It’s been a while. I could wax on about the whys and wherefores—about the assault on my sensibilities as Paris and San Bernardino were terrorized, about the vanities and vagaries of politics (Oy!), about the family dramas and health crises of loved ones—about the avalanche of words and emotion that overflowed in my head, but strangled the words in my throat and left the page blank. There was just too much. So I got quiet instead. I may tell some of the tales on another day, but for now, I will start with where I am in 2016.
I ended the year with my holiday cut short because a client sent a last-minute job the eve before Christmas Eve and needed it in-hand on January 4th. So, I worked through the first weekend of the year, nursing a relentless virus. That first work week I learned of a tragedy that has befallen a dear friend that is so large in scope, I still can’t even imagine what she and her family are going through all these weeks later—and I am an empathetic person. Beyond my capabilities. Count your blessings, people.
By mid-month, the workload and the virus had continued and I was TIRED. My weight had been creeping up since late October and that wasn’t helping anything. I faced the honest truth: in spite of knowing exactly how to lose weight, I simply wasn’t doing it. I joined Weight Watchers online on January 19th and have lost 12 pounds, tracking every morsel of food—something I HATE doing, but you can’t argue with success. I began stretching and reminding myself to get out of my chair and walk around. I got tired of counting my steps, so I bought a Fitbit. It was exciting—a real commitment to change (even though it notoriously LIES about your steps). On the first night I wore the Fitbit, I noticed that the deep sleep I’d been enjoying for months, became erratic again.
On the fourth night of wearing my Fitbit, I had a crazy nightmare in which I was in a hospital examining room that I had gone to because my pulse rate was “10” and I wasn’t feeling so hot. As I sat there exposed in my hospital gown, attached to monitors, the room was teeming with people whose attention I was trying to get. I thought they were all ignoring me and I was getting pretty agitated until I looked over at the monitor and realized I had flat-lined. They weren’t ignoring me—I was dead. They were busy attending to my post-mortem self. That woke me up. I checked my heart rate, which was at 95—and I had apparently walked 440 steps in my sleep (although I was walking in a desert before I went to the hospital). I took the Fitbit off and put it in a drawer because I suddenly became leery of the little glowing green light and whatever hell my sleep had descended into.
I put it back on as I prepared to get out of bed to start my workday. I began noticing that it kept losing three hours of time. I synced it, put it back on, and it would fall three hours behind again. In my youth I was unable to wear a watch because I would, quite literally stop time. I sent the Fitbit back.
As February began, I started an online painting class I’ve wanted to take for several years by a wonderful artist named Flora Bowley. It was gifted to me, so I wasn’t really prepared when the class began, and my workload was still intense. As I mentioned in my last post, I have had the same blank canvas on a virgin easel for a number of years. The easel is at least 13 years old and has never had any action except for a lively game of Pictionary on Christmas Eve ten years ago. Not exactly what I bought it for when I was still a California girl.
I had moved the easel from barricading the front door to sitting demurely against the living room wall like a middle-schooler waiting to be asked to dance. Neither location is a suitable place to paint and I simply had not had enough time and/or energy to move things around, nor get the recommended drop cloths to protect the carpet. As I wrestled with: 1) Are these EXCUSES? or 2) Are these legitimate issues?, I noticed my anxiety level was ratcheting up again and I was having trouble even falling asleep. I promised myself that NOTHING was going to get in my way in 2016. But long workdays and working weekends have been a very real part of this new year. I asked myself: “Are you setting yourself up for failure by trying to change/take on too much?” No. No rationalizations or exits allowed.
First, I imagined how I would rearrange my studio so the easel and a large canvas would fit. I bought the drop cloths. I hunted for barrier cream so I could follow Flora’s direction to use our hands as we painted.
Yesterday there was a break in the work and I moved furniture, laid the drop cloths and placed the easel in a workable place. It’s a little tight and I thought about moving things again so it would be “perfect” before I started. But I didn’t. I decided it was all good enough and that I had to actually paint before another day was lost. I removed the dusty film from the canvas, filled the water bucket and took a deep breath as I discovered that I had no orange and my red was as dried up as my painting skills. I had yellow and a tube of violet so old that it only cost $1.88 (it presently sells for $8.27—old). I wasn’t letting any obstacle impede the momentum.
As I faced the canvas, it felt a little like climbing on the high dive for the first time when I was young—a thrilling mix of fear and excitement as I inched my toes to the edge of the board and started the slow rhythmic acceleration, anticipating the rush of that great leap and the weightlessness and buoyancy of slicing through the cool water.
Here are a few of Flora’s words for the “Bloom True” e-course:
Let go. Be bold. Be brave.
And so, with only two warm colors, and no excuses, I took that heady leap.
The pristine grain of the wood on my easel and that vast white tundra of canvas both have some color now. The drop cloth has some paint too because I heeded Flora’s advice and used a spray bottle to create drips. I turned the canvas around and viewed it from all four sides and made marks with brushes and various found objects and my FINGERS.
I forgot to play the Spotify playlist I had crafted as a soundtrack for my painting and just let my imagination, preconceptions, expectations and creative flow loose. Two hours flew by. I was wet and messy from all the dripping water and paint staining my hands—and I was happily exhausted. It was like great sex. Even though I hadn’t laid paint on a canvas in over 25 years, it felt familiar. Sensual. Exhilarating. (Maybe I’ll have to have sex again soon and hope for the same feeling.)
I am losing myself to find myself. Weight. Inhibitions. Doubts. Fear. I can’t wait to leap again.