This year is turning out to be a year of commitment and major transformations, along with producing a new drawing every day, I’m still writing, I’m continuing the work that I’ve done with my trainer Sherry and I’ve started a new weight loss program working with a nutritionist. I’ve also begun a new meditation practice (which helps keep all of this in perspective) I’ve made wonderful progress, I’ve lost 5 pounds in two weeks, more importantly in the last two months I’ve brought my blood sugar down from a very dangerous average of 120 to a healthier 94.
My enthusiasm and energy are great, I look forward to following my eating plan as it gives me all the satisfaction, coming from good fats, and energy that I need to pursue these goals. But wouldn’t you know it, as with all efforts at changing your life, there comes tests. This week it came from an unlikely source, one of my teeth. This particular tooth has a sad story to go along with it.
Back in 1990 or the end of 1989, it’s all a little hazy as it was a really rough time in my life. I was living in Washington DC where I worked at CNN. I was a production assistant working the evening shift, which meant I did all sorts of jobs such as ripping scripts, herding interns, getting coffee for the anchor and running tapes back into playback. When I first got to the DC bureau I was elated, I’d made it all the way from working every internship I could find in Honolulu, to the nation’s capital at the upstart network that was showing the world it could be as important as the rest of the TV news networks.
But life in the newsroom took a toll on my health. Although I was young and healthy, I had no idea what kind of deadline driven stress was doing to me. Several bouts of reoccurring tonsilitis, perpetual neck and shoulder pain, a weight gain, due to a terrible diet turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. I had a small toothache that turned into an abscess. I went to the dentist, he gave me painkillers and said he I needed a root canal, immediately. He gave me some painkillers and the name of an oral surgeon who would try to squeeze me in the next day. I took the painkillers, which turned out to have codeine in them and I didn’t know it, but I was allergic to codeine and threw it all up. So, the next morning me and my tooth arrive at the oral surgeon’s office at nine in the morning. He couldn’t get to me until Noon, so there I sat, with an abscessed tooth and no painkillers. I was a wreck.
When I got to the chair, the surgeon injected the anesthetic and things went numb, but not numb enough, as he started working, I could still feel what was going on. He said the only other option was to put me under, but I would have to call someone to come and pick me up.
This is when I hit bottom. I had no one I could call. Sure, I had wonderful co-workers, but they were all at work, and I had no one’ s home number. Remember, this was in the days before we all had cell phones. Looking back, I’m sure I could have called the office, they were an understanding bunch and they could have made something happen, but I also suffered from a case of low self-esteem, and I figured no one would bother. So I white-knuckled my way through the surgery, took the metro home, filled a new prescription for a different kind of painkiller, walked home and collapsed.
This event lead me to eventually quit my job at CNN. In August, I was leaving Washington DC the day Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait which lead to the Gulf War, which put CNN front and center on the worldwide stage. I moved back home to Hawaii. I have no regrets, I loved working at CNN, I loved my co-workers, but funny thing, I look at my journals that I kept during that time and I was pondering the following question: how do I balance my job as a journalist with my desire to be an artist?
A similar question came up this week when that same tooth started hurting. I went to the dentist and he said it had shifted, and he shaved it down a bit to encourage it to move back. Of course all the memories of the original event came back and it was very sobering. I thought about the girl I was back in those days. I realized that she felt she had failed, that she didn’t have what it took to live that fast paced life. What I know now, is that she focused too much on the leaving and not enough on the getting there. She had the drive and the focus to leave the coccoon of her family and her humble island home to get all the way to CNN in Atlanta and on to Washington DC. She never listened when everyone she met who worked in media said, “oh, you’ll never get a job, the market is too tough.” She had a dream, she kept her focus, she did everything she could to make that dream a reality. It’s just that when she got the dream job, it just turned out to be the wrong dream.
So my take away from all of this is: I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Needless to say, it’s kinda tough working on art when you have a toothache. I did get to my drawing class and we were given a color postcard and the assignment was to do a black and white version. Here is the original card:
And here is my version.
Finally, I’m getting the darks dark enough. I guess it takes going back to an emotionally dark place and understanding that even the darkest places have their lessons to offer. I’m going to take a break for the rest of this week, but coming Monday, I’ll be back on track. Thanks so much for stopping by and listening to my story.
Rachel, thanks for sharing your story. It’s a powerful one of courageous decision and healing. And it’s a perfect example of what Richard Rohr calls “Falling Upward” in his book by the same title. I commend it to you…he recognizes the creative spirit in the process of making the new self and gives us lots of literary allusion along the way.
Love the progress of your drawings.
Hi Dana, thanks for the encouragement and I’m always looking for good books on the subject of transformation, I’ll certainly check it out. I’m so glad you like the drawings, I would encourage writers to give it a try because it really forces you to look at things, and it’s amazing what you see.
Wow Rachel. You are awesome. I love your writing so much and your drawing is just beautiful. Thanks so much for posting.
Hi Patrice, thanks for stopping by, I’m so glad you are enjoying my work. More to come.