Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Artist Way was my greatest tool in learning to live with ME/CFS

I write myself into wellbeing

Nancy Mairs

About four months before I became ill, a friend I told me about this book called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron (1997). I was working as an artist at the time, so didn't really needed to the book to rekindle my creative being. Or to find self-confidence in harnessing my creative talents, or artistic recovery.
But I was intrigued.

The book consists of a twelve week program. There is a introduction each week with thought provoking ideas and brilliant quotes. There are exercises to do at the end of the week. And you have to write Morning Pages (3 pages of longhand in an A4 journal, first thing in the morning), and have Artist Dates with just your good self.

I loved it!
And it helped me immensely with figuring out where I was at in terms of my then relationship. Something I had not expected from an artist book. I can't quite remember if I finished the twelve week course before I became ill. That time is a bit of a blur.

What I DO remember is that when I became able to write again, a year or so into the illness, I picked up this book again.
I was not able to write these long pages every day, but wrote on days when I could, as long as I could. I could not do a lot of the suggestions in the book, but I adapted the course to my ability.
It took me a year or more to do this three month course.
But what harm.
Nobody, but me, was checking in on my progress.

One of the saved diary pages
with 'things' that bring me joy

    This book became a Hugely Important Tool to help me figure out not just where I was heading creatively within my new existence - but also where I was heading in this life with illness.

    I learned

    • How I could make the most of my days
    • Who was important in my life
    • Who was draining
    • Remembered what my interests were as a child: colouring- sitting on a swing..., and how I could do them now?
    • What brings joy in my life: watching the birds-  strawberries on my plant- cup of tea in bed - phonecall from a friend - messing with paint- fresh air ... 
    • What my strengths were
    • What my weaknesses were
    • How good I had it. I learn to be grateful for the little things, like a hot water bottle, a roof over my head, support, lovely pottery to have my food on while bed bound ...
    • I explored who I was becoming
    • I learned to trust who I was becoming- illness and all
    • I learned how I loved the act of writing
    • I became a writer
    • I wrote pages when so ill that all I could do was lie down in bed and write, and write, about what was going on in my body. The writing always ended up about the good things- the birds on the feeder- a friend who might have told me a funny story...
    • I filled piles of notebooks. Mountain piles of notebooks (which I burned (most of it) when I moved house in 2008, in the hope that I left ME in my old house and could start life afresh... didn't quite work, but was an interesting excises all the same)
    • Some of the writings ended up in a Very Distilled way in my book Hatched
    • I became a published author
    • I explored my life in a creative way
    • I found ways to share my experiences with others through exhibitions, to sharing my story.
    • I FOUND ME

    book cover of The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
    The Artist Way by Julia Cameron
    This book I think was the most important tool in my healing.
    A most unusual source perhaps.
    But I will for ever be Grateful to have been handed this book by my friend.

    Thank you Julia for writing it. Thank you Elaine for handing it to me. Thank you to all who joined me on this creative journey since those early years.

    Further reading and links

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    Conquering Lady Louise's Walk

    Try again!

    evening skyline of Lismore Cathedral seen from Lady Louise's walk. photo by Corina Duyn
    view of Lismore Cathedral seen from Lady Louise's walk

    Yesterday, three weeks after my last walk, I was brave enough to try again.
    Try again to build up my walking ability.

    The last walk I did was during my stay at Dzogchen Beara, and it ended in tears.
    I must admit that I was a little afraid to start again. But yesterday, after being stuck in the house since Monday, and the weather suddenly turned from rain and wind to give us a stunning sky, I ventured out.

    I was wise not to go to my furthest point I had reached over three weeks ago, but go about 60% of the way. (6 minutes)
    I was fine.
    Well, you know, fine as in my-normal-after-short-walk-fine.

    Glad I broke the mould again.
    Back on track to conquer Lady Louise's Walk - stage one!

    Lismore - Lady Louise's walk

    More walking related Blog posts

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    The kindness of strangers

    The little acts of kindness which makes your day

    A few days ago I watched a car drive very slowly along our little road. It stopped outside my gate.
    I instantly recognised the driver. This lady came to my house about four years ago after having visited the Seeders Exhibition in Dungarvan.  A shared exhibition with tapestry artist Pascale De Coninck.

    This lady had had been inspired by the wood I used in my sculptures- like here in Metamorphosis.

    Metamorphosis sculpture by Corina Duyn, figure immerging from roots
    Metamorphosis © by Corina Duyn

    She told me that time that she walks the beach every day and sees beautiful pieces of driftwood.
    After visiting the exhibition she brough me some.

    A few days ago she stopped by again.
    She told me that she walks this beach as it is the place where her mother's ashes as scattered. She found some beautiful stones, and a beautiful piece of, what looks like ivy from around a tree. Thinking of me she drove to my house to drop them off.

    It made my day.
    And the creative juices started to flow immediately...

    Further reading and links

    Saturday, February 25, 2017

    Sugar free, Party Piece Apple Cake

    My party piece - an apple cake too delicious not to try!
    It does not have sugar added, but does have butter, so not a dairy free cake this time.
    I used spelt, but gluten free flour works just fine.

    Just before you think this is a too big a job, I can assure you, this is a very easy cake to make!
    And  this sugar free recipe doesn't stop sugar lovers from enjoying this cake.

    Delicious Sugar Free (no added sugar) Apple Cake.

    Put the following in a (magi-mix) food processor and mix until the consistency resembles course cornmeal: (can be done by hand too)
    • 8 ounces spelt flour *
    • teasp. baking powder
    • 2 teaspspeculaas kruid (which is a Dutch mixed cookie spice).  Cookie-spice will do the same, or mix mostly cinnamon, with a little bit of nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamon, white pepper 
    • 3 to 4 ounces of butter or margarine
    Transfer to large bowl and add:
    • 4 ounces of sultanas, or raisins
    • 2 apples cut into small pieces
    • (optional add seeds or nuts to your liking)
    Mix together:
    Mix this with dry ingredients to create a wet-ish dough that easily falls of the knife.
    Add more more if it looks too dry.
    • put into greased and floured 2lb loaf tin (or a ring-cake-tin)) and level on top.
    • bake in preheated oven 350-375F, 180 C, or gas 4, for 1 hour. (centre)
    • Eat and enjoy!

    *you can also use gluten free flour, but in this case increase the amount of baking powder to 2 and 1/2 teaspoon and add more liquid)

    Links and further reading
    • Other recipes, mostly wheat, and sugar free, but all are adaptable and delicious even without sugar. Trust me!

    Friday, February 24, 2017

    The Creative Source

    Forty years after I watched my dad work on a model ship, I recognize how my own attention to detail in my work is most likely influenced (or made part of my genes) by my dad.

    One of the last creative projects my dad was involved in before his untimely death, was the making of a model ship, the HMS Bounty.
    HMS Bounty model ship  by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship Jan Duyn

    I remember my dad sitting at the table, the huge scaled drawing in front of him.
    I remember how Every single bit was created by hand, from scratch. This was not a kit. All he had was a drawing.
    I remember him in our small shed, standing at the work bench, cuting and moulded the thin layers of wood to create the body of the boat. Making the masts, the life boats, the ships' bell...
    He even designed and made a lathe to be able to make the tiny canons.

    The patience. The attention to detail.

    HMS Bounty model ship small canon by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty canon for model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship canons  by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty canons for model ship created by Jan Duyn

    The ship was never finished, but took pride of place in my mothers house until her own passing ten years ago. (The boat was left to me, but I have not been able to bring it over to Ireland, yet. It is in my brothers house now.)
    What I did bring, as a token, are two of the small canons.
    And I still have, forty years on, the two pots of paint my dad used for the ship.
    to tiny pots of blue Enamel paint used for HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn

    All these years later, I recognize how my own attention to detail in my work, and the ways I adapt tools, or find methods to be able to create what I want to create, are most likely influenced (or put into my genes) by my dad.

    My dad was a copper smith and did incredible detailed work, like the photo I just found of the Wijkertoren (Church in his hometown in Holland). Unfortunatelly he ended up in a un-creative job to be able to provide for his family. It was a job in metal factory. A job he very much disliked. His skills were less appreciated (also in terms of salary) than the piece of paper younger colleagues had from college...
    De Wijkertoren thophy made my Jan Duyn
    The Wijkertoren, made by my dad in 1951
    I can now see how he used this intricate creative project of the making of the Bounty to bring the much needed balance in his life. I can see this in my own life. Illness is not a place I like to spend to much time in/with... creativity is a great escape.

    One of the last gift I received for my 14th birthday (almost a year before he passed away) was a manual fret saw, and 'cutting table' and clamp, which I could attach to the table. This set was used to cut out the body and limbs for my first ever puppet/marionette the year after he left us.
    How life goes around in circles- in spirals. I still, or again, make puppets and often think about this lovely tool.

    All I can say is, Thank You Dad!

    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship- ship's bell created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    life boats on the HMS Bounty model ship created by Jan Duyn
    HMS Bounty model ship -life boats created by Jan Duyn

    Further reading and links

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Resilience of the birds

    In light of the storm and heavy rain during the night, 
    just a few words today:
    an observation from 2004...

    SINGING LESSON 3 July 2004

    Birds singing 
    while hailstones 
    are belting down 
    on top of them

    There must be 

    a lesson
    in this 

    Corina Duyn.  Hatched  2006

    two goldfinches on bare apple tree branches , photo © Corina Duyn
    goldfinches in my garden © Corina Duyn

    Further reading and links

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    The Twenty Minute Creative Rule

    Learning, exploring, growing, twenty minutes at the time...

    Words from an earlier blog in August 2014: 

    "After a time of really doubting how I could possibly go further within the experience of worsening symptoms, I had to peek into my bag of tricks again...  staying within my limits even if this seemed very, very tight.  Re-adjusting. Again. Finding new ways..."

    It took a very long time to reach that point of acceptance again. I got there. During this time I started working on a bird sculpture. A freedom bird.  20 minutes at the time. It took me five months, but here she is. She is called my "Twenty minute Bird".

    "Twenty Minute Bird" 44x30x20cm
     Corina Duyn 2014

    The Twenty Minute Creative Rule became my motto ever since.

    • For example, my Into the Light book in a box came about in these twenty minute sessions. Mostly only one session a day. 
    • These daily blog pages are written twenty minutes at the time. I take a break and come back to it later.
    • Sculptures and tapestries (see links below for images) were, and still are being created in the same way. One twenty minute session a day.

    I set my clock for 18 minutes, so when the bell goes off, I know I have a few more minutes to finish what I am doing.

    Yes, I do curse the bell at times!

    And yes, it is hard to walk away from a creative project.

    I also know that if I don't stick to my plan, my body will retaliate.
    I will be in more pain. I will get more exhausted over time. And I risk a relapse.

    I know that by sticking to my time-schedule, I actually can produce more work in the long run.
    Just in very small segments of time. But I have results to show for.

    If I do not stick to my schedule, I get ill. And thus can not work. And thus am more aware of illness in my life. Aware of restrictions in my life. I can get annoyed or upset, with all the things I can not do, while I lie on the couch thinking about all I want to do.

    Better to work with the 'beast' of illness, than to work against it.

    AND of course

    This twenty minute plan, and the results it can brings, 
    is  NOT solely for those experiencing illness

    can find a few of those Twenty Minute slots in their week ...

    PS. One of the challenges is to switch of the brain after twenty minutes, especially with a new creative project. For example how I can make the animated figures for my current project, how does filming work, etc.
    Meditation helps. And writing down on a piece of paper or in my journal, how I would like my work to progress. This eases the space a new project can take up in my brain.

    Further reading and links 

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    More than a kilo of books - offer

    image of five books by ME/CFS Artist and Writer Corina Duyn
    Books by Corina Duyn

    Had so many ideas for writing but am a little too 'fragile' today... Aftermath from the Seaweed bath adventure yesterday. But am hopefull that it is all in my favour - My body just needs a little time to adjust I think.

    to celebrate the arrival of spring,
    well and truly in my garden,
    and in my heart
    I have a book offer today.
    Over one kilo of books (1250 grams to be precise) for €57.50 , or  €67.50 
    Value including postage €75, and €85 respectively, Depending on destination

    Valid for this week only, or fewer days if all 5 remaining copies of Hatched have been sold.

    Over a Kilo worth of books
    Including a copy of:

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    Seaside memories

    "great day for a walk"

    A short blog today
    with a memory from Hatched 
    now available here as digital download 

    The challenges of walking,
    I briefly wrote about yesterday,
    is of course nothing new.

    Life is full of challenges
    But also full of beauty.

    I am on my way 
    to experience a seaweed bath today.
    A challenge. But fun.
    Part of a ladies day out with the IWA.

    I will be able to climber 
    out of the bath again
    Needs be 
    (most likely) 
    with help!

    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Joy so close to Sadness. Darkness so close to Light

    Be aware of the sadness but fill yourself with light
    Dolores Ronayne 

    Corina Duyn walking with walking sticks at Dzogchen Beara
    walking at Dzogchen Beara 

    I was looking through photographs
    on my phone this morning.

    I found this one:
    Me walking
    Dzogchen Beara Care Centre.

    It made me feel proud.
    And it made me cry.

    so close to Sadness

    so close to Light 

    Further reading:

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Spelt Muffins with Cheese and Spinach

    cheese and spinach Spelt muffins on a cooling rack
    Cheese and Spinach Muffins.

     * I endeavour to make wheatfree recipes, but in this case I used Spelt. 
    But if your prefer to use Glutenfree flour for this recipe, please Add more liquid.

    Spelt Muffins with feta, other Cheeses and Spinach. My current favourite!

    Mix in a large bowl

    2 cups spelt flour * 
    2 teaspoon baking powder
    125 gr cooked and drained spinach - Squeeze out any access liquid. (Frozen spinach is fine) 
    A handful of fresh spinach (optional) 
    150 gr. of mixed cheeses: I used 100 grams crumbled feta, and 50 grams total of grated hard goats cheese and grated Parmesan
    Little bit of (herb) salt 

    Mix it all together.

    Mix the following
    1 egg, beaten
    1 cup soyamilk (or other milk)
    1 tablespoon yoghurt (optional)
    1/3 cup sunflower oil

    Mix well, and add to the other ingredients, making sure everything is well combined.

    Put in 12 muffin cases, or in a buttered muffin tin

    Preheated oven Gas 7, or 220 C.
    20 min or until golden brown

    Freezes well

    cheese and spinach Spelt muffins on a cooling rack
    Happy eating!!


    Friday, February 17, 2017

    Pimping my wheelchair changed social perception

    Adapting: Make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify

    (Oxford Dictionary)

    The power to change perception
    by adding a bit of colour to my wheelchair

    page from Into the Light

    Adapting mobility aids 
    can increase independence 
    or make them more fun

    my wheelchair

    changed the social perspective 
    from being a dreaded aid

    to comments like
    'I want one too' 

    Further reading and links

    Thursday, February 16, 2017

    The Beauty of Decay

    A thought for today

    Is the tulip only beautiful
    when it shows petals
    in perfect formation
    with the right combination and qualities 

    of shape and colour

    Consider the petals tight together 
    as if reluctant to share their secret 

    Stretching upwards
    they open up

    One by one, the petals fall off 
    An unfolding piece of art

    The Beauty of Decay

    Are we humans only beautiful 
    when we are the perfect specimen 
    with the right combination and qualities 
    of ability and strength

    Consider a life unfolding 
    full of unknown promise 
    We reach out 
    Open up

    An illness strikes 
    Decay sets in

    We are still beautiful

    • This quote appears in Into the Light available here from €20

    Wednesday, February 15, 2017

    Advise given to us for recovery from ME/CFS

    Thank you very much for your advice towards my recovery. 

    When I come to your suggestion I will let you know.

    Page from Into the Light by Corina Duyn with image of ostrich looking you in the eyes and quote about cures for illness
    Page from Into the Light by Corina Duyn

    Many of us, perhaps all of us, who live with chronic illness, will have heard about the most wonderful, and weird, but (according the person giving us the advise) absolute certain ways to cure our illnesses...

    Daily bee stings is one that stayed in my mind. The woman reputedly was bedridden with ME but played soccer after a few weeks of bee stings...
    As "it" is in our heads, counseling will definately cure.
    Exercise will cure: "Come over and we go mountain climbing."  
    Truly- I have been told this at a time when I did not have the strength to break an eggshell.
    Accupuncture. A very valualbe treatment. But I was told how well the treatment was going as I was able to tie my schoelaces again.  I was wearing easier to tie shoes...

    ... I am sure you all have your stories to tell  - I love to hear them

    I believe that people try to be helpful.
    They don't want us to be ill.
    But the advise can be so unhelpful.

    I was told by my counselor I saw during the early years to help me understand the illness, to respond with: "Thank you very much for your advice towards my recovery. When I come to your suggestion I will let you know." 

    I have used this line often. It leaves both the giver of advise and the ill person with plenty of respect, and moves the conversation on to other topics.

    Words from Into the Light  book about this topic.

    Assurances of recovery 
    Suggestion of cures
    Advice out of kind ignorance 
    do not lift the spirits

    when not grounded 
    in reality

    It can be intrusive

    Advice offered
    by someone
    who takes time
    to understand
    your illness
    or speaks from experience 
    can be of great support 

    Further reading and links

    • My books, including Into the Light from which this image is taken, are available from my shop 

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Jan Duyn

    Growing up in Holland I was blissfully unaware of the significance of the 14th February being Valentines Day elsewhere in the world. That (commercially taken over celebration) was not yet known in the 60's and 70's in my home country.
    black and white photo of dad and little girl walking under canopy of trees. Artist and writer Corina Duyn
    me and my dad - about 1966

    I am grateful for that as forty years ago my heart broke on that day.
    My beloved dad suddenly passed away. Which was just over two weeks after my granny passed away. The two people I held most dear in my life as a teenager (I was 14), moved on to other worlds.
    Jan Duyn sitting in a field. black and white photo from the 1960's
    my dad Jan Duyn 4-6-1917 / 14-2-1977
    I remember the day of my dad's passing as if it was yesterday. I remember cycling to the hospital in the driving rain with my brother. I hit a parked car.
    I remember being at the hospital and initially it looked like my dad was going to be ok. This changed within minutes. He was gone.
    As I was young, and probably looked even younger than I actually was, the nurses did not allow me to see my dad. If there is regret in my life, that this is probably one of them. I did not ask.

    Hours later. Home again. I remember being sent to the shops for tea, milk, biscuits and was looking at the other people walking the street. My life had so utterly changed, and they just went on with their own business as if nothing had happened. I found this a rather strange phenomenon.

    There are many memories of that day, but also of the years before.
    Like accompanying him to his favorite local football club on Sundays. Cycling there. Being given the freedom to go around the grounds.
    Sharing a love of nature and photography.
    And creativity.

    a drawing by my dad
    I remember his quiet nature.
    The drumming of his fingers on the stove in the sitting room- beside his chair.
    Coming home for lunch from his job, our cat Lookie coming to sit on the right of him and being given one slice of meet cut up in ten pieces. Lookie knew when the ten were up. "All gone". The cat waited on the gate before lunch every day.
    His love for the choirs he was part of.

    So many little memories.

    Currently I am translating my dad's diary, see here about his time in the army during the Second World War. It brings me closer to him.
    my dad and his friend. 1940's
    As this year would be the centenary of his birth in June, we are all gathering for a reunion in Holland. My family lives in Canada, Chile, Holland, UK and Ireland. It is ten years since we were all together for our mother's funeral.
    my parents
    I am looking forward to re-connect with my family.
    Although the practicalities of such a big event while living with the realities of ME has brought it's challenges already in my head... I am sorting them out one by one.

    Today though, is for my dad.

    Further reading

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Creativity and me 3: Fit to Fly documentary by David Begley

    Creativity as a tool to understand illness, but it can also bring you the most unexpected of places. 

    As you might remember the EGG became a tool for me to understand and explore my completely changed life at the onset of ME/CFS in 1998. Although I lived a very secluded life, I somehow made contact with the world beyond my four walls -beyond the shell of my egg.
    One of these contacts was with artist David Begley.
    For the life of me I don't quite remember how this happened, but what I do remember is that it was a friendship of writing and receiving incredibly honest letters, of sharing our creative lives, phone calls, watching movies, or exploring Lismore, where he arrived on a little motorbike, and visits to Ardmore...

    As a result of this friendship David created the Fit to Fly Documentary, During 2003-2004 and was supported by the Arts & Disability Forum Arts Bursary.
    David interviewed and filmed me, my friends, the arts officer, and visitors to my first exhibition about how illness informed my art making. And visa verse.

    The launch and first screening of Fit to Fly was at Lismore Library in May 2004, and opened by MEP Brian Crowley.
    Fit to Fly, catapulted me from my solitary existence into the world of the media. The story was featured in many national and local newspapers. David's filming and storyline was taken up by RTE. Nationwide (national TV program about life in Ireland) made their own version. We had an interview on TV3 Ireland AM. It was all a very surreal experience.

    newsppaper clipping of the launch of Fit to Fly documentary by David Begley about ME Artist Corina Duyn
    some of the media coverage
    of the launch of Fit to Fly, 
    and accompanying exhibition
    Months later I was in Cork for a hospital visit. Afterward a friend brought me out for lunch in the  city centre. While sitting out on a terrace, a woman walked by, stopped, looked at me, and said: "I saw you on Nationwide. I have one of your Dolls", and walked on again.

    Being creative can bring you the most unexpected places. 

    The Fit to Fly documentary is in total about 14 minutes long, but shown here in two parts.
    (it starts with a black screen for a few seconds...)

    Links and further reading:

    • I am still a huge admirer of David's work. His paintings are just beautiful, his new departure in animation (too small a word for his works) is spellbinding.  
    • Other documentaries about my creative life 
    • Reviews of Fit to Fly 
    • The artworks in the video can be seen here