Art is more than a pretty accessory...it saved my life.
There is a saying and it goes something like this...'life is what you make it'; I wonder whether that is the entirety of the case...perhaps there is also 'life is how you make it'?
My reason for being curious about this; as a fundamentally curious person; is that we often find ourselves faced with the 'chicken and egg' debate.
Are we as we are because of the experiences life has presented us with or are we like we are because of how we approached those experiences? If the latter is true...what gave us the insight and ability to know how to approach life with this attitude?
Couldn't it be argued that it is only through positive learning experiences in early life that we would even know to approach life this way?
Let me explain a little about why I am posing these questions...
We, each of us, face our own unique challenges; for me, life has been a pretty big challenge from the start.
My childhood taught me lots about fear, safety, self-reliance, silence, anger, platitude and many other things besides. I won't horrify you with the details here!
Let's just accept that I never learned what it was to feel safe and secure; to feel of value or experience a feeling of confidence and excitement to pursue life!
I did learn a lot about how to interpret people's moods and behaviours; ways to convince others I was self-assured and if that wasn't enough, then being unapproachable or powerful would often do the trick!
What was I trying to achieve? Safety...always safety. A never ceasing pattern of seeking acceptance in attempts to feel safe.
Internalised questions about: what do other's need or want from me? How can I be accepted? How can I be liked? How can I prevent this person from hurting me...?
Shall I be funny? Shall I be smart? Shall I be loud or should I be quiet? Under the radar, over the radar??!
Totally exhausting and never quite working.
I was obviously very inadequate at being all things to all people...who knew, right!?
Yes, I know... I knew. After all, the one thing most people are born with is the instinctual sixth sense which tells us when something's not quite right; a bit 'off''.
I couldn't be all things to all people; no-one can. How could I sustain the myriad of me's so as to avoid confrontation forever! Indeed, how could anyone ever feel they'd met the 'real' me? Remember that 'sixth sense'...(not referring to dead people!)
Art was my retreat; right from the earliest of earliest of memories. Always alone, in sought (safe) isolation. After all, if I stay with just me, thenthere's no-one here to hurt me, right? Yeah, right!...I know, but we'll get to that another time.
I do recall those first foolish steps of innocent anticipation and joy at the opportunity to share my 'masterpiece' with those around me. Bounding along with a skip and a hop into the small kitchen; arms outstretched, offering my treasured accomplishment high into the air. But there were no big hands that swooped down eager to join me in my excitement. Instead, I watch as little hands, clutching paper that strangly seemed now to tremble slightly, carefully retreated; withdrawing the rejected object. Was the paper the object...or was it me....?
Yes, art was a wonderful, amazing companion. With but a scrap of paper, pencil and eraser, a world of hour upon hour escape was accessible to me; safely, quietly, invisibly, wondrously available to ME.
My place, my air, my blanket, my friend, my conversation, my companion...me.
So, of course I left school at the not still tender age of 16 and pursued my passion for art; boundless opportunities and a successful career to follow!
Yes? No, of course not.
was for me: safely, quietly, invisibly, wondrously available to ME.
Instead, I went to business college, hated it. Trained in retail management, hated it but was good at it. Left my home town without a backward glance. Fearful, alone but determined, I moved from city to town to city; impressing those to be impressed. Later transfering these skills and veering off towards what turned out to be a 20yr successful career in the NHS; impressing those to be impressed. Advancing; refining knowledge and skills until I was up there in the echelons of clinical practice!
Art was always my companion; paints, brushes, easel (wow) and canvases filled my flat... Fighting for space with the gothic splendour of torn fabrics attached to walls; black (or green) clothing, studs and a heavy mix of Kate Bush. As the locations changed and the clothes varied, my silent loyal companion waited ready to greet me when I returned home from yet another successful stress filled day at work.
Let's now jump ahead to that time when this entire balanced imbalance, tipped over for good.
Certain events hit as a personal tsunami; obliterating my world and it's crucial strategy for safety. A prolonged vicious assault on everything I'd built (including me) left me sat consumed by the loss.
What I didn't see for quite some time, was the pencil, brush and eraser poking out from beneath the rubble.
After a lot of desperation and equal measure resilience, I am where I am today; still healing, still hurting but with the most precious unexpected gift...
Yes I know that's what you were all expecting, and you'd be right to an extent. However, not simply art...this was...is MY art; lifelong companions finding each other properly for the first time.
'We' now know each other to greater depths than ever imagined possible before. 'We' communicate clearer and more often; 'we' understand each more often than not.
And...beyond all of that; beyond that precious gift of self survival...MY art also become YOUR art; and when I hear from others who have been given strength or rejuvination or an emotional lift, as a result of my art....
Was most probably always meant to be the primary means of how and where I fit into this world. It was probably how I was always supposed to present myself to this world. The years since this transformation have been tricky to say the least! Sharing a fundamental part of yourself comes with huge potential for rejection (and there has obviously been both rejection; protectionism and ego's to contend with) however, art and I had a finely tuned strategy... distance keeps you safe; art and I worked quietly, silently and safely tucked away at home. An almost reclusive life where I could tend the deepest wounds whilst nurturing my lifeline which ultimately became MY art.
Drip by drip by drip, I slowly and tentatively shared My art to the world outside my door (never inside it I hasten to add!).
Drip by drip I became aware of the world outside my door engaging with My art.
Slowly and oh so very carefully I start to reveal the person behind My art.
And so, now I understand that not only am I my art but My art is me...and that that's okay,
They are becoming self-sufficient and funnily enough...the unity seems to bring acceptance....
My art, quite literally, saved my life.