I hit a wall a few weeks ago.
Not a literal wall — more a wall within myself — one that had neither substance or form, but was strong nonetheless. I hit the wall so hard that I hurt something within myself. I had ignored the warning signs and pushed forward until the wall within me put a literal stop to everything.
I had been working on getting my memoir, Little Yellow Magnet, ready for printing. I was planning a launch for the book and was also writing my current work in progress novel at the same time. I was doing my workout, swimming three times a week, and painting when there was time to do so. I did all this while working full time. That’s a lot of stuff going on.
I was starting to feel the pull of the forest again. That dark and shadowy place that I had spent so much time within. I had had a change in my meds after my last appointment with my neurologist, plus two more were added. I had been so busy writing and working and painting and creating that I hadn’t stopped to deal with any of the changes. I hadn’t stopped to consider how rocked I was by the new lesions and the new medication.
I didn’t want to consider the new changes, didn’t want to deal with what they could mean. Granted, the lesions might have been there before. It had been three years since my last MRI, so they could have been lying in the dark, waiting for their turn before the camera. I knew this because my neurologist had told me, but I still didn’t really want to process what it could mean.
Unbeknownst to me, I had entered the forest. I would run into the trees on the very edge and feel the cool seductive whisper of the leaves, feel the grabbing fingers of the shadows. I did not want to go back there, I didn’t want to lose myself again. So, as well as fighting to do everything else, I also began to fight myself.
Then the anger began, slowly at first but with growing intensity. I got angry when the words couldn’t come out right; I got angry when the story in my head didn’t match the one on paper. I got angry when I painted and couldn’t get what I saw in my head out onto the canvas. I was angry all the time but hid that under a cloud of sparkles and sunshine. I always sparkle, I told myself. Why should this time be any different?
I tried to sparkle brighter, tried to shine for everyone else, tried to shine through the edge of the forest even though my sparkle was dimming. It was almost gone, it had gone dark. I didn’t even realize this at the time, but while working on something for my memoir, I absolutely lost it. I came apart a little that day.
Someone I know had recently accused me of not being real on social media, so I chose to vent my feelings on Facebook and tell everyone what I was going through. A friend told me that this was okay, that you can only see the stars shining brightly when the night was at its darkest. This gave me a moment to pause.
As an artist, I am incredibly driven. According to my husband, I accomplish more than others that don’t deal with a physical disability and a disease. He asked me when the last time was that I had sat and enjoyed a book, when was the last time I had gone out for a walk in the sun?
People were telling me to do less, write less, paint less, work less. I knew that I couldn’t do that, but that I could find a balance. I had to honour myself and find a way to step away from the forest. I realized that I would always feel the lure of its trees, but that was fine. The stars did shine the brightest from within the trees but also shone brightly when I was able to walk out of them.
Over the next few days, I realized that the stars still shone within me. What was within the human body but stardust waiting to be set free? And if the stars were in the forest? I could see them through the trees of the forest; it didn’t mean that I had to go in.
I made a promise to myself. I did not have to do everything every single night. Sometimes I would write, some evenings I would paint. I would continue to do my workouts three times a week, but if I missed a swim night, it wasn’t the end of the world.
I also made a promise. I would be kinder to myself. I would treat myself gently, just like the precious jewel that I was. I would no longer hold myself to such a high standard setting myself up to fail.
Most of all, I would sparkle. Not all the time, but when I did sparkle, it would be blinding, for I was made of stardust and it shone the brightest. I would sparkle and it would not be a mask to hide what was going on within.
Instead, it would be a remedy, a state of mind and a mantra to help me stand against the dark.
Jamieson Wolf is an award-winning, number one bestselling author of over sixty books and writer of Two Steps at a Time, a blog about having multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. In the spring of 2019, he released his gripping memoir, Little Yellow Magnet.
He is an accomplished artist who works in mixed media, charcoal, pastels, and oil paints. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet, a perfume designer, and a graphic designer.
Jamieson currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario with his husband Michael and his cat Tula, who is fearless. You can read more about Jamieson on his website or his blog, and can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.