The first thing I learned how to draw as a child was Snoopy, and I still love that sassy little dog today! I’ve always done some form of art my whole life. I majored in art in college, although I graduated with my Master of Art’s in Teacher. Art has always been my first love.
Early in 2010, I was in the middle of a nasty divorce, and I turned to my art with a vengeance. It was my security, stress relief, and it was completely mine. In February 2011, I met Brian, and we soon married. He was extremely supportive and passionate about my artwork. In so many ways Brian was charming and charismatic. It wasn’t until later in our marriage that I learned of his mental illness and suicidal intentions. Somewhere amid the chaos, I painted a picture for him. It was of his childhood canoe. On the front of the canoe, I had painted our initials with a heart as if it had been carved in the wood. He loved it. It hung in our bedroom, and Brian referred to often as a token of our love, and in his usual way, he put me on a pedestal, with complements of my talent and passion for art.
Like a Frog in Water
When you put a frog in boiling water, it instantly suffers and feels the pain. However, when you put a frog in warm water, let him loose, and then bit by bit turn up the heat, he doesn’t realize that he’s being boiled to death.
During the first few months of our marriage, I learned about his mental illness, a diagnosis of bipolar, borderline schizophrenia, chronic depression. The list goes on and on. Most importantly, I learned these things through first-hand experiences. It wasn’t until later that I understand the clinical names for his behavior. One night, in a depressed and angry mood, we had a fight, a big blowout. I don’t even remember what it was about. I do recall the furniture being smashed, and thrown across the room. The screaming, horrible name-calling, and the violence, that swallowed me up like a black hole. In a millisecond, time was frozen in my heart. Brian reached for his pocket knife and with maximum velocity, he sliced through the painting of the canoe. He cut out our initials. He might as well have cut out my heart.
They are Always Sorry Afterward
The next day he apologized. Also, he wanted a new painting. He made me promise I would paint him another one (the irony that he did it, but I was supposed to fix it). I never painted another one for him, but I did manage to glue the piece of canvas back on and camouflage it with paint. However, it didn’t really fix or cover up anything. Each night for the next 2 years, it was the last thing I looked at before I fell asleep.
Today, five years after he took his life, I am still frozen and unable to paint. I painted one painting for my dad’s church, and that is it. I’ve worked my way up to painting shoes for family, and other crafty things, but not serious painting.
Why Don’t You Paint?
So that is the long story of why I’m not painting. Or actually, it’s probably the short answer. Immediately following his death, I reached for my paintbrush out of instinct. Art had always been part of the ups and downs of my life, but I couldn’t do it. My heart broke over and over again, every time I tried to paint. As time went by and I began to heal, I had to just let it go, I didn’t give it up, but had stopped beating myself up for not being able to paint. As silly as that may sound, I felt like I was betraying myself for my lack of artistic production. So, I made peace with it. I would never paint again, and I looked at it like it was just part of the fall out of grief and trauma. “Such is life,” I said.
Today, I’m missing it more and more, but can’t seem to get over the hump. I hope that I’m moving in that direction and that I will find my way to stop seeing the literal and metaphoric hole he ripped in my canvas. Furthermore, I don’t know how to proceed, foster, or start. I just know it’s a process, and in my own time and way, I’ll find some peace with my art.
“All Things Shall Pass”
Perhaps, this was my path. It was how my art was supposed to grow and morph and mean so so much more. I’m very excited about a few artistic processes. One is painting on denim jeans and blue jean jackets. Second, I love felting, and I would love to explore this exciting medium. As I sometimes tell my yoga classes “meet yourself where you are, right now, with love and kindness”.