I have been a firm believer in the mind-body connection for over 40 years. I only go to the doctor when I have exhausted all other options, which is infrequent. And yet, occasionally, I forget…
I have been actively self-educating on black history for a while now. I am not a great reader, which is the main reason I dropped out of college, as a junior. My reading comprehension is largely MIA. I am a visual learner, so I have taken a visual approach to learning these stories which I either missed in school, were not taught in school or certainly were not discussed in the white privilege world in which I grew up and continue to live.
In the past month we have watched Harriet, Selma, and Just Mercy for starters; with many more in the queue. I also watched a PBS special on Toni Morrison, and have read three anti-racist books so far. I was seriously enlightened by Debby Irving’s Waking up White. She grew up like I did in a middle-class white neighborhood in the ‘burbs. In reading her story it felt as if she wrote it from my childhood home. I had NO idea that the advantages in my life were at the cost of the disadvantages to black people. It wasn’t that I didn’t care; I just did not think about it. White privilege in action!
Suddenly it all made sense, that in order for people to succeed, others must fail. My entire childhood was built on success, my father’s success and the anticipated success of my sisters and I. Because I chose to leave college, my anticipated success was squelched, never to be resurrected, in his eyes.
For me art-making has led to my own version of success. I don’t really care if I am considered successful by others. I know who I am. I find my success in producing art that says something, which is also my personal form of protest. My aged body does not take lightly to protesting in the streets, surrounded by hundreds of others. I protested the Vietnam war as a newlywed. That was our time, and now my protest comes in the form of visual art.
As I have been self-educating, I forgot one really important detail for this sensitive spirit. I forgot that unreleased emotions fester. All of the black history movies I have seen so far have felt like an emotional gut punch; and actually were. I have been heartbroken, devastated and sorrowful for how black people have been and continue to be treated throughout US history. I have felt that sorrow and I held onto it. It will release eventually in artwork, but for now while I am learning and researching, it is taking a physical toll on me.
I only put this together in the night, when I do my best thinking! I have had acute belly pain for a week now. The belly is my go-to spot for stress reactions. Because I have done over 40 years of acupuncture and holistic medicine, I know that I hold anger & stress in my belly. How did I not put this together before? Funny, I asked a practitioner that once…why did this not occur to me before? Her response always was, yes, but you remembered now!
So I am back to the basics, eating belly-friendly food (rice and bananas), having acupuncture and listening to calming music, practicing meditations, doing yoga stretches, etc, while I continue my research.
This morning hubs suggested I no longer do this work that “upsets” me so, saying I should return to making pretty quilts. I told him I NEED to do this work. This is my purpose at this stage in my life. I am finally using my voice and I have something to say! This is my personal protest.
I just need to be more aware of my own reactions, my own emotions about these tragically sad stories and history. I need not internalize my reaction, but instead save that emotion for my art.
I’ve always been a sensitive soul with a sensitive physiology to match. I’ve learned this is what makes me a good creative. I consider it a huge blessing to feel; and to make art from those feelings. So I am re-framing, one more time and moving forward.
I have memorized this owner’s manual. Occasionally I simply forget where I left it…
Cindy L Kelleher says
First, great read. Second, I had to chuckle as you have gone through this process before and always come out the better for it. I always have faith in your thought processes, no matter how challenging they seem to you. That rose would be a beautiful quilt, but you have to go where your inner artist tells you. Love you!
Thanks, friend! I almost suggested to hubs that HE make the pretty quilts, but that would require my teaching him to sew!
Pat Bishop says
I am envious of your purpose in your art. I don’t seem to have that inner sense to produce artwork with social meaning.
…and yet you produce incredible abstract art, of which I am blessed to own a piece! we each do what drives our work. thanks Pat.