What to Say When You Can’t Find the Words

Hi! I’m Wendy. Among other things, I’ve been doing daily wound care for my partner for over 7 years. Some people are surprised to hear this. And I’m surprised to hear that even my closest friends are surprised by this. Many people think that once Tony comes home from the hospital (he’s been many times in the 7+ years that we have been living together}, he is cured. He has osteomyelitis, and according to what his doctors have said, it never goes away. It can lay dormant and not cause immediate complications, but because he has stage 4 pressure wounds, wounds that can take years to heal, he is always at risk.

And that’s how we live our lives. Knowing that the worst can happen at any time, but surrendering to this and choosing to live our lives to the fullest, in spite of this, in a way that his health allows. The best cure for pressure wounds is to relieve the pressure. For Tony, this means staying in bed. But this is no way to live, day in, day out. We must weigh physical health vs. mental health. Healed wounds don’t mean much if living life suffers as a consequence. It’s a constant toggling back and forth, putting effort into one, and then the other. A balancing act, performed as best as we know how. It’s an imperfect science, but we do what we can.

Which leads me to this. It’s been over a year since I wrote my last blog post, and I’ve been thinking about what to write every day for almost as long. It’s been an incredibly trying year or two. I sold a house, bought a new house with my mom, who moved in with us from Maryland, from the house that I grew up in. I no longer have an art studio, but I’ve been trying to obtain a permit to start building. Things are starting to come together on that front. We lost our beloved cat, Lila, who passed at 17 years old. I’ve been dealing with menopause and autoimmune disease, a new mental health diagnosis (Bipolar 2) which includes taking meds, unexplained weight loss (though now that I’m coming through to the other side of this, it makes sense that it was caused by stress), several hospitalizations for Tony, both because of his wounds and his new condition of epilepsy, keeping up with a 2.5 acre lot that is COVERED in invasive plants, and managing a household where I am the most physically capable person (though I don’t always feel that way). For the early half of this year, I was in sheer survival mode. I seriously could barely put together sentences. I’ve never felt so close to the edge. The edge of what, I’m not sure. But it was something!

I couldn’t find the words. I couldn’t write because words seemed so trivial, with everything that needed to be done. I couldn’t speak because I needed to carefully guard my energy. I felt like these little gremlins were in my head, carefully weighing and measuring and calculating the amount of energy it would take me to respond to someone, and what to say that would not open me up to expending more energy than I had to spare….because I had lots of places that needed my energy.

I found this journal entry from April:
“…I am a passive observer to all that runs through my brain. The thoughts I can’t turn off. The planning, the plotting, the making sure I don’t forget what comes next, which in turn makes me completely oblivious to the task at hand. Because there is always more. In such a massive quantity that I can never take solace in any of my accomplishments. Because they seem like teaspoonfuls in the mountain of all that needs to be. Who made these rules? Why do these rules make me? Keeping scores in my head. Ten minutes, before the next task begins. Finished until tomorrow. And none of it matters. It is all to justify allowing myself to indulge in the “real work.” The thing that allows me to be. The thing that defines the part of me that other people know and acknowledge. The planning and stacking and attacking of menial tasks, whose importance I constantly diminish, yet can save lives, dominates my time-bomb consciousness. Everything in a box. After I scoop the cat box, I will have time to cry. After I clean the mess off the floor, I will have time for my back to hurt for a few minutes. After I change the wound dressings, I will have time to pee. After I actually DO SOMETHING, maybe, just maybe, I can reward myself with the time it takes to take a shower….’Don’t forget to take care of yourself’ the well-meaning people say, without offering any kind of suggestion as to how to do that. So I cling to methodically organizing tasks in what little space I have left in my head. This and that. Gauze, cat litter, cleaning supplies, gardening tools, hammers, nails, ladders, pots and pans….”

And you know what the miracle is? Art still happened. In spite of having no studio, very little time, all my stuff in boxes, art finds its way. A little poem here, a little doodle there, and then, in a wave of enthusiasm, I start putting up plates and tiles around the Mary statue on our back patio. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. And we now have a beautiful mosaic shrine that makes me happy every time I see it. I created art. This is not art for sale, and it doesn’t matter to art whether it’s for sale or not. The act of creation is alchemy. Not just for the objects, but for the creator. I was changed by doing that. And that’s just what needed to happen.

I was also pleasantly shocked to have been awarded this year’s honoree for “Outstanding 2-dimensional artist” by Joshua Tree Voice. During a time that I have felt almost invisible artistically, this was a welcome act of acknowledgement. Here I am with my trophy, created by local artist Ron Therrio.

I’m incredibly grateful to be coming out on the other side of this weight, or at least feeling like my load has been lightened a bit. Thank you for being a part of this journey called life, wherever you may be. I realize there are some completely awful things going on in this world right now that are beyond comprehension. There is space for all experiences to exist. May we keep shining in whatever way we are able, and uplift those less fortunate where we can.


  1. Love your insight and writing!
    Thank you!! Art DOES happen…
    This has been a truly trying year for me as well. I have managed to do things I didn’t think I could do anymore simply out of necessity, I’m glad I’m not the only one!????

  2. Nan

    You’re both amazing and wonderful humans.
    I’m grateful for what you share with the world.

    I know the struggle of invasive weeds! Every year mid summer or late spring the tumbleweeds start to grow. They spread fast and grow to be 10 feet tall by five feet wide, each one! There’s several varieties that grow on one acre. I found a guy that does tractor work, after trying to keep them at bay and nothing really working, I called him. Now he comes every year. For two hundred dollars he cuts and pulls them all up. Now I just have to find someone to haul the piles away because I’m terrified of fire and am not comfortable burning them. I’m guessing if your land is similar, flat, you could call someone to do the same. It saves so much time and work.

    Hoping you all have a great holiday season and your new year is healthy, happy, love filled and magickal…????

  3. Jennifer Ciri

    It has been an amazingly stressful year for you. I hope that things get better at least with the move being over. I hope you’re able to build your art studio. I’m sure that will help a lot. There are times in our lives, unfortunately, when all we can do is whatever it takes to survive. I also hated it when people would tell me, “Make sure you take care of yourself too!” I wanted to say to them (and to some people I did), “OK, so what things should I NOT do so that I can have time for “self care?” Should I not go to work? Not take care of Bob? Not feed the cats? Not check on the horses? Because I’m already NOT doing anything I don’t absolutely have to do.” People are well meaning, but they don’t get it if they haven’t been through something similar. I’m glad you are starting to find some moments again to work on your art. And maybe some days all you can do is steal a few moments in between other duties. But having something you are passionate about doing that inspires you can energize you and bring you back to yourself like you said. For me it’s riding my horse. Even during the rest of the day while I’m doing other stuff, just thinking about my horse and the progress we’re making together makes me happy. That keeps me going and makes me feel like my true self again. I also have a community of horse friends who are supportive and who also make me laugh. I’m glad you have your art and your community of artist friends who do the same for you. ❤️

    1. WendyLeeGadzuk

      Thanks Jennifer! Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. People mean well, but it doesn’t help to hear that, when you’re hanging by a thread. I know it’s been a tough year for you as well and I’m hoping that you are able to find those precious moments with your horse!

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