I always believed I could design my way into or out of anything. To design is to start with something, a lump of clay, a need, canvas and paint, or a girl who died of leukemia and her grieving mother, and then turn it into something else. For me, to design is to fix and to make beautiful.
But in March 2011, cancer killed my daughter. I could not fix that. I froze. Like mud in winter. Who am I, I wondered? Am I still the mother of a daughter? Who or what am I supposed to fix now?
The day after she died I discovered my daughter was a writer. So I began to write. I wrote our story. And rewrote it and kept writing. Here was something I could fix. I could edit the manuscript endlessly.
But this is messy. In rewriting, I relive the times in and out of hospitals with my daughter. I bring her back to life for twelve chapters and hold my breath as I watch her die. Then, dragging my dashed spirit up off the floor, I fix the next half of the book where I travel alone to Australia with her ashes, come home, and begin a new life. Over and over again, I write and relive every day. For three years.
“When are you going to get a real job with health insurance?” my mother nags.
“It’s time to move on to something else,” says a friend.
“I’m designing my way to healing,” I try to explain. But the truth is I am stuck.
Writing led to blogging. Almost everyone has lost someone or something they love. I ache to fix the pain as another relative is diagnosed with cancer, a friend’s son kills himself, a stranger online reaches out for support.
“There’s life after loss,” I blog on my website, and write the stories of my own struggles in the hope of helping someone else.
Blogging led to photography. I wanted to add pictures to my stories.
My frozen mud began to thaw when I discovered Photoshop with all its fixing tools: a Patch Tool, a Dodge Tool and an Add-Anchor Tool, a Magic Eraser, a Magic Wand, a clone Stamp, …and a Healing Brush. Photoshop lets me redesign my universe. The opportunities for change are endless. The beautiful truth is there are some things I can fix.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!