Covered in Paint


I started seeing a new therapist and I’m still trying to decide if it’s a good fit. A good therapist for me is someone who can look at the hard, painful, confusing parts of my life with me and still draw out the good. I can do a pretty decent job of staring at and over-analyzing the messy complicated parts of me and my history by myself. (Unfortunately that process usually leads to shame rather than health for me.) I have a much harder time integrating those parts of who I am with the healthy, flourishing parts of me.

A few years ago I started thinking of my life like one of those huge canvases that take up a whole gallery wall. When I’m up close to it, I can only see the parts of the canvas that are in my range of vision. That can be a pretty small part of the canvas. Standing a little further back, I can see more of the canvas – larger outlines, more symbols, brushstroke patterns, and colors. I’m also pretty sure there are still whole sections of my canvas still blank – parts of who I am that are still being painted in.

I am not interested in fitting into a mold or making my painting look like anyone else’s. There are things I am proud of and things I am embarrassed of but there is very little I regret. It’s a good day when my hands are covered in paint and there are probably streaks on my arms and face too. It’s a sign of health when I am not afraid to be adding new sections to the painting and maybe even adding depth and clarity to sections already been painted.

For me, moving toward health looks like walking up to the canvas and back out again over and over until I can start integrating the various small sections of the canvas into the whole. It’s not ignoring the darker or less precise parts of the canvas but it’s also not ignoring the brighter or more fully filled in parts of the canvas either. If I want to bring more clarity to the “messier” parts of the painting, I can only do that through understanding their place in the whole.

I’ve been quieter the last few months because I’ve been working through some pretty complicated parts of my painting. Images and symbols that I don’t really have words for right now (and maybe never will). There is a lot of depth but very little clarity. I’m up really close and I’m not sure if I’m reworking previous work or filling in a new piece of canvas. But I am working. Hard. Some days I think there is more paint on me than the canvas and I long to pull out for a wider view to see how the painting is developing.