|"The Way Home" Finished Painting|
I began a strange and very interesting journey this month when I decided to write about my painting, "The Escape" in a post titled "Victim no More, Silent no More." (03/10) Circumstances beyond my control compelled me to write about my own experience of domestic abuse and the therapeutic way it appeared in my art, revealing to me my suppressed emotions and memories. Writing about the painting, I exposed myself to public scrutiny with my own issues, many of which have been subjects of pain, shame and fear. I could not have foreseen the encouragement and insight that would bless my life as a result of the simple act of telling my story.
|A close up from "The Escape" There is a struggle and conflict in my heart and my mind, as I give away my power.|
In the original painting, I appear in several forms. One of these is a dog. I allowed myself to be treated like one. This is how it feels when you have lived through an abusive relationship. And so many of us stay, like a dog that returns to an owner who beats it. It is a dehumanizing experience, and looking at it as a part of my own personal history filled me with shame. I think of myself as a strong woman. Because I had memories of allowing myself to be treated in this way, there has been a fundamental disconnect in my own definition of self. It lead to a certain lack of honesty in everything I did. It split my self image into two parts, the one I cognized and the one I suppressed. In the original painting I am the dog, but I am also a bird fighting the dog. The figure who represents my abuser has his fingers in my head. The suppressed self image remains in this passive dog-state without power and without a real form. It is skeletal.
|In reworking the painting the fingers get pushed out of the dog's brain and the dog and bird metamorphose into a new creature. This new image of self is not perfect, but whole and united, with yet to be realized powers.|
Since I started writing about this experience I have received vicious backlash from my abuser, I have been able to finally get a temporary restraining order signed and served, I have found inner strengths I didn't know I was missing, and I have been reminded, over and over, that I am not alone. I have been added to a directory of healing artists, been highlighted in the local paper's e-newsletter and been asked for permission to share my stories with social workers and their clients. I have sometimes stayed home, too tired and confused to face the world. I have established healthy boundaries in all areas of my life. My paintings have reached a deeper and more dynamic level, acknowledging the dualities of dark and light without judgement. I have found a voice within me I didn't know could be so raw and honest. I am moving beyond the classifications of abuser and abused. We are all victims until we heal our own internal divides. Only then can we understand healing in the world outside of us.
I have never mentioned the name of my abuser and I never plan to on this blog or any public forum. And yet he has revealed himself. I was unable to get papers served by the police, but he showed up to confront me and was surprised by a Sheriff with papers. The ironic and fateful way my story keeps unfolding as I do nothing but tell it with candor has given me a new faith in justice and fairness. I do not accept injustice, but I am waking up to the realization of the divide, that creates it. I can live without hidden shame and suppressed pain. I can be my best, and that is what we owe to life, and to the world.