Summer is my favorite season. I’m all about hot weather, more daylight, more barbecues, watermelon 24/7, everything revolving around swimming pools, being outside at night, and awesome thunderstorms. I love summertime because it’s a season of intense activity.
There is another side of summer, to me: a season of intense pain. I’ve struggled with chronic migraines since I was a little kid, and in recent years, they’ve taken a sharp uptick in frequency and severity—especially in the hotter months.
A couple years ago, for the better part of the summer, I was plagued by excruciating migraines on nearly an everyday basis. I had more days with them than without, despite the amount of care I was putting into my diet, exercise routine, sleep schedule, mental health, etc.. That summer was the most tangible encounter with defeat I had ever had.
If you’ve experienced a migraine, you might get what I mean by “defeat”. You might even get what it’s like to go temporarily blind, or be sick to your stomach from the pain, or lose the ability to speak in coherent sentences, or spend your savings on doctor visits and medicines, or miss out on work, school, and special occasions—while feeling a warped sense of shame around forgoing those things to go lie in a dark room indefinitely.
Even so, my battle with migraines taught me that there is beauty in suffering defeat. Like a powerful tempest plowing over a submissive landscape, each migraine episode is devastating, but somehow, dignifying. When the earth is beaten by the storm, it changes its shape. It recovers, with a richer history and more fertile soil than before. As a quintessential harbinger of defeat, the storm has become a lens through which I view my suffering. Every time a migraine breaks me down, it actually creates a more whole version of myself. This series of summer storm paintings is emblematic of life’s overwhelming forces, and the idea that victory lies not in conquering the storm, but rather in rising from the defeat.