I shall start by acknowledging all those families who lost family members during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, the many thousands who suffered injury, and the many thousands who continue with unresolved insurance claims.
Today marks the 3rd year anniversary of the 2011 February 22nd earthquake and it is a fitting day to begin blogging again after the 2013 Christmas/summer holiday break. Yes, I have taken several months of down time. I needed that, but I have not sat idle. I have been working on a couple of projects but now feel as though it is the right time to reignite and share my experiences over the last months.
I trust that everyone had a good summer break as well. I would like to thank all those (many of whom I have not met) who have emailed and called me over the past weeks (including calls from Australia, the Netherlands, the US and the UK) inquiring as to the progress of our claim and wondering whether everything is ‘OK’, what I’ve been up to and when the blog would spring into life again.
As many you know we still have an unresolved claim with IAG’s State Insurance, which has now extended to three years and five months as a result of the September 4, 2010 earthquake. We have a High Court case this year and we are working steadily toward that. Nearer the time I shall be happy to take up your many offers of support in that regard.
Today though, I want to talk about ‘coping’. It seems a fitting topic in light of the extended time frames for claim resolution and general lack of support from Government and insurers that many of us are having to deal with. I found myself initially reluctant to talk about this topic as I did not want to give those opposing our claim the pleasure of knowing that the whole process hurts and has profoundly affected our lives – but I have decided that on a day like today there are some things that should be shared and that the insurance industry and those who work in it should know just what they are responsible for. They should also remember that for many the battle is not over yet…
It takes incredible strength and determination and a survival strategy to get through such a long and deliberate process. At times I lose all three. So what keeps me going? In the down times while I’m waiting for things to happen, to progress – I get to creating.
In the early days I wrote a book, the research for this took up much of my time and took my mind off the awful things that were transpiring, affecting so many here in Canterbury. After the book, came the public talks and interviews and a year later, when things quietened, I found myself still face to face with the problem of my insurance claim. It was so painful at times that I simply had to find ways of distracting myself – distracting my mind from going round and round in circles, keeping me awake at night, leaving me in a permanent state of negativity. Miraculously though, in my distress, my body seemed to know what to do, seemed to know how to find a way of coping. I found myself furiously creating again.
In the process of the creation of art I am able to momentarily master, tolerate and minimize the conflict and stress. It equates to not much more than self distraction I guess. My art work has become prolific. Yes, art therapy is a well known methodology for coping with stress. But my art sprang from no intellectualizing on the matter. Rather it has been more of an unconscious process- it has been my physical self’s way of surviving, of protecting my mental self. And no matter how much energy I put into expressing some of my anger and sadness about the dishonesty in this City and about what has transpired over the past years into my art – I cannot – and my creations remain items of joy and beauty. In that beauty which illuminates what I am creating – comes healing. Perhaps it’s a way of overcoming the terrible dualism in this painful process. It’s a way of obliterating the negativity and darkness I experience when dealing with the insurance industry. I have been surprised and amazed by my own output. It flows through me and out of my fingers. Creation after creation after creation. It leaves me thinking that it is no accident that so much art has appeared in the City – all expressions of people coping in whatever way they can. And what a wonderful way to cope.
So what have I been making? I have been making handmade fabric ‘hope boxes’ and the space around me is slowly filling with my ‘hope’ boxes. These boxes for me represent my ability to compartmentalize, A place of storage for my resilience. While I paint, stitch and sew, my mind calms, my thoughts focus on what I’m doing and the disruptive world of dishonest insurance disappears for a time. I have made artistic representations of the Canterbury Cathedral, of the Cardboard Cathedral, square shapes, hexagonal shapes, pyramids and the list goes on (see photographs)- all things of great beauty to me – items that are so removed from the world I currently inhabit. These items of colour and texture bring me peace, solace and great hope – hope that one day this situation will be resolved for all of us affected by the events here in Canterbury and that I and my family and that you and your families will be able to move on with our/ your lives. We need to do this in the clear knowledge that the system has to change.
Each of us finds our own way of dealing with stress – exploring and relying on my creativity is mine. Throughout the past three years I have noticed my tendency to disengage from my social circles, to withdraw to lick my wounds on my own. In creating my art forms I connect with a deeper space, the true essence of myself, a place I inherently trust, in an environment where trust often seems hard to find.
So at this time I want to acknowledge the many thousands of claimants in Canterbury who still have unresolved claims- my heart-felt wishes go out to you all – for many this time represents the battle of a life time, for others this period in their lives represents an extraordinary loss in personal freedom and financial equity. I experience the way in which the insurance industry is dealing with its policyholders as a total disregard of our human vulnerability.
And on that note I would like to congratulate the Southern No-Response group for the community efforts you have made in keeping your plight front stage and centre – a stirling effort for which I have no doubt there will be results. Your actions remind me of the old adage ‘united we stand divided we fall’. (See http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/9709084/Unhappy-claimants-meet-over-Southern-Response and https://www.facebook.com/SouthernNoResponse).
I hope for all those who find themselves in a similar situation to my own that you remember that you have other resources, a universe of beauty, that you can mobilize in order to survive, and prevail – just give it a go!
For those of you who have similar stories of finding ways of coping please share your stories – I would be happy to publish them.