I tried to avoid splitting my life into “before” the crash and “after” the crash. It seemed facile and dramatic. But it’s also accurate: My life changed irrevocably on March 22, 2021, and even the things I can get back I will never get back in the same way. I am a different person now, and I still don’t know exactly who that person is.
Some things I have discovered in the four and a half months since:
Punishments do not change behavior. Punishments only change the costs of behavior.
For example: Say that your older child is teasing, tormenting, bullying or otherwise picking on your younger child. In an attempt to stop this behavior, you tell Older Child, “if you treat Younger that way again, you’ll lose computer privileges for a week.”
A few hours later, Younger is in tears. You confiscate Older’s phone, expecting to “teach them a lesson” that results in a behavior change.
But what is the lesson? How will it be learned? For that matter, how exactly was it taught?
Since the crash, my fiction writing has been hit or miss. Drawing, however, has become a daily habit.
I’ve never been exceptionally gifted – or, indeed, gifted at all – in drawing. I’ve also never been particularly skilled at it, because I have so rarely practiced. And during the period of my life in which I got interested enough to practice daily, I also encountered an art teacher who announced loudly, while “fixing” one of my projects to suit herself, “You really can’t draw!”
I regret the literal decades in which I did not practice drawing, thanks to those four words. (Though I did write that teacher a nice poem a few years later, which appeared in the Muskegon River Review.)
Since the crash, words have been hard. Hard enough that even with my lack of practice or skill, drawing has appealed to me as a more accessible and expressive language for my situation.
It’s still not good. In fact, I often make fun of my nightly drawings in the same journal in which I am drawing them. A drawing of my soap and washcloth, one day after a shower (a Herculean feat when one has only one weight-bearing limb), is captioned “Am I improving yet?”
This morning, I decided to practice shading – the particular skill my long-ago art teacher was criticizing when she announced I “really can’t draw.” It is, of course, still bad some 25 years later.
Those intervening 25 years and a successful writing career, however, have taught me things about the nature of bad art.