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Rebecca Weger wearing a black top holding paint brushes.

Creativity and Curiosity

Photo of Rebecca Weger, wearing a black top, jeans, red shoes, and holding paint brushes.
Rebecca Weger, Artist
We Are Ithaca
Photo/Robyn Wishna 2017

I don’t remember a time in my life before making things. Any time when creativity and curiosity weren’t running the show.

A four year old’s wall drawing. Early Play-Doh projects (in which I always sorted the colors back out again carefully). Modeling clay creations. Fashion Plates combinations. Spin art. Chalkboard drawings. Solar Graphics experiments with objects on photo sensitive paper. I guess I just didn’t stop.

I earned a BFA from @alfreduniversity with a concentration in painting. I did a lot of figure painting with oils in those years, but also printmaking, ceramics, bookmaking, sound and video. After art school I found ways to adapt my style, my work, my content. Without access to large studio spaces or models. I stopped and started experiments over and over trying to figure out what it was for me to be an artist and maker.

All along, I was reading and thinking and writing. I started keeping a journal as a child, then sketchbooks, then something that combined the two. I still read and write and think every day. I spent over a decade as a professional problem-solver, analyst, process-designer, and manager. I loved it. I *love* information. I love reading. I love asking questions. I love thinking. I love finding connections between things. I love systems. That’s the me who comes to the studio when I create.

And then there’s this: I live with #chronicfatiguesyndrome. It is unpredictable. It can flatten me. It has left me energetically impaired every single day for five years. It has become a lens through which every part of my life is processed. And it was the unexpected launchpad that pushed me into a different relationship with my art – deciding to make art to share with others, instead of just art for myself. It allows me to show up every day exactly as I am. And send something out in the world that is beautiful, that gives a moment of pause, that provides a space to get lost in, that brings joy or contemplation.

Saying NO

“NO is a beautiful word that creates a whole lot of YES once you’ve said it. It may seem negative, limiting, or pejorative, but used wisely it can be a gateway to freedom, preserving energy for the pursuits that are truly high-priority.”

~ Pixie Lighthorse in “Boundaries and Protection”

I recently read Pixie’s book and found a tremendous amount of wisdom in it. I love the truth in this quote.

I’ve been saying no for a long time. I did it a lot in one of my jobs – keeping my staff focused on important work and not being pulled every which way at the whims of people who had an interest in projects that while interesting, we’rent critical to our mission. I’ve been doing it in my personal life ever since I started struggling with the early stages of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

No to things that don’t resonate with me. That isn’t that hard, as long as I’m not trying to make others happy. No to things that do resonate with me, that is harder. I might like to do a thing, but know I won’t be up to it, so I say so in advance. No to something I already committed to, that is harder.

I practiced that several times last week as I had a CFS crash. A few things I cancelled were low in importance and had no time restrictions (like coffee with a new acquaintance). IBut another was harder. have a standing date with a good friend to attend Ithaca’s monthly Gallery Night. I look forward to spending that time with my friend, as well as being a part of the creative community.  But I knew that even if I “could” do it (which was unlikely, but perhaps possible) that I would pay so magnificently for it that it wouldn’t be worth it. So we caught up on the phone, and I watched some TV. I was disappointed, but it was OK.

But I also issued that NO because there was something else special that I wanted to say YES to. Having crashed on Thursday, been rough on Friday, I really wanted to be able to go to a play with a friend on Saturday. I rarely go to the theater, and the tickets were free. And I knew that it would require very relatively little of my body as long as I didn’t set myself back. So Friday’s NO, led to Saturday’s continued YES, and a request for a ride instead of walking, and lovely night out with another good friend and an intense, well-acted play. If I’d pushed myself Friday, I couldn’t have done that.

Source: Rebecca Weger on Instagram: “I recently read #boundariesandprotection by @pixielighthorse and found it tremendous. It is packed full of wisdom and has earned a place on…”

And it’s off…

The newsletter went out. If you had asked me this morning or this afternoon if that was going to happen, I would have looked at you skeptically, re-positioned myself under my super soft fuzzy blanket on the couch, and pressed play on the next episode of “Offspring.”

Yesterday did me in and today I was exhausted and in a lot of pain. But a brief bit of energy came my way this evening and I was able to get it on its way. If you think you should have gotten one in your inbox but didn’t, let me know.


Image of Jennifer Brea laying down with electrodes attached to her head

Almost two years ago I sat huddled in a corner of The Engineer’s Club in Baltimore. My companion and I were catching up and she asked how I was doing. I took a deep breath and I told her.

Not well. It’s been really hard. My energy levels are so unpredictable. Some days aren’t so bad, others are horrible and I can’t get off the couch to walk my dog.  I made a lot of plans and concessions to come to this event, and I know it’s going to knock me out for the next week before I can drive back home. I’m just exhausted all the time.

She told me that she knew someone else who shared my story and that she was helping her make a movie about it. That woman’s name is Jennifer Brea, and her movie “Unrest” has been shown in theaters around the US and is now available for streaming. Tonight was a one night only showing in Ithaca, with a post-film talk with two local researchers who are tackling the mysteries of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

As someone who has ME/CFS, the movie was at times deeply, devastatingly sad and familiar, and at others times affirming. A dear friend attended with me and held my hand while I used up several tissues. At other moments I just nodded my head emphatically.

During the talk Cornell University professor Maureen Hanson and Ithaca College professor Betsy Keller (both part of the Cornell University Center for Enervating Neuroimmune Disease (ENID)) talked about the defining factor in ME/CFS diagnosis: post-exertional malaise.  That’s a fancy phrase for “if I do something now I’ll pay for it later.”

Want to walk around the neighborhood for Porchfest? Maybe. At least take a folding stool, a liter of water, sunglasses, a hat, emergency medications and if you’re having a decent day you can probably make it work. But you’ll pay for it later. Know that the next day is a write-off and hope it isn’t for more days than that. At least that’s my experience. And I’m luckier than some, because some years I can go to Porchfest.

If you know anyone with ME/CFS, I *highly* recommend that you watch this film. If you’re just curious about a mysterious illness that affects over 1 million people in the US but has no clear cause and no cure, watch it.

Source: FILM

Take that, deadline.

I live with a collection of chronic health challenges, the most debilitating of which is Chronic Fatigue. But once in a while I’m able to focus and motivate myself for longer than usual. Today was one of those days!

I forgot half my breakfast in the toaster. Took some pictures. Made a couple of things. Forgot to eat lunch. Edited. Wrote a little. Did remember to walk Marigold Dog. Pushed and pushed and pushed to hit the project deadline. Which I did!

Then promptly collapsed. Like I do.

Which means it included leftover gluten-free dairy-free pizza and no beer, just water.

Tomorrow will probably be extra hard. Luckily, all I have to do is facilitate a two hour conversation about death.