Sometimes, just when I’ve felt like I was “cracking up” – I have found my greatest insight.
For the last few months, I haven’t shared much about my personal life. I didn’t want to complain and it was easier not to write how I honestly felt. I was depressed, living with chronic dry eye pain was wearing me down.
Much of the time, it was difficult for me to fully open my eyes. My spatial awareness wasn’t great. On the way to meet two good friends for dinner, I took a fall on the first step of an outdoor concrete stairway. My knees were bleeding and I cried on that step where I fell for a few minutes. Gradually, I stood up slowly and hobbled up the stairs to join my friends and I knew I was very lucky I hadn’t broken anything. My friends were worried about me. I felt so grateful for their love and concern and by the end of the evening, I managed to find my smile again.
Other than my eye issues, many good things were happening in my life. When I received an illustration assignment from a major nut company, it was the perfect job for me.
Initially, the job had an extremely quick deadline, which I had to promise I could make. The creative director congratulated me for being the artist chosen, but then I was left waiting and wondering when the project would begin. After a week, I followed up and was told that the client was concerned about whether my work was “realistic enough.”
I sent off samples of nut illustrations I had done for another company nine years ago. And then a few days later, my project began. Thankfully, the deadline was no longer five days!
My assignment was to create two illustrations of nuts in a wooden bowl with a window in the background. One bowl held walnuts and the other held mixed nuts. A nutcracker rested on top of the nuts in the bowl. I went shopping and then sent photos of my reference (wooden bowls, nuts and nutcracker) to the art director.
I discovered that some of the pecans I purchased were different. I sent the photo above to find out which pecan I was supposed to use. I was surprised that the one that I needed wasn’t either of those. I was able to improvise and create them from both the ones I had. I changed the color and added streaks.
I searched for different nutcrackers and purchased several. It turned out that the one I owned, which I had used as a kid (and was a little tarnished) was the winner.
Ironically, just after receiving this job, my life took a turn. Large itchy red bumps began to pop up all over my body. I was scratching and it was literally driving me nuts!
Were they bites or a rash? I went to see my dermatologist and he wasn’t even sure what they were. I was given a steroid shot and he did a biopsy. A few days later, the results came back without any real answers. I didn’t care, as long as they didn’t reoccur. Gradually, fewer and fewer popped up and I was left with a lot of scabs.
At my worst, I had about 30 welts and the itchiness was overpowering. I took Benadryl once, which made me dizzy and only added to my misery. I had trouble sleeping and couldn’t do much of anything. For four days I stayed in my bathrobe and kept rubbing all kinds of things on my bumps.
On the weekend, I decided to call my former college art teacher and good friend, Nancy. It was her birthday and I hadn’t spoken with her in over a year. In the dim light of my bedroom, as her phone rang I wondered if I’d reach her.
Nancy answered and sounded so happy to hear from me. It felt great to hear her voice but my own voice was shaky and tearful. Immediately, she asked me what was wrong. I began to pour out all of my frustrations and issues. I was embarrassed because I had called to wish her a happy birthday, not to cry!
I held a wet tissue to my eyes and sniffled as she spoke to me gently. She said, “Jude, you have no idea how amazing you are and I am so sorry for all of these situations where you have been taken advantage of. People, who are kind and sensitive like you are, usually are the ones that get stepped on. But don’t let that affect your self-worth!”
She paused and added, “Getting an art job is incredible! There are so few illustrators out there who consistently get work and make a living at it. You are so fortunate; it really is a message from God. It seems like every time you are down, work comes to lift you up. Have you any idea what an accomplished artist you are?”
We spoke a little longer and then planned to reconnect the following day. After I hung up, I felt so much better and grateful for her words. I remembered being Nancy’s student in college. At that time, I wasn’t even sure about whether to major in art or not!
That afternoon, I got dressed for the first time in a few days. My bites were becoming scabbier and didn’t bleed if I left them alone.
I decided to go for a walk. The weather was beautiful and it felt like spring was here already.
I was listening to music, as I passed by a young couple sitting on the grass. The woman mouthed something to me that I couldn’t hear. I didn’t want to be rude and ignore her.
I stopped walking, pulled out one ear bud and said, “Hi! I’m sorry – I didn’t hear what you were saying to me.”
She said, “Oh, I just wanted to tell you that you have a lovely smile.”
I wasn’t even aware that I was smiling! I thanked her and said, “It must be because I was listening to music. That always gives me a smile.”
She said, “Oh, it’s more than that. You are radiant – it’s like there’s a light shining from you.”
I smiled even more broadly and thanked her. I replied, “Well, you just made my day.”
I continued walking and thought about the beautiful signposts that would help me now.
Last week, after many rounds of layouts I received approval to work on the foreground of my illustration. My paintbrushes and dyes were spread out on my desk. I began to paint and it felt really good to work with color again – even if it was mostly brown.
During the time I was itchy, I spent a lot of time wondering where my journey had gone. Was I destined to suffer with my eyes and depression? I had created so many things that were still unfinished; I felt frustrated and discouraged.
I turned everything around by changing my thoughts. Instead of asking myself, “Why haven’t I finished anything,” I asked myself instead, “How can I finish?”
The person I had hired to edit my audio book had held onto it for eight months. She had not followed through on her promises to finish and hadn’t replied to my last inquiry.
I moved forward to finish my audiobook working with someone else. I finalized three albums and sent the songs off to be mastered with someone else. The first engineer, whom I had paid and had given me distorted files, was crossed off my list.
I was determined.
But most importantly, I saw a different eye doctor and that is another story for me to write soon.
After three years of suffering, my eyes began to feel better!
© 2016 by Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.