My 9 year old son Henry finishes treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia March 9th 2019. We still have a winter to get through but I am thinking gently about the change at end of treatment. Lots of people have told me that I will probably find it very difficult but I am not sure what that looks like… I am trying to put things in place to help the transition. Often I find the extremeness of the situation and the adrenalin gets me through things that if I stopped and thought about them would feel beyond impossible. I think that after having lived a life in such a traumatic state for such a long time adjusting to ‘normal’ life will be one of the hardest things. A friend told me that often people returning from war stop off somewhere else before returning home to decompress. I need to decompress somewhere, somehow, my studio is my sanctuary and maybe that’s the place to just be, where I can have time by myself to really think and process. Stepping between a world of childhood cancer and day to day life does feel like living in two very different worlds. I often find it really hard to adjust to walking round the supermarket after a trip to Addenbrookes, thoughts of Hen’s treatment, the other people we meet and the terrible journeys that they are supporting their children through make both places feel like a dream/nightmare. The winter scares me now, I think we will be hibernating, keeping our heads down to hopefully get through it without too much time in hospital. Last winter was very hard with lots of time in hospital, Henry needed to get to N&N with a temperature during the heavy snow, it was terrifying. The little girl who was poorly in the next bed at Addenbrookes in 2016 died in February, everything felt like it was crashing in. Sometimes when I drop Hen off at school I look at all the kids running around and think about her and the children in hospital fighting for their lives right now as I write this. They should be collecting conkers, running to school, laughing with their friends.
Last winter I spent a lot of time stitching. I looked for some images from my Instagram feed and realised that I set it up in March 2016, the beginning of Hen’s 3 years of treatment after 3 months of intensive chemo. Looking through the images I have posted between then and now felt so uplifting, joyful and positive. Full of Exhibitions, Drawing, Painting, Stitching and Walking – My Instagram. I noticed many things but particularly that around this time, Sept/Oct 2016, 2017 and 2018 I start stitching! I hadn’t realised it was a habit linked to the seasons. In 2016 I needed to make tiny stitched hearts, I can see now that I was mending my heart with stitch, thread and colour. I started with the broken heart on the left when we thought we might lose Hen, a star for each of us.
I then started making scrappy little birds, something I am feeling an urge to today again this winter…
I have started this Winters stitching with this cross stitch for my sister. Counted cross stitch is my meditative creative practice, it’s a bit like doing a sudoko puzzle with thread! I can pick it up and put it down without much thought, which is useful for long waits in hospital when there is too much going on to concentrate on reading a book.
So what has this got to do with a Creative Manifesto?
Autumn and Winter are a real time of reflection for me after the busy Spring and Summer of Exhibitions and Workshops. I look forward to getting in the studio or out on the marshes to draw. This year with the approach of EOT (End Of Treatment) I feel like I really need to keep my focus and steer myself through what could be a joyful but difficult time as we really take stock of what we have come through. In order to do this I am going to give myself the time and space to create what I need to create, take the pressure off painting for exhibitions and just make what I need to make. Stitching, Printmaking, Drawing, Painting and alongside this really think about what I do and why. Question my practice, challenge my assumptions, change direction, experiment, play and use all of this to develop my own Creative Manifesto as a means to keep me on track and help me through hard times both creative and emotional. I am really looking forward to it!