Wednesday, February 7, 2007

First Calendar (1987)

The reproduction does not show the true colors or radiance of this painting. 

Just as in 1982 when I suddenly was able to draw in a way I hadn't drawn before, in 1987 I sat down at my work table and painted what was to be the first in a series of what I called "calendars," although some of them included elements of what I had been drawing and painting previously, i.e. "witnesses" and "imaginary brothers." From this time on, I painted on various sizes of Arches watercolor blocks using gouache and watercolor only. 

At this time, I was working full-time on the evening shift as a medical transcriptionist, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. Tuesday became "art day," and between 1987 and 1989 I completed a painting nearly every week. During this time, I was represented by a gallery and eventually sold most of the paintings in the Calendar Series. 

May 8, 1987, was the day that I began to recover from anorexia and bulimia and the inability to fully grieve the losses in my life. Although there are numerous theories about treatment for anorexia and bulimia, what worked for me was to make a decision (1) that I was not going to throw up when I felt that I had overeaten, (2) that I was not going to "diet" anymore, (3) that I was not going to drink alcohol because that triggered overeating for me, (4) that I was not going to eat even the smallest amount of refined sugar (to this day, I avoid all sweeteners, especially artificial ones), and (5) that I was going to join a nonprofessionally-facilitated support group that didn't insist that I believe in God and consisted only of people who suffered from eating disorders. 

No one forced this decision on me. Maybe that was why the form of treatment I chose was successful. Individual psychotherapy has also been crucial to my recovery. Unlike many bulimics who stop throwing up, I did not gain weight. My weight simply stabilized at what had always been a "normal" weight. Gradually, my mind became clear, and I could see that I didn't need to lose weight. The horrible body-image distortion left me. I didn't require prescription medications. The recovery process has not been easy, but it has continued moving forward. 

It has been nearly 20 years since I made the decision to change my life, after having obsessed about my weight since I was 10 years old, the year I went on my first "diet." I am grateful to have found a way to live where food and my body aren't "the enemy." I could easily have been Terry Schiavo

The calendars were a visual way of reclaiming lost time. After a few preliminary calendars, I began numbering them by month, beginning at the 14th month and ending at the 71st month. In 1970, Yoko Ono and John Lennon had published a calendar with 13 months, an additional month after December. During that year, the man I loved and still love was in Vietnam. He came home in December and from that time until May 8, 1987, I was stuck in what I came to see as a series of months outside of time, a place of inability to grieve fully all that had been lost for both of us in 1970, a place not without its own beauty. 

Up until May 8, 1987, I had never really let go of the belief that we would be together again, marry and have children. On that day, I accepted that I would have to go on with my life. Although I had written down the titles for all of the paintings in the Calendar Series, I am having some difficulty figuring out which titles go with some of the paintings. Another good memory exercise.

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