It’s been a while since I wrote my last April notes. What happened in the past year has been surreal, and I’m happy to be alive. Thank you for all the support, I really can’t thank you enough.
Several weeks ago, I was not sure if I’d make it past my birth date this year. My mind was numb, my mental state was a roller coaster, and I tried so hard to stay calm and rational.
There’s a sense of bittersweet gratefulness every time I looked at my husband or the green trees past our apartment’s back patio.
Or my breathing.
Or the seemingly harmless dull pain that let itself known every now and then.
I was very much self aware and yet there was a fragile mental curtain that blocked me from being completely present.
I was slowly coming at peace with the idea of having a surgery. However, I never got around to accept the next level of dire possibility. Regardless, I had to prepare for the worst case scenario – dying on the surgery table. Once confirmed that I would undergo a surgery, Advanced Health Directive (a.k.a. “living will”) preparation was suggested.
Maybe subconsciously, I tried to push the living will’s preparation as last minute as possible. I It’s a futile effort however, it got its firm grip on my mind. My aunt passed away just the week before, so there’s that renewed reminder of mortality.
The day after my doctor’s appointment to confirm the surgery, I drove to Ventura to attend this wonderful annual craft conference called Craftcation. Four days of craft workshops with really nice, like-minded creative makers sounded heavenly, and it really was. I made new friends, gained new crafting skills and resources, and managed to destroy my inhibition to play with colors.
Seriously, going to Craftcation should be on every creative people’s prescription order. Personally, it felt like a celebration of creative journey I culminated for the past year.
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What happened for the past year (April 2017 to now) was my choice. A choice to resign from a good job and give ample time for my creative side to explore. A “leap of faith” kind of choice, and deep down I was extremely terrified. It’s a risky choice because I was investing time into myself and be 100% reliant to my own self drive no matter what. This choice means taking a break from work and not worry about anything else (including this blog) other than exploring and making creatively.
I have always been artistically inclined, but I have no formal design training. I had a vague idea to shift my career path to design, but I did not know how to get there. To be honest, I still don’t quite know how. But my goodness, my friends are so wonderful. From resources, materials, tips, and even mental supports, they have always been so accessible and generous. I lost count how many times I came home from meeting a friend and silently thank God for how lucky I am.
The rest of 2017 had been filled with wonderful rainbows of happenings. Reconnecting with old friends gave way to making wonderful new ones. Along the way, I came to REALLY love the process of weaving with a floor loom, thanks to studio lessons with Lou Grantham at SF Fiber in Oakland. I still can’t stand knitting, but at least I got to understand machine knitting by taking a summer class with California College of the Arts.
I went to New York to see Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons exhibition at Met, as well as Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at Brooklyn museum while visiting my cousin. I went to LA to do Reformation factory tour and score some great deals from Pasadena’s Rose Bowl flea market. While I was there, my most inspiring aunt (the same one I previously mentioned) suddenly gifted me a sweater she hand knitted.
My husband and I went to three national parks and several regional / state parks last year, and I successfully persuaded him to do several photoshoots featuring pieces I bought from my favorite local designers purplemaroon and Jessie Liu. Styling and planning DIY photoshoots are fun yet tricky sometimes, and I really get better at them.
At home, the sewing to-do list became longer every day, fabric stash became overflowed that I channeled them to creative neighbors via NextDoor app, and I eventually enrolled in an online class about Textile Fundamentals based in the UK. Here’s my learning log titled “Talk Textile Study” if you’re curious.
Last but not least, I finally got the chance to learn flamenco dance several times a week! It’s been a dance form I fell in love with a long time ago, yet never had the chance to really put time into it until last year. I’m so inspired with the art of flamenco dancing and I want to learn more, even perform it one day!
I was really happy most of the time last year, but I was having abdominal pain periodically. Once every several months. I brushed it aside as “getting old” problem, but January 2018 was a rude wake-up call to take it seriously. Almost immediately, my focus shifted wholly to my health and nothing else.
I’m not exaggerating when I say my creative projects and learning repeatedly save me from depression. Exploring and getting lost in arts and crafts are calls to go back to my center and preserve my sanity. When I felt helpless, I expressed my fear as part of a Textile Fundamentals assignment. When I started to feel numb or panic, I started an impromptu sewing or origami projects while digesting a mentally challenging information.
During my repeated hospital visits for medical tests and gradually worrying results, I was very calm. One time, I brought my unfinished embroidery project from Craftcation to pass a 2-hour waiting time. Yet I could not really squash that fear of being… gone. No matter how superb the doctor, hospital, and medical teams are, sustaining life is never guaranteed. Just read the consent paperwork!
That’s why my Facebook and Instagram status update on April 19 was not so much of “fear of having my body scar.” It’s more of a “just in case this is my last post ever.” It’s my way of being at peace with that inextinguishable risk. Photos you see on this post was taken one week before the surgery, and I was prepared in case it’s my last one in this life.
I certainly did not expect the pouring of love, support, and encouragements. I did not expect feeling so emotional receiving some of my aunt’s belongings and reading my late father’s handwritten letters. It’s like he’s suddenly next to me as I was about to go through this difficult time. I did not expect feeling so warm and energized moments before going to the surgery room, even as I talked to my husband about the worst case scenario.
And when I woke up? Wow, I did not expect seeing doubles and got so chatty thanks to the lingering anesthesia. The surgery was a success and my husband was really hangry that day. That’s fine, we could deal with that.
Now, I’m still confined to my bed most of the time. My walking gets better every day, but my stamina is still very crappy. It will be a while before I can resume my flamenco lessons. Still, I never forget to count my blessings. I got to celebrate my birthday with my husband and my mom. They asked me what I’d like to eat every day, making sure I wasn’t bored with what’s on the menu. My friends checked on me once in a while, making sure I’m alright.
And indeed, it’s alright now. I can now start to regain my creative focus and plan my next moves. There will be new challenges coming for sure. I may not be completely out of the woods yet, but that’s life. There will always be battles to come as long as we live. If time is kind, then I will get to write more April notes in the future.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have all the power, perseverance, wisdom, and most importantly love to go through your journey in life. I cannot thank you enough for your support, and God bless you.
Have a wonderful day,
Styling and Makeup by Mira Musank
Photos by Christian Hadidjaja