I had another learning experience yesterday, one from which I’m still getting insights. I went to Brush and Barrell with a group from Compeer. Brush and Barrell is a place where “in a relaxed social setting, an instructor will guide you step-by-step through the featured painting. There is no experience necessary! Whether you are an aspiring artist or just looking to have fun and explore your creative side, by the end of class you are sure to surprise yourself with your finished masterpiece! It’s easy, fun, and totally stress free.” I was really looking forward to this class because I love painting and was excited about painting and bringing home a painting of clearly identifiable objects, as opposed to my at home painting which is for my pleasure and produces blobs and squares and strange looking objects.
The painting for the class was one of a bunch of flowers, with stems, and petals falling. The instructor told us, more than once, that we could follow that idea or do any idea we desired. A woman next to me did her own thing and it was really nice. It was clear that we didn’t HAVE TO make our picture look like his. But, as previously stated, I wanted something pretty different from my creations at home, likely my first issue; that expectation that it be so different. I thought if I listened and followed the directions my picture would look somewhat similar to the instructors’. The first couple steps went fine, filling our canvas with yellow and green as a background for the flowers. I enjoyed this part.
Next was the stems, the damn stems! The instructor’s stems were so nice and thin, mine were anything but. He showed us a trick with a piece of paper towel where we painted the line of the stem along the edge of the paper towel, even that I made big and “bloopy.” (Just made that word up.) Next step was the flowers, blooms, blossoms. I tried several times but wound up with blobs or strange looking frizzle things. I believe I asked a couple of questions and for help at least once before it happened. I started crying. Not a full on bawl, but more than a tear or two. Then I felt stupid, small, embarrassed, wanted to run and hide. Looking back on it, this is one of many positives; I did not hide, I did not leave, I continued. I felt like “all” the other painters were looking at me crying and judging me. Ironically, I now realize that we mostly couldn’t see one another across the aisles because the canvases blocked our view. Most of them didn’t see me anyway! Plus, these are other people with mental illness and their support people; why was I so afraid of their judgement?
There was also the instructor and his assistant, also named Heidi. 🙂 I wonder if they’ve had someone cry during a class before. They didn’t seem to know what to do with me and just steered clear. Fortunately I was sitting next to the director of the program and she asked if I wanted her to ask for help. And the instructor helped me. My flowers got a bit more flowery and less blobby. I added a few falling petals. Looked at others paintings and reminded myself that no one’s painting looked like the instructor’s, except the instructors’, of course.
It was exhausting, emotionally and physically. My arms and wrists hurt, as well as my back and legs. It was a 2 hour group and not the best set up for someone with physical problems; though there are very few “best” set ups. I came home and disappeared into Netflix. I fed myself, Biscuit, and CoCo when dinner time came. I took my medications when I was supposed to, talked to a good friend online who reminded me to look at all I did well, starting from just showing up. It could have been so much worse and that I am looking at it with some humor already is a relief and shows me that I am growing. This situation could have been cause for a full on breakdown in the past, a descent into weeks long depression. Instead I am looking at it, seeing my parts, positive and not so positive, and hopefully moving on and I am so grateful for that.
When I pass by my painting I think negative thoughts toward myself. Hopefully this will change. I AM proud and glad I tried and I showed up.