Meg Welchman has a story worth telling. And courage we can be inspired by, and learn from. She has been forced by recurrent illness and circumstances to face more than any of us would wish. Don't turn away, thinking that Meg is the kind of hero most of us couldn't be. Out of her suffering and fear and the immense intimacies and even the weird glorious moments of illness, she has insights to benefit us all. Her wonderful book, This Present Moment, an art therapy journal based on fifteen important themes of life, including Love, Hope, Courage, Creativity and Resilience, is exquisitely illustrated by Grace Cuell. Details below about how you can buy it. And please do buy it - for your sake, not for Meg's only. But first, Meg's story of writing.
I have always loved books. Growing up in a small coastal town, my favourite place, besides my bedroom, was the town library. The library was an old red brick building that was dimly lit and deathly quiet inside. It had a distinctly musty paper smell that made my stomach churn to such a degree that I would need to detour to the restrooms before I could continue walking the linoleum aisles. I would wait in line to flick through the dog-eared cards that made up the library catalogue, housed in long thin narrow wooden box drawers with tiny round metal knobs at the front. A small rectangular lined card for each item in the building. The cards held secrets - the intriguing Dewey decimal numbers and the scrawled handwritten names of those who had previously borrowed the books. This strange place bursting with stories. I dreamed of being a librarian.
I would scan a pointer finger along plastic covered spines in those quiet aisles languidly scanning for a new story that would satisfy. I took my time. I preferred biographies and real stories rather than fiction. Books were my favourite accessory. I would most often walk with a book in hand, and had piles teetering haphazardly on my bedhead. I would read multiple books concurrently, by the light of my bed lamp or, if late, under the doona with my torch. Each book would provide a chapter, it would be lovingly book-marked and then placed back up on the pile. The next book in rotation would provide another chapter, and so on. I can’t recall when I started reading only one book at a time.
As I progressed through school my dream had flipped, from reading and being surrounded by books as a librarian, to writing a book and being an author. I was motivated by the joy of shaping something out of nothing but an idea. I loved how writing could take you from point A to point B via numerous side-steps on the way, usually in such a fashion that you wouldn’t know how things would end until you felt the words falling out onto the page. As I grew and my interests diversified I let writing slide. As an adult practically every second person I met “had a book inside them” but not many of them would actually write one. Other things became priorities. University study, career, love, and then family life. I continued to write periodically in beautiful blank paged journals that my husband would present to me for Christmas or birthdays. The writing in these journals became more urgent when disaster struck. My father’s devastating drawn out death after years of emphysema, and our infertility woes riding the highs and disastrous lows of IVF.
Eventually, when the miracle children arrived, first a son, and then two years later, a daughter, I wrote out of joy and a need to chart their early days, with the thought that they would read the diaries when they were older. Not long into our daughter’s first six months on earth I would find out I had breast cancer, in fact, secondary breast cancer that was life-threatening as it had spread rapidly and aggressively through my lymph glands and into my liver. It was inoperable and incurable. Everything stopped but my mind kept racing. Suddenly those diary entries became vital. I filled volumes of notebooks and started writing a blog. Almost six years on, I am still here. [Hurrah, Meg! Hurrah!! eds.]
At the end of 2015, just as my debut book This Present Moment had returned from the printers, I attended my daughter’s primary school art show. There was incredibly brilliant drawings and paintings on display; works in the style of Kandinsky, Picasso, Magritte, Monet and many other famous artists. All of whom were once children, just like this hopeful bunch of five-year-olds. The artworks hung under a colourful sign proclaiming brightly “EVERY CHILD IS AN ARTIST”. We were all children once; we were all artists. Some, a few of us, continue to flourish as adult artists. Most of us do not. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” or “I can’t draw to save myself” are some of the mantras people tout as explanations. Well I am proof that you do not need anything magical to create something beautiful, even by simply colouring in the hand-drawn mandalas that feature in This Present Moment. All it takes is making time for your dreams and some coloured pencils to really let go!
The driving force of This Present Moment is mindfulness. Being in each moment as each moment unfurls. Not living in the past of “what if” or the future of “what might be”. You have now. All we have is now. The book takes the reader on a journey through fifteen life themes that illuminate the gift of “now” combined with a hand-drawn mandala to colour.
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit”.
Albert Schweitzer – Nobel Peace Prize Winner
My inner spirit was rekindled by many close friends and family after facing cancer and chemotherapy three times. I have been a recipient of vast kindness and care. I am lucky to have such people in my life. I wrote This Present Moment to thank them, in particular, to thank my generous husband and beautiful children, and to my circle of friends who took on child care and meal making during my low hours. These small acts of kindness made a huge difference.
When I became a psychologist I learned that pain shared gives the chance to feel differently in order to act differently. In writing This Present Moment I have shared some of my pain with the hope that anyone reading it will also allow themselves to do just that – feel the pain and then build on that feeling to act differently. To take a running leap towards life. A big fat juicy creative life! Because, we are all artists.
Writer Meg Welchman was diagnosed with aggressive incurable secondary breast cancer in 2010 just after the birth of her second child. After chemotherapy and surgery, she faced another two life-threatening reccurrences and is now, thankfully, in remission. As a psychologist with a background in relationship counselling and positive psychology, Meg was interested in how people cope with adversity, and after finding her own way through such treacherous times, she was inspired to share her story. Illustrator Grace Cuell developed an interest in drawing mandalas as a tool for mindfulness during her travels. As a Fine Arts student with a passion for mindful living, Grace wanted to create something beyond her studies that contributed positively to the world.
Together Meg and Grace have created an art therapy journal based on fifteen important themes of life, including Love, Hope, Courage, Creativity and Resilience. “This Present Moment” is designed to give peace and focus through colouring and contemplation. With a distinctly “hopeful” flavour, Meg charts the pivotal moments that reflect each of the themes over the last five years of living with cancer. This Present Moment is for anyone facing a difficult diagnosis, a difficult relationship or any difficult situation. It is both a “how to” for navigating a path through the darkness and a wakeup call to jump into life.
HOW TO PURCHASE
This Present Moment is available online for $29.95 through www.purplecordspress.com
A portion of each sale is donated to The Wesley Choices Cancer Support Service, Auchenflower.
For further information contact: Meg Welchman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Purple Cords Press – Remarkable Books for Remarkable People www.purplecordspress.com
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