I’m on the PEM Podcast!

A couple months ago I had the honour of being interviewed by Daniel Moore for the podcast Post-Exertional Mayonnaise. The name of the podcast is a play on Post-Exertional Malaise (PEM), the hallmark symptom of ME/CFS.

Daniel and I had a wide-ranging discussion and talked about whether its possible to flourish whilst living with ME, making art with a disability, flow states, symptomatology, meditation, and Stoicism.

You can also listen on your favourite podcast platform via the PEM Podcast webpage.

Opera Mariposa Benefit 2024

I’m excited to announce that I’m a featured artist in Opera Mariposa’s 2024 Benefit + Awareness Month! 🦋 I’m honoured to share both art and music to support the ME | FM Society of BC and raise awareness for those affected by ME/CFS, Long Covid, and Fibromyalgia. Join me for this all-online charity extravaganza at Benefit.OperaMariposa.com from May 1 – June 1, 2024. There’s music, art, over $3,500 in prizes and more – and it’s all for a great cause!

Violet, blue and teal graphic featuring a side profile of a young Asian woman with her hand upheld, a purple butterfly hovering above it. The background features translucent torn strips of paper twined with blue watercolour flowers. Gauzy purple and blue text reads, Opera Mariposa 2024, May 1 - June 1. Benefit + Awareness Month for the ME | FM Society of BC. Smaller dark blue lettering features the URL Benefit.OperaMariposa.com above a globe icon next to the words All online; a spoon icon next to the words self-paced; a closed captioning icon next to the word English; and a dollar icon next to the words By donation and free.
Collage by Christina Baltais. Design by Stephanie Ko

I’m involved in the benefit in a few ways. Read on for how my music and embroidery are being featured!

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The Hum

The album cover for The Hum. It reads: The Hum. Lia Pas. The image is of Lia's embroidery, "sensorium" with a purple navy tinge and dark purple navy bars on either side. In the centre of some bone white linen, there is a spine in thick satin stitch. Emanating from the spine are thick burgundy lines in an undulant oval shape. This oval is bisected across the middle. In the top half, there is a section outlined in burgundy filled with coiling blue lines and a similar section in the bottom half. The rest of the undulant oval is filled with fine coiling burgundy lines. The spine is very straight, the rest of the embroidery is very coiled and busy. Lia’s initials are stitched in fine thread the same colour as the cloth at the bottom right.

I have completed The Hum—a piece of music based on my hyperacusis and tinnitus symptoms. It’s just over 11 minutes long, and is a calm, ambient, and somewhat minimalist piece. Here is a 1 minute, 20 second taste of the recording:

You can buy the entire 11 minute recording on my Ko-fi page as an mp3.

Read on for more information about my long and gentle music reintegration and composition process for this piece.

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Nov ’23 to Feb ’24: Renewal and Propagation

It’s been a challenging three months. Winter is always hard on my system and I’ve been getting all my vaccines up to date which has required a fair bit of recovery time. I also found out my cyborg part (an iliac vein stent) needs an adjustment so I’m waiting for a date for day surgery. But, because creative work is what makes me flourish, I’ve done a surpri­sing amount of work in that time.

In December I realized that my routines weren’t working well and were causing me a lot of unnecessary internal urgency so I totally scrapped them and rebuilt them from scratch. It took about a month of trial and error but I now have routines that work so much better for where I’m at cognitively, physically, and with my current projects. My music work is a bit more spaced out now, as is my journaling, but the internal striving and pressure I felt with my old routines is gone.

I do think the impetus for such a large shift is due to my continuing research on the vagus nerve and polyvagal theory. Urgency activates the sympathetic (stress, fight, flight) system, and reducing that means I can come back to ventral vagal (calm and engaged) much more readily which is very good for my entire system.

Embroidery WIPs

An image of an old engraving of a vagus nerve is embroidered on green cotton. The head and chest are in a large bamboo embroidery hoop. The embroidery of the main nerve lines is done in blue chain stitch in perlé cotton. The brain and some of the face is stitched in the same thread in backstitch. Details in the face are stitched in single strand floss. A bright red anatomical heart is stitched in two and one strand red whipped back stitch. Around it a bright golden yellow halo in a vesica piscis shape is stitched in single strand thread. Three sets of ribs have been sketched in chalk and the lowest and second lowest ribs are being stitched in bright green/yellow stem stitch. A needle minder in the shape of an hourglass that reads, "This is taking forever," sits near the stitches holding a needle.
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Creative Plans for 2024

Note: This has been cross-posted on ko-fi and on Medium.

2023 was a very full year with a few big projects done in tandem with other organizations. It was also the year that I finally felt I had a career again for the first time since the 2015 onset of ME/CFS. Here are some of my plans for this coming year, with the caveat that they are all fate-permitting since I never know what my body might do.

Works in Progress

I have three main practices—embroidery, music, and writing—and have ongoing projects in each. My main embroidery project is a very large vagus nerve piece, my main music project is a composition/recording titled The Hum, and my main writing project is writing poems based on my notes from Deb Dana’s polyvagal theory audio course.

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Monthlyish Update: Getting Guts in Order (late Sept to early Nov)

Note: This has been cross-posted on my ko-fi. There are a few other monthly updates there if you would like to read back a few months.

Webinar Report

Another monthly-ish update and another very full month. The main creative work on my plate was teaching a webinar for CHASE Medical Humanities about the visualization process I use to create my symptomatology pieces as well as how to use the poetic technique of homophonic translation to re-vision and re-own dense scientific texts.

It felt good to stretch my teaching muscles again. I’ve been teaching in some capacity since my late teens—music, yoga, and meditation—but had to stop when I got sick in 2015. Despite an ME/CFS crash the day before, I was well enough to present my webinar and the par­ticipants seemed to enjoy and get a lot out of the work. A few people even shared their symptomatology image/test pieces on social media. Here are a few:

crayon drawing  of a body with photocopied esophagus, awkward poem and a bunch of triangles

Gillian Blekkenhorst started with a trachea and expanded their piece from there.

website: https://blekkenhorst.ca/

Twitter: @gblekkenhorst

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Webinar: The Invisible Made Visible

I’m teaching a free webinar with CHASE Medical Humanities in the UK on Thursday, 26 October 2023, 5:30pm UK time, 10:30 am SK time. I’ll be leading participants through my process for creating both the visual and textual aspects of my symptomatology pieces. I’m very excited about it!

You can register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-invisible-made-visible-a-visualization-writing-workshop-with-lia-pas-tickets-726765173197

An outline of a naked woman is embroidered on linen in the same bone white colour as the linen. She stands legs together, her right hand covering her groin, her left hand, palm up, extended slightly to her side. She looks to the right. Her entire body except for her belly is covered in intricate markings representing different neurological sensations. Her face is a mask of green lines, feathery grey lines cover her shoulders and chest. There is a thick band of intricate burgundy stitching around her waist. Her forearms and hands are covered in thick blue undulant lines. Her right leg has bands of burgundy along the muscles, with small dots around them. Her inner left leg has a thick line of blue running up it, with thin branches spreading towards her outer leg.

This webinar is open to all, not just people in CHASE institutions. For the institution question in the registration I usually put n/a, and my position as independent artist.

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SciArt September 2023

I’ve been participating in SciArt September for a few years now. Glendon Mellow and Liz Butler came up with some excellent prompts yet again this year, and I shared older work based on the prompts. Below are all 30 days of my posts!

Banner for the Sci Art September art challenge. The banner features a sketch of a mantis shrimp, as an example of art to create during the event. It also features the following text: Hashtag Sci Art September. Month-long art challenge. Following that is the 30-word prompt list, included here: 1 Starry, 2 Battle, 3 Favourite, 4 Cold-Blooded, 5 Strangling, 6 Understory, 7 Indigo, 8 Simian, 9 Heart, 10 Gossamer, 11 Lyrical, 12 Overgrowth, 13 Carmine, 14 Glowing, 15 Bird-like, 16 Ochre, 17 Abstract, 18 Talon, 19 Charcoal, 20 Sweet, 21 Misty, 22 Nocturnal, 23 Adornment, 24 Metallic, 25 Alchemical, 26 Threads, 27 Amethyst, 28 Monumental, 29 Tale, 30 Rebirth. After the list is the following text: Hosted by @FlyingTrilobite and @LizLagomorph. Year 3, September 2023.
An embroidery on ochre linen, there is the outline of a head and outstretched arms. Tiny blue filigree decorates the face and hands and there are light coloured stars on the chest area and around the neck.

Day 1: starry 

stars within, stars without (2017) is part of my symptomatology embroidery series. This is a map of the paresthesias (tingling) in my upper body due to ME/CFS, stitched as I experienced them.

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