In my mind I see Alice tumbling head over heals into a giant, dark and endless, can of paint. That’s how I felt yesterday, tumbling, tumbling, even as I balanced barefoot on the seatless chair, my ladder, to scrape the paint from the eave of my studio. The flakes falling on my face and in my hair, the familiar sweet taste in my mouth. There was no joy in painting that protective coat of sunny yellow on the final wall of my studio. Just the drive to get it done, to have it done.
And with each dip of the paint brush, I fell deeper into the dark hole as I was assaulted by memories of when I spent a big chunk of my life painting. Painting whole houses inside and out. Painting by default, not because I liked doing it, but because it was something I could do. I call it my “other life” my “last life” the one where I gave myself away. The one where I wasn’t known and let other people define me.
And each memory brought me back further, deeper. Back through time, I relived the deterioration of my first marriage, and the beginning of that same marriage when I couldn’t stand up for myself. And back further to a time when I saw the marriage as a way to get away from the home I grew up in. The place where my feeling of worthlessness, shame and aloneness, where the anxiety and panic that ruled my life for so long, began.
And I painted on, determined to get it done, determined not to have to finish it another day, knowing I might not be able to get myself to do it again. And with each brush stroke, falling deeper and deeper into the darkness.
I supposed I didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening to me until the painting was finished. Because I wanted to get it done and because I was trying to avoid what I was feeling. But I see now that painting was a trigger. And I think a part of me knew it would be, a part of me needed to go to that dark place to feel the pain and release it. Which is just what happened.
When I was done, I closed the paint can, wrapped my brush in a plastic bag and headed for the Adirondack chairs, that secret garden in our back yard. And I started tapping, a technique I learned years ago, that has always worked for me. And I suddenly saw everything in a yellow haze. I looked at the sheep who were grazing in front of me and the flowers that surrounded me and felt as if I had just been cured of an illness. And that a dark and shadowy past was behind me and I was in my new life.
As I shook out my hands, Jon came out of the house. He somehow knew, he said, he could feel something was happening. And I told him about the darkness and I as I cried, I felt the pain, old deep pain, without words, rising up and I cried harder. That was when Red sat next to me (he followed Jon out of the house as he does) and I placed my hand on the back of his neck. And I could feel the pain and emotion draining through my arm and hand as if something in him was drawing it out of me. And I worried about giving him to much of it, even though I knew he would shake it off, as animals do.
I’ve always seen my studio as a healing place, but never in this way. Yellow is the sun and moon and color of personal power. I think I went into the darkness inside of me yesterday and dug up some old and damaged ideas about myself and let them go. And with their release came a new awareness of my own strength and a stronger sense of self. Which were always inside of me, I just couldn’t see them. It’s taking a long time, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be done with it, but little by little I’m seeing the truth and finding my way back to me.