It’s been many days since I had enough ‘bandwidth’ to write… the world is, as is so often the case, teetering on the brink… of something. Again and again I find War on my mind, conflict, emotion…and growth. Because I am so prone to metaphors, even War reflects back onto my ‘right now’ experience. Learning to stay ‘in the moment’ is not as simple to master as it is to take on as a practice. So I continue to practice. “Taking care of me” is a more complicated puzzle of choices and observations than I’d like it to be, and there too, I get plenty of opportunities to give it another try. I still make choices that don’t serve me well, more often than I’d like. I still struggle to be fully who I am, and feel accepted and understood by people who matter to me…and by myself, too. Change requires effort and, oddly, perspective.
Today I am working on “Perspective” from another angle. Art.
I’ll talk about the inspiration, first. My life felt like it was unraveling quickly at the start of the year. The upheaval of moving mingled with my chaos and damage (that I’d managed to avoid dealing with in any notably successful way). I had spent decades allowing myself to be heavily medicated, out of desperation, but against any potential ‘better judgement’ – and went off them one by one, but without any real understanding of how that experience would go, after so many years. I found out I’d had a pretty serious traumatic brain injury as a ‘tween’, that I’d never been told about, didn’t remember, but had always had evidence of… and it explained a lot of lifetime weirdness, and odd impairments and eccentricities. My PTSD flared up, and news articles about the high rate of suicide among military veterans over 50 started looking like suggestions… and I was approaching 50, fast. It was a very bleak bit of my life… (If I had had a different perspective, perhaps that would not have been the experience I had?)
I was at a place in my journey where my perception was that my life was entirely filled with pain, that the chaos and damage could not be overcome, that I ‘couldn’t do any better’ and that failure was inevitable, and a permanent state of being. I still had lucid moments, and I still existed alongside people who love me. In better moments it seemed obvious that things ‘couldn’t be that bad’. I wanted more data. I wanted to change my perspective, to know something different, and to ‘see for myself’ without the complications of the wreckage in my head. I was inspired to measure my experience in some way; “Perspective”- in acrylic, on canvas, with 3D mixed media, and of course – it would glow.
It became, over time, more than an art project – and it spoke to me. Now it is time to finish it.
I had chosen the move to our new home, all of us together, as a not-entirely-random starting point – it was a big event that caused me a lot of stress and interrupted pretty much every routine imaginable, and it was in the context of struggling with that fairly every day sort of change that I found out about my TBI, and started to understand what a big deal that had actually been for me all along. My basic concept was simple enough: I would use two glass canisters, and add items to each, representative of events and experiences, day by day from that point until I turned 50. I would watch my life unfold as data points in a visual display – positive events, happy moments, exciting and fun experienced, powerful epiphanies, and positive developments all in one canister – the other would hold the hard times, the angry moments, the pain, the tears, romantic spats, discord, confrontation, PTSD freak outs, stress, grief – and there too, epiphanies and growth, because those come sometimes from what hurts us. I didn’t want to be bleak, but I figured, at best, the outcome would be a draw – pretty nearly balanced between the tough times and the good times. It was already February when I started – so I carefully went over my journals, notes, and emails to friends, looking for documentation of the details, and ‘building the foundation’ of “Perspective”. I was more confused than surprised to see that even from where I was standing in that moment, the wonders and joys, the good bits, seemed the larger part of life, and it wasn’t a small matter – it was obvious. That sat rather uncomfortably in my consciousness for many weeks as I added to one or the other canister… because, the good times were still a much bigger piece of my experience than it felt like. I started questioning a lot of things about my understanding of the world around me, about my ability to understand my own experience, about what the hell was really holding the chaos and damage in place, after all this time… and I kept adding to each canister, day after day… and I kept observing… and I kept meditating.
My intention was to meditate on the progress of events in these canisters, until my 50th birthday, then use the elements on canvas to finish the project. That’s where you find me now, considering my life, and my “Perspective”.
There’s certainly more to say about perspective, in general. The pictures don’t lie – I may be in pain, my PTSD isn’t behind me, yet, and hormone hell is often just one misunderstanding away from seemingly unprovoked tears or anger – but I enjoy life, and life has a lot of joy and wonder to share with me. My anger, the wreckage in my head, my struggles with chaos and damage are actually a pretty small part of my experience – so much so that it all has to be placed in a single canister to be visible at all. I have the suspicion, untested as yet, that if I combined the contents of both canisters into one, it would be tough to pay much attention to the dark bits at all, because there is so much light. Light is a powerful metaphor; illumination, gnosis, clarity…
Canvas is waiting.