1st – 8th January 2021.
One of the hardest things about recovery from cancer surgery & subsequent treatment, is that you’re never quite sure what your new level of fitness is going to be, & how long it might take for you to start feeling a little bit human again. I’ve been so used to work-related tasks and goals, that I genuinely didn’t have a clue how to occupy my time whilst I on extended sick leave. I was scared of doing anything too physical in case it stressed my body out, but at the same time, I didn’t want to sit and watch tv all day.
As part of my recovery, I was offered a (virtual) Expressive Art course (posh word for Art Therapy) & I thought it would be fun to do. This activity took my focus away from anything cancer related. I’ve been pre-occupied with such unhelpful intrusive thoughts & anxiety about the cancer returning. (Studies have shown that this is quite common for those people who have just finished treatment, & this can be a daily recurrence for 1 or two years). By making stuff, it just re-programmes my mind so that I can immerse myself in an imaginative world. It lowers my heart pace. I breathe deeper; slowly lengthening the time I can concentrate.
Over the past few months, I’ve surprised myself in how creative I’ve been. Obviously, we’re not talking ‘high art’ here, but the course has really sparked my imagination. I’ve also started to write again as well & I’m even thinking about making little films. This is all creative stuff that I used to do before my career went in a different direction, namely supporting live music.
January is normally a busy month for me because it’s my birthday month & the birthday month of some of my oldest & closest friends (big up the Capricorns!) Many of them, like me, are turning 50. The current circumstances we’re in has forced us physically apart, but we’ve still been virtually connected in zoom parties & such like. However, I could sense that despite the frivolity & the online cocktail parties, January was going to be a long, dark month, so I was delighted when the 64 Million Artists’ January Challenge came along. Signing up means you get a challenge each day for the entire month of January. The tasks are picked from the public’s suggestions & then set by three artists – Tourette’s Hero (Jess Thom), Lemn Sissay & Yomi Adegoke. I’m doing Jess’ challenges because I know & admire her. (Well nearly all of them, there was one that I couldn’t do because I couldn’t put music on a little film I’d made, so I had to switch artists for a day!) The emails drop about 7am each day & I’m genuinely excited for the anticipation of what the task will be.
It’s not just art-based; some of the tasks you can write stories & poems, draw cartoons, or make films. The best thing about the creative challenges is that it allows you to just be really silly – for example, my favourite task was dressing up as a Superhero & turning one of my impairments into a superpower. Jess basically turned Tourette’s into a Superhero character & I love this idea that what others might perceive as a weakness about you, the perspective can be changed so it becomes your greatest strength. I have an affinity with Jess’ idea. When I was a little kid, my friends decided to name me “Super Sue” & I’m not sure which of the adults around me did this, but they made me a red cape with red & gold letters spelling out the words “Super Sue” on the back.
I also loved the ‘Little Pocket of Hope’ task which I made the day after my 50th. That task is dedicated to all my wonderful friends who took part & made it the perfect #Lockdown birthday.
I’ve been brave enough to publicly share my creations on Twitter & this has worked out well for me – thankfully! I hardly use twitter because I feel quite negative towards any kind of trolling & I’m really shy about sharing any creative work; in general, I hardly ever show my creations to anyone. I’ve been frankly chuffed by the positive feedback & the few retweets that I’ve had. I’m banking on the fact that sharing my 64 Million Artists’ creations & sharing my blog site will help me overcome my anxieties about being judged.
Anyway, I’ve posted my first weeks’ worth of tasks below. I hope you enjoy them. Aside from the film which I haven’t posted on my blog, each photo has an image description underneath.
This task was all about ‘Conversations with a Lamp Post.’ It was New Year’s Day & although I wasn’t drinking, I did feel rough! The task was all about what conversations you might have with inanimate objects. I filmed whilst I was still in bed. I chose my reusable drinking straw as my object & our conversations were based on how the straw had served me well during the times when I’m ill & can’t reach my drink, & how using it to drink cocktails as well as during ill times wasn’t necessarily related (honest!)
This task was about ‘Hidden Faces.’ A face appeared from a slice of my birthday cake & said “I can’t believe you made it to 50!”
Image description: Pieces of chocolate sponge marble cake with chocolate buttercream icing is arranged on a wooden chopping board into the shape of a face. There are two pieces of buttercream icing shaped into eyebrows, two eyes are shaped from the plain part of the sponge cake, & the nose and mouth are shaped from pieces of the chocolate part of the sponge.
‘Little Pocket of Hope’ – My one has a message of hope that is about always being there for my friends & placed in the pocket for them is a red velvet heart (to squeeze when you need comfort), a Robin (one visits me in the garden to cheer me up), a peppermint tea bag (everyone needs a calming cup of tea), a little notebook (to write down all your happy times & revisit them when you need cheering up) & a fountain pen (to write with).
Image description: A circle made out of two pieces of white card glued together is placed upon a black carpet. One circle is folded in half to form the pocket. Inside the pocket are the following items: a peppermint tea bag in a lime green coloured packet with “Jarv is…Beyond The Pale…Peppermint Jungle Herbal Tea” written on it in white writing. Next to it is a Robin cut out from a Christmas card. Tucked behind the Robin is a gold & yellow-coloured fountain pen with white flowers on it. Next to the Robin is a red-coloured velvet heart with gold beads on it & a gold thread – it’s a Christmas Tree decoration. Tucket behind the heart is a light green coloured notebook with a gold design of a thistle & the word “notes.” Written on the lower half of the pocket in black felt tip pen are in capital letters “A circle is round and never ends, and that’s how long I’ll be your friend.” There is a palm of a hand printed in the middle, made from a pre-made bespoke printing block.
My disability superpower is my old bones telling me it will rain a day before it actually does, so if I point my umbrella at you on a sunny day, you’d better take action & grab your umbrella to prepare for the following day!
Image description: A white woman with bleached blond hair & ruby red lipstick, sitting in a black electric wheelchair, is in her back garden. She has her back against a brick wall & there are a few plants in plant pots around her as well as little bulb garden lights. She is wearing a white, orange, and navy-blue coloured woollen bobble hat with the word “super” knitted in white & pink, orange-rimmed sunglasses shaped into two stars & a cape made from purple & blue tinsel. She is pointing a large, royal blue umbrella out in front of her, which hides her legs.
‘Thinking Inside the Box’ – ‘The Mini Jam Jar Beach Scene.’
Image description: a mini glass jam jar on a painted white shelf against a black background. Inside the jar is some light golden-brown sugar for sand. Stuck in the sand is a pink cocktail umbrella which is the parasol. Lying on top of the sand is a piece of pink ribbon which is the beach towel. This is all resting against a backdrop of white foam, green-blue sea & blue sky with white clouds & a yellow sun, painted in water colours.
‘Find the Rainbow’ from items around you.
Image description: an old teddy bear wearing a knitted red suit, a black & white handkerchief as a scarf & various badges with slogans, a yellow gel pen, a pink plastic hairbrush with black bristles, a green bracelet with green stones, small purple ceramic plant pot, an orange-coloured lip & cheek colour in a tube, a blue necklace shaped in the words ‘European’ with a small gold star & a silver chain.
‘Light as A Feather’ – here’s my little homemade bird, stopping for a rest & a drink.
Image description: A little homemade bird stops to drink from a pool which is made from light blue card & covered with fake blue & green feathers. Two small pink fluffy pom-poms form the head & body of a little bird. It’s wings & tail feather are made from fake feathers which are bright blue in colour. Its beak is made from a small piece of yellow card, cut into the shape of a diamond.
‘The Actual’ is about the frustrations of online shopping, expressed in a poem (the end line is cut off in the photo but the words are within the image description below).
Image description: A white A4 sized pad lays on a background of rose brown piano. The poem’s words are written with a black felt tip pen as follows –
“I wait, in anticipation, in fear, in anguish
The app isn’t working, the website has crashed
Hopes of a homemade cheese & potato pie fading; ##As the ‘Orange Circle of Doom’ keeps rotating.
Since when did booking an online shop
Become as stressful as securing a Glastonbury ticket
Why do I care so much about my brand of toilet roll
And whether, within the order, my favourite crisps will be with it?
I might be on the Extremely Clinical Vulnerable List
But my letter came too late
I suspect I wasn’t the only one unable to register
After the cut-off date.
So here I am, with all the other poor buggers, 8,000th in the online queue
Craving the day when I can return to the shop
And exchange some friendly banter with the security guard
Please, someone, make this s**t stop!