As I sat in a coffee shop, casually reading about these gross injustices being done before that orange ball of idiocy has even had a chance to hang up his toupe in the White House, I started tearing up. Tearing up as the only outlet I could find for the anger and helplessness I felt welling up inside of me. The emotions so strong that I can’t think clearly and calmly anymore, that I revert back to my childish tendencies of only being able to hurtle angry, venomous words aimed at this blob of disgustingness hoping it will break him down if maybe I say it enough times. I know it won’t do anything, and that makes it worse. That makes me dig deeper to see if I can find even meaner words. But there are none – only a painful knot deep in my pit, that continues churning inside of me. It’s hurting only me and affecting no one else. I know I need to let it out and I have a feeling it’s going to pour out onto my canvas tonight. And then, once I’ve let it all out, I need to turn that into true action. How will that manifest? I don’t yet know, I only know that it needs to.
Revisiting This Painting on 1.30.17 – More Things Needed to Come Out on Paper
I didn’t actually paint this painting on the 29th. I did conceive of it on that day though. I had visualizations all day – mostly dark, angry ones. I felt all kinds of things about Trump and what was going on at the airports and with the Muslim ban. Can you imagine? I can’t believe I even said those words: Muslim ban.
I was upset when Trump won, but throughout the elections and even after he was elected, I still didn’t feel that bad. I actually was concerned that I wasn’t feeling at outraged and in despair as my peers seemed to be. What was wrong with me? I knew I wasn’t happy about it but I just wasn’t feeling anything very strongly.
Then all this stuff happened over the weekend and the previous week, and something in me flipped. I started paying attention. Emotions poured out and I was angry. I was upset. I teared up in coffee shops, in my bed, and on the street as I went about my day.
Dark, ominous images kept coming up in my head but a part of me wanted to push that aside and paint something happy to offset it. Even deeper still within me, I knew that was not the right answer. I knew better than to try to suppress these feelings. So, I let it come out. I was very agitated, annoyed, frustrated all day on Sunday and it was so thick you could feel it in the apartment. There could be no mistaking it.
Feeling a need to do something – anything – I hopped on my computer and donated to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood. But it didn’t feel like enough. Then I started reading about Uber and I just wanted to punch Travis Kalanick in the face. And I wished terrible things on terrible people.
Then I got into a fight with one of my best friends from middle school who happens to be Republican. That was the jolt I needed to cause me to pause. I had shut her down. I threw words at her faster than she could respond and what had that accomplished? Nothing. I got defensive and let out the hate and anger and frustration I had been feeling all day. I stopped the conversation, sat on my yoga mat and stretched myself out for 15 minutes. At the end of it, I sat down at my computer and wrote a long message – which still had some pretty ‘assertive’ language in it, I admit, but much calmer than before.
I realized – this exact thing, this kicking and screaming was going to get me nowhere. I looked back on the day and realized I had spent all of it feeling utterly hopeless and helpless, the same emotions I’ve felt when I’ve been a victim of harassment in the past. And I knew, that continuing to hold onto the anger would only hurt me, it would help no one.
It was pointless. This is exactly the kind of behavior that creates walls instead of breaking them down (quite literally in the era of Trump). I could and should feel strong emotions because what is happening is not ok. I shouldn’t try to stop those feelings. I shouldn’t hide it, but I should channel it through love – through compassion and openness – rather than through fear. That is the only way I could create any change. Hate results in inaction. Movement but not action.
(And then, today I stumbled on this article from 2011: http://www.mindful.org/the-importance-of-sadness/, what perfect timing and it felt so reassuring, and also serendipitous given the thoughts I had the night before)
In any case, I went to bed slightly calmer, and with a vision of an image I wanted to paint, but I decided to choose sleep over artful expression that night.
I woke up early the next morning, made myself a cup of coffee, meditated for 15 minutes, and then sat down at my desk to paint. It must have taken less than 20 minutes, because really, it poured out of me. I didn’t even have a clear vision of exactly what I wanted – but I could feel what I wanted. And as soon as I put the brush in my hand, away it went.
It’s messy, it’s dark and angry, but there’s also light. In the darkness, there is always light. And if there isn’t, we have to make it ourselves. But I have to be careful not to try to ignore the dark, the painful, the ugly – we can’t act like it’s not there because it will only come back, stronger, gnawing at my soul until I give it the attention it deserves – but we can infuse the light into it. We can see that it won’t always be this way – there’s always tomorrow and everything changes.