Art, creating and healing

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.All the king's horses and all the king's menCouldn't put Humpty together again.I remember someone asking me after my treatment for cancer was over what it felt like on a soul level to be diagnosed with a life threatening disease. Hmmm. I wanted to give a thoughtful answer about how I really FELT. How did I feel?I felt like Humpty Dumpty. I had fallen off my life and shattered on the hard surface of mortality. After gathering the strength to sit up and look around, I was trying to find all the pieces to put myself back together. That mental image of putting myself back together soon became a desire to actually reconstruct something as a symbolic way to go on. This brings up an interesting topic – art and healing. We tend to think of art as drawing or painting an image that resembles something. But over the years I have come to realize that the creative process called art is what comes from within and can encompass any number of activities. I wanted to take something broken and reassemble it. How to start. I love pottery and have collected southwest and pueblo pottery since the mid '90s when I began traveling to Taos, New Mexico. I love the round smooth, handcrafted pots, perfect -- just like my body was before cancer. Then I was shattered into pieces held together by scars.As I tried to reframe the putting myself back together into a positive, I found that after being broken, we can add things that weren't there before when we put ourselves back together, and because of all the glue, we are actually stronger than before, and, with our cracks and glue, we have more dimension, more personality. It kind of makes those smooth perfect pots sound boring. By the late '90s, I had been using the image of the broken pot enough that I wanted to actually do it. My fingers itched to find my broken pot and put it together with the special things that had joined my life since cancer. I had only begun to ponder the idea (so do I break a pot myself or what) while on a spring break trip to Taos when I happened to mention my plan to the sales person at one of my favorite galleries. Her face lit up and she said, "I have your pot," going on to explain that a pot in the shop by a local potter named Mary Witkop had been accidentally broken the week before. The name of the pot was Tears and it had the face of a woman sculpted in the side with one tear falling on her cheek. Sure sounded like my pot. She rushed off to ask her boss if she could give me the pieces since insurance had been filed.I knew it was my pot. I felt it in my bones. Tears, accidentally broken, yep, it was mine. She came back and was sorry to tell me but her boss thought the insurance company would need the pieces. Oh well, she said, people break pots all the time so there would be another one for me. I wasn't so sure. A week later I had returned to Dallas and she called me. The pieces of Tears were mine. The insurance company didn't want them. Now we had to find a way to get them to Dallas. I asked her to mail them, I mean, the pot was already broken. No, she said, they would break more. We hung up with both of us knowing that there would be some way that would present itself for me to get my pieces. My messenger ended up being a woman named Nancy Mixner who was visiting Taos a few weeks after I left. She was in the gallery and mentioned she was from Dallas and my clerk friend immediately asked if she had flown or driven. She drove, she said, why? Well, would she be willing to take a box to someone in Dallas. When Nancy asked the circumstances, my friend explained the whole story ending with my name. Nancy Mixner stared. She had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and had read my book and wanted to meet me. Don't you love the way spirit works. So Nancy lovingly brought me the pieces of my pot, symbolically carrying the parts of my life back to me to be reassembled. One survivor to another. Not only did I get the pieces, I got a new friend. When I carefully opened the box, I found Tears, broken into a number of large pieces and then many small pieces where it hit the floor. Ironically, when I finished reassembling the pot, the point of impact was empty – there was a piece missing, just like me. I filled it with beautiful bright beads, gluing them on to one another as I reconstructed the part of me that was missing. In the cracks I put the talismans of my experience, the pink rhinestone ribbon, the earrings my mother gave me before she died, the mustang to represent SMU where they hired me while I was still in chemotherapy. The pearls for my friends and family and the charm my daughter picked out to represent her. And glitter, everywhere glitter. When she was finished Tears spoke to me. I was me again. With all the pieces where they should be. The cracks would never go away – I actually made sure of that by choosing to widen the cracks. And a few cracks would never line up, but that was as it should be. I have scars that will never go away and with all the body parts that I have had moved, well let's just say cracked works. I frequently take Tears off her place on my book case in the living room and hold her. I look at each of the things I placed in the cracks and remember how much I gained from cancer. To a trained artist, Tears won't say anything. To me she represents a journey from shattered to wholeness.