Over the past few months I have shared a couple of times that something I have been doing when I have some free brain-space is learning to paint. To be more precise, I have been painting as an absolute beginner and amateur; I’m not enrolled in an art class. This new hobby came into my life a couple of years ago when I realized that I had some artistic energy that wanted to come out, but I didn’t have an outlet for at the time. Having only used paints a couple of times in my life (not counting painting rooms, etc…) the experience of mixing paints to see what new colors emerge, seeing how the paint reacts differently when it is applied thinly or thickly, and being surprised at how the colors change when they have dried continues to be a real journey of learning for me.
So far I have learned that while some aspects of the process are within my control—the paints and materials I choose to use, where the paint goes on the canvas, et al.—other things are definitely outside my control. Paint colors tend to darken as they dry, giving the painting a different feeling than I may have intended. Some paints are more translucent than others. Some have higher specific gravity than others, and so tend to “sink” as they settle and dry. The creative power of bringing an image “to life” on the canvas is tempered by the natural laws of chemistry and physics. And don’t even get me started on the difficulty of transferring an idea from my head to the canvas. The whole exercise is humbling yet empowering. I imagine the same could be said for any number of creative tasks you may have undertaken. From artistic pursuits, to gardening, childrearing, athletics, etc… It may just be a good thing for humans to be reminded that we do have real creative power, but that so much is still outside our control.
I am reminded of a minister I know named Oscar*, who loves to color with crayons. The first time I met Oscar, I also met his minister wife Berenice* and their two young sons. We were in a restaurant that offers coloring sheets and crayons to children. The couple requested an extra coloring sheet, and Oscar colored along with their sons while we all chatted. It turns out that Oscar was from a part of Honduras that was controlled by warlords during his young life, and his early years were quite traumatic. So now that he lives in safety here in the U.S., he can connect with the childhood he never got to have. This story is true, and happened long enough ago that I had forgotten about it until I started painting recently. So much is out of our control, but we do have agency over the ways we try to heal our wounds, no matter how old they happen to be.
Childhood wounds will be on a lot our minds as the holidays approach. If you find yourself thinking about things like that more than you want to, or if you know that the holidays are difficult for you, I’d like to invite you to reach out to someone you trust (or a professional therapist or counselor) to make sure you have the support you need during the holiday season. We all need our own webs of support, and letting folks know that you would like them to be part of yours is definitely within your control. By the way, these days “Oscar” and “Berenice” are happy and thriving, as are their kids.
If you have made it all the way down to the end of this Monday Musing, congrats! Here is a bonus conversation starter for you, that you are free to use whenever you’d like. Ask someone, “What is something from your childhood that you still love?” I imagine you’ll get some great responses!
(*names have been changed)