Original New Orleans Art by Debbie Ainsworth

A Shock to the System

Some people might not know it, but I am a Katrina survivor. Katrina changed my life, and the way I look at life, forever. But it also left behind some residual darkness that I wasn’t aware of until recently. First, let me clarify a couple of points. I was very fortunate to have received only minor damage to my belongings from the storm.  I don’t want anyone to think that I lost everything, though my sister and my father both did. However, I did lose my job. I broke my arm while we were evacuated in Texas. And our little dog, who was already ill when we evacuated, died while we were in Virginia. He was with us and surrounded by love until the very end.  We did not leave him behind.

For those who have not experienced the destruction of  your home town, and I pray it’s something that few ever have to experience, there are no words to describe what it’s like living in a disaster zone. See, your TV has a frame around it. All the images you see of the devastation, no matter how vast they appear, are all squeezed into a rectangular frame. In real life, there is no frame. It’s everywhere you look. The sight, the sound, the smell, the plagues of strange insects that you’ve never even seen before … there’s no getting away from it. No escape. Time makes things better, and people like me maybe start to forget what it was like. And then Harvey came and brought it all crashing down on me. I was completely unprepared for those feelings.

One consistent comment that people make about my work is that it makes them happy. I’m always pleased to hear that, because I was happy when I painted it, and somehow that happiness came through on the canvas. The truth is, I cannot paint when I’m unhappy. The anxiety caused by Harvey has completely sapped away my joy, and therefore my ability to paint as well. At first I tried to hide from the anxiety by burying it deep and working like crazy. (I’m a big time internalizer.) But that didn’t work for long, and when my ability to paint left me, the guilt demon rose up to finish the job. To keep the guilt demon at bay, I settled for being productive and still working towards my dream of making a living by selling my art. With that thought in mind, I worked on my prints and also on my websites, both this one and another dedicated to, among other things, my digital art.

The good news is that I’m feeling much better. In fact, I hope to be able to paint this weekend. In the mean time, I’m so grateful to have the prints to work on. It keeps me feeling productive and even a little bit artistic at the same time.