Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Painting a picture

May 15, 2008
Subject: Painting a Picture

I’ve read many stories of how tragedy whether it is death, illness, injury, divorce or disillusionment effects peoples’ lives. Some describe it like a tornado appearing out of nowhere ripping the contents of a life once known into a mass of unrecognizable sharp dangerous fragments. People talk about it like a tidal wave washing over everything familiar and leaving in its place a foreign wasteland. Often, people refer to ‘picking up the pieces’ of life as if it is a puzzle that was put together and now lay strewn on the ground waiting to be reconfigured.

I’ve thought deeply about these descriptions and others and I’ve come to realize that it is a very personal experience. That may seem ridiculously obvious but the stories I’ve read have had such conviction as if to suggest “this is how it felt for me and therefore this is how it will feel for you!” I’ve read these stories wanting to find one that perfectly described my experience and my feelings and had elements that resonated and spoke some truth but most of them were violent, full of a fiery force that was unfamiliar to me. I realize that only I can describe what has happened to me and my view of life now. Even Doc, I’m certain, would describe the experience in a unique way. That is the beauty of it. Once again this reminds me that despite similarities any of us may have, we all have very different paths to journey but this doesn’t render me unable to understand and empathize with someone else. I’ve said it before but anguish is anguish no matter its reason. Sorrow is sorrow no matter the source. Joy is joy and so forth. We are all fully capable of such a range and I find that powerful.

By far, the most violent feeling I’ve had that is grotesquely cliché is that of a rug being pulled out from under me. A falling down sensation that was suspended and painful, leaving me with the wind of my core punched in my gut like a ball of bread dough. That’s been the most painful and distorting aspect of this entire journey and it was instant but short-lived.

I’ve thought about the notion of “pieces of my ‘old’ life crumbled “at my feet and my purpose is to now salvage those pieces that were left intact while simultaneously creating new pieces and constructs of my ‘new’ life; my new normal. That imagery has not been helpful. Instead, I have seen very clearly a large painting before me. I have it in my mind that what I thought life was going to be like was already painted on this canvas. I was able to passively look at it, pondering its colors and shapes as well as its ingenuity and resemblances. Perhaps I was the painter, but that isn’t clear to me.

What is before me now is not a blank canvas by any means, because the foundations are all still there. My husband, my children, my animals, my extended family, my friends and acquaintances, my home, my gardens, my interests, my dreams, are all still permanently etched in the canvas defining my life. I’m certain that each of those things has been gently painted and colored over the years whether I was aware of it or not. What happened to my painting though, is that all the colors that defined what I knew before January 15, 2008 have drizzled to the bottom of the canvas in a large swirling collective puddle. The colors are vivid and distinct as opposed to a muddy brown that occurs when mixing a myriad of paint. These are the colors of what I thought my life was. I look at them now as a brilliant palette of choices. I see very clearly that my task is to begin painting again and some of the colors I’m discovering I would never have known had they not gently cascaded down my canvas collecting others as they fell. Stroke by stroke, dot by dot, finger print by finger print, I am repainting, redesigning, reassessing and it is a beautiful image.

For the first time perhaps, I am awake to the process, completely focused and a full and active participant. It is clear to me that I am the painter now and that Life has misted over with trickling and smearing colors what I once knew, so that I can be fully present to what guides me as I create something else.

I’ve always wanted to be a painter. So here I am in Life’s smock, with infinite colors on my canvas waiting to be chosen, waiting to be added, waiting to be noticed. I’ve been given a rare opportunity and like anything in life I can choose to focus on what’s positive or what’s negative. Clearly, I believe that life is meant to be joyful and full of happiness while reducing suffering. As I begin to paint, I’m entirely aware of the light and suddenly the darkness that has been shrouding my view is casting a shadow on my canvas. It is my hand holding Life’s brush and like magic, I begin to create. ~j

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