So much transition in my life these last few years… A few roads taken that seem mostly a mistake and others that tried to correct those mistakes. But what all of it has in common in the last eight years or so, is the pain. And not pain that can be ignored or denied, but the kind that is searing and in my face. The kind that will not let go without being addressed.
And so it’s been a lot of processing, walking and retracing steps that I would rather have ignored. Questioning and anger, confusion and wondering… asking over and over where is G-d in all of this mess.
Pain is very solitary. Specific. And oh so relentless.
But slowly, ever so slowly when I let it, it started to teach me. The lessons were hard. Lessons I’d spent a lifetime running away from. Eventually they catch up with you, you know…. And then comes the choice. Am I going to do what I’ve always done? Refuse change? Not this time it seemed. This time I realized I wanted to come out of it having learned something and hopefully avoid some future pain. It was either that or stay the person I was and become worse. What’s the saying about insanity? ...Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But I knew I didn’t want to be bitter, or angry, or confused anymore.
Pain makes me restless. And perhaps that is part of its gift. I am uneasy not because I need to run, as much as that has been my response in the past, but because my spirit and body are asking for remedy. And I am the only one who can accept and apply the remedy.
So often we think G-d is absent in our pain. And it does feel like He is not as close as we need Him to be. But now I realize sometimes He does take a step back, to give us our space, to give us the time to decide, to see if we have the resolve to walk through to the other side. And on the other side is the promise of peace. I knew I’d gotten there after all these years when I finally felt peace.
Something on TV the other night… a drama - and a scene of a Rabbi dying in the emergency room. He said our only response to pain must be Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, bringing healing, that ancient Jewish idea that never loses its potency. He said we have two choices when we respond to pain – Tikkun Olam or narcissism. Will we reach out or will we lash out? Will we build or will we destroy? I could see that Tikkun Olam was the right response, as it always is in all things. But I had not realized narcissism was the other choice. It shocked me, and I wondered how close I had come.
Through this whole journey my painting has been there to mark the way. Certain paintings have been my own personal Tikkun Olam. They have helped pave the way to healing and as an added gift have helped bring Tikkun Olam to others. They are signposts. One painting was on my art board for three years as my marriage crumbled. When I finally finished it, I knew I was past a certain painful place.
Another was completed at the ending of another more tumultuous relationship.
There’s a coastal painting that helped me embrace where I was. And a mountainous one that brought me back home.
Most striking to me was the Lake Louise I did when I left for the coast and the same scene when I returned (above). How different they are. And yet each has their own kind of beauty to offer. And each ended up in the homes of other people to whom they spoke of their own Tikkun Olam.
My paintings are my diary. They help me see where I was, where I am, how far I’ve come. Sometimes they talk about where I am going. But not often. The blank slate is where G-d lives. The parts yet to be filled are full of faith. And bravery. And a willingness to lean into Tikkun Olam with my G-d and see what else is in store. But none of it would have been possible without also leaning into pain. To understand what a gift it could be has also allowed me to live in a way that Tikkun Olam moves through me in steady, stronger ways.
And along the rest of the path there will be more paintings. They have always been and will continue to be a part of my own contribution to repairing the world. My own world and others….