Imagination can get you through anything
A few weeks ago, I was stuck inside because the outside temperature showed a minus 30 degrees wind chill factor. And I wasn’t feeling well, so I just sat around doodling.I took a large drawing that I was working on, but wasn’t happy with, and ripped it into doodle-size sheets. I usually just use the back of the used paper, but when I ripped this one up, the front pieces became the perfect backdrop for a doodle or two. I do this all the time, so if you own a doodle of mine, look on the back. You may discover part of a book illustration that did not work out or a piece of fine art that did not make the cut!
On this day of cold, grey skies, I used that beautiful blue-painted scrap of paper to imagine spring. I drew spring from a memory of my favorite trail up north. I loved that new doodle because it took me away from the cold, dark winter day! It dawned me that I have learned to rely on my imagination over these past few years as a way of coping with Barry and his struggles with FTD.
About once a month, I drive through the apartment complex where we were once caretakers. I am not sure why I do this other than some deep psychological motive that I don’t understand. When we worked there as caretakers, it was the very worst time for both of us. For Barry it must have been a nightmare that he couldn’t wake up from. I was always yelling at him because he would not help me with our tasks. He was becoming confused and losing the ability to figure stuff out. We did not know he had FTD at this time. I now admit and take total responsibility for the stupid idea to become caretakers. I had thought we could have a decent place to live, Barry would have a job taking care of the place and I would just help out when I could. But within the very first week of cleaning, it became apparent this was a bad, bad move.
How does imagination come into this sad part of our lives? One morning, we were up at 5 a.m. to shovel the walks. It was a very cold morning, and I felt quite alone as I shoveled the first of 75 walks. Barry was nowhere to be found. After shoveling a few walks, I stopped, leaned on the shovel and looked up at the sky. The stars were out, it was quiet and absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of the winter mornings in Norway I experienced back in the 1970s. Soon my imagination kicked in and I pretended that I was in Lillehammer, Norway, for the rest of the shoveling job.
Later that morning Barry appeared, limping as he came toward me. He had fallen on the ice and hurt his back. Because of FTD, he could not stop himself from falling. Lillehammer vanished at that moment as I yelled at him, “You can’t be hurt! We have no health insurance.” Poor Barry didn’t mention his back again. That winter was long and snowy, but each time I shoveled in those early morning hours, I pretended I was in Norway and it made the job a bit easier. To this day, I draw that same winter sky in many of my doodles. What was such a horrible time also was a beautiful time.
If I didn’t have an imagination during those days of cleaning, I would have lost my mind. Sometimes as I scrubbed a kitchen, the light came in just right and reminded me of Mexico or of a summer day when I was a young girl. And the work went quicker.
After Barry was diagnosed, I came back to live with him in the one bedroom plus den apartment. I pushed my bed against the window in the bedroom and each night I opened the blinds so I could just see the pine tree tops. I imagined myself up north as I looked out at the snow-covered tree tops. Those trees calmed me each night as Barry tried to shower in the middle of the night or made coffee at 3 a.m. I had no idea that when summer finally came that I would not have to imagine myself up north. I would actually be there hiking many trails!
As I did that spring doodle, I realized that imagination and art can really help a person cope, even during the worst of times! Why do I continue to visit the old apartment complex? Maybe to show myself that it did not defeat me or maybe because I actually have some really wonderful memories of that place — thanks to my imagination!