I’m trying. I really am. In the face of my country’s ugliness and shameful behavior, I’m trying to lift my own spirits and to reclaim my joy. Some days, it half works. Others…
There’s been a lot of loss of late in my little world. Layers, in fact. A great aunt passed away recently, and that has required processing. Processing that will continue, probably in ways I don’t yet know. Two days after hearing of her passing, I learned that my mentor was abruptly closing his studio and would be retiring earlier than previously planned. It was too much.
I spent my last night in his studio thinking of what the place has meant to me. I walked around and photographed the unlit corners that seemingly have nothing to do with the beauty produced there. The paint-splattered sink, the tins of paint thinner (“juice” as my teacher always called it), the random articles on a cluttered shelf. All of it greeted me for years, and now it’s gone.
I won’t lie. I cried several times during my final session there. I cried when I thought about my very first visit, when I decided to be brave and give painting a try. I cried when I thought about how my sweet friend Nicole came to my life simply because our easels were side-by-side one night. I cried when I thought about how my time in that sacred space changed my life forever. As I type this, I look around my home and its walls are covered with art, most of it made by me. When someone asks what I do (I hate that question), I tell them I’m an artist. And I am. Some of what I produce is real crap. It’s true. And some of what I produce is so good it makes me want to cry anew, because it is such a gift to create beauty in this world. And in every inky crevice of my heart, I am fully aware of how very “gifted” I have been on the painting front.
And then there’s my mentor himself. On that last night in the studio, I cried because I was allowed to know him. Because I was allowed to be his student and to learn from him. He is a remarkable human soul and I know what a privilege it’s been to study with him. I have learned more about painting than I ever thought possible. I have also learned – from him – about being a decent person. He is kind and patient and wise. I pray that a little bit of those parts of him have rubbed off on me. Maybe they have. Maybe not. I suppose only time will tell.
So yes – I’m processing a lot of loss right now. And it runs deep. If I could, I would probably crawl into a hole and stay there. But that isn’t how life works. If I were to choose that, then I’d become someone I don’t want to be. I cannot succumb to the loss. I know I have to adapt. All of life is change, isn’t it? It keeps evolving and turning over and over again. For me, I know that if I don’t roll with it, there won’t be much point in waking to another day. And if I know anything about myself, it is that I absolutely love being alive. So roll with it, I must.
For now, I plan to practice self-care while going about the business of living. And I plan to give myself some time to figure out how to move forward with painting. I also plan to wish so much love and joy for my mentor. He deserves nothing less. His life should be lived with gusto, with beauty and with art. All my tears can’t stop me from smiling while thinking that. I am so grateful to have known his teachings and to hear his voice in my mind: Don’t fear the dark.
I won’t, Eli. I won’t.