Prayer and meditation is something I try to do regularly. Some weeks back, I was in prayer and I was asking God about time in my own studio. A question formed in my mind. “Why are you working on someone else’s dream and not your own?” To be honest, this wasn’t what I was expecting. There was a conflict in my life and I expected to be corrected and to be led to a different conversation. Not that I’m perfect and don’t need to humble myself, but through this meditation I discovered the real issue was that I’ve been giving my time and effort in areas that I should have let go of a long time ago.
There was no good answer for the question being raised. I was doing what I was doing out of habit and loyalty. Loyalty to an idea that had nothing to do with my life or destiny.
An attack of diverticulitis has given me time for reflection. At the end of the year I will be making changes to be in my studio full time. I have done full time studio painting before, but this will have a very different focus. Transitions are rarely smooth. But at least that won’t take me by surprise.
The adventure continues.
September has been quite a busy month. I had hoped to have the worship/creative studio up and running, but it was not to be. Good things and less than good things came up and my time and energy has been spent elsewhere.
One good thing was a trip the the mountains of Pennsylvania to visit friends. A group of siblings were having a reunion and I have been adopted as an extra sister. It was a joyful time and road trips invigorate me in many ways. There are wonderful things to be discovered when staying with locals who know things off the beaten, touristy path and I enjoy driving across this big country.
Another lovely thing was meeting and studying contemporary calligraphy with Carl Rohr. If you’ve ever opened a Kindle reader and seen the brushwork calligraphy, you’ve seen his work. Actually, you’ve seen Carl's lettering on a lot of products and advertisements. He’s a very accomplished man who is approachable and generous in his teaching. He has a passion for lettering that I can’t say I share, but his way of making marks on paper was really fascinating and I hope to integrate what I observed into painting. A big thanks the the Pendragons of Kalamazoo for letting me join them for the weekend.
Other things have also been taking up my time and energy that have nothing to do with creativity or refilling the creative well. In fact, it’s been siphoning off my time and energy for my own studio work. The most I’ve been able to do at my studio is keep the lawn mowed and paint one of the garage windows.
An unexpected conversation brought the realization that I have been sacrificing a lot of time and energy for dreams that aren’t mine, while my own destiny lies waiting and ignored. I am at an age where my time and resources need to be more focused.
Changes are coming. Stay tuned.
One of the things that first struck me when I looked at the space that is now my studio was the windows. And entire half wall of windows. While it isn’t the traditional north light that is the optimal lighting situation for artists, the morning light pours gloriously through the tree branches and leaves of the oak tree outside the third story windows. Not only did the tree provide perches for birds and squirrels, it also served as a model for sketches and paintings. The canopy of the tree never failed to cheer me throughout the seasons.
Late last fall, I came to the studio on a gray day. It was evident as soon as I opened the door that something was very different and it took a moment to figure it out. But suddenly I realized that the tree was gone. Completely disappeared. Vanished. I was stunned. The view was completely altered. No longer would I view the seasons through the tree. The view is now of a barren industrial landscape. Muddy and sterile.
The death of my mother-in-law has removed the canopy of her love from our lives and the view right now is pretty bleak. Dad continues to search of her and we are helpless to comfort him. We grieve and shed tears, sigh and try to move on.
This isn’t the end of our story, though. Just a transition. There will be new things planted. Better days are coming.
Saturday was bright and sunny as we went to Mom and Dad’s apartment for the last time. The charity has come and picked up the furniture. Now, we filled up the cart with the last load of bits and pieces, I vacuumed the entire apartment while Mike washed down surfaces. Once I was done, I walked back into their former bedroom and tears softly welled up. They don’t come so suddenly in a rush anymore. Now it’s a gentler flow. We loaded up a cart, gave the poinsettia to one of Mom’s friends, and went downstairs to say goodbye to the friends they made over the past five years. Everyone asks after Dad. I tell them he’s doing the best he can under the circumstances. We promise a visit when my sister-in-law comes back into town and then we’re off to empty the car and fill our house halfway to the ceiling with boxes.
We drop off the keys and access cards the next day after church and after dinner go to visit Dad. He’s in good spirits but very confused. He’s still unclear about Mom, although now when we tell him she’s gone he’s not as surprised, nor as upset. He realizes he’s heard that before and now wants to know the details of their will. Then we skip to Mother again and for a few minutes we go around and around. I pull out a photo album I made of the time a few years ago that he, Mike, and I went for a ride on a B-17. This was the type of plane he was a gunnery sergeant for during World War II. This brings back memories. Both of the war and of that day. The memories are a bit scrambled, but pleasant and gets the conversation off things that worry him. But when we’re done, he’s back to being confused and worried. To the point that he asks about Mom’s husband. But when I point out that would be him, he throws back his head and laughs and says he’s glad I reminded him of that.
And so we’ve transitioned to a new phase of the journey.
When I stopped everything to care for my mother, I assumed life would pick up where I had left off once she was gone. I don’t know why I thought that, but it did help me get through some of the trying times of that journey.
However, after she died it was difficult to find my footing. For one thing, I needed to to recover from the exhaustion and the weight gain of over thirty pounds from stress eating. For another, I was walking with a cane from an injury I’d had the year before. Physically, I was a wreck.
But most of my inability to move forward was due to emotional fallout, so I decided to be kind to myself and do whatever might be necessary to heal, recover and just breathe for awhile before taking on any big projects.
It was a good plan, but we quickly realized Mike’s parent’s were beginning to need far more support than we could provide from across the state. The process of moving them closer began and my role of caregiver evolved into something new.
At this writing, I’ve been an elder caregiver in one way or another for over a dozen years. Looking toward the future, there will be others who will also need me to be in their life for some sort of caregiving support. I’ve come to the realization that I’m going to be in this role for the rest of my life. That is a sobering thought.
Flipping through an old undated notebook I found something I wrote that expresses my thoughts right now.
“God is always at work…eventually, there will be a crisis of belief. Major life
adjustments are needed.”
Caregiving is not going to end.
Life is never going to be the way it used to be.
Major adjustments ahead.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.