

The worst thing about cancer is death. The second worst thing is being so helpless while your loved one is undergoing treatment. If you could do a round or two for them just to ease the worst of it, you would.

But strangely I sometimes miss those long days at the hospital. Not for the stress or the pain or the loud MET calls and smell of cauliflower coming from the kitchen, but I miss the time with my brother. I was his primary carer, and I gave up everything to be that for him, and be with him. It’s not for everyone but I have never been afraid of the dark waters in life.

Those days of talking quietly about patients down the hall, or sitting in the corner and writing while he slept. Sitting with him for chemo session and running down to the cafe for a chicken and avocado focaccia (his craving during treatment). Making sure I got there in time for doctor’s rounds, where sometimes the resident would hide behind the curtain with Fred to catch up on the cricket score.

When he was finally in remission, and out of hospital he lived with us for two years to recover from the brutal treatment. His body was skeletal and battered, his soul shattered. Slow days and slow healing ensued. I work from home and I watched his recovery. Our days had a rhythm.  Coffee, brain training for both of us, because his brain was like swiss cheese from the medication and I’m just dumb. Then I would work and he would potter, or sleep. Sleep is nature’s healer and he needed a lot.

It was a slow, slow process but now he’s better. Working in his dream job that we talked about before his diagnosis. Living by the water, which as a little crab, he needs.

On Sunday we ate breakfast at a cute cafe, and drank coffee, read the papers, and talked about nothing.  It was so perfectly ordinary. When I left, we hugged. Those long hugs say more than any words. “I’m glad you’re here,” our souls say.

I have known extraordinary but I am grateful for ordinary. It is a privilege not given to everyone.

Sending love and light to anyone who has a beloved who has battled with, or is battling a blood cancer.  Donate here if you want to help find a cure. 

Peace.

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