We won’t all make it

I didn’t keep my resolutions in 2015; I don’t even remember what they were, and if I did it would hardly matter. 2015 made no attempt to keep its promises to me. I don’t think I will resolve anything specific this year. That is, I won’t make a point of working harder or getting in shape. I work hard and I’m fine with the shape I’m in. I will write this year. That is something I am doing and will continue to do. I will be brave this year. I will be loving.

At this time last year, I said to Tim “I like that we don’t know what’s ahead. I like that the future is an unfolding surprise”. Well, I certainly didn’t expect it to turn out this way. I never thought I’d be without him. But it happened. It did. It has happened and not just to Tim and not just to those who loved him, and not just to me. The cemeteries continue to acquire the good and the loving and the necessary people of our lives, and sooner or later they will acquire us too. At this time next year, they will have succeeded in claiming at least a few of us. For some, death will not come unexpectedly. We’ll be overcome by illness, we’ll lose a parent, a grandparent, a suffering friend. For others it will be an accident, a sudden event. An attack. And that will happen, year after year, as it always has, until everyone we have ever known or seen or thought of, until we ourselves are dead. And nothing will protect us, not money or doctors or good luck or good design. Not love. Not art.

If you wanted not morbid, you are barking up the wrong girl.

On the other hand, this experience is the only thing we will ever be able to share with every single other organism that has ever lived. Death and water. That is all that joins us together, and that is powerful. I don’t think the worst thing that can happen is that we join with every soul in a great mystery. And whatever that mystery is, it is certainly that. Even if it’s nothing, it remains a communion, and it remains a mystery.

The worst thing that can happen is that we lose compassion. The worst thing that can happen is hatred.

This year, in this grief, I have had moments of losing compassion. I’ve had moments of jealousy. I’ve had moments of being angry at people for having the temerity to be alive while my loved one is dead. I have been angry and impatient and unkind on more than one occasion. I’ve felt the urge to build walls around myself and Tim and not let other people in. I’ve been selfish. I’ve been demanding. And at every turn I have been met with love and understanding and compassion, at every turn I have been shown grace.

This loss has not made me stronger. It has not made me better. But it’s in the dark that you find out who you are, and in this dark, along with all my glaring flaws, I have found out that I am brave. I might have been brave all along. I am brave enough to put my whole heart into painting. I am brave enough to be honest when I do shitty things. I am brave enough to apologize, and I am brave enough to love deeply.  I think we’ve all got that, if we look for it.

This year, whatever it holds, will shake some of us to our core. Whoever you are, however you find it, in whatever darkness is yours, I hope that you find your courage. I hope that you are held in loving hearts. I hope that you experience grace.

To those of you who have given these gifts to me, thank you.


103 Paintings

This is it: my very first blog post.

As those of you who follow me on social media are aware, for the last 98 days I have been working to complete a small painting every day, as part of a self imposed term of making 103 paintings in 103 days. I have undertaken this project for a couple of reasons, both of them depressing:

The first is that my partner died unexpectedly at the end of July and the couple of weeks spent with him in hospital and then face down on the couch of friends and then travelling for funeral and various memorials was enough to break me financially as well as emotionally. I am fortunate that I have dear friends who insisted on helping, but I could feel my Calvinist forebears spinning in their graves with each kindness accepted. There was a moment in early September, when things were wrong with my car and my kids needed money spent on school photos and soccer, a ridiculous moment of thinking, well I suppose it’s possible that I might also die before rent comes up. It wasn’t a good time. But I had a few small canvasses around, and I had paint and I needed to do something, so I started making little paintings in addition to what I think of as my “real” work, which is larger and far more time intensive. I made little paintings that were accessible, that didn’t cost much. I worked on a few at a time so that I could put a couple of days into each and still finish one per day, and at the end of each day I posted them on Facebook. And they sold, sometimes within minutes of being posted.

The second is also that Tim died. I don’t yet know how to be in the world without him, but I do know how to work. I connect with the universe through paint, and despite the fact that I am unable to adequately express how that can be, it remains a fact. I needed to impose a rule, and so I did. I gave myself a season of work when I needed it most. It’s given me the space to be the only version of myself that I find acceptable, and it’s given me a place where I feel safe and whole. It’s given me somewhere I have to be and something I need to do, at a time when life feels slack and empty. We all need purpose, I think, and the one I came with is painting.

I will try to update this blog every couple of weeks, and I will perhaps talk more about some things I’ve mentioned here; the prayerfulness of work, the language of grief and how that connects with beauty. For now I will say that I am so grateful to the people who have bought my paintings over the last season. You have made it possible for me to live this life. You’ve engaged in the conversation with me in the way that I know how to manage it. You’ve reminded me that the work matters, that it’s a gift, and it’s a gift you give to me again and again by opening your eyes to it. And lastly but certainly not leastly, you’ve allowed me to pay my bills, buy food, put gas in my car. You’ve kept me in paint, and that ain’t cheap. You’ve paid for my studio space and built this website. Thank you for that.

Happy new year. Thanks for finding me here.