Or is it possible I never really left my reality? As if anyone can leave chronic pain behind and really have time off!

Sensing the cynical? I best write this post two ways. Technically, the permission ends on Thursday night when we head back to Melbourne so I’m going to post my brain’s two conflicting versions:

1. Crap thinking out-of-the-way first version

Pulling yourself out of life isn’t easy and especially if you’re forced to do it. I was forced and that force keeps on damn well forcing. It brought Theo and I to Tasmania for a four-month ‘sabbatical’ with the topic of research being chronic pain and how to live with it. Truth is, the topic has more likely been what the hell do we do now? It was also meant to somehow help me rid some more pain and pace up my driving, exercise and some daily chores. I was unsuccessful.

If you want to insist and bring some positivity into this part of the post and call it a Christmas present, I pulled out all stops for the 25th December in order to drive 10 mins to the nearest town (and back) and visit the supermarket. I wanted to cry at how unfamiliar the car was to me. I grew up a mechanic’s daughter, standing up on a bumper to share Dad’s stare at the motor and changing gears at the age of 10 from the passenger seat while Dad drove. I learnt how to get myself back on the road if I broke down (truth be told, I saved my mother twice!) and it’s fact I used my art school masking tape once to patch up my radiator hose so I could get to uni and back home (a 40km round trip… yes with tape!).

Now do you want to read about the supermarket and how unfamiliar that was too? I’m like a kid in a candy shop… it’s sad.

Tasmania is beautiful… small… but still too big for someone with chronic pain. In four months of being here I managed just 11 trips all micro managed minute by minute. Mostly painful, just a few magical moments. We didn’t even see half of this beautiful island.

Let’s be honest, I would not be here without Theo. I’d be living in a caravan because that would be all I could manage, I’d never see another place!

2. Enough with the sulking, be grateful version

Pulling yourself out of life isn’t easy and especially if you’re forced to do it. I was forced and that force keeps on damn well forcing. It brought Theo and I to Tasmania for a four-month sabbatical with the topic of research being chronic pain and how to live with it. Truth is, the topic has more likely been what the hell do we do now? It was also meant to somehow help me rid some more pain, pace up my driving, exercise and some daily chores. I may not have succeeded in pacing those activities but I have remained medication (and hallucination) free and have survived without my bi monthly treatments of remedial massage and acupuncture. That’s huge!

Boxing Day Self Portrait. For Theo.

Boxing Day Self Portrait. For Theo. Pencil on wood panel. 10 x 13cm.

I granted myself a mammoth Christmas present and drove 10 mins to and from the nearest town to visit the supermarket. I wanted to cry from exhilaration feeling my hands on that wheel and that independence, even for such a short time. Holding the car key (or rather car ‘thing’ as keys are sadly being phased out), I walked around the supermarket and acted like I could pick up anything and just take it to the counter. No one could tell Theo was carrying things because I couldn’t, I went with it! I drove to the supermarket and I was shopping… and I was going to get back in the car and drive home too.

Tasmania is beautiful… small… and although that’s still big for someone with chronic pain, in four months of being here I managed 11 incredible trips by micro managing minute by minute with Theo. We’re great at that now! My magical moments providing restoration and strength for the pain that followed. We didn’t even see half of this beautiful island but what we saw was just breathtaking. It’s in my heart and I will carry it with me forever.

Let’s be honest, I would not be here without Theo. With his immense support and help I was able to put a body of work together during this self evaluating time and I will mark the occasion (which coincides on my eight year anniversary with chronic pain) with a solo exhibition in March at Penny Contemporary gallery in Hobart.

There!

Expressing your angst is such catharsis (I love that word). I consider myself lucky to be able to do that in words and pictures. I also consider myself lucky to not only be coping with this never-ending nightmare, but that I can also remain grateful especially for Theo and my creativity.

I gave Theo this portrait on Boxing Day… chronic pain won’t kill our life, our life is still wonderful. And as for what the hell do we do now? I’ll let you know as soon as we figure it out!