Despite full days and big projects occupying my attention, I’m feeling restless. Not dissatisfied, just needing movement. The beautiful days call me outside away from my desk. Birdsongs and a thriving garden extend daily invitations to touch the earth and feel warm sun on my face. Sitting to write is a challenge. I can relate to children I know who regularly need to get up and go to the bathroom five minutes into a writing assignment.
Spring in Phoenix is a truly miraculous time, and highly appreciated. I don’t know anyone who wishes quick passage of this season. We all know what’s coming. Because we have mild winters, spring seems to slip in unnoticed. It has definitely arrived. This season has multiple associations with blooming, rebirth, and awakenings. Sometimes those awakenings are gentle and beautiful. Others are not. One of my most profound awakenings came this time of year, five years ago. As we pass through March, I take full breaths of gratitude for what showed up in my life (and my body), and what it left behind.
Many of you know this story because I’ve written about it almost every March these past five years. It’s my cancer story. On March 15, 2011, my daughter Sarah’s birthday, I got the call from my doctor with news that my breast biopsy “wasn’t good.” Fortunately, it was contained and detected early. I had surgery, a week of radiation treatment, then was left to my own to devices to heal. For the longest time I didn’t acknowledge my feelings as valid, because my cancer was so minor compared to others. I didn’t have to go through chemo and my prognosis was good. It turned out validating my feelings, my self-worth, was one of the more challenging parts of having cancer. I still wrestle with this, yet the experience has had its blessings.
On diagnosis day, I purchased an art journal to document the process. This single project opened up a part of me that continues to unfold, long after the cancer was extracted from my body. I spent the entire past weekend on the biggest art project I’ve ever attempted. As I finished it, after thirty hours of concentrated work, I reflected back on my five-year artist journey. Certainly my techniques have improved, as has my eye for design and composition. What I notice most, though, is a deepening belief in myself. If I start worrying about how something is going to turn out or doubting my ability to pull a piece together, I’ve learned to trust my intuitive process. So far, it’s worked pretty well.
When I make art it spills over into the rest of my life. It brings happiness and helps me be a better person. It cures restlessness, even in the spring, and gives me courage to be a stronger leader. It’s the silver lining that keeps on giving. A friend of mine who is currently in the throes of cancer treatment recently posted this saying: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” Cancer and art have taught me how to dance in the rain, even when it’s not the rainy season.