Sunday, September 1, 2013

Feeling overwhelmed

At some point in the middle of the night I woke up thinking that this painting, which I created yesterday and am finding very hard to like, was actually a stylized image of a gun; that I should add a trigger and declare its title to be "Don't Go to Syria." So I was excited to go into the studio this morning (the image was still oriented horizontally at that point) and bring it to my dream's sense of completion; to create a political statement.

But in the clear light of morning I see it doesn't actually look like a gun at all, and, in fact, it's not really comfortable as a horizontal, no matter which way is up.  So I turned it vertically, and now it looks like one of those old Memorex ads (yes, I know, I'm dating myself) with the guy in his chair being blown away by his speakers.

What I see now is that this is exactly how I was feeling yesterday: bombarded.  Enormous tension paired with an inability to move.  Yes, the root of it is I DON'T want us to go to Syria -- yet I feel helpless to stop that movement.  But there are other triggers as well: the smiling man at the supermarket waving hideously defaced posters of our president and huge signs declaring "Impeach Obama!" I hate what he's doing, but feel powerless to stop him.

The joy of having 16 young people in our home, more than half of them from outside the US, and treating them to a waffle breakfast with real Vermont maple syrup, and the sense of shame when we realized later that the syrup had gone moldy and made some of the children (and my husband) sick.  The deep sadness when our daughter drove away, even though I know she'll be back from her road trip in a couple of weeks.   The longing to go for a walk, offset by the pain of a slightly out-of-joint hip...

So much push and pull immobilizes me, and I confess that even after 60 years I still don't quite know what to do with all that tension.  Yes, I'm lucky; clearly I was somehow able to paint it, even if I didn't realize at the time that it was there.  But it's a hard state to love, just as it's a hard painting to love.  And now some part of me recognizes some inconsolable child at the heart of the painting, stiffened with gas pains, screaming and flailing alone in her crib, abandoned by parents who are just too exhausted to cope.

It's hard to imagine anyone would want to live with this painting.  But I think -- for the sake of that abandoned child -- I'll hang onto it, for a while at least.  Even if I don't like it, I suspect it's a feeling that deserves to be acknowledged.  And perhaps that's the challenge of continuing to mature -- and the gift inherent in struggles like these: the work of finding ever more productive ways to resolve those tensions.  I take heart again in Cynthia Bourgeault's premise in her book about the Trinity: that the resolution of two conflicting energies inevitably leads to new creation. One can only hope...

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