I cleaned the desk. And then I messed it again with painting equipment and I think it’ll stay messed with painting and drawing equipment forever. Outside of my sketchbooks, I haven’t painted in so long. Years? I forgot how it always feels like walking a tightrope without a safety net; I love it and feel sick to my stomach all at the same time.
I know right? It’s just paint.
Like hands are just hands, and shoulders just shoulders, and pain just pain.
The worst thing about that conversation with the rheumatologist last week wasn’t the miscommunication (lord knows, that’s just humans talking to each other), nor really the way the news was delivered (lord knows, that too is just humans talking to each other), but it was the uncertainty re-introduced. Am I really feeling what I think I’m feeling? What even is it that I’m feeling? I had developed a level of understanding and acceptance of the pain, and suddenly it felt like I had been reading the wrong map, or had it upside down, or had been given only a fragment that I had thought was entirely whole. Left became up, down straight ahead, right was sideways, and I didn’t know how to reach home from there, and if I couldn’t reach home, then I also couldn’t defend it, and it felt that day like it needed defending.
I realised in the short walk between the doctor’s office the carpark, how little I know of the inside of my body. My body that is me. The big stuff, of course yes, but that’s like naming continents on a globe, a few countries, some major cities. What of the countryside, the villages, the mountains, the valleys, the weather? The flora, the fauna? The wars, the colonisers, all those who have fled? I just don’t know. I’ve never cared enough to find out.
I care enough now. As part of understanding the pain inside my body, I want to understand my body itself, to trace along all the soft, the bony, edges. How else can I truly talk embodiment and pain? I don’t have a scalpel, and vivisection, self or otherwise, is unlikely to make it past the ethics watchdogs; nor do I fancy digging up graves. But I do have a pencil, and I do have paper, and if I can’t literally trace along all the soft and bony edges of the terra incognita, the terra pericolosa, that is my organic self, I can use maps that others have made of other bodies, use the images that have already taken of the inside of myself, and draw my way to some kind of a better, deeper, understanding. Draw my way home.
I call it terra pericolosa because I know there will be dangers. At a metaphorical level, the dementor and the valkyrie are still both hiding in there somewhere (or have they been vanquished? Will we ever even know?), the Green Man we’ve already met, and likely there are myriad other creatures lurking in the depths besides. At a psychological level, I am sure there will be some painful reckoning with loss, with aging, with fragility and mortality. Exploration, she is a dangerous business.
So that is my next project, my focus for the next year. I think I might turn it into a series of paintings, or maybe keep the drawings in a folio rather than a sketchbook, so they can be displayed if need be. But that’s a problem for future self; current self needs to get back to work on her current project.
But still. For all the dangers, at an artistic level I’m too excited for my own undies about this one. Medical illustration meets medieval myth – that totally sounds like something I would do.