:: a guest post by Heather Lee ::
That’s a pretty wide topic. The scope is so wide in fact that it’s hard to know where to start.
I mourn over industrialism.
I mourn over the loss of green spaces.
I mourn over our polarity.
I mourn over the existence of hate.
I mourn the growing up of my children.
I mourn every day the passing of something of myself into what cannot be retrieved.
I mourn over my own brokenness.
I mourn over my own sinfulness.
And when one takes into account the fact of my particular brand of crazy, there is an entire eternity of losses I mourn. I have an anxiety disorder. You can read about what an anxiety is and is not here. I have lived the entire range of this disorder from debilitating to mostly functional but still needing meds and my people. Sometimes I live that entire range in one day.
I mourn my inability to drive more than fifteen minutes from my house.
I mourn over my inability, some mornings, to peel eggs without crying in the sink.
I mourn over those mornings when I just can’t get it together.
I mourn over those evenings when I cannot read to the kids.
I mourn over the activities we skip because I can’t handle the crowds.
I love to read. Always have. I love to read a wide variety of books. I love hard books, the books that push me past my limits of understanding onto a new plateau of comprehension. But lately, my mind has been a bit fuzzy. I can read a good novel, even a good “hard” novel, but philosophy, a particular love of mine, has been impossible. Months ago, I read through Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis, not an easy book, in a day and a half, and understood it all. I soaked it in, and for weeks after, I would revisit the pages in my mind. I tried to start a Lewis book a week ago, and couldn’t get off the first page.
So I mourn my inability to hold complex streams in my mind long enough to unravel them.
But there is beauty in the ashes. Joy from mourning.
I loved to draw as a kid. I dabbled with art some in college, but quit in disgust with my lack of vision. I could draw the thing in front of me. It was recognizable, but I knew it was not alive. It lacked that palpable thinginess of art. It was a product of an exercise. I think what I really lacked was patience. The patience to see things as they really are.
I returned to art a little over a year ago, about the time I was diagnosed with the disorder. I knew that my kids and I should be keeping nature journals. I knew it. I loved being out in nature, but I resisted the journaling part for a long time. I had walked away from drawing a long time ago and had no desire to return. But I did for the sake of the children. I bought each of us watercolor journals and I borrowed my daughter’s watercolor palette and began.
My first nature journal entry:
The color was all wrong, and I did not love the process, but I kept at it. Within less than 6 months, working in my nature journal had become a weekly discipline, and I slowly began to love the process regardless of the final product. As time went on, the weekly discipline became a bit of an obsession. I multiplied journals and began carrying a small one around with me everywhere I went to capture random scribbles.
At some point, I realized that the one thing that could calm me down (besides the meds) was painting or drawing. It takes me outside of myself in a way that nothing else can, not even prayer. When I am in the grips of an attack, prayer, thought, becomes difficult. And when I can pray, I am begging for release. I am focusing on myself, my pain. The more I look at my pain, the more intense the sensation of pain becomes. Painting takes my focus off of myself. It is through painting, and listening to music (I love my earbuds) that I am finally able to slip out of my troubled mind and find rest.
The last few months have been bad. Almost as bad as when I was first diagnosed.
The one thing that is helping is my art.
I often think of that movie Phenomenon with John Travolta, where he was suddenly able to do incredible things. He was later diagnosed with a tumor that had given him these “gifts.” I sometimes wonder if the anxiety has somehow rewired how I see the world, how I think. Because it is when the anxiety is at its worst that I have “vision,” that thing that I lacked way back in college. I’m not talking about any mystical vision, but just the ability to look at a subject or imagine a subject and to know exactly how I would paint it, and what medium I would use. My anxiety has pushed me past the confines of the nature journal, and I am slowly taking over the dining room with my “creations.”
Prior to July of last year, I had not picked up a pencil with the intention of drawing. Prior to childhood, I had not painted anything.
Beauty from ashes. Joy forged in the mourning.
About The Artist
Heather Lee has discovered healing through art and music. She can often be found at her kitchen table digging her hands into paint and swaying to the voice of Ray Lamontagne. View her art and read more of her words at her heart-quieting blog Bent Leather. Would you like to support Heather’s art? Consider becoming a patron through Patreon!
This post is part of Survivor Songs, a 31-Day series. A full list of posts is found here.