Healing inspires my artwork.
About 6 years ago my dentist told me I would need braces or my teeth would deteriorate. Then he gave me 7 fillings at the same time. Ouch! About 2 years ago, I finally became willing to go to a few orthodontists. They all told me I needed jaw surgery. I was terrified. Finally a year ago I began the process and two weeks ago I had the jaw surgery.
The surgery was on both my jaws and my chin bone. It was the most physically intense thing I have ever done. I am a chef by trade and I love food. In addition to serving its nourishing function, food is my main source of entertainment and comfort. For nine days, while my jaw was wired shut, I could only eat liquids I squirted into my mouth.
After admitting to myself that I didn’t want to live with constant tension in my jaw, I started taking steps towards the surgery. My personal healing process usually begins with this sense that something is wrong. It’s not a doctor that diagnoses me, but usually this tiny voice inside that starts nudging me towards a different reality. It took almost four years to actually follow through with the surgery because in the beginning I just wanted to run away from it. I was scared. I knew how to live with the pain in my jaw. Changing that would be chaotic and take a lot of energy. Also pride stepped in. Pride told me nothing was wrong with me. It told me that I was just fine. Pride told me I don’t need anyone else but I have never successfully healed anything alone.
After the surgery, it felt like a heavy weight had been dropped on my jaw and I could only speak through wired shut teeth. I wasn’t miserable though. I have never in my life felt so supported by my community. Friends have filed through my room. My phone has been a constant stream of encouraging texts and checking-in. My mom came from Ohio and spent an entire two weeks caring for me.
My healing process has been a community event. It wasn’t a community event I organized or even anticipated. Friends that had never met came to know each other sitting around my bed. I counseled people that perched on my bedside on their love life, their finances, and their career. Before the surgery, I was so afraid I would feel isolated but instead I’ve felt more connected. I realize in my very busy life I don’t have room to receive this level of support.
I anticipate I’ll integrate this new experience into my artwork. My art pieces are often community events that are nudges to others to heal something and recognize an alternate reality. I aspire that my art pieces are that thing that points out what isn’t working. I aspire that my pieces build community so it is possible to heal with joy, with support, with a vision for a different reality.
As one of my favorite Bay Area artists, Marc Bamuthi Joseph says, “I EXPLICITLY seek to present art that reflects and inspires transformation on personal and collective levels, and that constructs safe space for this transformation to take place.”
Healing is a community event.