Last week I decided to unlaunch my Patreon, to pause it indefinitely. Why? Well, the short of it is that it’s time for me to go back to basics. The long of it is that…

…I need to practise ‘Amor Fati’

When I launched my Patreon my head was bubbly and sparkly with fabulous ideas for an inspiring art community. Looking back, the plan may have been a tad too ambitious from the get-go, especially because I’d been struggling with chronic pain for years. At the time I was very optimistic, though, and thought it would help if I could focus on something fun like an online watercolor community.

My body was underwhelmed by my enthusiasm, though, and soon things got really, REALLY bad and I had to stop working altogether. Last September I got the help I needed and things were looking up when suddenly in October I landed in the ER. During my days in hospital I was making wild plans for my Patreon, But with the meds I got, I spent the remains of the year seasick on the couch, more asleep than not. The new year started way better, but definitely not as good as I needed to be in order to realize any of my wild and sparkly plans. And that’s an understatement.

An Achilles’ Heel

What complicated things was that a few days before I landed in hospital in the middle of the night I had been informed that what I thought was a neglected sprained ankle was in fact an irreparably damaged ankle due to very poor medical care. Years ago I started walking in nature one to two hours a day. I loved it. But, having a weak ankle I needed arch support in my walking boots. I trusted the specialist and walked on those for a year and a half. Until I got an injury. I gave my ankle some rest, not worrying too much. And then I walked again. A few weeks. And then the injury returned. This happened a few times and ultimately the throbbing pain didn’t go away anymore.

By that time covid had arrived and the affliction wasn’t serious enough to have it checked out. By the time my covid isolation was over 14 months later, it was serious enough all right. I had a permanently inflamed ankle due to irreversible damage. There were some things they could do to help relieve the pain, but overall I’d just have to learn to live with it.

"chronic", a watercolor painting by Mandy van Goeije to illustrate chronic pain
“Chronic” – Visual journal page, watercolor and graphite on watercolor paper, 18x30cm

Initial response: fight mode

I can’t say how deflated the news made me feel and angry with that so-called foot doctor who had ruined my ankle. I was angry with my body for leaving me in the lurch in more than one respect. And I had a really hard time accepting where I was and adapting my life. Why me? Why now?

From fight mode to acceptance

There’s no ‘because’, of course. Sometimes life happens as it does and we have to swallow, whether we like it or not. Some things we simply cannot change. Then we must try to practise ‘Amor Fati’, to love fate, to love whatever situation we’re in and see the good of it. Thich Nhat Hanh says something similar: that when we learn to suffer in a good way, we’ll suffer less. The good way to suffer is to accept the situation we’re in. Once we stop fighting, half the suffering is over. Wise words, but let’s just say my strong point is NOT to accept things as they are, so I spent a good amount of energy resisting. Until I was completely depleted and realised how useless it is to resist the inevitable.

Photo of our cottage on the river bank in france where in the morning
“By the riverside” – sitting on the porch of our cottage on the river bank. On the stone at the other side of the river there would be a Kingfisher hunting every day

A majestic role model

I was on the porch of a wooden cottage on the bank of La Dronne in the South of France. It was very early in the morning and a thick layer of dew delicately waltzed over the field across from where I was while the steam from my hot cup of tea tangoed along. Over the water on a branch of a tree no more than 5 meters away from me sat a Kingfisher, eyeing his chances. Suddenly he saw one and dove, caught and landed in a blink of an eye, swallowing his breakfast while I sipped my morning tea. Over and over again.

The simplicity of that majestic bird focusing on that one thing and succeeding woke something up inside myself. I had come to our holiday destination exhausted and depleted because I’d been trying to do too much. If only I could focus on one thing, just like that little bird. I had been holding on hard to the idea of building a creative community alongside my art practice and finding peace and healing in my body. It had been too much. My energy and focus had been diffused and none of it booked any progress at all. I was like a Kingfisher frantically diving into the water without focusing, without looking, and catching nothing. I understood there and then that I need to mono focus while I learn to deal with life as it is and find the good in it.

photo of a Kingfisher at Brantome, la Dronne
Kingfisher right in front of our cabin

A chance to dive deeper

During the month of September I figured out what to keep and what to let go. I felt that “content making” outside my art work flow needed to go. Content for the purpose of content broke my flow too much and stopped me in my tracks. I felt the need to focus solely on my art and the sharing of my process when there is something to share. It’s artists who do that, like the ever-so-enthusiastic Helen Wells, that I like following most myself. So that’s what I’ll do from here on. ‘Amor Fati’, love what is there…an opportunity to dive much more deeply into my work and share that process with my tribe. Secretly I’ve been longing for that for a long time. And hopefully giving myself this peace will help me learn to live with this body and hopefully help it heal some more.

Instead of Patreon…

Aside from unlaunching Patreon there will be a few more changes in how I share my work. I’m dusting off my blog and blowing new life into it, so this here is a good place to follow my work. But even better is to subscribe to my newsletter if you haven’t already as I’ll be sharing exclusive content in there. It will be a Mandy’s Monthly with an overview of the past month’s work, sparks that you may find inspiring as well and some exclusive content on the work process of the moment, mostly videos. You can expect to find the newsletter in your mailbox at the end of every month.