Artistic Vision

Detail of recent painting in progress

Detail of recent painting in progress

My alarm clock went off at 4:00 a.m. this morning. I was supposed to drop my youngest son off to school by 4:30 to leave for his 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. But as I got out of bed, I realized I was waking up with a migraine aura. So I got my husband up to drop him off instead. To say this was a major bummer for me is an understatement—no matter how inconvenient being a mom can be sometimes (who the heck wants to get up at 4:00 a.m.?!?), I want to be part of the important things in my kids’ lives. I wanted to be there to see him off with his friends on this trip that he’s so excited about.

I’ve had migraines since I was 12 years old. I can vividly recall my first one at Meijer’s, shopping in the make-up aisle. Being confused and frightened about what was going on and panicking as I tried to find my mom in the grocery aisles. I still get that panicked, confused, frightened feeling every single time—every single time. You see before the pain even comes, I get a visual aura. It’s difficult to describe but imagine a bright electric current pulsing through my vision. And it’s an organic moving thing with a life cycle that moves and morphs and incapacitates me. I’ve been stranded many times waiting out the aura many times. I’ve had hundreds of these through the years and it is inconvenient and jarring every time.

I go through my life looking at things with an artistic eye. I see countless of potential drawings and paintings in simple scenes of my everyday life. I take note of colors and textures and light constantly throughout my days. I’m sure this is probably not unique to me. I’m sure many artists and creatives see the world in the same unique way. So when this beast affects my ability to see, it can be terrifying.

I’m quite certain that nobody takes their vision for granted but every so often I am forced to stop and be reminded of what a gift sight is. So when I lose my vision, no mater how temporarily, it is a reminder to stop and show gratitude for the gift that it is and how important it is to me as an artist.

My aura lasted a long time this morning—it’s life cycle is usually an hour and a half tops—this morning it was about 4 hours, finally disappearing around 8:00 a.m. I’m not sure what accounts for this change but I don’t like it. By the time the aura is gone I’m usually left with a throbbing migraine but even that ranges from a 10 on the pain scale with extreme nausea to about a 5. Today is a 5. I’ll take it—I’m grateful for a 5. Because the aura is gone and I can see again.

My list of things to do is long this week but I’m going to set that aside for today. First I am going to go vote and then for the rest of the day I am going to be gentle with myself and I’m going to paint. The list can wait—it’ll all get done eventually—but in celebration of my sight, my artistic vision, I’m going to paint.

Jennifer Stefanek