American Myths

I just added some new paintings to the “Myths” project, which can be found under the “Galleries” section of my website. I am also posting them here. These paintings emerged from my self-conscious. My conscious mind has been mulling over and grieving the loss of my dog Red. Daily, I have felt the pull towards silence and sadness, but I just kept painting, considering it as good therapy. I have not been sleeping well–the first time grief has ever acted on me this way– and so I have  implemented a few sleep rituals. But as with many (though not all) of my attempts at routine, that failed epically last night, and I just gave up. I cried, and not just about Red. I cried for everything I seem to have lost in the last decade.

 

The Great Recession began with a bit of a bang for me, but I remained the optimist. I had to sell my house short, but considered myself lucky to have lost only savings in the tens-of-thousands of dollars. I also left my soul-sucking job–a good thing at the time–but my small business gained no traction. By the time I returned to the job market in my field, the jobs were either gone or filled by recent graduates. There were also job candidates sporting a dizzying array of newfangled “certificates” that must have seemed more attractive to many employers than my many (and dangerously) varied years of experience. My attempts at entrepreneurial ventures and self-reinvention floundered.  Nursing school was a bitter disappointment and a bona fide PTSD-inducing academic clusterfuck. Meanwhile, the message to monetize anything and everything, while not lost on me, was something I felt almost constitutionally incapable of. The gig economy settled in for the long haul. Creativity seemed to be sucked out of my community.

It is ten years on, and I shake my head, baffled at the enormity of the change. And I still think: “the change in me.” You see, I repeatedly forget the larger picture, in part because the American myths are so much a part of my psyche. I see mostly my own transformation–and failures–as an individual. I try to cherish that transformation, and live without regret at the unexpected turns my life has taken. But that is not how I felt last night, curled up, lonely, and completely self-depracating about my failure. I lay in bed and practiced–both in the Buddhist and psychotherapeutic senses. I practiced letting go. Over and over and over. I finally slept.

Today, I awoke and looked at the paintings that I have been working on this week, and it struck me that what I was really letting go, still and again, were the myths that confine my heart/mind. And when I looked more closely, I began to think that I was not just painting about me, or not just about me. Somehow, in these paintings and mental perambulations, I realized I was painting about my country. I can’t say this cheered me. But I did feel some vague sense of purpose, which is at least, and not least, to bear witness. Most especially, though, I felt less alone. I hope my paintings, my own catharsis, will benefit sentient beings more generally.

 

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