One of the brave women in my group talked about the word, “stuck”, that came up for her from one of her art pieces. How difficult that word felt, thinking that starting over was not an option.
Oh, how I understood this sentiment. Especially in midlife, don’t we all know the feeling that we should be a certain place by now – whether it’s financially, spiritually, psychologically, or in a particular relationship? Liking possibly parts of that situation, but feeling more and more trapped within a piece of it. Unwilling to let go and start over this “late” in life, or perhaps fearful of upsetting the status quo for the pieces that we are satisfied with.
It reminded me a lot of playing gin rummy. Finding myself close to going out but never having enough for a discard. Seeing the solution DEEP within the discard pile, but knowing I’d practically have to pick up the entire deck of cards to get to that desired one. The risk and fear involved with such a big move, of essentially starting over with a full deck in your hand when you’re down to just a few. Sometimes, it wasn’t a great move – I ended up losing. And sometimes, I’d find a number of solutions in my hand; in one turn, placing one grouping after another down which weren’t obviously apparent until I held them in my hand. And surprise, winning the game!
I recently intuitively painted a picture – it’s a new process that I’m working on that is still difficult for me. The idea is to allow yourself to paint from within, feeling which color, stroke, or brush – or hand, finger – needs to be used next. It’s difficult for me to let go like that, wanting to “prove” that I really have some artistic ability in my completed pictures. I can copy well. Emulate and add to. But this stuff from inside, it’s a letting go and a willingness to make ugly art that is just daunting to me!
So this painting, I started with my favorite colors of blue, green and purple and intentionally let go into the finger painting of my childhood. Lots of swirls and making designs. But I couldn’t let go there. I wanted to find something in the swirls. Make something. Turning it this way and that, I thought I saw a profile – and honestly, I wanted to experiment with girls’ faces and figures as I see in so many other intuitive painter’s work. So a profile emerged, and then a beautiful blue eye, which seemed to be crying….so I elaborated on that.
Yet after that, I wasn’t sure what it needed. It didn’t seem finished. I tried to let go my need for symmetry, thinking that the face in the far left corner was the need to say it was incomplete. A wise teacher recently told me that working with dislike in a painting can be a great practice for acceptance in ourselves. Wanting to continually re-work may well be that nagging sense of perfection, not wanting to share, or even take time to personally look at the ugly, before we “cleaned” up our aestethic. That certainly hit home with me!
But I still felt a desire to add to her. So, upon hearing a prompt to “paint with your feet”, I decided this was another great practice for me in letting go. And an excellent way to get out of that “stuck” feeling with this painting. Surely, it was a bit scary to think of messing up what I already had, yet on the other hand I thought, it’s just a painting! That I’m not entirely in love with. So, go with it! I loved her eye, her tears. I’d hold onto that and let go of the rest.
On went droplets of color that spoke to me that morning, adopting the “warrior” archetype in Angeles Arrien’s book, The Fourfold Way. The Warrior, she says, is about just showing up, choosing to be present. So, yes….let’s just march forward and do the work at hand! The colors I chose: red, black, and purple began to swirl around my feet, squishing between my toes. And the more I swirled, unintentionally covering her eye, the black began to take over. Momentarily saddened that I’d totally messed it up, I stood over the picture and began twisting my entire body in a jig over the paper, as an African beat danced out of my speakers. Giggling at the release. Giggling at letting go. Do you remember that feeling of destruction as a child? It was that kind of feeling.
Oh well! Here we go again…!
I tried scraping off the black with a knife, knowing the beautiful colors that remained below. It made some interesting marks, but not enough. So I added color to my knife and just kept scraping it on. Beautiful. Then chaotic! Sometimes I get the notion I’m going overboard with what I love – and I love so much about color – that it just becomes too involved to see the good stuff! So, I added black to further define the movement of my knife dragging and a tree? tentacles? sea anenome? began to emerge. And light. And more growth in the green below.
The result to me speaks of just that: growth. Growth in letting the old story of my tears go and grasping hold of the strength, bravery and power I see in me today. Being willing to step into the present moment and face the fear, being willing to let go of everything in faith, trusting that what will emerge is what I really need at this moment in my life. My final piece is not like one of the perfected paintings that I have hanging in my art studio in the basement,
but it speaks to me of beauty and vibrancy and power. I’ve found that letting go and starting over can really be a place of awakened confidence.
And I’ll take that over perfection any day.