Maybe I’m Not the Only One???

The other day I sold a painting to a stranger, a nice young couple who were in love with all my work and spent a long time looking at all of it. It was the opening of a holiday art show at the local museum in Del Norte, Colorado. 

I have never sold a painting to a stranger before, not in those circumstances, face-to-face. I found it weird, embarrassing, uncomfortable. I don’t think I showed that. On an abstract level I was able to be THE ARTIST, but I turned the conversation away from my work to them. It was a way out. 

By the time I got home from the event I felt very strange. It took a while to understand WHAT I was feeling. 

I was feeling ashamed. 

It’s a “thing” to blame our parents for our neuroses so I don’t feel so good moving into that territory right now, but here I go. 

I have always been an artist, specifically a painter. I have loved painting since I was a LITTLE kid. Among my dad’s souvenirs was a pencil drawing I did when I was 6 or so presumably of myself as a grownup. I’m standing in a big room. I’m wearing a long dress (like all little girls want). Behind me is a window and from the window you can see a mountain range. All around the woman (me) are sleeping dogs. In front of me is an easel with a landscape on it.

And here I am. THAT lady. The three things I love most in my life are dogs, mountains and painting. I always wanted to be an artist, have dogs and live in the mountains. 

I don’t know how we come into this world, if we come in with a pre-programmed job description (like the Dalai Lama) or if it’s completely random. I SENSE there’s more to it than being completely random and in my case it certainly has been. I have always known who I am but not how to get there. Who tells us that the self is a destination, in the sense of destiny? I fought hard several times for my own survival; as a kid against diseases, as a woman against abusive men. Until my therapist (long story) explained to me (after listening to me for hours) HOW I’d been raised, I didn’t fully understand that my home was an environment in which I’d been used as a scapegoat to enable my mom’s alcoholism and that I would — naturally — feel more comfortable in environments where I’m not appreciated and even treated badly. 

Most of all, my mother hated that I am an artist. She hated it vocally and publicly and all her life. When she died, I found some of my work rolled up and stashed in the guest room closet. I also found a couple of small drawings in a scrapbook of clippings about me and my life. The woman had (obviously) no clear perspective about her feelings for me. I can’t say the same about my feelings for her.

I don’t have any feelings for her. I have somehow integrated both the good and the bad from that woman and live it every day. The good is good. If she’d lived in MORE of the good about herself she might not have been bitter, angry, hateful and drunk. The bad? It’s landmines and I stepped on one Saturday when those people bought my painting and rhapsodized over my work. I realized that though I’ve sold several paintings, they had all been bought by people who know me and like me. On some level my mom’s voice has said, “Well, they like you, so they bought your painting. I don’t know why they like you, but they do. If they knew you like I do, they wouldn’t have bought your painting.”

She actually DID say things like that. Publicly. Until she died.

SO my job is to get her to shut up by recognizing that I know a lot about painting. I’ve looked at paintings all over the world and done a lot of other things to “self-teach” myself. I’ve written a prize winning novel about a medieval painter. I like my paintings — not just doing them, but looking at them. I’m interested in how to do them and what I learn from them. I have painted since I was a child. It’s not a new thing. And, most of all…

18 thoughts on “Maybe I’m Not the Only One???

  1. Ding dong is right. Oh my. This post rang such a familiar tone with me. How is it that those years of messages get hard wired into our psyches like they do & cause so much pain for so long? Damn. I’m glad you could tease out why your reaction was so upsetting. “I don’t have any feelings for her…” – I get that too. The good and the bad sort of cancel (balance?) each other out. I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but it makes sense. Shutting up that voice can take a lifetime. However…most importantly…Congratulations on the sale! 🙂

    • Thank you. ❤ That was a wonderful moment!

      I also figured out why we can't shut down that voice. We learned how to survive and (for me anyway) that often meant not hearing it (in the moment) or surrendering to it (pick up your toys and go home). It was a sign of danger and the perverse conviction that that woman was trying to protect me from something but what she was protecting me from was having any satisfaction in anything I do. It's so convoluted, it's nuts But I figure now all I have to do is keep painting, understanding I'm probably always going to feel a little weird. I think we develop a lot of good tools for navigating reality after surviving that kind of childhood. I'm sure there's something in there I can use. I hesitated posting this, but I don't think I'm the only person out here who doesn't celebrate Mother's Day 🤣

      • We learned to survive doing whatever it took to feel safe, however fleeting it was. Convoluted and nuts, but that was “normal” for me. A silver lining from all that is a unique toolbox of life skills. Dealing with difficult people for one thing. It’s a trigger but I figure out what to do. A familiar puzzle to solve. Mother’s Day? Always used to feel really weird (until I was a mother). Keep on painting – a good plan! 🙂
        I’m glad you posted this.

        • ❤️ You are far braver than I. I was absolutely sure I didn’t want to be anyone’s mom. My role models were the other adults in my life. I wanted to be that 🙂 I’m good at diffusing other people’s anger. Certain kinds of people are challenging, those who are not open. My love of nature came from leaving the house and heading to the woods as a young kid when things started getting weird. Mother’s Day for me was always — I felt like I was bringing offerings to the deity hoping that FINALLY things would be OK.

  2. Common curse of being a human. You can’t choose your parents. If every time my own mother had told me how stupid I was or how I’d never amount to anything I got a quarter, I’d have had the biggest allowance of anyone in school. Of course I got a lot of that from some of my peers too.

    I understand Elon Musk’s parents did him the same favor. Look what it drove him to do…

    She was wrong and I knew it at the time. She was just expressing the tragedy of her own life and wanted to share it with me – in a bad way. A lot of terrible people are just people who want to share. Since they have no happiness, they visit their unhappiness on those close to them.

    All water under the bridge. I walked away from that bit of baggage long ago.

  3. You liquidated her? I love the story of your 6 year old drawing. I can’t imagine that clarity that young. I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I don’t think I had the words to describe what I became.

    • “Liquidate” is the perfect term! 🙂 I didn’t have to do it, either. She managed all on her own, bless her heart. I always knew what I am . I’m even grateful for the detours and obstacles. I just wonder about people. Some people always know. Some people end up doing a thing that didn’t even exist when when they were kids. It’s fascinating.

  4. I also had a very challenging mother to say the least, and it has taken me most of my life to unplug the recorder when I fall into a familiar pattern. I’m so glad you’re learning to value and accept yourself, with all of your talents and joys, and to recognize you also have a something of value to share with the world

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