A Life in Paint
It's been a rough weekend, as you can probably tell from the piece you see here. It's called Beneath a Red Sun. Why has it been such a rough weekend, you ask. Well, because I was thinking about life, stuck somewhere reviewing all of the ills of the past 48 years that I've been through. It's been a rough go. You all know about the Aspie boy who didn't fit and left school, and who tried pretty much every job known to humanity, and still didn't fit, and who married, divorced and embarked on countless ill-conceived relationships and still didn't fit. You've all heard that, so I won't sing that song again. What I wanted to know this weekend, the question that plagued me was why has it been so rough? Why, over the course of these 48 years, have I been constantly lied to, stolen from, and I mean literally stolen from), used, maligned, stalked, harassed and essentially treated like shit? And how do I get over it and change it?
Well, after a lot of ranting, raving and reflection, I think I figured it out. How did I get into this mess? I became what I never thought I ever was or would become, a damn people pleaser! I always prided myself, especially as a younger man, in marching to the beat of my own drum. Apparently, looking back through the wisdom of age, that was bullshit. So why a people pleaser? Well, probably because no one noticed me. When I was a small child, I spent hours either in my room or outside, alone because the truth is, my own mother really didn't give a shit where I was or what I was doing; she had her own problems to deal with. When I got older, a teenager, I found I could gain acceptance, at least in a small way, through my looks. Seriously, I was hot! Hard to imagine now, isn't it? Women, girls and guys all wanted to be around me. Of course, the trick is, you can't please everyone and when I became friends with several gay men in the late 80's, I was pushed out of my father's home, they were worried I might spread disease to their flatware. I learned, through all that, what I thought was a valuable lesson, shut up, stay quiet and give people what they want and everything will be okay. If I did that, I'd fit. So, that's what I did, I became a master of disguise, I became whatever you needed me to be. You want a man who likes a really big girl and who'll work a shitty job to pay all your bills? I'm your man! You want a man who watches your kid all day? I'm right here. You want a fella that'll tell you he loves a skinny chick? Right here, come to daddy! You want the athlete, the fat guy, the teddy bear? Right here, baby. Here's the problem in all of that, it doesn't last. My limit was about 4 years. I can't tell you how many things I got into that fell apart at the 4 year mark. Why? Because apparently, that's the length of my tolerance for such bullshit.
What I learned from all that was that there's a price to sacrificing yourself just to belong. You begin to loose yourself, whoever the heck that is. And when you loose that, you loose everything. I had a wonderful girl who accepted me,just as I was and I can't tell you how many times I ruined that over the past 30 years, on and off, because I was scared, I couldn't trust it. There had to be a angle there that I didn't see.
That's this painting. It's the death of self. It's every sad, lonely, misunderstood kid or adult out there that wants to fit and has sacrificed more than they should have to reach that goal. But there's also hope, and light in the piece. The sun is always there and it always comes up, which means you can change it all.
How did I change it? The answer is complicated and simple, much like me. The simple answer, art. As I look back, I remember those countless hours alone in my room as my mother drank a mix of wine and soda pop, or hard stuff, in the living room. I turned to art, I didn't realize it, but the tracing, and eventually drawing, of those Spider-man and muscleman characters were my salvation. It was my escape into a magical world where I could just "be". As I grew older, I graduated to sketching naked ladies, and all sorts of things before I finally found painting.
The point is, art has been a real life saver for me. It's given me acceptance, pride and an outlet for expressing my emotions. Paint doesn't judge. There's no price of admission for paint to accept you. So I paint my mood and get it out. And then maybe, I'm happy again and I paint something like this:
This is Crows on the Old Iron Fence. You can see the mood is much different than that of the previous piece. It's lighter, happier. That's the beauty of art for me. It allows me to be myself, to express whatever I need to express, without reservation or judgment. I'm not required to please it in any way, I just paint.
I suppose the moral of this story is this, if you find yourself constantly denying who you are just to please those around you for a chance to belong, find your thing. We all have one, that special thing that makes you "you", it might be painting or writing or being smart in school, or maybe you make the best damn fried chicken around. Whatever it is, find it, enjoy it, and through it maybe you'll discover the same thing I did, that you're worth more than begging to belong, if anything, these other folks should be begging to have you in their world. Being someone else never works for long, so you might as well just be you and see what happens. I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised.