Collages by Sheena, Queen of the Hallway aka Jo Ann Tunnell Muench

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I think of growing old more often than I ever did before. To be honest, before I turned 60, I managed to compartmentalize growing old into one of those things that I just did not allow myself to think about. But, at 59 I found I had breast cancer and time suddenly became more relevant. 

 

I was fortunate. My breast cancer was in the very early stages. I had surgery. I had radiation. I go every six months for a terrifying mammogram and sonogram (terrifying because I've never lost the fear that the cancer will return). I manage to keep that thought at the back of my mind until about 3 weeks before my scheduled appointment. It's always a trauma. Probably it always will be.

 

I'm 65-1/2 now and I have grown used to thinking about being old. I guess some people would say I am old now but I don't think like an old person, act like an old person, or dress like an old person. But, there's no doubt, I am getting older. That makes my art and the creative aspects of life all the more important. I don't have years and years of time to express all the feelings I have and the things I want to say and the things I want to do. 

 

Little things become more precious. A "normal" day is to be savored. Aches and pains are just part of the territory. In some ways, I feel as awkward as a "young old person" than I did as a budding teenager. It's really a similar experience to going through adolescence.  The body that you thought you knew so well suddenly changes and becomes unpredictable. Your emotions are heightened and everything seems just a bit more special. You need sleep and good food and safety but that is always true. 

 

I quit painting for many, many years because someone who was very important to me said things that I construed to be negative things about my art and my potential. Looking back after all these years, I realize the naysayer didn't cause my block. I caused my block by giving him way too much power. I have grown to trust my own gut instincts and my intuition and pay less attention to what so-called know-it-alls have to say. Yes, the person was wrong to humiliate and shame me. I hold him accountable for that. But I could have ignored what he had to say knowing that he was known to destroy peoples' dreams. I had been warned. But, of course, I thought things would be different for me. This should serve as a warning to trust yourself when it comes to creativity. Do what you know and what you feel. Be you. Don't try to be anything other than who you are. The sum of all your experiences will come through in your work. 

 

And, never, ever, put all your trust and all your hopes on one person...unless that person is you. It's unfair to the other person and it will only make you inauthentic. One reason I love folk art and truly love naive art is that there is no pretense. Lord, I hate intellectual pretensions; especially when connected to creativity. It's so damn boring. I am off the subject of getting old but the belief in my own true self is something that has evolved slowly through my life. I think that is something you, who are young, can all look forward to. We evolve and our creativity evolves and life evolves. And, we do the best we can. 

 

 

 

 


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