Oil pastel therapy and imaginary planets, far far away

I bought a little box of oil pastels for the new art class I’m taking on weekends. The class was yesterday, and all of us drew a vase the instructor had arranged stylistically on a table in front of us, with a few kitchen utensils thrown in for an interesting composition.

We drew, first with a pencil, and then colored in with the oil pastels: the moss green and deep green and pale yellow of the leaves in the vase; the grey for the steel utensils that glistened in the background; the blue for the cloth that made the makeshift backdrop of this arrangement.

I am a novice when it comes to drawing and sketching. My main motivation to join this class was to nurture the butchered creative in me; to learn to be more in the moment; and to pay heed to the solid world around me, not just the world of thoughts and feelings and ideas that I am used to living in.

When I started the class a month or so back, my attention was at the lowest its ever been, fleeting, darting from here to there. It was difficult for me to hold my attention long enough to sketch what I saw in front of me: to make sure the opening of the vase was wider than the base, to make sure the curves I drew mirrored the curves of the vase, to see where the sunlight fell and which parts needed shading in and which didn’t.

Art is therapeutic. Across the last few weeks, I can sense my attention becoming deeper, and less runaway. Holding a crayon and the repeated motion of filling in the colors is soothing; it fills in wounds in a way that thinking and analyzing does not. As I fill in the colors on the page, I fill my wounds. I am learning to be ok with being less than perfect, which I am obviously so in comparison to my more advanced peers in this class. I am learning to create something from nothing, and becoming more comfortable with the process being messy. I am learning also to be more risk-taking: the instructor remarked yesterday as she did the rounds of the class, looking at our work, that we seemed afraid of colors. Don’t be afraid, she said, don’t subdue the vibrancy of the oil pastels, the drama. Let it out. So, I did. I filled in the blue till it was deep and dark and not a drop of white peaked from the paper below. Why should I be afraid to let the boldness of the deep blue stand out? Why should I be afraid to have it be noticed? Why, really, should I be afraid of showing the vibrancy of all that is me, not just the softness of the blue sky on a sunny day, but also the darkness and deepness of the stormy nights.

Today, I sat curled up reading Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before in the bedroom. When I ventured outside, I saw that my husband had caught hold of my oil pastels and was busy composing his own creation. Don’t look, he said, give me fifteen. Fifteen minutes later I went to see his painting. Unsurprisingly for someone who loves all things space, he’d drawn a picture of the night sky with a planet and some galaxies.

abhinav drawing

This is Saturn, right? I said noticing the ring around the planet. The ring is from Saturn and the red spot is from Jupiter, he replied. A combination planet! So this is…Supiter…said both of us together. Other than Supiter, the Andromeda is there too, or at least a galaxy he drew, which he now thinks is the Andromeda. There are also a bunch of other galaxies and some shooting stars.

The black of the night sky is jet black, unafraid. The colors are what he imagines them to be. The subject, an imaginary planet. I realize that my husband’s creativity flows, without being clogged by too many rules.

At one point of time, Supiter would have stressed me out. It’s not a real planet, I would think. It doesn’t exist. You can’t just combine planets. But now I love it. It exists because I see it on the paper in front of me. It is real because it came from my husband’s imagination, as he closed his eyes to imagine it, or maybe realized post facto that he’d combined the features of two planets.

As I walk the creative path, I can find myself unfurling, little by little. Learning that creativity means more play and less judgment. Learning that I don’t need to know what I will write in my blog post but trusting that when I start to write, the words will flow, or sputter, depending on the day. Learning that the tap is really more open than I give myself credit for. And learning, most importantly, that in creating lies the deepest healing.

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A leisurely afternoon with a BFF: The little joys

Source: peracollege.wordpress.com
Source: peracollege.wordpress.com

Lunching with my BFF who’s a mom is a rare pleasure. Recently, the stars aligned, and we were able to meet up for a relaxed, leisurely lunch sans kids.

We spoke of times past, of lives present, of who we were and still are, and who we hope to become.

We spoke of the need to break the conditioning we feel burdened by, and live by values we’ve examined and accepted, instead of those we’ve absorbed.

We spoke of the the husbands, hers and mine; of school friends, some recognizable, some not; of children, real or future; of parents growing older; of in-laws; of tugs of modern and traditional sides within us, that push and pull us in different directions.

We spoke of messages absorbed growing up in what was fairly conservative India in the 1990s, of internalizing the expectations of women fulfilling everyone’s needs first, never complaining, happy to support, and allowed to dream for themselves, only when everyone else was taken care of.

We spoke of our selfish dreams, those we wanted, just for ourselves. We wished for time to switch off, to just be, to not care if the house was pretty, or we were, or the work we turned in was perfect. Some time where we could dream, some time where we could work on our dreams.

We spoke with gratefulness for our supporters, who believed we could, who believed we would, and that we should.

We spoke of how the time will never be just right, that now is now, and that we will not miraculously have more time to work on our life’s work tomorrow than we have today.

We spoke of how we will never have it all figured out, how we will never know as we take our first steps in uncharted territory of how that would impact kids and husbands and parents and in-laws. How we would never be able to forward solve every problem. How we would never have guarantees that everything would be okay, and with it, the permission to work on our books and on our selves and on our lives and those of others.

We lamented missed opportunities when we tried to put together the jigsaw, when all we needed was to find the next piece. Of trying to find the map, when all we needed was a compass.

It was the first leisurely lunch date we’d had in years, but just in those few hours, we were connected. We saw, we loved, we supported, and hopefully, moved a little bit closer to doing what we’re meant to do.

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