Sometimes fears get the better of us. Sometimes things beyond our control enforce difficult decisions on us. Sometimes we let things happen to us instead of making things happen for us.
I am guilty.
I let fear and circumstance dictate what happened to me for many more years than I wish I had done.
In childhood, I spent hours creating stories and drawing the characters that would have adventures within those stories. I had a wonderful place (at the time I thought that it was my own special Wonderland) where I would go to escape. It was a patch of beautiful landscape with a rickety old wooden bridge leading from one side of the river to the other. As an adult, I discovered it lead to and from the local sewage works. The imagination of a child is an amazing thing.
I was a shy child much more able to relate to my ‘made up’ characters than ‘real life’ people around me. As an adult. I still have an ongoing fight against fear, anxiety, self-doubt and low self-esteem.
After struggling with direction, I finally found a place of belonging in the classroom. I became a Primary School Teacher and felt I had the best job in the world. I could witness the children’s joy in stories and their incredible imaginations. They ignited a passion in me that I thought had long since been buried. I will be forever grateful for that time. But unfortunately, it came to an end much earlier than I would have hoped.
In 2010, after a long process of tests and examinations, I was diagnosed with a lifelong chronic illness. It affected every part of my life. After stubbornly trying to continue in the classroom I eventually had to admit defeat and left my school. I spent a long time in a very dark place not knowing what I should be doing and not really wanting to do anything other than feel sorry for myself and hibernate away from everything. When you have worked hard at something and things beyond your control go in an unexpected direction it is very easy to let yourself focus on the negative.
When we experience pain, emotional and/or physical, it is easy to fixate on that pain at the detriment of all else. I am a wife and a mother; a daughter and a grand-daughter; a friend. It took me seeing the hurt I was causing the people around me to begin to make changes.
I began in the only way I knew how, by bringing my childhood stories and characters back from their storage box. I escaped to my Wonderland and found solace there. I found a new focus and a purpose that I thought I had lost when I left the classroom. I began to draw and paint and write again. And, I found peace and moments of not focusing on the negative and the pain.
Chronic pain has drained my energy but has forced me to a slower pace. I am now able to see and reflect on things that would have otherwise passed me by. I appreciate so much more and have returned to a creative way of life that I thought was long left behind. Life is so much more than simply surviving, I have come to realise that it is also about making the time to include things that make you happy and encompassing all the opportunities you can. For me it is about making art and making memories. I must still approach life one day at a time and I must listen to what my body needs and adjust but I will always make time to create.
Art has saved my sanity. It has also brought me a whole new circle of friends for whom I will be forever grateful. I am still amazed by the response to my work and so happy that people have taken it to their hearts as much as they have. The art community is one of the most encouraging and supportive I have experienced and I have met some people who I know will be friends for life. In this world that is ever-changing, scary and incredible I have found hope and magic again through art and creating.
Deborah lives in The Pennine Hills North of Manchester UK with her husband, two children, two crazy dogs and four adorable bunnies.