Prompt: Just Write
I tried multitasking with this one. It is an art journal page for Journal52 and it is my psych homework. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist last Friday. I didn’t mention my declining mood but maybe I should have since it has only gotten worse. I thought it was just the usual up and down at the time. What we did discuss was work. I am having trouble dragging myself through it. I’m not sure if it is work itself, or me being depressed that is the problem. As I was leaving the appointment, Psych said he felt he should give me homework. He asked me to write about work. He wanted me to write what I like about it without thinking about it too much. He didn’t say I had to write it out in my neatest handwriting or anything and considering I hadn’t used this art journal prompt, I figured why not make it into a page.
I’m not really sure what this exercise is supposed to achieve. I don’t deny that there are things I like about my Ph.D., there are just a lot of “but”s. I enjoy learning. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t evolving and if you aren’t evolving, well, you are pretty much dead. I know there are lots of different ways to learn. I just know the academic way of learning and I was good at it, so that’s the route I took.
I also like information. I like to gather it, break it down into small digestible pieces and then build it back up in my own words with my own perspective. I like to share this information with others too. Teaching those that want to learn is always a great experience. I have a bit of stage fright, maybe a lot of stage fright, but giving a talk at a conference can make you feel like a rock star.
I also get to help people, improve their quality of life. Right now, there is no solution for age-related vision loss. There are treatments to help slow the progression, but no cures. The doctors spend as much time with their patients as they can, but some ophthalmologists have to pack 90 patients into one day. They don’t have the time to explain everything. I can do that. I can answer questions and explain how to use various visual aids. We even have training programs that teach people how to use what sight they have left. Most importantly, I can listen. Sometimes, that is all my patients want, someone to listen to them. I can do that.
The reason I started down this path in the first place was because I was interested in vision, aging vision in particular. I was close to my Gran growing up, I even lived with her the first year my family moved to Montreal. Gran had Macular Degeneration (AMD). It got so bad that she was considered legally blind. This meant she wasn’t completely blind, she could still see light and movement, but no details. She walked around with the white cane, listened to audiobooks and was a member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
Now, just stop for a second, imagine what it must be like to be a senior citizen, someone who has been depending on their vision for 65+ years and now cannot rely on it at all. You can’t drive, you can’t read, you can’t recognize people, you can’t shop without help because labels, prices and colours are hard to figure out and you can’t do most of your hobbies anymore because trying to see what you’re doing is too frustrating. Just imagine. It is worse when it happens quickly and there is no time to adapt. That is what happened to Gran. Most of the folks I work with get pretty depressed, but not Gran.
Gran was resilient. She had a great attitude. She was determined to stay independent and wasn’t going to let AMD stop her. She still went out on her own. She used her memory to get around the area she lived in. Once, she slipped on some ice and fell, broke her arm. She was out and about, cast and all a few days later. Her love of reading turned into an audiobook subscription. She used tools given to her by the CNIB to continue playing cards and doing cryptic crosswords. Gran even continued knitting! Of course, she could only do the patterns she knew by heart, but added her own little twist to them. These are two of the elephants Gran knitted. An angel and another one with a pink sweater, scarf and beret.
All in all, she lived 15 years with AMD. Gran was a remarkable woman. Her attitude was inspiring. Sadly, I know it’s not like this in all cases. That is what prompted me into this field. I wanted to help in any way that I could. I still do.
By the time I finished my writing, I was in tears. Gran has been gone for 11 years now, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. I guess there are just some losses you never really recover from. I am pretty sure this is not the conclusion Psych wanted me to come to when he assigned me this writing exercise. Perhaps he wanted to determine if I was doing a Ph.D. for the right reasons? I don’t know.
Anyway, this is the page.
For those of you interested in the art part…..I started by drawing a few eyes here and there. I wrote around them with different shades of blue Sharpie. You can see the Sharpie through the back of the page, so make sure you plan to gesso over the back or something. I wrote in different directions with a combination of printing and cursive. I spread a thin layer of gesso over the writing when I finished. I used my old Blockbuster membership card to spread the gesso. I find you can get a thinner layer with the gesso than with a paint brush. I wanted the writing to still be visible. The eyes were coloured with watercolour pencil crayons and Signo Uniball pens. I went over the background with some pastel gelatos. You can see kinda read the writing. It’s a bit tough in some places. I then went through with a Sharpie paint pen and highlighted some key words.