Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Mum

Another day done,
filled with worry, scurry,
fraught with son.
My cup is overrun.

My Cathartic Keyboard

I’ve been wanting to write.
About Bonhomme insisting on falling asleep clutching his calculator.
About making pretzels from scratch with him.
About the three good books I’ve recently read (I’m more astonished at actually having read them than that they were so good – hours and hours of reading arrears have now been settled).
About my idea to put together a multimedia art show mixed of both my paintings and my blog posts to raise awareness of the lonely experience mothering has become, in this day and age where we acknowledge that it takes a village but also have to live with the fact that we no longer have any.
But I’ve struggled with writing. Even this, propped up on pillows in bed, has been more than my energy could allow. Because I’ve been sick again.
We’re hoping that it’s just that my lungs haven’t fully recovered from my bronchitis over Christmas to explain how sniffles in the morning one day last week turned into racking gasping non-stop coughing twelve hours later. But still, I’m to go for diagnostic tests with a lung specialist.
It’s nothing, I tell myself.
And then tell myself again, two minutes later.
And then again, in the middle of the night when my rapid heart-rate won’t slow.
I’ll just get it checked out to be safe. It’s the right thing to do. But I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m 32, I’ve got great cholesterol levels, great blood pressure, I go to the gym. Sure, I could do better, and there’s noticeably more than twenty extra pounds hanging around, but I’ve been trying to de-stress, get more sleep. I have been getting more sleep. So, it’s nothing.
Anxiety is common with depression – it’s in the same category of mental health disorders.
It’s also common with heart disease, which researchers are also finding occurring more often than they thought in people suffering from depression. Especially among women. Which is how I know that my cholesterol levels and blood pressure are doing well – because, I got it checked out recently. Just to be safe. Because it seemed the responsible thing to do. Because I was pretty sure it would be nothing – which it was.
A nothing that’s got me dizzy with unexplained exhaustion in the middle of the day.
A nothing that’s been giving me tingling in my hands and arms, and weird random chest pains.
Coughing that’s been making my lips turn blue.
Doc and I are agreed that it is much, much more likely that all of my symptoms are due to too high a level of work-related stress (amongst other-related stresses) than heart or lung disease.
What these scary, surprising symptoms are teaching me, though, is that stress isn’t nothing.
It isn’t nothing.
And so I write.
About nothing.
And it turns out – it means everything.

Sometimes, the truth hurts.

I made a painting today, thanks to a wealth of time and quietude. I had a sketch, my colours picked, the right size canvas. I had a plan.
And then, I started to paint. And nothing went according to that plan.

The painting I ended up with was dark and harsh. Textured and vivid. Disturbing.
I used to make peaceful paintings, things of beauty. Bright colours, sweeping lines.
Paintings to draw you in.
Now I make raw paintings, things of turmoil. I use the same colours, the same brushes, the same techniques. But something entirely different comes of it.
Paintings that won’t let go.

When I paint, I go someplace else. My body is there, my hand steady, my mind choosing this colour or that, this stroke, that shape. But my self is elsewhere. In an alternate dimension.
Think of walking meditation, just with a paintbrush.
And therefore, this is why my latest paintings disturb me so. Because they are a manifestation of my inner self, splashed onto a canvas. Primal. If they are dark and harsh and churning and raw, it is because I am.

I’ve got a show coming up, I’ve been asked to display two paintings. One, or a dozen, would have been an easier request. But with two, I have to somehow match them together in some way. By colour, or theme, or technique, or era. And due to the space restrictions in the display hall, they have to be the same width. I chose the first piece easily, one I made several years ago. And then got stumped trying to find another that was the same width that would be appropriately complementary. So, as I often do when faced with an opportunity to show my work, I decided to make a new piece just for the occasion – which would also solve my width problem.
However.
The type of painting that I used to do, that is, pre-motherhood, is distinctly different than what I seem to be producing now. And I’m not sure I’m ready to hang all of that rage and despondance and frustration and bitterness up on a wall. For me to admit to. For the world to see.

I have so little chance to paint these days. When I have the energy, I don’t have the time. When I have the time, I don’t have the energy. And so when I finally get in front of an easel, I want it to be the perfect experience, my hand flowing and sure, the bright colours exploding magically into something completely stunning.
If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that today, my hand was flowing and sure. The painting is stunning. Stunning in its intensity, its power, its truth. It is utterly evocative. I just don’t happen to like what it evokes.

I always wanted to create paintings that were accessible, gorgeous, inspiring. Something I would want to hang on my wall that would make me happy with every glance. Now I find myself creating paintings that are gripping, disturbing. They are paintings that make me think.
Paintings that hold too much truth.

I made a painting today. That’s what matters. I made one, and it is complete – a smoldering emotion-laden bomb of a painting. It needs no tinkering or softening, no second thoughts or misgivings.
It just needs a wall.