This week, during my fourth programming session, I heard the angels sing. You are done, they chanted. What do you mean, done? You are done with the programming. Already? Doesn’t it usually take six months to get tweaked to perfection? Yes, it might. However, you have responded so well to the treatment that there is no reason to continue tweaking you. I looked at my programmer. Why mess with something that works, she asked. Better is the enemy of good.
I am amazed. Shocked. Excited. Grateful. For the past five months–ever since I decided to go ahead with the operation–my focus has been, predictably, my illness. When things got tough, I gathered strength from believing the operation would have a positive impact on my quality of life. And now what seemed almost unreachable and improbable at times has happened: I am fully tweaked.
My programmer, an exceptional nurse practitioner who has been programming patients for fourteen years, wants to see me in six months. Then yearly until the batteries need changing. I was sad that our sessions were ending and told her so. She said I could always call her if I had questions or concerns. The relationship was not ending, merely the adjustments.
Dear brain, you have been such a good sport throughout this journey. Quite an upheaval for you, considering how much you hate disruptions in your routine. Now that things have calmed down, you should be able to resume your steady, balanced pace. We will continue to work together: you, me, and the neurostimulators. I would say: It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship (with a nod to Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca.)
My brain, imagined (2016)
I recently came across this quote by Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian abstract expressionist painter (1866-1944):
Of all the arts, abstract painting is the most difficult. It demands that you know how to draw well, that you have a heightened sensitivity for composition and for colors, and that you be a true poet. This last is essential.
That made me think. Composition and colors, I do rather well. Am I a poet? Maybe. What about drawing? Never considered it. If I can make an analogy with music, drawing reminds me of Bach’s partitas, toccatas, preludes and fugues: precise, linear, cerebral. As a piano student I refused to play him (I was lucky to have a teacher who indulged my eclectic taste). You cannot make a mistake and get away with it when you play Bach. But with Gershwin, Prokofiev, Ravel, missed chords are opportunities for pianists to replace, maybe even “improve” on the original notation and to do so with a flourish.
I have decided to take Wassily’s statement about drawing seriously. Over the next few weeks I will learn how to draw well. I am gathering materials relevant to my course of study, including the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, #2 pencils, two viewfinders, several erasers, paper, a sharpener, a mirror. I am starting from scratch, even though years ago I did some of the exercises in the book (fascinating stuff, especially the upside-down horse).
Meanwhile, here is a sampling of my latest paintings.
Designer dress (2016)
The Opposite of Slow (2016).
I sway between abstract and figurative art.
The silk merchants (2016)
I am also experimenting with images of hybrids/aliens who have been outfitted with electrodes, neurostimulators, and other such devices. Notice the two little bumps (or horns) on top of the head? Those are the caps–secured with tiny screws, mind you, not glue–that cover the holes in my skull and keep the rain from drenching my brain.
The good thing is that I am painting again. I confess I was a bit worried there for a while. All that construction in my head could have unleashed all sorts of other cravings. I still love peanut butter. All is well.
Raging sea (2016)