Tag Archives: art

Losing yourself

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So I volunteer with a program that goes to nursing homes and does art therapy sessions with elders with dementia. Yesterday night was our big, end-of-the-year art show. As a student leader, I do no have a partner that I meet with every week. Rather, I help lead and facilitate the weekly sessions. Because of this, and the fact that I’ve only been involved for a year, I haven’t known any of the elders over a very long period of time. I seriously love each and every one of them, but I haven’t been around long enough to see the changes that the disease has been forcing on them.

Last night I was helping direct pairs of students and elders, and helping people get in and out of the elevators and find their partners. My nursing home was one of the very last to arrive, and they had to make two trips in the bus to get everyone there. In the second bus, there was a woman who I didn’t have on my list. One of the women from the nursing home told me that her name was Jean, and that she’s been active in the program in previous years, but has gone downhill recently and had to stop coming. Because she wasn’t a regular, she didn’t have a partner. She was the last to come up the elevator to the show, so I offered to sit with her and take her around to see the art.

Jean was really struggling. She spent most of the show half asleep, and the other part of the time she seemed to be in the throes of hallucinations. She would reach out a carefully rearrange things on the table, then act like she was kitting or sewing, or picking things up off the table to set in her lap. She did not talk beyond a few incoherent mumbles and did not respond to my talking to her.

After a brief ceremony where the volunteers and elders were recognized, I took Jean around in her wheelchair to see the art, including a piece of her own. Again, no reacting and continued hallucinations. I kept talking, though, and showed her pieces some of her friends had made. As we were going around, I had a woman come up to me. She was ecstatic to see Jean, and really excited that I was helping her around. She thought I was her partner. I told her that I was actually a leader, and was just filling in. This woman started telling me about Jean. Jean before the disease took its tole.

Jean loved to tell stories. She would sit there during art sessions and talk her partner’s ear off, telling them about her day, about her past and family, about something funny another resident had done, or telling them a story that she had made up on the spot. She had a definite way with words. And her art was amazing. She was very detailed and illustrative, drawing figures rather than abstract shapes. She loved the art sessions, both for the people she got to see and the pieces that she made.

I could hardly believe it. I just couldn’t match up this description with the woman I was pushing around in her wheelchair. It was as if she was describing a completely different person. In a way, I guess she was. Alzheimer’s has taken away the person she was before, and has left this sleepy, unresponsive woman in her place. This was the first time really where the disease had been brought home to me, hearing stories about how she used to be and seeing how she is now. It made me so incredibly sad, especially when I thought of the fact that the person she was is probably almost gone for good. That woman who told stories and drew amazing pictures has disappeared forever. And that’s going to happen to all of my other amazing artists that I love, given enough time.

We finished going through the artwork and went downstairs to wait for the bus. She was still hallucinating, but seemed a bit more alert. She actually opened her eyes to look at me where I was sitting in front of her. She started to talk. I couldn’t understand almost anything she said, but I tried my hardest to respond appropriately and keep talking to her. She seemed happy to just have someone there listening and paying attention to her.

The bus finally came and I took her outside to board it. As the worker backed her until the wheelchair lift, I told her that I was really happy that she had kept me company during the evening, and looked forward to maybe seeing her at the next art session if she was feeling up to it. She looked right up at me and told me that she would like that. She then smiled, shook her head, and told me that I was a beautiful girl. I almost burst into tears right there. Here was a woman who was struggling to retain herself in the face of a devastating disease, and who was clearly losing that fight, and yet when she came back to herself for a brief time she still was incredibly kind and appreciative. Most people would have seen Jean and written her off as a vegetable, not worth their time. But with just a little attention, some kind words, and a listening ear, she returned enough to offer some kind words of her own. She just demonstrates to me that every single person is worth our time and effort, and that even the tiniest things can be regarded the greatest victories.

I was so glad I got to spend time with Jean, and I genuinely look forward to doing so in the future. Hopefully she’ll feel well enough to come to art therapy every now and then!

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Oh, roommates.

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Have I mentioned that I live with a freshman? Yes, a freshman. A freshman in an apartment with two seniors and one junior who’s basically a senior (she’s the same age as us). That’s a recipe for disaster right there.

She moved in after my one crazy roommate moved out (that’s a whole long story in itself — maybe I’ll tell it one day), since she had had also had a crazy roommate and was forced out. Management put her in our apartment without talking to any of us who already lived there, which was a bit annoying. Her kitten also moved in, which has been an adventure.

Things were great at first — she was super nice happy, and very willing to make sure things worked. But things have deteriorated since November. First of all, her cat. The thing is pretty much feral, and incredibly wild. She doesn’t like to be touched, I’ve never heard her purr, and she basically only has two modes — crazy and asleep. She attacks my cat, eats his (special diet, expensive) food, and has been peeing on his litter mat. My roommate never cleans her kitten’s litter box, so she uses my cat’s. It gets full super fast, and if I don’t notice it right away, she pees. I’ve had to clean it up over and over again, and so has my other roommate. The freshman never has, even when we’re told her and asked her to clean it. She’s literally just left the pee all over the floor and ignored it. It’s super frustrating. We’ve discussed it with her more than a few times, and she just will not clean her litter box. It’s disgusting, and my poor cat’s box gets used like crazy. And, of course, I clean it. She just isn’t responsible enough to have a pet. I don’t think any freshman should have a pet — they’re just not responsible enough and it’s too much for your first year of school.

In addition, she’s lying to the school about where she lives. Freshmen are required to live in the dorms, unless they’re over 21, married, or live with parents/guardians. She’s told the school that she’s living at home and commuting, and she’s not. We were worried that, with the plagiarism hearing, they would figure out that she was lying when they found out that she was living in an apartment with a senior. Lucky for her, it never came up. She’s digging herself a pretty deep hole here — she could get into a lot of trouble if she’s found out.

She’s also been eating our food. We told her when she moved in that she could use any of our cooking and baking stuff, as well as any herbs and seasonings she wanted, but now she’s move on to eating groceries that we buy. Like my roommate’s chicken in the freezer, and our butter. It’s getting ridiculous. She also buys her own chicken, but she leaves it uncovered in the fridge for weeks, and we end up throwing it away or she eats it. I can’t believe she hasn’t gotten food poisoning yet, especially since she also leaves out her dinner left overs on the counter, even when they have meat and dairy in them. Food poisoning waiting to happen.

She’s been getting super annoying lately as well. I think she has a slight attachment disorder (that’s the psychologist in me — diagnosing and analyzing her) from when her father left them. Because of that, she is forever flattering you. Like, “OMG, you were SO right!” “OMG that jacket looks fantastic on you!” “OMG, I love that TV show you told me about!” This isn’t just every now and then — it’s constant. A little flattery is nice, but ass-kissing is hella annoying. I know she does it because she’s afraid of us leaving her, and I try to be understanding, but it gets very wearing. She also is forever thinking we’re mad at her, for stupid things that we’re not actually mad about. She’s always apologizing for things. And then, when we’re actually mad about something she’s doing or not doing, she completely ignores the issue. She flees from it and acts like nothing’s wrong. She hides in her room until she thinks it’s safe and the issue has blown over. It’s definitely a protective factor, but it’s making issues worse.

So, the cat, the lying, the food eating, and the attachment disorder. Adding that on top of the general immaturity of freshmen, and the fact that they’re just getting used to being on their own, and the living with people who are much more mature and used to living and work with others, and you’ve got a nightmare. She’s so super nice, and so happy to be away from her crazy roommates, but this is just betting to be too much. I hate to get mad at her, but we’re all kind of at the end of our rope at this point. She’s currently in the “run and hide in my room” mode, so none of us have spoken to her since before the weekend. It’s ridiculous. She’s impossible to talk to when she’s in this state — she takes it personally, and then she sulks more and nothing changes.

Ugh, sorry. Just needed a quick vent. A positive thing for the day — we’re doing color in my drawing class! Finally! I love pastels — they’re my thing. I think my instructor was really surprised when I started doing my color, because she obviously thought I would have issues with it since I’m very meticulous with charcoal, and have a difficult time “letting go.” Not so with pastels. I don’t like to brag, but I think I’m the most advanced colorist in the class, mostly because my art instructor of 10 years drilled color theory into us. I also just love layering colors. So that’s been a good thing about the week! Also, Sherlock filming. ‘Nuff said.

Thanks for reading my rant! Any advice is always welcome!

 

Is this week over yet?

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Good lord. This has been the longest week of the semester, I think. It just never ends. I’ve been trying to figure out my schedule for next semester, which has been a bit of a nightmare. I need 15 credit hours for graduate school, all art credits. My first schedule I had seven different classes on my schedule — drawing (3 credits), painting (3), ceramics (1), sculpture (3), woodworking (1), metals (1), and printmaking (3). Wut. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. Also because it would interfere with my volunteer work. So I tried again — drawing (3), painting (3), ceramics (3), and sculpture (3), with three credits during the summer with a special program that my university offers. Much better. But now the problem is actually getting all that scheduled, since I don’t have a registration time ticket (since they think I’m graduating and leaving) and because I haven’t taken some of the pre-req courses for a few of them. So I’ve been running around all week trying to figure out who to talk to to get all of this resolved. It’s been crazy, and I’m still working on it.

I’ve also been running myself ragged trying to get everything done this week. I managed to get my one exam that I forgot resolved (I can take it and get half credit, and then extra credit, so it’ll be fine), but I still have a million other things to do. I’ve been trying to finish drawings, working on schedules, writing papers, figuring out group projects and meetings, attending a plagiarism hearing as a witness for my roommate (she got off, basically only because of my testimony), picking up my cap and gown for graduation, and trying to figure out what project I’m doing for my volunteer work. I have to go work on stuff tonight for that volunteer work project (playtime, we call it!), figure out what we’re going to do, and then test it a few times. And, just to add to the stress, I’ve barely had time to eat the past few days. I tried to make barbacoa in my crock pot, but for some reason it totally messed up and was burnt black. I have no idea what went wrong, as I followed instructions to the letter. So last night I ended up eating a corn dog for dinner at like nine o’clock. Ew.

To make everything worse, I haven’t been sleeping well all week. They installed a new light on the apartment building across the way, but it’s not a normal flood light. It’s like a prison yard spot light. Even with my shades closed and my curtains (which are supposed to be light-blocking) pulled, it’s like trying to sleep during the day. I’ve been sleeping with a blanket over my curtains. It’s ridiculous. And because that makes my room so dark, I have a lot of trouble waking up in the moment without at least some natural light. I don’t know what to do, short of getting a ladder and punching out that light.

This lack of sleep is really running me down. I’ve been having more flare-ups than usual, and my hips are killing me. We had to stand all class for my drawing course (but we’re finally doing color — yay! Side note, I love color and I love pastels because I can layer color. We had to draw two fruits, a banana and an orange for me, and use only four colors to draw it, which I chose orange, yellow, green, and purple. My instructor thought I was cheating and using more than four colors. Sorry that I just know how to blend and pick colors? I’m just really good at it. Anyway…). All that standing has just been killing my hips. And then I got to the building where my next course was, after running all around campus trying to get answers for my schedule while exhausted from lack of sleep and fibro-fog, and the elevator up to the third floor was out. I was in the basement. So I had to drag myself up all of those stairs. Ugh. Now my hips hurt even more, even while just sitting here. At least we’re watching a movie in my class, so don’t have to actually think or pay attention. Instead I can write this post!

Anyway, sorry for the rant. It’s been a long week and I just want it to be over. Playtime tonight, then one class in the morning and I can go home for the weekend and see family. It can’t come soon enough! Cheers!