It’s been a long, hard week. My right hand looks like a large wrapped club. My pinkie and ring finger have been wrapped together for stability and comfort, making it look like like I’ve devolved from five digits to four.

I’m currently overwhelmed with what I can’t do. The list grows daily.

My main meal consists of toast with peanut butter. It only takes me about 15 minute to make, if the bread isn’t too deeply buried in the fridge and if the peanut butter isn’t too stiff. (It’s “natural-style” peanut butter, so you know what I’m talking about.

Typing is extremely difficult. Let me qualify that. Typing accurately is difficult. For every letter you see, about five wrong keystrokes gave up their little lives. In fact, halfway through this post I accidentally erased the whole thing.

Three surgeries and two foot injuries in seven months are taking their toll. I’ve gained back half the weight I lost five years ago. And now my back is going out from lack of activity. I saw a physical therapist yesterday to begin treatment for my shoulder. (The muscles are “asleep”–they go into deep “protection mode” in response to the extensive surgery. It actually feels like I’ve had a stroke.)

The therapist gently lectured me about the importance of exercise and healthy diet. I was indignant at first–“Hey, you’re preaching to the choir here!” Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Oh. Yeah. I don’t look like that choir anymore.

It took years to turn my somnambulant lifestyle around, to go from bitter shadow artist to creative force, to transform from a total couch potato to an athlete.

It took five months for it all to dribble away.

So I’ve been sad, and tired, and gently weepy. Not a pretty sight.

Two days ago, I reread the book series His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. The first book is now a movie, The Golden Compass.

It’s the perfect book for me to read right now.

The themes are complicated yet simple.

Stories matter. Love, kindness and courage matter. Truth matters.

Life matters.

The final book brings these themes home with a bang. Simply being alive–able to partake of this world through our senses–is such pure joy, even angels weep with envy.

“Dust”–the mysterious “dark matter” that is the mysterious heart of these novels–is more than simply “life essence”, more than simply consciousness. It is self-awareness–living beings being aware of their own existence, and rejoicing in that awareness.

It is from this self-awareness that all human art and industry springs.

Our purpose in life is to enjoy and love life itself. To respect other living things. To love the world we are in, and do our best work in it. To be kind, to be patient, to be creative.

I’m telling this badly, and I’m sure I’ve skipped over the deeper issues at hand. I’m in pain even as I write this, and can’t wait to finish typing so I can go lie down for a minute.

And I can’t pretend for a minute I can hold on to this concept for very long–that even this pain and emotional discomfort is to be marveled at, because it means I exist.

I’m not that spiritually evolved, I’m afraid.

But this book has given me an emotional respite, a place to rest.

I marvel at what I can do right now.

I can still write. I can still move about, however awkwardly. Even as I think, the list grows by leaps and bounds.

There is still so much I can do, to much to be grateful for, so much to rejoice in.

My body can heal, and I will get better.

That alone is a miracle. A gift.

Tonight I head to a friend’s house for an informal yoga session. I won’t be able to do much, I know.

But I know, too, that whatever I can do will be enough, for now.

Breathe. Breathe.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. Ah, Lu, I’m sorry you’re having such a sucky time! I enjoy your process in these posts and I know you will work out a way to get through this.

    Take care,


  2. Remember that it is just your body – you still have your mind, your creativity. Get a tape recorder to capture some of your thoughts & ideas for new projects. Later, when you are able to work again, you’ll have a long list of fresh new things to try.




  3. I once had an pottery instructor tell me “if you’ve created it once you can do it again.” I say this with all respect to your physical,and emoitional pain. You will rise again. As you mentioned in your post you’ve transformed yourself into a creative force, and an athletic person once so you can do it again.

    All the best
    Deborah Hill


  4. Another book you may be in the right place for now is Dark Night of the Soul.

    Thanks for making the effort to type, it’s good to hear from you.



  5. It’s so discouraging to go from being a healthy athletic person to a sick weak couch potato. The health and athletics will return. I found I bounced back much faster than I expected, once I returned to the gym and bike. Muscle memory, maybe? You’ll be back before you know it. Don’t be afraid to start over (and over, and over) on your quest to physical fitness. You’ll be amazed at how fast you improve. Good luck, and keep typing! We love to hear from you!


  6. I just purchased the Craft Business mag and real your article and then found Bruce’s website. I was so pumped up by it all and then I read your blog today and am totally concerned for you.

    You are an inspiration and guiding light in this crazy world and we cannot allow your light to extinguish. Some of my crazy ideas to pull myself up when I begin to go down the road of defeat is to:
    YELL at the top of my lungs
    LAUGH so long my belly hurts
    DANCE even when I can’t get off of the couch
    LIGHT – turn on every light in the house and close all the curtains- it is my world
    MUSIC – turn it up loud, put on some blues to know other people have had it much worse. Then turn it over to Doris Day.
    MOVIES- I need the stupid – insane ones Uncle Buck, Gone Fishing, etc.

    and as you put it “Breathe”

    I eagerly await your next words!!!!Smiling


  7. After seeing my dad go through recovery from breaking his wrists, I have a lot of empathy for you. It’s incredibly tough to find yourself so limited. Hang in there and remember that you’ve already begun to heal.


  8. Luann,
    If you had been a couch potatoe prior to this surgery, recovery would be a long process. But you were quite active, and your recover will surely move along quickly…all that exercise will have paid off. Your blogs have done so much for many…hopefully all of our well wishes will help you as well. Spring is just around the corner…everything is better in the spring…


  9. I am sympathizing completely with you! I had surgery in November and am still trying to regain my strength. Be extra kind to yourself during this time. I agree with the funny movies-my favorite so far is “Ground Hog Day” with Bill Murray. My daughter gave me a small tape recorder so I don’t loose the ideas I have coming in. I am also leafing through magazines for color combinations, and idea prompts and tearing out the pages. Can you paint really big, with a large brush on a big piece of paper? Good therapy for shoulders.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers!


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