Archive for January, 2013

16th century painting of Arthrogryposis

16th century painting of Arthrogryposis
Posted by Jessica Jewett 4 Comments »

Today, my friend sent me a painting through a text message and said, “Have you seen this before?” Indeed, I had seen it once many years ago but I was never able to find it again. I want all of you to look at it because it’s a shocking miracle that this man was even born. It was painted in the 16th century and it’s Austrian, which is why I was never able to find it. I was looking through English searches. The painting has been housed in the art collection of Ambras Castle near Innsbruck since 1977 (my German isn’t so good anymore but I think that’s what it said). It’s listed in the catalogued under the entry “Portrait of a Cripple”. Nothing is known about the man that I could decipher. They didn’t even know what his disability was until another woman with Arthrogryposis recognized the signs.

Take a good long look at the painting and then I’ll write more below.

16th century Arthrogryposis

I know, it’s a little uncomfortable to look at if you’re not used to untreated Arthrogryposis deformities. I have a hard time looking at it myself because it’s a glaring reminder of what I used to be. I’m stunned that this man even survived childbirth. My birth in 1982 was very difficult because, as you can see, the body was extremely deformed. I was not only breach but I was coming out knees first if I was going to be born the traditional way. They performed a C-section instead.

This man’s body is a replica of how my body looked when I was a baby. I have endured nearly 20 surgeries in 30 years to have my body’s deformities corrected as much as possible. In the 16th century, this man never had those opportunities. The fact that he survived into adulthood is absolutely shocking to me. The deformities can often be life-threatening in Arthrogryposis if the case is as severe as his back then and mine today. Spine curvatures can cause the ribcage to grow into the organs, for example. Doctors told my family that I would die before reaching adulthood if they didn’t do a full spinal fusion in 1989, which is why I’m so small. When a spinal fusion is done, it prevents the body from growing much more, so they generally prefer to wait until after puberty. My surgery was done before puberty and that meant spending my life as a petite little flower, as my uncle says. Ribs can be deformed and compress lungs – another manner of dying young. Heart disease and neurological problems seem to develop at higher rates with Arthrogryposis as well. And then I think of the chronic pain in my life. I have had osteoarthritis since I was 6. Tight ligaments and tendons also cause chronic pain. Fighting muscular atrophy is painful as well. I take narcotic painkillers on a regular basis. What did this man do in the 16th century for his chronic pain?

I can’t wrap my mind around living with Arthrogryposis in the 16th century. I wish I could have known this man. Let it be a lesson to all of you that surviving anything is possible.

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Swiss cheese

Swiss cheese
Posted by Jessica Jewett 2 Comments »

Swiss cheeseThis blog title came to me several weeks ago when I began thinking about leaving 2012 behind and moving into 2013. You see, sometimes I encounter a person who has an energy field or an impression of their spirit that comes across to me as having holes. These holes represent the person being weakened by loss, emotional or physical ailments, or terrible difficulties in leaving trauma in the past. I can see other people in this manner but I cannot see or read myself at all, which is a common block with all spiritually sensitive people. We are not allowed to look into ourselves the way we look into other people because having that ability would be the same as having the answers before the test.

It occurred to me, however, that I’m probably one of those souls full of holes. I’m banged up and scarred no more than any other soul, but the burden of knowing a big chunk of my past life history makes it all the more present for me. I’m aware of the Swiss cheese quality of my soul and I wonder if it might ever be repaired. If I am to follow my own teachings, then it must be so that happiness must be found within myself and not some outside source. Other people cannot complete you. Praise and glory are only temporary. These things must be the decoration on the cake but not the cake or even the icing themselves. I’ve noticed over the years that this is the most difficult life lesson we all must walk through, often over the course of hundreds of years of life. True happiness is only achieved by wrestling every other demon to the ground.

I’m rather critical of myself, and that is a big demon that refuses to be wrestled. Whenever I make a mistake, I tend to berate myself for days or weeks as if the mistake was a sign of my lack of intelligence or ability. The voice that berates me often becomes the voice of a male abuser in my past. That voice tends to get louder when I go through cycles every few years of putting myself more out there in search of romantic companionship. How dare you think you’re good enough for anyone, who could possibly want a creature in a wheelchair, etc. No matter what the critical words are, they basically come down to the same idea that I’m not good enough. I don’t try hard enough. I don’t work hard enough. It goes on and on, especially when I’m trying something new, yet logic dictates that none of these things are true. Of course I know they’re not true, but the demon is there lurking in shapes of people who spent years berating me in those ways to keep me under their control. Anyone who has survived abusive relationships knows what I mean.

In 2012, I think I was going through an awakening. I have begun in earnest to converse with myself when those thoughts come to mind. I remind myself that those ideas have no basis in reality. It’s sort of like reciting affirmations but without the cheese factor. Toward the end of 2012, I have begun to realize something rather important that hearkens back to something my good friend, Beth, once told me. Other people’s negativity is none of my business. This means that it’s up to me to deflect people prone to constant negativity from my life before those traits begin to have an effect on me.

It also means, to me, that 2013 needs to be a time of transition and better choices in the people with whom I associate. That’s the entire point of writing such a personal blog. Believe me, I take no pleasure in pointing out my weaknesses in public but I believe in leading by example. Sweeping out the old to make room for the new is an important task in different phases of our lives. Feeling weighed down or constantly agitated may have root causes, in part, to the friends and family members you allow to influence you. I would like to say unconditional love and the welcoming of anyone into our lives is best for promoting universal love and acceptance, but there is something to be said for allowing negative influences to carve out holes in your soul. Unconditional love has to be a two-way street, or your soul will end up being a funnel with energy spilling onto the ground and wasted. Our spiritual energy is our most precious possession. If there isn’t enough, we’re not capable of love. It must be maintained like any other aspect of health in daily life.

How do we maintain our spiritual energy to and from the people in our lives? I have been looking at every person in my life and asking a few basic questions that become quite illuminating in our relationship health.

  • Does the person make me feel good or bad about myself more often than not?
  • Does the person put effort into the relationship? In other words, if you stopped initiating contact, would the person notice?
  • Do they show as much interest in your life as you do in theirs?

These questions all amount to balance in the relationship. It doesn’t mean you must talk to each other every day or be as close as Thelma and Louise or McCartney and Lennon. The sense of balance in any relationship – even distant ones – simply means getting back the fulfillment from it that you’re trying to give. If the relationship appears severely out of balance in either direction, then it’s probably having a negative affect on your spiritual energy or that of the other person.

My advice to you in the beginning of this year is to really look at the people in your life and examine them through those basic questions. Not only examine them but examine yourself as well. Are you being a good friend? It’s the basic golden rule – treat others as you would want to be treated. Lead the life you want others to emulate.

And the most important thing I want all of you to consider in every part of your life is whether a person, belief, idea, activity, or deed makes you feel good about yourself or bad about yourself. Remember that feeling negative about a person, place, or thing is your intuition telling you that something is wrong. Ask yourself why you keep people in your life if they make you feel negative more often than not. Difficult decisions may follow but you will be liberated in the end.

Perhaps we can all slay the “not good enough” demon this year if we help each other.

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