(I was diagnosed with PTSD a month ago. The details are not relevent, except to say that the weeks since have been full of reflection and self discovery. It has been a hard, sometimes painful process; however, I am coming out of it with more awareness and love for myself than ever.)
Painting is a relatively new love of mine; I first picked up a brush less than 5 years ago, mostly following along Bob Ross videos. My husband will occasionally watch me from the doorway; I am not always certain how long he stands there before catching my attention. He has told me many times how my face changes when I paint; how I seem to lose the weight of the world that is always on my shoulders. On my worst days, he will coax me into a new project, whether it is painting mandalas on rocks or suggesting a new piece for him to proudly display in his jam room. I don't consider myself a world-changing artist, but the act does bring me a degree of serenity, paired with a level of accomplishment that is so rare to feel in one afternoon alone.
Not surprising, then, that I woke on my first morning back at work following a month of leave to discover giant wings outlined on the side of the garage where we had discussed an art piece. I spent the shift excited at the prospect; mulling over colour choices in my head. I rushed home and enthusiastically pulled out my best paints and a few brushes, and discussed my ideas with my husband, torn between two concepts. The artist who sketched the wings out for me gave me some tips; I have no formal education, and I was eager to learn. Over the next few days, my husband watched as I filled them in; the artist coaching me on how to mix and blend, stoking my passion for art and colours and beauty. We each shared our stories; the art providing a buffer from the pain. By the second day, I felt the anger and anxiety I had been banking in my soul for years begin to ease; begin to seep out of me like the pigments from my brush, and rinse out into the water in the cup beside me. Every change of colour was a new trauma or pain leaking out of me, being replaced with self awareness and self love, strength and assuredness, peace and acceptance. Throughout the piece, I figured out new styles and techniques, and went back over each feather to apply what I had learned. The catharsis of being able to rewrite history - at least in paint - gave me a sense of control over my past that I have never felt before. I chuckled as I told the artist that I had been afraid to use these paints, that I had been saving them because they were expensive and I was afraid of wasting them; he told me to always use the good paints, because there is always more. Wisdom that can be applied to so many things in life. I realized then that I don't need to be afraid of art; that any mistake can be adapted to or corrected. At the end of the third day, after many hours of painting and repainting, of learning colour theory and working on shading, I sat back and stared at my wings and noted my errors, but didn't feel critical of them. Instead I see each one as a new opportunity to learn and improve. And, in understanding this, I felt that same forgiveness of myself; I have no need to be perfect - only to keep growing.