I wanted to give you a deeper understanding of how I came to do the work of making these talismans and, more importantly, how I came to know that you are infinitely braver and stronger than you know. If you haven’t yet, and would like to, read from the beginning of my story, starting with Makers Gonna Make.
paint yourself out of a hole
Trying to reclaim a bit of myself, I started doing a little painting. A new friend I met, also with tiny humans in her home, wanted to do more writing and suggested we rent an office together. A space of my own to make art and think! I was met with confusion when I rushed home to tell him [my husband] about it: Why do you need to leave the house to paint? What will that space give you that I didn’t already have?
My art was no longer admired as when we’d first met. It was strange to be met with opposition when the idea felt so right to me. It felt like the most right thing I’d heard in a long time. So I went ahead and signed the lease hoping that he would come around.
I spent mornings at the office, working. I tried to go one evening a week, as a time off from baths and the fight of bedtime, but it was clear this was something I should only do while he was at work. He became very nervous and accusatory about the space. Who was I meeting there? What was I doing there all that time? I tried to explain how good it felt to be creating art again, to feel like an independent adult again, but was misunderstood. It was categorized in an either/or, black/white, artist/mother and it was clear both weren’t acceptable or attractive. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t be both.
don't you dare play it safe
I couldn’t stop working. After seeing a flyer for an open-submission art show, I got serious. He watched me work hard and worry over it. I worked both at the office and at home. The gallery accepted my art and the show hung for two months. He never went to see it.
This was hard, y’all. The woman I needed to be didn’t fit into the life I'd built. The thin layer of tissue that was holding my heart together gave way and I admitted that I was lost and completely broken.
A funny thing happens when you’ve put aside your voice and heart so long, walking down a path of someone else’s dreams… just a taste, a mere sniff that feels real and authentic can light your world on fire! Feeling the artist come back into me was a secret that I kept hidden. It glowed beneath my skin and I felt it burn and grow. It truly felt dirty to me to want my art, dirty and necessary. I felt like I was rebelling against my life and trying to save it all at once.
My work felt like a vital and raw part of me was scratching its way to the surface through the art, no longer willing to stay quiet and passive. I took out a sharpie marker and wrote, don’t you dare play it safe, and hung it above my desk and kept working.
keep on truckin' (or painting)
Visions met me in the morning. I saw a dark female silhouette with a bright orange heart in her chest that was absolutely broken to bits. It scared me. I knew I was seeing myself. The only thing I knew to do was to paint it. As I got her on paper, more and more silhouettes came to me. A southern man hiding his true sexual orientation, a businessman hiding his desire to be an actor, a woman hiding how painfully she misses her youth. The more I worked, the more poured out of me.
I felt I could never bridge the artist in me with the mother and wife in me. The two seemed to be on opposite sides of the world.
At the same time, I felt so disconnected and hopeless in every other area of my life. For example, I kept the children fed and bathed, and I used every ounce of energy I had to put on a smile for them, but it exhausted me. Life was tense. I was wildly misunderstood and repeatedly falling short of expectations in my own home. Though I tried, I couldn't behave as he wanted. When I hinted at my fear to friends and family, they responded that I had such a beautiful and perfect life.
I did! It was beautiful! My children were healthy and smart. We lived in a big old historic home that I had dreamed about owning one day. But something happens when you are in that deep, you lose perspective. I know now that I was depressed and having chemical production issues in my brain. But in the moment I just felt shame. I didn’t know how to help myself.
make your outside match your inside
In January of that year, I was admitted to the hospital for being a risk to myself. People think suicide is purely selfish, but I felt like a burden to those I loved and selfish for staying in the world. This was, of course, a very warped sense of reality and after a week in the hospital, of intense openness and exploration, my climb out of that dark hole began.
A friend said to me, “you gotta find a way to make your outside self match your inside self.” I clung to that idea and started making very purposeful steps into the world.
The doctor prescribed be medication and weekly therapy visits. I continued to paint. My life was changing. Some friends and family couldn’t handle the sadness or honesty of where I'd been and where I was going. What kept me plowing ahead was how powerful it felt to hear myself again, my own voice and opinions.
My broken heart started beating again.
of course I struggle, but I also don't fucking quit.
my story continues
I'm going to keep sharing my story with you. If you'd like to start from the beginning, read Makers Gonna Make (or hit Jenni's Story in the tag list on the right side of the main blog page) and come visit the blog to hear more of my story in the coming weeks.