It has been a while since I created a painting for the #ShePersisted series I began in March 2017. Yesterday, I pulled out a background I’d created on the weekend, drew a circle and began to throw down paint.
I didn’t know what I was going to paint. I didn’t have a destination or image to reference. I was going with the flow and letting whatever appeared to be what was visible on the canvas.
She was challenging. Faces always are for me. They take practice. Skill. An understanding of light and its play with the shadows. A willingness to mess up and dig in.
They’re best painted with a reference photo.
I had none. Somewhere, early in the process, I made a commitment to myself to paint from within me, to use my inner memory/knowing of the face as my reference.
It’s a wonderful challenge. There’s that scared, uncertain place within me where I worry I don’t know enough, I need something solid to guide me. There’s that voice of doubt that takes great joy in whispering, “You can’t do it.”
And then, there’s the vibrant, alive place within me that doesn’t like can’t and don’t and shouldn’t. That voice likes to leap into the fray, calling upon my courage and self-belief to rise up and call out joyfully, “Watch me.”
I painted a woman’s face yesterday.
I didn’t think I could.
And then I did.
I love the magic that happens when I let go of working hard to control the process and instead let myself be the process.
I love the mystery that opens up to wonder when I accept it’s not about ‘doing it perfect’. It’s not about creating something that is a reflection of something else. It’s all about allowing what is calling itself to be expressed from within to become visible on the canvas before me.
This morning, as I look at her, that little voice of doubt and uncertainty, the one who likes to find criticism in so many things, it wants to tell me all the things I could have done differently. I could still change.
I’m not listening. Not heeding that voice. It is the voice of the past. The voice of millennia of women being told they can’t, they musn’t, they shouldn’t, they don’t dare.
Yesterday, I painted a face.
Her origins are a mystery. Her story is not.
She is every woman before me who was told she couldn’t.
She is every woman who was shut down, put in her place, pushed into dark alleys and corners, hidden from the light, hidden from the truth of her power, her beauty, her strength, her courage.
She is every woman who was told she had no power, no voice, no right.
She is every woman who was held captive to the lie she had to be perfect. That she would never be enough. The voice that still whispers from the dark roots of the past, “You can’t do that.”
They said, “You can’t do that.”
The wise woman within rose up and shouted to the winds and the seas, the stars and moon, to heaven and earth, “Watch me!”
Today is “Bell Let’s Talk Day“.
Speaking up about mental health is important. Taking action is vital. Erasing stigma. Changing minds. Providing supports and help for those whose mental health is preventing them from living joyful and productive lives is imperative for everyone.
Changing the story of how we view mental health changes how we treat each other, how we build strong and healthy relationships and how we create a better world.
For women, our mental health is tethered to a past where we had no voice, no rights, no power. A past where we lived under the shadow of men and the laws and societal mores that were designed to create a ‘just and fair’ society and that ultimately were tools to keep us in our place.
There is no place in the shadows for freedom, self-efficacy, self-determination, equality, self-hood.
Cutting the ties that bind is an important act, not of rebellion but of freedom.
May we all be free to speak up. May we all know we have the power to take positive action to be actively engaged in creating a world where everyone has a place to belong, no matter the state of their gender, race, sexual orientation, faith, beliefs and economic, mental or physical state of being.