Saturday, December 15, 2007

As the Colors Mix and Flow


I made someone late for work this morning. The phone rang to interrupt my sleep and the instant I heard it I remembered. I'd made a promise. I'd have JDub pick my BIL up for work at 6:30.

But, JDub wasn't home when I got the call last night. And then he came home from a date with Scud and fell asleep and then I fell asleep.

And so my sister called me at 6:50 this morning to see what was going on. JDub, wonderful man that he is, threw his clothes on and went to save the day. But my good Brother in Law was still late for work. It was my fault.

Yesterday I had an interesting interchange with a friend. She did something that bothered me and when she asked whether or not it had bothered me I told her the truth. She seemed hurt. But, I decided it was best to be honest. I was not unkind and I tried to reassure her that I wasn't at all angry with her.

She didn't do anything wrong. She was impeccably gentle and good in what she had done. Which might have been worse. Because it made me feel worthless and criticized. I felt like a terrible person for letting it annoy me.

So, this morning I couldn't sleep anymore.

I got up and painted instead.

I painted an image of a face with closed, crying eyes and yellow skin, it's mouth open wide with red, angry lines flying out in all directions. There was a brick ceiling above. A purple circle surrounded her, blocking her from any good thing that could get in.

And as I painted, words flowed through my head.

"You are good for nothing. I can't believe you made him late."

"There are people who go to work, usually on time. And then there are people who paint."

"There are people who do worthwhile things. There are people who are worthwhile."

"You're not one of them."

This is why I paint. As I let my brush flow over paper, I learn things about myself that I seem unable to see otherwise. The images that come to life surprise me, they bless me with new knowing -- the sight of an inner eye that can only see when my hands get messy.

What did I learn today? I am terrified of making mistakes, of being criticized, of people seeing (and, heaven forbid, pointing out) my many flaws. This is fascinating to me.

It is an interesting paradox.

No living person could ever be as unkind to me as I am to myself. It is simply not possible. My days begin and end with an inner invective that would put any drill sergeant in "Full Metal Jacket" to shame.

Yes, I am most certainly an artist. I have perfected my work in the medium of self-loathing to masterpiece level.

As a consequence, the one big thing that makes me bristle more than anything is when someone even implies that something I'm doing is wrong. Even if they don't say it, but could possibly, possibly be thinking it. Especially if I have done something that really is wrong and merits complaint. Or if my children make a mistake and hurt someone and it's possible that it is because I haven't been a perfect parent.

I can barely stand it. This morning I think I figured out one reason why.

Facing my mistakes, knowing that other people know I make mistakes and I am horribly flawed gives this nasty voice inside of me more power, more ammunition. If I am flawed enough that someone else notices, then that means that this witch inside me could be right. There are worthwhile people. I am not one of them.

This bitter abuse I put myself through is juxtaposed with a wisdom that fills and envelops me. I am good, beautiful, kind, generous. I love deeply. I am a daughter of God and if I were nothing else on my own, that is enough to make me wonderful. I am worthy of love and gentleness and forgiveness.

I am deeply loved by many. JDub came home this morning to see me hunched over my painting, tear drops splattering in the tempera. I continued to glide the brush over paper after paper as I told him of my new discovery. I know I am good. I know I am loved. But, for some unknown reason, I hate myself.

He tried to reassure me, told me how much he loves me and how wonderful I am. He is not the only one who loves me this much, who believes in me. I am blessed with friends and family who trust me, love me, enjoy me.

Still, somewhere inside is a voice that keeps welling up and telling me that the virtue others see in me -- the beautiful wholeness I know is there -- isn't who I really am. My goodness is only ever temporary, a pit stop between foibles and blunders and inadequacies. This voice tells me that I am not worthy of being loved.

It is no wonder that it hurts so much when I am criticized or when I let others down. There is a part of me that cannot see a way for anyone to forgive me or love me wholly if I am not perfect. How could that be possible when I can't even stop putting myself through hell for every mistake?

So this morning I continued to paint. I painted rain and lightning and broken ground and broken houses and broken relationships. I painted until the fiend inside my head grew faint and quiet. I painted away a bit of her power.

At last, through all the angry images, came one of peace. A dancing willow, branches and tendrils spiraling gracefully through the sky.

Someone once gave me the warrior name "Dancing Willow". It was one of the greatest gifts I have received this year. It meant that she saw in me the things I know are there, things worth loving -- joy, strength, beauty, protection, nurturing, wholeness, big-ness. These are the things that I know are true.

So the paint began the work today that I know will be long and painful. The problem is not my mistakes, everyone makes them. It is not my flaws, everyone has them. It is not other people and things they choose to do or say in response to or judgment of my actions. And the loneliness I so often feel, the inability to connect intimately with many people, is not a result of who I am.

I must learn to how to interact with this hateful voice that lies to me. Some days I'm sure I'll need to figure out how to ignore or silence her. Some days I'll need to hear what she has to say, acknowledge her good intentions, let her teach the truth she knows and teach her kinder things to say.

Perhaps I can figure out how to be as gentle with myself as I am with others. Perhaps I can give myself the gift of love and forgiveness that I have so desperately been seeking from everyone else.

6 comments:

It's all about the "Crew" said...

Heather, have you heard this song on the Pride and Prejudice (Excel Entertainment) soundtrack?

My Giant:

a nightmare
begins around the time when I'm first awake
rolling out of bed
and onto another day
a thought drops into my head
oh you'll never be anyone anyway
you can't change
so why don't you stay
right here

no, no, no
I can't take
another day of the constant bullying
there's no escaping the noise
the voice that's following me
when I'm with my friends
they just can't see the enemy anywhere
she's right here
in the back of my mind
in the heart of my fear

chorus:
my problem
my giant
just won't keep quiet
she's first thing every morning
to the last thing I hear at night
but she can't be completely indestructible
I only wish I could see how to defeat
my giant

yeah yeah my giant
oh oh

I've tried everything
hiding, fighting, and sneaking around
but each time she finds me
flat on my back and laughs out loud
there's got to be a way to knock her down
but I've already thrown my last stone
and she's still standing

chorus:
my problem
my giant
just won't keep quiet
she's first thing every morning
to the last thing I hear at night
but she can't be completely indestructible
I only wish I could see how to defeat
my giant


I just want her
out of here
if I can't make her
disappear
then I'll cover my ears

(quietly)
my problem
my giant
is suddenly quiet
she lost her power
when I shut her out
she can't be completely indestructible
now that I see how to defeat
my giant

yeah yeah my giant
oh ye-yeah
I'll stop listening
I'll stop listening yeah
no more listening no
cuz I'm not listening to my giant

Thanks for being so honest with who you are, and unafraid to admit it the challenges we all face (and yet are not so ready to share, yet).

Anonymous said...

Oh, how you punish yourself for little things. Gee, don't you have 4 kids, a dog, a husband, a house to run, Christmas around the corner? You are the perfect daughter. You were in beauty pageants, dance, singing groups, sports, and never a bad thing to say about anyone else. Usually you won things, your outward beauty helped a lot, but your inward beauty always shined through even more. It didn't matter when someone else did do better, or score higher than you, you were always happy for their accomplishments. I admired that so much in you, because you had so much talent, so much more than many people have, and yet, you were never better than anyone else. You are sweet, kind, loving. You need to be sweet, kind, loving, forgiving, to yourself. You are so wonderful, but you are also normal. We all make mistakes. Your's are not bigger than others. What happened to that little girl that never worried about anything? That little girl that when things broke it didn't matter because daddy could fix it? Well, that little girl grew up and has many things to worry about and daddy can still fix many things, but he isn't there to fix everything that breaks. But that's okay, things break, things can be fixed. You forgot to pick someone up for work one day, life goes on, he forgives you, in the whole scheme of things, it's not that dramatic. How many things do you remember in a day? How many people's schedules do you have to keep track of? You are only human. Tell that inner voice of yours to go jump in the lake. You have many more important things to listen to than that voice. It's okay to be frustrated and mad at yourself once in a while, but not hated, not angry with yourself. You bring so much joy and happiness to others, you need to bring that to yourself, so that you can continue to be joyful to others. You need some time for you. You need to sit down and write down all the wonderful things about yourself. I could write a book full of your good qualities - maybe a paragraph of your bad qualities - if that. Your sister adores you. You have been there for her so many, many times.

Heather said...

Thanks, both of you. Yes, I have heard that song. I like it a lot. And Stephanie Smith is one of my very favorite local artists.

And Mom, it's too bad you just can't get inside my head on a daily basis and tell me what's what. :)

Emily said...

this was such a beautiful, honest entry; i think everyone (or maybe just all women?) can identify with what you wrote. there is a lot of wisdom, as well, in your last paragraph.

sometimes it helps me to remember that i'm doing the best that i can -- it helps me curb judging others, and if i apply it to myself as well, hopefully i can try not to judge myself too harshly.

Duchess said...

I wish I could add something helpful, meaningful, comforting.
It's true, I think, what Emily said, all women have this voice at some volume or another inside of them.
When I let you know how to get her into the lake your dad would have her jump into, I will let you know right away!
You are a wonderful person, Heather, loving, generous, creative, and most certainly worth of love.
Believe it.

Vanderbeeks said...

When I first found out I had cancer and had no energy from the surgeries and biopsies and couldn't even hold my newborn I saw this quote:

Remember Who You Really Are. While you may have cancer, YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. And although treatment may temporarily affect your appearance and capabilities, you are not what you look like or what you can do.

My hair was gone, I was full of cancer and could barely breath, the color in my skin was disgusting, and I couldn't even hold my baby or my little girl, much less clean or cook. That quote stuck in my head and I asked Heavenly Father about it often. I wanted an answer. So, then what was I? Everything had been taken away, temporarily, but it seemed like forever at the time. You see the answer came a couple of months ago. Although I had been incapable of anything for a while I heard, "You are a daughter of God." Well, it's not like I hadn't heard of that before in Young Women's class or Relief Society, but it just never sank in like it did this time. It's different when it comes straight from the Lord. His Spirit to mine or to yours. Have you prayed and asked Heavenly Father for yourself? He will tell you as many times as you need it - sometimes we forget that. Ask and ye shall receive. Besides I have never looked at a severely handicapped child and thought anything negative - just that Heavenly Father loves them enough to protect them from the world and that He loves those who surround them enough to teach them to serve unconditionally. We all have a purpose. We are His children. Just remembering my experience has helped me today - so thank you for sharing your difficulties. It's easier to love ourselves when we know He loves us - no matter what else happens around us (even hormones - mine are crazy since I went through menopause at age 30 and back to semi-normal again). I was also thinking, sometimes we freak out and it is simply because we have physical bodies. I give myself 3 days when I can tell it is happening.