Today’s collage if examined closely, contains numerous layers: papers that initially created cohesiveness, but after further consideration really did not. When that happens, I whip out the gesso and mask the area in question, hoping that it might neutralize the composition and help establish clarity. And while the gesso is out, it’s hard to resist the impulse to make little dots.
But really, what’s at play here is censorship. For those of you who know my Calendar Project, you may know that I battle with self-censorship on a daily basis. Once I realized that other people would look at and sometimes pour over my calendars (which happened nearly immediately), I began to censor what I included and couched other things in my own symbolic language.
This collage began with an homage to my bionic breast. A year ago today I joined a club to which I never imagined I would access when it became clear that there was something suspicious going on in my right breast. (I am sure many of you have memberships like that of your own.) And I consciously decided not to write about it in this blog. I did not and do not want to be that artist who used her blog and her art to heal her journey through breast cancer. (Which was and is pretty crazy, the second part at least, because I know full well the healing power of art.)
Here I am, just shy of three months from getting my bionic breast and a little over six months from having a mastectomy, and I am far from healed. Physically, yes, as my sister-in-law said to me at the start of this “to cut is to cure.” And indeed that cutting did cure me.
But as my surgeon told me last week, for some people it takes the mind and the heart about six months to catch up to the cutting. So what I am experiencing right now is completely normal. And I have to move through the anger, the vulnerability, and the fact that I may never comfortably do a push-up again.
There are so many parts of my story that are good. My disease was not invasive. I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation. My Douglas and his sisters are doctors, one of them a breast surgeon and all three were by my side at every step of this. My mom came out twice to help me, and made countless batches of sugar cookies to help me eat something when I didn’t want to eat anything. My friends called, walked with me and visited. My colleagues on Main Street pitched in and helped make PRESS’s final summer on Main Street a success. My parents’ friends and members of their church sent me flowers, cards and a prayer quilt. One of my cousin’s made me the best playlist ever of church hymns written by Jesuits in the 1970’s. Other family members sent food gift cards, mowed my labyrinth, filled my email with encouragement and sent letters and holy cards.
I am blessed that I am on sabbatical this year without the pressure of my teaching and college politics. And I ran five miles this morning at a 9:22 pace. (Thank you Ellen.)
And really, I know now that if I can cut off my breast, I can do anything. (Including getting into cold water.)