Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Using a hobby as a healing tool

Frozen, an image from the "Roots + Wings" exhibit at the Margaret Hennigar Public Library during February 2018
"Sometimes I cry so hard I think the tears will never stop. Sometimes I feel so tired I want to lay my head down and sleep forever. Sometimes I feel absolutely nothing and wonder if I will ever feel happy again."
I wrote those words several months ago in my workbook when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and vulnerable. But let me back up a bit...
My last article under the by-line "In Focus" was many months ago, six months in fact. Sometimes life throws you a hard ball, and knocks you off your feet. Last June, my husband had a major stroke and our lives took a dramatic turn. We are very fortunate that our situation has improved, but it has been quite a journey of trauma and drama interspersed with moments of joy.

We don't all have to deal with having a stroke, but we all face challenges in life. Whether it's a health crisis, the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, or any other unpleasant surprise, we all have things we need to cope with that stretch us beyond what we think we can bear. And if you haven't faced a serious problem yet, you will. Because life is like that.

When my husband had his stroke, his health crisis became my health story as well. As his life partner and sole caregiver, I experienced a roller coaster of feelings throughout his months of hospitalization and rehabilitation.

Despite the fact that I write and publish some of my thoughts, I am an introvert at heart. I am not one to talk about my innermost thoughts with other people. But during those terrible weeks immediately after my husband's stroke, I needed an outlet to deal with my emotions. My "go to" hobby is photography, but I had no time or inclination to head out with my camera after a long day at the hospital.

However, my hobby did become a healing tool. I used my library of photographs to create a series of composited images to portray various feelings and emotions. Many people have heard of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. My stages were not quite so well defined. A word would occur to me, and I would then work on figuring out how to create an image to portray that.

Focusing on this project helped me in different ways. First, I acknowledged my own "stages" and I had a way to express them without having to put them into words. Second, concentrating on learning a new skill forced my mind to become occupied with something other than feeling completely helpless and overwhelmed.
February is National Heart Month, so it seemed fitting that I try to share our story. Let me be clear. I am not a person who shares my feelings with others. I have spent over five decades keeping my feelings to myself and dealing with things by compartmentalizing and mentally closing the door. Somehow, using images and words to express myself seems a little easier.

Choices, one of five images included in the Picturing Health Exhibit at Viewpoint Gallery in Halifax during the month of February 2018
I created two series with my photographs over the past six months. "Stroke of Emotions" is a series of thirteen composited self portraits. Five of these images were selected for the Picturing Health Exhibit at Viewpoint Gallery in Halifax for the month of February. The exhibit uses photographic imagery to explore the relationship between wellness and creativity. The Picturing Health project is funded by the Robert Pope Foundation. Robert Pope (1956-1992) was a dedicated Nova Scotia artist who died at the age of 36 after a ten year battle with cancer.

"Roots + Wings" is my solo exhibit during the month of February at the Margaret Hennigar Public Library in Bridgewater. In this exhibit, I combine my writing with my images using trees and birds to symbolize different emotions. I believe trees represent growth and strength, with roots to ground us in our traditions. I see birds in flight as symbols of freedom, with the power of dreams and life renewed. I believe that together, Roots + Wings create powerful images of inspiration and tools to heal the soul. Remember your roots, trust your wings.

As part of this exhibit, I will be giving an artist's talk at the library on Sunday February 4th at 2pm. The presentation is free, and I would love to see you there. Seating is limited so, if you are interested, please register at the library or call them at 902-543-9222.

published in the South Shore Breaker January 24, 2018


  1. First, I love that you've found this way to express your feelings.
    Next... That first photograph is absolutely breathtaking!

  2. Stunning photos, Sara. Wonderful news that John is so much better. Are your photographs for sale? For example, to a friend in Australia who would love to look at them and think of you both? Andrea

  3. Hi Andrea - Great to hear from you! Hopefully you see this comment. I don't have your email address anymore. My computer died last year and I lost all my contact info. Please email me!


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