The critter and I have a deal. He gets to chatter. I get to decide to listen, or not.
Of course, what’s not part of our deal is how when I choose not to listen, he gets louder. And louder. And louder. As if, the act of yelling will make my ears listen better.
When I’m yelled at, it feels like bullets speeding towards me. There’s no way to dodge them. I just have to take them and in ‘taking them’ hope for the best because under fire, I believe I’m helpless.
Not a very healthy nor creative place to find myself alone.
I’m sure it’s a residual from my father’s tendency to yell. His yelling scared me. A lot. In its presence I learned not to yell back, that only made things worse. I also learned, to ‘go mute’. To freeze.
Fortunately, with time and practice, not to mention therapy, I have learned to stay centered in my ‘I’ so that no matter how fierce the winds are swirling around me, I do not get caught up in the winds and lose my balance and direction.
Yesterday, as I prepared to work on a background I’d painted the day before in my art journal, the critter got busy.
“You know you’ll only mess it up,” he hissed.
I took a breath and readied my work table.
“You know it’s too precious to change? Right? Look at it. It’s lovely.”
I kept getting ready. I filled my water jar. Placed it ‘just so’ on my work table. Lined up my brushes, ‘just right’ and took another breath.
“Don’t do it,” the critter hissed. And then his voice rose as he saw me reach for a tube of paint and squirt some on my palette. “NOOOOO! STOP!!!!!” he screamed.
Startled, I hesitated.
Was he right? Was the piece too precious to change?
“YES!!!!” he cried jubilantly, jumping up and down in delight at my hesitation. “You know I’m right. Just leave it alone.”
It was the ‘leave it alone’ that woke me out of my critter-induced stupor of falling victim to his yelling. I can’t hear my heart beat when he’s yelling. I can’t hear myself in the face of such vehement opposition to expressing my creative essence.
And at the crux of it all, is my habit of wanting to just ‘leave it alone’ and pretend everything’s okay.
Leaving it alone is what has caused so many troubles in my life. Accepting the unacceptable, trusting the untrustworthy, staying silent in the face of abuse, leaving unspeakable acts unspoken, turning my back on conflict – none of that has served me well.
I squeezed more paint onto the palette, picked up a brush and before starting to paint, turned inward to the critter and whispered lovingly. “Thank you for trying to keep me safe. Thank you for wanting to protect me. And thank you for yelling. You woke me up and reminded me how, when I’m not listening inward, I’m prone to falling into the chaos around me.”
The critter sighed and fell back to sleep and I began to paint.