Zen Enough To Question

So my blogging buddy Blahpolar, who does blahpolar diaries, clued me into this self portrait project she does. It’s a password protected safe page to add self portraits that only a select few can see. I was asked to do something for it. I hesitated; like I’ve said before, it’s the thin veil of anonymity out here that allows me to just unload in the manner I do. My unloading, tho often ugly, is very beneficial to me. But I like the blogging community I’ve been integrating with, and I DO so like to participate in things like this selfie project. So when the other day came along with nuthin’ to do and waaaay to much energy, I pulled out my art supplies and decided to get down to it.

I am no great painter. I putz around with paints, and sometimes get something I really, really like, but for the most part I’ll leave drawing and painting to people who know what the hell they’re doing. I can rarely look at a flower and capture it on paper like it really looks. My pictures get lopsided and have strange perspectives. And I don’t know how to draw humans. So for this project, I let all that go. I went kind of Picasso-esque. I wanted something that wouldn’t try to show me as I am, but show me as I FEEL I am. Show how distorted my own body image is, show my pain, show the me UNDER this flesh. And as a practical matter, I was working under confinement: most of my paints (watercolor) have dried and turned to dust so I was limited with colors as well as with talent.

Hello world, HERE I AM:

self portrait

The heavy black outline stands for my distorted body image; the thicker the line, the more distorted I see those body parts. I’ve used it heaviest on my face, upper arms, stomach, hips, and upper thighs. The places I can’t look at without seeing flaws. My head is simply round; I cannot look at my face without seeing it as FAT. My belly is distorted, my upper thighs are way too wide and my upper arms are flabby and hang like small wings. My hands are non-things at the end of my arms. My fingers are even less, for I feel I am largely ineffectual in the world. I’ve painted myself with arms raised in surrender? Defense? Both are legitimate interpretations. I have no feet. This is both because I feel ungrounded with my wild mood swings AND I feel too strong a connection to my surroundings (I’ve bawled like a baby witnessing one sadistic gardener ripping up the earth with a hatred I can only chalk up to self loathing). I included my genitalia in the picture, but my breasts and vagina are washed out and small, to represent my lack of libido: sex is in the past for me. I have only one eye, for I know I see the world in a distorted fashion. The pupil of the eye sort of blooms or explodes outward, to represent my feeling that I am here to witness life, witness humanity’s follies, without really participating.  My mouth is small, for I feel I rarely speak up for myself. It’s also turned up in a prim sort of smile to represent my people pleasing – I’ll put that smile on no matter how much I hurt. The outer edges of my skin are mottled; darkness is sun damage and white is the cellulite I hate so much. Red represents my rheumatoid arthritis pain. It radiates from both my shoulders down my arms. It centers in the bursa in my hips. It’s in my knees, my wrists, and my hands. My feet are all red, for it seems they always, always hurt. The green represents my digestive problems, spirals in my stomach for explosive gas and green bubbles tracing my digestive tract for all the farts and gas pains I experience. I’ve painted two very flat looking weapons sticking through my body. The spike in my head is for my headaches, which always feel very large. The sword in my back is an old spastic muscle that acts up once in a while. Both of these pains I perceive as coming from OUTSIDE myself because they’re very intermittent, unlike my RA which is there every day. I’ve surrounded myself with blue flame to represent both my artistic passion and, simply, the life force in me that keeps pumping whether I want it to or not.

I did this project with an intensity I rarely exhibit while painting. AND I WAS SMILING THE WHOLE TIME. As I said yesterday, I don’t know if I saw something similar that I’ve imitated or if I just dreamt this up and then produced it. All I DO know for sure is that it’s accurate. Maybe the most accurate picture of me I’ve ever seen. I also found it interesting, once I was done, to stand back and notice that I’ve put myself entirely off center in the painting. I guess nothing says skewed thoughts like those unconscious actions.

I am strangely mesmerized by this work. My eyes keep going back to the original by my side. I keep LOOKING at it. I’ve painted something that fascinates me, at least. It doesn’t have my hair. It doesn’t have all the usual trappings I see in photos; the clothes, makeup, other people, stuff around me to draw my attention away from me. But it is SO me. With all the imperfect lines, the lopsidedness, the simply outrageous way I see myself – that’s it. Welcome to my self image.

I feel really ok about this. About the picture and about the way I perceive myself. Putting it down with paint, making what’s been battering at me in my head REAL on the page so I can pick it up and point at it and say ‘here! this is how I feel!’ has been so freeing I’m actually feeling pretty zen right now. And I’m wondering if I can use this to help me change the way I see myself. See, I both want to frame up the original and hang it in my room AND hide it away to only look at once in a while. It is TRUTH, and in that, it is beautiful. It is also depicting me with a lot of things I hate about me very visually represented. So it’s slightly disturbing to see that map of physical pain on my body.

And I realize now that is what I’ve done: I’ve given you a map to my physical pain. I made sure to convey my emotions over my physical ailments. But I have added little to represent my inner struggle. Only the outer trappings; the people pleasing smile, the one wide eye showing my feeling of being outside the world rather than participating in it. I have not added the depression, the mania. I have not added the rage. And that’s ok. Because I’m thinking right now that every once in while, maybe once a month, I should pick up my paints and do something else. More self portraits, portraying more sides of me. You know, I’m liking this idea. 🙂 I’ve never tried self portraits before. I suppose that shows what a non-artist I am! Wouldn’t most artists practice by drawing or painting themselves?

A few other non-related side notes.

My head puzzled last night over the fact that although I’ve accepted a larger view on spirituality than I was raised with, I still at times revert back to cursing the christian god rather than using my chosen ‘goddess’. I realize when I use the christian god to curse, I am reverting back to an early version of myself. I learned to curse from my dad, and that’s what he said. I also noticed that I switch from saying fuck to saying shit. Again, that’s a younger me peeping out. I’m not going to make any of it wrong, I’m just taking a mental note. It’s okay however I choose to curse. It’s okay if I don’t want to curse at all. My emotions, my choice.

My RA has been flaring up with the heat wave. My ankles and feet are swollen and tender. Of course this is happening when the much looked forward to beer fest is happening. Today is cooler, which is good. Cause I’m heading out to taste beer no matter what.

Slept great for 3 hours last night. Then a gorgeous thunderstorm came through, woke me up to admire it, and left me hyper and tossing in my bed for the next several hours.

My digestion has finally sorted itself out. I think it’s the new vitamins I purchased. Specifically, the vitamin C. I usually try to take extra because I’m a smoker, and smoking uses vitamin C. But I know if I take too much, it can cause soft stools and/or diarrhea. It’s always a balancing act. Anyway, I stopped taking the pills and now potty time is much better. So either I’m getting enough C elsewhere (unlikely) or the brand I bought is just cheap and making me ill (probably). Lesson learned: don’t skimp on vitamin C supplements.

The new dust devil we bought is great. The place hasn’t been this clean since we moved in. My brother has become Sucker Man (cause neither hoover nor vacuum are appropriate terms) and is driving me a little batty by using it somewhere every single day. But I can’t really fault him for CLEANING, for fuck’s sake!

Can’t help but feel like I’m living in a state of grace for a short time right now. I think things are okay between me and the person I slammed for making an off comment. I don’t like the part of me that caused that person pain. But then, that’s part of the reason I’m out here – to try and work with that side of myself so I STOP hurting me and everyone who comes near me just because I’m afraid. I guess I got a little lucky. I could have butted heads with another me, and then it would have been an ongoing back and forth round after round of ugliness. I didn’t. I ran into someone on a different rung of life’s ladder, and that person made it safe and easy for me to let go and forgive her (easy) and me (hard). Thanks again.

….For a moment, as I wrote, I thought I heard a small bell outside; a child’s bicycle bell trill. As soon as I stopped to focus my attention, it ceased. Was it even there to begin with, or did I imagine it? I can’t honestly say.

But this feeling of peace, of release of tension in my body remains. The calm. The zen. The place I’d like to live every minute of every day. And today I even feel confident enough to put this out there, to ask of any and all of you following these nonsense blatherings vomiting out of my head: what do you think of my self portrait? All comments will be approved.

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